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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘journey’

Don’t Confuse Torah with Buddhism, My Friends

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

This blog should be a permanent post on the homepage of The Jewish Press, and people should read it every day to remind themselves who they really are as Jews and what real Judaism is all about.

Don’t try to brush it off by saying, “What does Fishman know – a former screenwriter from Hollywood?”

Get ready to hear the Torah explained by the greatest Torah teacher of them all – Moshe Rabeinu, as we begin his review of the Torah in the Book of Devarim.

As we approach Tisha B’Av, it is indeed a fitting time to take a new/old look at the Torah and at its eternal truths, which are as true for our time as they were in the times of Moshe Rabeinu. That’s one of the basic principles of the Torah – it doesn’t change.

Sometimes people ask me. “Why do you waste your time trying to teach Diaspora Jews, over and over again, that the Torah is meant to be kept in the Land of Israel, rather than in Brooklyn, Boca, or Beverly Hills?”

The answer is because I love them. When you love somebody, you want the best for them. Even if you saw a total stranger about to fall off a cliff, you’d scream out to warn him – all the more so regarding someone you love.

Now, there are those who say, “What do you mean ‘fall off a cliff?’ Jewish life is great here in Brooklyn and Boca!”

It may seem great to them now, but at the end of their wonderful 120 years in Brooklyn and Boca, when they get to the gates of the real Gan Eden, they are going to be surprised to learn that they have to return back to Earth and live life all over again until they finish their tikun. It won’t help them if they’ve learned the whole Talmud ten times over. They’ll have to go back for another reincarnation. Why? Because they, we, the whole Nation of Israel, were thrown into exile because we transgressed the Torah when we lived in the Holy Land long ago. So our rectification, atonement, and tikun is to return to the Land of Israel and keep the Torah, there, in the Land of Israel, the way it was meant to be kept. Souls are reincarnated over and over again until they get things straight. The lucky ones, that is. For those who aren’t giving the chance, when the Resurrection of the Dead comes around, their bodies will have to roll all the painful way through underground tunnels from their Diaspora graveyards to the Holy Land, because, as the Zohar explains, the Resurrection of the Dead only takes place in Israel.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, our Sages inform us that the roots for the Destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem were planted long before the Destruction itself, on the night the Spies in the Wilderness returned from their ill-fated mission and convinced the Jewish People not to journey on to live in the Promised Land. That night was the 9th of Av. Their rejection of the Land of Israel was the rotten foundation which brought about our later National Destruction as an independent Nation in our own Land.

Afterwards, stripped of our own Jewish Land and Israeli Nationhood, we became minorities in foreign lands. Up until the Destruction, the religion of the Jewish People was the Torah, a combination of Divine laws and commandments that covered our individuals lives and the life of the Jewish Nation, laws concerning the king, the Sanhedrin, the army of Israel, the Beit HaMikdash, national sacrifices, and the agricultural laws unique to The Holy Land. But when we were cast out of our Land, the Torah lost its earthy component, and our physical Nationhood ceased. Instead of being the Divine Constitution of our Nation, the Torah was reduced to moral teachings and a handful of individual commandments, like the bones of a large salmon at the end of the Shabbos morning Kiddush. That’s when “Judaism” started. Stripped of our own Land, and Israelite monarchy, our own Jewish Nationhood was lost. Exiled in other peoples’ countries, we were left with the few ritual precepts that we could still perform, like putting on tefillin, keeping kosher, learning Torah, and observing the Sabbath. Instead of being our National Constitution, the Torah was truncated into being just a religion without its many fundamental National, Political, and Geopgraphic obligations and demands.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Five: A Husband For Ruchel

Monday, July 16th, 2012

The next morning, Hevedke was waiting out on the road when Tevye and his Zionist entourage took up their journey. The two men stared at one another in silence.

“He has more guts than I thought,” Tevye brooded, giving the reins of the wagon a whip.

