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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘AVRAHAM’

A Great Afterlife Awaits

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

As I write this, missiles are being shot across the Israeli skies, with Hamas terrorists hoping to cause casualties and gain popularity among Palestinians. Even as they die, they imagine their god loves it when they die for him.

Isn’t it comforting to know that our God, Hashem, loves life, grants life, and promises eternal life?

This current conflict started when three yeshiva students were kidnapped and murdered. While we hoped to find them alive, the knowledge that they will one day return to the living, when the dead are resurrected, comforts us all.

Their mothers were each symbolic of Mother Rachel. Their fathers glowed with spiritual strength. They succeeded in uniting the entire nation. The pictures of the children on the pages of the daily papers, the faces and messages of the parents, made us a proud, unified nation.

But when an Arab child was kidnapped and burned alive, and the murderer was found to be a Jew – an obvious lunatic, seeking revenge – we witnessed a downright Chillul Hashem.

Our unity and Jewish pride quickly evaporated, because our nation, regardless of our individual levels of religious observance, knows our God wants us to cherish life – for all people, regardless of religion, race, or conflicting beliefs.

After the tragic murder of the Arab teen, Hamas terrorists attempted to instigate a third intifada and capture headlines with unrelenting missile attacks, forcing us into the current conflict.

There’s no question Hashem hates the behavior of Hamas, as is stated in the holy Torah (Devarim 12:30, 31), “When you come to dwell in the land…don’t follow in the ways of the former inhabitants, which is an abomination, for both their sons and daughters do they burn in fire to their gods.” (Suicide bombers, anyone?)

So much do we cherish life, even for those who hate us, that the IDF actually made thousands of phone calls to Gaza residents, warning them to flee from their homes prior to an anticipated army incursion. This is Am Yisrael.

I remember one day saying to Hashem, “You know how much I love you? If you asked me to kill someone, I would say “No, if you want him dead then kill him Yourself!”

Shocked at my own thinking, I asked myself, “Does that show your ‘love’ for God? Refusing the will of God?”

On Shavuos , the holiday that commemorates the receiving of our beloved Torah, I discovered that there is a basis for what I said – that a request from Above to kill someone would need a good explanation.

I began the morning prayers and was reading the Akeidas Yitzchak, which was Father Avraham’s final and most challenging test: the command to slaughter his son Yitzchak on the altar.

I suddenly understood would test Avraham’s faith like no test before. Avraham had 10 tests, 10 challenges to his faith. His first nine challenges dealt with this life but the akeida was a test of Avraham’s true faith in the resurrection of the dead – his faith in an afterlife.

I asked myself, would any normal father agree to slaughter his son? It’s unthinkable. There had to be more to it. And of course there was.

Father Avraham knew he was already promised that through “Yitzchak shall your seed be propagated.”

But Yitzchak, not yet married at the time, did not have children, so Hashem’s test of Avraham needed an explanation. Hashem must have explained that this was a test of Avraham’s belief in life after death. And Hashem certainly assured him that He would immediately bring Yitzchak back to life, 100 percent healed and healthy.

Then came the “vayomer, hineni!” Now Avraham agreed, and also understood that to pass this test he must do the killing himself to truly prove his full faith in the resurrection of man. To this he firmly responded, “Hineni!” “Behold, I stand ready!”

Dov Shurin

Temptations, Tests, and the Search for Spiritual Courage

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

I was recently walking down the street when I smelled one of the most amazing unkosher cuisines I could ever remember smelling. As I stared at my food enemy, I had a thought which I imagine most religious Jews have at one point or another. I wondered: Was God testing me with this great smell? Was this amazing scent a way to bring my downfall?

Pondering this trivial “test” led to a greater philosophical and theological question: What is the religious nature of temptations and tests?

The Torah says, “Remember the entire path along which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the desert, He sent hardships to test you.” (Deut. 8:2). We read that G-d has Bnei Yisrael wander in the desert for 40 years as a test.

What is this about? To place a nation (man, woman, and child) through such transient and confused misery for decades as a test? I also often wonder if the Jewish people are being tested today, with our own state in Israel and unprecedented wealth and influence in the US. What will we do with the great blessings we’ve been granted? What does this idea mean that G-d tests us as individuals and as a nation?

It must be more than schar v’onesh (that God is merely keeping our score card) or that G-d is merely flexing power in the world.

I also can’t relate to the cynical answer found in the book of Job, where God tests Job because of a disagreement with Satan. My belief in a benevolent and personal G-d precludes the possibility of random tests.

Still within distance of smelling my temptation of the day, I began to ponder answers:

For years, the most compelling answer to me has been that it is through the struggle of these challenges that we truly grow. These temptations are ways of teaching people about G-d and the incredible human capacity for compassion and spiritual depth. The Ramban argues that this was exactly the purpose of the Akeidah (the binding of Isaac) for Avraham.

Alternatively, perhaps there is a utilitarian approach that more people can learn from a test than the one having to undergo the discomfort of the test. The Rambam and Radak argue that the purpose of the test at the Akeidah was not for Avraham to learn but for the future adherents of the Abrahamic faith to learn. This sets a gold standard for others to try to follow.

Rav Kook goes even further, arguing that Avraham was being tested in order to “prove” to the pagan religions that monotheism can match the religious passion of pagan worship through the act of inward sacrifice, without the need for savage and barbaric sacrifices. One is being tested in order to teach others through its example.

Another utilitarian approach is that tests can provide opportunities for others to do mitzvot to help when we are struggling. It is for the moral good of the community at large.

These explanations may be true and all of them are worth thinking about but Rav Tzadok teaches that just as a person needs to believe in G-d so too one needs to believe in oneself. These days many of us (including myself) are struggling less with why we are tested by G-d and more with how we can overcome our obstacles and challenges to live a happier, more meaningful, more successful life. Do we believe in our own capacity to overcome in the face of adversity?

One tool that we can all consider experimenting with: The Gemara says that the Torah is the seasoning for the yetzer hara (personal evil inclination). The Maggid of Mezritch offers a beautiful interpretation that since the yetzer hara is the main dish and the Torah is the seasoning, we must serve God with the full ecstasy of the yetzer hara. The purpose is not to destroy or subdue the yetzer hara but rather to spice it up – to access its energy and channel it towards good.

This is to say that when we experience struggle we should use that temptation and channel that new energy towards good rather than attempt to dismiss or remove the temptation. This is why the Midrash explains that without the yetzer hara there would be no business or procreation. In a complex way, we need our desire for self-advancement to further societal goals.

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

Luckily, Avraham Wasn’t a Complainer

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

A lot of people are complainers. They love to complain. Often, you can spot them in restaurants making a lot of noise. They don’t come to eat. They come to complain. They drive the waiters crazy. First, the steak is too well done. Then it’s too rare. Then they complain that the air conditioner is freezing them to death, and when the waiter sets them up at a new table, there’s so much cigarette smoke in that section, they can’t even breathe.

A lot of people are the same way when it comes to Israel. They’re complainers. They complain about everything in order to justify why they don’t come to live here. I’m not talking about people who have legitimate reasons for not coming, but about the complainers who could come but don’t.

Thankfully, our forefather, Avraham Avinu, wasn’t a complainer. Just imagine what would have been! Jewish history would have been totally different!


Which Land is that?”


I’m not going anywhere till I know where it is.”


Of course I know.”


Not until I know.”


The Land of Canaan? You’ve got to be joking!”


Well, no, of course not. But the Land of Canaan? It’s loaded with mosquitoes!”


And swamps!”




But there are hookers in Tel Aviv.”


What about Eilat? It’s loaded with immodest women and preetzut!”


The apartments don’t have built-in closets.”


The taxes are murder! That is, if you can even find a job!”


And the government is trafe! The secular run everything!”


What about all the missionaries? You want me to be in a place crawling with missionaries?”


But the Canaanites blow up women and children in buses!”


Face it. You need me here to spread the Torah.”




To get to the point, the real Avraham Avinu packed up his belongings without saying a word and hastened to the Land, even though it was loaded with savage heathens, prostitutes, idol worship, murderers, and rapists, even though there wasn’t one synagogue, kosher butcher, or luxury villa to be found.

Avraham came to Israel without complaining.

As it says, “Avraham believed in Hashem.”

Tzvi Fishman

The Spiritual Sickness of Avraham Burg

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

“Brutal and imperialist, confrontational and insular. A shallow place, thuggish, lacking spiritual inspiration.” That is how columnist Ari Shavit, in a long interview with Avraham Burg published recently in Haaretz, describes the characterization of Israel in Burg’s new book, Defeating Hitler. It also captures Burg’s dark, cartoonish depiction of Israel throughout the interview.

Among the all too populous community of Jews, including Israelis, who routinely demonize Israel, Burg stands out for having been a highly successful Israeli politician, a leading Labor Party figure who served as chairman of the Jewish Agency from 1995 to 1999 and then speaker of the Knesset from 1999 until early 2003.

Burg has been indulging in rabid attacks on the Jewish state for some years. In 2003, not long after he left his Knesset leadership post and at a time when Israelis were still being murdered at an unprecedented rate in the terror war unleashed three years earlier by Yasir Arafat, Burg was publishing articles declaring that the fault was all Israel’s.

In a piece in Britain’s Guardiannewspaper, for example, he wrote: “They spill our blood… because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated . The leaders come from below – from the wells of hatred and anger, from the ‘infrastructure’ of [Israeli] injustice and moral corruption.”

Burg’s indictments of Israel have ranged from criticism of what he claims has been Israel’s moral turpitude since the 1967 war to broader attacks against the Zionist enterprise, and his new book expands on the same distortions of Israeli reality.

In the recent Haaretz piece, interviewer Shavit writes that he was “outraged by the book” and challenges Burg on many points. Burg responds with a smug certitude about his denigration of Israel. But his retorts to Shavit are almost invariably non-answers and most often incoherent or bizarre and nonsensical.

Examples of the latter in Burg’s anti-Israel litany are manifold.

When, for instance, Shavit questions Burg’s romanticizing of Jewish life in the Diaspora and, more particularly, his “describ[ing] a thousand wonderful years of German Jewry” prior to the Holocaust, Burg – whose father fled Dresden – defends his stance.

The reality of those “thousand wonderful years” includes the vast slaughter of German Jews in 1096, at the start of the First Crusade; subsequent mass murders that accompanied later crusades; the annihilation of myriad Jewish communities in the fourteenth century in the context of Jews being blamed for the Black Death; and many lesser slaughters. It includes the Jewish presence in German territories being reduced for centuries to small, remnant enclaves, as those not murdered migrated eastward and provided the foundations of what made Poland, at the start of the modern era, home to perhaps 40 percent of all the world’s surviving Jews.

In the same bizarre vein, Burg praises contemporary Europe as a worthy alternative to Israel for Jews. In a period when attacks on Jews have reached a level not seen since World War II and Jew-hatred has won a new constituency across the political and economic gamut in Europe, Burg declares, “I see the European Union as a biblical utopia . It is amazing. It is completely Jewish.”

The details of Burg’s indictments of Israel are likewise nonsensical flourishes. He insists that Israel is a paranoid state, seeing Hitler everywhere, and dismisses any genuine threat as either overblown or manageable by Israel’s adopting more pacifist and less distrustful policies.

To the extent that he acknowledges, at Shavit’s prodding, a threat from Iran, he criticizes Israeli policy toward Iran as too militant and solitary: “Would it not be more right if we didn’t deal with the problem on our own, but rather as part of a world alignment…?”

Kenneth Levin

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-spiritual-sickness-of-avraham-burg/2007/07/11/

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