web analytics
October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Am Yisrael’

The Secret To Defeating Our Enemies

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

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.

When I was told I could safely return to my house, the power was back on and the poisonous water mixed with sewage that invaded the lower level of my home had been removed. When I reached my community it was evening and before I even arrived to my destination the lights went out again. You couldn’t see anything.

I’d had experience with power failures in the past but this darkness that now enveloped us was totally different. Imagine driving on a street where the streetlights are off and you cannot even see little bright lights flickering from windows.

“Where am I?” you ask yourself. “Is there a car coming toward me? Am I backing into something? Where is my street? Where is my house?”

My regular readers know I connected Sandy, as I have several other unusual occurrences, to the ten plagues that befell Egypt. Our Sages taught us that the manner in which we departed from Egypt would be replayed in the pre-Messianic period. As I was trying to make my way home it occurred to me that this dense darkness was reminiscent of the darkness that enveloped Egypt in the ninth plague. The Torah teaches us that the darkness was so thick it was almost tangible – you could actually feel it and didn’t even know who or what was standing before you.

As I was contemplating all that was going on around me, the news from Eretz Yisrael reached us of deadly rockets and missiles raining down on our brethren. While in the United States many lost their homes, in Israel – may Hashem have mercy – not only were homes destroyed but the very lives of our people were on the line. And then we heard the so-called good news of a cease-fire.

But isn’t that really good news, you ask? I invite you to consider why a people bent on annihilating Israel would desire a “cease-fire.” And why would Prime Minister Netanyahu agree to it? Surely we Jews know that in no time at all the savage murderers will resume their attacks.

The answers are simple. Hamas needed a small break to replenish its deadly arsenal. On the other hand, Netanyahu, like so many of Israel’s past prime ministers, felt he had no choice but to succumb to the pressure exerted by other nations. Some of you are no doubt asking what else Israel could have done – one nation versus the world. Logically speaking the objection makes sense, but there is nothing logical about Jewish survival. From the very genesis of our history we have been attacked by virtually every nation, every great empire, of the world. We were and are “one little lamb” lost among seventy ferocious wolves. What chance did we have for survival?

Was it not just yesterday that Hitler proclaimed his “final solution”? He harnessed 20th century know-how to build gas chambers and crematoria. But as always, we, the Jewish people, defied the odds. Hitler is long gone but we are here and shall always be here, for that is the will of our G-d.

What is our secret weapon? I’ve written about it frequently but it bears repeating – for we simply don’t get it. It is all found in one easy word: “Torah.”

The voice of Jacob, of Israel, is the voice of Torah and the voice of prayer. Yes, the power of our people is in our voice and in our supplications. It is found in our Torah studies, in our observance of mitzvos and in our commitment to Hashem.

Sadly, we have forfeited these precious gems. We no longer know how to sing to our G-d and have allowed Yishmael to seize our weapons. Yishmael prays five times a day. How many times do we pray? The answer should be at least three – but to our shame we pray zero.

I imagine many readers are asking, “Rebbetzin, how can you say that?” Just look around and be honest. Ask yourselves, how many Jews really pray three times a day? How many Jews go to minyan? Yes, the Orthodox do, but how many are they? The Orthodox are just a very small minority. If we are to survive the seventy ferocious wolves we – all of us – must take our weapons into our hands.

Shabbat Chevron: On The Deepest Level

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

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.

This year, with rain and strong winds in the forecast, there were slightly fewer people than last year, but still the crowd was massive and it was beautiful to dance with thousands of fellow Jews. Everywhere the eye could see there were tents and families, girls and boys, young and old. And Hashem rewarded us by withholding the inclement weather until the end of the dramatic day.

At this point I’d like to give a shout out to the police and soldiers who did such a fine job ensuring our security. And to the Magen David Adom attendants who were on hand in giant tents and were able to be part of the magnificent celebration, as the peace and serenity of this special Shabbat was felt by all.

