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July 1, 2016 / 25 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish.’

Dignified Slumber: The Restoration Of Jewish Cemeteries In Jamaica

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Over the last nine years, seventy-seven-year-old Ainsley Henriques (“Stocking the Embers of Jamaican Jewry,” 6-26-2015), community leader and Jewish Jamaican genealogist, has been working with Rachel Frankel, coordinator of volunteers from the Caribbean Volunteer Expedition (a non-profit organization that recruits people from the United States to work on historic conservation projects) to catalogue Jamaica’s thirteen remaining Jewish cemeteries in an effort to preserve the island’s rich Jewish history. Their current project is the restoration of the White Church Street Cemetery in Spanish Town, Jamaica’s former capital. This is the last Jewish cemetery to be catalogued. The plot, which had been a veritable junkyard filled with broken glass, bricks, rusted metal, plastic bags, and rubble, now resembles a dignified burial site thanks to their efforts. Once the restoration has been completed, hopefully within the year, Jamaicans and tourists will be invited to visit the island’s “newest” Jewish heritage site.

 

Where did Jamaican Jews Come From?

Hunts Bay Cemetery

Hunts Bay Cemetery

The first Jews came to Spanish-occupied Jamaica between 1494 to1655. Fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, they arrived from Spain and Portugal and settled mainly near and in Spanish Town, reportedly bringing the technique to produce sugar with them.  Here, disguised as Portuguese, they maintained their faith. When the British conquered the island in 1655, General Venables recorded the presence of many “Portuguese” or Portugals. With their skills in finance and trade, and the network they naturally shared with European Jews, they played an important economic role in the sugar trade and the shipping industry.

On the darker side of things, a negligible minority of Jews took part in the slave trade. Some Jews followed an equally un-Jewish career path and became pirates – more accurately, “privateers,” state-sponsored pirates working for the British, motivated by economic reasons and a desire to usurp Spanish rule.

When Port Royal, a hustling and bustling commercial center, sank into the ocean after a massive earthquake in 1692 and then suffered terrible fires in 1704 and 1815, the thriving Jewish community moved to Spanish Town. By that time there were more Jews in Jamaica than in all of North America. Ashkenazi Jews began arriving from England and Germany to join the Sephardi resident Jews. The burgeoning Jewish community saw a drop in numbers, however, when the British abolished slavery in 1838. The result of that decision was the decline of the sugar industry and many Jews left for Australia or to take part in California’s gold rush.

White Church Street Cemetery before work began

White Church Street Cemetery before work began

In 1872, Kingston Harbor, the seventh-largest natural harbor in the world, was designated the island’s capital and the Jewish community moved there. The community continued to shrink as more Jews emigrated; the influx of Jewish immigrants was minimal. In the early 20th century, some Jews arrived in Jamaica after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. However, very few Jews fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe chose to make Jamaica their homeland. Similarly, except for Gibraltar Camp, which the British government set up as a temporary haven for a few hundred Jews from 1941 until the end of the war, Jamaica was not a destination for those escaping the Holocaust.

 

A Genealogist Discovers His Roots

With few records of Jamaican Jewry, Henriques, who remembers over one hundred guests at his family Seder when he was a child, set out to catalogue its history. “It’s important to leave a legacy for our children so that they know where they come from,” he explains. Today, he has compiled over 20,000 names spanning 350 years. “I was very excited when I discovered that I was related to Rabbi Isaac Belinfante of Amsterdam and Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes of Shearith Israel of New York,” says Henriques. “Since then, I haven’t stopped researching.”

Rhona Lewis

President Rivlin: Israel Is Democratic and Jewish and Tribal, and There Are Arabs, Too

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

The 16th Annual Herzliya conference opened at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, with a discussion by Israeli senior ministers and political party leaders on the joint initiative “Shared Israeli Hope.” President Reuven Rivlin opened his keynote address saying Israeli society has transitioned from being made up of a clear majority and minorities into a society made up of four main sectors or tribes, which are becoming more and more equal in size: secular, Modern Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox and Arab.

