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November 24, 2014 / 2 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘David’

Postcard from Tel Azekah

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

In the Judean lowlands, rising above the Elah Valley, lies Tel Azeka (also Azekah) – mentioned numerous times in Biblical texts. Perhaps most famously, it is associated with the story of David and Goliath, which is etched into blocks of stone set by the path up to the top of the Tel, its dramatic ending overlooking the Elah Valley below on one side and views as far as the Mediterranean coast on the other.

“Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and they were gathered together at Socoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched in the vale of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines.” (I Samuel 17, 1-2)

Azeka also gets a mention in the Book of Joshua, both as the site of a hailstorm which destroyed the army of the Amorite kings and later as part of the area designated to the tribe of Judah.

“And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-horon, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died; they were more who died with the hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”

As described in Jeremiah, Azeka and Lachish were the last two cities to fall to the Babylonians before Jerusalem. The town is mentioned in the Lachish Letters (currently to be found in the British Museum) and also in Nehemiah as one of the places to which the exiled Jews returned.

“Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and the fields thereof, Azekah and the towns thereof. So they encamped from Beer-sheba unto the valley of Hinnom.”

Tel Azeka was first excavated by British archaeologists between the years 1898 – 1900 and a system of interconnecting hideout caves used by Jews during the time of the Bar Kochva revolt against the Romans was discovered. This summer, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University and others began excavating the site using modern technology and some of their findings can be seen on the dig’s blog.

A Himmel Geshrai

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

A himmel geshrai” is a Yiddish phrase that, loosely translated, means “a tragedy of such catastrophic proportions that the heavens themselves cry out.” Sadly, every one of the letters on family breakdowns I’ve featured these past several weeks can be summed up as “a himmel geshrai.”

As Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approach and we appeal to Hashem for a blessed New Year, we also prepare for the awesome moment when we will all stand before Almighty G-d. Just as we carefully prepare for special occasions, making certain our appearance is “just right,” so we must ready ourselves for the most awesome day in our calendar year – when our destiny is decided.

On that day G-d will search our souls and make decisions affecting the lives of each and every one of us – “who shall live and who shall die; who shall be at ease and who shall suffer; who shall be elevated and who shall be demoted; who shall be enriched and who shall be impoverished; who by fire, who by water, and so on.”

Who would not tremble on such a day? Who would dare stand in front of G-d, the Great Judge, in soiled, putrid garments? Surely no sane man would want to appear repugnant in His sight, and yet that is exactly what so many of us are doing.

There is nothing so repugnant to our Father than to see animosity, jealousy, and hatred fragmenting His children. When a Jewish home becomes an inferno, with no love to unite family members, that household banishes itself from the presence of G-d. It is a catastrophe of himmel geshrai proportions.

The most recent letter I featured exemplified a new low in this abominable state of affairs – a mother engaging attorneys to prosecute her own son, even to the point of placing him behind bars. And all for financial gain.

Pagan men killed their own children to feed the idols they worshipped. Thousands of years have passed and the idols are still very much with us, albeit identified by different names. In place of Ba’al and other such creations, the new idol is the golden calf of money, and it is on this altar that modern man sacrifices his family.

Images of our giants appear in my mind’s eye. I hear the voice of David, king of Israel, when his son Avshalom fomented an uprising against him. It would have been easy and natural for David to command his troops to do away with this despicable, rebellious son, but instead David chose to abdicate his throne and leave Jerusalem. Avshalom, however, was not satisfied. He feared his father might return to the holy city and reclaim his kingdom, so he unrelentingly pursued him and schemed to kill him.

When the news reached David that Avshalom, galloping on his horse in pursuit of his father, had caught his long hair in the branch of a tree and been killed, David cried out in anguish, “Avshalom b’ni, Avshalom b’ni – Avshalom, my son, Avshalom, my son; would that I had died instead of you!”

But David didn’t stop there. He repeated seven times the words “Avshalom b’ni, Avshalom b’ni.” With tears he beseeched G-d to remove his son from the throes of Gehennom and elevate him to the Seventh Heaven – the highest place in the abode above.

David’s example is not an isolated one. Rather, it is symptomatic of Jewish parents who have always been prepared to sacrifice for their children even when deeply wounded or hurt. There is a well-known Yiddish adage that goes, “One mother can care for ten children, but ten children cannot care for one mother.”

Jewish parents have been unwavering in their commitment and love, and in our secular, liberated society are caricatured for their unwavering devotion. When Philip Roth’s notorious novel Portnoy’s Complaint – in which he mockingly satirized the “neurotic” Jewish mother who forever obsesses about her children and hovers over them – was published decades ago, I wrote an article in which I emphasized that we are proud of the so-called neurotic Jewish mother. It was she who gave birth to and nurtured the giants of every generation – prophets and sages, righteous men and holy women, scientists and physicians, mathematicians and musicians, artists and authors.

