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July 1, 2016 / 25 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Hashem’

Don’t Feel Bad! We Didn’t Lose the War!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Albeit all the angry, bitter, and downright nasty articles and blogs which have been written on how Israel was defeated in its latest skirmish with the Hamas – that isn’t the case at all. We’re really the winner! Let me explain:

Firstly, on the simplest level, thanks to the grace of G-d, our casualties were far less than the Other Side’s. Regarding physical damage as well, the devastation on their side was far greater. So, just in terms of the way the military scorecard is usually figured, we were the victors by far.

In reply to the claim that the Hamas received a great boost in their morale in bringing mighty Israel to a cease fire, giving them added incentive for the next round – maybe. But their celebrations of victory are based on fantasy and lies, and their joy won’t last when we hit them ten times as hard the next time.

As far as the truce being a crushing blow to the morale of our own troops – my son and his friends in the army don’t seem any less gung ho about destroying the Hamas the next chance they get, so I think that claim has also been over-exaggerated. Our son was happy to be home for Shabbat, and we were happy too. Along with 30,000 other soldiers and their families.

Don’t accuse me of being a pacifist. Any reader who has been following my blog during the recent Israeli Air-Force exercise in Gaza knows that I would not have had any qualms at all if we had waited for a day when a stiff wind was blowing toward Cairo and dropped a small A-Bomb on Gaza City. But the time hasn’t yet come. Savlenut, my friends. Patience.

I am reminded of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook’s reaction when the United Nations voted in 1947 to partition the Palestine of the British Mandate which sliced Eretz Yisrael into pieces and awarded a truncated area to the Jews. When the news came over the radio that a Jewish State would be formed, a spontaneous joy swept over the country. People rushed out from their homes to dance in the streets. But Rav Tzvi Yehuda was crushed. The Land of Israel has been divided! Large portions of the country had been placed in foreign hands! Half of Jerusalem, Hevron, Shilo, Yericho, Shechem, and the other side of the Jordan River! Multitudes of Israelis were dancing through the streets, but in his staggering sorrow, Rav Tzvi Yehuda remained in his home. The Land of Israel had been divided! It was impossible for him to feel glad. He felt as if he himself had been cut into pieces.

The following day, Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Harlop, a close student and friend of Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, came to visit him in the old house on Yafo Street in Jerusalem. They sat in the room which Rabbi Kook had used as his study and huddled together, distraught over what had occurred. Then, finding encouragement in each other, and raising themselves up to Rabbi Kook’s famous all-encompassing vision, they quoted the verse of Psalms, “This is the Lord’s doing. It is wondrous in our eyes.” Finally, Rav Tzvi Yehuda mustered the strength to go out to the Nation, realizing, with faith in Hashem, that is was God’s doing, and that with the passing of time, the newborn Nation would overcome the great difficulties and gradually return to all of its Land – to Hevron, to the Temple Mount, to Shechem, to Gaza, and to the other side of the Jordan.

During the recent operation in Gaza, we wrote that the Redemption of Israel was a process which develops gradually over time, little by little, like the emerging of dawn, stage after stage, in the wars which Israel must fight against its enemies who strive to block out its light, in what is known as “the Footsteps of Mashiach.” While we would like to see our salvation and victory occur all at once, Presto, with one wave of Mashiach’s wand, the Master of the World, who is also the Master of War, has decided otherwise. After the trauma of our national disintegration in our exile in foreign lands, Hashem rebuilds our Nation gradually, war after war, development after development, slowly bringing us back to our true selves, the proud lions of Judah, completely devoted to Hashem and His Torah, not only as individuals, but as a proud Torah Nation in Israel.

Tzvi Fishman

Letter to Our Son in Gaza

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Our 22-year old son has been re-stationed with his Golani brigade to a makeshift base at the outskirts of Gaza. I am very proud that he has the chance to uphold the honor of Hashem and Israel, and I know he is proud too. In my mind, there is no greater, holier, and transcendental mitzvah than fighting in the Israel Defense Forces, in defense of the Nation of Israel, to wipe out the enemies of Hashem.

