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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘King David’

King David Drafted Torah Scholars Into His Army

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

The Prophet Yeshayahu says (Isaiah 55:8-9): “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

The thoughts of man, even those of the greatest talmid chacham, cannot fathom the thoughts of the Creator, for many of the Torah laws run counter to human logic.

For example, if a nine year old breaks a neighbor’s window, it’s logical to think the parent is financially responsible. However, when one’s cat breaks the neighbor’s flowerpot it is accepted that the owner is not financially culpable. In fact, according to Torah law, the opposite is true: a parent is not financially responsible for a child’s actions but is responsible for damage caused by his material possessions.

Another example is a kohen who fathered a child by a woman he is prohibited from marrying. The child is a chalal (devoid of any kohanic sanctity), but the father who transgressed remains a valid kohen. And there are many more examples.

The Mishnah in Kiddushin 76a states:

A kohen who wishes to marry must investigate the genealogy of the woman of his choice in order to establish that she is halachically permitted to marry a kohen. However, if she is the daughter of a kohen who served in the Temple [whose genealogy was already confirmed] or the daughter of a member of the Sanhedrin or the daughter of a soldier in King David’s army, he need not investigate the woman’s genealogy.

The Gemara explains that King David drafted into his army only the most genealogically and spiritually suitable. David’s logic was that in war, Hashem weighs the relative merits of the litigants. Therefore, it is essential that our side be overwhelmingly more righteous than the enemy.

How different are our thoughts from those of the great King David.

Today’s yeshiva world might be prepared to accept the idea that those who are not learners be drafted, but certainly not the outstanding learners. In contrast, David and his advisers saw the Torah truth to be just the opposite – they knew the best fighters would be the most gifted talmidei chachamim, bringing with them Torah and mitzvot as the efficient weapons for victory.

In my 22 years of serving in an anti-aircraft unit of the Israeli Air Force and later as a paramedic in civil defense, I witnessed the influence a single religious soldier can have on a unit.

For example, the religious soldier organizes minyanim. The general atmosphere is much improved, with a discernibly more serious attitude. During my service, my tefillin were in use overtime, and Shabbat became a time for serious discussion about many areas of life and a time when the non-observant soldiers and officers got a taste of Torah – for some, it was the first time in their lives they had heard the chachmah of Torah.

There are many rabbis and lay people who define themselves as religious Zionist haredim. Many learn Torah no less than non-Zionist haredim, and all are as scrupulous in keeping mitzvot as the most meticulous non-Zionist haredi. They serve in the army, many as officers with some reaching the highest ranks. These people can be found in all areas of technology, commerce, academia, the arts, etc.

I humbly feel I am part of this group of religious Zionist haredim.

The divide between the two groups of haredim is wide and growing wider.

The non-Zionist haredi camp has brought with it the ways of the galut. After 2,000 years of our incredible suffering in exile, Hashem opened the gates to Eretz Yisrael. Life in the Holy Land as an independent nation requires that we leave behind the accumulated psychological baggage of the galut, where the non-Jew did the “dirty work.”

Proof of ‘Solomon’s Copper Mines’ Found in Israel

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Tel Aviv University archaeologists claim that recent excavations prove that copper mines in Israel thought to have been built by the ancient Egyptians in the 13th century BCE actually originated three centuries later, during the reign of the legendary King Solomon.

The description of “King Solomon’s copper mines” is based on a novel that placed them in the Israeli kingdom, but archaeologists, until now, have dated them to ancient Egypt.

“The mines are definitely from the period of King Solomon,” says Dr. Ben-Yosef. “They may help us understand the local society, which would have been invisible to us otherwise.”

Based on the radiocarbon dating of material unearthed at a new site in Timna Valley in Israel’s Arava Desert, the findings overturn the archaeological consensus of the last several decades. Scholarly work and materials found in the area suggest the mines were operated by the Edomites, a semi-nomadic tribal confederation that according to the Bible warred constantly with Israel.

Now a national park, Timna Valley was an ancient copper production district with thousands of mines and dozens of smelting sites.

Last February, Ben-Yosef and a team of researchers and students excavated a previously untouched site in the valley, known as the Slaves’ Hill. The area is a massive smelting camp containing the remains of hundreds of furnaces and layers of copper slag, the waste created during the smelting process.

