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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘judaism’

War Diary: A Letter to My California Cousins

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write.

I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza.

No matter what is reported in the United States about the war, the pictures inevitably are those of bloodied Gaza children who were killed by IDF forces today.

For the first time in the past two decades of conflicts with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah, Israel has found itself in a live or die situation in which Hamas, like Hezbollah eight years ago, uses civilians as human shields, a war crime.

Any other country would have finished this war in a day by carpet bombing terror-infested areas, no matter the cost of lives. A couple of thousands of innocent people would have been killed, Israel would be condemned left and right, but by sheer might, the IDF would have been able to continue to take over the rest of Gaza. The Arabs there would know they would meet the same fate as the first 2,000 if they cooperated with Hamas and allowed themselves to be exploited.

Unlike many others, I am happy the world judges Israel by the double standard because in order to be a Light Unto Nations, we really have to stick to our own standard.

That is why the IDF did not carpet bomb Gaza today. It also cannot continue to allow Hamas to threaten our existence by committing the war crime of using civilians as human shields. Those civilians killed today were innocent victims. I will not get into the argument if they were victims of the IDF and Hamas. I know the answer, and everyone can come up with his own conclusion.

I will say that whatever news you read, it is not complete.

Back in 1981 or 1982, I was a senior copy editor for one of Canada’s largest newspapers. That is a fancy title for five people who sit at a desk, rip off wire copy and decide what you will read and what you will not read.

At that time, I was totally out of touch with family. I had rejected Judaism for journalism and certainly had no connection with Israel. I never did. I never was a Zionist. I refused to look at pictures from Israel when my parents, may their memory be for a blessing, came back from their first trip here in 1960. My reason was that the country is not a religious state. At that time, at the age of 16, I was very, very observant.

So with that background, with no knowledge of Israel and not a care about the country, I read the wire copy that reported about the war in Lebanon. Every day, I read about the IDF “invading” and bombing Lebanon, and somewhere later in the articles, I read that Hezbollah had fired rockets on the Galilee.

This went on day after day. I read between the lines and told myself that something did not make sense. That is when I gave up journalism and set in motion my eventual return to Judaism. The spark of being a Jew never is extinguished.

I walked into the office one day and announced I was quitting the highest paying job I ever had and ever will have in my life. I didn’t even think of explaining why. No one would have understood.

There is in inherent bias in foreign media that Israel is wrong. “Objective” news reports are reported with the assumption that something is not right with Israel. That is true in the spiritual sense. Israel still is not what people want it to be.

Chabad Gives New Tefillin to Wounded Soldiers Who Lost Them in Battle

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Wounded IDF soldiers whose tefillin were destroyed in clashes with Hamas received a pleasant surprise in the hospital on Wednesday with a brand new set presented by Young Chabad, the Kikar Shabbat website reported.

Several troops told visitors in the hospital that they were without their tefillin, and the Lubavitch House in Paris responded quickly to help fulfill a request to replace them.

Members of Young Chabad visited the soldiers the same day with a visit and a gift of new tefillin.

One woman from Pisgat Ze’ev, in northern Jerusalem, said that her son, who suffered injuries that required the amputation of one leg, learned in Chabad while in Morocco.

“This is the most important gift for my son,” she said.

Kidnapping Saga: Lapid Dusts Off His Siddur to Pray

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Secular Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid’s turning to prayer for the safe return of three teenagers kidnapped by Palestinian Authority terrorists symbolizes the country’s ability to plug the dikes against surrender to the frustration that has followed the initial reaction of anger to the abductions.

Every media outlet in the country has rightfully tried to keep the crisis in the headlines, but the truth is that for all the efforts to report something new, the bottom line is “nada.”

Zilch. Zero.

If the security forces know something, they aren’t saying or may even be lying to throw the terrorists off course. Hanging on to every word to interpret, analyze and dissect, journalists have covered every possibility and every angle possible,  and the IDF has carried out thousands of searches for the terrorists and their captives, Gilad Sha’ar, Naftali Frankel and Eyah Yifrach.

Lapid, during a visit to the family of Sha’ar, told Gilad’s mother, “I haven’t prayed for six years. Since the bar mitzvah of my son I haven’t been in a synagogue. When the story of your sons broke, I looked through the entire house searching for my grandfather’s siddur. I sat and prayed.”

It would be easy – and mean – to ridicule Lapid, whose who has made a religion out of spewing venom against observant Jews, especially Haredim.

Mocking him so would simply be another way of venting frustration, and we have already seen this week enough cracks in the unity that Israelis have displayed in their prayers for the kidnap victims and the trust that the IDF will find them alive and will capture the terrorists, dead or alive.

