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Posts Tagged ‘connection’

Why Ha’aretz is an Evil Newspaper

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Here’s an excerpt from the Haaretz interview with Israel’s Refrom Judaism Executive Director Gilad Kariv. Notice how the interviewer slips in the nasty question:

…there’s no point in using the prettified language of reconciliation here. There is a direct connection between the book “Torah Hamelech” and the recent lynch in Jerusalem. To get a group of youths to carry out such an attack on an Arab youth, it takes a good few years of dehumanization of the Arab. We started the month of Elul with a Molotov cocktail that burned an Arab family in the territories, and with an Arab young man lying in intensive care as a result of a pogrom.

The threshold is going up. All the time. And here there is a planned, orchestrated, ideological effort that relies entirely on the distorted structuring of relations between religion and state in Israel, which gives these rabbis immunity, and budgets, and public positions and status. There is a grand project of dehumanization of whoever is not a Jew.

And of the other in general. The Arab is number one, although now he has competition for that ranking − from the migrant worker. While we’re sitting here in this air-conditioned office, refugees and their little children are in tents in Ketziot.

Like the concentration camps Leibowitz prophesied. Yes. There is also a detention facility where dozens of African youths have been sitting for many months because no framework was found for them. We’ve negated their humanity, we’ve removed them from the circle of human beings whom we must treat with dignity. And then this fellow − You know, I don’t want to use such words in talking about Eli Yishai …

For sure, there is no “direct connection” between the book, Torat HaMelech, and the youth who carried out the vicious attack on an Arab in Zion Square although since the trial hasn’t begun, we really do not know much, neither I nor the Reform Rabbi. A Rabbi, by the way, would steer clear of such an accusation, especially during the Ten Days of Penitence.

But “concentration camps”?

Yes, Kariv considers Lebowitz his teacher even though Leibowitz though this of the sect of Reform:

Yeshayahu Leibowitz had a harsh saying about you Reform Jews. He said: “It’s very nice and all, but it’s not religion.”

To ask him about Leibowitz would seem proper. But not to repeat a calumny. Goading and promoting Nazi comparisons is an evil discourse agenda. Done so easily, so flippantly. So carelessly.

And the editor let it through.

Visit the My Right Word blog.

The Pita That Revived Terror

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

“And all the nations will see that the Name of God is called upon you, and they will fear you” (Deuteronomy 28:10).

During the First Lebanon War, the IDF forced the PLO terrorists all the way to the Beirut port and then to Tunisia. The PLO, which had lost its stronghold in Lebanon, was shattered. Salach Taamri, the most senior and admired terrorist captured by the IDF, was imprisoned in the Ansar detention camp. He was a broken man.

Later, Taamri was interviewed by journalist Aharon Barnea for the book he would write about him, To be Captive. In Barnea’s book, Taamri describes the situation of the terror organization prior to Pesach, 28 years ago. “I concluded,” said Taamri, “that we had no chance to overpower Israel’s financial and military prowess, and that we should make do with the crumbs that they would throw us and fold up all our flags.”

Taamri, an intellectual and patriot, willingly cooperated with his captors. The other prisoners understood from their admired commander that the end had come and that the war was lost. And then, Taamri continued, a surprising event took place that turned everything upside down.

“My hands were holding the cold bars and I was looking from inside my dark jail cell toward the hall where an Israeli guard was walking. I saw him from far. He was walking slowly, holding something in his hand that he would constantly bring close to his mouth. He would bring it close and then distance it. When he was close to my cell, I called to him. I saw that he was eating a pita. He would bite, chew, bite and chew.

“You are a Jew,” I said to him. “Why are you eating chametz on Pesach? Don’t you know that it is forbidden for a Jew to eat chametz on this holiday?”

“I am not committed to the things that happened to my people during the exodus from Egypt 2,000 years ago. I have no connection to it,” said the Jewish prison guard.

Taamri continued: “I sat on the mattress in my cell and said to myself, ‘A nation of people who do not have a connection with their past; who are willing to publicly desecrate the laws of their faith, is a nation that has cut off the roots from its land. We will be able to achieve our goals.’ On that night, my approach completely changed. I couldn’t fall asleep. In all those hours of darkness, I replayed that scene with the Jewish prison guard.

“The next morning I gathered the Palestinian leadership in the prison, all those who knew my opinion over the years. I told them about my experience and the conclusions that I reached. I clarified to everyone that from that morning, we were embarking on a new course: a war for everything. Not for a small percentage and not for crumbs that they would throw us. For opposing us was a nation that lacked the connection to its roots, a nation not interested in its past. Thus, its motivation was necessarily void of any will to struggle and fight.”