Hava was hoping that her father would give Hevedke a chance to prove his sincerity, but there was no sign of conciliation in her father’s angry expression. Hava herself was confused. Her heart was torn between a man she still loved, and the realization that the bond between them could never be sanctified as long as he belonged to the tormentors of her people. It wasn’t enough that Hevedke was ashamed of the evil decrees of the Czar. Unless he tore up all ties to his religion and his past, he would always remain one of them. Even if he were to fast a hundred days to prove his love for Hava, that would not be enough. Hava knew that he loved her. He had to prove he loved God by taking on the yoke of her people. Though Hava felt compassion and pity for Hevedke, she didn’t plead with her father to accept him into the fold. If she had listened to her parents in the first place, the whole painful situation would never have occurred. Now she wanted to make amends for the breach she had rent in the family. She wanted to be faithful to her father. She wanted to show her mother in Heaven that she was sorry for the pain she had caused. So sitting beside her father as their wagon drove down the road, Hava fought off her desire to gaze at the man she had lived with only a short time before. She stared forward at the future as if Hevedke did not exist, as if they had never crossed paths, trusting that one way or the other, God would restore peace to her torn, aching heart.

That evening they reached the Jewish shtetl of Branosk. The ultra-religious community was smaller than the Jewish community of Anatevka, but the sights, sounds, and smells were the same. The same wooden porches, tiled roofs, and shutters. The same sagging, weathered barns which stood erect by a miracle. The same aroma of horses, chickens, and soups. The same beards and black skullcaps on the men, and kerchiefs and shawls on the women. Even the fiery red sunset had been stolen from Anatevka and pasted over the Branosk forest.

The villagers rushed out of their houses when they heard that pioneers on the way to the Promised Land had arrived in the shtetl. Children and teenagers crowded around Tevye’s wagon. They all wore the caps and long curling peyes sidelocks which distinguished the Branosk community. Apparently, they had seen other Zionists, but the sight of Tevye, a bearded, God fearing Jew among them, was a novelty to be sure. Ben Zion jumped up on a porch and tried to deliver a spirited harangue, inviting the townspeople to throw off the yoke of the Russians and join them in rebuilding the ancient Jewish homeland, but he only drew heckles and a rotten tomato. Tevye and his daughters attracted a far larger crowd.

Where was he going, they wanted to know? To Eretz Yisrael, he answered, the Land of Israel. With the heretics, they asked? Tevye said that by accident they were traveling together, for safety along the way. But, Tevye assured them, his family was headed for a settlement more religious than the city of Vilna – in God’s Chosen Land. What could be better than that? For hadn’t they heard? The great Baron Rothschild, may he live several lifetimes, was building “frum,” God fearing communities throughout the Holy Land. Everyone who came got a villa and acres of orchards bursting with olives, pomegranates, fig trees, and dates.

People bombarded Tevye with questions. He answered with authority, as if he truly knew, as if he were the Baron’s agent, auctioning off parcels of land. When a question came his way for which he did not have an answer, he responded with a verse or two of Torah. One thing was clear – the expulsion which had hit Anatevka was sure to reach Branosk. Surely they had heard that the Czar’s Cossacks had been thundering throughout Russia, slaughtering thousands of Jews. Now was the time to flee for their lives. Now was the time to stop praying for God to take them to Zion, and let their feet do the talking instead.

Today’s Exodus

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

If you believe, as I do, that nothing is a coincidence, then today’s events will come as no surprise. On November 9th, 1938, the Germans launched a wave of anti-Semitic attacks against its Jews. It was not the first and certainly not the last, but it represented that critical moment when Hitler’s plan could no longer be denied.

Jewish businesses were attacked and set on fire; books were burned and worst of all, of course, was the murder of at least 91 Jews. And just nine years later, on November 9th, 1947, the Hagannah, the predecessors of today’s Israeli army, bought a ship called the President Warfield.

The President Warfield was refitted and renamed and given a purpose. The new name was the SS Exodus and the purpose was to carry 4,515 Jews, mostly survivors of the Holocaust to the land of Israel. Israel at that time was called Palestine and the British, hoping to maintain some sort of balance between a promise they made in 1917 and another promise they made later; a compromise between giving the land to the Jews and giving it to the Arabs.

