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August 26, 2016 / 22 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘judaism’

Judaism in the Twilight Zone

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Remember the old TV show, the “Twilight Zone?” With Rod Serling? Fantastic, wasn’t it? If Rod had done a show on the Diaspora, here’s how he might have begun:

“This is Jeremy Cohen. He’s is celebrating the Passover Seder with his family in New York just as he has every year of his life. He thinks he is a free man, because he doesn’t know that he is lost in a foreign dimension, an unwitting captive in the Diaspora, otherwise known as the Twilight Zone.”

In our last few articles, we have tried to explain, in different ways, why a Jew can only be considered free when he or she lives in the Land of Israel. As the Seder night approaches, we will present another important understanding which we learn from the Ramban on this week’s Torah portion, Achre Mot.

The Ramban is called the “Father of Israel” because of his greatness in Torah. His Commentary on the Torah is universally accepted and can be found in every yeshiva in the world.

Toward the end of the Torah portion, we learn that the Land of Israel vomits out certain types of sinners. The Ramban explains this unique holiness of the Land of Israel by revealing that when Hashem created the world, and distributed the different lands to different peoples, he placed Angels, or Celestial Ministers, over the gentile nations to rule over their affairs. The different characteristics of these angels result in the differing cultures and languages and customs of the peoples. The Ramban writes:

“Now outside the Land of Israel, though every place belongs to Hashem’s Glorious Name, its purity is not perfect because of the celestial servants that hold sway there, and the gentiles go astray after these celestial agents to worship them. This is the reason that Hashem is known as the G-d of gods.”

Our Sages teach us that that the celestial minister who ruled over the land of Egypt was Esav. Interestingly, Esav is the angel who rules over America as well.

Only one land has no celestial minister appointed over it – the Land of Israel, which G-d rules over alone. Therefore moral transgression (especially sexual transgression) is much more stringent in the Land of Israel than other lands, where the celestial ministers of the gentiles couldn’t care less. Only the Holy Land vomits out sinners who pollute the Land through their deeds (Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, Achre Mot, 18:25).

It is Hashem’s intention that His Chosen People live in His Chosen Land, where He rules over Israel alone without any intermediary angel. The Ramban states:

“This is the meaning of the saying of the Rabbis of the Talmud: ‘Whoever lives outside the Land of Israel is as if he has no G-d’ (Ketubot 110B), for it is said, ‘I am the Eternal, your G-d, Who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d’ (Devarim, 25:38).  When you are in the land of Canaan, I am your G-d. When you are not in the land of Canaan, I am not your G-d (Ramban, loc cited.)

Now, of course, G-d is everywhere, but because he has appointed angels to rule over other lands, it is as if a Jew who lives in the Diaspora has no G-d. All of his prayers and Torah learning go up to the gentile angel who presides over that land, giving strength to that foreign nation. This is why wherever Jews lived in great numbers, the countries they lived in were superpowers. And this is why when the Jews left those countries, like Spain and Russia, their great empires collapsed.

This is what makes the Diaspora a “Twilight Zone.” The Jew thinks he is worshipping Hashem and keeping the Torah as it is meant to be kept, but this isn’t exactly the case. Thus, our Sages have taught that whoever lives in the Diaspora is like one who serves foreign gods (Ketubot 110B) because of the angels that rule there. Furthermore, the Rabbis of the Talmud said: “In all times a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are pagans, and not live in the Diaspora, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are Jews, for everyone who dwells in Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has a G-d, and everyone who dwells outside of the Land is like someone who has no G-d” (Ibid).

The Ramban explains: “Hashem has set us apart from the nations over which He has appointed heavenly princes and other celestial powers by giving us the Land of Israel so He, blessed be He, will be our G-d.”

Rashi also makes this point clear. On the verse, “I am the L-rd, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d” (Vayikra, 25:38), Rashi explains the meaning of “to be your G-d,” stating: “For whoever resides in the Land of Israel, I am a G-d to him; and whoever leaves it is like one who serves idols.”

Thus, we can see in this deep Torah understanding of our Sages that a Jew is not free to serve Hashem while enveloped in the foreign pollution and static that exists in the Diaspora due to the foreign celestial ministers who Hashem has appointed to rule over the lands of the gentiles.

The Ramban goes on to explain why our Twilight Zone character, Jeremy Cohen, isn’t really performing the mitzvah of Seder Night as it is supposed to be performed when he eats his matzah in Palm Springs or on a cruise boat in the Caribbean. This is because the mitzvot are meant to be performed in the Land of Israel, and not in the Diaspora, where they are like a practice rehearsal until we return to Israel. The Ramban explains that a Jew is to keep the commandments even when Hashem banishes the Jewish People from the Land of Israel so that when we return the commandments will not be novelties to us” (Ramban, loc cited. Also, Sifre, Torah portion Ekev, 43. And, Sifre, Torah portion Re’eh, 80).

