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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘concept’

Torah Video From Israel for Parshat Naso (ENGLISH)

Friday, June 1st, 2012

JewishPress.com presents two weekly Parsha video series in English made in Israel by young rabbis determined to reach out to inspire the world from their beloved homeland. This week, Rabbi Shlomo Katz (the famous Israeli inspirational folk/rock musician) speaks to us on the question, “Does Torah Life Have to Be Heavy”. Based on a beautiful concept taught by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Rabbi Shlomo speaks from an idyllic country setting in Israel which will warm your heart this erev Shabbat wherever you are.

Rabbi Chaim Richman (Director of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem) asks the question, “What’s In A Name?”. He answers, “Everything – if we’re talking about the name of G-d. Just as G-d willingly allows His name to be erased for the sake of exonerating the accused Sotah, He allows for His name to be desecrated for the sake of proving Israel’s fidelity.” To learn how this can be true, what is a national sotah test, and more, … click on the video to hear the entire lesson.

Radio: Fleisher v. Beinart – Different Visions of Israel

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Yishai Fleisher comments on a recent interview from the Charlie Rose television show featuring Peter Beinart, a well-known author, political pundit, and associate professor.  Rose and Beinart discuss the current state of the “two-state solution” concept and factors, such as continued Jewish settlement, that affect potential implementation.  Beinart presents his opinions on Middle East topics such as the Sinai and the US role in providing security in Israel, and the proposed Palestinian State.  Fleisher presents analysis of the interview throughout and reveals a different perspective.

Yishai Fleisher Analyzes Peter Beinart’s Interview on Charlie Rose Show

Drake: ‘I’m a Proud Young Jewish Boy’ and I Want My Re-Bar Mitzvah

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

First, a disclosure, I had no idea who Drake was, at first, so I looked him up and watched his newest video clip, “HYFR “ which is way too packed with casual expletives to actually post on a nice, G-rated Jewish website – if you go there, please don’t blame us, we warned you.

Except that the concept of the piece about his new clip, which is actually quite clever, despite the amazing string of casual expletives, or expletives uttered casually, the concept was too intriguing not to mention.

According to Digital Spy, Drake has said that he wanted to use his music video for ‘HYFR’ to reconnect with his Jewish heritage.

Aubrey Drake Graham (born October 24, 1986), who records under the mononym Drake, is a Canadian recording artist and actor. He originally became known for playing Jimmy Brooks on the television series “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

HYFR is short for “Hell Yeah F-ing Right,” and it’s all about how he never got the Bar Mitzvah he always wanted so much. “He was too poor as a child to have a proper Bar Mitzvah, an experience which he always wanted to properly re-enact once he had the money to do so.”

Heeb Magazine interviewed Drake two years ago, and the Bar Mitzvah thing did come up: “Drake was born to an African-American father and a Jewish mother, who divorced when he was five. Raised by his mother in Forest Hill, a heavily Jewish neighborhood of Toronto, he attended a Jewish day school, and was even Bar Mitzvah’d (the song of the night was Backstreet Boys’s “I Want It That Way”). All of which is to say that, whatever else happens, Drake is already the first-ever black Jewish rap star.”

Drake told DS: “When I had a Bar Mitzvah back in the day, my mum really didn’t have that much money. We kinda just did it in the basement of an Italian restaurant, which I guess is kinda like a faux pas. I told myself that if I ever got rich, I’d throw myself a re-Bar Mitzvah. That’s the concept for the video.”

“I have some of my mother’s friends, some of my friends. Stunna Man and Khaled had to come and show their support. I learned my Torah portions; they had to come hear me read it,” he said.

For a remarkable experience of reading the HYFR lyrics with close, line-by-line hyperlinked interpretation for old, white people, we recommend that you absolutely not go here, and if you do decide to go, don’t blame us for the enormous assortment of casual expletives.

How to Blot out Amalek

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Since this is the week before Purim, there is a special maftir from Deuteronomy, one that is highly relevant to our situation today:

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.” – Deut. 25, 17-19

Amalek appears throughout the Tanach, always the bitterest enemy of the Jewish people. Amalek fought against Moses, Saul and David, often apparently destroyed, but always coming back to fight again. Haman was said to be a descendent of Amalek, and more recently so have Hitler and Ahmadinejad.

Historically there may have been Amalekites, but it’s not clear that the various biblical references relate to a single people. Probably not. But the concept of an Enemy is a natural one, an antithesis to the concept of a People.

