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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘isn’

Rashi Was a Zionist Racist

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Almost everyone is familiar with the famous first Rashi on the Torah. He asks why does the Torah begin with the account of Creation? After all, since the Torah contains the commandments which Hashem gave to Am Yisrael, it should have begun the precept concerning Rosh Chodesh – the first commandment given to the Israelite Nation.

Rashi answers his question by quoting a Midrash of Rabbi Yitzhak which explains that if the nations of the world claim that we stole the Land of Israel from them, we can answer that since the Holy One Blessed Be He created the world and appointed different countries to different peoples, He can take Eretz Yisrael away from them if He chooses and give it to us.

Did Rashi have political savvy? Did he foresee the day when the Arabs, the U.S. State Department, the European Union, the Chinese, and the Zulus in Africa, would callIsraelthieves, claiming that we stole Eretz Yisrael from the Palestinians? Maybe, but I don’t think he was meaning to tell Bibi what to answer in one of his UN speeches.

Furthermore, the Land of Israel isn’t even mentioned in the first verse of the Torah, or in the second, or the third. Why does Rashi talk about it here? True, Adam was born on the Temple Mount and only later placed in the Garden of Eden, but that’s learned from different source, and not from the very first verse of the Torah. So why talk about the Land of Israel here in a commentary, in Rashi’s own words, that deals with the straightforward meaning and pashat of the text?

The answer to our question is that Rashi is coming to inform us that without Eretz Yisrael there is no Torah, no Am Yisrael, nor Kiddush Hashem in the world. Eretz Yisrael is the foundation of the entire Torah. The Torah was given to be kept in Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish People can only be a Nation in Eretz Yisrael. And theKingdomofGod– the goal of the Torah – can only be established in the world when Am Yisrael dwells in their Land.

Yes, I know, the geniuses in the peanut gallery will jump up and protest, “Am Yisrael survived in exile for 2000 years without Eretz Yisrael, with only the Torah!”

First of all, fellas, the Jewish People are not meant to survive. We are meant to live. Without Eretz Yisrael, we can only survive from one pogrom to the next. Or we can assimilate ourselves into extinction. That isn’t living. That isn’t the ideal of the Torah which promises us, again and again, a good and peaceful life in our Land.

“The Torah protected the Jewish Nation, not Eretz Yisrael!”  they continue to holler.

Protected the Jewish Nation? You call individuals scattered all over the world, without a country or Jewish government of their own, a nation? That’s not a nation. A ghetto in Brooklyn orLakewoodisn’t a nation. Without Eretz Yisrael, the Jews are defenseless minorities in other peoples’ lands, dependent on the goyim for everything.  That’s not a Sanctification of God – it’s the opposite!

“Torah! Torah! Torah!” they scream.

Well, my dear friends – what you call Torah isn’t Torah. The Torah of the exile is the remnant of Torah, the shadow of Torah, the dry bones of the Torah, a reminder of what the Torah really is, as our Sages have explained by the verse, “Set yourself waymarks,” telling us to continuing to keep whatever few precepts we can while in exile, so we don’t forget them, lest they seem new to us when we return to Eretz Yisrael, because the Torah is meant to be kept in the Land of Israel, the only place it can be observed in all of its fullness, with its many laws relating to the Land of Israel, the Kingship of Israel, the army of Israel, the justice system of Israel, and the Beit HaMikdash which you can’t build in Lakewood. Yes, Orthodox Judaism in America is much better than conservative Judaism, and reform Judaism, and yoga, but it isn’t the Torah as the Torah was meant to be kept. That can only take place in Israel.

That’s what Rashi is coming to tell us at the very start of the Torah.

You’re welcome. I thought you’d want to know.

The Snake Made Me Do It

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

If Eve had read www.jewishsexuality.com, she wouldn’t have followed after her eyes and got us all kicked out of the garden. If Adam had read jewishsexuality.com, he wouldn’t have eaten the “apple.” Today, we don’t have to make the same mistakes they did. We have the teachings of the Torah and the advice of the Sages to rely upon. While I won’t quote from the holy Zohar here, for people who enjoy the secrets of Torah, there’s a lot more to the snake than his pretty long tail.