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.

Hillary: She Was Radiant, She Was Funny, and She Was Almost Two Hours Late

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

The lobby of the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem was quiet and calm on Monday evening as journalists trickled in to see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak as part of her 13-day foreign tour. The atmosphere before the event was subdued, with only a few Israeli soldiers and navy blue, blazer-clad security agents milling about to give away the magnitude of what was coming.

After going through an intense security screening, we awaited her arrival…and waited. And waited.

About 45 minutes after she was scheduled to begin, there was still no sign of her. The anticipation and excitement were building as chatter filled the press room. A lady then took the microphone…to tell the crowd that Hillary would be another 40 minutes.

Finally, at close to 10:45 PM, an hour and forty-five minutes later than promised, Hillary stepped up to the podium.

When she entered, the sound of flashing cameras immediately flooded the room. It was the only noise to be heard—minus the soft click-clacking of her shoes.

She looked serene, calm and prepared.

It was a short conference, lasting less time than the wait for her arrival. She spoke for a few minutes about her recent trip to Egypt and reiterated her commitment to peace in the Middle East. It was clear that she knew what topics would be asked about, as her eyes regularly glanced down to her notes before she responded. Even so, there was one answer that was not so expected, and actually yielded a quite shocking response:

Speaking about the fate of Jonathan Pollard, Secretary Clinton said she believed that he would never be freed from his life sentence in America. The room was stunned by the blunt nature of the statement, and jolted as that harsh reality was brought out into the open.

Clinton’s politics have been discussed only slightly more than her appearance in the media. It’s often to my disappointment (if she were a man, it would never be such a point of discussion), but I will say that she was poised, confident and well put-together. Known for pastel colors, the Secretary of State updated the inevitable pants suit look to a clean black and cream.

The media often use the pants suits as fuel to criticize a masculine air, but tonight Secretary Clinton was both feminine and assertive. She even generated laughter in the room a couple of times. A few days ago tomatoes and shoes were thrown at her motorcade in Egypt, but Clinton remained un-phased, even joking that she felt bad that good tomatoes were wasted. When referencing the incident seriously, she explained it as people expressing a new type of freedom, even though their assumptions and conclusions were wrong.

A busy woman, it was clear that she was tired. But she charmed the crowd when, in the beginning, she said that although her traveling team is anxious to get home, she’d like to be hanging out in Jerusalem.

Personally, I also wish we could have hung out with her for a little longer in the holy city. The room covered the basics, such as Iran’s nuclear threat and U.S. involvement in the future, but we were still left with unanswered questions. One reporter made a last attempt by shouting that he wanted to ask about Turkey as Hillary stepped out of the room. Whisked away immediately to her awaiting motorcade, Clinton did not respond to the shout.

In reference to Egypt’s current situation, Clinton said, “Never in the 5,000-year history of Egypt have they ever had this opportunity or challenge.”

The Obama Administration doesn’t have 5,000 years. With Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel only a month away, Obama’s side needs its Israel creds to garner the Jewish American vote.

Matana’s Gift

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Dear Readers: The long, lazy days of summer are upon us and it’s time to sit back with a cold drink and good book. The following is a reprint of a fictional story I wrote a long time ago. Though it is made up, there are parts that are all too real. Long lost objects have miraculously turned up under the most unlikely circumstances. This story is in memory of a second cousin, David, who was blown up in his tank during the Yom Kippur War. His wife had their first child, a girl, eight months later.

* * * * *

It was the Thursday before her daughter’s wedding and Chana Bendiner had so much to do, so many minute details to attend to. Yet here she was in her attic, blowing the dust off a photo album that had remained buried, but not forgotten, for over 20 years. She stared at the leather-bound cover, gently caressing the embossed gold lettering, unable to open it, yet unable to put it down.

For Chana Bendiner knew that the photos that lay within, unseen for two decades, would unleash a torrent of bittersweet memories, releasing intense emotions from the deeply buried vault in her heart in which she had locked them – an soul-numbing process that had taken years of effort and a deluge of tears.

Inhaling deeply, prepared to have her breath taken away by a tsunami of memories that would flood her inner core, she opened the album book.

Looking up at her with a smile as radiant as snow bathed in sunlight was her 22-year-old self, her blue eyes as bright as the skies over the Kinneret; her hair a honey-blond cascade of curls spilling out from her bridal veil. Chana wryly touched her light brown sheitel, grateful that it covered the grey strands that had stealthily infiltrated her hair.

Her smile trembled and her face contorted as she looked at the young man at her side, her chatan, her golden-voiced Dov, Berel to the older generation. His puppy-brown eyes glowed with life, framed by thick auburn eyelashes that matched his thatch of auburn hair. A subtle brown sheen barely saved him from being labeled a gingi – a redhead.