The soldiers who are willing to put their lives on the line for Am Yisrael are the true heroes of holiness, just like our holy heroes of our past, Avraham in his war to save Lot; Moshe Rabainu in his wars against kings who rose up against us on our way to the Promised Land; Yehoshua Ben Nun in his conquest of the Eretz Yisrael; and others like King David and the Maccabees, all of whom will be fighting alongside our soldiers when the order comes to enter Gaza and annihilate Hamas. When the occasion demanded, these holy heroes all closed their Gemaras and strode off to war, just as the Torah commands, for the honor of Hashem and Israel.

What do you say to your son as he waits on the outskirts of Gaza? This is the SMS message that I sent him:

Dear Precious Son,

Your mother and I, as well as your brothers and sister, are all very proud of you, and proud of all your friends who are with you, and proud of all the IDF soldiers who are prepared to fight and destroy the enemies of Hashem. Just as our hearts are with you, the whole country is with you. You are acting on our behalf. I wish I could be there with you.

I know you probably didn’t have time to pack any books to take with you when orders came to head south, so I am sending you a little something from the Rambam, which I am certain you know, but which is always good to read over again. May these words of Torah protect you and your comrades, and lead the forces of Israel to a swift and decisive victory over our enemies, with the hope that you will have the green light to finish the job until the very last terrorist in Gaza is destroyed. And if you receive orders that don’t seem right to you, orders that endanger you and your fellow soldiers, lest “innocent” civilians be hurt – don’t listen to them, but do whatever you have to do to protect yourself and your friends over every other consideration, for there are no innocent civilians in Gaza, and the laws of the Torah, and the laws of guarding Jewish life, override the “what will the goyim say?” considerations of man.

In the Laws of Milchemah, The Rambam writes:

“A man should not think at the time of war his wife, nor of his children, nor of his possessions, but he must free his heart of everything and set himself to the battle. And more – he should think that the entire existence of Israel depends on him… For everyone who fights with all of his heart, and with the intention to sanctify the Name of Hashem, is promised that he will not be harmed… and he will merit the Life of the World to Come.”

Therefore, my precious son – be not afraid. Put your trust in Hashem, for you are bringing honor to Him and His Nation. We love you and will see you soon at home, when the enemies of Israel have been crushed.

Tzvi Fishman

Who Is Sandy?!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

“Sandy gives New York a real thrashing!” screamed the headlines. “Hmmm, who exactly is Sandy and why is she thrashing New York,” I wonder. How about this one: (an exact quote) “For all those left homeless, for all those left scared and frightened, there is an enormous lesson from this hurricane – mother nature will do what she wants, when she wants, and our modern world can only bow before it.” Now I am really confused – who is this mother and why is she acting so mean – aren’t mothers supposed to be nice? And more so – what exactly is this “enormous” lesson? Why should I bow to her?

Baruch Hashem, we Torah abiding Jews know the truth. Even though the meteorologists have explained what brought about Hurricane Sandy and the post-tropical superstorm that resulted, we know the cause of all those factors. Hashem, the “Cause of all Causes,” orchestrated this great showing of His Power, and there was a reason for it. We do not have prophets who can tell us which one of the many sins of our world was the basis for the great punishment Hashem inflicted – nor is it our job to point fingers. We must share in the pain and suffering of those who experienced bodily harm or damage to their property, and offer whatever help possible. The outpouring of chesed seen in our communities created a great Kiddush Hashem and is definitely a great zechus for Klal Yisroel. On the other hand, the Gemara in Yevomos (63a) tells us that when punishment comes to the world it is to teach us a lesson. Let us suggest one possible lesson that Hashem was teaching us when He sent Sandy to the East Coast.