In addition to the furnaces, the researchers unearthed an impressive collection of clothing, fabrics, and ropes made using advanced weaving technology; foods, like dates, grapes, and pistachios; ceramics; and various types of metallurgical installations.

The world-renowned Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford in England dated 11 of the items to the 10th century BCE, when according to the Bible King Solomon ruled the Kingdom of Israel.

The archaeological record shows the mines in Timna Valley were built and operated by a local society, likely the early Edomites, who are known to have occupied the land and formed a kingdom that rivaled Judah. The unearthed materials and the lack of architectural remains at the Slaves’ Hill support the idea that the locals were a semi-nomadic people who lived in tents.

The findings from the Slaves’ Hill confirm those of a 2009 dig Ben-Yosef helped to conduct at “Site 30,” another of the largest ancient smelting camps in Timna Valley. Then a graduate student of Prof. Thomas E. Levy at the University of California, San Diego, he helped demonstrate that the copper mines in the valley dated from the 11th to 9th centuries BCE — the era of Kings David and Solomon — and were probably Edomite in origin.

The findings were reported in the journal The American Schools of Oriental Research in 2012, but the publication did little to shake the notion that the mines were Egyptian, based primarily on the discovery of an Egyptian Temple in the center of the valley in 1969.

The Slaves’ Hill dig also demonstrates that the society in Timna Valley was surprisingly complex, and the smelting technology and the layout of the camp reflects indicate that thousands of people were needed to operate the mines in the middle of the desert.

“In Timna Valley, we unearthed a society with undoubtedly significant development, organization, and power,” says Ben-Yosef. “And yet because the people were living in tents, they would have been transparent to us as archaeologists if they had been engaged in an industry other than mining and smelting, which is very visible archaeologically.”

Archaeologists would probably never have found evidence of its existence if it were not for the mining operation even though the society likely possessed a degree of political and military power.

Ben-Yosef says this calls into question archaeology’s traditional assumption that advanced societies usually leave behind architectural ruins. He also says that the findings at the Slaves’ Hill undermine criticisms of the Bible’s historicity based on a lack of archaeological evidence.

It’s entirely possible that Kings David and Solomon exerted some control over the mines in the Timna Valley at times, he says.

Oldest Alphabetical Written Text Found near Temple Mount

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Hebrew University archaeologists have found the oldest known alphabetical inscription from Jerusalem, dating back to the period of Kings David or Solomon, 250 years before the previously oldest known written text.

The inscription was found near the Temple Mount but is not in Hebrew and was from the pre-Temple period, in the language of one of the peoples who occupied Israel at the time, according to the archaeologists.

Reading from left to right, the text contains a combination of letters approximately 2.5 cm tall, which translate to m, q, p, h, n, (possibly) l, and n. Since this combination of letters has no meaning in known west-Semitic languages, the inscription’s meaning is unknown.

The archaeologists suspect the inscription specifies the jar’s contents or the name of its owner. Because the inscription is not in Hebrew, it is likely to have been written by one of the non-Israeli residents of Jerusalem, perhaps Jebusites, who were part of the city population in the time of Kings David and Solomon.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar unearthed the artifact, in the Canaanite language and engraved on a large pithos, a neckless ceramic jar found with six others at the Ophel excavation site. He said it is the only one of its kind discovered in Jerusalem and is an important addition to the city’s history.

The previously oldest known script, in Hebrew, was from the period of King Hezekiah at the end of the 8th century BCE.

The inscription was engraved near the edge of the jar before it was fired, and only a fragment of it has been found, along with fragments of six large jars of the same type. The fragments were used to stabilize the earth fill under the second floor of the building they were discovered in.

An analysis of the jars’ clay composition indicates that they are all of a similar make, and probably originate in the central hill country near Jerusalem.

According to Prof. Ahituv, the inscription is not complete and probably wound around the jar’s shoulder, while the remaining portion is just the end of the inscription and one letter from the beginning.

This jar fragment from the time of Kings David and Solomon is the earliest alphabetical written text ever discovered in Jerusalem.

This jar fragment from the time of Kings David and Solomon is the earliest alphabetical written text ever discovered in Jerusalem.