Their response was the White Paper, a document and a practice that involved blocking entry to Jews. Perhaps the Hagannah knew that war was inevitable; that the Arabs would not accept a Jewish presence in Palestine. Perhaps they knew. But without question, what was clear in those days was that the Jews needed a home, the only home they had ever known – the land of Israel.

The SS Exodus set sail on July 11, 1947 – almost 65 years ago to the day. From the start, they knew they were on a collision course with the British army and new it was a battle that they could not win. The trip was to have taken 2 weeks. Several babies were born during the short voyage. One woman…Paula…and isn’t that another coincidence (Paula Abramowitz) died in childbirth, her infant son died a few weeks later in Haifa. Three people – a crew member and two passengers, were killed by the British when they fired on the ship.

The British refused to allow the passengers entry to Palestine; ultimately forcing the ship to France. The passengers refused to disembark in France, demanding they be taken back to Palestine. The British decided, in an irony that still stabs me in the heart, that the only place to take the Jewish passengers – was to Germany. Even a British diplomat was smart enough to realize the idiocy of this decision as he wrote to his superiors:

You will realize that an announcement of decision to send immigrants back to Germany will produce violent hostile outburst in the press. The pros and cons of keeping the Exodus immigrants in camps … there is one point that should be kept in mind. Our opponents in France, and I dare say in other countries, have made great play with the fact that these immigrants were being kept behind barbed wire, in concentration camps and guarded by Germans.

If we decide it is convenient not to keep them in camps any longer, I suggest that we should make some play that we are releasing them from all restraint of this kind in accordance with their wishes and that they were only put in such accommodation for the preliminary necessities of screening and maintenance.

The legacy of the Exodus, captured by Leon Uris in his book, changed many lives – including my own. The stand taken aboard the Exodus was a response to a world that didn’t even realize a question had been asked; it was a demand, to a world that had forgotten Jews had a right to demand.

Decades after the ship was sent back to Germany, I read the story and it changed my life. It sent me on a journey to learn about Israel, about the Holocaust, about my people’s history, and ultimately, about myself and my place in this world. It was the first time I learned that such a people existed – beaten and humiliated, starved and persecuted – these people crossed a continent and let nothing stop them to come and help build the land of their forefathers. These survivors came here to make their stand, to tell the world that there was simply no other place for a Jew, here, in Israel. Suddenly, I was not just a Jew, but I was a member of a people more brave, more resilient, more determined, more honorable than any other. The meaning of being a Jew changed when I was able to understand that our legacy comes as much from what we lost in the Holocaust as from what we built of ourselves after it.

From New Zealand to Israel

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai broadcasts from Caliber 3 range, a firearms training facility outside of Efrat. Hillel Ma’or, one of the instructors and assistants at the range, joins him. Together, they discuss Ma’or’s background and how he managed to come to both Judaism and Israel. Do not miss this inspiring and interesting segment!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Why A Jew?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Different people in my life have different reactions to me becoming a Jew.

The secularists and atheists in my life don’t know enough about Judaism to know how big of deal this is, so they tend to look at my journey as a mildly exotic lifestyle choice – like a phase Madonna might go through – before they focus on the real issue at hand: circumcision.

Hardcore evangelicals (whom I love dearly) tend to love Jews and Israel more than just about anyone (there are more Christian Zionists in America than there are Jews in the entire world). They view my pending conversion with a great deal of respect and admiration. The way one might view a friend who has decided to become a full-time priest or pastor.

The Jews in my life?  From them, I get one reaction only:

“Don’t you have enough trouble already?”

In my book, there is no such thing as “enough trouble.” Picking fights with the world’s bad people is my business, and business is good. But I am not becoming a Jew to bring more trouble into my life. If more trouble comes, I’ll face it. But I’m not a masochist.  I’m an ethical monotheist.

After my Jewish friends are done trying to talk me out of their tribe, they admit, “you’re pretty much a Jew already,” or “you’re more Jewish than most Jews I know.” They’re right in one sense. They’re talking about Jewish values and ethics. And, if ethics and values were all it took to become a Jew, I could put on a kippah, walk into the end-zone, and join God’s chosen people right now.