The Downside Of Modern Technology

Rav Aryeh Leib Kahn (Rosh Kollel Yad Halevi Kiryat Sefer) once pointed out that with the rapid advancement of modern technology we are in danger of becoming distanced from Hashem. For example, before the advent of cell phones, if you traveled out of town, and suddenly started to worry that perhaps you forgot to turn off the fire under a pot, there was nothing to do other than daven to Hashem that everything will be okay. But now, all you need to do is whip out your cell, call the neighbor and ask them to make sure the fire is out!

The more technology we have, the more we can chas v’sholom, forget Hashem. With our heated and (supposedly) waterproof homes, fitted with gas, electricity, and running water, we feel prepared. This mindset is the antithesis to the reason for our existence, as Hashem created us to become close to Him. The more trust we put in our own actions, the further we become from Hashem. To save us from this serious error and its dreadful results, once in a while Hashem sends us a reminder that He is the one in charge. Sometimes the wakeup call is on a small scale, to an individual in his own private life – and sometimes, like now, it is an extremely painful one to a larger community.

What Can We Put Our Trust In?

In the “olden days,” when night fell, the day ended. But in the modern day, that has changed. Everywhere we go, bright lights make it seem like daytime – we feel that we have conquered the darkness. When we are suddenly thrown into pitch-blackness, we realize that Hashem is the one who is lighting up our nights. When we cannot use all our electric powered appliances and devices, we realize how vulnerable we really are. When a tree comes crashing down on two pedestrians the day after the storm, we remember that we only make it home safely because Hashem is protecting us. And when ferocious winds, which sound like a freight train rattling through the empty streets, hurl objects through the air, we realize what it would be like if Hashem were not usually holding back those winds. When the temperatures begin to drop and the heat does not work, we see that we have no control over the cold. And taking cold showers certainly is not pleasant.

But the lessons don’t stop there. Hashem wanted to show us that He is always “ahead of the game.” Many people weren’t scared of power outages because they had generators to produce their own electricity. But even that doesn’t always help. In some places, the generator was flooded and stopped working. In others, due to the gasoline shortage, there isn’t fuel to power the generator! Many felt secure with their cell phones – they would be affecting by down phone lines – and then the cell phone services were disrupted because cell towers were down.

Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus

The Age Of Disrespect

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

And Lavan and Betuel answered and said, “It is from Hashem that this has come forth. We can speak neither for nor against it.” – Bereishis 24:50

Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, went to find a wife for Yitzchak. He approached the city of Charan, waited at the well, and asked Hashem for a sign. “Let it be that the girl who not only gives me water when I ask for it, but says, ‘Not only will I give you to drink, but I will give your camels as well.’ She should be the one that is right for Yitzchak.”

No sooner did he finish speaking than Rivka, the daughter of Betuel, came upon the scene and fulfilled his request exactly as he specified. Eliezer knew that he had found the right one.

He then asked Rivka to take him to her father. As they neared the house, Rivka’s brother Lavan saw the camels laden with treasure and ran out to greet the new guest and usher him in. Eliezer described the miracles that happened and then asked for approval of the marriage. Lavan and Betuel exclaimed, “It is from Hashem! How can we stop it?”

Rashi comments that from here we see Lavan’s wickedness. Why did the Torah mention his name first? To teach us that he spoke before his father. This shows us that he was a rasha.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

The answer to this can best be understood from a historical vantage point.

A yeshiva student learning in Israel found himself on a bus, sitting near two secular American Jews. Noticing that one was a bit older than the other, he was surprised to hear them calling each other by their first names. “Bob, did you notice that?” said one. “Hey, Joe, what do you think?” said the other. His surprise deepened when in the course of conversation it became clear that the two were father and son. Dad explained, “I don’t want barriers between us, so we call each other by our first names.”

That isn’t the way that it used to be. Not all that long ago in America, a teenager wouldn’t dream of calling an adult by his first name, let alone his father. And certainly a child wouldn’t dare open his mouth when his father spoke. It didn’t matter how foul-mouthed the child was, and it didn’t matter how unpolished the father was. Children knew their place, and the idea of a child speaking back to an adult was unheard of.

Things have changed. The countercultural revolution of the 1960s brought new attitudes and ideas. And while much of the hysteria of those times has passed, one of the relics is that respect is no longer part of the culture. Gone is respect for leaders. Gone is respect for the clergy. Gone is respect for elders. In its place is the cynicism of a new age – an egalitarian age – where we are all equals.

We no longer need to treat institutions with reverence, and we no longer need to treat authority with deference. And so we argue with our doctors. We argue with our lawyers. And we argue with our parents, who don’t really know that much anyway. Welcome to the Age of Disrespect.

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. In the times of Lavan, society was still relatively normal. Workers respected bosses. Students respected teachers. Younger people respected older people. As such, there were things that were done and things that were not done. In that world, for a child to answer in his father’s presence was outrageous. It simply didn’t happen. The only time such a thing could occur was when the child had veered way off course – had become deviant. And so Rashi tells us that Lavan’s response shows just how wicked he was.

This is especially illustrative because Lavan wasn’t known as a paradigm of virtue. He died trying to poison Eliezer in order to steal his money. Yet even in his home, for a child to answer before his father did was so out of the norm that it could only happen if that child was wicked.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

The Rare Torah Oracle

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Rebecca, hitherto infertile, became pregnant. Suffering acute pain, she went to inquire of the Lord – “vateilech lidrosh et Hashem” (Bereishit 25:22). The explanation she received was that she was carrying twins who were contending in her womb. They were destined to do so long into the future:

Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger – “v’rav ya’avod tzair” (Bereishit 25:23).

Eventually the twins are born – first Esau, then (his hand grasping his brother’s heel) Jacob. Mindful of the prophecy she has received, Rebecca favors the younger son, Jacob. Years later, she persuades him to dress in Esau’s clothes and take the blessing Isaac intended to give his elder son. One verse of that blessing was “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you” (Bereishit 26:29). The prediction has been fulfilled. Isaac’s blessing can surely mean nothing less than what was disclosed to Rebecca before either child was born, namely that, “the older will serve the younger.” The story has apparently reached closure – or so, at this stage, it seems.

But biblical narrative is not what it seems. Two events follow that subvert all that we had been led to expect. The first happens when Esau arrives and discovers that Jacob has cheated him out of his blessing. Moved by his anguish, Isaac gives him a benediction, one of whose clauses is: “You will live by your sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck” (Bereishit 27:40).

This is not what we had anticipated. The older will not serve the younger in perpetuity.

The second scene, many years later, occurs when the brothers meet after a long estrangement. Jacob is terrified of the encounter. He had fled from home years earlier because Esau had vowed to kill him. Only after a long series of preparations and a lonely wrestling match at night is he able to face Esau with some composure. He bows down to him seven times. Seven times he calls him “my lord.” Five times he refers to himself as “your servant.” The roles have been reversed. Esau does not become the servant of Jacob; instead, Jacob speaks of himself as the servant of Esau. But this cannot be. The words heard by Rebecca when “she went to inquire of the Lord” suggested precisely the opposite, that “the older will serve the younger.” We are faced with cognitive dissonance.

More precisely, we have here an example of one of the most remarkable of all of Torah’s narrative devices: the power of the future to transform our understanding of the past. This is the essence of midrash. New situations retrospectively disclose new meanings in the text (see the essay “The Midrashic Imagination” by Michael Fishbane). The present is never fully determined by the present. Sometimes it is only later that we understand the now.

This is the significance of the great revelation of G-d to Moses in Shemot 33:33, where G-d says that only His back may be seen – meaning, His presence can be seen only when we look back at the past; it can never be known or predicted in advance. The indeterminacy of meaning at any given moment is what gives the biblical text its openness to ongoing interpretation.

We now see that this was not an idea invented by the Sages. It already exists in the Torah itself. The words Rebecca heard – as will now become clear – seemed to mean one thing at the time. It later transpires that they meant something else.

The words, “v’rav ya’avod tzair,” seem simple: “the older will serve the younger.” Returning to them in the light of subsequent events, though, we discover that they are anything but clear. They contain multiple ambiguities.

The first (noted by Radak and Rabbi Yosef ibn Kaspi) is that the word “et,” signaling the object of the verb, is missing. Normally – but not always – in biblical Hebrew the subject precedes, and the object follows, the verb. In Job 14:19, for example, the words “avanim shachaku mayim” mean “water wears away stones,” not “stones wear away water.” Thus the phrase might mean “the older shall serve the younger.” But it might also mean “the younger shall serve the older.” To be sure, the latter would be poetic Hebrew rather than conventional prose style, but that is what this utterance is: a poem.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Dealing with Adult who Sexually Abuses Children

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

A sexual abuser is someone with visceral urges who often spirals down into an abyss from which he usually cannot fully recover. Research shows that sex offenders are among of the most difficult to treat, as their behavior is caused by such powerful forces.

There are clear mental dysfunction and depravity that go along with being an adult who sexually abuses children. This is an explanation, not an excuse. Perpetrators deserve our empathy – possibly – but need to be dealt with justly and in methods that ensure our children’s safety, without any compromises. It is a sad fact that for each perpetrator there isn’t only one victim, but more likely there are sometimes scores and even hundreds of victims. That sounds hard to believe, but simple math tells us that stopping just one perpetrator may protect hundreds of potential victims.

Most abusers have at one time themselves been abused and now prey on others. For many of us this is difficult to fathom; how could someone so acutely aware of the pain and suffering abuse entails now mete out those same feelings onto another?

Let us try to understand this psychological phenomenon from a theoretical perspective. When people are sexually abused, much of the inherent power and control they once had over their bodies and minds becomes either severely compromised or downright damaged. When the abuse takes place repeatedly, the power and control we speak of can become a distant memory, and victims often develop serious trauma.

The question for the victim now becomes, how can I regain that elusive power and control? Unfortunately, the form of power and control he knows best is sexual abuse – and to regain it he perpetrates what happened to him onto another. It is important to note that the former victim, now abuser, is most likely unaware of the trajectory and evolution of his own thoughts; he is merely desperate to recover what has been missing from his life all these years. This absolves none of his personal responsibility; he remains fully culpable for his actions, but it is important to examine his motivations.

Now that we understand why abuse occurs, the question becomes, what can we do about it? There are many ways, and addressing only one aspect or having one direction won’t fully incorporate what is necessary to eliminate abuse from our midst (although, complete eradication is most likely impossible).

I believe an increase in education as to the effects of sexual abuse on victims – rather than dry statistics of abuse prevalence – may help. Too often I hear, “It happened so long ago, can’t the person just get over it?” Many fail to comprehend the association between abuse and long-term trauma, and don’t understand why there is a significantly increased risk of serious mental issues in victims, such as depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide.

In addition, as described above, abuse becomes repeated and multigenerational. The facts are out there, they merely need to be disseminated. An increase in knowledge invariably causes an increase in sensitivity and understanding. Sadly, almost ninety percent of abuse never gets reported – in all communities. But the courageous few who do come forward, need our full backing and support.

As to our own community, it has been copiously documented by the media how we responded in the past to cases of abuse – everything from, “this doesn’t happen in our communities,” to “it’s a chillul Hashem to allow this to get out.” By increasing our understanding of what abuse causes, rather than merely stating that abuse exists (which at this point is difficult for anyone to deny, though some inevitably try), we might discourage cowardly individuals from within from attempting to prevent deserved justice. While this may be only a small step towards eradicating wrong from the world, it can, hopefully, be a start.

 

Dovid Katzenstein

An Ode To Sandy

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Living in a house
With more than 20 people
Is no fun
Especially when there is no gum
Eating and baking chocolate and cookies all day
Really blew our diet away
Hurricane Sandy made a mess
And left us all depressed
Lots of people lost power
They have no food and can’t take showers
Even though it’s hard to cope
As Jews we know there is always hope
We pray to Hashem for menucha
And anxiously await the Geula.

An Anonymous SKA Student

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/an-ode-to-sandy/2012/11/09/

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