King David Era Find ‘Buried’ by Authorities for Political Reasons

Friday, April 19th, 2013

The initial discovery was made by Benjamin Troper, the training coordinator of the Kfar Etzion field school, who suddenly, while aiding a troubled tourist down a deep cave south of Jerusalem, turned to look at the nearby wall and saw an ancient stone column.

“I had gone down that hole dozens of times,” Tropper told Makor Rishon, “but this was the first time, because I was helping the tourist, that I came down looking in that direction.”

What he saw was a bona fide ancient column with a capital, which he recognized from his years as tour guide and from the time he spent working in excavating ancient Jerusalem.

That’s the story of a remarkably rare archeological discovery, which no one has heard about. For some reason, possibly political, the Israeli authorities have been trying to silence this discovery which could usher in a breakthrough in our understanding of the periods of King David and his son, King Solomon.

The column capital Tropper ran, or rather climbed down into, is very likely part of a complete temple or palace buried underground.

Tropper, who expected nothing short of a medal for his fortunate discovery, called over the field school’s director, Yaron Rosenthal, who in turn alerted a senior employee of Israel’s Antiquities Authority. But no medals were to come any time soon.

The find is really big, according to Rosenthal. It may also be a singular opportunity to unearth a whole structure that hadn’t undergone “secondary use,” meaning that it hasn’t been altered by later dwellers of the area. Often, later period folks utilize the components of older structures as building blocks for their own structures.

But even better than that: there are still, to this day, raging debates between the school of archeologists who claim there was a great Jewish dynasty begun by David and Solomon, and the school that doubts there ever really existed two people by those names.

Rosenthal (you know which school he belongs to) believes the discovery will offer startling details about the everyday lives of those Jewish kings.

According to Rosenthal, the reaction of the Antiquities official was “astonishing.” He told him: “Yaron, please, you found it, but we know about it. Now forget the whole thing and keep your mouth shut.”

Apparently they’re very blunt over at Antiquities.

Later, Rosenthal found out that the authority had indeed been aware of the artifact for a year and a half. He is upset both for the fact that they avoided digging up the area to discover what’s down there, and for the fact that they took no steps to mark off the cave, to protect it from damage.

Over the past few months, the defense ministry was drawing the path of the section of the security fence that will separate the Palestinian Authority’s Bethlehem County from South Jerusalem. They knew about it at Antiquities, reports Makor Rishon, but kept mum and let the fence line be drawn about a hundred yards from the site, effectively leaving it in Palestinian hands.

According to Makor Rishon, Antiquities’ director-general Shuka Dorfman and former chief of the central front Gen. Avi Mizrahi were called in to look at the find, a year and a half ago and decided together to silence the discovery.

The question is, based on their track record, how respectful would the future owners of the area, the PA, of a site that could prove beyond doubt that it used to belong to a Jewish empire – the very empire the PA officially says never existed.

The Antiquities Authority’s response to the Makor Rishon inquiry has been that it is aware of the situation and is already making efforts to excavate the important find, while cooperating with all relevant entities.

That’s a huge relief.

Incidentally, inside the cave where the exposed column capital is situated, there is a water hole, where local Arab children go bathing. How long before one of them discovers the ancient relic and calls his daddy over?

Haredi Rabbi Revealed Why Six Million Died

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

The ultimate Jewish response to the Holocaust is summarized by the verse: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says God. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9), which Maimonides relies on in his Laws of Repent (5:5): “Man is incapable of perceiving the Creator’s ideas, as the prophet said, “for My thoughts are not your thoughts nor your ways My ways.”

Nevertheless, we accept the notion that God does not base His world on chance. The hand of God is involved in history. No one is claiming to be thinking God’s thoughts and conducting the divine bookkeeping, but we were brought up believing that troubles don’t befall a person by accident, even when they don’t understand it. Everything is a sign from Heaven, including the worst state of “hester panim,” the obscuring of God’s face, in total chaos, in the trampling of Jewish honor and the humiliation of the Torah of Israel.