Which brings us to Noach. If his generation had taken the time to read jewishsexuality.com, they could have avoided the flood. The Zohar teaches that the wanton sexual sin of the time was the real cause of the flood. Measure for measure.

Concerning Noach himself, our Sages express a certain criticism. Yes, he righteously followed each and every order in building the ark, but he didn’t hurry around the countryside, from village to village, warning people what would be if they didn’t improve their ways.  Maybe he felt they wouldn’t listen. After all, the sexual urge is a powerful passion, and people don’t like being told that they can’t do whatever they please, like they did in the days preceding the flood. Noach was a private tzaddik, minding his own business, unlike Avraham who traveled to and fro, teaching people about the godly way to live.

If a person sees that his fellow man is erring in his ways, he has the obligation to enlighten him, so that the transgressor can correct his wrongdoing. If he doesn’t, he himself becomes part of the sin. True, not everyone is on a level to rebuke others, and rebuke isn’t an easy thing to do, but the principle is clear that when you see someone heading for destruction, it is a good deed to endeavor to save him.

That is what I have been doing when writing about the mitzvah of aliyah. I don’t seek to insult anyone – rather to wake people up to the higher and holier reality which we enjoy here in theLandofIsrael, living according to the guidelines of Torah. And this is why I urge readers to browse through the jewishsexuality.com website, to alert them of the dangers that brought on the flood.  Whether it is the flood of assimilation that is devastating the Jewish People in the Diaspora, or the flood of immodesty and licentiousness on the Internet in which the world is drowning, everyone must do his share to save not only himself, but also his fellow.

Put the two together and you get the Covenant of the Brit between God and the Jewish People, coming up in the Torah portion of Lech Lecha, where our sexual holiness and the gift of the Land of Israel are inseparably linked.

Judaism in a Jar

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

If the recent Sukkot overdose of Shabbat, followed by two days of Yom Tov, and another Shabbat followed by two more days of Yom Tov, isn’t enough to get Diaspora Jews to move to Israel, with its force-feeding of gefilta fish day-after-day, until gefilta fish jelly drips out of people’s noses and horseradish pours out of their ears, I don’t know what it’s going to take until Diaspora Jews are fed up with practicing Judaism in a jar.

With an average of two balls of gefilta fish per meal for the 3 Shabbat meals, and two balls at each of the 2 seudot on Yom Tov times 2 – that makes for 28 gefilta fish balls over the holiday for each and every Jew. For New York’s 1 million Jews, that means that 28,000,000 gefilta fish balls were consumed during Sukkot, not counting the 14,000,000 balls eaten during the two days of Rosh HaShanah and the preceding Shabbat.

It’s a big boom for gefilta fish companies, but a big belly ache for Diaspora Jews, many of whom end up rushing at the end of the holiday to hospitals where emergency rooms are crammed with gefilta-fish-overdosed Jews suffering from Diaspora Poisoning.

[Incidentally, the booming gefilta fish market may get an additional boost from a very unexpected source - U.S. President Obama who, in a bid to attract more Jewish voters, is planning to announce that if he is re-elected, the traditional White-House Thanksgiving Dinner will feature gefilta fish instead of turkey.]

As we’ve written on many occasions, the Torah isn’t meant to be observed in the Diaspora. Judaism isn’t meant to be kept in a jar, but on the mountains and Biblical valleys of Israel. The Torah was given to be performed in Eretz Yisrael. We described how the holiday of Sukkot is natural to the Land of Israel, with sukkah booths all over the country, on terraces, rooftops, street corners, shopping centers, and army bases – not only in back yards in isolated Jewish ghettos. And here in Israel, Sukkot is an official national holiday, with a long 10-day vacation from school, so kids here grow up being proud Jews, and not some minority with a chip on their shoulder for being different than Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Another example is the prayer for rain which we began saying yesterday in the Amidah prayer. As we said it, rain started to fall outside the synagogue window, marking the start of the rainy season in Israel, and a ushering in a united feeling of joy. In America, where it rains all the time, the prayer is meaningless. The same things happens come Hanukah time, when in Israel we say, “A great miracle happened here,” while Diaspora Jews say, “A great miracle happened THERE.” Judaism is happening in Israel.

