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January 18, 2017 / 20 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘exile’

The Isaac Covenant Part III: Menorah: Symbol of Exile or Redemption?

Friday, December 30th, 2016
(Originally posted to the author’s blog, Libi BaMizrach}

The thrill of Chanukah is upon us as we once again have the privilege of lighting the Menorah. As the symbol of Chanukah par excellence, it brings to mind both the story of religious revival (the one pure flask which miraculously lasted eight days) and the national/military victory of the Maccabees (who overcame overwhelming odds to push out the Syrian/Greek Tyrants and restore Jewish sovereignty) with which we are all so familiar.

But, of course, the Menorah is not only the symbol of the Hasmonean Chanukah. It is also a central symbol of the Bais Hamikdash in general, even though the Chanukah menorah has eight lamps instead of the original seven. Moreover, it is a symbol all of the Chanukahs in Jewish History [1] . What is fascinating, however, is that it is also the symbol of the Exile.

On a recent trip to Israel with my family, we had a long stopover in Rome. Far from being displeased, I was thrilled to be able to fulfill a lifelong “bucket list” dream – to visit what is perhaps the greatest symbol of the Diaspora (with the possible exception of Auschwitz/Birkenau), the Arch of Titus. This edifice was constructed in honor of the evil Titus upon his completing the defeat of Judea and Jerusalem, after taking over for his father Vespasian. He was particularly monstrous; killing thousands while ransacking and abusing and burning the Bais Hamikdash (Gittin 56a), and returning to Rome with an enslaved Jewish people and the spoils of war.

Famously and prominently depicted on the arch is the Menorah being triumphantly carried off to Rome, along with our other treasures, (where they may or may not still be in the catacombs of the Vatican).[2] A famous symbol, erected in Rome, of the final and crushing end to our national sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael and the beginning of the dreadfully long and painful Exile that we have suffered for over two thousand years.

netanyahu-at-the-arch-of-titus netanyahu-at-the-arch-of-titus

Since that time, we have been under the boot of the Romans and their successors, very much including the Church. As the final Rashi in Parshas Vayishlach takes pains to tell us, Rome is the prime descendant of Eisav, the one who we had to be protected from via the Jacob Covenant.

One of the most inspiring stories I have ever heard was of the time that Rav Yosef Kahaneman zt”l, the Ponovezher Rav, visited Rome on a fund-raising trip.  As described yibodel L’Chaim by Rabbi Berel Wein who knew him well, the Rav arrived in Rome late on a miserable night with his companion Dr. Moshe Rothschild from Israel.  Dr. Rothschild looked forward to a warm hotel room and some hot tea after their journey, but the Rav had something else in mind.  He insisted on immediately being driven to the Arch of Titus; it could not wait for the morning.  Upon arrival, he got out of the car, stood in the freezing cold rain, and stared at the Arch for a while, and then adjusted his Kapota and hat, and shouted:

“Titus! Evil Titus! Take a good look at what has occurred. You dragged my hapless people out of our land two millennia ago and led them into an exile from which they were never to return. You went home to Rome – the most powerful nation on earth – in glory and triumph. But Titus, where are you? What has become of the glory that was Rome? What has become of the infallible empire that was supposed to last forever? The Jewish people however are still here and continue to flourish. Titus, Mir Zenen noch do…Avu Bist Du?  (We are still here! Where are you?”)

Coming from that place, and that story, made for an incredible feeling upon touching down at Ben Gurion airport a few hours later.

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knesset-menorah-2

This aspect of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus, truly the symbol of the Exile, was a very hot topic on 11 Shevat 5709 (1949), when a committee was formed to determine what the symbol of the new State of Israel ought to be. The well-known symbol chosen was the Menorah flanked by two olive branches, similar to the famous Menorah standing outside the Knesset building.