I’d like to share with you some points about Chevron that hopefully will encourage more people to join us from all over America for Shabbat Chevron next year and the years to follow.

First, the fact is that our holy forefathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – chose Chevron over Yerushalayim. Of course, most people who visit Israel make Yerushalyim and the Kotel the major point of their visit, and people making aliyah dream of living in Yerushalayim.

So why did the Avos choose Chevron? Obviously the Meoras HaMachpela, the cave where our forefathers are buried was already special in Abraham’s days, for Abraham knew that Adam and Eve were buried there.

The Midrash in Vayeira tells us that Abraham, wanting to make a meal for the three malachim who came to visit him, chased an animal in order to slaughter it. When the animal ran into the cave, Abraham discovered that the first man and woman created by Hashem were buried there.

And since Abraham understood that the purpose of creation was for the sake of Am Yisrael receiving the Torah, he knew the cave of Machpelah would be the proper and natural burial place for all the forefathers.

The name “Chevron” itself is very significant to the oneness of our nation. It comes from the root word chebur, which means “connected.”

Somehow, by our coming to Chevron on this special Shabbat, we feel this connection with all our ancestors going back to Father Abraham.

And here is why: in the Shemoneh Esrei amidah, which we pray three times daily, we chant “U’mekayem emunaso l’shenei afar,” meaning that God will keep his promise to those who “sleep” in the dust (the assurance that the land is ours and that the dead will one day rise).

The Avos are actually referred to as “the sleepers in the dust of Chevron.” And what about my father and my grandfather and my grandfather’s father, all the way back in time? They too are the sheinei afar, those who sleep in the dust until the resurrection.

Now add to this the objective of every Jew in his service to God, which is to reach the level of “lowliness of spirit,” just as our father Abraham declared, “I am dust and ashes.”

And we end our three daily amidah prayers by begging heavenly assistance in our quest that “nafshe k’afar la’kol teheyeah” – my soul shall be like “dust” in all of life’s situations.

As I prayed the Minchah amidah prayer in the holy cave of our ancestors, it dawned on me that this Shabbat Chevron is the only day that all three Avos are alive and speaking from the scriptures. Abraham and Isaac speak in the morning Torah reading and Isaac and Jacob in the Minchah Torah reading. It’s the only Shabbat that all three of them, at once, are with us through the scriptural readings of the day!

And in the short Minchah amidah prayer we are actually praying to feel our oneness with our three forefathers.

May we all merit to reach the level of being One Nation in the merit of our forefathers, whose teachings bring us to be one with them.

Tzippori

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Midrash Berashis Rabbah says that on the day that Rabi Akiva gave up his soul al Kiddush Hashem, Reb Yehudah HaNasi was born. A seven-generation descendent of Hillel HaZaken, Rebbe was the son of Rabban Shimon ben Gamlial, and of the royal line of Dovid HaMelech. Known as Rebbe and Rabbeinu Hakadosh, he was a key leader of the Jewish community of Judea, during the occupation by the Roman Empire, toward the end of the 2nd century CE. He was the greatest of the fifth generation of Tanaim. Rebbi was a talmid of the five main students of Rabi Akiva. He is best known as the compiler of the Mishnah. Reb Yehudah haNasi passed away on 15 Kislev 3950 (190 CE).

The Gemara in Kesubos (104a) relates that before he died he lifted his ten fingers towards the heavens and declared he had not even enjoyed even a little finger of this world. (This was so even though he was very wealthy and greatly revered in Rome and had a close friendship with “Antoninus”, possibly the Emperor Antoninus Pius who is still famed for his philosophic work ”Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”.)

Sefer Chassidim records that after he passed away, Rabbeinu HaKadosh used to visit his home every Friday evening at dusk wearing Shabbos clothes. He would recite Kiddush, and his family would thereby discharge their obligation to hear it. One Friday night there was a knock at the door. The maid asked the visitor to come back because Rabbeinu HaKadosh was in the middle of Kiddush. From then on he stopped coming, since he did not want his visits to become public knowledge.

