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Posts Tagged ‘Eretz Yisrael’

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter 15: Guardian of Israel

Friday, September 28th, 2012

As a sign of his grief over Tzeitl, Tevye tore his shirt and sat on a low stool in Hodel’s house in the traditional custom of mourners. He maintained a stalwart expression to disguise the hole he felt in his heart. His strength came from Golda. She appeared to him in a dream and told him not to worry.

“Don’t be so sad, my husband. Our Tzeitl is fine. She is back with her Motel, and she visits me all the time.”

When Bat Sheva blamed God for being unfair, Tevye reprimanded her for her bitterness. Who was man to complain, he asked her?  God was in Heaven, and they were on earth. A mortal had to accept the Almighty’s decrees in humility and believe that all of His doings were just.

The traditional period of shiva allowed a mourner to express his grief in the comforting presence of family and friends. All during the week, the pioneers of the kibbutz arrived at Hodel’s house to share their condolences with the family. Though none of the members of the kibbutz were religious, the men agreed to make up a prayer minyan so that Tevye could say the mourner’s Kaddish. Since they did not have prayerbooks for everyone, Shmuelik wrote out handwritten copies of the prayers. He also convinced the community that they should all have mezuzahs on their houses. It was decided that Ben Zion’s friend, Peter, would accompany Shmuelik to Tiberias, where he would buy kosher parchment. The quarantine in the city had ended, and Shmuelik was happy to find a thriving religious community in the ancient lakeside enclave. Throughout the rest of the week, the young scholar sat hunched over a table, quill in hand, carefully forming the letters of the Shema Yisrael prayer on the small clafs of parchment which he rolled up into the wooden mezuzah cases that Goliath whittled while watching the children. Though the kibbutzniks had made a religion of denying religion, they all willingly nailed the mezuzahs to their doorways as an expression of their Jewishness, in the same way that they all circumcised and bar-mitzvahed their sons.

Bolstered by his faith that man’s brief existence in this world was but a doorway to an eternal World to Come, and that Tzeitl was truly happy in Heaven, Tevye was able to enjoy the long and often heated discussions which filled Hodel’s house throughout the week. After all, as much as a Jew liked a good sour pickle, he savored a juicy debate. Most often, Perchik or Ben Zion represented the Zionist platform, while Tevye defended the sacred path of the Torah. The striking, white-bearded Gordon also had plenty to say. The philosopher and writer was the oldest member of the kibbutz, and the younger people, including Perchik and Ben Zion, showed him a great deal of respect. In a play on the life of Moses, Gordon would have been chosen to play the lead role. His high, balding forehead glowed red from his work in the sun, his eyes shone with intelligence, and his long, untrimmed beard gave him a prophet’s charisma. But, without a yarmulkah to cover his head, he looked more like a Jewish Tolstoy than the lawgiver of the Jews.

Surprisingly, the kibbutz women were as outspoken in their opinions as the men. In Tevye’s eyes, this breach of modesty was shocking. Ever since the time of Abraham and Sarah, the place of a Jewish woman was in the inner sanctums of the home. In the home itself, a woman could express her opinions from morning to night, but in public, when strange men were present, speaking out like a man was strictly taboo. The young, long-braided girl, Sonia, whom Ben Zion had danced with, was particularly loose with her tongue. Her free-thinking outbursts caused Shmuelik to redden with embarrassment and seek pretenses to withdraw from the room. The girl’s chutzpah particularly annoyed Bat Sheva. Tevye’s daughter would argue with her fiercely, even when she agreed with the things that Sonia was saying. Ben Zion greatly enjoyed their jousts, knowing they were meant to win his attention. Recalling Tevye’s warning in the snow-covered forest on the road to Odessa, the Zionist kept a respectable distance away from the milkman’s daughter, but now and again, he cast her passionate glances which made her believe he still cared.

Title: Land of My Past, Land of My Future

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Title: Land of My Past, Land of My Future
Author: Michael Kaufman
Publisher: Targum Press, 2012

Land of My Past, Land of My Future, a new book by Michael Kaufman, explores a very sensitive issue – religious aliyah today – learnedly and lucidly, with a wink and a bit of humor. As Rabbi Berel Wein says in his introduction, “Kaufman’s book is easy reading on a difficult subject.”