Since then, Taamri says that he has told his story to tens of thousands of people and has convinced all of them that the approach must be changed to this: the Palestinians must struggle without compromise.

Taamri was elected to the Palestinian parliament and indeed convinced his friends, breathing new spirit into the war against Israel. The damage done by that pita eaten by the Israeli soldier on Pesach cannot be exaggerated.

The question mark hovering over the right of the Jewish state to exist – and as a result, over its right to defend itself in the face of existential threat – is directly connected to our identity as God’s nation.

When the nations of the world see that God’s Name is called upon us, when we know who we are, understand what we represent and are at peace with our destiny, the power of deterrence that the terrorist Taamri initially felt will be established. But when we are not interested in God’s Name being called upon us, the nations can openly plan to destroy us – with nuclear weapons or in any other way. And they will do so without fear.

The World’s Leader: Israel

Monday, September 24th, 2012

We have learned that the force of t’shuva is perpetually at work, propelling all of life toward perfection. While the enlightenment of mankind is a gradually developing process, the day is soon coming when the wonder of t’shuva will capture all imaginations and hearts.

In this saga of universal redemption, where do the Jewish People fit in? What role do they play? Just as one might expect, Am Yisrael is to be the leader, blazing the trail for all other peoples to follow. Rabbi Kook writes:

The Jewish People, because of their enhanced spiritual nature, will be the first nation in the world to do t’shuva. The special spirit of t’shuva will initially be revealed in this portion of humanity.Israelis propelled from within to be united with God’s light in the world, which is free of transgression and wrongdoing. Every falling away (from its connection to God) blemishes the wholeness of its inner perfection, yet in the end, its powerful life-force will triumph over the deviation, and it will return to complete health. This complete health will start to invigorate (the nation) with great strength and the light of t’shuva will shine within her first. Afterward, Israel will be the special channel to spread life’s inner yearning for t’shuva to all of the world, to lighten the world’s darkness and elevate its stature (Orot HaT’shuva, 5:8.  See also The Art of T’shuva, Ch. 16).

As we mentioned in a previous blog, Israel’s enhanced spiritual nature lies in its unique holiness and connection to God. “For thou art a holy people to the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God has chosen thee to be a special people to Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Devarim, 7:6).

The Nation of Israel has an exalted inner content which radiates God’s blessing to the world. This segula, or unique Divine connection, encompasses all of the Jewish People. It is our national soul. Blemishes caused by sin are always external to the soul of the nation, leaving no permanent scar.

Israel’s deep, inner yearning to be connected to God, triumphs in the end, banishing all darkness. We are not speaking about a spiritual awakening of scattered individuals. THE WHOLE NATION RETURNS TO GOD. True to the prophecy of Moses, the whole nation will return to live by the Torah. Politicians and soldiers, artists and farmers, teachers and judges will have one common purpose — to sanctify life’s every endeavor. Israel will return to being itself — “A kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Shemot, 19:6).

The revelation of Israel’s holiness will bring more light to the world than the sun. Mankind will be blinded and stunned. All people will proclaim:

Surely this great Nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is so great that has God so near to them… and what Nation is so great that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all of this Torah? (Devarim, 4:6-8).

This awakened, Holy Nation will demand a new life order, the correction of all wrong, the uprooting of all evil, rescue for the downtrodden, equality for all people, food for all children, salvation from a life of paganism and sin.

Inspired by the Holy Nation of Israel, mankind will abandon its vain and misguided paths, and a mighty spirit of t’shuva will be ignited throughout the world. Nations will flock to Israel to learn the ways of the Jews, as it is written:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Yaacov; and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Yisheyahu, 2:2-4).

An example of Israel’s future influence on the nations will help make this utopian scenario more clear. Rabbi Kook writes that t’shuva is ever-present in the inner fabric of existence because it was brought into being before the creation of the world. Before sin had occurred, a remedy for it had already been prepared.

The Meanings Of Shema

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

It would be reasonable to assume that a language that contains the verb “to command” must also contain the verb “to obey.” The one implies the other, just as the concept of a question implies the possibility of an answer. We would, however, be wrong. There are 613 commandments in the Torah, but there is no word in biblical Hebrew that means “to obey.” When Hebrew was revived as a language of everyday speech in the nineteenth century, a word, letsayet, had to be borrowed from Aramaic. Until then there was no Hebrew word for “to obey.”