Naftalii Frankel’s mother Racheli said this week, “I believe wholeheartedly that they will return, but whatever happens, remember God does not work for us. Do not forget, even if God forbid, something happens, I believe they will come back but if not, please be united. Be united.”

Not everyone was listening.

David Ha’Ivri, who has done wonders in the Shomron Regional Council to bring journalists like Lapid as well as foreign media and political leaders to see for themselves that Jews are not oppressors and that settlers are not terrorists, vented his anger and frustration on the Arutz Sheva website Thursday and blamed the Israeli security forces for not preventing the kidnapping.

And Rabbi Dov Lior of Hebron-Kiryat Arba, one of the leading national religious rabbis, blamed the kidnappings on the failure of Israelis to do more mitzvot.

Between Ha’Ivri, Rabbi Lior and Lapid, guess which one gets the thumbs up for saying the right thing at the right time?

As every day passes without real news, the danger grows that frustration will turn to hopelessness.

Pundits already are warning that the army’s operating against the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria could have repercussions as we get closer to next week’s beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Security forces have arrested more than 300 terror suspects and killed at least one, while three soldiers have suffered light injuries.

Rabbi Berel Wein, in comments on the Jewish view of frustration., has written,  “Usually, frustration leads to feelings of anger and anger leads to bitterness of spirit and even to violence….

“’Blowing off steam’ is an understandable reaction to moments of extreme frustration. Yet the Torah and Jewish tradition militates strongly against such expressions of anger in almost all circumstances of life. Maimonides, who advocates moderation and a middle of the road approach regarding all human behavior traits, nevertheless advocates extremism in avoiding anger.

“The Talmud is replete with statements denigrating anger as a response to the frustrations of life. Anger is a statement that there is no God present in the world. Anger by its very presence is heresy and a denial of faith.”

Easier said than done, but Lapid, of all people, has shown the country how to do it.

Ten Questions on Evolution and Judaism

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

“Heresy!” An uproar erupted in parts of Israel yesterday when the Education Ministry announced that evolution will be taught to seventh through ninth grade pupils across the state education system, including in national-religious schools. Evolution is feared by many as being heretical. But is this really the case?

Here are ten questions about evolution and Judaism, along with brief answers. This does not substitute for the detailed discussion that this topic requires; it is merely intended as an introduction.

1) Evolution is alleged to have taken place over millions of years. But doesn’t the Torah teach that the universe was created just a few thousand years ago?

There is a strong (albeit not universal) tradition in Judaism that “the account of creation is not all to be taken literally,” to quote Maimonides. Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman (1843-1921), a member of Agudath Israel’s Council of Torah Sages, suggested that the Six Days of Creation were lengthy eras rather than 24-hour periods. Maimonides himself, as the commentaries on the Guide to the Perplexed reveal, was of the view that the Six Days represent a conceptual rather than historical account of creation.

2) Why should schools accommodate evolution? Isn’t it just a theory, not a fact?

“Evolution” is a confusing term, because it covers two very different concepts. One is common ancestry, the concept that all animal life arose from a common ancestor – simple organisms gave rise to fish, fish to amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to birds and mammals (without getting into how that could have happened). This is supported by a wealth of converging evidence along with testable predictions. Common ancestry is considered by all scientists (except certain deeply religious ones) to be as well-established as many other historical facts, and is thus often referred to as “the fact of evolution.” It is of immense benefit in understanding the natural world – for example, it tells us why whales and bats share anatomical similarities with mammals, despite their superficial resemblance to fish and birds.

The second and very different aspect of evolution is the mechanism via which one species changes into another. This is called the “theory” of evolution. It is, however, important to bear in mind that the word “theory” has a very different meaning in science than in everyday conversational English. It does not refer to wild speculation, but rather to an explanatory mechanism. Most, though not all, biologists believe that random mutations, coupled with natural selection, broadly suffice to explain this mechanism. The issue is, however, of zero religious significance, as we shall explain in the answer to the next question.

3) How can we accept scientific explanations for how animal life came about? It was God who made everything!

We have a science of meteorology, but that does not stop us from saying that God “makes the wind blow and the rain fall.” We have a science of medicine, but this does not stop us from saying that God “heals the sick.” We have documented history of the process involved in winning the ’67 war, but this does not stop us from talking about God’s miraculous hand. God can work through meteorology, through medicine, through history, and through developmental biology. This is why it makes no difference if the neo-Darwinian explanation of the mechanism for evolution is true or not.

4) Doesn’t the Torah say that animals and man were created from the ground, not from earlier creatures?