A sharp protest to this choice was voiced by then Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog zt”l. He objected on several grounds: (a) The Menorah depicted there has a stepped base, while the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash stood on a tripod of legs, (b) The menorah on the Arch has dragons and other creatures that may have been idolatrous, and therefore “our government made an unfortunate choice today in choosing the picture of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus which apparently was crafted by foreigners, and not made B’Taharas HaKodesh (in Holy Purity)”. Rav Herzog opined that the solid base that was depicted was surely due to damage that occurred to the Menorah in transport, and the Romans had thus replaced it.Other scholars, notably Daniel Sperber [3], proposed that the menorah had already been altered from its original design before Titus’ arrival. Perhaps, he suggests, the new pedestal was the brainchild of someone eager to introduce a pagan motif into the Temple while at the same time remaining nominally sensitive to Jewish concerns. The most likely culprit in this regard would have been King Herod, who greatly enhanced the beauty of the Bais Hamikdash, while attempting to make it pleasing to the Romans as well. In an interesting article on the subject, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik wrote, “Herod’s relationship with the Temple was a complex one. On the one hand, all contemporary sources, including the rabbis of the Mishnah, agree that he oversaw a stupendous refurbishing of the Temple Mount, elevating its architectural status into an eighth wonder of the ancient world. On the other hand, the contemporaneous historian Josephus recorded the king’s efforts to Romanize the Temple, as well as the outrage this sparked among his subjects:

For the king had erected over the great gate of the Temple a large golden eagle[symbol of Rome], of great value, and had dedicated it to the Temple. Now the law forbids those that propose to live according to it to erect images or representations of any living creature. So these wise men persuaded [their followers] to pull down the golden eagle; alleging that although they should incur any danger which might bring them to their deaths, the virtue of the action now proposed to them would appear much more advantageous to them than the pleasures of life.

Be that as it may, (and there is a great deal more scholarship on the subject) it seems abundantly clear that the Menorah on the Arch of Titus was truly a symbol of the Exile, and it is curious that the Zionist government would take that Menorah as the national symbol.

Chabad Chanukiya

Chabad Chanukiya

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The late Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l took this a step further.  It is well-known that the Rebbe insisted, based on the Rambam’s opinion, that the original Menorah – and by extension the Chanukiah – was composed of branches that came out of the stem in straight diagonal lines, notwithstanding all of the ancient depictions of the Menorah, particularly the one on the Arch of Titus, that had curved branches.  Besides rejecting the curved Menorah based on  issues of authenticity, the Rebbe wrote that, in addition…

“the image on the Arch of Titus was specifically created for the purpose of emphasizing the authority and supremacy of Rome over the Jews, so much so that the words Judeo Captiva were placed there.  There were times that they would forcibly bring Jews there to witness their subservience and subjugation, etc”.

Sifting through these thoughts at Chanukah, and in thinking about our time, it seems clear to me that although he disagreed with the Rebbe about the original menorah had diagonal branches,  Rav Herzog agreed that the decision to enshrine the Menorah from the Arch of Titus as the symbol of the nascent State of Israel was ill-advised.  I assume that they both saw our time as the beginning of the Isaac Covenant.    A time when the Jewish people would no longer be defined by the Tituses of the world; a time that we are past merely focusing on survival of the Diaspora, (as demonstrated by the Ponovezher Rav), but are beginning to reverse the damage and move towards the ultimate Geulah.

Chanukah, as generally celebrated in Israel is certainly still far from achieving its true purpose as commemorating the rededication of the pure Light of Torah as our national guide and joy.  For too many, it focuses on only on a military victory  and prowess, hence Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabee Beer, and Maccabiah games.

Nevertheless, let us celebrate how, בימים ההם בזמן הזה, we see many parallels coming true, in our time, of witnessing where

“You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day”.

May we learn to appreciate the gift we have of living in such a time, and look forward to the Avraham Covenant, a time when once again,

“Your children will enter the shrine of Your House, clean Your Temple, purify Your Sanctuary, and will kindle lights in Your holy courtyards, and institute new days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your Great Name.”

May the new light over Zion that has begun to shine only increase in its’ strength, so that soon “we will all merit together to appreciate its illumination”

Happy Chanukah
———————
1 Cf. Rav S. R. Hirsch “Chanukah Through The Ages”, Collected Writings Vol II, Feldheim Publishers, NY 1985 pp213-32
2 Cf. Steven Fine “Art History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity, pp.63-86.
3 Sperber, Daniel “Minhagei Yisrael” Vol. 5 , Inyanei Chanukah

Rabbi Lenny Oppenheimer

Why Mourn about Exile?

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Jewish life outside of the Land of Israel is a temporary and unnatural situation of exile that has no value in and of itself, but which is rather only a state of waiting, anticipation, and preparation to return to the Land of Israel (as explained by the Maharal in “Netzach Yisrael,” Ch.1).

