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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘His Holy Name’

How Do We Understand That Which Is Unfolding? (Part Two)

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Special Note: In last week’s column I wrote about the seemingly inexplicable events that are unfolding throughout the world. How do we understand the demonization of Israel, the new escalation of anti-Semitism, and the preponderance of Islamic terrorists throughout the world?

Whenever we encounter challenges, be they major or minor, general or personal, it is always best to consult the Torah. But, you might ask, where are we to look? To which page should we turn?

It is always best to focus on the first place the subject is mentioned for the first is always definitive. So if we are to understand Yishmael and the terror he is inflicting, we should turn to the very first time we encounter him in the Torah.

In the Book of Genesis (16:11), the angel of G-d appears before Hagar and informs her that, ” she will have a son whom she is to call Yishmael. He will be a “Pere Adam – a wild donkey of a man…his hand will be into everything and everyone’s hand will be with him all over the world.” For thousands of years, this prophecy seemed farfetched and irrelevant. The descendants of Yishmael were a backward, nomadic people – certainly not major players on the world scene.

But we are the generation of Ikvesa d’Moshicha – the generation that precedes the coming of Messiah that has been destined to see the fulfillment of this prophecy, that will have to contend with the terrible tribulations and suffering that Yishmael will inflict.

Indeed, our own eyes have seen the barbaric savagery of which this “Pere Adam” is capable. Do you recall Daniel Pearl, who, prior to being beheaded, was forced to proclaim his crime, “I am a Jew?” And we have since seen multitudes of Daniel Pearls. Do you recall the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped and brought to Ramallah? They didn’t simply kill him – they hacked him to pieces and then threw his mutilated body out of the window and even as they did so, they gleefully held up their bloody hands in a sign of victory while the mob danced and stomped on his corpse.

But why, you might ask, am I bringing up yesterday’s news? Precisely because it’s not yesterday’s news. Alas, it is today. Each and every day our plight becomes more critical. We are the generation that has been destined to see Yishmael’s long arm reaching out to all, all reaching out to him, establishing cells in every country, on every continent.

With the passage of time, however, we have become inured, and we no longer understand that which our eyes behold, and that which our ears hear. We have bought into the world’s propaganda: “It’s all politics. It’s all because of Israel. … Israel must be more flexible, and then peace will be attained.” So, the pundits have come up with many solutions – the foremost being, two states living side by side.

A two-state solution will not do it however – Yishmael has no interest in it. He is determined that there be only one state – a “Yishmaeli” state in which the Moslem laws of Sharia prevail. Thousands of years ago in the Torah, our mother Sarah foresaw this and prophetically declared, “The son of this handmaiden shall not inherit with my son!” Yishmael cannot share this land with Isaac!

But our generation has chosen to disregard our mother Sarah’s warning. It considers itself smarter than G-d’s Torah and spurns the gift of the land that G-d gave us, the Jewish people, as an eternal inheritance. We follow our own paths, the machinations of our own hearts and assure ourselves that we can make it come out right. We tell ourselves that we need only make a deal and negotiate. After all, people are reasonable. If they are approached peacefully and amicably, they will respond in kind. So we have made deal after deal only to see more and more carnage.

We even did that which no sovereign nation in the annals of mankind has ever done. We forcibly evicted our own people from their homes, uprooted them from their farms – from the beautiful gardens that they created from the wastelands of the deserts. We ejected them from their synagogues and then went on to destroy those houses of worship. We made our people refugees in their own land, and we did all this to appease Yishmael.

Not surprisingly, Yishmael expressed his appreciation for our largesse and sacrifice by launching Kassam rockets against our towns and villages, terrorizing our men, women and children day and night.

You might think that after all this we would have learned our lesson. You might think that the world would finally understand. But no such luck. The more vicious Yishmael becomes, the more olive branches are thrown at his feet, the more pressure placed upon Israel.

This pressure emanates, not only from traditional, anti-Semitic sources, but from our American government as well. The concessions that Washington demands of Israel are nothing short of suicidal. And yet, no one seems to care.

