web analytics
April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Am Yisrael’

Fifty Years After Eichmann Execution, Israel Thrives

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

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 Nazi genocide was undertaken through a rail-linked infrastructure of concentration camps, ghettos and “liquidation sites” meticulously administered by SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolph Eichmann, chief of the Jewish Office of the Gestapo. At war’s end Eichmann was captured by U.S. soldiers but managed to hide his true identity and high-ranking role before escaping into the chaos of postwar Europe. He was mentioned during the 1946 Nuremburg trials but by then his trail had gone cold and the world at large seemingly forgot about him. Not, however, Israel and Holocaust survivors seeking justice.

In 1960 Mossad/Shin Bet chief Isser Harel investigated a series of tips on Eichmann’s possible whereabouts, including one from a blind man in Argentina who suspected his daughter was dating one of Eichmann’s sons unknowingly. The Mossad investigation found Eichmann was living under the name “Ricardo Klement” with his wife and four sons in Buenos Aires. Round-the-clock surveillance of the target was established and by April several agents, most of whom had lost family to the Nazis, sprang into action.

On May 11, 1960 as the man believed to be Eichmann got off a bus, the agents snatched him, forced him into a waiting car and sped off to a pre-arranged rented “safe house.” Under interrogation, he immediately admitted he was Adolph Eichmann. The agents kept him at the safe house for some nine days, chained to a bed.

The Mossad knew Argentina would never extradite Eichmann because it had received millions in Nazi bribe money and gold and was sympathetic to pro-Nazi German expatriates who had flocked there after the war. Because of this, the operation had been timed to coincide with Argentina’s 150th anniversary celebration attended by dignitaries from around the world – including an Israeli delegation who flew to South America on a chartered El Al flight. The plane provided an ideal way to smuggle Eichmann out of the country.

On the night of May 20, the empty El Al jetliner was parked on an airport tarmac when a limousine pulled up to the plane and a group in airline uniforms crowded up its steps. Eichmann, who had been sedated, was half-carried to a window seat. Soon the drugged Eichmann, watched over by his Mossad guards, was flying to a Jewish state on a Jewish airline, flown by a Jewish pilot. Quite a turn of events for the monster who during the war had worked so diligently to make the Jews into “an extinct people.”

The next day, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion tersely told the Knesset that the “Israeli secret service had located Eichmann” and he would be tried shortly. The announcement stunned the world and Jews everywhere celebrated. But many world leaders, accustomed to Jews being defenseless victims, were outraged by Israel’s bold action. Argentina immediately called for Eichmann’s return and the United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned Israel.

Israel, believing only it could dispense justice to Eichmann proceeded to put him on trial and assembled the prosecution’s case. For nine months the world was riveted as 112 survivors gave heartrending testimony in a Jerusalem courtroom on the suffering that Eichmann had unleashed on the Jewish people.

Sitting behind bulletproof Plexiglas, Eichmann remained impassive throughout the trial, claiming he had no personal hatred of Jews and had “only followed orders.”

In mid-December 1961 Eichmann was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death – the first and so far only time Israel dispensed capital punishment. Five months later, on May 31, 1962, he was marched from his prison cell to a specially constructed hanging platform, where a guard pulled a lever. Eichmann’s body was cremated and the ashes were scattered in the dark waters just beyond Israel’s national boundaries.

The man who had been chosen to act as executioner, a Yemeni Jew, was interviewed many years later on Israel Radio. “It was the greatest of mitzvahs,” he declared, “wiping out Amelek.”

‘And From Zion The Torah Will Go Forth’: Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv’s Impact On American Jewry

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

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.”

Similarly, the late Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zt”l, a man who did not even hold an official rabbinic position, was revered by most Jews as one of the world’s greatest poskim. From his small apartment in the old neighborhood of Meah Shearim, Rabbi Elyashiv would receive questions from people around the world regarding halacha and public policy. Over the decades Rabbi Elyashiv became an integral component of American Jewry, interacting with individual rabbis, laymen, and organizations like the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America.

Although Rabbi Elyashiv was a member of the Israeli Supreme Rabbinical Court for several decades, his primary connection to American Jews was developed somewhat later, after his retirement. In an interview with The Jewish Press, Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, explained that “following the deaths of Reb Moshe [Feinstein in 1986] and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach [in 1995], there was a shift in [halacha] to Eretz Yisrael,” thrusting Rabbi Elyashiv into the forefront.