It would be extremely difficult to suggest that the catastrophe that befell our entire nation – Ashkenazim and Sephardim; Eastern and Western Europeans and North Africans; Torah scholars, sworn heretics and the completely assimilated; Hasidim and Misnagdim; day old babies and the elderly; Capitalists and Communists; the educated and the ignorant – absolutely every strata of the nation – was an accident.

In extremely Haredi circles, those madmen who travel to Tehran to embrace the enemy Ahmajinedad, there are no doubts regarding God’s message: the Holocaust happened because of the creation and the existence of the Zionist movement, whose heavy sin is the breaking of the “three vows.”

According to tractate Ketubot 111a, when the Jews went into the second exile, in the year 70, three vows were taken by them and by God: the Jews would not conquer the land of Israel by force, they would not rebel against the nations of the world, and the non­Jews would not oppress the Jews too much (yoter midai).

That was the view of the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum (who, ironically enough, was saved from death in the Holocaust by Hungarian Zionist official Rudolph Kastner, who made a deal with a deputy of Adolf Eichmann)

In his book, “Va’Yoel Moshe,” Rabbi Teitelbaum argues that even if all the citizens of Israel were adhering to all the commandments, totally righteous, if all the government ministers wore shtreimlach, settling the land of Israel would still constitute the breaking of those vows.


WRITTEN IN AN ATTIC

It’s easy to write such delusional things when you’re sitting in New York City, which protects even the rights of crackpots. It was much harder to comment on the same topic from the darkness of a hiding place in an attic in Budapest, Hungary, while Nazi thugs were hunting down the last remaining hidden Jews of the city.

Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal (1885-1945), an extremist Haredi who was close to the Satmar circles, was watching the Gestapo hunters through a narrow crack in his hidden attic, and, through a spiritual and physical review of his terrifyingly lowly reality, reached a brave conclusion: it was the erroneous concept typical of his Haredi pals regarding the resettlement of Eretz Israel that had brought on us those cruel tortures and grotesque deaths.

Rabbi Teichtal began his rabbinic path with an adherence to the philosophy that was common to most Hungarian rabbis: everything new was forbidden by the Torah, including aliyah to Eretz Israel, and certainly coalescing with the secular Zionists to rebuild the land. But following the horrors his eyes had seen, he changed his views 180 degrees. After reexamining his own beliefs, he investigated the issues regarding resettling the land of Israel and natural redemption (“geula b’derech ha’teva), and reached the conclusion that the reason for the Holocaust was that the nation of Israel was called by God to ascend to Eretz Israel, but because it had fallen in love with life in the diaspora it turned its back on Eretz Israel.

He wrote his conclusions while in hiding in his dark attic in Budapest. His books were not with him, and so he had to cite from memory thousands of Torah sources supporting his new position. Unfortunately, the brutes finally reached him, too, and sent him to his death. He was murdered on a transport train during the final days of World War II. But his writing became the monumental, 500-page sefer Eim HaBanim Semeichah – Eretz Yisrael, Redemption and Unity.

He wrote:

The Purpose of our Affliction Is to Arouse Us to Return to Eretz Yisrael

…The sole purpose of all the afflictions that smite us in our exile is to arouse us to return to our Holy Land. This can be inferred from the story of King David and the plague. During the plague, God sent him Gad the prophet. And God came to david…and said to him, “Go up and establish an altar to the Lord” (II Samuel 24:18). The Misrash explains:

This can be likened to a father who beat his son, but the son did not know why he was being punished. After the beating, the father said, “For several days I have been commanding you to do something and you have ignored me. Now go and do it.” So, too, the thousands who fell at the time of David died only because they did not demand the building of the beit haMikdash. From this we can derive a kal vachomer (an a fortiori inference). If they, in whose days the Beit HaMikdash was neither built nor destroyed, were punished for not having demanded its construction; then we, in whose days the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed … certainly [deserve punishment], for we do not mourn nor supplicate (Midrash Tehillim 17).

Rashi on Hoshea (3:5) cites the following:

R. Shimon ben Menassiya said: “The Jewish people will not be shown a good sign until they once again request the kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of the House of David, and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. It is thus written, Afterwards, the Children of Israel will return and seek out the Lord their God and David their king (Hoshea 3:5).

