Then again, you never know. Next year, when asking, “Mah nishtanah?”,a former single will truthfully be able to say, “Everything!”
Posts Tagged ‘galut’
I’m relaxing on the sofa watching Shira, my 11-year-old, patiently teaching baby Sara Leah how to build a tower with her blocks, when the tranquil peace is suddenly shattered. Sara Leah has noticed an intriguing, sharp object on a high shelf. She climbs up to grab it, only to have it swiftly pulled away by her older, vigilant sister. Sara Leah wails loudly and inconsolably. Innovative Shira sprints to action and finds a colorful new book to read to her sister. Within seconds, this minor tragedy has been averted as Sara Leah nestles comfortably on Shira’s lap, engrossed in the tale. The scene reminded me of how just a few months back, I took Sara Leah to the doctor for her scheduled inoculation. One moment she was screaming over the pain of the shot; but the next she was contently sucking on her lollipop treat that I had brought precisely for this purpose, her head snuggled contentedly over my shoulder. Toddlers, even more than older children, are notorious for their changing moods. One moment they are in absolute bliss over a new toy or activity, only to be followed by a state of utter distress because something is being denied them. And vice versa. It’s not that Sara Leah’s pain was not real. At that point, when the object was taken away, her whole world had collapsed. The denied toy might be trivial, but for that moment, it became her passion, need and obsession. She didn’t consider how trivial the forbidden object was compared to her parents’ love for her. She didn’t think about the warm home that surrounds her, her many toys and prizes, or all the other far more wonderful things in her life. To her, her world had just caved in because she was unable to get that little something that she so craved. On the other hand, even when she was suffering real pain over the needle’s prick, the coveted piece of candy immediately distracted her, enabling her to forget her suffering. Her worldview suddenly turned positively jubilant, merely as a result of a newly acquired lollipop. A child is imprisoned within the moment. She cannot see beyond it. The context of past and future is lost on her because her mind has not yet sufficiently matured to assimilate a continuity of past to present, or the concept of future. Nor is there an appreciation of context – of this denied pleasure vis-a-vis for all other toys or belongings that she owns. Sara Leah, like all children, sees only what is before her – this moment, this toy, this lollipop. Sara Leah has a vision and perception that is fragmented. Sitting on the couch watching Sara Leah’s fickle moods reminded me of my own limited perception. Just last week, I was having a bad day, everything was going wrong and my dour mood reflected it. Then, at the end of the day, a small gift and kind word suddenly changed it all, as my mood – just like my baby’s – suddenly turned positively optimistic. Why my vacillation between a sour mood and the sudden jubilant change? Because adults, too, have a fragmented vision – similar to a child’s -due to our state of living in galut. Galut
Within seconds, this minor tragedy has been averted as Sara Leah nestles comfortably on Shira’s lap, engrossed in the tale.
The scene reminded me of how just a few months back, I took Sara Leah to the doctor for her scheduled inoculation. One moment she was screaming over the pain of the shot; but the next she was contently sucking on her lollipop treat that I had brought precisely for this purpose, her head snuggled contentedly over my shoulder.
Toddlers, even more than older children, are notorious for their changing moods. One moment they are in absolute bliss over a new toy or activity, only to be followed by a state of utter distress because something is being denied them. And vice versa.
It’s not that Sara Leah’s pain was not real. At that point, when the object was taken away, her whole world had collapsed. The denied toy might be trivial, but for that moment, it became her passion, need and obsession.
She didn’t consider how trivial the forbidden object was compared to her parents’ love for her. She didn’t think about the warm home that surrounds her, her many toys and prizes, or all the other far more wonderful things in her life. To her, her world had just caved in because she was unable to get that little something that she so craved.
On the other hand, even when she was suffering real pain over the needle’s prick, the coveted piece of candy immediately distracted her, enabling her to forget her suffering. Her worldview suddenly turned positively jubilant, merely as a result of a newly acquired lollipop.
A child is imprisoned within the moment. She cannot see beyond it.