The root of Rebbe’s soul was that of Yaakov Avinu. It is said that Yaakov Avinu never died and we see from the above story that Rabbeinu HaKadosh also did not die. Both Yaakov Avinu and Rebbe had the same task. Rebbe had said that the seventeen years he spent in Tzippori were equal to the seventeen years Yaakov spent in Egypt. Yaakov taught Torah during those those years, preparing the nation for its first galus. Rebbe spent the last seventeen years of his life compiling the Mishnah, preparing Am Yisrael for the long and bitter galus Edom.

tzion claimed to be Rebbi’s is found in Tzippori, which is in the rolling hills of the Galilee. (According to Talmud Yerushalmi [Kila’im 9:4], Rebbi was buried in Bet She’arim.)  In very ancient times the city was called Sepphoris. It was fortified by the Assyrians, and then used by the Babylonians and then the Persians as an administrative center. It was the Chashmonaim who gave the city the name Tzippori when they settled there. Rabi Yochanan indentified Rekes as Tzippori; it is so called as it sits high on a hill like a bird. The air there is very clear and fresh.

Herod the Great took over the city and brought in Roman influences. After Herod’s death the Jews of Tzippori rebelled against Roman rule causing Varus, the Roman governor to destroy the city and sell many of its Jews into slavery. In 1 CE, when Herod Antipas became governor, he rebuilt the city and renamed it Autocratis. It was such beautiful city that it was described it as “the ornament of all Galilee.” The Jews of the city chose not to rebel during the first Jewish Revolt in 66 CE; they opened their gates to the Roman army and signed a pact with them.

During the 2nd century the city was renamed Diocaesarea. After the Bar Kochba revolt many Jews moved to the city. Reb Yehudah Hanasi moved the Sanhedrin from Bet She’arim to Tzippori, where he compiled the Mishnah. He summoned all the Sages in the land, including the great scholars that had come up from Bavel to come and help him.

In the year 351 CE, Gallus Caesar quelled a Jewish rebellion in the city.

In 363 CE an earthquake destroyed the city of Diocaesarea.

During the Byzantine period Jews, Romans and Christians lived peacefully in the city.

From 634 CE the Arabs, under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, conquered and ruled the city, then known as Saffuriya.

The Power Of Prayer

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Once again I must postpone the continuation of my Oct. 5 column, “Technology, Yom Kippur, Ahmadinejad,” this time due to the heavy reader response to last week’s column.

As you recall, I shared my latest journey. It all started on Pesach in San Diego where I suffered four hip fractures and underwent major surgery, and now I was once again scheduled for yet another procedure on the day after Simchas Torah, Oct. 10.

I underwent my pre-op tests and was ready to go. But with every fiber of my being I believe in the miraculous power of prayer, especially when that prayer emanates from the heart of Am Yisrael , so I asked for one more Cat Scan, knowing full well that the odds of the results being different from the previous one were slim if not nil.

My surgeon studied the Cat Scan. “Rebbetzin,” he said, “the healing process has commenced. You don’t have to come for surgery next week.”

To be sure, my journey is not yet over. In a month I will have to be re-evaluated, but my heart overflows with profound gratitude. I am trying to keep the commitment I made to Hashem that if I would have the merit of healing without human intervention (surgery), I would publicly declare that through the power of prayer, the heavenly gates of healing can be opened and lives changed.

This past Shabbos I gave my usual shiur and taught Torah in the shul where I daven – the Agudah of Lawrence-Far Rockaway. It was Shabbos Bereishis, when once again we began the cycle of Torah readings from the very beginning. In that very first parshah the Torah describes the creation of the world and the creation of man, the very crown of creation. We learn that though the seeds of all vegetation were in place, it was only after man prayed for rain that the seeds blossomed and bloomed.

This prerequisite of prayer is evident throughout our Torah and history. My grandson spoke about it at our Shabbos seudah in his d’var Torah. Our mothers – Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, Leah, Chana and many others – were granted the berachah of children only after they prayed with all their hearts and souls.