The book begins with Kaufman suddenly and honestly asking himself: “Could there be a galactic obligation to live in Eretz Yisrael? Could it be incumbent on a Jew … living a Torah life, to get up and relocate to Israel?” Kaufman then uses his own personal story as the framework for his research into the halachic issues involved.

Determined to find an answer to his question, he studies Jewish sources throughout the ages and consults some of the leading rabbis of our day. Comfortably and happily living and working in New York at the time, he gives us his own personal reactions each step of the way, from the day his curiosity is awakened until the day he makes the fateful, difficult decision to make aliyah at the age of 35.

Kaufman’s autobiographical saga is selective in a positive way. He shares his thoughts and feelings with us as well as a general description of his very satisfying Jewish life in galut, but no more. He goes into great detail on the exact status of the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael, but makes no mention of sociological, economic, political or security issues which often intrude into any discussion of religious aliyah. Neither is the language difficult for any religious English speaking reader, even for those with little knowledge of Hebrew or of halacha.

The book is divided into two parts: the “story” of Kaufman’s personal halachic investigation and the halachic sources themselves, which comprise about one third of the book. It is not necessary to read both. A layman may enjoy the story and its happy ending without delving into the largely Hebrew bibliography, and conversely, a Torah scholar will benefit from Kaufman’s comprehensive research into the sources and halachic issues involved.

The book has been praised and approved by Rabbis Berel Wein, Zalman Nehemia Goldberg, S. Suchard, Shmuel Kaminetsky, Yitzchak Kaufman, and Zev Leff.

At a time when aliyah no longer involves the physical or spiritual sacrifice it did years ago, it is important to raise awareness of its centrality to the Torah. It is a fact that circumstances have changed: Aliyah is now realizable; it need no longer be a dream.

Homeward Bound

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Before continuing with Rabbi Kook’s writings on T’shuva, I want to share an email which I received before Yom Kippur. It’s always nice to receive a kind word, even for an old alligator-skinned blogger like me:

Shalom, Reb Tzvi,

I am a semicha student at Yeshiva University, and I just read your sefer on teshuvah in Rav Kook’s thought and I wanted to thank you for it.  I was very much inspired by your book.  I do not study that much of Rav Kook’s writings (unfortunately), but I was preparing to give a shiur on Orot Hateshuvah when I came across your commentary, ‘The Art of T’shuva.’

What began as an intellectual exercise in preparing a shiur soon changed into a deeply spiritual experience as I began to understand some of what Rav Kook is trying to teach us.  I really feel that your book has made a big difference in my emotional experience of the yamim noraim and aseret yemei teshuvah this year.  Thanks again for the wonderful sefer.

And now, leading up to the holiday of Sukkot, we’ll wrap up our condensed look at Rabbi Kook’s teachings on t’shuva with a few blogs on two of the holidays most important themes – Eretz Yisrael and Torah.

We have learned that t’shuva encompasses far more than personal repentance. Its ever-streaming waves affect the world in its entirety, lifting it toward perfection. Furthermore, we have learned that it is the Nation of Israel who will lead the world to Redemption, marching in front of the parade of nations with its shofars blaring away.

This is all well and good. But what will bring the Jewish People to t’shuva? What will awaken the Divine voice in its soul? What causes the scattered, exiled Jewish Nation to return, as we beseech God in our prayers, to the glorious days of our past?

Rabbi Kook writes that the rebirth of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael is the foundation for the ultimate t’shuva, both for the nation of Israel, and for the whole world.

To understand this concept fully, one must understand the incomparable holiness of Eretz Yisrael and its importance to the Nation of Israel. While it is beyond the scope of this blog to explore this subject in depth, we will mention a few of the things which point to the unique connection between the Jewish People and their Land.

