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May 26, 2016 / 18 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Holy’

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Achrei Mot: Nameless Heroes and the Holy Path

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Parshat Achrei Mot represents a transition in the book of Vayikra. We now go from the first half with its emphasis on Aharon and his sons to the second part which is generally addressed to the Jewish people as a whole. It goes from the model of Torat Kohanim (The Law of the priests) to that which is extrapolated from it – that which I call Torat Mamlechet Kohanim (The Law of the nation of priests).

Before speaking about the priestly service on Yom Kippur which is told from the perspective of atoning for the various impurities that this section culminates, the Torah engages in an unusually stylized flourish. It tells us that these laws were given after the death of the Aharon’s two sons. Of course, this could be just a time marker, though there would be other ways to denote such a marker; for example, “In the second week of the operation of the Mishkan.” That it does not use such a phrase, strikes us a clear maneuver to recall and emphasize one of the Torah’s most dramatic and difficult events. Before we get to that, it is worthwhile to not only note the fact that the event is mentioned, but also how it is mentioned.
We have often pointed out that the Tanakh artfully describes people in different ways depending on what it wants to emphasize. Here Nadav and Avihu are described without their names but solely as Aharon’s two sons. Each word is carefully chosen here. Their identity is that they are Aharon’s sons. Moreover, there is an implication is that they are his only sons, or at the very least his main ones. (Finally the fact that they are two sons is something that we already know, hence the word, two, here is also presumably meant to add significance.)

So why is it that they are identified as Aharon’s sons? It is well known that Aharon was more popular than Moshe. As such, he may have been the most popular man in the nation, certainly the most popular senior leader. This is easily understood. He had been Moshe’s public figure and in charge of speaking to the people. And, paradoxically enough, his failure at the golden calf might have added to his popularity, rather than taken away from it: He was the man on the spot and tried hard to bridge the people’s needs with God’s demands. There was no easy way out and he showed the people his willingness to take great personal risks to maneuver through an untenable situation..

Now we understand the significance of their being called Aharon’s sons. Sometimes we care about a person more for their parents than for themselves. Given Aharon’s popularity, Aharon’s tragedy was no doubt one that the entire people felt on a very personal level. And if they were his main sons, all the more so. It is thus no doubt the fact that it was Aharon’s sons that were the ones taken by God that affected the people so profoundly.

This brings us back to the point of mentioning this detail now in the middle of Vayikra, several chapters after it occurred. There are many laws that the Torah will now discuss that are related to earlier laws in the book of Shemot. And there are even more laws that could have easily found their place there, along with all of the other particulars that one finds in Parshat Mishpatim. Yet the Torah waited with all of these, because the Jews were not yet ready to hear about the importance of detail for their national mission. Some laws, primarily dealing with civil law had, to be heard right away for the smooth ordering of their society and these were already recounted in Shemot. But when it came to going beyond the ethical into the realm of the holy, the Jews needed to wait for certain things to happen This is because it is not intuitive that attention to detail can make us a holy people. And yet, on some level, this is what the laws addressed to the Jewish people in the book of Vayikra are all about.

Because the spiritual dimension of attention to detail it is not intuitive, it needed particular emphasis. The Torah does this by showing us that the greatest and most beloved Jews tried the road of not paying attention to detail. If it would have worked for anyone, it should have worked for them. The fact that it didn’t should tell us that there is truly only one road.

Millennia later, we all know that attention to detail is at the heart of the Jewish experience. It can even be described as Judaism in a nutshell. Moreover, this did not start with the rabbis. It started with a seminal tragic event necessary to put the holy nation on track for that very special historical mission that is taught in this book of Torat Mamlechet Kohanim.

Rabbi Francis Nataf

Russian Orthodox ‘Holy Fire’ Flown to Russia from Jerusalem

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

A special aircraft carrying a flame of “Holy Fire” from Jerusalem landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport Saturday, TASS reported. Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Apostle Andrew the First Called Foundation Vladimir Yakunin delivered a capsule containing the fire to a Moscow Cathedral for the Easter service officiated by Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church.

The Holy Fire is described by Russian Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, or Holy Saturday, the day preceding Russian Orthodox Easter.

Traditionally, hundreds of believers meet the fire carrying delegation at Vnukovo airport, to bring the fire to parishes in Moscow, then to the Moscow region and finally to other Russian regions. The 2016 “Holy Fire” will be distributed among believers in thousands of the Russian Orthodox Church’s parishes within the country and beyond its boundaries.

The Foundation of “the Apostle Andrew the First Called” will deliver some “Holy Fire” to Mount Athos, in Northern Greece, to mark the 1,000-year-old presence of Russians on the Holy Mountain.

Andrew the Apostle, also known as Saint Andrew, or the First-called, was a Christian Apostle and the elder brother of Peter. The name “Andrew” was common among the Jews, Christians, and other Hellenized people of Judea. No Hebrew or Aramaic name appears to match it. According to Orthodox tradition, the apostolic successor to Saint Andrew was Patriarch Bartholomew I.

The Foundation has been organizing a trip to Israel as part of its pilgrim program “Ask Peace for Jerusalem,” which has been operating since 2003. In 1992 the “Holy Fire” was airlifted to Moscow from Israel for the first time in the history of modern Russia.

JNi.Media

For Better or for Worse

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

It’s time to move out of our homes and into our holy humble sukkahs. Now is the time when we renew our relationship with God, who has chosen us to form an inseparable eternal union – a marriage between the children of Yisrael and the Master of the Universe.

The Torah portion of Nitzavim, which is read just before the New Year, reveals to us that Hashem is our personal “husband,” for better or for worse. Rashi explains (Devarim 29:12) that we were presented with a covenant and a curse: “Since we are forever bound together, let Me teach you how to make Me happy.”

Nitzavim goes on to prophesize everything that has transpired during these thousands of years. This is highlighted by non-Jews gasping and stating, “Why has God caused this land to become desolate? Because they have forsaken God’s covenant.” Thus, on Rosh Hashanah we think of our past year’s sins. The sound of the shofar awakens our emotions. Then ten days of introspection and repentance bring on the great and awesome day of Kippur, of Atonement.

Consider: our God is perfect, and we are anything but. We may have been envious or lustful, or worshipped money, status or a host of other vices. Now we humbly return home to our Love. If we repent out of fear, our sins are forgiven. But if we repent because we truly love our Maker, he gives us an amazing reward – our sins become mitzvahs!

Hashem simply goes beyond the letter of the law in His love for us.

The Holy Ben Ish Chai points out that if you go beyond the four letters of the Hebrew word hadin (the judgment), you get to the Hebrew word sukkah. (The four Hebrew letters that come after the letters in hadin are the letters in the word sukkah). The sukkah is where we arrive after Yom Kippur, free of sins, under the wings of God’s Holy Presence.

Note that the first time sukkah is mentioned in the Torah, it is referring to the stalls our forefather Yaakov built for his animals. Why? Because when Yaakov arrived in Shechem with his family, he built a beis medrash for himself for Torah learning, but for his animals, his “wealth,” he built simple huts.

Yaakov took his children to the window and said, “Look at how I treat my wealth, dear children. Wealth is temporary; like the sukkah, it doesn’t go with you to the next world. But here in this house of Torah, we accumulate the mitzvahs that stay with us – which are eternal.”

We have now received our “new heads” for the coming year, as implied by the words Rosh Hashanah, head for the year, and Yom Hazikaron, a day of resetting our memory apparatus. We are cleansed of our sins on Yom Kippur, after which we enter, with our entire body, into our sukkah. We enter this mitzvah where we achieve oneness with our Lover – Hashem, Blessed be He.

What is it about the Nation of Israel that attracts the love of the One God Who rules the universe?

I came upon an answer on Rosh Chodesh Elul as I prayed the silent benedictions. We bless the day in the following way: “Mikadesh Yisrael v’roshei chodoshim – He sanctifies Israel and the first day of all months.” But it can literally mean “He sanctifies Yisrael and “brand new heads.”

Our nation is forever ready to admit our mistakes and begin all over. With the coming of each new moon, we are aware that we may start afresh.

This is also evident in our morning declaration of Modeh Ani, the origin of which is in the book of Eichah (3:23) which states, “Hashems kindness is new every morning – great is Your belief [in us, to improve in the coming day]. One of the reasons Hashem loves His people is that they are always willing to start over.

Two small examples that are actually big were related to me by Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, shlita, head of the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, where I am currently studying.

The first: A man survived hell in a concentration camp only to discover that his entire family had perished – parents, siblings, wife and children. Everyone.

Dov Shurin

Vatican: Papal Visit to Show IDF ‘Imprisoning’ Christian Population

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Fr. Peter Vasko, President of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (FFHL), heralded Pope Francis’ announcement that he may visit the Holy Land next year as an opportunity for the “whole world to see the plight of Christians in the area.

Vasko said the pontiff’s presence would also “shine a light on the dwindling Christian population in the Holy Land, and hopefully help ease living conditions in the area.” Christians, once a majority in the area, have diminished to less than two percent of the population as restrictions on travel, education and work have increased.

In Palestinian controlled areas, including Bethlehem, what remains of the Arab Christians population are virtual prisoners in their own homes. At the same time, Israeli controlled areas are the only places in the entire Middle East where the Christian population has been rising.

Pope Francis said the visit – his first as head of the Church – would mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s trip to Jerusalem in 1964. The announcement came on the heels of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ recent visit to the Vatican. During that visit, Peres urged the pope to come to Israel, adding, “The sooner you visit the better, as a new opportunity is being created for peace, and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace.”

Peres added, “I turn to you and ask that within your sermons in front of millions of believers in the world you include the hope for peace in the Middle East and the whole world.”

Vasko said the Vatican has long supported FFHL programs, which provide education, housing and work opportunities for thousands of Palestinian Christians. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited Israel during their tenures.

Pope Francis accepted Peres’ invitation, but no date has been set for the trip.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Temple Mount Closure And EU Boycott

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

On Tisha B’Av Prime Minister Netanyahu dramatically declared that Israel would not allow foreigners to interfere with our borders. This may have sounded like good news to local ears, but on the very same day the prime minister contradicted his own policy.

On the morning of Tisha B’Av, hundreds of Jews, among them three Knesset members, attempted to enter the Temple Mount – but were denied access. The next day Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin made a second attempt to enter the Mount but was turned away. When MK Yariv Levin asked about this fiasco in the Knesset plenum, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich answered, as usual, that there is no policy change regarding the Mount and that anyone who wishes to enter can do so. He said that Jewish visitors enter the Mount every day with no problem and that the closure of the Mount to visitors (including Knesset members) was the security decision of the local commander.

Aharonovich knowingly lied to the Knesset. Everyone involved with the Temple Mount issue knows that since Netanyahu acquiesced to the demands of the Muslim wakf and denied me access to the Temple Mount, police control of the holy site has rapidly deteriorated. The Temple Mount has become a staging ground for a vicious struggle, with cries of “kill the Jews!” becoming routine there. Jews are consistently distanced from the Mount and Israel’s police project unprecedented spinelessness, fear and defeatism in the face of the burgeoning brazenness of the Muslim wakf.

Israeli police have all the means at their disposal – if they choose to use it – to disperse the Arab rioters within minutes and to make it possible for the Jews to visit their holiest site. But, as it is wont to do, Israel’s police adopted the role of security fig leaf for the prime minister, who is giving the holy Mount’s sovereignty to Jordan and the Muslim wakf – while talking mightily about not allowing foreigners to interfere in Israel’s sovereignty.

Aharonovich claimed that the Mount was closed, due to security considerations, as per the decision of the local commander. But there is a truly reliable side to this story contrary to his version of events. Here is the relevant part of the Jordan News Agency’s July 16 report from Ramallah:

Israeli Police Prevent Jewish Extremists From Entering Al-Aqsa Compound Due To Demand By Jordan

Following the pressure exerted by [the] Jordanian government on the Israeli authorities, the Israeli police on Tuesday closed the Mughrabi Gate, one of Al-Aqsa Mosque’s doors, and prevented Jewish extremists from entering it.

Director of the Islamic Waqf in occupied Jerusalem, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, told Petra [News] that the Israeli police closed the gate and prevented extremists and foreign tourists from entering Al-Aqsa compound today, “the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple,” after Jordanian pressure and intervention by the Department of Islamic Waqf and [the] Jordanian ambassador in Tel Aviv, Walid Obeidat.

He confirmed that the ban came as a result of the intensive communications undertaken by Jordan to prevent the desecration of Al-Aqsa during the holy month of Ramadan. Al-Khatib praised the vital Jordanian role in protecting Jerusalem and the holy sites.

This report, verified by additional sources, is nothing new. The prime minister has used the police, the attorney general’s office and the courts before in his quest to implement a political decision when wanting to cede sovereignty on the Temple Mount to the Muslims. And he’s done this without the Knesset’s authorization. This is how issues surrounding the Temple Mount have been disposed of since it was liberated. Netanyahu has simply expanded the practice.

The capitulation on the Temple Mount leads to the construction halt in Jerusalem. In other words, the organs close to the heart become infected with the same illness: the loss of sovereignty syndrome. In this manner, our existential legitimacy in the entire land is crumbling before our eyes.

What do we expect of the European Union? After all, for 46 years we have been saying that the land of Israel is theirs – not ours. We hurried to give the heart of Jerusalem and the nation, the Temple Mount, to the Muslim wakf. We refused to declare Israel’s sovereignty in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. We recognized another, conveniently invented “nation” as indigenous to the land, recognized its terrorist liberation movement, and armed it with Israeli weapons. We vowed to retreat so as to enable the establishment of a state for this make-believe “nation” in the heart of biblical Israel. We expelled and destroyed entire Jewish communities. We committed ourselves to the two-state principle.

But over the past 20 years not one of our leaders, at any level, has said that this is our land – no ifs, ands, or buts. This straightforward phrase simply does not exist in the lexicon of Israel’s political and military leadership.

So why are we surprised that the Europeans are tired of this entire subject? It took them 46 years to be convinced that we are serious that this really is not our land, that we are nothing more than foreign conquerors in Palestine. Perhaps the Arabs are not nice, they think, but they are very, very right on this issue. After all, Israel’s political Left and Right have both bowed to their claims and recognized the justice of their cause. Yitzhak Rabin shook the hand of their murderous leader, while Netanyahu hugged him with both his hands. So what can we expect: that after we have admitted that we are the problem, the Europeans will allow us to continue to threaten world peace?

We no longer have anywhere to run from the scales of justice. When you do not put your weight on one side of the scale, the other side is heavier. You can be prettier, nicer, more European – and even a peace seeker. But if you have abandoned your side of the scale, the other side will always win.

We lost the justice of our cause when we gave the Temple Mount to the Muslims. The only way to restore our justice is to remove the Muslim wakf from the Mount and to empower our holiest site as the center of holiness and exclusive sovereignty of Israel.

Moshe Feiglin

My Week in Israel with Dr. Oz

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Everything over the past week was memorable and magical as Dr. Mehmet Oz, America’s foremost daytime TV host and the world’s most famous doctor, toured Israel. From dancing the horah outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, to dancing Friday night at the Western Wall with Israeli soldiers and thousands of worshippers, to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu for ninety minutes of substantive conversation about Israel, Turkey, and the United States, Dr. Oz and his family showed the Jewish state extravagant love and admiration.

Mehmet is a remarkable man and seeing him up close reinforced the high regard in which I have always held him, ever since we started working together for Oprah at her radio network. First there was his attention to his children, all four of whom accompanied him, along with his son-in-law. Mehmet would go nowhere without them and pulled them in to hear every last explanation about Israel’s ancient and modern history.

Then there is his dedication to his wife Lisa, a remarkable and brilliant woman in her own right, and vastly knowledgeable of the Bible. Lisa was correcting me constantly on Biblical quotations (I purposely got them wrong so she could feel superior). Mehmet is a man who honors his wife at every opportunity.

Of course, there were the legions of fans – Jews and Arabs in every part of Israel – that pleaded for a picture and he turned noone down.

But more than anything else there was his attachment to the Jewish people on display at every moment. Mehmet is a Muslim, perhaps the world’s most famous Muslim who is not a head of state. He is a righteous and proud Ambassador of his faith and feels an innate kinship and brotherhood with the Jewish people.

He praised Israel constantly, from lauding its treatment of its minority citizens at our joint lecture at Rambam hospital in Haifa, to noting Israel’s phenomenal medical breakthroughs at several news conferences, to highlighting his amazement at Israel’s capacity to turn deserts into thriving cities.

In Hebron, at the tomb of the patriarchs, we prayed together publicly for peace and understanding between the children of Abraham. At the tomb of Maimonides we noted the role reversal. Maimonides, a Jew, was the world’s most famous physician, and he served the Muslim ruler Saladin. Now, a Muslim doctor – the world’s most famous – was visiting his Jewish brothers in the Holy land 900 years later.

Joined with Natan Sharasnky at the Jerusalem Press Club for a public discussion, the three of us debated whether there was an obligation to hate evil. Mehmet maintained that hatred harmed he who harbored it, even for the best of reasons. On this Sharasnky and I disagreed. Natan spoke of the evil he encountered in the KGB. I spoke of Hamas’ genocidal covenant and Hezbollah’s commitment to annihilating Israel. Terrorists deserved our contempt. Only by truly hating evil are we prepared to fight it. In the end we compromised in agreeing that hating evil should not be obsessive and internal but rather externally directed at neutralizing those who slaughter God’s innocent children, whoever they may be.

As I walked Dr. Oz and his family through the old city of Jerusalem on Friday night, we passed through Zion gate, still riddled with bullet holes from the heavy fighting of 1967 that liberated the city. At Shabbat dinner at the home of Simon and Chana Falic, my friend Ron Dermer, Israel’s newly appointed Ambassador to the United States, explained to Mehmet that even after Israel conquered the Temple Mount in the Six Day War it left control of Judaism’s holiest site to the Muslim waqf and that such an action had no precedent in all human history. Ron said that there could no greater illustration of Israel’s desire to respect its Muslim citizens and seek peace.

At the Christian holy sites, like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and Muslim Holy Sites like the Dome of the Rock and the vast Muslim crowds that filled mosques for Ramadan, Dr. Oz saw first hand how Israel is a country of thriving religious liberty.

But the highlight of the visit was the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu where Ambassador Dermer joined Mehmet and me as we heard the Israeli leader deeply engage Mehmet about Israel’s search for peace and the challenges it faces with the destabilization of Syria and Egypt on the one hand, and the changes in its relationship with Turkey, on the other.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Protesters: Police in Cahoots with Arabs over Jewish Access to Mount

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The Joint Committee of Temple Mount Organizations has announced a protest vigil this Wednesday, August 7, at 7:30 AM, by the Mugrabi Bridge connecting the Western Wall plaza with the Mughrabi Gate of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

According to the organizers, which include journalist Arnon Segal and Women in Green founders Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover, the vigil will be held in response to an announcement last Tuesday by the Police official in charge of the holy sites, Commander Avi Bitton, that the Temple Mount would remain open only to Muslims and closed to Jews and to tourists at least until after the Muslim holiday of Idl-Fitter, next Sunday, the fifth of Elul or August 11.

This is breaking the rules, cry out the organizers, members of organizations promoting Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, warning that Jerusalem Police has already violated the long held status quo by shutting off the Temple Site to non-Muslims throughout the month of Ramadan.

This past month, the vigil organizers complain that on those few days when Jews were allowed to go up to the Mount, they suffered constant abuse by the Muslims and by the police.

Two weeks ago, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin was chased away from the Temple Mount by a crowd of Muslims. According to the vigil organizers, police did not intervene to prevent the “screaming and harassment and threats by the Muslims against Elkin and his family.”

But the biggest complaint of the organizers has to do with the fact that the Arabs have, apparently, discovered the surefire method of keeping the Jews off the Mount – all they have to do is threaten violence, and the police immediately folds, and rather than responding to the bullies by imposing law and order—a fairly basic expectation of our law enforcement agencies—they join forces with them to block Jewish access.

It’s been ten years, the protesters say, since the Temple mount was re-opened to Jewish visitors—not for prayer, mind you, God forbid—and now they fear the permanent sealing off of the holiest Jewish site bar none appears closer than ever.

“It seems the police is throwing a trial balloon,” reads the organizers’ email. “They try to see if the Temple Mount is important to a large Jewish population, or only to some ‘crazies.’ It is obvious that if this passes quietly, it will get worse for the Jews.”

And so the Joint Committee of the Temple Mount Organizations have decided to hold a mass protest vigil to remind the police, the politicians, and—most important—ourselves, that the holiest place for the Jewish People is not the Kotel, with all due respect, but the Temple Mount.

As one organizer put it, according to Matar, celebrating Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel and not on the Temple Mount is tantamount to celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, in the Knesset parking lot, while the building itself would be chock full of Arabs.

They invite “all to whom a Jewish presence at the Jews’ most holy site in the world is important, to wake up early Wednesday morning and come.”

Wouldn’t it be interesting if, this coming Rosh Chodesh Elus, Wednesday morning, all the Jews will find their way up to the Temple Mount, leaving down below only the Women of the Kotel?

Don’t forget to dip in the Mikvah first, in case they actually let everybody up.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/protesters-police-in-cahoots-with-arabs-over-jewish-access-to-mount/2013/08/05/

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