This prerequisite of prayer holds true not only with regard to children but in every aspect of our lives. It was only after Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest man ever to walk the face of the earth, turned to Hashem with intense, genuine prayer that Hashem forgave the nation of Israel.

G-d’s response was comprised of just two words, but those two words had and continue to have more power than the most deadly weapons mankind can devise. We are all familiar with those two little words. They are engraved on our hearts and souls; they are the pillars of Yom Kippur: “selachti kidvarecha” – “I [G-d] have forgiven even as you requested.”

Yes, prayer is the foundation, the ultimate defense weapon of our people. Our father Yaakov was endowed with this gift by his own father, Yitzchak, who proclaimed those words that identified us for all time: “Hakol kol Yaakov” – “The voice is the voice of Yaakov.” That voice is the voice of prayer. It is so powerful that it can pierce the bolted heavenly gates and ascend to the very Throne of G-d.

Throughout the long centuries of our persecution, torture, and slaughter, this voice of Jacob has enabled us to triumph. It was prayer that enabled us to survive Hitler’s hell. I know – I was there. I heard it.

In our “enlightened” world, however, this voice has become muted; prayer has come to be regarded as something only a naïve, unschooled person can take seriously. We, the citizens of the 21st century, know the age of miracles has long passed.

And there are still other factors that impede prayer. Ours is a culture that has an

addiction to “instant gratification.” From computers to iPhones, fast food to microwaves, it must all be fast, fast, fast! So if our prayers are not immediately granted, we cut the line and lose connection with our G-d; we stop praying, sit in solitude, and our loneliness consumes us.

Rashi Was a Zionist Racist

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

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.

Rashi answers his question by quoting a Midrash of Rabbi Yitzhak which explains that if the nations of the world claim that we stole the Land of Israel from them, we can answer that since the Holy One Blessed Be He created the world and appointed different countries to different peoples, He can take Eretz Yisrael away from them if He chooses and give it to us.

Did Rashi have political savvy? Did he foresee the day when the Arabs, the U.S. State Department, the European Union, the Chinese, and the Zulus in Africa, would callIsraelthieves, claiming that we stole Eretz Yisrael from the Palestinians? Maybe, but I don’t think he was meaning to tell Bibi what to answer in one of his UN speeches.

Furthermore, the Land of Israel isn’t even mentioned in the first verse of the Torah, or in the second, or the third. Why does Rashi talk about it here? True, Adam was born on the Temple Mount and only later placed in the Garden of Eden, but that’s learned from different source, and not from the very first verse of the Torah. So why talk about the Land of Israel here in a commentary, in Rashi’s own words, that deals with the straightforward meaning and pashat of the text?

The answer to our question is that Rashi is coming to inform us that without Eretz Yisrael there is no Torah, no Am Yisrael, nor Kiddush Hashem in the world. Eretz Yisrael is the foundation of the entire Torah. The Torah was given to be kept in Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish People can only be a Nation in Eretz Yisrael. And theKingdomofGod– the goal of the Torah – can only be established in the world when Am Yisrael dwells in their Land.

Yes, I know, the geniuses in the peanut gallery will jump up and protest, “Am Yisrael survived in exile for 2000 years without Eretz Yisrael, with only the Torah!”

First of all, fellas, the Jewish People are not meant to survive. We are meant to live. Without Eretz Yisrael, we can only survive from one pogrom to the next. Or we can assimilate ourselves into extinction. That isn’t living. That isn’t the ideal of the Torah which promises us, again and again, a good and peaceful life in our Land.

“The Torah protected the Jewish Nation, not Eretz Yisrael!”  they continue to holler.

Protected the Jewish Nation? You call individuals scattered all over the world, without a country or Jewish government of their own, a nation? That’s not a nation. A ghetto in Brooklyn orLakewoodisn’t a nation. Without Eretz Yisrael, the Jews are defenseless minorities in other peoples’ lands, dependent on the goyim for everything.  That’s not a Sanctification of God – it’s the opposite!