Seemingly, according to this understanding, there is no reason to fulfill the mitzvot in the Diaspora. However, we were commanded to keep the commandments in the exile, in order that we would be accustomed to them when we returned to the Land. As our Sages explained, “Although I send you out of the Land to the Diaspora, excel yourselves in fulfilling the mitzvot, so they won’t be new to you when you come back. This is similar to the parable of a king who got angry at his wife, and sent her away to live in her father’s house. The king said to her, ‘While you are there, wear your jewelry, so that when you return, they won’t be new to you.’ Thus God said to Israel. ‘My sons, distinguish yourselves in fulfilling the mitzvot, so that when you return, they won’t be new to you.’ This is what the prophet, Yirmiyahu, said as the Jews went into exile (Yirmiyahu,31:20), ‘Set up way marks for yourself,’ these are the mitzvot that distinguish Israel in the exile’” (Sifri, Parshat Ekev 37).

On the Torah verse in the Shema, “And you shall place my words…” (D’varim, 11:18), Rashi explains, “Even after you are sent out of the Land, distinguish yourselves in fulfilling the mitzvot – lay tefillin, place mezuzot on your doorposts, in order that they won’t be new to you when you return.” This teaches that the fulfillment of the mitzvot in the Diaspora is in order not to forget them, to insure that upon our return to Israel, we will be able to perform them in all of their completeness in the Land (see Ramban, Vayikra, 18:25).

These words of our Sages are eye-opening and even staggering. Concerning the performance of the commandments in the Diaspora, the inner truth of the matter is that outside of the Land of Israel, where we are like a body without a soul, and where the Clalli, national life force of the Nation doesn’t appear, there is no essential meaning in observing the commandments. The only reason for our still keeping the precepts outside of the Land of Israel is because of our past connection to the Clalli soul of the Nation which vitalized us when we lived in our Land, and because of our connection to the future when the Clalli national soul will return and reveal itself in all of its awesome fullness in our resurrected national life with the ingathering of our exiles to Zion. This process is already underway, as witnessed by the incredible new life force which has revitalized the Jewish People in Israel, as seen in the rebirth of the State of Israel, which has become, in a matter of decades, one of the most powerful countries in the world and the world center of Torah.

Once again, to explain this deep understanding, we will quote from Rabbi Moshe Bleicher’s book, “Binyan Emunah,” which I had the privilege of translating:

The soul of the Nation and the general, national, Clalli, life force within it, is the electricity that gives life to the Torah and to its commandments. Thus, when the Nation isn’t living, when it is exiled from the Land and its organs are scattered throughout a netherworld of impure and unholy places, there is no essential value in keeping the mitzvot, and we are commanded to continue to perform them only so we don’t forget how to do them, so they won’t seem new to us when we return to our own Holy Land, where the Clalli soul comes to life with the union of the Nation and the Land.

It is important to understand that the startling new insight revealed by our Sages is not that the precepts practiced in the exile are merely road signs to help us remember the way home, as indicated by the Prophet’s command, “Set up way-marks for yourselves,” but that it is possible at all to learn Torah and perform commandments in our altered and “decomposed” situation in exile, where we merely exist, without life, like in the prophesy of the valley of lifeless bones. The ability to do so only stems from our deep inner, historic, and genetic connection to our former, national, Clalli life as a Nation in its Land, a genetic connection which continues even in our disintegrated situation in exile,.

All of our life changes when we are in Galut. Not only does our Clalli soul disappear, but every detail of our life is affected. Regarding the teaching of the Gemara, “Everyone who dwells outside of the Land of Israel is like someone who has no G-d,” Rabbi Pincus HaLevi Horewitz, author of the commentary, “HaHafla’a,” writes that this is speaking about a person who observes the Torah and mitzvot in the Diaspora – but because he doesn’t live in Eretz Yisrael, he is like someone who doesn’t have a G-d. The reason behind this is that outside the Land of Israel something profoundly essential is missing – our general, national, Clalli soul.

