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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘desert’

Depending On A Wise Sister

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

It is a scene that still has the power to shock and disturb. The people complain. There is no water. It is an old complaint and a predictable one. That’s what happens in a desert. Moses should have been able to handle it in his stride. He has been through far tougher challenges in his time. Yet suddenly he explodes into vituperative anger:

“Listen now, you rebels, shall we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. (Numbers 20: 10-11).

It was such egregious behavior, so much of an overreaction, that the commentators had difficulty in deciding which aspect was worst. Some said it was hitting the rock instead of speaking to it as God had instructed. Some said it was the use of the word “we.” Moses knew that God would send water; it had nothing to do with Aaron or with Moses himself. Others, most famously Maimonides, said that it was the anger evident in the words “Listen now, you rebels.”

The questions I want to raise are simply these: What made this trial different? Why did Moses momentarily lose control? Why then? Why there? These questions are entirely separate from that of why Moses was not allowed to enter the land. Although the Torah associates the two, I argue elsewhere that this was not a punishment at all. Moses did not lead the people across the Jordan and into the land because that task, involving a new generation and an entirely new set of challenges, demanded a new leader. Even the greatest figures in history belong to a specific time and place. “Dor dor u’parnasav – Each generation has its own leaders” (Avodah Zarah 5a). Leadership is time-bound, not timeless.

Behind Moses’s loss of emotional control is a different story, told with utmost brevity in the text: “In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There, Miriam died and was buried. Now there was no water for the community…” Moses lost control because his sister Miriam had just died. He was in mourning for his eldest sibling. It is hard to lose a parent, but in some ways it is even harder to lose a brother or sister. They are your generation. You feel the angel of death come suddenly close. You face your own mortality.

But Miriam was more than a sister to Moses. She was the one, while still a six-year-old child, to follow the course of the wicker basket holding her baby brother as it drifted down the Nile. She had the courage and ingenuity to approach Pharaoh’s daughter and suggest that she employ a Hebrew nurse for the child, thus ensuring that Moses would grow up knowing his family, his people and his identity.

Small wonder that the Sages said that Miriam persuaded her father Amram, the gadol hador (leading scholar of his generation), to annul his decree that Hebrew husbands should divorce their wives and have no more children since there was a fifty percent chance that any child born would be killed. “Your decree,” said Miriam, “is worse than Pharaoh’s. He only decreed against the males, yours applies to females also. He intends to rob children of life in this world; you would deny them even life in the World to Come” (Midrash Lekach Tov to Exodus 2:1). Amram admitted her superior logic. Husbands and wives were reunited. Yocheved became pregnant and Moses was born. Note simply that this midrash, told by the Sages, unambiguously implies that a six-year-old girl had more faith and wisdom than the leading rabbi of the generation!

Moses surely knew what he owed his elder sister. She had accompanied him throughout his mission. She led the women in song at the Red Sea. The one episode that seems to cast her in a negative light – when she “spoke against Moses because of his Cushite wife,” for which she was punished with leprosy – was interpreted more positively by the Sages. They said she was critical of Moses for breaking off marital relations with his wife Zipporah. He had done so because he needed to be in a state of readiness for Divine communication at any time. Miriam felt Zipporah’s plight and sense of abandonment. Besides which, she and Aaron had also received Divine communication but they had not been commanded to be celibate. She may have been wrong, suggested the Sages, but not maliciously so. She spoke not out of jealousy of her brother but out of sympathy for her sister-in-law.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The Negev

Monday, June 18th, 2012

When contemplating the Negev, one must set aside any preconcieved notion of what a desert is. In Eretz Yisrael there are no rolling yellow sand dunes in softly rising and falling landscapes as unbroken as the sea. Far from being a simple expanse of sand, the Negev is marked by a mélange of cliffs, crags, boulders and dry river vadies. Where the Judean Desert ends, the Negev begins, an impressive region of low sandstone hills, rocky peaks (for example the high plateau area of Ramat HaNegev– The Negev Heights – stands between 370 meters and 520 meters), and plains rutted with narrow canyons. The Negev Desert is mesmerizing, beautiful and rich in geological history.

Photos by Rhimonah Traub

The Negev is mentioned a number of times in Parshas Lech Lecha showing us how Avraham Avinu paced the land, making it the property of Am Yisroel forever.

The essence of Avraham was chesed; a need to give permeated his whole being. After the cities of the Plain were overturned, the wayfarers who visited his home in Chevron were few and far between. Since business was slow for hachnassas orchim, he moved to a spot along a trade route in the Negev. The places he chose to live were dry – physically and spiritually. People living there were hesitant to do good deeds or to help others. (Literally, the word “Negev” means dry). He deliberately chose such a place because he wanted to teach the inhabitants to be charitable, and he saw there was a lot of potential in that area.