“We must speak the truth; this is not something that we expected,” he said, noting that many had called him a post-Zionist following his previous Herzliya conference address and questioned, “Is anyone who discusses the issues of Israeli identity, post-Zionist?” He explained that Israel was “Four tribes, four competing, different stories, about who we are, and what we want to be.” He noted that “the headline of the conference should have been, ‘Israeli hope: to be or not to be.’” He said that “a year ago there were those that interpreted my words as yet another typical, joyful presidential call… but first and foremost, my words were intended to serve as a call to wake up to the gaps and inadequacies between the reality of Israeli society and the system of Israeli institutions.” Looking ahead he said, “We are obliged to strive for institutional and systematic changes which must be conducted as a national effort… we must recognize that there are material and structural barriers to forming shared rules of the game for the different sectors… The creation of a shared Israeli identity and a shared Israeli hope is a mighty and noble process which will take a generation.”

One of the main engines for change Rivlin discussed was that of academia and employment. “Academia and the Israeli labor market will become an engine of real change, only when academic institutions and employers view the establishment of the Israeli dream – for a young man from Ofakim, a young woman from Bnei Brak, a young man from Jatt and a young woman from Binyamin – as a national mission of paramount professional and economic interests… Academia and the labor market today cater mainly to two tribes, but there are two more.”

He noted that if Israeli society were willing to embrace the necessary changes, the State of Israel would serve as a model for others, “A Jewish and democratic state; democratic and Jewish is one in the same.”

Following the president’s keynote address, senior ministers and political party leaders were given the opportunity to respond.

MK Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education and Minister of Diaspora Affairs, and Chairman of Habayit Hayehudi party, began his address by taking the audience on a journey to 3,000 years in the past: “We are in a sovereign state. A Jewish State under the rule of King David with great economic and political power.” He traced Jewish history through the periods, explaining how Jews in the Diaspora lived in survival mode, “Zionism was based on survival and security.” He noted that now, back in the Jewish homeland, Jews no longer needed to be afraid and could “break into a new creativity without being afraid,” adding that the new generation of Zionism needed to be based on “destiny.” He stressed that Judaism was a religion focused on contending “with the reality of the world and bringing values into it.”

Directing his address to his role as minister of education, Bennett said, “I am the minister of education of all children in Israel… they are all my children and they are equal regardless of their color, religion, politics or anything else. We express this with an intensity unlike anything else in Israel.” He also noted how his office had adjusted budget allocations to ensure that adequate funds were appropriated to areas in need in Robin Hood fashion: “We take from the strong and give to the week… when I took on my position… per capita more funds were invested in wealthier areas.”

MK Aryeh Deri, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Development of the Negev and Galilee, and Chairman of the Shas Party, said, possibly ignoring the entire books of Numbers and Deuteronomy: “It was never the dream that one [nation] should get rid of the other.” He stressed that the Arab citizens “truly want to integrate within us and be a part and parcel with us… We need to show them that we respect their culture, heritage and history… We have no desire to mix cultures but rather to live together in one state” with full equality and egalitarian rights. Also paying an homage to the man from Sherwood Forest, Deri said, “There are steps, even as painful as they may be, where we will take from the big… and give to the smaller ones.” He added that any “discourse of hatred” needed to immediately be stopped. To a round of applause he stated, “In our state it is prohibited that we should accept any racism or discourse of racism.” He should have possibly share this with the minister of Religious Services from his own party, who announced a while back (I paraphrase) that non-Orthodox Jews are not really Jewish.

MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint Arab List, opened his address noting all the ideals and values that he shared with the president: “Bringing the various populations closer to one another. Advancing the general welfare of all citizens. Building shared citizenship.” But he added that there are “important things that we cannot ignore… The basic thing that guides me in politics is my deep internal conviction that the guiding interests of both people are equal. Everyone wants the blessing of life.”

He emphasized the principles of nationalism: “What does it mean to be a citizen? What does it mean to be a national? We want complete equality on the national level and the civil social level.” He said that it was impossible to only talk about the economy and citizenship without nationalism. He also noted how he was always steered to discuss the future rather than the past: “We have a deep pain. In the heart of every Arab. The injustices of the past. And it hurts me so much when I hear narratives of 3,000, 4,000 years and I am told not to talk about the narratives of 60 years but to look into the future.”

By that narrative, MK Odeh referred to the fact that the Arabs of Mandatory Palestine had a chance to receive two thirds of the land if only they accepted that the Jews could have one third — and they refused. They wanted instead to murder all the Jews of the land with the help of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. They failed and have yet to recover from the shame and disappointment of that terrible failure.