As an example, Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the OU, told The Jewish Press, “Rabbi Elyashiv was consulted with to determine how to construct the eruv for the Los Angeles community.”

Senior poskim at the OU, such as Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh yeshiva of the YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaath, would visit and correspond with Rabbi Elyashiv regarding many emerging halachic issues. Some of the more publicized questions concerned the status of wigs made from Indian women’s hair that were allegedly sacrificed to deities, and insect infestations in vegetables. Rabbi Elyashiv was also involved in formulating kashrut policies for industrial food corporations regarding frozen produce and hechsher keilim, cleaning out utensils for kosher food. Many of these correspondences were conducted with the help of Rabbi Yosef Efrati, Rabbi Elyashiv’s assistant.

In addition to answering questions in halacha, Rabbi Elyashiv also played an important role in setting political and communal policies in Israel and abroad. At the request of Rabbi Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, Rabbi Elyashiv agreed to help guide the religious political party Degel HaTorah. When Rabbi Shach began to limit his public activities after 1995, Rabbi Elyashiv and Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman became the foremost spiritual leaders of Degel HaTorah and were consulted before every major decision.

Rabbi Elyashiv’s decisions have shaped American communal policies through his relationships with various rabbis and the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America. Like its Israeli counterpart, the Moetzes is the spiritual leadership branch of the Agudath Israel of America, comprised of roshei yeshiva and chassidic rebbes. Members of the Moetzes would frequently consult with Rabbi Elyashiv and cite his views as a final authority on Torah halacha and hashkafa. Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, told The Jewish Press, “Agudah and Moetzes members had tremendous respect for, and deference to, Rabbi Elyashiv.” Rabbi Elyashiv’s decisions helped shape the Agudah’s approach to the interaction between rabbinic leaders and elected officials, along with medical ethics regarding end-of-life situations.

Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger, president of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, expressed similar sentiment, namely that American rabbis had “great respect” for Rabbi Elyashiv. Rabbi Neuberger said that Rabbi Aharon Feldman, rosh yeshiva of Ner Yisroel and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, had been particularly close with Rabbi Elyashiv, as the former had lived in Israel for much of his life. Over the years Rabbi Feldman would consult and learn with Rabbi Elyashiv, even after he returned to the U.S.

To the individual, however, Rabbi Elyashiv was more than a decider of Jewish law. Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the OU, noted that, “while most are incapable of fully appreciating the depth of his piety and breadth of his erudition, we can all grasp the fact that he was the last link to a previous generation.” He was a window to an era in which individuals possessed a total command of every facet of Torah, both revealed and hidden, inherently fused with a passionate dedication to God and His people.

First Of The Land

Friday, June 29th, 2012

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.

For example, let’s say you want a share in the mitzvah of reshit hagez, the first wool of the first sheep shearing that is brought to the Kohen. No problem, you just contact, Reshit Ha’aretz, a farm established in Beit El, a community that also fortuitously has a stellar Yeshiva. They sheer the sheep on the farm and bring the first wool to the rabbis who are also Kohanim in the yeshiva there.

Reshit Haaretz, now in its fourth year was established for the precise purpose of performing the mitzvot that can only be performed in the Land of Israel. And the cooperative also offers you the opportunity of performing these mitzvahs virtually. It’s an opportunity Moshe Rabbeinu would have treasured.

“We thought that we were really missing out because so many important mitzvot, obligatory me’de’oraita, are so very distant from every Jew, and we began to think of a practical way to enable every Jew to participate in their performance,” explains Rabbi Ronen Zer, 46, the founder of the Reshit Ha’aretz farm. Zer means bouquet, so it appears his agricultural calling was predestined.

“After receiving blessings and approval of the endeavor from the most prominent rabbis, I left Tzfat together with my family and settled in Bet El. Here in the region designated for the tribe of Binyamin, we decided to establish the Reshit Ha’aretz farm.”

