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Posts Tagged ‘Kabbalat Shabbat’

Air Raid Sirens Sound In Jerusalem

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

For probably the first time since the Yom Kippur War nearly 40 years ago, air raid sirens sounded this week in Jerusalem and environs.

The sounding of the sirens occurred about two minutes after sundown on Friday, such that Sabbath-observers had no direct way of ascertaining where, what, how many, or who, if anyone, was hurt.

Nor did any of the hundreds of thousands of people who heard the sirens have any immediate idea that they were not the only ones to be affected. That is, the residents of Gush Etzion, 20 miles south of the capital, did not know that similar sirens were warning the residents of Jerusalem, who in turn were unaware that people in Beit El and Psagot, another 15 miles to the north, were also running toward their protected areas at that very moment.

And certainly those in Telz Stone, a few miles west of Jerusalem, could not imagine that they were not alone in their sudden panic. In short, myriads of citizens over a wide swathe of Israel were simultaneously rushing to find shelter while asking themselves, “Are the Hamas missiles actually reaching us, too? Might one of them actually land next door – or even closer?”

Missiles were not the only things flying that day. The atmosphere very quickly, and throughout the Sabbath, filled with rumors of all types: A rocket hit Mevaseret, just west of the capital; Two Arabs killed in Abu Ghosh, adjacent to Telz Stone; Jerusalem is under fire.

Only after Shabbat did everyone find out with certainty what had happened: Jerusalem was not under fire. Rather, one rocket had been fired toward eastern Gush Etzion, about seven miles south of Yerushalayim and five miles east of Efrat; no one was hurt – not there, or in Jerusalem, or Abu Ghosh, or anywhere else in the vicinity. It was, however, probably the farthest a Hamas rocket had ever reached.

Many, like Jerusalem Deputy Mayor David Hadari, thought at first that the siren had sounded in error. “We were in the middle of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers when we heard it,” he said, “and we thought it was just a mistake. But we soon caught ourselves and realized this was serious. We went down to the lower floor and continued davening there.”

In other shuls, the worshipers had no place to run to, so they ducked under their shtenders and benches, or stood against inside walls, or possibly did nothing. Residents of the greater Jerusalem area truly don’t have much experience in dodging missiles. As one social networker put it, “Even Saddam Hussein didn’t aim Scuds at Jerusalem.”

Hamas actually bragged that it had fired three missiles at Jerusalem, including one at the Knesset – just one example not only of wishful thinking on its part, but outright lying. It also reported, in its attempt to raise the spirits of the demoralized Gaza populace, that it had shot down an Israeli F-16 jet fighter and a reconnaissance aircraft, that Israel had closed Ben Gurion International Airport, and that electricity had been knocked out in southern Tel Aviv.

Lying and deception, of course, are the least of Hamas’s crimes. In addition to premeditated missile and other attacks on innocent Israelis over the past 13 years, Hamas violates international law by endangering its own civilians. In fact, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) cited Hamas for storing “explosive devices” in “civilian-populated areas,” thus “threaten[ing] the lives of Palestinian civilians and violat[ing] international humanitarian law.” Though Israel holds its fire when it finds civilians in the way of legitimate military targets, some civilian deaths are unavoidable – especially when, as often happens, Hamas purposely brings women and children to locations Israel is expected to target.

Israel, for its part, had, as of Monday, bombed over 1,100 Hamas targets, including Hamas television and radio offices. The IDF took over Hamas radio broadcasts and warned the Gaza citizenry to stay “far away from Hamas men, as the IDF prepares to begin the second stage of the offensive.”

Questions abound: If Hamas is interested in hitting Jerusalem, why has there been only one such attempt? Does Hamas care if any of the many Arab villages nearby suffer the hit instead? Does Hamas really want to hit the Knesset – or possibly the Temple Mount?

Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael: A Plea For Prayer

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Minutes after candle-lighting, sirens rang out in Jerusalem, disturbing the peace and tranquility ushered in by Shabbat. Earlier that day, my wife and I assured our parents that we are far from the rockets in our home in Har Nof, a quiet suburb nestled in the Jerusalem Forest.

But in the middle of Kabbalat Shabbat I found myself taking cover, together with other members of my community, near the stairwell of our shul. When the tefillah resumed, the tone was intense. Before Ma’ariv we recited Tehillim, a prayer for the IDF, and the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael (the Prayer for the Welfare and Security of the State of Israel).