Perhaps you can’t really define a people without also defining its enemies. Certainly many believe that if the Jews could get rid of the idea of peoplehood, then they wouldn’t have enemies. Shimon Peres likes to refer approvingly to “world citizenship,” as though it is an antidote to endless war with Amalek. In his 1993 book “The New Middle East,” he wrote that “In Western Europe, particularist nationalism is fading and the idea of ‘citizen of the world’ is taking hold,” and “The entire idea of the small national state – the Jewish state included – has collapsed …”

The experience of the 19th century assimilationists and post-Oslo Israel tells us that this strategy doesn’t work in the real world. Even if we refuse to remember Amalek, he remembers us. And if we don’t have the support of self-conscious peoplehood (and its concrete representation, the Jewish state), how can we fight him?

The Book of Commandments (ספר המצוות) lists three commandments related to Amalek:

  1. To remember Amalek (a positive commandment)
  2. Not to forget Amalek (a negative one)
  3. To destroy Amalek completely (the commandment Saul violated when he allowed Agag to live)

There are various explanations for the difference between 1 and 2 above. I like this one: 1 says that we must remember that we have enemies today who wish to destroy us. And 2 tells us not to drop our guard tomorrow – this situation is not going to change. As the quotation from Deuteronomy indicates, we must not forget Amalek, even when the Jewish people are sovereign in the land of Israel (this seems to be the part Shimon Peres doesn’t get).

What does it mean that we are required to “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven?” It cannot mean that we are required, like Saul, to exterminate a tribe. Even if there was at some time a distinct  tribe of Amalek, it has long since disappeared as a distinct population. For this reason the rabbis warned us not to take this commandment literally.

I think – and it is appropriate that we are reading this parsha during Israel Apartheid Week – that what we are required to “blot out” are the false narratives of our enemies: the stories that they tell about the ‘crimes‘ of the Jewish people and Israel, including but not limited to

  1. Deicide
  2. Causing the Plague
  3. Making matza from human blood
  4. Controlling international finance and media
  5. Dispossessing Arabs and stealing their land
  6. Killing Mohammad Dura
  7. Committing war crimes in Gaza
  8. Imposing an apartheid regime

Our enemies today attack the Jewish people violently when they can, but they are not strong enough by themselves to damage us severely. Today’s Amalekite strategy is to bit by bit assassinate the truth about us, to create an image of an evil people in illegitimate possession of the land, in order to create a coalition that at best will stand by when we are assaulted and at worst actively prevent us from defending ourselves.

To summarize, here is how I would interpret the commandments relating to Amalek today:

  1. Always be vigilant and prepared
  2. Don’t be fooled by visions of peace through surrender
  3. Tell our story loudly and fight the false narratives

 

Originally published at http://fresnozionism.org/

The Wisdom within the Law

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

The Torah portion of Mishpatim deals primarily with the civil laws that govern communal interaction. The fact that these decrees are given at this point – directly after the Hebrew tribes receive the Ten Commandments – shows a clear distinction between Western religions and Israel’s Torah. In truth, the Jewish nation has no such concept as “religion” in the formal sense of the term, as we reject the notion of anything lying outside the realm of HaShem. It is Israel’s mission to elevate every sphere of Creation by infusing it with kedusha and bringing it to its highest potential in our world.

Western civilization generally views religious observance as something limited to an individual’s private sphere of ritual and prayer. This erroneous perception constructs a false division between private service to G-D and the way a person treats his fellow man. The Torah recognizes no such distinction as all areas of life are intertwined and holiness derives from ethical business dealings and proper military conduct no less than from piety in matters of Torah study and prayer. The Sages teach that a Jew wishing to be live a pious life should be scrupulous in matters of civil law (Baba Kamma 30a). From this it is derived that the seat of the Sanhedrin should be on the Temple Mount, for both the Temple and the Sanhedrin are expressions of HaShem’s Ideal in this world. A judge who rules properly is considered a partner in Creation while one who judges corruptly is called a destroyer of G-D’s world. It is therefore appropriate that immediately after carrying Am Yisrael through the recognition of HaShem’s power, the miracles of the Sea and the revelation at Sinai, the Torah commences with precepts that seem almost mundane in character but are in fact no less expressions of HaShem’s greater Ideal than is the first of the Ten Commandments proclaiming His existence and sovereignty over all.

In the book of Melachim I (Kings 1), the Queen of Sheba visits the Israeli Kingdom of Shlomo. At the commencement of her visit, she expresses great skepticism regarding international rumors of the monarch’s wisdom. But after observing the way in which the Hebrew society functioned, the visiting queen is astounded. She immediately begins to praise Shlomo’s wisdom and HaShem’s supremacy, recognizing kedusha not merely in how Israelis observed Shabbat or brought korbanot to the Temple, but also in the way the realm functioned day-to-day. She expressed immense admiration for every aspect of the Hebrew Kingdom, down to the way in which the servants were dressed. Sheba discovered that Israel’s Torah encompasses all of national and even international existence, including the most seemingly mundane aspects of life.