The Jewish People possess true national vitality only in the Land of Israel. Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; there can be great Torah scholars, but the light of God cannot appear in a national format. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews be a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION. The Zohar emphasizes that the Jews can be a Nation only inIsrael, and not outside of it, where we are compared to dry and scattered bones21-22). Prophecies of Redemption all involve the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israeland the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land. The Jewish People’s unique prophetic talent is dependent on being in theLandofIsrael. The Temple can only be rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and the full revelation of God’s Presence is exclusive to Eretz Yisrael, as the prophet teaches, “For Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Yisheyahu, 2:3).

In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:

The source of the moral baseness, which continues to darken the world, stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and wisdom of theLandofIsrael. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to the world (Letters, Vol.1, pgs 112-113).

While Rabbi Kook emphasizes that the t’shuva of the Jewish People and a return to the Torah go hand-in-hand, he indicates that a preliminary stage of national revival will bring this spiritual awakening to pass. First, the Jewish people must return toZionto rebuild their homeland. Once the physical body that houses the Nation is built, then the revitalized Jewish soul will yearn for spiritual completion as well, and our people will flock back to the Torah. This may take several generations, but this national t’shuva is destined to come to pass.

Miriam Ben-Porat: A Woman of ‘Firsts’

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Miriam Scheinsohn was born on April 26, 1918, in Vitebsk (Belorussia), the youngest of eight children (she had three sisters and four brothers). Soon after Miriam’s birth the family moved to Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania, where her parents owned a textile factory.

After finishing high school in Kovno in 1936, she immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine by herself; siblings Binyamin, Reuven and Bella soon followed her. Her brother Shimon managed to escape to Russia and her sister Rachel, to South Africa. Her parents, Chayah and Eliezer Scheinsohn and her brother Pinchas were murdered by the Germans in Lithuania in 1941.

A year after arriving in Palestine, the determined young girl from Lithuania enrolled at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem – “the first female law student at the university.” By February 1945 Miriam Scheinsohn had completed her internship and received her lawyer’s license becoming “the first woman lawyer in the Eretz Yisrael.”

A year later she met and married a fellow Eatern European immigrant, a Polish-born manufacturer, Yosef Rubinstein. They later changed their name to Ben-Porat.

In 1955 Deputy State Attorney Ben-Porat – “the first woman in this position”- became a mother — to daughter Ronit, now a mother of three.

In 1959 Ben-Porat was appointed as a judge in the Jerusalem District Court – another first. In 1975, she became the President of the Jerusalem District Court. From 1964 through 1978, she was also a professor at the Hebrew University, specializing in contracts and commercial notes. She was the only faculty member without a doctorate.

In 1977, she became “the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court.” In 1988, upon reaching the retirement age for judges, she was elected by the Knesset to be the State Comptroller. She was the first woman to serve in this position as well. After five years, she was reelected.

Upon her retirement from the Supreme Court in 1988, Ben-Porat was appointed State Comptroller and Ombudsman for Public Complaints—a position in which she was again the first woman—and she filled this role in a dynamic and innovative manner. She significantly changed the office’s modus operandi replacing scrutiny of government action after the event with preemptive reports and measures intended to prevent improper governmental behavior before it occurred. One example of such action was her report during the Gulf War (1991) about gas masks not fitting the faces of many inhabitants. As a result, they were replaced.

On July 4, 1998, she retired from her position as State Comptroller, although she stayed involved in public activity and writing. She is the author of a variety of articles published in legal journals, of a book on state comptrol (An Interpretation of the Basic Law: State Comptroller, 1998 [2005]), and a commentary on the law of assignment. She remained active in public causes, such as the battle against the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount. In 1991 Ben-Porat received the Israel Prize, the country’s most distinguished award, for her special contribution to the State.

On July 27, 2012, Miriam Scheinsohn Ben-Porat, a woman who paved the way, a woman of milestones – of firsts — died at the age of 94.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter 13: Tzeitl’s Last Wish

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

“What are we going to eat?” Shmuelik asked Tevye as they changed into their Sabbath clothing.

Tevye did not understand the question. “What do you mean?” he asked.