Whether you call the Diaspora the “Twilight Zone” or the “Matrix,” the idea is the same. You might think that it’s the real thing, but it isn’t. You might think it’s the right place to be, but it isn’t. You might think you are leading a full Jewish life, but you’re not. You may think you are free, but you are still in Egypt. As the “Twilight Zone” theme song goes, “Dee dee, dee dee, dee dee, dee dee, dee dee….”

Joseph Cohen may be content with eating his matzah in America, but he’s a prisoner of the Twilight Zone.

Tzvi Fishman

God as Reality in our Lives [audio]

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Do you ever feel a disconnect between the way you think about God and the way that you feel God in your life? That may be because you have to change the way you think about God to truly experience how God is a part of every aspect of life. Join Rabbi David Aaron on Soul Talk as he gives us a life changing paradigm shift as to how we understand and relate to God.

 

For more amazing programming, visit www.IsraelNewsTalkRadio.com

Israel News Talk Radio

Jordan Adds to Western Wall Mixed-Gender Prayer Controversy

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

Jordan is demanding that Israel “return jurisdiction” over part of the Western Wall to the Islamic Waqf controlled by Amman.

The demand followed the decision by the Israeli government last week to set aside the southernmost section of the Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch, as a place for mixed-gender prayer. Jordan refers to the same place as the “Umayyad Palaces.”

Jordan contends that the decision violates the jurisdiction of the Waqf Islamic Authority over Jerusalem’s holy places, an agreement made between the two countries in 1967.

On Saturday, Jordanian Minister of Communications and Media Affairs Muhammad Momani “urged Israel not to meddle with the Umayyad Palaces area and to ensure its return under the jurisdiction of the Jordanian Jerusalem Waqf Department, which is the entity responsible for administering and safeguarding the site,” the Jordan news agency Petra reported in the Jordan Times.

“Israeli occupation forces have recently settled internal differences among followers of different Jewish sects at the expense of the area of the Umayyad Palaces,” Petra said.

“Israeli occupation forces had decided to expand a platform to allow more Jewish worshippers into the area. The violation against the Umayyad Palaces is the latest in a long series of assaults and violations against the site. Occupation forces have carried out several excavation works there, destroying Arab and Islamic heritage,” Petra added on behalf of Jordan’s government.

Israel’s government approved plans last week to expand the Western Wall plaza in order to accommodate the increasing demands for non-Orthodox prayer at the site. A small wooden platform at Robinson’s Arch has already been set up for mixed-gender prayer.

Jordan’s lamentation over Israeli “occupation” is a bit spurious, given the Hashemite tenure itself as custodian over parts of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria lasted only from 1948 to 1967 – a total of 31 years.

Jerusalem has long since been reunited and whole for a period much longer than that: June 2017 will mark half a century since the restoration of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and elsewhere in Jerusalem and the Land to the Jewish State of Israel.

However, to be fair, the dismay of the Hashemite Kingdom over the compromise over non-Orthodox prayer allowed by the government is also reflected among some Muslims in Israel and ironically is shared with some observant Jews locally and globally as well.

Mixed-gender prayer has never been allowed at the Western Wall – in fact, historically it was not allowed in either Holy Temple. In Torah law, women are not counted among a minyan (quorum) of men.

Not that this grants validity to the Jordanian claim of authority and hopes to win Waqf control of the site, which is more of a simple attempt at another political territory grab.

The Umayyad Palaces were two buildings which archaeologists say were built by the Umayyads who ruled for a period of 100 years in the late seventh century. They were destroyed in an earthquake and lay buried until they were unearthed by Israeli archaeologists in a 1970s excavation, creating a public history park to educate all.

The Western Wall is part of Judaism’s most sacred site on the planet, the Temple Mount, located alongside. The site is also the third holiest in Islam. The Wall is part of the outer retaining wall of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, its sole material remnant that has survived throughout the centuries. In Islam, it is believed that the prophet Mohammed rose up to Heaven on his mighty steed el-Buraq from a site near the Western Wall.

In Judaism, it is believed that somewhere on the grounds of the Temple Mount lies the site of the “Holy of Holies” of the two Holy Temples of Jerusalem – the inner sanctum where the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) communed with G-d Himself during sacrifices and services. No one other than the Kohen Gadol was ever allowed to enter this place, and to this day countless rabbis forbid Jews to tread upon the Temple Mount grounds for fear of erroneously entering this area.