Odeh focused specific attention on the subjects of unrecognized villages and said that it would not hurt anyone for the state to “state recognizes the terrible massacre of Kafir Qasim and the massive injustices and confiscation of land.” He stated that his party’s stance was two states for two people, side by side with complete equality for both but “crimes occurred and we have to talk about that… There are citizens of the State of Israel who are not allowed to return to their land… Will it harm one Jewish person…. If people of Mahalul are returned to Mahalul… To build 80 villages… Will it harm one Jewish person?… We need to talk about civil and national rights for Arabs in Israel and it doesn’t have to harm anyone. The opposite. That is what will heal these two people.”

Naturally, when MK Odeh speaks of two states, he really means four states: three purely Arab — Jordan, the PA and Gaza, and one 20% Arab — Israel.

MK Zahava Galon, Chairman of Meretz, said that the “elephant in the room” was that the Arabs do not have their own state and we are “50 years into the occupation of the territories.” She said that no discussion could take place regarding the demographic question without talking about occupying this nation and controlling their lives.

Taking on the judicial perspective of “Shared Israeli Hope,” Chief Justice Miriam Naor, president of the Supreme Court, noted that “Our image as a democratic society requires a balance between the individual and society.” She said that the legal system plays a role in advancing Israeli partnerships and creating boundaries. “Discrimination undermines social solidarity. The courts are responsible for eradicating discrimination.”

Which is why they are appointing their own judges, evading the control of the legislator on judicial selections — because as soon as you let the people make their own decisions they’re bound to start discriminating.

David Israel

The King Of Jewish YouTube: Daniel Finkelman Is Pursuing His Chabad Shlichut Through Popular Jewish Music Videos

Friday, June 10th, 2016

“My plan is to win an Academy Award by the time I’m 45,” says Daniel Finkelman, the 38-year-old director and producer of a recently shot feature film and countless short films and Jewish music videos, including Gad Elbaz’s Paris-located “Hava Nagila” and Lipa Schmeltzer’s futuristic “Hang Up the Phone.”

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. You’ve heard this before – from people far more famous and with more industry connections than Finkelman. And it’s true: Finkelman tends to make grand pronouncements like that. But spend enough time with the filmmaker and instead of dismissing him as delusional, he’ll make you not only believe it’s possible, he’ll have you rooting for him to succeed. It comes from confidence and ample talent – yes – but also from Finkelman’s striking appetite and sense of purpose.

In the specialized corner of filmmaking that creates Jewish music videos, Finkelman – who also directs and produces Jewish music concerts – has earned a reputation as a visionary. He has been creating YouTube videos full time for the past five years and has already worked with over a dozen major Jewish music including (in addition to Schmeltzer and Elbaz) Mordechai Ben David, Dudu Fisher, and Avraham Fried.

Before taking on filmmaking, Finkelman was a secular studies principal and teacher in a Chabad school. He looks at all of his work from an educator’s point of view. Now, he says, “instead of inspiring a class of 12 or 15 students, I have the ability to inspire millions of people with help from Gad Elbaz, Lipa Schmeltzer, Avraham Fried, and many others. That responsibility gives me tremendous satisfaction.”

Finkelman, who lives in Brooklyn, says he pursues his shlichut like all Chabad individuals do. But Finkelman’s shlichut is fulfilled not by by traveling via rickshaw in New Delhi, camel in Beirut, or elephant in Johannesburg. Instead he does so through his videos, which, though they display a broad range, have a core set of messages in common: of faith, simcha, and Jewish pride.

During the filming of one of these videos, the phosphorescent glow of the stage lights were dim as buzzing chatter came from dozens of costumed men, women, and children. The Soho Lounge in Brooklyn was as ethereal as it has ever been. The lounge’s brick walls and swooning musical vibes were emitting a Roaring Twenties aura. Soon, a hush blanketed the crowd. Bartenders stopped tending, DJs stopped mixing, and customers stopped mingling.

All eyes focused on the far end of the quaint room, which was brilliantly illuminated by violet, turquoise, and scarlet spotlights. A man appeared dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt and introduced himself: “I’m Daniel Finkelman, and welcome to Lipa Schmeltzer’s music video shoot. I hope you’re all having a great time. Sit back and enjoy.” The crowd applauded then stopped as Finkelman raised his hand. Finkelman took his place behind the camera with the rest of his crew and shouted, “Action.”