As long as the curse of the exile was upon us, we had no choice and had to observe whatever individual  commandments we could in the Diaspora, but now that everyone can come home to a national Jewish life in Israel, where Jerusalem is once again the center of world Jewry, the practice of Judaism-in-a-bottle, in the ghettos of foreign, gentile lands is no longer necessary.

So, as we all proclaimed at the conclusion of our Yom Kippur prayers: “Next Year in Jerusalem!” See you here soon!

Selichot

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Jewish men at Selichot services at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Why do we call these days and these rituals “Selichot” – Pardons and Forgiveness, when we keep on announcing and confessing our sins? Asks my friend H. from Tzfat. Why don’t we call them Confessions?

Because we assume that God has pleasure in forgiving and pardoning. He answers. This isn’t really about us.

It’s about God’s delight in our newly found sanity, as we prepare for the Days of Awe.

Transferring Wealth with Stocks, Bonds, and Bicycles

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Wealth transfer is a hot topic in financial planning. Thinking about how to pass funds from one generation to the next can be emotionally difficult. Perhaps the older generation doesn’t approve of the way the younger spends the money, or the younger generation isn’t involved in the family business. Furthermore, tax and legal issues can complicate matters.

While estate and inheritance planning can be complex, other wealth can be transferred more easily: the wealth of knowledge. My grandmother successfully passed a financial education to my mother, who transferred it to me, as I am a proud third-generation licensed broker. My maternal grandmother Miriam Rosofsky struggled against social norms to enter the work world. But eventually she had the distinction of being one of the first women to hold a U.S. Securities license. She started as a secretary in a brokerage firm, but then began picking up her own book of clients. My mother Rhoda Goldstein was an associate vice-president in Dean Witter. Dinner-time conversation around my childhood table alternated between medical issues (my father was a surgeon) and economic discussions. I saw how both my parents helped people gain and maintain their physical and financial health. It was therefore only natural for me to begin my financial career partnering with my mother on Wall Street.

After I made aliya, I founded Profile Investment Services, Ltd. with the aim of helping people living in Israel create financial plans and maintain U.S. brokerage accounts. I try to follow in my mother and grandmother’s footsteps in transferring the wealth of financial knowledge to my own children. Even though none have announced their desire to be financial planners (but my wife recently became a licensed U.S. broker), they do check stock prices regularly.

We frequently discuss fiscal responsibility, budgeting, and other economic topics at our dinner table.  Some of the kids are reading books on behavioral finance, and others are reading books about loyalty, fidelity, and trust. My mother, keen to pick up on children’s natural curiosity about money and the way the “grown up” world works, recently came out with a book geared for young adults about how the stock and bond markets work, and how an entrepreneur can raise the funds necessary to fulfill his dream. If you’re interested in sharing this information with your children and transferring the wealth of financial knowledge to them, visit my website to get her new book Stocks, Bonds, and Bicycles. Let me know if you recognize any of the characters in the story.

The Heroes of T’shuva

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

If there was a guaranteed deal that by shelling out 15 dollars, you would get 15 million dollars in return, would you do it? Of course you would. Well, that’s exactly what I’m offering you. For the 15 bucks it will cost to order the book, “The Art of T’shuva” explaining Rabbi Kook’s incomparable writings on t’shuva, you will be receiving a value of $15,000,000 in return. For those of you who think I’m making myself a bundle from book sales, all the profit I get is donated to charity, so you win on both counts. And if this isn’t enough of a gracious offer, I’m serializing a condensed version of the book, right here at The JewishPress.com, for free, in the “Felafel on Rye” blogs  I’ll be posting until Yom Kippur. So at least, share the blog link with your friends, and do them the priceless favor of turning them on to the lifesaving depth and beauty of t’shuva.