The farm enables any Jew, no matter where in the world he resides, to be a partner in the purchase of the farm and the performance of the 25 land-related mitzvot. The farm spans an area of several dunams and contains fields of crops, vineyards and olive groves, enclosures for animals and livestock and a winery where the biblical mitzvot are performed using the fruits and produce of the farm. For example- setting aside terumot and maasrot (tithes), neta revai (the eating of fourth year produce in Jerusalem), peah, leket, shichecha and others. And the holy animals of Israel are also not neglected. For example, The rarely performed mitzvoth of Peter Chamor, the aforementioned reshit hagez, and the gifts of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva to the Kohen among others. During a Shemittah year, of course all the laws are stringently observed and the fruit orchards are open for the public at large, who are free to help themselves. The fruit is hefker, after all.

“With the establishment of the farm, we intended to grant merits to the residents of Israel living in cities and urban areas, who wouldn’t have an actual opportunity to perform these important mitzvot personally,” explains Rabbi Zer, as he plants a new vineyard on one of the farm’s slopes. “Afterwards, we thought that if we can grant merits to Jews in Israel, why not also grant the same privilege of these mitzvot to our brothers and sisters overseas, as well? We approached Torah leaders and they gave us their blessing for this holy enterprise. The Institute Machon HaTorah VeHa’Aretz cooperated with us and we composed a monetary contract that is halachically binding and a means by which our brothers and sisters abroad can also become partners in the farm.”

A few weeks ago a festival celebrating reshit hagez was held at the farm, as well as the mitzvot of zeroah, lechayayim and keiva, with the participation of rabbanim and an appreciative crowd of participants. The wool of an entire of flock of sheep was sheared, the parts of the animals undergoing ritual slaughter were presented to the Kohen amid a festive atmosphere, and the celebration also included hands-on activities and creative workshops for children, music, and a food market. It was a grand festival celebrating the performance of mitzvot ha’teluyot ba’aretz, reinforcing our attachment to and ownership of the land of Israel and our joyful adherence to its mitzvot.”

Our Jewish DNA

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

I’d like to share with you a story I believe is a wonderful gift we can present to Hashem now that the painful summer months of Tammuz and Av – months that saw the destruction of our holy Temple – are nearly upon us.

The story is an awesome testimony to the chesed of our people – a trait we inherited from Avraham Avinu and from all the Avos and Emahos of Am Yisrael. This chesed is part of our Jewish DNA and no cultural mores or societal pressures can erase it.

As regular readers know, I have written several columns regarding my recent hospitalization and surgery in San Diego for a broken hip. In one of those columns I described the painful experience of learning to walk again. Jeanette, my physical therapist, would ask daily, “Rebbetzin, level of pain – one to ten?”

I never quite knew how to evaluate “one to ten.” In my mind it was always a ten, but to please my kind, caring therapist I would choose a number and always add, “Baruch Hashem.”

“What are those words you always add to your numbers?” she asked.

“Baruch Hashem means ‘blessed be G-d,’ ” I told her, and then I proceeded to explain the full meaning of those two magical words that have been the hallmark of our people since days of yore. The hospital had a negligible Jewish presence, but whenever I come in contact with non-Jews I make a point of following the dictates of our Torah, which calls upon us to be mindful that it is the Divine words from Sinai that evoke respect among the nations.

As a result of that column I received a slew of letters and e-mails, a few of which I published. One of these letters came from a woman who described her ordeal after her husband, an attorney, lost his job because of the financial downturn. Several years had passed and he was still unemployed.

Additionally, she had to struggle with many new and painful issues. She wrote that while in the past she had always said “Baruch Hashem,” she could no longer utter those words. She felt alone, abandoned, enveloped in darkness. However, after she read my column she forced herself to place “Baruch Hashem” on her lips again.

After her letter appeared in The Jewish Press, the most beautiful phone call came to our Hineni office. It was from a gentleman who resides in Boro Park. “I would like to offer employment to that attorney,” he said. “Ask him to call me.” And he left his number.

In a climate where jobs are few and hard to find, to receive such a call is indeed a beautiful testimony to the chesed that was engraved on our hearts by our father Abraham and became part of our Jewish DNA.

Just stop and consider for a moment: Based on a letter in The Jewish Press, a man offers employment to a total stranger and leaves his telephone number. For all he knows, the man could be unstable and create problems in his office. Conventional wisdom dictates “Mind your own business; don’t get involved!” But this man chose to reject that and follow the ways of our Torah.