Jewish values and ethics are what brought me here. Flipping through Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values or his Code of Jewish Ethics, for me, is like a kid flipping through a friend’s baseball cards in a playground – “got it, got it, need it, got it” – with a whole lot more “got its” than “need its.”

The hard part for me is learning the Hebrew and rituals, mainly because I have a hard time memorizing. So that’s what I’m focusing on now. A friend of mine, who converted to Judaism, said that I’ll always feel like I’m struggling to catch up to the Jews who grew up immersed in Hebrew and rituals.

Which is fine by me. Because, even though I came to the Torah with more “got its” than “need its,” I still feel like a child who has a world of learning ahead of me. Like a wall that gets bigger the closer you get to it. Even should I live to 120 (God willing) I’ll never reach the end of this journey.

Which is a good reason to start this journey now.

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=58

IDF Witnesses in Uniform Travel to Poland to Reclaim Jewish History

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The IDF Spokesperson’s office is reporting that a delegation of some 60 IDF commanders arrived in Poland on Monday, April 16, as part of the Witnesses in Uniform program. Guided by educators from the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Museum, the officers started a four day study of pre-war Poland, the Holocaust, and contemporary Jewish Polish life.

“It is very, very difficult to talk about the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. It’s impossible to comprehend such a number. So the way to make it as comprehensible as possible is through the personal narrative,” said Cpt. Liat Carmi, who oversees the program.

This is the 169th Witnesses in Uniform group sent to Poland by the IDF, which plans to send a total of 16 groups just this year.

The trip does not focus only the horrors of the Holocaust. “We are talking about a thousand years of Jewish history in Poland,” said Cpt. Carmi.

The participants stayed in Warsaw and Krakow, and visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and other memorial sites. At some of the sites, the soldiers held military memorial services.

The participants concluded each day of the journey with a reflective discussion. Commanders explored issues such as how to incorporate the ethical lessons gleaned from the journey into their leadership as commanders, how to convey the history of the Holocaust to the soldiers under their command, and how the Holocaust influences their identities as IDF soldiers.

Livni Sets Kadima Primaries for March 27

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Kadima MK and Chairperson Tzipi Livni announced Wednesday that the party would hold primary elections on March 27, two days after the Knesset’s winter session ends.

Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz is expected to compete with Livni for leadership of the party, hoping to vindicate his narrow loss in the last primary vote. MKs Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit are also expected to enter the running for chairman.

Mofaz spoke of the primaries as a new beginning for Kadima: “She [Livni] is finished as head of the party . . . Today has begun the journey to replace Netanyahu. I am going to lead this journey.”

Calendar Of Events

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

WHAT: Rabbi Benjamin Blech will take you with him on an incredible journey as he introduces you to Vendyl Joes, the man who inspired Steven Spielberg’s hero in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Find out how this former Christian minister came to head an international organization of non-Jews known as B’nei Noach, committed to observing the seven universal laws. WHERE: Young Israel of Bal Harbour, 9592 Harding Avenue (2nd floor) – parking behind building. WHEN: January 4 at 8 p.m. CONTACT: Phone – 305-866-0203 or e-mail – yibh@atlanticbb.net.

 

WHAT: Meet the author series: Ernest Paul will be speaking about his books, “Ernest Triumphant!” and “Sara Triumphant!” Paul’s journey took him from a bucolic village in Czechoslovakia through the chaos and horror of World War II to the ordeals facing the fledging state of Israel and eventually to the shores of opportunity in North and South America.
WHERE: Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, 2031 Harrison St., Hollywood.
WHEN: Thursday, January 26 at 2:30 p.m.
COST: General admission, $5 per person. Members, free.
Students and education professionals (with school/university ID), free of charge.
CONTACT: To RSVP or for information about becoming a member, call 954-929-5690 (ext. 378) or e-mail librarian@hdec.org.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/south-florida/calendar-of-events-3/2011/12/29/

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