Schmeltzer moved onto center stage and commanded everyone’s attention with his red sparkly vest and fashionable glasses. He belted out his newest tune, while members of the Holocaust Survivor Band accompanied him on their string instruments. Schmeltzer has become one of the top two or three performers in Jewish music, those who can manufacture a sure bet every time they step on a stage or cut a new album, and it’s no oversimplification to say that a significant chunk of his renown and reach is thanks to Finkelman. Schmelzter – and, for that matter, Gad Elbaz and others – are the talent; Finkelman is their impresario.

* * * * *

Before I met Daniel Finkelman, we had arranged for an interview at Chocolatte, a 24-hour kosher coffee shop in Crown Heights. As I wait for him, the favorite hymns of the Lubavitcher Rebbe play softly in the background and the heavenly aroma of cinnamon lattes and chocolate croissants fill the air. Soon, Finkelman saunters in, uber-confident, wearing a denim suit jacket, gray slacks, and spiffy gray lace-ups. The only thought crossing my mind is, “Never in my life have I seen a Lubavitcher with this much style.” Finkelman introduces himself – as if I didn’t know it was him – and invites me to take a seat. He is so excited to begin the interview, and acts as if a reporter has never interviewed him before. He is courteous, calm, and collected. And he’s very eager for whatever happens next.

Daniel Finkelman (left) on the set of the black-and-white music video “The Reveal.”

Daniel Finkelman (left) on the set of the black-and-white music video “The Reveal.”

Finkelman was born in Israel and moved to New York when he was 11. Unlike the case with most children, watching a film at home was no simple task for the young Daniel Finkelman. Every couple of minutes, he’d make his younger brother pause the video so that he could absorb the film quality and directorial techniques of each scene – whether he was watching in French, Russian, Hebrew, or English.

“I had bought VHS tapes through Columbia House’s mail order club,” he says. “We also went to the movie theater, but those I couldn’t pause. Right away, I was attracted to directors such as Spielberg, Scorsese, Louis Malle, and others. My parents were hard-working immigrants who didn’t have much time for films, but at least they didn’t kill my passion toward them. I watched a lot. I sometimes went into a marathon of watching four films one after the other – very geeky, but yeah, that was me.”

Finkelman’s family was not associated with Chabad at the time but they spent a Shabbat at 770 Eastern Parkway soon after their arrival. Finkelman cites the Rebbe as his muse and says the Rebbe granted him a modern day miracle.

“As a child I was extremely allergic to the sun – the pain in my eyes when in contact with the sun was excruciating,” Finkelman relates. “None of the doctors could cure me. After my Shabbat at 770 I waited on line the following Sunday to shake hands with the Rebbe in the boiling sun. When I finally met the Rebbe, I asked him for a blessing, and then in the only Yiddish I knew I told the Rebbe, ‘Zei gezint,to which he answered ‘Amen’ followed by ‘You should have hatzlacha with everything in your life,’ and a few weeks later my eyesight was completely restored and my allergy was gone; it was a miracle.”

Finkelman says he was also drawn to the Chabad philosophy of letchatchila ariber: “While some people live life by accomplishing their goals step-by-step, Chabad shoots straight to the top,” he says. “That, in particular, appeals to me. Straight to the top is my motto. Straight to the top in my marriage and straight to the top with career choices. I didn’t want to wake up when I’m 75 and go, ‘Oh, I could’ve done that.’ Now is the time to jump in the waters and be a Nachshon ben Aminadav and just do it. That is why my goal is an Academy Award. I don’t think that it’s a far off dream.”

Finkelman first thought seriously about using his filmmaking for religious ends five years ago. Sholom Rubashkin’s imprisonment had been sitting on his mind and the more he heard about the allegations against Rubashkin, the more he wanted to get involved. He called Mordechai Ben David and set in motion the “Unity for Justice” music video. “The thing that tugs at my heartstrings most,” says Finkelman, “is that Jews from so many communities, from Syrians to Sephardim to Chabad to Modern Orthodox, found a common denominator, and his name is Rubashkin. It’s as if he sits in prison so that the Jewish people can unite.”