The context of past and future is lost on her because her mind has not yet sufficiently matured to assimilate a continuity of past to present, or the concept of future. Nor is there an appreciation of context – of this denied pleasure vis-a-vis for all other toys or belongings that she owns. Sara Leah, like all children, sees only what is before her – this moment, this toy, this lollipop.
Sara Leah has a vision and perception that is fragmented.
Sitting on the couch watching Sara Leah’s fickle moods reminded me of my own limited perception. Just last week, I was having a bad day, everything was going wrong and my dour mood reflected it. Then, at the end of the day, a small gift and kind word suddenly changed it all, as my mood – just like my baby’s – suddenly turned positively optimistic.
Why my vacillation between a sour mood and the sudden jubilant change? Because adults, too, have a fragmented vision – similar to a child’s -due to our state of living in galut.
Galutis usually translated as “exile.” But galut is not simply a state of banishment from our land or our inability to live as practicing Jews.
Galutmeans being imprisoned within a fragmented perception of reality on all levels – fragmentation in time, space, self and community. It affects how we view ourselves and others, and all the events in our lives. It is our inability to see the underlying unity in all of reality.
We don’t see the connection between events in our lives, the people in our lives, or even aspects of ourselves. We view people as separate from us, rather than as part of a unified, symbiotic whole. We view time and events as separate and disjointed with no theme of a purpose. The past is a “memory” that is not lived with in the moment, and there is no concept or vision of a future. The here and now is all that is real and palpable.
That is why those small issues in my life become so overpowering on those days that I am in such a lousy mood, and cause me (and others) so much suffering. And that is why Sara Leah, on her own baby level, too, can’t overcome being denied one object until she is granted the diversion of another.
When I am imprisoned within the moment, I am unable to see beyond this particular problem that I am confronting, or the streak of bad luck that I am currently experiencing. These negative aspects of my life are senseless to me, and thus painful.
Geulah(redemption), on the other hand, is seeing the wholeness, unity and underlying G-dliness within creation. It is the perception of the connecting thread and the unifying force in everything – people, places and events. It is viewing each event as leading up to a purpose and having a mission and reason; while understanding that there will be a grand finale when all these loose ends will be wholesomely tied together.
That is why the Hebrew word for exile, golah differs only in one letter from its counterpart, geulah – redemption. Golah is missing the aleph (one) contained in geulah. It is lacking the perception of Oneness – the unity, the wholeness, the Divine underlying purpose of its creation.
Without the aleph, we behold the very same world, but it is a world of fragmentation, purposelessness, restlessness and frustrations.
Happiness and fulfillment are lacking because there is no appreciation for the role of the people and things around us. Insert the aleph, though, and context, mission, reason and unity emerges.
Every mitzvah that we do within galut empowers us to draw down this “aleph of geulah” awareness into every facet of our world.
Mitzvahmeans connection. Every mitzvah uncovers the concealed purpose of this moment, or of this created matter, and thereby connects us all to our Creator.
Because drawing down this aleph consciousness is something that is in the power of each and every one of us.
One day at a time. One mitzvah at a time.
Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, the latest, Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Weisberg lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul. To book a talk for your community or for information on her books or speaking schedule, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
“In every generation one is obligated to see himself as if he has exited Egypt.” (Passover Haggadah)
When the Jews left Egypt and were trapped between the Egyptian army and the sea, there were many who advocated going back to Egypt and slavery. Understandable, but nevertheless the epitome of galut mentality. Had they prevailed, we would still be slaves in Egypt today.
Galut mentality has dominated Israeli politics for almost four decades, leading Israel to make concession after concession. These actions were repeatedly rewarded with even more bloodshed.
Here in America, the galut mentality is prevalent in the culture wars. There are many who say that we must capitulate to a militant secularism that advocates the killing of babies as they are being born and the indoctrinating of children to reject creationism and moral absolutism. Many Jewish “leaders” oppose the right of parents to opt out of the public educational system, which imposes its misguided culture on the rest of us. And parents are left to lament the results of this influence, helpless to escape the culture of “Egypt.”
Our Torah requires us to leave the galut behind and march forward toward the fearsome waters, armed with the assurance that we can face a sea of opposition and prevail.