Behold, our desire to return to Eretz Israel encompasses these three elements. Firstly, “He who dwells in Eretz Israel is like one who has a God” (Ketubot 110b). Also, the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash will occur (with God’s help) when we assemble in Eretz Israel, as explained in Megillah 17b-18a. Afterwards, Mashiach, who represents the kingdom of the House of David, will arrive, as I will demonstrate in this volume. First and foremost, though, we must strive to return to Eretz Israel and then, with God’s help, we will attain these three objectives.

Rabbi Teichtal wrote his piercing words literally during the Holocaust. But he was preceded by many gedolim, who warned of the approaching Holocaust, years before it began. The great Meir Simcha Ha’Cohen of Dvinsk (1843–1926), author of the Ohr Somayach, ruled that the “three vows” were nullified by the San Remo Conference of 1920, empowering Great Britain to put into effect the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

The latter warned, 25 years before the Holocaust, that the day would come, in which “the Israelite [in diaspora] will forget his origins and be counted as citizen [of the world]… Will think that Berlin is Jerusalem… Then a stormy wind will come, uproot him and subject him before a faraway gentile nation.” (Meshech Chochma, Vayikra 26).

The nation of Israel preferred, sadly, life in diaspora over the promised land, and paid for it an unbearable price. This excessive affection for diaspora was expressed in this popular Jewish joke: One day a Jewish villager comes home and tells his wife that the Rabbi in shul was saying that when Moshiach comes, he will lead all the Jews to Eretz Israel. So his wife becomes very upset, asking what would they do with all their barnyard animals.

We’ll leave them to the Cossacks, says her husband.

Well, if God likes us so much, he should let us stay here and take the Cossacks to Eretz Israel, says his wife.

Much like those two fools, the nation of Israel chose to remain spread among the nations, for which we were sentenced to a reeducation camp the likes of which we will never forget.

I’m Not Voting for Obama, that’s for Sure

Monday, January 21st, 2013

People can stop reading my blog if they like. They can unfriend me on Facebook, and remove me from their groups, but I will continue to write the truth. Believe me, I don’t write to upset my fellow Jews. I write, bezrat Hashem, to help them to see through the darkness that surrounds us in foreign lands.

Once again, let me try to explain. The plague of darkness in Egypt is described as darkness “mamash,” meaning darkness so thick and tangible that you could literally reach out and physically feel it. Up until the plague, there was darkness in Egypt, the usual darkness of the galut, but the Jews had become so accustomed to it, they didn’t sense it anymore. So Hashem had to turn it into a physical darkness as thick as glue to remind them that they were in an impure place where they didn’t belong.

Why were they blind to the darkness? Because when people grow up in darkness, they don’t experience it as darkness at all. That’s what they’re used to. In fact, to them it seems like light. If you tell them they’re living in the dark, they are liable to get angry. “What do you mean?” they exclaim. “It isn’t dark here at all. You’re crazy. You don’t know what you are talking about. You’re an agitator, that’s all.”

How do I know that the exile is darkness? Because I lived there, and now that I’m in Israel, I can see the enormous difference. And should you ask, “Who is Tzvi Fishman that I should believe what he writes?” The answer is that it isn’t Tzvi Fishman at all.

In this week’s Torah portion, Rashi informs us that only 20% of the Jews left the Diaspora during the Exodus (Shemot, 13:18). 80% of them told Moshe to get lost! That’s right, 80% preferred to stay in America, I mean Egypt, not wanting to give up the delicious Egyptian bagels, the gala Federation dinners, their college studies at Cairo University, and their careers.

Our Sages also teach us about the darkness of chutz l’Aretz (outside of the Land of Israel), as it says in the tractate Sanhedrin, on the verse in the Book of Lamentations, “He has set me down in dark places, like those who are long ago dead” (Eichah, 3:6) – “Rabbi Yirmeya said: ‘This refers to the learning in Babylon,’” which doesn’t have the same illumination as the Torah learning in Eretz Yisrael (Sanhedrin 24A).