Before Shmuelik could answer, Hillel spoke up in a bard’s satirical manner. “He means that though you may be overjoyed to be reunited with your daughter, the Lord has commanded the Jewish people to observe certain dietary laws like eating properly slaughtered meat. And while we have only been here a short time, I have not seen the likes of a God-fearing butcher.”

“So we won’t eat meat tonight,” Tevye responded. “There is no sin in that.”

“Not eat meat on Shabbos?” Hillel asked. “Even when my mother, God bless her, didn’t have a kopeck to buy a new pair of shoes for me or my brother, we still had meat on Shabbos.”

“That’s the way it goes,” Tevye answered. “The Almighty is in charge of the menu. Whatever He gives us is more than we deserve.”

“The meat is not the only problem,” Shmuelik observed. This is the Holy Land. There are laws of priestly dues and tithes. Before we can eat vegetables and fruits which Jews have grown in the Land, the proper portions must be set aside as commanded in the Torah.”

Tevye sighed. Whoever said it was easy to be a good Jew? Your thoughts had to be holy. Your deeds had to be holy. Your food had to be holy. Your day of rest had to be holy. Even your Land had special religious laws of its own which no one ever thought about in Russia.

“This is one of the reasons why Moses begged the Almighty to let him enter Eretz Yisrael” Shmuelik informed them. “So he could fulfill the mitzvos which we can only perform in the Holy Land.”

“If it was important to Moses, our teacher, than it certainly is important to us,” Tevye agreed. “But how does one take these tithes?”

Because sundown was almost upon them, and a detailed explanation would take much too long, Shmuelik volunteered to hurry to the kitchen to prepare the food as required. Dressed in his Sabbath finery, he ran off across the kibbutz grounds in search of the dining hall. Kibbutzniks pointed the way, their eyes wide with wonder as they stared at the ultra-Orthodox Jew in his white stockings and knickers. Embarrassed, he tapped on the kitchen doorway, noticing that it lacked a mezuzah. The young women inside stopped their work to gape at the bearded, black-coated apparition with a fur shtreimel hat on his head.

“We are visiting Hodel,” Shmuelik explained. “That is, her father and sisters have arrived, and there are certain matters of kashrut which need to be performed.”

The girls stared at him brazenly, directly into his eyes, the way men look at each other. Shmuelik had never encountered females like this. Embarrassed, he looked away.

“Do whatever you have to,” one said. “You are a guest.”

Quickly, Shmuelik entered the kitchen and set aside small portions of the vegetables which the women had prepared. When he finished separating the trumah and maaser tithes as the Torah prescribed, he began washing leaves of lettuce in a bucket of water.

“We already rinsed them,” one of the young women said.

“Hold a leaf up to the light,” he answered.

The girl inspected one of leaves which had already been washed. The green stalks were speckled with insects.

“Yeech,” the girl said in disgust.

“A Jew isn’t supposed to eat crawling creatures,” Shmuelik explained.

He asked for some vinegar. Soaking the leaves in the bitter liquid was the best way to make them bug free. “After soaking the leaves in the vinegar, they have to be washed again so that the taste isn’t spoiled,” he taught.

“Oh, nonsense,” said a girl with long braided hair. “Bugs are so small, what harm can they do?”

Once again, with the Sabbath only minutes away, Shmuelik didn’t have time to answer the question. “Did you bake any loaves of bread?” he asked.

“Certainly we did,” the girl named Sonia answered. “What do you take us for?”

Shmuelik broke off some pieces from the bread which the women had baked and said a blessing over the special challah portion. As it turned out, kosher meat wasn’t a problem at all. The evening’s main course was fish. Meat was a luxury which the kibbutz could not afford even on the Sabbath.