Therefore, in the exile, Emunah appears in an incomplete form. If Emunah was merely a philosophical and intellectual discipline, there wouldn’t be any meaningful difference between its revelation during the Galut or at the time of Geula. However, as we shall continue to explore, Emunah is the encounter with Divine Existence as it is revealed in our midst. Thus, during the time of exile, when the general, Clalli life-force is withheld from us, and where G-d only appears in “the four cubits of Halacha,” in the life of individuals, the entire encounter with the lofty goals of the Torah, which appear in a dynamic living fashion in the national life of the Nation in our Land, is lost. It follows that the

deeper levels of Emunah also are missing, and the individual Jew encounters his Maker on a shattered level, which is only a shadow of true and complete Emunah and Torah.

To be continued.

Tzvi Fishman

Sorry – the Exile isn’t Forever

Monday, August 1st, 2016

During the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, it is an appropriate time to take a deeper look at the difference between Galut and Geula. Galut is the destruction of our national framework in Eretz Yisrael, when Israeli Nationhood is shattered, and we are left scattered in foreign countries around the world, living as minorities in gentile lands. Instead of being the Israelite Nation in our own Land, we become American Jews and French Jews and Russian Jews, individuals in alien lands, under foreign governments. The living, energizing Soul of the Nation no longer appears, and we are left like the dry scattered and lifeless bones of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Hashem’s light in the world, which shines forth when the Nation of Israel is in Zion, is terribly darkened. His Name in the world is desecrated, as the gentiles say that they are mightier than He, having ousted His Children from the Land which Hashem promised to give them. Christianity and Islam seize center stage, and the light of Israel and Torah are scorned. In effect, not only are the Jewish People dead in their true National fullness, Hashem is dead with them.

Rabbi Kook taught that the Jewish People needed to rise up to a higher understanding of Torah to fathom the wonder of the ingathering of the exiles and rebirth of the Nation of Israel in our time. No longer was it sufficient to study only the “four cubits of Halacha” which we were left with in Galut – the private commandments of the Torah which dealt with our private lives. We had to strive for a higher understanding of Torah and Emunah, not a Torah of the individual, based on personal mitzvot like Shabbat and Kashrut, but the Torah of the Clal, of the entire Nation, the Torah as it was originally intended to be, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, the Torah of a mighty Jewish Nation, with its own government, army, judicial, economic, agricultural laws, and Holy Temple; a Torah which was focused on the Clal and not on the Prat. This is the “new light on Zion” which we pray for – our return to a National understanding of the Torah, and a National understanding of who we are as Jews. In rising up to this greater comprehension, we come to realize the emptiness of our exile existence in gentile lands, and we long for our own Jewish Nationhood in our own Jewish Homeland.

The state of our lives which we became used to in Galut, seeing ourselves as American or German Jews, living private lives under foreign governments, must necessarily undergo a radical change as the Geula begins, ushering in a completely new level of life. Therefore, Rabbi Kook teaches, in order to comprehend what is taking place with the Nation, in its sudden rebirth, and in order to raise ourselves up to the exalted level of life we experienced during the time of the First Temple – and to which we are returning – we have to learn to see the Torah in a higher light.

Firstly, we have to recognize the exile for what it really is – a graveyard for the Jews. We mentioned how the Prophet Ezekiel compared the exiled to a valley of dry bones. These bones represent the House of Israel in exile. A spirit of life only returns to these bones when they rise up to return to the Land of Israel: “Thus says the L-rd G-d: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O, My People; and I will bring you into the Land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the L-rd, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O, My People. And I will put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own Land; and you shall know that I the L-rd have spoken and performed it, sys the L-rd.”

The Prophet Ezekiel describes the situation of Am Yisrael in exile as being similar to the dead in a graveyard. In contrast, the Geula comes when the revitalized bones leave the cemetery of exile and come to Eretz Yisrael.

In his book, “Binyan Emunah,” Rabbi Moshe Bleicher of Hevron, comments, “There are those who will say that this only a metaphor, and that the Prophet doesn’t really mean to say that we are like dead people when we are in exile, for, as anyone can see, we are living, breathing, and learning Torah. The Prophet, they claim, exaggerates in order to highlight a particular aspect of Galut, but he doesn’t mean to teach that there is an essential, absolute, difference between the time of Galut and Geula, like the difference between the dead and the living. However, the words of the Prophet are meant to be taken literally, at face value.”

In Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s classic treatise of Jewish Faith, “HaKuzari,” a deep theological conversation between a gentile king and a Rabbi, the king says that the Jewish People in exile are like a body without a head or heart. The Rabbi answers: “You say rightly, but more than this – we are not even a body, but only scattered limbs, like the dry bones which Ezekiel saw in his vision. But even so, O king of the Kuzar, these bones have retained a natural trace of vital power, having once been the vessels which housed the heart, brain, breath, soul, and intellect.”

The Rabbi agrees with the king of Kuzar that Am Yisrael in exile is like a body without a heart and brain. However, the truth is even worse – we don’t have even a body, but merely dry bones. Nevertheless, buried in these dry bones is great hidden life, the “genetic” remnants of the full life we had when we were in Eretz Yisrael, and these dormant “chromosomes” are destined to return to new life at the time of the Redemption.

Rabbi Bleicher notes that Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi lived in Spain when he wrote “HaKuzari.” During this era, Torah learning flourished, but he described his personal situation, and the state of Am Yisrael, like death and mere dry bones. Thus we see that the description of the Prophet Ezekiel is real. The time of exile is death for the Jewish People. Even though there may be times when things are going well, this is only on an individual level – the Jewish Nation itself remains scattered bones lacking life. The soul of the Nation is lost.

The Gaon of Vilna explains:

“Since the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, our spirit and our crown departed, and only we remained, the body without the soul. And exile to outside of the Land is a grave. Worms surround us there, and we do not have the power to save ourselves from the idol worshippers who devour our flesh. In every place, there were great Jewish communities and yeshivot, until the body decayed, and the bones scattered, again and again. Yet, always, some bones still existed, the Torah Scholars of the Israelite Nation, the pillars of the body – until even these bones rotted, and there only remained a rancid waste which disintegrated into dust – our life turned into dust.”

It must be remembered that the Gaon lived in the city of Vilna, which was nicknamed “the Jerusalem of Lithuania” because of the grandeur of Torah which flourished there. The Gaon himself learned Torah with incomparable holiness and purity, teaching scores of students, but, with all this, he still declares that this is a state of death, because the Nationhood of Israel, the vessel which brings the light of G-d to mankind, is shattered and missing from the world.

All of this may leave the reader perplexed and perhaps annoyed. After all, in America, life couldn’t be better! He makes a good living, his kids learn in excellent Jewish schools, they have lucrative careers awaiting them after college, everything is hunky dory – but this is all on a private level. Identifying with life in America, he doesn’t miss being a part of his own Jewish Nation. Rebuilding the vessel that brings the light of G-d to the world sounds nice, but it isn’t on his agenda. It wasn’t a part of his learning in yeshiva, so why think of it now? He’s content with keeping Shabbos and eating kosher food in a foreign gentile land. This is his Galut.

Thankfully, Hashem doesn’t want us in Galut forever. During these Three Weeks, we are supposed to mourn over the exile from our Land and former National grandeur. We are supposed to long for the higher existence of Geula – of Jewish sovereignty in our own Land, with our Holy Temple in our midst. But to do this, we have to rise up to a higher vision and understanding of Torah. To the Torah of Redemption.

Tzvi Fishman

Remembering Babylon: New Exhibit Explores Roots of Jewish Life in Iraq

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

The only museum in the world, dedicated to the history of the Ancient Near East from a biblical perspective, has a new exhibition examining the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people as never seen before. The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem has amassed a collection of over 100 cuneiform tablets, original documents from the Judean community, which are now on display to the public for the first time.

“The exhibition shares the unique artifacts that illustrate the devastation and resilience of the exiled Judeans as they built their lives in Babylonia,” exhibition curator Dr. Filip Vukosavović told Tazpit News Agency.

“Until now we had been unable to tell the complete story of the Babylon Exile and to understand what actually happened to all the Jewish refugees once they were forced out of Judah,” said Dr. Vukosavović of the new exhibition, By the Rivers of Babylon.

The cuneiform clay tablets are known as the Al-Yahudu Tablets because most were written in the Babylonian city of Al-Yahudu (the city of Judah), located near a river. The tablets are small in size and with text in Akkadian, the extinct Semitic language of Mesopotamia, along with occasional text in Aramaic and Paleo-Hebrew. They contain dozens of personal names of Jewish exiles, whose biblical Hebrew names are still in use today.

“This outstanding exhibition focuses on one of the most significant periods for the Jewish people; a brief chapter in time that changed the culture, cohesion, and practice of Judaism and the Jewish people,” notes Bible Lands Museum director, Amanda Weiss.