Negbah is also used for the direction “south.” Avraham Avinu moved south because he was worried that the embarrassing episode of Lot and his two daughters would reflect badly upon himself. Lot was the spitting image of Avraham, and he feared that people might mistake him for his nephew Lot.

When Moshe sent the spies to tour the land, he told them to head from the Negev towards Chevron (Bamidbar 13:17). He intended for them to see the worst part of the land first so they would be able to appreciate the greatness of what they were being given. Yehoshua conquered the whole of the Negev (Yehoshua 11:16). The northern Negev belongs to Yehuda and the south to Shimon. Dovid HaMelech firmly established Israelite rule over the desert. His son Shlomo subsequently built a string of fortresses along its roads.

The rise of the Nabateans began around the fourth century B.C.E. The Negev became the heart of the Nabatean Empire and Spice Route.

After the Roman takeover, Nabatean control gradually weakened. Fewer camel caravans passed through the area and other roads supplanted the Spice Route.

Unlike most areas in the country, the Romans neglected the Negev not doing much to develop it. During the Byzantine Era, Christians began to build churches and study centers in the area. Agricultural-based cities were established and the population grew. After the Muslim conquest in the seventh century settlement of the Negev came to an end. As the new rulers had little interest in the area, the residents were expelled.

For centuries after, only Bedouins lived in the Negev. An Arabic history of tribes around Beersheba, published in 1934, records 23 different tribal groups. In 1918 the English mandate period began and the region enjoyed rapid growth and was called “Beersheba sub-district.” The British built a number of highways; firstly from Beersheba to Um Rash-Rash (Eilat), then from Beersheba to the large Machtesh and also the “Petroleum Road” that goes from Yerucham to Avdat and to Machtesh Ramon.

The British White Paper of 1939 and the 1940 Land Transfer Regulations placed a number of restrictions on Jewish settlement and land purchase in Palestine. The Negev was one of the areas where both were forbidden. With the onset of World War II, the Yishuv looked to expand its areas of settlement in order to house Jewish refugees from Europe. Land was purchased in the Negev by the JNF, though Arabs agents to circumvent the British ban. Three lookouts, Revivim, Gvulot and Beit Eshel were settled in 1943. These later served as a springboard for further Jewish population of the Negev.

Vardah Littmann

The Redemption

Friday, April 6th, 2012

In the land of Midyan there lived a pagan priest, Yisro, who was greatly respected by his people. He worshiped idols of stone and wood and so did his countrymen.

But Yisro was not a fool. Indeed he was a clever and analytical thinker, and he soon came to the conclusion that his worship of these idols was futile and foolish. They were not really gods, he saw, and so he called his people together and said:

“My people, I have a very important message to tell you, and I would like you to listen very carefully. I have grown old and I can no longer worship and lead you in the worship of all these gods.

“I call upon you, therefore, to please choose some other man to be your priest. Choose a younger and stronger man, and allow me to retire in my remaining years.”

People Angry

But the people understood Yisro’s real reason for wishing to step down as their priest, and they grew angry.

“Cursed be the man who befriends Yisro and who helps him do his work and who shepherds his flocks!”

Thus was Yisro ostracized, and his life became difficult. However, since he had seven daughters, he called then in and said:

“Since we have no one who is willing to help us any longer, you must become shepherds and take care of our flocks.”

But the people of Midyan would not even allow this, and they made it a point to drive away the daughters of Yisro when they appeared at the well to take water for their flocks.

It was at just such a moment that Moshe, the son of Amram, who had been raised in Pharoh’s palace, suddenly appeared on the scene. He saw the shepherds chasing away the young girls, and he felt sorry for them. He came forward and drove away the bullies, thus allowing the girls to draw water for their flocks.

And the Almighty looked down and saw what Moshe had done.

“Because Moshe did such a thing,” He said, “and because he had pity on strange girls, he shall now be called the servant of the Lord, and the people of the world shall know that My servants are good to all and that their mercies are on all the creatures of the Lord.”

The Sin

And the daughters of Yisro rushed home to their father and excitedly told him about the incident.

“Father,” they exclaimed, “an Egyptian saved us from the shepherds who tried to drive us away from the well.”

Moshe stood outside the home and heard the words of the daughters of Yisro. He did not, however, come forward to correct their mistake.

Because of this, the Almighty said: “Because Moshe did not object to being called an Egyptian, because he did not call out and say that he was a Hebrew, therefore will he not be privileged to enter the Land of the Hebrews, and his bones will not be buried there.”