Parshas Ki Tavo

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Vol LXIII No. 36 5772
NYC Candle Lighting Time
September 7, 2012 – 20 Elul 5772
6:57 p.m. E.D.T.
Sabbath Ends: 8:02 p.m. NYC E.D.T.
Weekly Reading: Ki Tavo
Weekly Haftara: Kummi Ori (Isaiah 60:1-22)
Daf Yomi: Berachos 37
Mishna Yomit: Nedarim 3:9-10
Halacha Yomit: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 117:5 – 119:1
Rambam Yomi: Hilchos Shegagos 9-11
Earliest Tallis and Tefillin: 5:33 a.m. NYC E.D.T.
Latest Kerias Shema: 9:41 a.m. NYC E.D.T.
Pirkei Avos: 3-4

This Saturday night after midnight (12:53 a.m. E.D.T. NYC), or in the early hours of the morning, we start to recite Selichos daily until erev Yom Kippur. The Sephardic (Spanish, Portuguese, Mediterranean and Oriental) communities already started on the 2nd day of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Rosh Hashana will be Monday and Tuesday of the following week.

The following chapters of Tehillim are being recited by many congregations and Yeshivos for our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael: Chapters 83, 130, 142. – Y.K

Migron Headache

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Last night, The Jewish Press was first up with the warning: the destruction of Migron was hours away. Then, Knesset member, Aryeh Eldad called for people to come to Migron to protest the evacuation scheduled for five in the morning. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and loaded some protest posters I had made into my car – a picture of Ariel Sharon with the caption, “BIBI, THINK TWICE!” In the wee hours of the morning, Netanyahu still had the ability to stop the tragic and senseless act.

My 20-year-old daughter came with me. She’s friendly with the wife of Dror Weinburg, of blessed memory, a brave army commander who was killed in Hevron a few years ago in a terrorist ambush, may Hashem avenge his murder. Many times, my daughter has gone to Migron to help his widowed wife with her young children.

A bright moon lit the way toward the small hilltop settlement, a short drive north of Jerusalem. The roads were empty. For long stretches, there wasn’t a car in sight. No army jeeps, no bulldozers, no helicopters, no riot police. Just the sound of the wind over Biblical mountains.

The newly built Migron Bet stood on a nearby hillside like a ghost-town, waiting for its displaced residents to arrive. On the ascent up to the outpost, we reached a roadblock – two army jeeps and a few soldiers. They told us that only residents of Migron could continue up the road. One of them was a young Ethiopian. I asked if the eviction was scheduled for the morning. He lowered his head in embarrassment and said that he didn’t know – his orders were to close off the road.

Parking my car by the side of the road, we got out and stood waiting for more protestors to arrive, but it didn’t look like any crowds were hurrying to get there. As usual, Moetzet Yesha (the Council of Judea and Samaria) was impotent in mounting a battle. There were no Knesset members, no activists from the Land of Israel faction of the Likud, none of the Ministers from the special Settlement Committee which Netanyahu had formed to make it seem like he really cared.

It was 4:30 in the morning when a few photographers and reporters showed up. A van stopped a little ways down the road, and a group of teenagers climbed out and skirted up the rocky hillside on foot, making a detour around the blockade. Other than shining their searchlight on them, the soldiers did nothing to stop them. Apparently there were other roadblocks along the way closer to the yishuv. When it became clear that there wasn’t going to be any meaningful protest at all, my daughter and I returned to the car and headed back to Jerusalem.

HOW CAN IT BE that in this clear time of Redemption, when millions of Jews have returned to the Land of Israel from the four corners of the world, in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and when the reborn State of Israel has been miraculously transformed, through the blessing of God, into a world superpower in a matter of decades, stunning mankind with its achievements in every field of endeavor, and once again becoming the Torah center of world Jewry – how can crises and setbacks like the evacuation of Migron still occur?

I will try to give an answer, based on the teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Tau, Rosh Yeshiva of the Har HaMor Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and one of the foremost Torah scholars on the teachings of Rabbi Kook.

The Talmud teaches that three precious gifts were given to the Jewish People and they all require suffering to obtain: the Torah, the World to Come, and Eretz Yisrael (Berachot 5A). For example, it invariably happens that a person comes on aliyah and finds himself confronted with difficulties. He or she finds it difficult to learn Hebrew, to adjust to the Israeli culture and way of life, or to find work. While they were “somebody” in their former communities, and knew how to get around, their egos often take a bruising when they come to Israel – they don’t know many people; they have to establish their identities from scratch; status symbols that meant something in the past and former positions of honor are meaningless now.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/migron-headache/2012/09/02/

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