Many important elements of Judaism today originated in ancient Babylon including the Hebrew calendar and Babylonian Talmud.

“The exhibition was inspired by the loan of the Al-Yahudu Archive from David and Cindy Sofer, who entrusted the museum with the once in a lifetime opportunity to research study, publish and exhibit this important historical evidence,” she told Tazpit.

By the Rivers of Babylon, which also features innovative multi-media, original animations and local archeology from the First Temple, traces the family tree of fourth-generation Judean exile, Hagai Ben Ahiqam, all the way back to his great-grandfather, Samak Yama, who was born in Judah. One tablet describes the division of inheritance among Haggai and his brothers in Bablyon – the kind of information that Dr. Vukosavović says that one could find in a lawyer’s file cabinet today.

Hagai’s family lived in the Babylonian city known as Al-Yahudu, an important city, among many cities, which were settled by Judean exiles over 2,500 years ago, following Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple in 586 BCE.

The earliest document on display from the Al-Yahudu archive, written barely 15 years after the destruction of Jerusalem offers a glimpse into the lives of the Judeans in exile and their relationship with the Babylonian rulers and society. The administrative and legal texts document many facets of life including business transactions, tax payments, and rentals in Babylonia, which show that the status of Judeans was one of state dependents and not of slaves.

“In Babylonia, Jews were considered quite unusual; their belief in one invisible God stood in stark contrast to the Babylonians’ belief in multiple gods that could be seen and touched,” said Dr. Irving Finkel, an archaeologist of the British Museum during a recent lecture at the Bible Lands Museum.

“Some of the best cuneiform tablets I have ever seen are in this collection,” added Dr. Finkel.

While many Jews returned to Jerusalem once the Persian King Cyrus the Great allowed them to do so in 539 BCE, many like Hagai and his family remained in Babylonia. As one of the longest surviving Jewish communities in the world, 2,500 years of Jewish history in Iraq came to an abrupt end when 130,000 Jews were evacuated to Israel during Operation Ezra and Nehemiah from 1949 to 1951. Today, there are five Jews left in Iraq.

“For Jews of Iraqi heritage, this exhibit is especially meaningful,” added Weiss.

By the Rivers of Babylon exhibit will be on display at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem throughout the next year.

Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency

Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l: Exile and Its Egregious Effects

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

We may not notice it as much as previous generations did due to the relative good relations with the non-Jewish world (though recent events have shaken us), but we are in exile and have been for almost 2000 years. The prolonged exile has devastated normal Jewish life in numerous ways.

 

The period of the Three Weeks of mourning the Temple’s destruction, from 17th of Tamuz until 9th of Av, is designed to remind us of all that we are mourning. While it is true that the Three Weeks have now passed and we have reverted back to our relaxing summer vacations, it is important particularly now to reflect on the growth that we were supposed to have attained.

We do this in the spirit of the Talmud in Brachot 32b, “The early pious ones would prepare for prayer for an hour, pray for an hour, and contemplate their prayers an hour afterwards”, in order to apply and bring the growth they just experienced into their regular lives. At the end of our reflections, we will see a strong link to our weekly Torah portion, Shoftim

The Three Weeks determines the “who we are and how we live” as Jews. When we mourn for the Temple, when we feel the pain of its loss and the sufferings that our ancestors experienced during this period, it is not a “pain” that we are mourning. Pains don’t last 2,000 years. The most intense and sharpest of pains dissipate. A year later they’re weak, ten years later they’re weaker, and a thousand years later they’re not felt at all. It isn’t the pain that our ancestors felt which we are mourning; it is the loss that is affecting us to this day.

This is the recognition and the statement that we make when we fast on 17th of Tamuz and keep the laws of mourning of the Three Weeks and Tisha B’av. It is a statement that not having a Temple renders us a broken people, unable to live a normal life. It means that we have been thrown to a state of spiritual disease and illness, where we cannot think correctly, feel correctly or live correctly.

We are in a state of darkness, unable to reach out and to relate to our Creator as we should to live spiritual, healthy and full lives. It is not simply that extra opportunities are lost to us, but we are crippled and we live as cripples. This is the most important and tragic effect of all. A blind man reaches the point where his blindness is so accepted that he is not aware of a sense of loss. He is not aware that he does not live a normal and full life, that he is handicapped and that there are whole areas of experience and existence that are closed to him. He starts thinking that this is life at its fullest. He doesn’t know that the inability to see colors, the inability to see the magnificence of God’s creation, is a lack and a loss. He accepts it as being the norm. That is tragic because in doing so, he reduces God’s creation.