Overnight, members of our kehillah were called up for reserve duty. And when we said the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael again Shabbat morning, it was with more kavanah than is usually the case.

After Shabbat we learned that rockets had fallen near Mevaseret and Gush Etzion, just miles from the heart of Jerusalem. Baruch Hashem, no one was hurt – but that is not the case elsewhere in the country. And while we can’t possibly imagine what our brothers and sisters in the South are going through, the feeling that no one is immune persists.

How can it be, I wondered over Shabbat, that some communities here in Israel and abroad do not recite the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael?

The text of the prayer first appeared in the religious newspaper HaTzofe on September 20, 1948, less than half a year after a nascent nation declared its independence. Written by Chief Rabbis Herzog and Uziel, together with author and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon, it was adopted by many congregations in Israel and abroad. Even the famed rabbinic journal HaPardes (October 1948) published it and encouraged readers to adopt it.

Praying on behalf of the government is not a new practice. The prophet Yirmiyahu instructs the Jewish people, “Seek the peace of the city to which I have exiled you” (Jer. 29:7). And throughout Jewish history, we have. Halachic works from Kol Bo to Abudraham to Magen Avraham to Aruch HaShulchan codify the practice of praying for the king. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that it is an obligation and mitzvah to express gratitude for the place where we live, and to pray for it.

We Jews have composed texts on behalf of everyone from the king of Spain to Napoleon. Sometimes, depending on how a ruler treated the Jews, the prayer took an ironic turn, asking for protection from the king. (As when the rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof” asks God to “Bless and keep the czar – far away from us!”)

The Mishnah (Avot 3:2) stresses the importance of praying on behalf of the government: “Rabbi Hanina, deputy high priest, said: Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for fear of it, people would swallow one another alive.”

So why doesn’t everyone recite the prayer for the state of Israel?

Some object to the fact that the prayer calls the state the “first flowering of our redemption.” They are uncomfortable with the notion that a secular government, founded by secular Zionists, can be part of the redemptive process. But a little research reveals the truths of history: In the early years, following the founding of the state, many rabbis (not all of them Zionists) indeed believed that the state of Israel was the “first flowering” of redemption.

A letter titled “Da’at Torah,” later published in Rabbi M.M. Kasher’s HaTekufah HaGedolah (pp. 424-429), begins, “We thank Hashem for what we have merited, because of His abundant mercy and kindness, to see the first buds [nitzanim] of the beginning of redemption [atchalta d’geulah], with the founding of the state of Israel.”

This letter, encouraging participation in elections for the first Knesset, was signed by the leading gedolim of Eretz Yisrael, among them Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav Yechezkel Sarna, Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. In fact, as David Tamar noted in a Jan. 2, 1998 article in HaTzofe, Rav Shlomo Zalman would stand during the recitation of the Tefillah L’Shlom Medinat Yisrael.

The Prayer for the State of Israel was not composed strictly for the Religious Zionist camp – it was composed for all Jews to recite. Perhaps it was written during a simpler time in history, when Jews of every stripe and political or religious affiliation fought for an independent Jewish state. They did not have the luxury of sitting back and being sectarian. How things have changed.

Up And Down The East Coast On Torah Tours

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Some of the thoughts we generally associate with Shavuot relate to the tradition of learning Torah all night or the almost overwhelming amount of dairy food that is consumed over the course of the two-day holiday. It has become a routine, something we do every year as the weather starts turning warmer and our Sefirat HaOmer calendars come to an end.

Last year’s Shavuot, however, broke the sense of a familiar routine for me. I traveled to Washington D.C. in June with a team of three other students from Yeshiva University who were participating in The Aaron and Blanche Schreiber Torah Tours program.

Run by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, Torah Tours sends students to various Jewish communities across America for Shavuot and Simchat Torah to assist in creating a positive Torah-filled atmosphere.

My team was fortunate enough to be able to spend Shavuot in D.C. with Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue. Aside from boasting a beautiful large building in the Shepherd Park area, Ohev Sholom is known as being the oldest Orthodox synagogue in the area. Under the leadership of Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, it has experienced increasing growth and popularity.

Since it was my first time participating in a Torah Tours program, I was not quite sure what to expect. It was also my first time spending Shavuot in a community other than my own. Being immersed in a specific type of community for years has a bit of an insulating effect. You get used to things being done in a certain way, you know exactly what is required of you in order to blend in seamlessly, and you already have some expectations formed in your own head of what a community is or should be, based on your limited experience. That Shavuot was a chance to go beyond that, to look past the narrow confines of my own life and my limited experience.