The Israeli government does not allow Jews to pray within the Temple Mount in accordance with a status quo agreement with the Jordanian Waqf. Within the Temple Mount grounds are built the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims are allowed to pray.

Hana Levi Julian

Millions of Jews Inciting Muslims by Praying for Rebuilding Holy Temple

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

This is a blog post by Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

From the Muslim point of view, millions of Jews are inciting Mohammed’s followers by praying every day that the Holy Temple be rebuilt.

Arab media have made it a daily ritual, almost a prayer, to charge that the Israeli government and Jews visiting the Temple Mount are really plotting to rebuild the destroyed Temple.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has taken a tough stand against Jews who even try to utter a prayer on the Temple Mount, which boils the blood of Muslims who respond with violence, which nevertheless their clerics preach from Temple Mount mosques.

Perhaps the Obama administration is not aware of it, but millions of Jews, including those from the Conservative stream of Judaism, pray every day for rebuilding the Temple.

Arab media occasionally refer to the prayers as proof of the “plot” to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque by archaeological excavations that supposedly are carried out in order to weaken the mosque’s foundations and cause the mosque to collapse, if radical Islamic sacrilege don’t beat them to the punch and bring down the house on themselves

The next step, according to the Arab paranoia, is a construction crew entering and building the Third Temple.

Neither the Palestinian Authority nor Jordan, which is the formal “custodian” of the Temple Mount, has stated that worldwide Jewish prayers are incitement, but it may be just a matter of time.

American-Israeli journalist Maayan Jaffe wrote this week for JNS:

[Is] the current Palestinian uprising is solely political?

Not so, says Adnan Abu Amer, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the National University for Open Education. From his perspective, some worrying trends indicate, ‘we are regressing into a religious war….

‘We are seeing a politicization of religious values – people using religion for political purposes. This is dangerous.’

She also quoted Ofer Zalzberg, senior analyst with the Middle East Program of the International Crisis Group, as noting that “one-fifth of the Likud membership is national religious” and that Jews following “a Messianic, Temple-focused Judaism” believe they are fighting a “holy war.”

Zalzberg stated, “On both sides, eschatological beliefs are being misunderstood, abused and misused” and express concerns about the links between religious and violence.”

He told Jaffe:

What is the link between religion and violence? One is about things that because of your religious beliefs you want or even need them and therefore you would fight for them, use violence, to secure them….

The other is that you have needs or goals that are in fact not driven by religion, but for different reasons, religious leaders use religious discourse to grant them legitimacy. This is part of the dynamics we are seeing in the current escalation of the conflict.

Now that the Israeli government has more or less crushed the idea of Jews praying on the Temple Mount, radical Islamic leaders, whose existence is dependent on violence, may have to turn to universal Jewish prayer to drive their followers into a frenzy.

The traditional Jewish  prayers in the morning service are preceded by reciting Biblical and Talmudic passages about sacrifices, and conclude with the prayer that may it be God’s will that “the Temple should be built speedily in our days.”

If that is not enough to rankle radical Muslims, Jews recite three times a day in the silent “Amidah” prayer:

Return in mercy to Jerusalem Your city and dwell therein as You have promised; speedily establish therein the throne of David Your servant, and rebuild it, soon in our days, as an everlasting edifice. Blessed are You L-rd, who rebuilds Jerusalem…..

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Bennett Worried about Jews – the Ones in the Diaspora

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Assimilation is murdering Judaism, except in Israel.

Naftali Bennett told Jewish legislators from around the world this week that he is more worried about Jews in the Diaspora than those in Israel, the European Jewish Press (EJP) reported.

Speaking at the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP), the Education Minister and chairman of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party said that streams of Judaism must be accepted.

However, he then opened a can of worms by stating, “A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.”

The answer to “who is a Jew” vastly varies and is at the heart of disputes between Orthodox Judaism and the Reform and Conservatives streams.

EJP quoted Bennett as telling the legislators visiting Israel:

I’m not worried about Israel. I’m worried about Diaspora Jews. That’s what keeps me up at night.

Assimilation is as big a loss to the Jewish people as the expulsion of the 10 tribes.

The chairman of the .ICIP is New York Congressman Eliot Engel and includes former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, French MP Meyer Habib, as well as legislators from Chile, Brazil, Belgium, Romania, Hungary and Ukraine.

Also addressing the conference was Michael Oren, former Ambassador to the United States and now a Knesset Member in the Kulanu party.

EJP reported that he said that labeling products from Judea and Samaria that they are made in the “occupied territories” is “anti-Semitic.”

Oren explained:

There are hundreds of territorial disputes in the world. Only Israeli products are being labeled.