If this is true in material matters, how much more so is the effect when it comes to accepting a spiritually crippled life as being the norm. If we come to feel that as a people without a Temple we are living a full life, think of the effect this has on our understanding of what existence is all about, of what our relationship with our Creator is all about. We accept as a normal way of living life without God’s face turned to us. Somehow it seems to us as though the way we live is perfect. It doesn’t make sense to us to go and bring animals, slaughter them in a Temple, put them on an altar and burn up the meat. As a nation, we have begun to feel that maybe sacrifices aren’t necessary after all.

Rabbi Boruch Leff

The Admor who Sits in Bavel and Sees a Carcass in Eretz Yisrael

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

In the wake of our tremendous pain over the murder of the three innocent teens, a desire has arisen within the Nation to understand why this has happened. The Admor of Satmar, who dwells in the Exile, claims that it is a punishment for the teens learning in the “Settlements” and blames the parents for sending them to learn there.

We fear that assigning such blame may violate the prohibition of “Ona’at Devarim” (distressing others). As the Gemara in Baba Metzia (58b) says, one may not speak to one who is suffering affliction or illness, or whose children have died, the way Iyov’s friends spoke to him: “Surely your fear was your foolishness, your hope and the sincerity of your ways” (Iyov 4:6). And we can add that the Rishonim on this Gemara write that the problem is not only causing distress to another person but also arrogance in thinking that we can know the ways of Hashem.

This recalls the reciprocal placing of blame that occurred following the horrors of the Holocaust: Some said that it happened on account of Zionism, others said it was because there was not Zionism. Still others blamed it on the Enlightenment. Each group’s explanation came from its own biased outlook, with no regard for the idea: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways” (Yeshayahu 55:8).

As is known, the uncle of the Admor of Satmar, Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, wrote a book “Va-Yoel Moshe” which is based on the idea that the murder of the holy one during the Holocaust was because of Zionism and the Return to Tzion.

But the great Rabbis of Israel have already answered that if the main transgression was Jews making Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in an organized fashion, then the first Jews to make Aliyah should have been murdered. Yet those who came to Eretz Yisrael and “violated” the Three Oaths (according to the Satmar Rebbe’s opinion) were saved, and those who did not make Aliyah were the ones who were murdered! (See the book “Alo Naale” – Response to Va-Yoel Moshe #43).

The number of Jews murdered in Auschwitz alone was, in fact, higher than that of all of the Jews murdered in all of the wars and terror attacks since the beginning of the Return to Tzion. Today – with the kindnesses of Hashem upon us – there are almost half a million Jews who live in Yesha. Therefore the Admor of Satmar’s claim is not valid.

Regarding the question itself, whether learning in Yesha is permissible: this was already asked of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rabbi of “Ramat Elchanan” (neighborhood in Bnei Brak).

A student was learning in a Yeshiva in Yesha and his parents were opposed on account of the danger. Ha-Rav Zilberstein proves that “a frequent damage” (Pesachim 8b. See Mesilat Yesharim, end of Chapter 9) is five percent. Baruch Hashem, 5% of the residents in Yesha are not murdered! And Ha-Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog in Shut Heichal Yitzchak proved based on Shut Rabbi Akiva Eiger (#60) that a frequent danger is not five percent, but one in a thousand (Shut Ha-Rav Herzog Vol. 1, p. 269).

Baruch Hashem, one in a thousand Jews is not murdered in “Yeshe”.

The basic halachah is therefore that there is nothing to fear. Obviously, nothing is 100% certain, but nowhere in this world is 100% safe, not Yerushalayim and not Tel Aviv, and it is all based on the definition of “a frequent damage”.