Now, the woman’s letter had been written anonymously. Most people who write of their personal problems are hesitant to reveal their names. I remembered, however, a very kind lady full of chesed telling me a similar story. After many years of service, her husband was let go and could not find employment. I had difficulty recalling her name. I meet countless people daily, and while I always remember their faces I have given up even attempting to remember their names. After some detective work, I did find a name and a number and made the call.

The woman who answered was overwhelmed by the news but – and here comes the big but – while the facts matched (her husband was an attorney and he had been searching for work for several years), she was not the woman who had written me the letter I published.

“I don’t know if I have the right to give this phone number to my husband,” she said, “since the Rebbetzin had someone else in mind. I would like to hear a decision from a rav as to whether my husband has the right to call this man for a position.”

Show Me The Service!

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

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.

I tell myself that despite being in transit, it’s almost like being at home, the only difference being that the “living-room” I am in is on wheels, and taking me to a much anticipated destination (visiting my kids for Yom Tov and beyond, as they live-in three different states). I save money, maybe even time, since flying to where you are planning to get to can take much longer than ground transportation. Scheduled times of departure and the ACTUAL time of departure are all too often not even close. Which brings me to the point of this article: More often than not, consumers do not get what they pay for. In fact, customer satisfaction is the exception these days, not the rule. And initially, this bus trip was representative of this new “norm.”

You see, like many companies/consumer products in the 21st century, the bus line failed to deliver. There was no Internet, again. It’s not the first time on this route where I watched, with diminishing hope, my computer try mightily to access the World Wide Web – but to no avail. Out of curiosity, I asked other passengers, who must have had the same look of frustration on their faces as I did, if this lack of WIFI was an isolated incident for them. Most told me that on previous trips, including ones to different destinations (so it just wasn’t because of mountains, or passing through rural areas) the same thing had happened.

I resigned myself to staring out the window but fortunately, a couple of hours into the journey, we did get WIFI .

Sadly, non-deliverance of a much ballyhooed service or product is all too common. Shoddy work and service has become the new normal, to the extent that consumers buy a product knowing full well that they will likely have to go to the place of purchase in the not too distant future to exchange or return it.

It was not always this way. I am not that old, relatively speaking (although some of my younger relatives might disagree) and I remember a time when you were never asked at the check-out counter if you wanted to buy an extended warranty for an appliance or electronic gadget – because there was no such entity. There was no need for what basically was “life insurance” for a manufactured product, because the likelihood of its untimely death was almost zero. It was built to last for years, even decades. And on the rare occasion when there was a problem with a product that was several years old, the manufacturer would readily replace it. The consumer did not have to.

But those days of product or service integrity are for the most part historic. There is a saying one comes across from time to time – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Nowadays, that saying, ironically, is appropriate for the opposite situation as well – “If it IS broken, don’t fix it.” In other words, don’t waste your time and money. Just replace it.

It just isn’t worth repairing something damaged because the work will likely be haphazard and you’ll be back to square one.

My son recently waited weeks for his car to be repaired after it got partially submerged in a water- filled pothole during a flash thunderstorm. When the car was supposedly repaired, he drove on an outing with his family only to lose power – which meant the steering wheel was useless, and smoke was coming out of the engine – on a multi-lane highway. “We don’t understand, we road tested it…and it was fine” was the excuse he got for having a repaired vehicle returned to him with so not functioning there could have been a very tragic outcome.

The Gift Of Unity

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

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.

In this column I will share yet another hashgachah pratis occurrence.

This past year our Hineni organization expanded its activities and established a young leadership program for Sephardic youth. Before I embarked on my Pesach schedule, we designated a date for a Young Leadership Sephardic/Ashkenazic Shabbaton.

This event was supposed to take place at the end of May, but my presence and participation became questionable after I had my accident.

Nevertheless, I was determined to be there and Hashem granted me that privilege. So while my first public address following my surgery took place at Hineni’s 40th Anniversary Dinner celebration, this Sephardic/Ashkenazic Shabbaton would mark my first Shabbos program.