We learned that the joy of t’shuva comes from removing the barriers of transgression and melancholy which separate a person from God. Another reason why the joy of t’shuva is so great is because the happiness of t’shuva is felt in the soul. Until a person discovers t’shuva, he experiences the pleasures of the world on the physical, emotional, or intellectual levels alone. He enjoys good foods, stimulating books, new clothes and the like. But a man has a deeper, spiritual level of being, his soul, which derives no satisfaction from earthly pleasures.

To what is this analogous? To the case of a city dweller who marries a princess. If he brought her all that the world possessed, it would mean nothing to her, by virtue of her being a king’s daughter. So it is with the soul. If it were brought all the delights of the world, they would be nothing to it, in view of its pertaining to the higher elements (Mesillat Yesharim, Ch.1).

When a person does t’shuva, he opens his soul to a river of spiritual delight. The joy he discovers is like nothing which he has ever experienced. Not only are his senses affected, t’shuva touches his soul. Just as his soul is deeper than his other levels of being, the happiness he discovers is deeper. Just as his soul is eternal, his joy is eternal. Unlike the transitory pleasures of the physical world, the joy of t’shuva is everlasting. A jacuzzi feels good, but when it is over, the pleasure soon fades away. But in the heavenly jacuzzi of t’shuva, you don’t just get wet — you get cleansed and transformed. Thus, Rabbi Kook writes:

When the light of t’shuva appears and the desire for goodness beats purely in the heart, a channel of happiness and joy is opened, and the soul is nurtured from a river of delights (Orot HaT’shuva, 14:6).

This river of delight is the river of t’shuva. Rabbi Kook’s use of this expression is not metaphorical alone. In the spiritual world, there actually exists a river of t’shuva. (For the Kabbalists among you, it’s the wellsprings of Binah flowing to us through the now t’shuva-unclogged river of the Yesod). This is the constant flow of t’shuva which, though invisible, is always present and active. It is our channel to true joy and happiness because it is our channel to God. Nothing in the world can compare to its pleasures. Rabbi Kook explains:

Great and exalted is the pleasure of t’shuva. The searing flame of the pain caused by sin purifies the will and refines the character of a person to an exalted, sparkling purity until the great joy of the life of t’shuva is opened for him. T’shuva raises the person higher and higher through its stages of bitterness, pleasantness, grieving, and joy. Nothing purges and purifies a person, raises him to the stature of being truly a man, like the profound process of t’shuva. In the place where the baale t’shuva stand, even the completely righteous cannot stand (Berachot 34B. Orot HaT’shuva, 13:11).

The real hero is not the Hollywood tough guy. It isn’t the man who smokes Marlboro cigarettes. It isn’t the corporate president who owns a Lear jet and three yachts. The true man is the person involved in t’shuva. Rabbi Kook teaches, “The more a person delves into the essence of t’shuva, he will find in it the source of heroism” (Ibid, 12:2). This is similar to the teaching of our Sages, “Who is a hero? He who conquers his evil inclination” (Avot, 4:1). He is the person who is always seeking to better himself; the person who is always trying to come closer to God. He is the person who is open to self-assessment and change; the person who has the courage to confront his soul’s inner pain and to transform its bitterness into joy.

T’shuva elevates a person above all of the baseness of the world. Notwithstanding, it does not alienate the person from the world. Rather, the baal t’shuva elevates life and the world with him (Orot HaT’shuva, 12:1).

Sometimes, people have a misunderstanding of t’shuva. They think that t’shuva comes to separate a person from the world. While some baale t’shuva make a point of isolating themselves completely from secular society, this is not the ideal. During the early stages of t’shuva, a person should certainly avoid situations which are antithetical to his newfound goals, in order to rebuild his life on purer foundations, but a baal t’shuva is not a recluse. He should not cut himself off from the world. The opposite. By participating in the life around him, he elevates, not only himself, but also the world. After returning to God, he must return to the world. By doing so, he returns holiness to its proper place, and makes God’s Presence sovereign in the world. Rabbi Kook writes:

Tzaddikim should be natural people, and every aspect of their bodies and beings should be characterized by life and health. Then, through their spiritual greatness, they can elevate all of the world, and all things will rise up with them (Arpelei Tohar, pf.16).