We agree with the Admor of Satmar that there are many Arab murderers in Eretz Yisrael, but we must see things in proportion. We have already been living in Yesha for 40 years and the number of murders that occur there is extremely low. The same is true in all of Eretz Yisrael. We must remember that according to a report of the WHO, World Health Organization, 8 out of 100,000 Israeli citizens are murdered each year. That’s compared with 15 out of 100,000 citizens in France, and 25 out of 100,000 Americans. Therefore, it is more dangerous for the Admor of Satmar, may he live a long and good life, Amen!, to live in America than to live in the “Settlements”! We must thank Hashem, and his loyal agents – Tzahal, the police, the Mossad, the Shabak and the rest of the security establishment – day and night for the peace and quiet we merit in our Land.

In the Gemara in Chullin (63b), Rabbi Abayu asks: Why is there a bird called “Ra’ah” (the one who saw)? He answers: Because he sits in Bavel and sees a carcass in Eretz Yisrael. The great Rabbis explain that this is a parable to someone who dwells outside of Eretz Yisrael and see the deficiencies in Eretz Yisrael and speaks Lashon Ha-Ra against it…

This obviously in no way detracts from the incredible merits of the Admor of Satmar in strengthening Torah and fear of Hashem in America, and we pray regarding them: “May our eyes behold Your return to Tzion in compassion”.

Prepared and translated by Rabbi Mordechai Tzion

Rav Shlomo Aviner

Pesach’s Dusty Windows (Part Four)

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

For the past several columns I’ve been focusing on “windows” – albeit dusty windows that block our vision and prevent us from looking out and seeing the reality of our Jewish lives.

These windows are everywhere; they encompass our Yom Tovim and all events that befall us. These windows speak. They send us messages. But our ears do not hear. Our eyes do not see. Our windows are covered with layers of thick dust that have accumulated over the millennia.

We have just celebrated the wonderful days of Pesach when G-d broke the chains of our bondage and led us forth to Sinai and the Promised Land. We had beautiful Seders, and while at some point our eyelids may have become heavy with slumber, we forced ourselves to remain awake as we related the story and sang the songs of the Haggadah.

In the midst of our celebration, however, it never occurred to us to look out of our dusty windows, and after Yom Tov we returned to normal everyday life.

Yet the windows of Pesach are crucial. Through them we can see our bitter exile.  Yes, the Haggadah speaks loud and clear: In every generation there are those who stand ready to pounce upon us and devour us but Hashem saves us from their hands. But few of us look out our windows and ask, Why does Hashem have to save us? Why are they trying to devour us?

We fail to understand that all of Jewish history is a replay of sorts. “Whatever happened to our forefathers is a sign” – a message to their descendants concerning what will happen throughout their long and bitter exile.

Let’s dust off the windows and study that first bondage of Egypt – the bedrock of all our future suffering.

Joseph is in Egypt and becomes the country’s viceroy. He sends a message to his father, Jacob, to come join him with the entire family. Jacob comes and Joseph, along with his entire entourage – what in our day would constitute members of Congress, the president’s cabinet, and the elite media – goes to greet him.

Paradoxically, Joseph tells his father to present himself and the family to Pharaoh as shepherds. It’s an odd message, since the Egyptians, as Rashi notes, considered sheep to be sacred and held shepherds in disdain.

Why would Joseph wish to portray his family in such a negative light? Why would he wish to alienate them from Pharaoh and the Egyptian people?

Joseph, who had survived in Egypt for twenty-two years as a lone Jew, had become an expert in preserving Jewish life in exile. He knew that in order to protect his people from disappearing, he would have to settle them in their own community where they could adhere to their own traditions without being threatened by assimilation. But for that to happen, the Egyptians would have to keep Jews apart from the mainstream of Egyptian society and isolate them in their own neighborhood, hence Joseph’s instructions to Jacob. And indeed, a “Jewish city” arose – Goshen.

Thus, Joseph laid down one of the first principles of Jewish survival – a strong, self-contained Jewish community. The Jews prospered, but while they became a vital part of Egypt, they remained a nation apart. All this came to a dramatic halt with the death of the Jacob. This change is related in the Torah in so subtle a manner that the casual student would probably not even pick it up.

Every Torah portion in a sefer Torah either starts on a new line or is separated from the next portion by at least a nine-letter space. But the last portion of Genesis, Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26), in which Jacob’s demise is announced, is not separated from the previous portion (Vayigash), and is therefore known as a “stuma” – closed.  Rashi explains that “with the death of the patriarch, the eyes and hearts of the Jewish people closed – shut down due to the anguish of the bondage.”

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/pesachs-dusty-windows-part-four/2014/05/01/

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