The Divine Ideal of Am Yisrael existing as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation necessitates the sanctification of every aspect of individual and national life, revealing the unity of HaShem as encompassing all. While any gentile can be a righteous and holy individual, only Israel has the potential to be a holy nation, expressing kedusha in every facet of nationhood. Only through establishing such a holy kingdom can the Jewish people fulfill our collective mission of bringing Creation to its ultimate goal of total perfection and awareness of HaShem.

The Mystical Message Of The Chanukah Dreidel

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Chanukah commemorates our victory over the Syrian-Greeks and the Hellenists – Jews who betrayed their own people in order to curry favor with the gentiles.

Not much has changed in this respect in nearly 2,200 years. The battle continues. We cleaned up and purified the Beit HaMikdash, but were we truly liberated? The Greeks were ousted from our land, but were they expelled from our minds? What light did the menorah provide that proved the battlefield victories warranted an annual celebration for the remainder of Jewish history, despite the Holy Temple’s eventual destruction?

Our sages make a strange statement about the Greeks. They inform us that Greece – a nation noted for its scholars, wisdom, and academics – is the image of darkness (Bereishit Rabbah 2:4). We, a people with great appreciation for the intellectual, find this baffling. The Baal Shem Tov explains that it is as simple as a Chanukah dreidel.

All of creation is a rotating wheel, a dreidel. Things constantly change, revolve and become transformed. This is because all things, no matter what they are made of, have one root. Before they manifest themselves as they are, they pass through an interface known as “hyle” (Ramban on Genesis 1:1). A person’s roles also change over time, providing and dominating one day, receiving and following the next. Nations, too, rise and fall.

Why do we play with a dreidel on Chanukah? Because – like Chanukah, the dreidel parallels the concept of the Beit HaMikdash, which spun things around in a number of ways. It manifested the concept of the revolving wheel by being the home of the Shechinah while its design was simultaneously engraved on high (Tanchuma, Pikudey 1; Zohar 1:80b).

Additionally, it somehow limited the Divine presence of a transcendental God to a physical space. As Shlomo HaMelech put it, “Behold the Heavens, and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain You, how much less this Temple?!” (Kings I 8:27).

Furthermore, it is impossible to rationally explain how flesh-and-blood human beings can influence spiritual realms and how a sacrificial animal can produce “a sweet savor” (Genesis 8:21, Exodus 29:18) to God. Yet God did constrict His presence to the Beit HaMikdash and did accept sacrifices as “a sweet savor.” By doing so, God debunked the Greek model of rational philosophy with the Beit HaMikdash – as we do with the dreidel.

The Greeks are “darkness” because the rational mind (or, rather, the insistence on being rational always), limits one’s possibilities. One becomes stuck, “engraved on the horn of an ox,” and one can no longer think out of the box.

As Jews, we must always bear in mind that God has reasons that our reason cannot know. As God says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). This is why we dare not despair, even in the longest darkest, tragic periods of personal and national life. This is what enabled the Maccabees to undertake the struggle to fight the spiritual darkness against all odds.

The essential quality of the ultimate Redemption which we await is that of the Beit HaMikdash, the revolving wheel, the dreidel, when we will see and know that in fact all is one – that God is One and God’s Name is One (Zechariah 14:9).

May we soon see the arrival of Mashiach, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the Redemption of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher is dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

It’s My Opinion: Conduct Unbecoming An Officer

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

A recent scandal in South Florida has created quite a stir. An officer with the North Miami Beach police department has been accused of trying to cast a spell on the city manager. The action was allegedly engineered to make City Manager Lyndon Bonnet go away. Bonnet felt he had to trim the city budget. Some of the reductions would cut police jobs and funding. Apparently, everyone did not agree.

Officer Edith Torres reportedly tried to coax a janitor to help her sprinkle birdseed in a black-magic style hex. The birdseed was supposed to hold mystical power. The janitor balked and told her boss of the intended escapade.

As a result of the janitor’s report, Torres, a 24-year veteran of the police force, has been fired for “conduct unbecoming to an officer.”

South Florida is impacted by Afro-Caribbean religious practitioners. Many emanate from surrounding islands, including Haiti and Cuba. The practice of Santeria and voodoo are considered by many to be religious ceremonies. Both sects are loosely rooted in Catholic background, with a magical twist.

If the accusations against officer Torres are true, is she protected under the right of religious freedom? After all, isn’t this concept one of the most cherished privileges of our culture?

Yes, religious liberty is a cherished part of American ideology. However, the idea that everyone is entitled to pray and practice as he wishes does not include the right to hurt or harm others.

Law enforcement officials in the United States have an elevated obligation to protect the rights of citizens in our country. They swear to uphold these beliefs. We all are entitled to hold our opinions.

If the accusations against Torres are true, she is indeed guilty of conduct unbecoming to an officer.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/its-my-opinion-conduct-unbecoming-an-officer/2011/12/15/

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