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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘amalek’

Dust Off Your Windows

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Purim has passed and Pesach is just about here. Which leads me to the subject of windows.

Windows allow us to see beyond the confines of our homes – but often our windows get dusty, and sometimes the dust is so thick it prevents us from seeing. Even as the dust continues to accumulate we fail to notice it. Perhaps worst of all, some of us become so accustomed to not seeing that we no longer feel a need to dust off the window and look out. We assure ourselves there is nothing much to see and everything is just fine.

At this point at least a few of you may be wondering what on earth I’m talking about. What windows? What dust?

The answer is simple. Jewish windows. Jewish dust.

Let’s make a concerted effort to wipe the dense dust off the windows of Purim and Pesach so that we can behold what Hashem wants us to see beyond the celebrations of these joyous holidays.

On Purim we became merry and even tipsy. We had amazing feasts. We masqueraded and had fabulous fun. But what is behind it all? What are we to learn from the Purim story? The lesson is so critical that every year we are alerted to its urgency.

The Shabbos that precedes Purim is Shabbos Zachor – the Shabbos of Remembrance, on which we must hear the passage of the Torah that commands us to “Remember what Amalek did to you.”

Most of our people have never heard of Shabbos Zachor. But do even those of us who were in shul listening to that Torah reading really understand? Do we remember what Amalek means and what he did to us? Many of us alive today personally met Amalek. We saw him in action. But still I ask, do we remember?

Amalek was the founding father of all the Hitlers who have pounced on us throughout the centuries with only one goal – that of removing us from the face of the earth.

Hitler was one of Amalek’s most loyal sons. He knew the exact number of the Jewish population in every city, village and hamlet. I spoke in Hungary not too long ago. I wanted to visit the gravesite of my forbear the saintly sage HaRav HaGaon Shmuel HaLevi Jungreis, may his memory be a blessing. He was the rabbi of a little village most Hungarians never heard of, yet Hitler found it and in his madness sent troops to capture all the Jews who lived there. And should even one Jewish child have escaped into the forest, Hitler was prepared to send an entire platoon to get that little boy or girl.

Think about it: it was the height of the war, Germany’s very survival hung in the balance, and the only thing Hitler had on his mind was the need to gun down little Jewish children in the forest.

Toward the end of the war, when it was obvious Germany was losing, Hitler’s officers sent an urgent request begging for reinforcements. Hitler refused their plea. His priority remained the same: kill the Jews. His trains were needed to transport Jews to the death factories. They were operating day and night until virtually the moment of Hitler’s defeat. The son of Amalek was prepared to sacrifice his country just so that he might snuff out the lives of as many Jews as possible.

This is not ancient history and yet we choose not to remember. As a survivor of the Holocaust I can testify that not once but a thousand and one times I have been told, “Rebbetzin, please do not speak about the Holocaust. People are tired of hearing about it. They’re looking for happier messages.”

Parsha Zachor Reminder

Friday, March 14th, 2014

This Shabbat we read Parshat Zachor. It is generally considered to be an obligatory commandment to hear this section of the Torah read each year.

From Devarim (Deuteronomy) 25:17-19:

Remember what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt.

That he encountered you on the way and cut off those lagging to your rear, when you were tired and exhausted; and did not fear God.

And it shall come to pass, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies round about, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess it, that you shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget.

Parshat Zachor is always read on the Shabbat before Purim. Haman, one of the primary antagonists of the Megillah story, was a descendant of Amalek.

Overturning the Amalek Mindset

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

In the month of Adar we usually focus on our battle with Amalek and strategies on how to weaken his effect on us. This year we have two months of Adar. Hashem, in His knowledge of all things past, present and future, knew we’d need two months this year to contemplate what Amalek does to us and how we can work to eradicate him.

We are living in dangerous times. It seems the entire world is against us. However, it is only because we let Amalek into our minds that we are frightened by this situation.

This is not the first time in our long history that the world is against us. We just have to learn from our history how to react to it.

Amalek tries to convince us there is no hashgacha in this world – that Hashem is not involved and doesn’t care about us. This in turn makes us feel insignificant and small and incapable.

We know and believe that Hashem is involved with this world and governs everything that happens in it. And He is especially involved with Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael. We must believe this without a shadow of a doubt. It must permeate our beings and we must act accordingly. This is one of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith.

I think we all need to remind ourselves of some of the important lessons we learn from Sefer  Shemot, which we just happen – hardly by coincidence – to be reading now.