This is an astonishing fact and not everyone was aware of it. It led some Christians (and secularists) to misunderstand the nature of Judaism: very few Christian thinkers fully appreciated the concept of mitzvah and the idea that God might choose to reveal Himself in the form of laws. It also led some Jews to think about mitzvot in a way more appropriate to Islam (the word “Islam” means “submitting” to God’s law) than to Judaism. What word does the Torah use as the appropriate response to a mitzvah? Shema.

The root “sh-m-a” is a keyword in the book of Deuteronomy, where it occurs 92 times, usually in the sense of what God wants from us in response to the commandments. But the verb “sh-m-a” means many things. Here are some of the meanings it has in Genesis:

1) “To hear,” as in “Abram heard that his relative [Lot] had been taken captive” (14:14).

2) “To listen, pay attention, heed,” as in “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree” (3:17) and “Then Rachel said: ‘God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son’ ” (30:7).

3) “To understand,” as in “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (11:7). This is how tradition understood the later phrase, “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7) to mean, “First we will do, then understand.”

4) “To be willing to obey,” as in the angel’s words to Abraham after the binding of Isaac: “Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you were willing to obey me” (22:18). Abraham was about to obey God’s command but at the last moment an angel said, “Stop.”

5) “To respond in deed, to do what someone else wants” as in “Do whatever Sarah tells you” (shema bekolah, 21:12). It is in this last sense that it comes closest in meaning to “obey.”

The fact that sh-m-a means all these things suggests that in the Torah there is no concept of blind obedience. In general, a commander orders and a soldier obeys. A slave-owner orders and the slave obeys. There is no active thought process involved. The connection between the word of the commander and the deed of the commanded is one of action-and-reaction, stimulus-and-response. For practical purposes, the soldier or slave has no mind of his own. As Tennyson described the attitude of the soldiers before the Charge of the Light Brigade: “Ours not to reason why; ours but to do or die.”

That is not how the Torah conceives the relationship between God and us. God, who created us in His image, giving us freedom and the power to think, wants us to understand His commands. Ralbag (Gersonides, 1288-1344) argues that it is precisely this that makes the Torah different:

Behold our Torah is unique among all the other doctrines and religions that other nations have had, in that our Torah contains nothing that does not originate in equity and reason. Therefore this Divine Law attracts people in virtue of its essence, so that they behave in accordance with it. The laws and religions of other nations are not like this. They do not conform to equity and wisdom, but are foreign to the nature of man, and people obey them because of compulsion, out of fear of the threat of punishment but not because of their essence.”

Along similar lines the modern scholar David Weiss Halivni speaks of “the Jewish predilection for justified law,” and contrasts this with other cultures in the ancient world:

Ancient law in general is apodictic, without justification and without persuasion. Its style is categorical, demanding, and commanding … Ancient Near Eastern law in particular is devoid of any trace of desire to convince or to win hearts. It enjoins, prescribes, and orders, expecting to be heeded solely on the strength of being an official decree. It solicits no consent (through justification) from those to whom it is directed.

The Torah uses at least three devices to show that Jewish law is not arbitrary, a mere decree. First, especially evident throughout the book of Devarim, is the giving of reasons for the commands. Often, though not always, the reason has to do with the experience of the Israelites in Egypt. They know what it feels like to be oppressed, to be a stranger, an outsider. I want you to create a different kind of society, says God through Moses, where slavery is more limited, where everyone is free one day a week, where the poor do not go hungry, and the powerless are not denied justice.

25 Poles Who Discovered They Are Jewish to Study In Israel

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

25 young Polish Jews, many of whom have only recently discovered their Jewish roots, arrived in Israel on Monday for a special seminar organized by Shavei Israel, an organization that aims to strengthen the connection between descendants of Jews and the State of Israel & the Jewish people. The participants, between the ages of 18-35, most of whom were raised Catholic, came from cities like Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Przemysl and Gdansk. For many it marks their first time visiting Israel.

“There is a growing thirst among young Poles with Jewish roots to learn more about their Jewish religious and cultural heritage,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. “This awakening would have been unthinkable just 25 or 30 years ago, but since the downfall of Communism, an increasing number of Poles have sought to reclaim and affirm their Jewish identity. We owe it to them to assist them in any way that we can.”

Freund added that, “with the start of the new Jewish year just a few weeks away, it is fitting that these young Poles have come to Israel to rekindle their bond with the Jewish people.”

The program, run by Polish-speaking rabbis and educators, is designed to assist the young Poles in discovering more about their Jewish roots and learning more about ancient and modern-day Israel. Among the topics that will be covered are the laws of Shabbat; the upcoming holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot; and “Keeping kosher in a non-kosher world.” Participants will also study the weekly Torah portion.