Thrown Into Prison

When Yisro heard his daughters’ words, he asked them:

“If this man did such a good thing for you, why did you not invite him in to eat? Go, get him.”

And so Moshe was brought into the house of Yisro, and they spoke.

“I am a Hebrew and I come from Egypt,” said Moshe, who then told Yisro all that had befallen him.

Yisro listened carefully to all that Moshe told him and thought to himself:

“Can this be? Can a man who has comfort and wealth give it all up for principle and ideals? I cannot believe such a thing. Surely, there was some evil action that he did. I will have him thrown into prison until the Egyptians send for him.”

And so, Moshe was seized and thrown into a deep and dark pit. There he remained for years and would have surely died of hunger if not for Tzipporah, the daughter of Yisro, who would come secretly every day and feed him. Yisro knew nothing of this, and put Moshe out of his mind.

Redemption

One day Tzipporah approached Yisro. “Father,” she said, “Ten years ago, you placed the man Moshe in the pit. You ordered all to refrain from feeding or giving him drink. Why do you not send one of the servants now to see if he still lives?”

Yisro looked at his daughter in astonishment and said:

“You speak foolishly, daughter, How is it possible for a man who had not eaten for 10 years to live?”

His daughter persisted, however, and Yisro went to the pit where he had placed Moshe. Looking down into the dark hole, he was astonished to see Moshe, standing and praying to G-d for deliverance. He was dirty and haggard, but he was alive.

“It is a miracle!” cried Yisro. “He is still alive after all these years without food and water.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Israel’s First Massive Solar Farms Receive Licenses

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Israel’s scorching-hot desert will soon be home to massive solar energy farms, bringing Israel closer to its goal of reliance on renewable energy.

The Public Utility Authority on Monday issued nine licenses to establish Israel’s first large-scale solar energy farms.

The largest license was granted to Solar Energy at Kibbutz Gevim in the northwestern Negev, followed by licenses for a group of companies related to Gush Katif evacuees in Moshav Ohad, Zmorot Solar park, Arava Power Company at Kibbutz Ketura in the souther Arava Desert, and Gilat Energy at Gilat, a moshav between Beersheba and Ofakim.

The Arava Power company hopes to have its $150 million, 150,000 panel, 40 megawatt solar field up and running by 2014 on 600 dunams of barren kibbutz-owned land formerly home to a mango grove.

The power from the photovoltaic fields of Kibbutz Ketura alone will be enough to run one third of Eilat, one of Israel’s most popular tourist destinations and one of its biggest energy gluttons, being situated at Israel’s southern-most point, at the bottom of the burning Negev desert.  The switch to solar is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 60,000 of carbon dioxide, 160 tons of sulfurous oxide, and 126 tons of nitrous oxide per year.

Malkah Fleisher

The Desert of Death

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Due to my appearances in the Arabic media, from time to time I receive email messages from Arabs or Muslims who are not Arabs, with information that may interest me, in their opinion. Some of these are requests for me to get involved in a specific matter, either personal or public. I answer them all, and I keep contact with some of them. I have gotten more than a few insights about the Arab and Muslim world from these people, who reveal to me the most sensitive, hidden, secret, inscrutable aspects of the societies that surround us. There are also a few women among them, who send me their hair-raising stories about their lives and their familial and social settings into which they were born and in which they must live.

This week it was a man from Eritrea who lives in Europe, a Muslim refugee from the hell-on-Earth which is the African Horn, who now lives in tranquility and safety. He sent me an email message that shocked me, and I would like to share this with my readers.

Everyone knows that Israel has served for years as a haven for refugee workers from Eritrea, Sudan and other African countries. A few of the infiltrators into Israel came from the embattled areas of Darfur, and until now Israel has absorbed about forty thousand African infiltrators under this category, who have no connection with Darfur. They come to Israel to find work and a normal life, because of the unemployment, the corruption and poverty in their homelands.

The infiltrators arrive to Israel by way of Egypt and the Sinai Desert, and it’s Bedouin of Sinai who bring them to the border between Israel and Egypt. These smugglers get thousands of dollars per person in exchange for this service, an astronomical sum for those destitute and desperate Africans. Some of them, who cannot pay the smuggler’s fee, remain as prisoners of the Bedouin, and are tortured and humiliated until their families send the required sum. The lot of the women is even worse, because they often fall victim to the sexual passions of the Bedouins who rape them. In many cases the Egyptian soldiers who are stationed at the border shoot Africans who try to infiltrate into Israel, apparently because they cannot pay the Egyptian soldier the “passage money”, that he demands from them, since the Bedouin have robbed the little that was in their pockets.