We are taught in parshat Shemot that it was Miriam who convinced Amram to remarry his wife Yocheved, since she knew the redeemer would be born from them. Amram listened to her, and Moshe Rabbeinu was born. But things didn’t go smoothly. His mother was only able to hide him for three months, and then it seemed that all was doomed. She had to place him in the Nile in accordance with Pharaoh’s decree. Most people gave up at that point and yelled at Miriam, “Where is your prophecy now?”

But Miriam didn’t give up. She had emunah. She went to the river to see what would happen. The word used in the Torah for her standing there is veteitatzav – she stood firmly.

Miriam did not claim to know exactly what would happen. She could not have known that Pharaoh’s daughter would come to bathe and decide to save Moshe and raise him in the palace right under Pharaoh’s nose. She did, however, know something would happen, and she wasn’t going to miss seeing the miracle with her own eyes. So she planted herself there to witness the great ways of Hashem. And indeed she merited seeing the miracle and even assisted in bringing the baby’s own mother to nurse him.

When Bnei Yisrael were by the Yam Suf, in a very dangerous situation and with nowhere to go, Moshe instructed them with the same word that was used in the story of Miriam standing by the river.     He told them hityatzvu – stand firm and see the salvation of Hashem. Moshe himself did not know exactly how the Jews would be saved but he knew something would happen. He wanted Bnei Yisrael to stand firm and be worthy to see the miracle. And indeed Nachshon Ben Aminadav, displaying the highest level of emunah and mesirut nefesh, proceeded into the sea. Did he know the water would split for him? No – but he knew Hashem would not forsake them.

Miriam and Nachshon were unique; not many people in their generation had their level of emunah. The Torah, however, chooses to tell us about these individuals so that we may learn from them.

In the story of Purim, we read in the megillah that Haman had convinced Achashveirosh to annihilate the Jews of his kingdom. The decree to kill the Jews was sent out via letters to all the provinces of the kingdom. We are told that everywhere the letters arrived the Jews were frightened and in mourning. No one knew how Bnei Yisrael would be saved. Many thought they wouldn’t be saved – that Hashem had forsaken them. The situation was bleak. The Jews were all alone in the world. No one was on their side. This is exactly what Haman/Amalek wanted to achieve. That is Amalek’s goal – to convince us that Hashem has forsaken us.

Mordechai in his great emunah and Esther in her great mesirat nefesh were able to guide Bnei Yisrael into a teshuvah process that resulted in the great miracle of nahafochu, of overturning. But what exactly was overturned? If you look closely at the megillah, you will see that the decree to kill the Jews was not overturned. As Achashvairosh himself explained, decrees issued by the king could not be overturned. Instead, he allowed Mordechai and Esther to write a second decree as they saw fit. The decree they wrote was that the Jews had the right to stand up and fight for themselves.

Can you imagine how firmly the Amalek mindset had taken hold among the Jews – how small and incapable Amalek had made them feel they needed a decree to tell them that they were allowed to fight for their lives? This is the nahafochu, this is what was overturned – the Amalek mindset. Through their incredible teshuvah and return to Torah, they now believed Hashem was involved in the world and had not and would not forsake them.

Our rabbis tell us that today we don’t know with certainty who the nation of Amalek is. However, anyone who tries to convince us that our God has forsaken us and is not involved in this world and in our lives is, for all intents and purposes, Amalek. Our situation is not much different from the story of Purim or Yetziat Mitzrayim. Again we find ourselves alone in the world. Everyone is telling us we have to give away parts of our Holy Land that was given to us by Hashem Himself. John Kerry has threatened us with an intifada and international boycotts if we don’t.

It is sad that most of us have allowed the Amalek mindset to triumph once again. How small, insignificant and incapable that mindset has made us is evident from the fact that we are willing to even consider negotiating away our sovereignty over our own land.

Does anyone today know how we will be saved? No. But neither did Miriam, Moshe, Nachshon, Mordechai and Esther. They did know the key to salvation is to do teshuvah, to return to Torah and complete emunah in Hashem. We must not let the lessons of these parshiyot we are reading in Sefer Shemot fall by the wayside.

Purim is around the corner. We must eradicate Amalek from our minds by turning to Torah and strengthening our emunah in Hashem, so that we too shall merit the nahafochu of our mindset in our time.

Sharon’s Message of Faith to Netanyahu

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

I would guarantee that there wasn’t a Jew in Israel eight years ago, including the most leftist, cynical and secularist, who didn’t, even if for just one moment, think to himself that Arik Sharon was being punished by God for the crime of the Gush Katif expulsion.

Whether they afterwards denied or ignored it is irrelevant. For an instant, every Jew in Israel understood Sharon’s debilitating stroke as a sign from the universe.

That’s the problem with miracles and signs, and why we Jews don’t use signs as foundations of our faith: they’re fleeting.