Indeed it does. But what does that mean? The blessing recited over bread is “Blessed are You… Who brings bread out of the ground.” But what actually happens is that God created wheat, which man sows, nature grows, and man transforms into bread. Yet the blessing simplifies this in describing God as bringing bread out of the ground. By the same token, the description of God bringing animal life out of the ground can refer to His creating the raw material of nature and the natural processes that lead to the formation of animal life.

Torah Book Fetches Record $3.87 Million at Paris Auction

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

A 15th century printed book of the Torah fetched a record $3.87 million at an auction in Paris.

Three buyers attempted to outbid each other over the telephone during the sale which the Christie’s auction house organized on April 30, the news website actualitte.com reported Thursday.

Christie’s listed the buyer as “anonymous” but said the sale broke two records. According to Christie’s, the item was the world’s most expensive Hebrew-language book and fetched a higher price than any printed book known to ever have been sold in France.

The book was printed in Hebrew in Bologna in January 1482, according to Christie’s. “The volume represents the very first appearance in print of all five books of the Pentateuch as well as the first to which vocalization and cantillation marks have been added,” according to the Christie’s website.

Prior to the auction, Christie’s estimated the item’s worth at up to 1.5 million euros, or $2.08 million.

The back of the copy bears the signature of three 16th and 17th century censors, testifying to its presence in an Italian library until at least the mid-17th century, according to Christie’s.

“Over the last hundred years only two copies of this rare edition have come to auction: the first in 1970, printed on vellum and complete, the second in 1998, printed on paper and missing eight pages,” Christie’s added in a news release before the sale.

The copy sold Wednesday was printed on vellum and is complete, apart from the rear free-end paper, and is “in exceptionally fresh condition,” the auction house said.

In 2012, the Paris office of Christie’s sold a 15th century mahzor, or Jewish holiday prayer book, for $2.41 million. It was created in Florence, Italy and was richly embellished with intricate designs.

Egged Buses Reportedly Stop Counting the Omer

Monday, April 28th, 2014

The “Counting of the Omer, the custom practiced for 49 days between Passover and Shavout, may have ended after less than two weeks on Israeli Egged buses after complaints by passengers, including one who carries an anti-Haredi axe.

Many buses have carried digital signs showing passengers the correct day of the counting of the Omer, a measure of grain.

That sounds like a cute idea that shouldn’t be considered “religious coercion,” no more than it is “secular coercion” with advertising of products with scantily-clad women on posters on buses.

The digital signs that not only show the location of the next bus stop but also display  the correct day for Counting the Omer, which was considered “irrelevant information” by passenger Idan Yosef, who posted his complaint on a Hebrew news website.

He claimed that information on the buses must be for all passengers and not just those who count the Omer. Egged reportedly has stopped reporting the Counting of the Omer, but the company has not confirmed or denied the report.

Yosef’s complaint included a nasty swipe at Haredim who do not recognize Independence Day. He wrote that it is all right if a digital sign states “Happy Holiday” on Yom HaAtzmaut on buses that travel through Haredi neighborhoods.

That kind of “coercion” is okay.

In other words, separation of synagogue and state is valid so long as it can be manipulated for one’s personal agenda.

ADL Warns Missionary Group is Using Holocaust – Again – to Lure Jews

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is warning that the Jews for Jesus missionary group is using Holocaust imagery to lure Jews away from their faith.

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman issued a statement Thursday condemning a new video posted to YouTube by the missionaries as a “cynical abuse of the Holocause for proselytizing.”

The video shows an image of Jesus carrying a cross among the Jews, and being selected for the gas chambers by a Nazi officer at the gates of the Auschwitz death camp. The tag line of the video is, “That Jew died for you.”

Mr. Foxman, who called the video an “outrage,” said, “It is deeply offensive not only to Jews who lost family members in the Holocaust but also to Christians who would not want to see images of Jesus used for propaganda or shock value.

“Jews for Jesus has taken their abuse of Holocaust imagery to a new low… [it is] an outrageous cheapening of the tragedy of the six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust for the purpose of gaining attention to the Jews for Jesus missionary cause, which is to convert Jews to the belief that Jesus is their messiah.”

There is a direct contradiction between the two.

In Judaism, the messiah has not yet arrived. Jesus is perceived in the Jewish faith as having lived as a human being who did not meet the qualifications to be the messiah, either in his time or in future years. Jews do not believe that Jesus bears any divine attributes whatsoever.

In Christianity, of course, the exact opposite is true. Jesus is perceived as having lived as a man with divine attributes, and as being the messiah who lived and was “resurrected to live again.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/adl-warns-missionary-group-is-using-holocaust-again-to-lure-jews/2014/04/24/

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