One of the things that stood out about Ohev Sholom and its community was the incredible warmth and hospitality of those who invited us into their homes, and the genuine friendliness and openness exhibited towards complete strangers. No matter where I went or at whose house I was, I always felt perfectly comfortable and at home.

While the rest of my Torah Tours team returned home after Shavuot, I decided to remain in DC for Shabbat. I realized once it ended what an amazing decision that had been. Shabbat in Ohev Sholom was unlike any I have ever experienced in my hometown, beginning with a beautiful and uplifting Kabbalat Shabbat that remained indelibly imprinted on my mind for long after. The first Shabbat I spent back in Brooklyn was a bittersweet one. All I could do was remember D.C. and wish I could be there once more.

Reflecting afterwards on the time spent in DC, it was clear that although I had thought that I was going to be contributing something to another community, in reality I was the one who benefitted tremendously. What I experienced there was something that would stay with me for the rest of my life and become a part of my being, a part of the way I look at and understand the world and the people around me.

A few months later, I was presented with the opportunity to sign up for Torah Tours again for Simchat Torah. I enthusiastically signed up and traveled to Richmond, Virginia to spend the holiday with the Keneseth Beth Israel (KBI) congregation, under the leadership of Rabbi Dovid Asher. Together with a team of four other members, I got to know another warm and welcoming community and experienced a good dose of Southern hospitality.

While three-day holidays generally seem too long, during our time in Richmond it proved to be a blessing, allowing us to spend more time in a community that did everything possible to make us feel at home. Between festive meals with different hosts, Torah shiurim with community members whose feedback enriched our experience, a relaxed teen tish, enthusiastic dancing with adults and children in celebration of the Torah, and a lovely afternoon walk to the beautiful University of Richmond campus, our Simchat Torah proved to be uplifting and unforgettable.

Kosher Food Vendor Suing the Mets

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The New York Daily News reports that Kosher Sports Inc., which “introduces the quality of Glatt Kosher food to professional sports and entertainment venues throughout the country” (as stated on their website), has hired the high-powered law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP (of Gore v. Bush, Florida, circa 2000) in its upcoming court battle with the NY Mets over selling hot dogs at Citi Field on the Jewish Sabbath.

Kosher Sports filed a breach-of-contract suit against the Mets nearly two years ago after the team banned it from selling kosher food during Friday night and Saturday home games — a move the vendor says caused it to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.

The kosher food vendor had signed a 10-year, $725,000 contract to sell glatt kosher Abeles and Heymann hot dogs, sausages, knishes, pretzels, and peanuts at Mets home games, according to the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court. The case is set for trial this month. (Obviously, the pretzels and the peanuts do not qualify as “glatt,” which is a term used exclusively in the processing of meat – YY)

Top team officials in the Mets organization were apparently concerned about “undermined credibility with Sabbath-observing” fans, the court papers filed by the vendor charge. Simply put, no matter how kosher the meat was when you bought it, once you cooked it on Shabbat – observant Jews won’t touch it.

Two years ago, according to the New York Post, Rabbi Shmuel Heinemann, who monitors Kosher Sports’ compliance with Kashrut laws, denied giving the company the OK to operate on the Sabbath.

“There’s no way they can be kosher if they operate on Friday nights and Saturdays,” said Rabbi Shmuel Heinemann.

It does bring to mind a different question: If you go out to the ballgame on a Friday night instead of hitting the nearest shul for Kabbalat Shabbat, why would you need your hot dogs to be kosher?

The company states that its products are under the strict kosher supervision of the Star-K. But the kosher certification service website does not list a current hechsher for the Citi Field outlet. It does list a certification good only through October 31, 2011.

Kosher Sports, Inc. served “an all-star menu” at the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. CEO Jonathan Katz proudly stated that it was the first time “a glatt kosher food offering” was present at the Pro Bowl or the Super Bowl.

KSI is no stranger at big events, having served glatt kosher food at professional sports and entertainment venues since 2003. Those included until recently the Mets’ Citi Field, as well as the US Open Tennis Championships, M&T Bank Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, Land Shark Stadium, Prudential Center, and Oriole Park.

Montel Entertains ‘Lone Soldiers’ In Jerusalem

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

JERUSALEM – Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show host Montel Williams couldn’t do enough last week for a group of American and Canadian-born Israel Defense Forces “lone soldiers.”