Thank The Pope?!
Re your Jan. 14 news story “Jewish Delegation to Thank Pope”: Isn’t this the same pope who met with Arafat and publicly expressed his concerns about the plight of the Arabs under the Israelis?
I don’t think this delegation of rabbis and Jewish officials had any idea how repulsive they looked. Imagine any other people receiving the loans of their own manuscripts and falling all over themselves in appreciation! Gary Krupp thinks the Jewish people should thank the pope for all he has done? That’ll be the day. Thank God there are still a few Jews left with some self-respect.
Rego Park, NY
Jews And Guns
I read Robert Avrech’s op-ed article (“Jews and Guns,” Dec. 24) with interest and satisfaction that this controversial issue was aired in an Orthodox newspaper. As a musmach, practicing health professional, holder of a State of Florida Concealed Weapons Permit, and member and supporter of the National Rifle Association, I am in total agreement with Mr. Avrech’s views and arguments.
In addition to the Torah sources quoted by Mr. Avrech, allow me to add the following. We read in Exodus 13:18, “Vachamushim olu bnei Yisrael miMitzraim.” Rashi provides two perushim, one of which is “m’zuyonim,” well armed. Torah Temima comments that their weapons were of five different types (Yerushalmi, Shabbos, chapter 6 halacha 4). That “vachamishim” indeed refers to physical arms can be seen from Joshua’s (1:14) command, as the Jews were preparing to cross the Jordan: “…V’atem taavru chamushim lifnei acheichem…” (“You shall pass over your brethren armed…”)
It would appear that a Jew, on his life’s journey, should be armed with Torah (spiritually) and, when needed, with arms (physically).
Balfour: Whole Or Part?
Reader Zeev Raphael disputes a point in my op-ed article “Facing Up to Painful Reality” (Jewish Press, Dec 24). He takes issue (Letters, Jan. 14) with my stating, in reference to the Balfour Declaration, that it recognized the “whole “of Palestine as a designated “National Homeland” for the Jewish people.
While the Balfour Declaration does not use the word “whole,” it is quite implicit in its intent to designate Palestine for the Jewish Home, making no mention of another national homeland but instead states: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”
Furthermore, the description of Palestine – i.e., the area of what was designated as the Jewish Homeland – is in the records of the League of Nations, as follows: “The League of Nations and the British had designated the land called ‘Palestine’ for the ‘Jewish National Home’ – east and west of the Jordan River from the Mediterranean to Arabia and Iraq, and north and south from Egypt to Lebanon and Syria.”( Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, page 235.)
Certainly that constitutes the “whole” of Palestine, future changes and betrayals notwithstanding.
Rote Observance Not Enough
Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, in his Jan. 14 column, employed any number of persuasive arguments to convince readers of the gravity of casual speech in shul. Likely they will fall largely on deaf ears. But why should that be so? The frum community has strengthened its religious commitment in so many areas. Learning is now a staple and is not restricted to a privileged few. Kashrus has advanced to the point where cholov Yisroel and pas Yisroel are for the most part givens, with kemach yashon following right behind.
I will offer a possible answer. We can speak of two categories of mitzvos. The first includes those we perform on almost a rote basis – making brachos, putting on tefillin, keeping Shabbos, etc. The yetzer hora is less concerned with these mitzvos because they require the expenditure of little thought or energy.
In the second category are precepts which involve the mind. This second type is not necessarily distinct from the first, but actually it adds a dimension that enervates the commandments. It’s thinking about the fruit we eat before making a bracha, recognizing the bond forged with Hashem when we put on tefillin, using our Shabbos “down time” appropriately. It is here that the battle with Satan is fought in earnest.
We are blessed to live in a country that allows us to fulfill our spiritual needs without forfeiting the material. B’li ayin hora, people have large homes and families supported by thriving businesses or governmental and communal largesse. And therein lies the rub.
Moshe rabbeinu prophesied that when the nation grows wealthy it would essentially ignore the source of its bounty. The yetzer hora would have us believe that we must simply follow the rituals and thereby merit Divine Protection. In fact, our mussar seforim tell us that we must at all times bear in mind that our service might be slipping. But deep introspection becomes an albatross if our goals are exotic Pesach vacations, luxury automobiles and the like.