Both native New Yorkers, Chana Rotgerber and Dov Walbrom had met at a kumsitz melavah malka at the home of a mutual friend in Jerusalem. Chana had been enchanted by his mellow tenor voice as he sat on the floor, strumming his guitar and singing Israeli folk-songs. He in turn could not take his eyes off her. He would later describe her as human sunshine. To their mutual relief and delight, they discovered that both had made aliyah, determined to give of their talents and skills to enhance their ancestral homeland.

The two and a half years of their marriage were of fairy-tale caliber: both delighted in the existence of the other. The “icing on their cake” had been the birth of their redheaded, milk chocolate-eyed baby girl.

“Go figure,” Chana had exclaimed to her ecstatic, peacock-proud husband as she scrutinized her newborn daughter. “For nine months I grow this human being inside me, my waist explodes and may ankles swell – and she’s the spitting image of you! It’s like I had no part in all this!”

“Well at least we know she’ll be good-looking,” Dov teased as he dodged the pillow Chana had thrown at him.

They had named their child Matana. Chana had had her heart set on naming her baby after her mother’s sister, who had perished in the Holocaust. She knew however that the name “Matel” was not quite appropriate for a sabra, and she was delighted when Dov, a bio-engineer with a creative bend, had come up with the name Matana, which was Hebrew for gift. It was perfect, sounding enough like Matel to satisfy the thrilled grandparents, yet preventing the teasing that would have been the inevitable fate of an Israeli child called Matel. Almost immediately after her naming, Matana was nicknamed Mati, and that was what she was called from that moment on.

For 10 months after Mati’s birth, her father would croon her to sleep, composing different tunes and changing the words to suit the baby’s mood. Often her doting daddy would spend hours playing his guitar, tape-recording the music that flowed from his hands. When Chana had asked him what he was so busy with, he told her he was working on Mati’s wedding march. It would be played as they walked her to her chuppah and her waiting chatan.

Henry Solomon Hendricks

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from “Necrology: Henry S. Hendricks (1892-1959)” by David de Sola Pool, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society (1893 -1961); Sep 1959-Jun 1960; 49, 1-4 AJHS Journal, available online at http://www.ajhs.org/scholarship/adaje.cfm

The sad fact is that within a few generations virtually all the descendants of the Jews who came to America before the Revolution assimilated. An exception was Henry Solomon Hendricks, whose ancestors arrived in America at the beginning of the 18th century and perhaps even earlier. His great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Abraham Haim de Lucena, is first mentioned in New York City records in 1701.

“Though we have no verifying documentary evidence, it is at least very probable that this Abraham Haim de Lucena was either descended from or was close of kin with Abraham de Lucena who came to New Amsterdam in 1655 and who is regarded as one of the most important founders of the historic Congregation Shearith Israel and the American Jewish community.”

Abraham Haim became a freeman on July 6, 1708. “He was an importer and exporter of such goods as wheat, wine, other varied provisions, and ‘Jewish beef.’ In 1705 he joined with sixty-five other merchants of the city in a petition concerning fair valuation of foreign coins. In 1711, in Queen Anne’s War he was one of those who supplied the American expedition against Canada with flour, bread, butter, and peas…”

Abraham Haim de Lucena served as “minister” (chazzan) of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York from 1703 until his passing on August 4, 1725.

Henry Solomon Hendricks was born in New York on August 25, 1892 to Edgar and Lillian Henry Hendricks.

His father died two years later. With deep religious perception his devoted mother brought him up, though he was an only child, with standards of rare simplicity and selflessness. He graduated from the Collegiate School in New York in 1910, attended Williams College from 1910 to 1912, then transferred to Columbia University from which he graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in February 1914. He then went with his mother on an educational tour of half a year to countries in Europe and to Egypt and Palestine. On returning he re-entered Columbia University, this time in its Department of Law, from which he graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1917. He was then admitted to the bar, and he spent his professional life as a lawyer. He was with the firm of Cardozo and Nathan from 1917 to 1926, in his own office to 1938, with the firm of Hendricks, Robbins and Buttenwieser from 1938 to 1947, and thereafter again in his own office. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, the Bar Association of the City of New York, and the New York County Lawyers Association.His hobby was sailing to which he had taken as a lad at the age of twelve. He became so skilled in it that on one occasion he joined in a sail boat race from New London to Bermuda. He was a member of the Knickerbocker Yacht Club.

When the United States entered the First World War he enlisted in the Navy and served as an Ensign from 1917 to 1918. Thereafter he was a member of the United States Naval Reserve. In the Second World War he became a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and he gave service as an appeal agent in implementing the Selective Service Act. Throughout his life he was moved by an intense and meaningful American patriotism.