Last Shabbat’s parshah–Beshalach–is full of stories of massive, yet ephemeral miracles. We learn how Bnei Yisrael would experience a miracle, and then simply ignore it a few days later, or worse, experience miracles everyday (like the manna) and regard them as commonplace.

It would seem that the purpose of miracles is not to create blind faith, because it fails miserably in that direction, but to serve as a teaching moment, and occasionally for a course correction.

The manna taught Bnei Yisrael about keeping Shabbat and about trusting in God to provide our “daily bread.” The tearing of Yam Suf helped Bnei Yisrael take their first steps away from fear and servitude under the Egyptians and toward trusting in and serving God.

At the end of the Parsha, Amalek attacks Bnei Yisrael, and we see the miraculous and inexplicable interaction between Moshe’s raised hands and the battle with Amalek. The Parsha ends with Joshua “weakening” Amalek, and us, the Jews, being commanded to wipe out any memory of Amalek from the face of the Earth.

Why was Amalek the first to attack Israel after all the miracles and Egypt’s destruction?

Because Amalek is the antithesis of Israel.

Amalek doesn’t believe in divine providence or divine intervention. Amalek believes in coincidence (“Kerry” in Hebrew). They attacked Israel to prove the ideology of a universe with no direction, judge or justice, where all events are random and hence where morality is inconceivable. The only morality of that ideology is the survival of the strongest. There are no values other than those of the people in charge.

And their kerry-coincidence approach to reality constitutes a very strong belief, which is why Joshua, despite his victory, was only able to weaken it, and why it is something we must continue to fight in every generation.

It is only our trust in God, our belief in Divine intervention, that will allow us to win the latest round of this ongoing war against the ideology of coincidence.

John Kerry said about Sharon, “He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace.”

He wants Netanyahu to forget that Sharon failed miserably in his pursuit of both peace and security. His mad retreat from Gaza, deporting thousands of Jews, destroying homes, synagogues, fields, equipment, resulted in a lot more bloodshed and destruction than ever before. How can anyone look at Sharon’s abysmal record in Gaza and say they would like to repeat it, but this time make it five times or ten times more terrible?

Our modern day prophet of kerry–aptly named Mr. Kerry–wants Netanyahu to forget about God’s guiding hand in Jewish history, and the retribution that befell the late Ariel Sharon.

It’s no coincidence that Sharon died this week, when it appears that Israel is under dire threats, and fateful decisions lie in the hands of one man who must now choose to have faith in the God of our history, or in the man of coincidence and happenstance.

Netanyahu is our Joshua, and we must be his Moshe, holding up our hands to strengthen him, and to remind him of the One who fights our battles, the true source of our strength, victory and survival.

Purim and the Right to Bear Arms

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

On February 8, Rabbi Dovid Bendory spoke at the New Jersey statehouse about the right to bear arms. The Rabbinic Director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Rabbi Bendory stated with reference to chapter 22 of Sefer Shemot:

God has given us the right to self-defense. We have not only a God-given right to defend ourselves and to protect our families; but we have a God -commanded responsibility to do so.

Soon we will celebrate Purim. Last year I interviewed Rabbi Bendory about these themes in relation to the festival. He observed:

Purim is a story in gun control and its impact on a nation. It’s because of the gun control of Achashverosh’s reign that the Jews had no right to defend themselves, that they were so vulnerable to being wiped out by the decree of one lunatic. The government has taken away from the people the God-given right to self-defense. So Achashverosh magnanimously grants them that right back—you  can now defend yourselves against the people who attack you—and the result is of course the celebration of Purim.

Rabbi Bendory further noted regarding Shmuel I 13:19, that

The first historically recorded incident of gun control—and when I use the term gun control, of course in this context it means weapons control—the  first historic use of gun control was against the Jews. Today in Israel, these lessons are more urgent than ever.

Four Jews who will not celebrate Purim this year are Yitzhak Ames, Talia Ames, Kochava Even-Haim, and Avishai Schindler. On August 31, 2010, Hamas murdered them on Route 60 near Kiryat Arba. (May the Almighty avenge their blood).

The government had disarmed Yitzhak before the massacre because of he and his wife’s activism in defense of Gush Katif. A family friend stated, “There are four bodies today because the government, instead of fighting terrorism, is fighting citizens. They put settlers in situations where their hands are tied.”

As the civil rights organization Honenu noted in a report last November on the government’s broader disarmament of citizens, “If Ames’s weapon had been in his possession, perhaps the incident would have ended differently.”