The event was scheduled to take place at a hotel in Connecticut, not too far from New York but far enough for me. Little things that under normal circumstances one would never consider, like sitting in a car for two hours or finding a place for one’s swollen legs, all became challenges. My mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis of blessed memory, would always quip in Yiddish, “Far ah kranker – for someone who is not feeling well, no matter how and where you place them, it’s never comfortable.” And that was very much my situation that erev Shabbos.

Just the same, I was determined to go and was so worried about getting there on time that I managed to overlook my aches and pains without making a stop so that we might get there on time.

Two hundred young people, representing Hineni and Go Sephardic, had signed up. To me, that itself was inspiring. At our Hineni classes on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I always feel uplifted when I look out at the audience and see how Jews from every segment of our population – from secular to strictly observant, Ashkenazim to Sephardim, young to old – are all there, united in a desire to study Torah. And now I felt strengthened and buoyed by this very special Shabbos that would unite our beautiful Sephardic and Ashkenazic young people.

As our car pulled up to the hotel, I noticed some chassidim pulling up as well. Could it be, I wondered, that our committee wanted to surprise me and invited some chassidim to participate? But then, as more and more chassidim arrived, I realized something else was happening.

“Are you having a convention here?” I asked in Yiddish.

“No,” came the reply. “We are here for a private family event.”

When I found out what that “family event” was, my eyes became moist with tears of joy. These chassidim had come to the hotel to celebrate the 90th birthday of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was a survivor of Auschwitz, and the family had gathered to give her berochos and naches on this momentous occasion.

When I learned that this survivor of Hitler’s concentration was surrounded by 400 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I was simply overwhelmed. As many of you know, I too am a survivor of Hitler’s Holocaust, and for me this was not only a declaration of triumph over the Nazis, but grand testimony to the eternity of our people – an eternity that no force, no power on earth, can ever destroy.

The celebration took on an even greater dimension Shabbos afternoon. The family dedicated a Sefer Torah in honor of “Mama/Bubba.” It was a scene to behold. There was Bubba, seated in a wheelchair, her face covered by a veil in honor of the Sefer Torah, as four hundred children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren danced around her with the Sefer Torah they were dedicating in her honor.

Through that hachnassas Sefer Torah, all of us who were present – Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Satmar chassidim – became one. If you just think about it, you too will feel chills running up and down your spine.

Parshat Behukotai: Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael

Friday, May 18th, 2012

“The survivors among you – I will bring weakness into their hearts in the land of their foes; the sound of a rustling leaf will pursue them, they will flee as one flees the sword, and they will fall, but without a pursuer. They will stumble over one another in flight from the sword, but there is no pursuer; you will not have the power to withstand your foes.” (VAYIKRA 26:36-37)

It is in these verses that the Torah reveals the disgrace of Israel’s exile. And indeed, history can attest to the truth of this curse. Outside of our homeland, the Nation of Israel was reduced to vulnerable migrants wandering through foreign lands. Unable to defend ourselves in the Diaspora, the Jewish people gained a reputation for cowardice and victimization. We were treated as vermin, easily exterminated without even a fight. Israel’s survival became largely dependent upon the benevolence of our neighbors and Jews became conditioned to accept our shameful status as an uncontested reality.

Israel’s downtrodden state in the exile, coupled with the cruelty we suffered at the hands of host nations, damaged our self-image and stripped us of our former valor. We began to view ourselves as naturally incapable of defense as if Jews were designed as physically inferior to other peoples. Authentic Hebrew traits of courage and heroism became foreign to our culture and several Torah concepts became distorted without their proper material expressions. This mentality of learned helplessness grew in Jewish hearts to the point where many became fearful at even the slightest indication of tension with neighboring gentiles. Due to the tremendous persecution Israel experienced, the once proud Hebrew Nation developed a low soul – a slave mentality that made us fearful of even the sound of a rustling leaf. The great valor that had characterized Jewish fighters in ancient times was forgotten as we wandered the globe as a ghost through history – a broken people perpetually searching for safe refuge.

But just as the Jewish people were stripped of our former honor in the exile, the Land of Israel was stripped of her illustrious beauty. She became barren without her soul mate to rule over and nurture her soil. Her great splendor had departed and she was reduced to an infertile wasteland.