In 1916, he married Rosalie Gomez Nathan, daughter of Edgar Joshua Nathan and Sara Solis. Their strong and beautiful union was blessed with two daughters, Ruth [Mrs. Hyman A. Schulson] and Sally [Mrs. Robert Weber], and five grandchildren.

Henry Hendricks’s love of and service to his country were based on the fact that many of his and his wife’s ancestors had played key roles in America’s history for almost 200 years. The same was true of his outstanding dedication to Congregation Shearith Israel of New York. His family had been involved in the congregation essentially from its inception.

We have records of the congregation for forty-seven years preceding the Revolution. In nineteen of those years no less than seven members of the Gomez family from which he was descended served as President of the congregation. At that time this also meant serving as President of New York’s Jewish community. His great, great, great grandfather, Uriah Hendricks, who was Parnas Presidente of the congregation in 1791, owned one of the synagogue’s scrolls of the Torah that was violated by British soldiers during the Revolution.

His great-great-grandfather had contributed a substantial sum that materially furthered the erection of Shearith Israel’s Second Mill Street Synagogue that was consecrated in 1818. And of course as mentioned above, his ancestor, Abraham Haim de Lucena, had served as chazzan of the congregation.

As a youth he [Henry] was active in Shearith Israel’s Junior League. He became a Trustee of the congregation in 1923, while still a young man, and because of the able service he was always ready to give with tireless devotion he rose to be its President. He served in that capacity from 1927 to 1930, 1934 to 1935, and from 1939 to 1951. He was Honorary President from 1952 to his death.

However, his efforts were not limited to Shearith Israel.

He translated the principle of noblesse oblige into heightened social service. Among his many communal interests, he gave outstanding constructive leadership in the religious and social organization and integration into American life of the Sephardim who came to this country from the Balkans, Turkey and the Levant in the first three decades of this century. At 133 Eldridge Street in the neighborhood where very many of these newcomers first settled, the Sisterhood of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel conducted a settlement house in which Henry S. Hendricks helped organize a synagogue, Berith Shalom. Besides leading a club in that neighborhood house, he showed a special interest in that downtown congregation. Its members elected him President, a remarkable testimony both to the appreciation of him shown by the members of the congregation and to his personal identification with the newcomers. This office he filled for some years. When Smyrna was devastated by fire in 1921, Mr. Hendricks was among those who organized an emergency Jewish relief committee in New York, and from this there developed the first Sephardic Jewish Community of New York. He served as its Treasurer, and his generosity materially helped the congregation to acquire in Harlem the building that became the center of organized Sephardic life in the city. Later when Sephardim were moving away from Harlem, his openhandedness materially furthered the initial development of organized Sephardic religious life in the Bronx.

Henry was actively involved in the Union of Sephardic Congregations from its inception in 1929. In 1936 he sponsored the printing of the Daily and Sabbath Prayer Book which the Union published.

Henry S. Hendricks was tirelessly busy with his religious, communal, social welfare and professional interests, yet he always had time for his family and friends and for acts of personal kindness. His sterling worth, his innate nobility, his constructive generosity, his thoughtful leadership, his selfless dedication and his unswerving loyalty, made him a precious influence in the life of many. He never sought reward or personal recognition. From his childhood he had been steeped in traditional Jewish living, and his loyalty to Jewish traditions, observances and ideals never wavered. He indeflectibly maintained his religious standards. For him Judaism was both a faith and a way of life.

French Chief Rabbi Gets Death Threats on Facebook

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

French police said they were investigating death threats made against the country’s chief rabbi.

Polices said over the weekend that they are looking for people connected to a photomontage disseminated through Facebook which shows Rabbi Gilles Bernheim with a revolver pointing at his head. The picture shows Bernheim wearing a Star of David on his forehead.

A lighter labeled as containing Zyklon B, the compound used in Nazi gas chambers, is being held up to his nostrils.

“Don’t worry, Bernheim, I won’t deport you. I just want you to breathe in the content of this lighter,” a caption reads. The photomontage is signed by “Bakala LBD.”

Bakala LBD is the name of a Facebook user whose page offers profanities about Israel and maps that purport to depict the expansion of Jewish presence in Israel and the disputed territories. It also offers photos of the French comedian known as Dieudonne, founder of the French Anti-Zionist Party. Dieudonne has been convicted several times of hate speech because of anti-Semitic statements.

CRIF, the umbrella organization representing French Jewish communities, condemned the threats.

“Anti-Semitism is not an atmosphere. It kills,” Ron Rafaeli of SPCJ, the security service of France’s Jewish communities, said last week at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/french-chief-rabbi-gets-death-threats-on-facebook/2012/06/24/

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