“Torah! Torah! Torah!” they scream.

Well, my dear friends – what you call Torah isn’t Torah. The Torah of the exile is the remnant of Torah, the shadow of Torah, the dry bones of the Torah, a reminder of what the Torah really is, as our Sages have explained by the verse, “Set yourself waymarks,” telling us to continuing to keep whatever few precepts we can while in exile, so we don’t forget them, lest they seem new to us when we return to Eretz Yisrael, because the Torah is meant to be kept in the Land of Israel, the only place it can be observed in all of its fullness, with its many laws relating to the Land of Israel, the Kingship of Israel, the army of Israel, the justice system of Israel, and the Beit HaMikdash which you can’t build in Lakewood. Yes, Orthodox Judaism in America is much better than conservative Judaism, and reform Judaism, and yoga, but it isn’t the Torah as the Torah was meant to be kept. That can only take place in Israel.

That’s what Rashi is coming to tell us at the very start of the Torah.

You’re welcome. I thought you’d want to know.

Therefore Give Honor To Your Nation

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

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.”

Then, after asking Hashem to put His fear into all His creations, we ask Him to honor us – every one of us, His entire nation – from those who are deserving to pray by the Eastern wall of the synagogue to those who come to services with their neatly folded white yarmulkes that had been in the drawer since last Yom Kippur to those who are eating a hamburger on the Haifa beach.

“Give honor to your entire nation.” The word for nation, “am,” implies every single Jew.

Then we ask for tehillah for those who fear Him. Tehillah is the “power to pray,” which is therefore on an even higher level than tefillah, the simple prayer text. In other words, a Jew’s level of kavanah is more important than a mere outward expression of words. Every Jew, we declare, is deserving of God’s honor. I didn’t make up these words. This is in the liturgy prepared for us by our sages.

Why did this thought come to me this year? I think Hashem in a sense rewarded my decision to put a cover on my latest music album (titled “Charming Nation”) that was a conglomeration of Jewish faces standing at the foot of Mount Sinai for the receiving of the Ten Commandments.

Included were the faces of great tzaddikim past and present, and also Herzl, Einstein, Bob Dylan, Sandy Koufax and even leftist former minister Yosi Sarid, who once called me a rasha on radio and television and demanded that I be put on trial for something I’d said on Arutz Sheva radio.

I knew a cover picture that controversial would cost me the chance for the album to achieve any significant sales, so I never bothered distributing it to the stores.

But I didn’t care. Because I know the soul of every Jew was at the mountain.

It was from my renowned rosh hayeshiva Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, zt”l, that I heard for the first time that the word in Hebrew for an “assembly of people” is tzibor, and its letters allude to our entire nation: The letter tzaddik stands for our righteous; the bet stands for the average people (in Hebrew, benonim) and the vav and resh hint at “and the rishayim,” the wicked.

Rav Freifeld once said to me privately, “I feel like a cog in the machine. Every little Jew is a cog in the machine!”

I understood it immediately: If one little cog is missing, the whole machine is out of commission.

Maybe that’s why we ask Hashem to shower kavod on every little cog – every little Jew.

Take the Jew eating that hamburger on Haifa beach on Yom Kippur. Guess what? He was an Israeli soldier on a one-day leave from risking his life daily guarding the northern border.

Our prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was God’s cog in our machine as he stood at the United Nations warning of the danger to the world if Iran were to become a nuclear power.

I had wished him a happy new year with an ad in the Jerusalem Post asking him to watch my clip on YouTube titled, “We will Never Again be Uprooted” – and sure enough, at the onset of his speech, he declared, “The Jewish people have come home. We will never be uprooted again.” So little Dov Shurin was the cog that inspired that line in Netanyahu’s important speech.

We start the Kol Nidrei prayer by declaring, “In the tribunal of heaven and the tribunal of earth, by the permission of God, blessed be He, and by the permission of this holy congregation, we hold it lawful to pray with the transgressors.”