Wanting to infuse his projects with a sense of mission has led Finkelman to work alongside Meyer Seewald, founder of the victim advocate group Jewish Community Watch, which helps protect children from sexual abuse and helps victims heal from their traumas. Finkelman calls Seewald “a living saint.” Together they filmed the video “Speak Up” in which seven survivors of sexual abuse shared their stories.

“I respect Daniel and love him like a brother,” says Seewald. “He is an advocate for victims, and in every interview that he has had with them, they feel supported and loved. He speaks to them gently, and supports them even after the video is through. Daniel is never satisfied with just that, he always wants to do more, and has amazing ideas to spread awareness on the subject. With his help we will continue bringing awareness to the community, and help more victims become survivors.”

Working with sexual abuse victims does not come without its share of detractors within the community, but Finkelman generally shrugs off those concerns. For example, the video for the Schmeltzer song “Believe in a Miracle” includes women, which elicited the virtual wrath of many a commenter; they fumed that parading women in an Orthodox music video is both inappropriate and un-Jewish. This made Finkelman livid. “If we’re going to make a revolution,” he tell me, “even a small one, it needs to be heard. I think it’s a disaster that women are not in videos or pictures of Jewish sources. Maybe Lipa’s videos will promote change.”

Finkelman’s sense of mission extends to videos combating anti-Semitism. One of his most popular is “Hava Nagila,” featuring Israeli artist Gad Elbaz. “Hava Nagila” was shot in Paris after the January 2015 massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket but before the November attacks which took the lives of 130 in the city.

Finkelman has worked with Elbaz for many years and has created popular music videos for Elbaz’s songs, like “Esh Shel Mashiach” (over 800,000 YouTube views), “Open Up” (a million YouTube views), and “Hashem Melech 2.0” (nearly 1.3 million YouTube views). A recurring element in these videos is impeccable choreography and, often, jazzed-up dance routines, which Finkelman feels can help attract younger Jewish viewers.

“Who’s our target audience? Not only the unaffiliated, it’s also the affiliated,” he says. “They’re not interested in Jewish music, to see some gray-bearded guy jump and say ‘oyoyoyoyoyoy.’ It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t inspire me. But if you give them something like Gad Elbaz, some good dancing, and it’s like ‘Oh wow; this is good.’ This is almost just as good. It’s good beats, good choreography, and some window of communication with the youth. When I say youth I mean all of us. I’m also youth. I’m also not inspired by the gray-bearded people (except maybe Avraham Fried). I can’t stand going to these concerts where the artist has zero charisma. We’ve changed that.”

Finkelman is especially proud of his Holocaust-related film work. He started exploring Holocaust cinematography when he began working with producer and composer Cecelia Margules, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who’s been promoting Holocaust education for decades. He says, “Ever since she came into my life, I’ve been bringing it to YouTube, and to the masses. These videos unite Jews on a global scale and it allows me to combine my love for Judaism with my love for filmmaking.”

Ever mindful of looking forward toward future Jewish generations, Finkelman says he plans to create online platforms catering to Jewish youth. “We want people to answer the commonly asked question ‘What makes you Jewish?’ Thousands of Jewish individuals worldwide will take minute-long video clips of what makes them feel connected to Judaism. For some, being Jewish is through feeling connected. For others, it’s eating lox. For still others, it’s watching Woody Allen movies. Everyone has their own concept.”

Once he’s gathered enough videos, he plans to showcase them online, hoping they can represent a kind of cumulative snapshot of what Judaism means to Jews worldwide. He’s dubbed the project “We R 1.”

Molly Meisels

The Jewish Holy Land

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through}

Roughly 3300 years ago, the Jews received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.  Those commandments were designed for all Jews to follow at all times, whether the positive commandments like respecting one’s parents, or the negative commandments like not murdering.

One of the positive commandments included a reason for the order: keeping the Sabbath:

8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. “ Exodus 20:8-11

God told the Children of Israel to not work on the seventh day of the week, just as God rested on the seventh day when He created the entire world.  By doing so, He made that seventh day holy, and commanded the Jews to make it holy as well.

The other nine commandments did not have explanations; the commandments were simply stated such as “You shall not steal.”  The second commandment of not taking the name of the Lord in vain “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…” reveals more about the ramifications of ignoring the commandment, when no such threat was made in the text for the Sabbath.