The visitors will meet with the Polish Ambassador to Israel, and an spend a day studying at a local yeshiva.

About 4,000 Jews live in Poland today, but some suggest there may be tens of thousands of other Jews in Poland who to this day are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage. In recent years, a growing number of such people, popularly known as the “Hidden Jews of Poland”, have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people.

Shavei Israel currently has two full-time emissaries in Poland located in Krakow and Katowice.

A Real People with a Real Prophecy

Monday, August 20th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai and Malkah kick off by talking about Malkah’s attendance at the arrival of a Nefesh B’ Nefesh flight of new immigrants to Israel and her connection with celebrity kosher chef Jamie Geller, who made Aliyah to Israel along with her family on this flight.  They move on to talk about a Brit Milah that the Flieshers attended and also by talking how recent discoveries of a bathroom from an ancient synagogue in Germany and how it’s compared to a picture of a young Israeli draped with a flag.  Yishai ends by talking about how this is the last show before the month of Elul and how everyone needs to prepare for Elul by being closer to G-d.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
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Happy t’shuva!

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

The month of Elul is known for being the time of the year most favorable for t’shuva – generally known as penitence or repentance. But t’shuva is much more than feeling bad over the transgressions which we have committed. Rabbi Kook teaches that t’shuva is the force that makes the world go around. Here’s how he begins his penetrating and inspiring book on t’shuva, “Orot HaT’shuva.”

“For some time now, I have been struggling with an inner battle. A powerful force is impelling me to speak on the subject of t’shuva. All of my thoughts are concentrated on this. The greatest part of the Torah and life is devoted to the matter of t’shuva. All of the hopes of the individual and the community are founded upon it. T’shuva is a Divine commandment which is both the easiest, since the thought of t’shuva is considered t’shuva in itself (Kiddushin 49B), and on the other hand, it is the most difficult commandment, since its essence has not yet been fully revealed in the world and in life.”

I had the good fortune of translating selections from Rabbi Kook’s book and co-writing a commentary on the book with Rabbi David Samson, a longtime student of Rabbi Kook’s son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Rabbi Samson is a veteran teacher at the Mercaz HaRav High School Yeshiva, and founder and director of five high schools for “youth at risk” in Israel. The commentary, which we called, The Art of T’shuvamay be one of the most important self-help books you can find, opening pathways to a new and more vibrant connection to God and to Torah, pathways which are sure to fill your life with greater light and happiness.

As Rabbi Kook writes:

“With each passing day, powered by the lofty light of t’shuva, the penitent’s feeling becomes more secure, clearer, more enlightened with the radiance of sharpened intellect, and more clarified according to the foundations of Torah. His demeanor becomes brighter, his anger subsides, the light of grace shines on him. He becomes filled with strength; his eyes are filled with a holy fire; his heart is completely immersed in springs of pleasure; holiness and purity envelop him. A boundless loves fills all of his spirit; his soul thirsts for God, and this very thirst satiates all of his being. The holy spirit rings before him like a bell, and he is informed that all of his willful transgressions, the known and the unknown, have been erased; that he has been reborn as a new being; that all of the world and all of Creation are reborn with him; that all of existence calls out in song, and that the joy of God infuses all. Great is t’shuva for it brings healing to the world, and even one individual who repents is forgiven, and the whole world is forgiven with him.”

For those of you who can’t afford the ten odd bucks it costs to order the book at Amazon, in the honor of Rabbi Kook’s yahrtzeit which falls on the 3rd of Elul, we will be serializing throughout the month, here at The Jewish Press, a condensed version of the commentary, chapter by chapter, on this blog. Once again, if you don’t find the book worthwhile, print out the pages, send them to me, and I’ll eat them.

For avid lovers of Hashem who can’t get enough t’shuva, you will find a mini-library on t’shuva on our www.jewishsexuality.com website including the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and the Baal HaTanya’s famous “Letter of T’shuva,” condensed and explained. You’ll also find Rebbe Nachman’s “Secret of Elul” and an online translation of the famous “Tikun HaKlali” confession. Sexual transgressions, knows as Pigam HaBrit, are among the most serious sins, and the website has dozens of articles, written by our holiest Sages, on ways to rectify past errors and rise up to a healthier, holier path. For people who are prone to Internet temptations, the site offers a free download pamphlet on Shmirat HaBrit that Rabbi Shlomo Aviner highly recommends to every teenager, parent, teacher and rabbi.

Happy t’shuva!

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/happy-tshuva/2012/08/19/

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