In a nutshell, then, we’ve been deluded into thinking that Hashem is, chos v’shalom, no longer relevant to our well being. We talk in shul because we want to tell our friends about the killing we made in the market or the new techno gadget we’re about to purchase. Davening is an afterthought because we already have what we need and the wherewithal to get more. What we all really need is yiras shomayim. It shouldn’t take a tsunami to produce a tidal wave of teshuva, but…
Dr. Yaakov Stern
On Restoring Jewish Burial And Mourning Practices
After the recent death of my mother, I sent the following letter to the Conservative rabbi who performed her levaya. It is my hope that my sharing it with a wider audience will stimulate other rabbis to consider how far we have drifted from our roots, and how some simple steps might reverse this trend.
Highland Park, NJ
L’ilui nishmas Frieda bas Avraham
My Friend and Holy Brother,
You stand in a frighteningly important place. Teacher of Israel, the fate of the next generation of Jews is yours to help shape. At once I both admire your position and wouldn’t step near it. Great is your responsibility.
I wish to thank you for your assistance to my family after my mother’s passing, and challenge you to teach your congregants authentic Jewish practices concerning death. As a member of our local chevra kadisha, I must convey to you the distress I had on seeing how non-Jewish practices have taken over Jewish rites of passing. Kavod ha’meis, kriya, and solemnity have been replaced with a public viewing and pre-levaya visitation that has more of a social party atmosphere than nichum aveilim. Kriya has been replaced with a 20-cent ribbon. Tahara has been supplemented with make-up. Shiva is no longer shiva; it is shlosha, and in some cases yom echad.
It is sad, but it can change. My holy brother and teacher of Israel, you share this responsibility to restore 3,000 years of tradition; for the comfort of the neshama, the aveilim, and kavod ha’meis, I suggest the following:
1. A recurring series of adult education courses on “restoring Jewish practices concerning death and burial.” Now I admit this may not be a popular idea, but it should be included as part of a larger series of Jewish concepts of the soul, the afterlife, and reincarnation.
2. Mourners should not be given the option of an open casket or viewing, but should be respectfully taught that everything prior to burial is for kavod ha’meis, and after burial for the nichum aveilim, and to assist the neshama to its final resting place. It is extremely embarrassing for the meis to be on view without the clothing of its neshama.
3. Kriya is a tangible expression of the depths of grief. Ribbons should not be offered. Kriya should not be performed by the funeral home staff, but by a member of the chevra kaddisha, and if that is not possible, then by the congregational rabbi.
4. If one does not exist, form a committee of congregants who go to the beis avel prior to the levaya to set up, covering mirrors, bringing chairs and siddurim. Although the funeral chapel may provide these items, having fellow congregants perform this function returns the process to the congregational community and expresses a shared experience instead of a formalized business arrangement. Minimal training is necessary.
5. Talk about God and the soul! God is an absent word in the vocabulary of many non-Orthodox Jews. Judaism has a rich tradition of spirituality. We have holy souls, and must be comfortable having a dialogue that includes God in our daily vocabulary. For many Jews, talking about God and the afterlife is a Christian concept. How sad and far from the truth. Every day I tell my children that they have holy neshamos, and we frequently say, “I love you Hashem!” – a practice recommended by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l. The Tanya (or Lessons in Tanya) is an excellent source of authentic Jewish teachings on the nature of the soul and our relationship with Hashem. Alternatively, Adin Steinsalz’s The Thirteen Petalled Rose covers similar turf in a much more compact manner.
6. Enlist the aid of your fellow rabbis in the area to insist that “Jewish” funeral chapels live up to that title. Open caskets and post-tahara manipulation of the meis should be forbidden. If the chapels risk losing business, they will change their tune. I was told by Rabbi Yaakov Hilsenrath, may he live and be well, the rabbi emeritus of the Highland Park Conservative Temple, that funerals such as the one my mother had were the norm when he became a pulpit rabbi in New Jersey. He refused to officiate at open casket funerals and made a deal with a local non-Jewish funeral home to get exclusive rights to his funerals on the condition that they be done according to halacha. To this day, the chevra still goes to that funeral home and performs tahara with tisha kabim. After losing so much business, the local Jewish funeral chapel changed its policy and put in a mikva! You have the power to make the change. Don’t sell yourself short.