Jews were told to actively remember the Sabbath, so, in turn, they can actively remember God’s creations and His decision to stop, rest and make the seventh day holy. The reason is not so much of an explanation, as it was meant to focus what should be remembered.

Shmita

God gave the Jews other commandments beyond the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

The Jewish tradition is that the Torah contains 613 commandments, all of which were given at Mount Sinai.  The sages conclude this from Leviticus 25, where God commands Jews to observe shmita on Mount Sinai. The biblical commentator Rashi (1040-1105) stated that clearly mentioning that such law was given on Mount Sinai was to show that all of the commandments were given there as well.

1The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. 3For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 6Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, 7as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.”  Leviticus 25:1-7

The commandment of shmita resembled the commandment of keeping the seventh day a day of rest.  In this case, the people may work the land for six years, but must not work the land on the seventh year, as the land must be given rest.  However, unlike the commandment for remembering the Sabbath day, the underlying reason for giving the land rest was not given.

Further, this commandment was localized to the Holy Land.  Only “when you enter the land I am going to give you,” when the Jews crossed the Jordan River, was the commandment relevant.

Field in Israel declaring its observance of shmita in 2008

Field in Israel declaring its observance of shmita in 2008

Nachmanides, or the Ramban (1194-1270), noted that there was a similarity of the Sabbath day and shmita when he wrote that shmita is about remembering this world and the world to come.  He derived that from Avos 5:9 which described that Jews would be punished with exile if they did not keep shmita. Ramban added  “whoever repudiates [shmita] shows that he does not acknowledge the truth of Creation and the World to Come.”

However, during his long explanation, the Ramban did not delve into the local nature of shmita.

Was the intention of the command’s preface to just let the Jews know that shmita was not necessary during the time from standing at Mount Sinai until they arrived in the Holy Land?  Or was there a message behind the land itself?

The Holy Land for the Jewish Nation

The commandment to observe Sabbath day became effective immediately when it was received on Mount Sinai.  Throughout the wanderings of the desert before they entered Israel, Jews kept the seventh day holy.  They did so, because they continued to live and benefit from God’s creations – even the desert itself.  Jews continue to observe Sabbath when they are not in the Holy Land for the same reason: the commandment’s underlying reason was to remember God’s creation of the entire world.

Was the commandment of shmita about memory too? Was it about remembering the “World to Come” as Ramban suggested?  If so, why did the commandment need to only be kept in Israel and needed to be delayed until they arrived in the Holy Land?

Perhaps the parallel of memory in the Sabbath day and shmita was not about “the truth of Creation and the World to Come,” but about God’s gift of the land of Israel to the Jewish people.

God included the reason of keeping the Sabbath day as a remembrance of the world’s creation within the command itself.  Keeping the Sabbath included remembering the story of creation.

In the commandment of shmita, maybe there was also an explanation inside the text: “the land that I am going to give you.”  It was not just an explanation of when to begin observing the law, but the reason of observing the law: the land was God’s gift to the children of Israel.

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לַיהֹוָה:

The Hebrew biblical text is different than God’s other promises of the promised land in the Torah.

  • When God promised the land to Abraham, it was described as “the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), not give you.
  • In Exodus chapter 3, God described leading the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey that is occupied by many other nations.
  • In Exodus chapter 33, God told the Jews to go to the land that He promised their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Only in Leviticus did God change the language as giving the land to the Children of Israel themselves (Leviticus 20:24).  It was a gift for them, not just a promise made to forefathers.

That is why the commandment is localized in the Holy Land.  The commandment is not to just let the land lie fallow every seven years, but like the Sabbath, it is to remember that the land is God’s gift to the Jewish people.  It would be an insult to that special present of Israel for Jews outside of land to celebrate shmita.

God’s gift of Israel to the Jewish people is not limited by time, but an eternal present.  That is why even on the seventh year, when Jews cannot work the land, they can still enjoy the fruits of the land.  The gift never stops, even while Jews pause to remember the gift itself.

Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.”

Like the Sabbath day that is commanded to Jews, but to be respected among non-Jews that live with Jews, so is God’s gift to the Jews of the land of Israel.  The fruits of such gift may be shared broadly among those living in the land together with the Jews.