God created the heavens for the angels. Our lives are to be lived down on earth. It is our task to bring healing and perfection to this world, not to the next. When the powerful life-force which went into sin is redirected toward good, life is uplifted. A baal t’shuva who returns to a former situation in which he sinned, and now conducts himself in a righteous, holy manner, affects a great tikun. The Rambam writes: “For instance, if a man had sinful relations with a woman, and after a time was alone with her, his passion for her persisting, and his physical powers unabated, while he continued to live in the same district where he had sinned, and yet he refrains and does not transgress, he is a baal t’shuva” (Laws of T’shuva, 2:1). He is like a gunslinger who mends his ways and comes back to town to do away with the bad guys. Because of his t’shuva, Dodge City is a better, safer, more wholesome place.

The inner forces which led him to sin are transformed. The powerful desire which smashes all borders and brought the person to sin, itself becomes a great, exalted life-force which acts to bring goodness and blessing. The greatness of life which emanates from the highest holy source constantly hovers over t’shuva and its heroes, for they are the champions of life, who call for its perfection. They demand the victory of good over evil, and the return to life’s true goodness and happiness, to the true, exalted freedom, which suits the man who ascends to his spiritual source and essential Divine image (Orot HaT’shuva, 12:1).

It is time to take t’shuva out of the closet. The true champions of life are not the basketball players, not the Hollywood stars, not even the Prime Ministers and Presidents. The real heroes are the masters of t’shuva. They are the Supermen who battle the forces of darkness in order to fill the world with goodness and blessing. Teenagers! Tear down your wall posters of wrestlers and rock stars! The people to be admired are the masters of t’shuva! You can be one too!

How to Retire When You Don’t Have Enough Money

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Very often, life doesn’t turn out the way you expect it. For example, over the years you may have dreamed of having a certain income or level of savings when you retire. For various reasons, however, that has not happened. Maybe certain things occurred within your personal life that meant that you had to spend the savings that you worked so hard to accrue, such as a serious illness, major, unexpected repairs to your home, or more. Perhaps you started investing too late, or you put your money into investments that did not bring you the returns that you anticipated. Or maybe you were just one of those people who spent too much every month.

Whatever the reason, if you reach retirement age and you see that you are not going to have enough money for your anticipated needs, what should you do?

First of all, don’t stress about it. Although this is not the ideal situation, you won’t necessarily end up on the street. There are some steps that you can take to make your life a little easier if your nest egg isn’t as large as you would like it to be:

Keep working part time. Consider partial retirement instead of full retirement. Though older people do not always find it easy to get new employment, there are still places where the experience of a senior citizen is appreciated. Any income you receive means that you will be withdrawing less from your savings account.

Turn down the volume. As you are going to face a cut in your income, learn to cut down your expectations. A trimmed budget doesn’t necessarily mean you need to cut out recreation, just find cheaper or free means of entertainment. Visit the library, not a bookstore. Visiting free public museums, going for walks along the sea front, and offering to take your grandchildren for one afternoon may not be as glamorous as a luxury cruise, but they cost a lot less and believe it or not, they can be just as rewarding.

Pay attention to your spending habits. While some people watch their budgets for most of their lives, there are plenty who don’t. If you fall into that second category, it’s time to change. Start taking note of your budget now, even before you retire, and you will be better able to cope with living in reduced circumstances when the time comes.

Keep up with your investments. If you do have a few investments, don’t panic when you retire and start selling them all. Consult with a financial adviser on how to make the best of the investments that you have and what you can do to make the best of your retirement years under the circumstances.

There aren’t any magical solutions to retiring comfortably without adequate savings, but there are certain strategies you can use to avoid and fix personal finance mistakes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/goldstein-on-gelt/how-to-retire-when-you-dont-have-enough-money/2012/08/30/

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