Opposition leader Yitzchak Herzog repeated his refrain that “we need to separate from the Palestinians” and followed with the usual non-solutions.

Instead, he declared, “It has to be resolved – but right now, if you look at the mood of the people, it’s at its worst ever… You can’t disregard the notion of the two-state solution. If that’s over, you’ll be moving to the one-state solution whether you like it or not… the reality is impossible… you can’t govern another people.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Elton John’s Concert in Israel Set for Lag B’Omer

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

British rock singer Sir Elton John’s 2016 concert in Israel, reported by The JewishPress.com two weeks here by The JewishPress.com will be staged in Tel Aviv on May 26, which is Lag’Omer.

The holiday marks the anniversary of death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, known as the Rashbi, a student of Rabbi Akiva. Lag B’Omer traditionally is the day on which he revealed deep mystical secrets of Kabbalah as written in the Zohar.

The concert in Yarkon Park is part of the 68-year-old singer’s Wonderful Crazy Night Tour 2016

Shuki Weiss, the producer of the concert, said. “I’m happy that we have the honor to present in Israel one of the biggest artists in the world will give all of us a few hours of a different reality.”

“Different” is an understatement on Lab B’Omer, noted most prominently with the burning of bonfires the evening before.

The Rashbi and his son Rabbi Eliezer, according to the Talmud, hid in a cave from the Romans for 12 years.

The Talmudic Shabbat tractate, page 33, relates:

Elijah came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed, ‘Who will inform the son of Yochai that the emperor is dead and his decree annulled?’ So they emerged.

Seeing a man plowing and sowing, they exclaimed, ‘They forsake life eternal and engage in life temporal!’ Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up.

Thereupon a Heavenly Echo came forth and cried out, ‘Have you emerged to destroy My world: Return to your cave!’

After another year in the cave, Rashbi and his son Rabbi Eliezer emerged again:

On the eve of the Shabbat before sunset they saw an old man holding two bundles of myrtle and running at twilight. ‘What are these for?’ they asked him. “They are in honor of the Shabbat, he replied.

‘But one should suffice you. [He responded] ‘One is for Remember and one for Observe’ [referring to the two different wordings in the Ten Commandments].

Said [Rashbi] to his son, ‘See how precious are the commandments to Israel.’

Maybe Sir Elton will light a bonfire on stage in memory of Rashbi.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

White House: Hanukkah Lights Flicker for Saving Syrian Refuges

Monday, December 7th, 2015

The Obama administration has followed up on exploiting Passover for its political agenda by coming out with a new interpretation of Hanukkah, whose lights supposedly are to enlighten Jews to back the President’s program to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said at the annual lighting of the National Hanukkah Menorah:

So this is a joyous occasion, and yet as we heard earlier we are mindful that even as we gather here tonight, that while the light of freedom burns brightly for us and for our generation, it flickers for others.

Refugees fleeing religious intolerance and oppression. People targeted for their faith, people whose faith is perverted by others.

He suddenly dropped the Jewish angle and switched to speaking for all Americans, saying:

We are Americans, and as Americans we do not turn our backs on those who seek sanctuary. Nor do we stay quiet in the face of bigotry or intolerance. We stand up for those persecuted around the world.

McDonough then switched back to express his ignorance of Judaism and continued:

We remember this season that we too were once strangers, that our inheritance gives an obligation to remain true to our values, that as Jewish tradition teaches, by saving one life, we save the world.

He seems to be getting Passover, when Jews recall being “strangers in a strange land,” with Hanukkah, the celebration of twin miracles of the victory of a small number of Jews over Greek invaders of Jerusalem and of a one-day’s supply of pure olive oil burning for eight days after the holy Menorah was relit.

It is no wonder he got confused because Passover also has been used by President Barack Obama to promote his political agenda. This past year, as in previous years, the President acted as a would-be Torah sage to declare that Jews must drive into their minds that Arabs deserve their freedom just like Jews won their freedom with the help of God.

He meant freedom for Arabs in Judea and Samaria, where their main lack of freedom is to kill Jews at will, and not in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and other Muslim countries where freedom is a strange word in a strange land.

Chabad Rabbi Levi Shemtov expressed a different political interpretation on whose lack of freedom should be remembered.

After declaring his sorrow for the victims of the terror attack in San Bernardino, he said:

They, their families, their loved ones that are mourning are with us in our prayers and in our celebration today. So are the families of all those innocent souls in Paris. … We must remember them as we celebrate our freedom.
Because even though we and France are two free countries, freedom is not free, and when it is disrupted, we must pause and remember those who give their lives in that cause.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/white-house-hanukkah-lights-flicker-for-saving-syrian-refuges/2015/12/07/

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