The bitter reality of Sinai has caused thousands of Eritreans to disappeared into the expanses of this desert. Recently, the reason for these “disappearances” has become known. Some of them are killed because they could not pay the Bedouins the great sums that were demanded, and some were murdered in order to “harvest” organs: kidneys, corneas, hearts and even livers. A few honorable and creditable media outlets – CNN, BBC – reported on this phenomenon including photographs of bodies of Africans who were discarded in the desert after internal organs and eyes were removed from them.

CNN reported that Egyptian doctors from Cairo and Ismailiya are implicated in the removal of organs: they were found to be in contact with the bedouin tribes, specifically Sawarka and Tiaha. They come to the tribal area in which Eritreans are held, with vehicles equipped with a refrigerator, choose among the Eritreans those who look healthy and strong, put them to sleep, remove from them the required organs and their bodies are discarded as food for the birds of prey and carrion eaters. In exchange for this, the doctors pay the Bedouins great sums of cash.

An Egyptian television station brought Bedouin witnesses who said that sometimes the doctor doesn’t even bother to put the victim to sleep for the “operation”. One body that was photographed showed evidence of asphyxiation by a rope – probably because “anesthetization” by asphyxiation is less expensive than anesthetization by administering an anesthetic drug. One of the witnesses said that in some of the cases, blood was taken from the Africans, to be used for blood transfusions.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Would the Real (And Kosher) Sukkah Installation Please Stand Up?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

About half a year ago, my friend Miriam asked if I knew of any artists or architects whose repertoires included sukkahs. My thoughts immediately turned to the gorgeous sukkah my grandfather designed and built every year and to the retractable roof in the dining room at the Bostoner Rebbe’s synagogue, Congregation Beth Pinchas. But for the life of me, I couldn’t think of any artist who had developed an interesting aesthetic approach to the sukkah, which is the only Jewish experience (save mikvah perhaps) that completely surrounds us.

 

Although I remembered potentially playful fodder for aesthetic sukkahs from the Mishnah and the Talmud – with the pillars from a bed holding up the sch’ach, on the deck of a boat, on a wagon or on the back of a camel – I couldn’t think of a single artist, Jewish or otherwise, who had taken the legal questions of the Mishnah as a design challenge.

 

Log

 

I asked myself if artists had decided the sukkah, which commemorates the clouds of glory that protected the Israelites in the wilderness and thus symbolizes impermanence and vulnerability, was an object that one couldn’t beautify without making it too permanent – even though noi sukkah, decorating the sukkah, is one of the rabbinic commandments of the day.

 

Then I read about Sukkah City. The international contest, sponsored by the non-profit Reboot and author Joshua Foer, called upon contestants to “re-imagine” the “ancient phenomenon” of the sukkah and to “develop new methods of material practice and parametric design, and propose radical possibilities for traditional design constraints in a contemporary urban site.” The 12 finalists exhibited their designs Sept. 19 and 20 in Union Square Park.

 

The Sukkah City website has a rotating header that reveals that the sukkah: must admit more shade than sunshine, must have a roof that doesn’t obscure views of the stars, needs at least an incomplete third wall, must be 10 handbreadths tall, must not be made of utensils or “anything conventionally functional” when it’s not part of the sukkah and must have a roof made of something that grew in the ground but is currently detached from the earth.

 

In Tension

 

 

But however halachic the Sukkah City website’s conditions are, many of the finalists opted to take artistic liberties, to say the least.

 

“Repetition Meets Difference,” by German artist Matthias Karch, is not the sort of sukkah one could ever actually use, and it is not immediately clear that it would satisfy the Mishnaic requirements for walls. Karch modeled the structure on an invention by German-Jewish architect Konrad Wachsmann and the structure is made of a mixture of wood from American walnut and maple trees and olive trees from Israel.

 

Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan’s “Fractured Bubble” looks a bit like a cross between a haystack and Carrot Top’s hairdo. Though the marsh grass is affixed to plywood and bound in twine in a manner that evokes the lulav, the structure itself, which contains sch’ach which comes from marsh grass harvested from Corona Park in Queens, might require a creative interpretation of the notion of the diagonal wall – dofen akumah­ – to actually validate it as a kosher sukkah.

 

Fractured Bubble

 

 

SO-IL’s design, “In Tension,” could double as a sukkah and a screened-in tent to repel mosquitoes. The structure gets extra points for its portability – one person can carry it – which would certainly be useful for a desert wanderer, but the minimal foliage on the roof precludes the requirement to have more shade than sun.