The grandson of the owner of the Lahav gun store in Tel Aviv similarly remarked in December on Israel’s repressive gun policies:

The problem is that the law makes it very difficult for the good people to get guns. The number of legal guns in recent years has gone to around 170,000, but there are a half a million illegal guns floating around the Arab sector, no one knows how many.

On illegal guns in the Arab sector, Dr. Guy Bechor of the Interdisciplinary Studies Center in Herzliya wrote in November concerning the terror attack on a bus in Tel Aviv:

Arab villages in Israel are flooded with illegal aliens—and the weapons they bring along. The Israel Police are well aware of this problem and of its extent, but for some reason are doing almost nothing to stop it. This is understandable.

After all, police apparently have more urgent priorities like raiding a beit midrash and beating people therein.

The Israeli government and it seems much of the citizenry have learned neither from Tanach nor history. The American jurist St. George Tucker had more wisdom and sense of survival than many Jews today when he wrote in 1803: “Wherever…the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”

Divine Hint: Netanyahu and Mofaz Must Lead against Iranian Threat

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

We’re filing this one under the “Purim Torah” category, but on a day rife with miracles and secret hints and unpronounced plots and narratives, it might as well be something to consider year-round.

Let’s start with the fact—acknowledged by many, including the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook—that there are two kinds of antisemitism. Over the years they’ve become intertwined, and so they’re hard to tell apart sometimes, but the distinction is important if we wish to understand the mythical hatred of God’s archenemy Amalek (For he said, Because God has sworn that God will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. Ex. 17:16).

One kind of antisemitism is not very different from any other ethnic conflict, over new and ancient disputes, like the conflicts between Serbs and Muslims, Tutsi and Hutus, Flemish and Walloon. I would include the hatred of Palestinians towards Jews in this context, because, essentially, it is rooted in a dispute over land. It may have expanded by now to darker regions, but its inception was in a “normal” ethnic conflict.

Then there’s the ideological antisemitism, the Amalek kind. It was not born by anything the Jews have done to anyone, it comes from a baseless hatred, or, if you will, as the verse in Exodus suggests, a hatred of God which is expressed through the hatred of His children.

On October 4 and 6, 1943, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler told SS officers in Posen, Poland:

“I mean the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish race. It’s one of those things it is easy to talk about, ‘the Jewish race is being exterminated,’ says one party member, ‘that’s quite clear, it’s in our program, elimination of the Jews, and we’re doing it, exterminating them.’ And then they come, 80 million worthy Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are vermin, but this one is an A-1 Jew.”

After which that clever monster calls on his men to disregard those emotional urges, stare straight at the piles of corpses, and harden their hearts, because “The difficult decision has to be taken, to cause this Volk to disappear from the earth.”

That’s the cold, unwavering essence of Amalek, that’s the spiritual source that made Auschwitz happen, and that’s the driving force behind horrid monstrosities like the Ayatollahs and their clown, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They see us, whether for racial or for religious reasons, as the essential evil in the world and they want us—all of us, including the Neturei Karta idiots who kiss their hands—dead.

Now, just as there are two kinds of antisemitism, there are also two kinds of Jewish leaders: the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, our patriarch Jacob’s sister wives.

Traditionally, we’ve been led by the tribe of Juda, a son of Leah. This is because Juda, like his most beloved great grandson King David, have been able to teach us how to do T’shuva-repent. They’ve taught us—and the world—that repent involves first and foremost accepting responsibility for the wrong that was done, then expressing full regret for having done it, then fixing as best we can what we’ve done, and, finally, resolving to never repeat it.

Those skills are useless against Amalek. As soon as we reveal what we’ve done wrong, that’s all Amalek wants to hear. Anything we’ll add will only bolster his resolve to annihilate every last one of us, wherever we reside, men, women and children.

This is why in our history the only ones deposited with the mission of fighting Amalek have been the children of Rachel—because the children of Rachel are perfect.

It disqualified them from being our long-term rulers, implies the gemora in Yoma 22b: “Shmuel said: Why didn’t the kingdom of Shaul last longer? Because he had no imperfection. As Rabbi Yochanan said citing Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: We do not appoint a public leader unless there’s a can of vermin dragging behind him, so that, should he feel haughty, we’ll tell him: Look behind you.”

I’m not sure why the children of Rachel have been so perfect. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Rachel was Jacob’s true love: why, the moment he saw her he couldn’t help himself, grabbed her and kissed her (to the chagrin of more than one commentator). Perhaps it takes that kind of love to spawn perfect children. Leah’s love was troubled and tormented, rife with self doubt – the stuff that makes for introspective children with a weakness for poetry.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/divine-hint-netanyahu-and-mofaz-must-lead-against-iranian-threat/2013/02/24/

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