Williams, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over a decade ago, heads the Montel Williams MS Foundation and is deeply involved in supporting medical research toward finding a cure for the debilitating disease. He spent a substantial portion of his time in Israel meeting with hospital executives and doctors involved in stem cell research and experimental procedures, which they hope that one day will lead to a cure for MS.

Williams was at the tail end of his nine-day visit Israel when he was asked to partake in a Lone Soldier Center weekend gathering in Jerusalem.

The Lone Soldier Center, which was created in memory of Michael Levin, a native of Philadelphia killed during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, provides meals, outreach services and a sense of community to the hundreds soldiers who have left family and friends behind in the Diaspora in order to serve in the IDF

On Friday night, after experiencing a spiritually charged Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel, Williams addressed the soldiers at their monthly Shabbat dinner.

A former U.S. Marine and decorated Navy officer, Williams was also the main attraction at the Lone Soldier Center’s Motzei Shabbat bash at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel, where he posed for pictures and schmoozed amiably with the soldiers, who were only too happy to see an American celebrity identify with them.

“It’s important to give them a sense of family and camaraderie when they have some time off. It gives these kids a chance to forget about the hard work they perform, even for a few minutes,” Williams told The Jewish Press.

During the course of the evening, the soldiers and Williams were informed of the deadly Grad rocket attacks on Ashdod and Ashkelon. Said Williams, “Honestly, Americans can’t conceive of what takes place in Israel on a daily basis.

“This is my third and longest visit to Israel. I find it phenomenal that people who live under constant threat continue to try to live their daily lives as normally as possible. Israelis are interested in living and in healing others, which really gives you a different perspective on life.”

Hebron Shabbat

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Erev Shabbat, Parashat Shemot was a beautiful, clear day. The sun had warmed up the brisk winter air, and off came the jackets as everyone was enjoying the milder weather. My husband and I were excited at the prospect of spending Shabbat in Hebron. The last time we were in Hebron was in June of 2007 when we had the nachas of being present at the completion of Sefer B’reshit by our grandson’s class. This Shabbat was the fulfillment of our desire to spend Shabbat in the heart of Hebron.

We were a small, congenial group that gathered in a guesthouse in the Shalhevet neighborhood of Hebron. The group was made up of friends and family. Not everyone was acquainted with one another but still, friendships were quickly formed. There were, B”H, many children there and they all seemed to become instant buddies. Our anticipation of an extraordinary Shabbat was being realized thanks to the superb arrangements by our daughter-in-law.

We lit candles and then walked to the Ma’arat HaMachpela. Along the way, we greeted all the chayalim on duty with a loud and cheerful Shabbat Shalom!

After finding seats, we began davening Kabbalat Shabbat. The minyan we attended was held in the large open area in the center hall covered by a canvas roof. It was quite chilly, but as the prayers progressed, the singing and (men’s) dancing warmed us all, in body and soul. Hungry though we were, we could have sat there for hours. The spirit in bringing in the Shabbat, our love for Hashem, and the joy of being together in such a holy place permeated the air.

Suddenly, I became aware of a young girl crying. She was sitting a few seats away from me, next to my granddaughter. I’ve seen this before; participants become overwhelmed by the beauty and spirituality of their tefillot and react with silent tears. But she didn’t stop, and in fact, her sobbing quickly became audible. It sounded as if her heart was breaking. She was praying with such intensity and sorrow that the depth of her emotions touched my soul and tears flowed down my face without my knowing why.

After the final tefillot, my granddaughter, who must have been her age, spoke to her and other friends came over to hug her. On the way back to the guesthouse I asked my granddaughter if she knew what had occurred. “Her brother was murdered today,” said my granddaughter, her voice filled with despair. I then learned of the terrorist attack that took place that morning.

Since it was such a beautiful day, two friends, Ahikam Amihai and Yehuda Rubin, both age 20, went on a nature hike with their friend, Na’ama Ohayun. They were ambushed by terrorists and both were killed in an ensuing gun battle with these terrorists. The boys managed to kill two of the terrorists during the surprise attack, and though mortally wounded, were able to save Na’ama’s life. She was able to escape and call for help, which tragically didn’t arrive in time.

I realized then that the young girl we saw in Ma’arat HaMachpela praying, worshiping Hashem while bitterly crying for her murdered brother, exemplified the epitome of emunah. Through her tears and sobs she understood the words of her tefillot and believed in them and in the Dayan Ha’emet.

Her emunah in Hashem was not destroyed and neither was ours.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/hebron-shabbat/2008/01/17/

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