7. The following resources are recommended:
a. The Tahara Manual of Practices, Rabbi Moshe Epstein
b. The Mourner’s Companion, Rabbi Reuven Drucker
c. Mourning in Halacha, Rabbi Chaim Binyomin Goldberg
d. The Jewish Way in Death and Dying, Rabbi Maurice Lamm
Thank you again for the comfort you provided my family. My father and sisters were very appreciative of your pastoral skills and comforting demeanor. May you go me’chayil l’chayil and in the zechus of your efforts may we greet Moshiach tzidkeinu together.
With blessing for hatzlocha in your endeavors.
Another Nine Days have come and gone, and we gratefully give a sigh of relief knowing that these days of deprivation – no meat, no swimming, no showering, no music, culminating in a 25 hour fast – no food or water – are finally behind us, and the rest of the sun-drenched summer is there for us to enjoy.
Within days, the tragic realities which the Nine Days represent are relegated to a distant storage bin in our warehouse of memories, to be dusted off in 12 months’ time, when the next Nine Days come around. That is the way human beings operate. Unpleasant happenings are quickly discarded if they do not affect us directly. People go to hospitals, funerals, to shiva houses, and they genuinely feel awful about the specific situation, but the adage “out of sight – out of mind” holds true. We go on with our lives as soon as we walk out the door.
During the week of Tisha B’Av, we mourn the destruction of the Temple and centuries of tragedy and exile, but for many, it is more of an intellectual exercise. We acknowledge the ruinous event that happened so long ago, but I sense that for many, we are basically paying a shiva call – we are upset, even tearful, but just for a moment. The loss of the Bais Hamikdosh doesn’t really affect our day-to-day lives, at least not in America, not for the current generation of Diaspora Jews. We come and go as we please, without fear, hesitation or restriction. The only thing stopping a person from living la vida dolce are his/ her self-imposed limitations.
I find myself disturbed by my own lack of awareness of how terrible galut is – cushioned by a comfortable and relatively safe North American lifestyle. However, when I say galut, I am including a pre-Moshiach State of Israel. Today, Israel lacks peace and harmony from both within, as religious and secular factions bicker and fight over economic and cultural issues, and externally, as fanatical Muslim factions fueled by blood-lust murder, maim and mutilate indiscriminately.
And of course, there is the predictable, self-righteous indignation from hypocritical international governments who condemn, censor and criticize Israel for employing self-defensive measures. Israel is “damned if they do – and damned if they don’t.”
I try to rectify my “head in the sand” oblivion by taking a time-out every day and reading The Jerusalem Post and Arutz Sheva on-line. Almost daily, a smiling, “eyes brimming with life” photo of a young soldier, or that of a child, or a young mother, or a man eager to take care of unfinished business, look out at me. And accompanying the photo is an age, and a mention of a status – son, daughter, fiancee, spouse, father, mother, grandparent – and a description of how he/she came to a premature and violent death.
And because we are all related, I often see someone I know, or that I feel I know. Sometimes there is a passing resemblance to my own kids, or a friend, or colleague. Or maybe because I know that their dreams and goals and aspirations were the same as mine. And it becomes personal – and real.
The next day, there is the follow-up photo of grieving relatives, their faces exploding with grief as they fall on the coffin in a desperate try to get in one last hug, before the physical essence of their loved one disappears underground.
And for a few minutes, I see and feel the churban. I understand its horror and I finally experience Tisha B’av on an emotional level. Until I click off the web-site. And let my sugar-coated reality rescue me from grief. Until the next day. For like a bitter pill that must be taken daily, we must experience a brief taste of Tisha B’Av on a regular basis, so that we will reach out to our Heavenly Father with genuine tears, and hasten the ultimate Redemption.