Enjoy and actively remember the gift of the Holy Land every day.  Try not to wait every seven years.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Today’s Inverted Chanukah: The Holiday of Rights in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria

The Nation of Israel Prevails

The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

“Flowing with Milk and Honey”

From Promised Land to Promised Home

Wearing Our Beliefs

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Paul Gherkin

Jewish Agency Launches Food Co-Op in Druze Village

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israel Venture Network (IVN) this week launched their fourth food co-op in the Druze village of Beit Jann. Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, IVN cofounder Itsik Danziger, spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, and leaders from Beit Jann and the Druze community attended the grand opening.

The new chain of food co-ops is a joint venture of the Jewish Agency and IVN, in partnership with UJA-Federation of New York and the United Jewish Endowment Fund of Greater Washington, aimed at lowering the cost of living and strengthening communities across Israel. The first three branches are located in the southern Israeli communities of Sderot, Yeruham, and Arad. The new branch in Beit Jann was launched in partnership with Ofakim LaAtid (“Future Horizons”), a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering young leadership in Israel’s Druze community. The food co-ops operate as social business ventures, offering consumers significantly less expensive groceries and investing profits in local social empowerment initiatives. The chain is expected to reach forty branches across Israel and is based on close cooperation with local communities and various nonprofit organizations.

Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said: “I first heard about the ‘covenant of blood’ between the Jewish people and the Druze community while I was still in the Soviet Union, fighting for our right to immigrate to Israel. But that bond must also generate a covenant of life, and we must do everything to ensure that that covenant is strong and enduring. I am confident that this new joint venture between The Jewish Agency, Jewish Federations, and Israeli business leaders will enable us to help narrow the socioeconomic gaps within Israeli society and strengthen Israel as a whole.”

IVN cofounder Itsik Danziger said: “This new chain represents a substantial new step by IVN to promote the model of social businesses, an innovative model aimed at correcting market failures in Israel. The launch of the fourth food co-op in Beit Jann demonstrates that social businesses can generate sustainable, socially conscious activity while fortifying their financial viability with independent profits. The new chain helps lower the cost of living in Israel and we look forward to expanding it into additional communities across the country.”

Spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif said: “The decision by The Jewish Agency, headed by our friend, Natan Sharansky, and IVN to launch a branch of their new food co-op chain in Beit Jann is more than a statement – it is a fitting act, because Druze communities are worthy of investment and constitute an integral part of the State of Israel.”

JNi.Media

Absolute Proof The Two Jewish Temples Stood Atop The Temple Mount

Monday, June 6th, 2016

{Originally posted to the website, The Lid}

Saturday evening June 4th begins the holiday of Yom Yerushalayim, the anniversary of the day, during the Six-Day-War in 1967, when the IDF re-took Jerusalem. This day is celebrated because it was the first time since 1948, the holy city of Jerusalem was united and Jews were once again permitted to go to Mount Moriah. Also known as the Temple Mount, this is the holiest site in the Jewish faith, it’s where the two Jewish Temples to God stood.

Today the Muslims claim that the Temple Mount is still theirs and claim that there was never a Jewish temple on top of Mount Moriah. Any claim the Temple Mount is anything but Jewish is simply propaganda which ignores the fact that the ancient Greeks, Romans, Christians, and even the ancient Muslims reported Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were the property of the Jewish people. But I am not going to argue historical fact here today. Nor will I point to the fact that Christians across the world believe that Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers on Mount Moriah. I am not here to argue history or tradition, nor am I going to make jokes about the the fact that when Muslims in Israel face Mecca to pray, they are mooning the Temple Mount (although it’s true).

The reason I don’t have to argue about what was atop Mount Moriah is because I’ve been there. And as corny as it may sound to anyone who has never been there, I felt the presence of God at the Temple Mount. I didn’t get to go to the top of the mount, but I did get to pray at the western wall which was part of the retaining wall built by Herod to protect the collapse of the mount.

All my life I had this overwhelming desire to go to Jerusalem and especially the Temple Mount. I never understand why I had that urge until I stood in its presence a few years ago when my family and I finally took a trip to Israel (my wife had been before but it was the first time for the rest of us).