Additionally, the administration has given the green light to Iran’s nuclear power program, provided, of course, it is used only for peaceful purposes! If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable. Don’t they realize that we…no, the entire world, heard Achmadinejad openly proclaim his intention to wipe Israel off the map?

So what, you may ask, is the solution? What are we to do? How are we to deal with Yishmael and our menacing world?

There is an answer to that, too, in the Torah. It is right there staring us in the face. We need only open our eyes. Even as our crises emanates from Yishmael, so does our solution. It is to be found in his name, which means “Yishma-Keil – G-d will listen.” We need only turn to G-d in genuine prayer and our salvation will come. It is as simple as that.

You might smile at my naiveté, but there is nothing naive about the Word of G-d. It is the only truth that has passed the test of time. I, a survivor of the Holocaust, can testify to that. If we would only allow a moment of truth to illuminate our hearts, we would readily concede our pitiful state. Just consider that we, the nation that has taught a pagan world about G-d… that introduced the language of prayer to humanity… that has lent meaning to the concept of faith and trust, has forgotten how to turn to turn to G-d, to trust Him, to have faith in Him and pray to Him.

To be sure, there are those among us who do storm the Heavenly Gates with sincere, heartfelt prayers, but sadly, they are few and far between, while the vast majority squirms at such simplistic concepts and has difficulty reaching out to G-d. We are a nation that is bound by a common covenant, which renders us all responsible, one for the other. It is as one that we stood at Sinai and proclaimed, “Na’aseh V’Nishma – We shall do it and we shall study it,” and it is as one that we must now return to our G-d.

The time has come to don our priestly garments – the time has come to give meaning to the beautiful prayer that we chant every Lail Shabbos – Shabbos eve, “Shake off the dust, arise! Don your glorious clothes, O My people…” (Lechah Dodi).

Stop and consider for a moment the painful irony. Americans have no difficulty singing “G-d Bless America.” Yishmael has no difficulty proclaiming the name of Allah at every opportunity, but we, the nation that stood at Sinai… that heard the voice of G-d, that was given this holy land by Him, have difficulty declaring His Holy Name. Just consider that HaTikvah, the national anthem of Israel reborn, the song in which we express our eternal hope to return to Zion, fails to mention G-d, who gave us Zion – Who gave us our promised land.

The lament of the Prophet Isaiah speaks to us anew: – “An ox knows its keeper, a donkey the hand that feeds it, but Israel does not know My people do not perceive.” How long will this go on? When will we wake up?

We need only seize the moment; we need only cry out to our Heavenly Father. He is waiting for each and every one of us. We dare not sleep. We dare not remain silent!

I Am Saddened (Conclusion)

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

In last week’s column I responded to the mother/grandmother who wrote about the escalation of chutzpah on the part of the young vis-à-vis their parents. In my answer I suggested that we have adopted some 21st century attitudes that not only countenance this obstreperous behavior but actually endorse it. I also mentioned that while we may take certain consolation in knowing that our sages predicted what we are experiencing today, nevertheless, it does not mean that we of the Torah community should countenance it. Chutzpah toward parents/grandparents, teachers and elders in any shape or form is unacceptable.

There is a well-known Yiddish saying, “Azoi vee ess…” The way the non-Jewish world goes, so goes the Jewish world,” meaning that we are very much influenced by our environment. Without realizing it, we often adopt the norms of society even when those norms negate our Torah way of life.

No matter how turbulent the spiritual climate of our generation may be, we have a mandate to live by the timeless truths proclaimed at Sinai. Moreover, we have a responsibility to insulate ourselves and our children from the corrosive influences of the secular world, but in order for us to do that we will first have to identify them.

In last week’s column, I discussed a few of those influences, and now I will put forth some additional popular catch phrases that have come to be regarded as “truisms” in our culture, but which, in essence, are antithetic to our Torah way of life.

1) “It’s my life.” “I can do whatever I choose.”

When young people come to see me with their troubled parents they often try to justify their hostile behavior by rationales such as, “It’s my life… Leave me alone… Get off my back…I can do whatever I want…”

In response, I ask them, “Your life? … Is it really your life? … Perhaps you can tell me what part of it you created? Your fingers, toes, eyes? What part?”

“Tell me,” I continue to challenge, “did you choose the family into which you were born? Did you interview potential parents and decide who would be the right candidates for you? Or perhaps you designed yourself to be short or tall, male or female? So what exactly do you mean when you say, “It’s my life? What part of it did you create?”

2) Hakaras HaTov – Gratitude

“Know,” I tell them that your life was given to you in trust by G-d for reasons known only to Him, and you will have to give an accounting for every second, every hour, every day that you spent on this planet. Moreover, it was G-d who appointed your parents to become your mother and father. It was He who chose to place you into your family. It was He who decided that you would live in the 20th /21st century, and it was He who designed the challenges through which your life would be tested.

No matter how vehemently you protest that it’s your life and you are free to do as you wish, you are accountable and will have to answer for every moment that He gave you. Most importantly, you have a responsibility to convey your hakaras tov – gratitude – to Hashem and to your parents, for that is the very first step in fulfilling the mission for which you were created.

From the moment you open your eyes and whisper “Modeh Ani – I thank You for returning my soul” – to the moment that you close your eyes, you dare not lose sight of this truth…. you are indebted to the three partners who created you: G-d, your mother, and your father.

Lashon HaKodesh is G-d’s Holy Tongue. Every word is definitive, so Modeh is not only an expression of thanks, but it also means “I confess.” When you say, “thank you,” you are confirming that you are indebted, that you “owe someone,” that you have to give back and make this world a better place to justify the gift of life that G-d granted you.

There was a time when this wisdom was so basic to our faith that every child was aware of it. Honoring parents and revering G-d was the milk on which children were nurtured. I recall my own childhood. We were raised to live by this credo – to express our gratitude to Hashem, to bring honor to His Holy Name, and at the same time, strive to be a source of nachas to our parents. We hoped to make them proud and shield them from grief. Instead of feeling entitled, we felt indebted; instead of declaring, “It’s coming to me,” we knew that no matter how much we gave, we could never adequately thank them.

I remember how shocked I was when, upon coming to America, I heard one of my classmates say, “My mother owes me $2.00 for babysitting. How could a parent owe anything to a child, I wondered, and more, how could a child even entertain such a thought?

If we could help our parents ease their burdens, we regarded it a privilege. How happy we children were if we could make a little money babysitting for neighbors so that we could add to the family coffers. This desire to ease our parents’ lives was a constant – it never dissipated – if anything, it intensified with the years.

When my beloved husband, zt”l and I were married, we didn’t even open the envelopes that guests handed us, but we immediately gave them to my father to help defray the wedding expenses. And to my husband’s credit (he was also a Holocaust survivor and penniless), there was never a question in his mind that we would do that with the wedding gifts.

Contrast all this with the demands made by children nowadays. Consider the attitude with which they take their gifts, the indifference with which they view their parents who very often are compelled to take on extra jobs in order to fulfill their children’s expectations, and think about the resentment that their children harbor if those expectations are not met.

The aforementioned are just a few cultural manifestations that generate chutzpah and I invite you to ponder them. There are many more, not the least of which is “scapegoating – shifting blame.” “It’s not my fault I come from a dysfunctional family…. I am the victim of a bankrupt educational system… I was subject to child abuse.” The complaints are endless, and they all serve to exonerate the individual from responsibility and indulge in self-pity. Instead of teaching those who feel victimized to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and start anew, we allow them to wallow in the past and succumb to spiritual and emotional paralysis.

But no one need grope in the darkness. We have been given an awesome gift – Torah. Its power is such that it can mold us into new people and actually recreate us. We need only seize it and it will illuminate our paths on the great highway of life.

Please G-d, in a future column, I will write on this subject in detail.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/i-am-saddened-conclusion/2009/06/03/

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