 

“LOG,” by Kyle May and Scott Abrahams, takes the exact opposite approach. Lugging this sukkah through the desert would be like traveling with a suitcase full of rocks. As the name suggests, the sch’ach covering “LOG” is a large log from a cedar tree. The walls of the structure are glass – no stone throwing from this sukkah.

 

Repetition Meets Difference

 

Other finalists interpreted the sukkah in even more theoretical ways. Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello’s “Sukkah of the Signs” responds to the artists’ interpretation of the commandment to eat and sleep in the sukkah for a week as a political statement. Rael and Fratello built their submission out of cardboard signs they purchased from homeless people and they see it as a project that relates to homelessness. (Interestingly, there is no specific requirement on Sukkot, as there is on Passover, to invite the needy to a holiday meal.)

 

“P.YGROS.C” (Passive Hygroscopic Curls), by THEVERYMANY, is sort of the Shabbat-clock of sukkahs. As it gets more humid outside, parts of the wooden structure move and create curly shapes. It’s hard to imagine that such a natural process would be a violation of the spirit of the holiday, but a sukkah that is perpetually in motion could either be an ingenious response to the nomadic experience in the Sinai desert or dangerously close to a violation of the laws of the holiday.

 

It will always be an uncomfortable aspect of Jewish art criticism to require functionality – that is adherence to halakhic requirements – of ritual objects, particularly because many artistic projects are intentionally resistant to being practically usable. But many of the Sukkah City submissions try to align themselves with halacha.

 

Sukkah of the Signs

 

Volkan Alkanoglu’s egg-shaped “Star Cocoon” purports to exhibit the Talmudic minimal requirement of two-and-a-half walls. But the requirement – which can be seen in the typography of the Hebrew word sukkah – is classically formulated with respect to a rectangular sukkah. If the structure is rounded, as “Star Cocoon,” who is to say that it actually has two-and-a-half walls?

 

Looking through the submissions that didn’t make it to the final round one is struck that most of the artists focused their attention on architecture and only considered halacha as an afterthought – “Adam’s House on Union Square” by Alexander Gorlin and Daniel Schuetz is one of several exceptions. That artists are so publically engaging a holiday like Sukkot is undoubtedly great for Jewish art and for Judaism.

 

But one wonders if artists who also take the halachic side of their projects seriously couldn’t be impressed upon to tackle this Jewish aesthetic design challenge.

 

Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Menachem Wecker

Crossword Puzzle – Prime Numbers

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

 

Across

1. 1

6. 2

11. Cheat

14. Dramatic or situational

15. Boat for an Eskimo

16. Fib

17. Primitive

18. Actress Jessica

19. Get a wrinkle

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20. Norse prose

21. Famous Italian Mount

22. Extinct Russian

23. 3

25. Setting for this puzzle

28. Car part

31. It is charged

32. 4

33. 5, 7

38. Mine output

39. Curie of note

40. Williams who could really hit

42. 6

45. Like one in exile

47. Santa ___

48. 8

49. Puts forward

52. Noah’s Ark, e.g.

53. 9

54. 10, 12

56. Major European river

60. Consumed

61. One to respect

63. 11

64. What you might call a dog

65. Gazes at

66. See 68-Across

67. Ambulance letters

68. With 66-Across, The referrals to the “Primes” in this puzzle

69. Almost

 

Down

1. Have a meal

2. Israeli desert city

3. Not occupied

4. Like many of the claims made against Israel

5. Color

6. ___-vitamins

7. Known Sultanate

8. Holiest of “hills”

9. Old witch

10. Get by

11. Doughnut feature

12. 3.5?

13. Equal

21. Second first name

22. Hyperbolic function for tangent

24. Letters to make “mors” more loving

26. Shoe fitting

27. Eden ___

28. The arrogant have a large one

29. Cheers cheer

30. Joy

33. Uh huh

34. Anger

35. Tiny or The Tool Man

36. Big bad bomb

37. Gambling game

39. Test for a doc. to be

41. Hamlet’s homeland (Abbrv.)

43. Tribal leader

44. ___ ledodi

45. One hit wonder band from the 80’s

46. Actual

48. Turf type

49. Important part of Succos?

50. Does as told

51. Major Jewish meal

52. Pop

53. Talking pig of note

55. Not his

57. Fancy auto

58. Drones or killers

59. Anything ___?

61. Tolkien creature

62. Romanian currency

63. Governing party in S. Africa

 

(Answers, next week)

Yoni Glatt

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/gamez/crossword/crossword-puzzle-prime-numbers/2010/08/04/

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