Before we went to Jerusalem, our guide took us north to Haifa, to Tzfat, the borders with Lebanon and Syria when we finally approached Jerusalem, it was from the north. I remember that as soon as we drove through the hills and I got a peek at Jerusalem (from very far away) for the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my surroundings. Jerusalem felt like home to me, despite the fact that I had never been there. Strangely I knew where to go and how to get around this holy city without looking at a map. There were times that I would tell my family that I had a shortcut to get to where we needed to go, and my wife who had been there before would tell me I was crazy (which is true but irrelevant). Actually my directions/shortcuts were always correct. Everywhere we went in the holy city, I knew where we were and its relation to the Temple Mount. And the closer we got to Mount Moriah, the lure of the Temple site was stronger than ever before.

Now at this point, anyone reading this who has never been to Israel is probably calling for the guys in white coats to bring me one of those nice jackets with the very longs sleeves that tie in the back, so they could drag me away peacefully. But before you make that call, ask anyone who has been there (anyone who believes in God) and see if they felt any different than me.

On our second day in Jerusalem, we were finally going to the Kotel (Hebrew for wall, it’s what the Western retaining wall of the Temple Mount is called). With rare exceptions the retaining wall is the closest any Jewish or Christian tourist can get to the Temple Mount (and for those who do get to the top of the Mount no praying is allowed for non-Muslims) That law was created by the Israeli Government to keep the Muslims happy.

The whole family got up early, I packed up my Tallit (prayer shawl), Siddur (prayer book) and T’fillin (small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah attached to straps and worn by Jews during daytime prayers). We took off with our guide into the Old City. Yossi, our wonderful guide built up the anticipation by taking us all over the Old City. He knew how important the going to the Kotel was to me, yet rather than go directly to it he teased me with, “Its right over that wall, we will see this movie first, let’s go to the burnt house etc.” I was getting very frustrated, but he was masterfully building up my expectations. Finally, we walked down the wooden stairway and walked through the gate of the Kotel Plaza, I was overwhelmed by emotions that I had never felt before.

All my life I felt this longing to go to the Kotel, and I finally knew why. You see, everywhere else you go in Israel, you can feel the presence of all that has gone on before you, King David, Avraham, the 12 tribes, the two kingdoms and on and on. That is about culture and history. But when you visit Jerusalem, especially as you get close to Mount Moriah it is all about God. It is about being able to feel the lingering remnant of the Shekhinah (God’s presence) that left the first Temple over 2,500 years ago, never to return.

At the Kotel I learned that the dispute over the Temple Mount was all political. It is all about delegitimizing the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. No one had to say it–I was there. And with my son, then ten year old holding my bag, I celebrated my lifelong dream, I wrapped one of the T’fillin around my arm, placed the other on my head –wrapped my Tallit around my son and me, and prayed to our maker.

It felt like so much more than praying at the Kotel, Those words of Hebrew seemed to have meaning like never before. I was it was connecting. Connecting with the God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakov. That “urge” I had felt all my life, was more like an invitation from my maker, “Come visit so we can talk where it’s a local call” And while God is everywhere, for some reason only a Rabbi can explain, his presence much stronger in Jerusalem and strongest near the Temple Mount.

There–that’s it, that’s my proof, that’s how I know that the Temple Mount is Jewish. Nothing scientific, nothing that will work in a court of law or in an international dispute, I felt this strong connection to the Lord at the Kotel. There is not another place in the entire would that has even come close. Where did that connection originate? Maybe there is something in the DNA of a Jew that acts like a homing device. Just as a compass always points to the north, the heart of a Jew always points to Jerusalem.

Jeff Dunetz

Jewish Man Arrested on Temple Mount for Saying “Amen” [video]

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Nearly half a century after the Temple Mount was declared by IDF General Mota Gur to be in our hands, the Israeli police continue to disprove that statement.

During a visit to the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day, a young Jewish man responded to well-wishes from Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, and answered “Amen” — at which point he was arrested by the Israeli police.

The young man was released a short time after, but the police have forbidden him to visit the Temple Mount again, and he must also appear before a hearing to commit to not breaking the rules against free speech and Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.

Rabbi Ariel, who greeted the young man, is the head of the Temple Mount Institute and a paratrooper who fought to liberate Jerusalem during the 6 Day War.

It appears Rabbi Ariel still has more fighting to do to liberate Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-man-arrested-on-temple-mount-for-saying-amen-video/2016/06/05/

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