With the transgressors – because we are all part of that great machine known as Am Yisrael. And it is God who gives us our opening to pray to Him like sons to a father.

The End Of An Era

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

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.

Let’s examine the world picture. When you consider history, you can see that the events of the past several thousand years are leading toward a climax. This is even more obvious when you look at history from a biblical perspective. It makes perfect sense to consider world history from a biblical perspective because the Torah is written by the Author of history and the Creator of the world. So the Torah’s perspective is, by definition, accurate.

Let’s go to the very beginning of our national existence.

Avraham Avinu and Sarah are about to found the Nation of Israel. Sarah is unable to have children and so she temporarily gives over her conjugal rights to Hagar, whose son Yishmael is also Avraham’s son. Later, Sarah gives birth to Yitzchak, and Hashem says the famous words to Avraham, “Through Yitzchak will offspring be considered yours” (Bereishis 21:12).

Right here the seeds are sown for dissension over who is the legitimate heir to Avraham. The Torah is very clear on this point, but those who don’t want to listen to the Torah have a vested interest in distorting its words. The dissension has lasted to this very day, with hatred on the part of Yishmael’s descendants undiminished in strength and viciousness. Yishmael raises his children in every generation not just to hate us but to make their lifework the attempt to redress the alleged wrong that was committed so many centuries ago.

“Sarah saw [Yishmael]…mocking [Yitzchak]” (Bereishis 21:9).

As I wrote in my book Worldstorm, citing Bereishis Rabbah 53:11,

Our sages tell us that “mocking” means violence and bloodshed. “Yishmael said to Yitzchak, ‘Let us go and see our portions in the field.’ Then Yishmael would take a bow and arrow and shoot them in Yitzchak’s direction, while pretending to be playing. Yishmael pretended to play, but his game was murder.”

In the following generation, a similar situation occurred, although this time the conflict arose not between half brothers but rather twins with diametrically opposite personalities. Eisav was born “ready-made” while Yaakov, on the contrary, would spend his entire life trying to perfect his personality. Their rivalry began, as we know, in the womb and reached a crescendo when “Eisav cried out an exceedingly great and bitter cry” (Bereishis 27:34) at the moment he discovered that Yaakov had received their father’s blessing.

There is a fascinating insight into the hatred of Yishmael and Eisav. After Yitzchak blesses Yaakov, we find this pasuk: “So Eisav went to Yishmael and took Mahalath, the daughter of Yishmael son of Avraham…as a wife for himself” (Bereishis 28:9). Immediately after this, the Torah tells us that “Yaakov departed from Beer-Sheva” (Bereishis 28:10).

What does Eisav marrying Yishmael’s daughter have to do with Yaakov Avinu leaving Beer-Sheva? It seems that when our two primeval enemies team up, we are in very great danger. The origin of this is shown in the Chumash. When Eisav marries into the family of Yishmael, Yaakov Avinuleaves Israel! It is bad enough when we have to contend with Yishmael or Eisav separately; when they get together it is extremely difficult for us to deal with.

* * * * *

And so it is in our times. Today the world is lining up against us, whether shells are flying from Gaza or bris milah is being attacked in Germany. When we try to defend ourselves against Arab terrorists, the descendants of Eisav spring to their defense. As we say in Tachanun, “Look from heaven and see that we have become an object of scorn and derision among the nations; we are regarded as sheep led to slaughter, to be killed and to be destroyed, for beating and for humiliating….” Yishmael and Eisav have linked hands against us. As the Prophet says, “Behold a day is coming for Hashem…. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem for the war…” (Zechariah 14:1; haftara for the First Day of Sukkos). So the age-old crusade against Am Yisrael is reaching a climax; Yishmael and Eisav have grasped hands. But do you think they love each other? Their friendship is only a temporary expedient. Before long their true nature will emerge.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-end-of-an-era/2012/09/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: