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October 1, 2016 / 28 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Prophets Of Hope Amid Despair

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

On Tisha B’Av we commemorate and mourn (among other tragic events) the destruction of the First Jerusalem Temple and exile of our people by the Babylonians. This event marked the culmination of a long period of defeat and exile, starting one and a half centuries earlier with the northern Israelite kingdom at the hands of the Assyrians, a process that took place over multiple years and stages.

Similarly, the southern kingdom of Judah was defeated and exiled in three stages over a period of eighteen years, which culminated with the loss of the First Beis HaMikdash.

Throughout this period the Jews were fortunate to be led by some of the greatest prophets in our nation’s history. Beginning with Yeshayahu (Isaiah), who lived during the period of the northern exile, and then Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) and Yechezkel (Ezekiel), each man presented their beleaguered brethren the opportunity to repent while providing direction and a hope for the future.

In this essay we look at the lives of each prophet to gain greater insight into who they were, the times in which they lived, and the contributions that they made under trying circumstances.

Yeshayahu

The prophet Yeshayahu was the son of a prophet – Amoz – and a member of the royal Davidic family. His daughter would later marry distant kin, the Judean king Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah). His death came at the hands of a relative – his grandson Menasheh, who viewed him as a heretic and false prophet.

Politically, Yeshayahu counseled Jewish leaders to exercise patience when faced with adversity. He instructed them to refrain from rebellious behavior or from forming foreign alliances that would compromise Jewish autonomy. However, he was largely ignored, to the people’s detriment. The Judean king Achaz, an idolater and Hezekiah’s father, entered into a shortsighted alliance with the Assyrians against the Israelite kingdom. The result was surrendered independence. Later, Chizkiyahu chose to rebel against Assyria, almost losing his kingdom in the process.

The majority of his messages, however, were devoted not to Judah’s foreign policy, but rather to the nation’s social and religious order. Throughout his lifetime, Yeshayahu proclaimed the word of God, and encouraged the Jews to serve as a “light unto the nations.”

Yeshayahu championed the cause of the poor and oppressed. Corruption, he said, was widespread among the wealthy; the innocent were denied due justice. The mansions of the affluent held the spoils of the poor. The poor farmer was cast out of his land to create space for the rich man’s manor. “Woe to those who join house to house, who lay field to field, until there is no room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land” (Isaiah 5:8).

His “End of Days” vision, describes a day when the whole world will be transformed. At that time, God’s historical design for the nations will be realized in Zion, when they will learn the ways of God and to walk in His path. The completion of our exile will be accompanied by the abolition of war. “The wolf will lie down with the lamb, the leopard with the kid” (Isaiah 11:6).

The Messiah, a descendant of the house of David, will establish a reign of righteousness and truth. “[The nations] shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).

Our long and bitter exile is seen through Yeshayahu’s image of the “Suffering Servant” (Isaiah 53), in which Jewish suffering is viewed not only as the product of our own misdeeds but as a means through which the entire world achieves atonement as well.

Rabbi Naphtali Hoff

Hope For A World Gone Astray

Friday, August 5th, 2016

No nation knows sorrow like the Jewish Nation. No people has suffered like the Jewish People. No god has been slandered and defamed throughout history like the God of the Jews.

Yet not only did the Jews endure; we thrived and prospered. Each time a new enemy arose to cut us down, like a plant pruned for new growth, we blossomed anew. There was suffering; there was sorrow. The “cup” of Jewish tears truly overflows, but we hold fast and firm. Eternal People that we are, we persevere.

Ganz-080516-HallelYet this last month in Israel was crushing. In a frenzy of hatred, thirteen-year-old Hallel Ariel was brutally stabbed to death in her bed in Kiryat Arba. Shortly after, in the latest horror in the two-hundred-year old Arab crusade against the Jewish people in the Holy Land, the beloved Mark family from Otniel were gunned down in their car. Both Hallel and Rabbi Mark were added to a long list of Jews killed al Kiddush Hashem.

Rabbi Mark’s wife Chavi was hurt badly; two of their ten children were wounded. Chavi survived but has a long haul in front of her. (Please continue to daven for Chava Rachel bat Ayelet Hashachar.) The children are, baruch Hashem, not in danger. Shuki Gilboa, a security man who fought the terrorist that killed Hallel, lost an eye but has finally been released from the hospital.

People learn to deal with tragedy. They live through natural disasters, terrible as they may be. They pick up the pieces as best they can and go on with life. We in Israel are “used to” hatred and violence, but we are not immune. Each additional disaster wreaks havoc anew. We find ourselves shuffling the confusing pieces in the puzzle of life, trying to keep our emunah intact and our belief in an All-Powerful, Benevolent God alive and in good condition. We want to serve Him with love and joy. But who can wholly eliminate the niggling thoughts…? How can God allow this to happen to such wonderful people? Is a child not safe in her bed? Can a family not travel safely on the roads? Are we to forever be a lamb among the wolves? After suffering through the Holocaust, have we not suffered enough? When will we finally sit peacefully, each family under its vine and fig tree? Are we not yet entitled to greet Mashiach? What unsettling thoughts! Yet our Father in Heaven knows that we, His children, are seeking His support and understanding.Ganz-080516-Rabbi-Mark

Jews are rachmanim bnei rachmanim. We are instinctively merciful – often (and often foolishly!) even to our enemies. When confronted with grief or misfortune, we immediately sigh, empathize and try to mitigate the suffering. Unfortunately, today, when the world seems engulfed in hatred, violence and angst, we have countless opportunities to sympathize. Nonetheless, there is a limit to how much suffering one can carry in one’s heart.

This is why I rarely get excited about events in Libya, Turkey, England or Iraq. Or America. Fifty years in Israel have given me enough to think about without trying to solve Uncle Sam’s problems. (Is there still an Uncle Sam?) I wish my American friends and relatives well and I pray for the welfare of the United States. That’s the most I can do, so I sigh and move on. The bulk of my energies are reserved for problems closer to home.

Nonetheless, this past year, America has filled my mind, my heart and my computer screen. As I follow the unbelievable election news I can only pray that God has some undreamed of surprise up His sleeve, so to speak – that Americans will not be forced to choose between what the media has dubbed “the election between the Clown or the Crook.” I mourn for the great ideal and country that America was… and could be.

Yaffa Ganz

Wounded IDF Soldier’s Faith Shows How Israel Survives

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Second Lt. Aharon Karov, less than 24 hours after his own wedding, left his bride and returned to his vase in southern Israel to serve as a commander and led his soldiers into battle at the start of Operation Cast Lead.

He was critically wounded on the night of January 12, 2009, when Karov and his soldiers entered northern Gaza. They followed detailed intelligence information which led them to various houses and structures where terrorists were hiding. When they arrived at one of these houses, a powerful explosive was activated.

Between 300 and 500 metal fragments penetrated his body, and he suffered from a major injury in his head and upper body.

Moments later, a complex rescue mission began to save the wounded officer. IDF medics performed life-saving procedures on the battlefield and in the air as Karov was evacuated by helicopter.

Over the next 12 hours, Karov underwent a set of complex and dangerous surgeries in order to remove part of his skull. His family was told that he was in critical condition and Karov was named the most severely wounded soldier during Operation Cast Lead.

Three weeks later, against all odds, Karov was released from the hospital to begin rehabilitation.

Karov began his recovery with a deep commitment to the treatments prescribed to him by the doctors as well as a bundle of support from his family. The process was long, exhausting, and touched the heart of the entire nation. Thousands of letters of encouragement and blessing strengthened him and aided him during his journey towards recovery.

This officer’s remarkable improvement is considered a miracle. When he regained the ability to speak, Karov’s first words were dedicated to his wife. He called her on the phone and told her, “Tzvia, I love you.”

Roughly two months after the incident in Gaza, Karov’s soldiers finished their training. Karov, who insisted on being a part of the ceremony for his soldiers, stood on his legs for almost 2 hours despite his physical condition. At the end of the ceremony, he pinned his soldiers with a pin declaring them fighters, and was then promoted to the rank of Lieutenant by the Paratroopers’ Brigade Commander.

Step-by-step, word-by-word, Karov inspired the entire nation. His condition improved faster than anyone would have believed and not long after his injury Karov did the impossible and participated in various races and even a marathon. The young couple also grew their family and Karov’s wife gave birth to two children: a girl who was born a year and a half after the incident and a boy a few years later.

Today, Karov shares his story across the country, mostly with young men and women who are about to join the army.

Even though the physical injury was deep and severe, his spirit was strengthened.

Operation Cast Lead restored quite in southern Israel for a couple of years, but the legacy established by Karov and many other soldiers will last for many generations to come.

Aharon Karov leaving the hospital.

Aharon Karov leaving the hospital.

IDF Spokesperson's Office

Better or Worse: Politics and Conceptions of Change

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

All politics are the politics of the future. The one cause that we all champion, regardless of our political orientation, is the cause of the future. All that we fight for is the ability to shape the future.

The fundamental political question is, “Do you believe things are getting better or worse?” Ruling parties tend to answer, “Better”, opposition parties tend to answer, “Worse”. The deeper answer to that question though lies in our perceptions of the past and the future.

The left tends to view the past negatively and future shock positively. It wants change to disrupt the old order of things in order to make way for a new order. It hews to a progressive understanding of history in which we have been getting better with the advance of time, the march of progress mimics evolution as a means of lifting humanity out of the muck and raising it up on ivory towers of reason through a ceaseless process of change.

The right often views the past positively, it sees change as a destroyer that undermines civilization’s accomplishments and threatens to usher in anarchy. It fights to conserve that which is threatened by the entropic winds of change. The conservative worldview is progressive in its own way, but it is the progress of the established order. It sees progress emerging from the accretion of civilization, rather than from the disruption of revolution.

Where the left tends to be unrealistically optimistic about the future, acting like a child running to the edge and jumping off, without remembering all the bumps and bruises before, the right tends to be pessimistic about the future. It tends to be wary of change because it is all too aware of how dangerous change can be.

Youth who do not understand the value of what is around them rush to the left. As they achieve a sense of worth, of the world around them and of their labors, they drift slowly to the right. Age also brings with it a sense of vulnerability. Knowing how you can be hurt, how fragile the thin skin of the body, the fleshy connections and organs dangling within, brings with it a different view of the world. Once you understand that you can lose and that you will lose, then you also understand how important it is to defend what you have left.

The vital mantra of the left is do something for the sake of doing something. Change for the sake of novelty. Action for the sake of action. This carnival drumbeat loses its appeal when you come to understand how dangerous change can be. Personal history becomes national history becomes personal history again as you live through it. Seeing what a mistake change can be as you watch politicians disgraced, causes revealed as fool’s errands and crusades fall apart, is a great teacher of the folly of change for the sake of change.

Reagan’s question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is the fundamental challenge of the conservative that asks whether the change was really worth it. It is the question at the heart of the struggle between the right and the left.

Are you better off than you were twenty years ago or forty years ago? It’s an uncomfortable question because it has no simple answer. In some ways we are better off and in some ways we are worse off. Examining the question points us to the sources of the problem. The places where the tree has grown wrong, the branches that have to be pruned so that it may live.

The power of this question is that it challenges the narrative of change. It asks us to examine that most basic premise that change is good. But beyond the narrative tangles of those in power and those out of power, is the larger echo of that question which asks whether the world overall is becoming a better or worse place.

This question has deeper resonances. Is history a wheel or a rocket shooting up to the stars? Are we on an inevitable evolutionary trajectory rising up or are we doomed to repeat dark ages, progress and then dark ages again? Beneath all the speculations and theorizing is the grim question, what becomes of us? Not us individually, but our societies, our nations, our civilizations, our accomplishments and our way of life.

Daniel Greenfield

Confronting Auschwitz and Birkenau

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

There was a shift in the paradigm of my life after my experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the largest concentration and extermination camps operating during the Holocaust.

The cold, hard facts of the Holocaust are well known, but it is only once you hear a survivor tell you their personal story that it truly strikes you how they now appreciate their lives in a way that not many of us do today; some attribute their survival to God, some to faith, to love, to family, to luck.

We are the most likely the last generation to be able to hear these stories from the survivors of the Holocaust and be able to ask them questions. That is a huge privilege. A privilege which I was able to take part with the ‘Lessons From Auschwitz’ program with the Holocaust Educational Trust.

We had been warned by our team leaders that there was no right or wrong way to feel about the experience, but prior to the trip to Poland in November 2012, some may have had some prior idea as to how they would react – for me, it was numbing, absolutely numbing. Expectations were of misery and sadness; the lessons taught were vital for us as “Holocaust Ambassadors,” but also to absorb and reflect upon as human beings.

In both Auschwitz and Birkenau, the atmosphere was very sombre and we all said little as we walked through the camps, supposedly out of respect, or out of sadness, or shock; there was an almost alien sense of peace, as if the silence that had settled over the camps was still somehow alive, as if the sounds heard all those years ago were still echoing within the brick walls. I’ve never experienced an environment so heavy with sorrow, and it frightened me – it’s almost a warning to us as the new generation about to inherit responsibility of the earth, as it could be seen as a display of the consequences of power being given to the wrong hands.

Such was the melancholy atmosphere. The cold was extraordinary; by the time we had reached the Birkenau camp, the sun had almost set and the bitter cold was starting to seep in through our clothing. We tightened our coats and took the long, mournful walk alongside the train tracks leading into the camp. I was taken aback by the sheer scale of the place; rows and rows of identical empty warehouses. The camp was monstrous and almost mechanical; it had no signs of life, of civilization, just building after empty building. It was difficult to imagine how many men had crossed paths here, young, old, wealthy, poor, doctors, lawyers, laborers, all being given the saddest of all fates.

One of the most startling moments, for me, was one of the very first things we came across; the now iconic “Arbeit Macht Frei” wire sign, which directly translates to “labor makes you free,” referring to the physical labor that the sufferers in the camp were to believe would liberate them. But for the majority of prisoners in the camps, their only liberation was death, many of them dying brutally. One could only imagine the faces of the prisoners who saw this sign and understood their likely fates, or the many young children who could not even imagine what lay ahead.

We learned that very young children were almost always sentenced to death, along with their mothers, to prevent the new generation of Jews from surviving, which was awful to hear; I could not imagine a future so awful in which that could happen, or a man so soulless, who might have even has his own children, that he would give or execute such an order. This impression of this total lack of empathy or compassion on the Nazis’ part was horrifying, because it is hard to understand the circumstances in which this would be considered acceptable. Even now, it is obvious to see that we have moved forward in terms of acceptance of other faiths and races and we must preserve this tolerance in our society, but also promote it all over the world.

It is too late for the victims of the Holocaust, and one of the slightly uplifting things about the visit was the Oshpitztin visit, a graveyard for Jews, which clearly demonstrated to me that there was some respect for the Jews, and I was happy that someone had deemed them worthy to be given the blessing of a gravestone, of a resting place where their loved ones could come to mourn them. As we all know, there were far more victims of the Holocaust that could not be given the privilege of a burial, or a grave, but it gave me hope that even in a situation where so many acted so wrongly, there will be others who will do what is right.

Inbar Aberman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/confronting-auschwitz-and-birkenau/2013/01/27/

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