“I will make the land desolate; and your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate. And you, I will scatter among the nations, I will unsheathe the sword after you; your land will remain desolate and your cities will be in ruin.” (VAYIKRA 26:32-33)

According to the Ramban, the verse “your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate” 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. He points out that in the entire world, there are no other lands which were once good and bountiful but are now (in the time of the Ramban) as desolate and empty as Palestine.

A century before Hebrew sovereignty was restored to Eretz Yisrael, American author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) visited the country and described it in The Innocents Abroad Or The New Pilgrim’s Progress as a “desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds – a silent mournful expanse… A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action… We never saw a human being on the whole route… There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

While most of the Hebrew Nation wandered through a dark and bitter exile, the Land of Israel lay in barren devastation. Although many foreigners tried desperately to cultivate her once rich and fertile soil, the land was unwilling to provide for illegitimate rulers and remained unwaveringly faithful to her native people. Only with Israel’s miraculous return did the country once again resume productive life. In an astonishingly short time, the once desert country became a major world exporter of fruits.

The reunification of the Nation of Israel with the Land of Israel miraculously infused new life and strength into both. Only a few short years after the decimation of six million, Jewish remnants in their native land stunned the world with unmatched military prowess. The Hebrew Nation was reborn and the Land of Israel returned to agricultural productivity.

“The People Shall Rise Up Like a Lion!”

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

For several weeks now, my younger children have been gathering tree branches, logs, and wooden crates for their Lag B’Omer bonfires. I don’t know how they do it, but they work like skilled engineers, erecting teepee-shaped towers that rise thirty-feet high into the sky. The heat of the blaze is so intense, I have to be careful that my beard doesn’t catch on fire. The incredible wonder of Lag B’Omer in Israel is like nowhere else in the world. Not only are the hillsides of Jerusalem ablaze with towering bonfires in tribute to the great light of Torah that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed; 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, my friends, 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, revealing the secret, inner holiness of the entire country of Israel whose National Soul is completely Torah, no matter how secular its surface appearances seem.

This recognition is doubly important today, in the wake of Israel’s expanding secular government, when it seems that the light of Torah is being threatened. Not so. Lag B’Omer, and the holy Zohar, which it commemorates, teach us to look more deeply into the essence of our Nation’s soul.

This is what Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught us – to see below the surface appearance to the inner reality, where the light of Israel shines in an eternal, unquenchable blaze.

Rabbi Kook encouraged the learning of the Zohar and said it was precisely its study which would forge a pathway to Redemption in helping us to uncover the great hidden light of Israel (Orot HaTechiya 57; Zohar, Parshat Naso 124B).

Inspired by the light of the Zohar, Rabbi Kook writes: 

Out of the profane, holiness will also come forth, and out of wanton freedom, the beloved yoke (of Torah) will blossom…. Let the bud sprout, let the flower blossom, let the fruit ripen, and the whole world will know that the Spirit of G-d is speaking within the Nation of Israel in its every expression. All of this will climax in a repentance which will bring healing and redemption to the world” (Orot HaT’shuva, 17:3).

Indeed, the revival of the Jewish Nation in Israel is a wonder that is impossible to explain in any mundane fashion. Clearly, there are powerful inner forces at work as we return to our homeland. Increasingly sensitized to our own national longings, we realize that gentile lands cannot be called home. The process takes time. The nation is not transformed overnight. But gradually, the curse of exile is erased. From being a scattered people, the Israeli Nation returns to have its own sovereign state. God’s blessing is revealed in all facets of the Nation’s existence; military success, economic prosperity, scientific achievement, the resettlement of the Nation’s ancient cities and holy sites — all ultimately leading to a great national t’shuva, the renewal of prophecy, and the return of the Divine Presence to the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, in fulfillment of our prayers.

Rabbi Kook explains that the secular, physical rebuilding which we have witnessed in our time must necessarily precede the spiritual building. The Talmud teaches that the Beit HaMikdash was first constructed in a normal, profane manner, and only after its completion was its sanctity declared (Me’ilah 14A). This is the pattern of spiritual building; first comes the physical vessel, and then its inner content. First the Ark is constructed, and then the Tablets are placed within.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/the-people-shall-rise-up-like-a-lion/2012/05/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: