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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘birth’

Gedolim Are Human

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

And Hashem said to Avram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your birth place, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” – Bereishis 12:1

With these words begins one of the ten great tests of Avraham. The Ramban explains that these were trials by fire, designed to bring Avraham’s greatness to the surface, taking it from the potential to the actual. They helped form him into the singular tzaddik he became.

Rashi notes that in this test, Hashem is very expressive about the place Avram is leaving, but does not mention where he is to go. “Leave your land, your birthplace, your father’s house, and go. . .” Rashi explains that this was all part of the test and added to the reward he would receive when he passed. Each description of the place he was leaving increased his longing and attachment to it, making it more difficult. Rashi continues that this is similar to the akeidah when Hashem challenged Avraham: “Take your son, your only son, the son that you love.” Each phrase further increased the test because it highlighted and stirred up the love Avraham felt for his son.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. The Avos were spiritual giants, men whose feet may have been on the ground but who lived up in the heavens. Avraham lived in a world of spirituality, barely cognizant of his physical surroundings. And what makes this question even more pointed is that it is hard to imagine that Avram was particularly attached to either his birthland or his father’s house.

There is a well-known midrash that says that at a tender young age Avram recognized the folly of idol worship. He set out to teach the people of his town the error of their ways but they were less than accepting of his teachings. His father in particular was dead set against them, as he owned a store that sold idols. One day his father asked him to watch the idols, and when he came back, he found that all the idols had been smashed. He turned to Avram and asked, “What happened?”

Avram answered, “Someone brought in food for the idols. One of the smaller ones took it, the bigger idol got jealous, and they had a fight, punching, kicking, and smashing. This is what is left.”

Avram’s father was not impressed with the cleverness of his son. In fact, he was so unimpressed that he took him to Nimrod the king, who pronounced him an enemy of the state and attempted to execute him. That resulted in another of the tests of Avram: the fire of Ur Kasdim.

This being the case, it is hard to imagine that Avram felt any great attachment and connection to his homeland and his father’s house. So what does Rashi mean that each expression made it harder for him to leave?

Gedolim Stories

Despite this being a very long and difficult exile, we have we have succeeded in creating our own Torah culture. We have our own manner of dress and speech; we have our own goals and priorities. We have our own newspapers, music, and books. We now even enjoy a vast body of Torah literature. Whether stories of gedolim or fictional novels that convey Torah values, it is a great accomplishment and necessary to remaining an exalted nation.

However, there is a small fly in the ointment. It seems that the gedolim written about in the popular books today are presented as malachim – as if they never failed, never suffered any setbacks, and never went through nisayonos. Never questioned themselves. Never felt lost or confused.

The reality is quite different. Every gadol has suffered. Every great person goes through tests and tribulations. Each of the Avos and Imahos had periods of darkness and difficulties and on some level they all failed. The true distinction between people who become world class gedolim and those who don’t is how much they were willing to pay the price, how committed they are to serving Hashem, how many times they were willing to get knocked down and get back up again.

If you find a gadol story that doesn’t include dark times, you are reading pure fiction. In the world Hashem created, fighting spiritual fights is integral to growth, and fighting means that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It seems that in an attempt to portray gedolim as great, we have made them non-human – angels just barely wearing human form.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Rabi Yehudah And Antoninus

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Rabi Yehudah Hanasi (the prince) known as Rebbe had an amazingly warm friendship with the Roman Caesar, Antoni­nus. The friendship began at the birth of the two men and continued until their dying days.

Rebbe was born as the land of Judea lay beneath the heavy Roman heel. The Roman government, furious at the stubbornness of the Jewish people, passed severe decrees against them. One of these decrees concerned the vital mitzvah of milah (circumcision).

The Jews were horrified to learn that the Romans had decreed that any Jew who cir­cumcised his child would be put to death and were in turmoil. How could one not fulfill the mitzvah that was the sym­bol of the covenant between the Almighty and His people? On the other hand, who had the courage to risk death by defying the decree?

Rabi Shimon Ben Gamliel, descendant of the great Hillel and head of the Sanhedrin, was blessed by G-d just at that time with a son. Great was the rejoicing but equally great was the trepidation.

But Rabi Shimon never hesitated. He took his eight-day old son and performed the ritual that brought him into the covenant of Avraham Avinu.

The Romans Hear

The Roman governor soon learned of Rabi Shimon’s actions. He was furious.

“Bring Rabi Shimon before me imme­diately,” he said.

Rabi Shimon was brought to the palace and before the angry gover­nor.

“What have you done? Why have you defied the orders of the Roman Caesar and circumcised your son?”

Rabbi Shimon looked at the governor and replied: “I have obeyed the orders of a greater king than the Roman Caesar. I have obeyed the decree of the Holy One, Blessed Be He, who is Sovereign of the universe.”

“I realize that you are the leader of the Jewish people and I respect you as a great man” the governor said, “but duty compels me to take you into custody for having broken the Roman law. You, your wife and the newborn child will go under guard to Rome and Caesar himself will decide your fate.”

On To Rome

The trip took many days and when they reached Italy they stopped at a hotel before proceeding on to Rome. The Empress was also staying at the same hotel for the Al-Mighty had decreed that she should give birth about the same time.

The wife of Rabi Shimon, as the leader of the Jews, had met the Empress before and they had become good friends.

“What are you doing here?” the Empress asked in surprise.

Rabi Shimon’s wife burst into tears and poured forth the entire story,

“Because we circumcised our son, Caesar, your husband, will probably con­demn us all to death.”

The Plan

The Roman Empress listened in horror to the tale that had just unfolded and she rose to her feet, “Never! This will never happen!”

“I am afraid it will,” said Rabi Shimon’s wife, sadly, “There is nothing that we can do. We defied the law of tyranny and now we shall be punished for it.”

“No, perhaps not.” said the Empress, as her face brightened,

“What do you mean?”

“I have an idea which just might work if you are willing to try it out.”

“I will do anything if the life of my son will be spared.”

“Very well,” said the Empress. “I have just given birth to a son also. He is not cir­cumcised. Let us exchange babies temporar­ily and when you show the baby to the king he will see that the child is uncircumcised and will let you all go free.”

The Jewish mother listened to the plan and agreed to try it out.

“Perhaps if the Almighty wishes it, the plan will work and we will be saved.”

In the greatest secrecy the two women gathered up their infants and exchanged them. The uncircumcised Roman baby, heir to the Roman kingdom was given to the wife of the Jewish leader and little Yehuda, destined to be one of the giants of Torah, was handed over to the Roman Empress.

Before The Emperor

The next morning the party proceeded on its journey and was taken to the palace to see the Emperor.

“I have heard that you have defied the decree of the Empire and circumcised your child,” the Emperor said. “You realize, of course, that you are liable for the death penalty for treason.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Bereshit: The Triple Birth of Woman

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

In this week’s Torah portion, within the majesty and mystery of creation, the woman emerges in three successive stages.

First she is an unknown entity taking shape from Adam’s rib. Then Adam gives her a name, “isha,” woman – and formulates the concept. But concurrently the name/concept “ish,” man, emerges. “L’zot yikare ISHA ki meISH lukaha zot – This shall be named woman because from man was this taken” (Bereshit 2:23). Nowhere before does the word ish appear in the Torah. Throughout creation the first human is referred to as “haAdam.” With the appearance of isha, woman, a new aspect is added to essence of the adam: he becomes ish, a man. No longer is he merely a living creature from the “adama,” earth, although he is endowed with superior intelligence allowing him to evaluate other living creatures and take dominion over them. Through the birth of woman he becomes a man.

The next verse, “Thereafter shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his woman, and they shall become one flesh” (Bereshit 2:24), adds a profound new dimension to both concepts.

The second stage is set in the woman’s encounter with the snake. Here woman is revealed as a complex creature: she is both the object and the cause of sin. Recognizing the complexity of her character, the snake chooses her as an instrument of his design. But the woman proves to be not only a passive tool: she is also an active wielder of influence. With considerably less effort than it took the snake to persuade her to take from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she induces her man to eat from the forbidden fruit. And with her act, indirectly woman has opened for mankind a new world of insight, the knowledge of good and evil, an awareness of ethics and morality which in essence has the potential to elevate humanity above the level of the animal kingdom.

Through her punishment woman reaches the third stage of her development: although it will be done in pain and anguish, she is to bear children. She is to become Mother. Because of this new and essentially central function, woman is given a new name/concept: “Chava,” eve, “the mother of all living” (Bereshit 3:20). In spite the pain of childbirth and the anguish of raising the young, motherhood prevails as woman’s most powerful drive.

In the process of giving birth, when isha-woman and chava/mother reaches the ultimate stage of her being, she becomes the first living creature to give eloquent testimony to that most supreme secret of creation, the mystery of birth. In exclaiming, “I have acquired a man with G-d,” (Bereshit 4:1), she exhibits that insight which Chazal have attributed to woman’s basic make-up. From the word “vayiven,” describing woman’s creation (Bereshit 2:22), the Chazal derive the concept of “binah,” insight as a “built-in” faculty of woman. The woman is given the gift to comprehend and appreciate the role of the Creator in the greatest and most wonderful enigma of our existence — the birth of a child.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Special Baby Born in Ramat Gan

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Mazel Tov is in order for a special new mother in Ramat Gan.

A rare Brazilian tapir, “Pessiflora”, has given birth to a son at the Ramat Gan Safari Park.

Father, Meir, has been moved to a separate enclosure until he overcomes his jealousy for the new arrival.

The unnamed baby was born after a 13-month pregnancy and is enjoying the attention of his mother and older sister, Papaya.

He was born with white stripes which will fade as he matures.

Malkah Fleisher

The Phenomenal Anastasia Michaeli

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Who is Anastasia Michal Michaelevski Samuelson? Fashion model, electronics engineer, Beauty Queen, Knesset Member, devoted mother of eight, champion of the underdog, passionate Israeli, committed Jew?

Would you believe that she is all of the above – and more?

Her amazing life began in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1975, when she was born into a Christian family. In St. Petersburg, after winning a beauty contest, Anastasia participated in a local version of the “Top Model” television show, and landed a position in Paris, France.

Back in Russia, Anastasia met and married Yossi Samuelson, a Latvian-born Israeli Jew 10 years her senior, and converted to Judaism when Samuelson was employed in Moscow by Tadiran, an Israeli electrical supplier. Before leaving for Israel, Anastasia earned a Master’s degree in electronics engineering from the University of St. Petersburg.

In Israel, after the birth of her second son, Anastasia underwent an Orthodox Jewish conversion, culminating with the couple’s re-marriage, this time according to strictly religious rites.

Anastasia continued her studies in Israel and earned a business administration certificate from Bar Ilan University.

In 2005, Ms. Samuelson entered politics. By 2006 she was running for the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, joining Yisrael Beitenu, “Israel Is Our Home” Party. Winning a Knesset seat, MK Anatasia Michaeli has made history by becoming the first incumbent Knesset Member to give birth, bearing her eighth child, and fifth son, shortly after assuming office. Anastasia and Yosef’s seven other children are: David, Rami, Yehonatan, Racheli, Tali, Eli and Michal. Anastasia confided that she would consult with her rabbi before choosing a name for her youngest child.

When asked the sex of her soon-to-be-born eighth child, Anastasia Michaeli Samuelson patted her belly and said with a proud smile: “Another soldier!”

The glamorous 34-year-old Knesset member was not being flippant, nor is she daunted by the domestic burdens a large family implies. “God gave women powers,” she declares. “My home runs like a well-oiled machine. My children are taught the meaning of responsibility.”

“Yehonatan, David and Rami run the household – they wash the floor and do the shopping. Eli, who is three and a half, folds his pants by himself. I fold them after him, but let him get used to it, let them learn the value of money. We are modest people who know how save money.”

She has a kosher home, she says, is careful not to mix meat and milk, and has enrolled her brood in state religious schools. Her office is seeking funding for the yeshiva of a rabbi in her hometown of Rishon Letzion.

As if to buttress her claim to super womanhood, a framed cover of the January issue of La’Isha, a popular Israeli women’s magazine, looks down from a wall above her swivel chair and desk in her Knesset office, showing her cheerful, impeccably dressed brood, with Mom Anastasia, svelte and radiant, beaming in front of them.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Members of Congress File Brief Supporting 9-Year-Old Boy’s Jerusalem Passport Case

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

A bipartisan slate of 58 members of Congress signed a friend of the court brief in a case involving a 9-year-old boy who was born in Jerusalem but was denied a request to have Israel listed on his passport as his place of birth.

Menachem Zivotofsky was born in western Jerusalem. Neither President Obama nor George W. Bush has allowed Israel to be listed as the child’s place of birth despite a 2002 federal statute that allows Americans born in Jerusalem to have Israel listed as their birthplace. Instead, the youngster’s passport lists Jerusalem as his birthplace.

Both his parents are United States citizens.

U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee chairwoman, spearheaded the amicus brief that will be submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is expected to be argued in November or December of this year.

The youngster was born shortly after legislation allowing the State Department to use Israel as the place of birth for those born in Jerusalem. Bush and Obama have both claimed that the law infringes upon a president’s authority to make foreign policy.

The case is going ahead after the Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision in March overruled lower court decisions that had contended that the judicial branch does not have authority over this area since it is not the courts’ place to determine foreign policy.

“This is a critical case, one that I am proud to be actively involved in for the sake of the Zivotofsky family and all American families with children born in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” Berman (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

“Americans citizens born in Jerusalem should have the same right that citizens born anywhere else can enjoy – the right to have their birthplace accurately reflected on their passport,” he said.

Similar amicus briefs have been submitted by such groups as the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers.

JTA

Death Brings Life

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai and Malkah kick off this week’s show by paying tribute to a family friend that recently passed away and how important she was to both the Fleishers and the Jewish People, especially as a representative of the Golan Heights.  At 15:50, they shift gears and talk about a woman that Malkah has met in her classes to become a birth coach and they talk about how secular Israelis need to see an influx of religious Jews into the ranks of the Israel Defense Forces.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/multimedia/radio/yishai-fleisher-on-jewishpress/death-brings-life/2012/07/25/

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