Yes, my friends, there can be a Torah learning that is shrouded in darkness. For example, the spies in the wilderness were the leaders of their tribes, the most prominent Torah scholars of the nation, but they didn’t understand that Eretz Yisrael is the foundation upon which the entire Torah and nationhood of Israel stands, as the Gemara teaches: “There is no greater bittul Torah than when the People of Israel are removed from their place” (Chagigah 4B). Like the 80% who wanted to stay in Egypt, and who died in the plague of darkness, these scholars and leaders of the Jewish People wanted to stay in the wilderness and not make aliyah as Hashem had commanded again and again. The Gaon of Vilna teaches that this same myopic understanding of Torah, which denies the centrality of the Land of Israel to the life of the Jewish Nation, is a sin which reappears in every generation, and even Talmidei Chachamin are caught in its darkness (“Kol HaTor,” Ch.5).

In our time, there were three great visionaries who taught us to see the truth of the Torah in the events of our times. Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook; his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook; and Rabbi Meir Kahane, may their memories be for a blessing. Certainly, many other Rabbis shed light on our era, but along the path of my return to Torah and to Eretz Yisrael, these three Torah giants have been shining beacons of wisdom and truth, illuminating the world’s darkness. Each had his own style and individual stamp, with differences of emphasis and approach, but each one taught the Nation to see the Redemption that was taking place in our time, and to recognize the great light of Torah and tshuva contained in the ingathering of the exiles, the abandoning of galut, and the rebuilding of the Nation in Eretz Yisrael. It is a synthesis of their teachings that I am expounding, in my own inadequate way, and it is their genius in Torah, not mine.

Let me try to give you another simple example. Last night, I attended a wedding. There is nothing like a wedding in Israel, where there is concrete meaning to the saying that the holy union of the hatan and kallah (the groom and the bride), and the house they will inhabit, is an additional stone in the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. When the band plays the verse of the song, “There will yet be heard on the hills of Judea and in the courtyards of Jerusalem, the voice of gladness and the voice of joy, the voice of the hatan and the voice of the kallah,” these words of the Biblical prophecy are coming true in front of your eyes.

And when everyone sings out the Psalm, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, withered be my right hand! May my tongue cleave to my palate, if I ever not think of you, if ever I not set Jerusalem above my chiefest joy!” everyone present in that wedding hall in Israel means it. The words are not some abstract dream, spoken in some faraway land, but a living reality.

My friends, King David didn’t pen these words as just a pretty poem. On the wings of divine inspiration, he is teaching us that our love for Jerusalem is to be the guiding principle of our lives, even greater than the joy of our wedding, more cherished than our spouses, families, our villas, our Audis and Mercedes, more valued than our bank accounts, professions, and university degrees. We are to set Jerusalem above our chiefest joy, to struggle in its behalf, and to dedicate ourselves to its holy rebuilding.

“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” King David asks.

The answer is that we can’t.

To sing the Lord’s song, you have to sing it in Israel.

My Hero, King David

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The Bible introduces us to many fascinating and inspiring personalities, righteous men and women whose example of piety continue to guide and uplift us to this very day. There are some, however, to whom we can relate in an especially powerful way and whom we can truly strive to emulate.

One such righteous figure is David HaMelech, someone who has left a direct, profound impact on all of us.

One reason King David is a figure with whom we closely identify is his famous work – the Book of Tehillim. We all shed tears reciting the beautiful words of Tehillim, praying for ourselves and others and connecting to Hashem through the prayers of King David, in his merit.

The Book of Tehillim is so holy that, as our sages teach, when one reads the entire book he is considered as having read the entire Torah.

Throughout the generations, people have always turned to Tehillim to find the words with which to come before Hashem. And Hashem loves to hear these prayers. Our rabbis teach us that Hashem regarded one day of David HaMelech’s prayers as greater than all the sacrifices brought in the Bet HaMikdash.

King David excelled in many areas, surpassing even other righteous people. He suffered for much of his life, being forced to flee for several years from King Shaul, and even enduring a revolt against him by his own son Avshalom. But throughout all these ordeals, rather than question God’s justice, King David remained firm in his faith and devotion to God – and, as we see in Tehillim, constantly expressed his gratitude to Hashem for his blessings in life.

Through his constant praise of Hashem, David HaMelech reached lofty spiritual levels that no other righteous person achieved (Baba Batra 17a). When we read the beautiful praises of Tehillim, we can gain inspiration from David’s ability to feel grateful even during times of hardship. This should help us put our own problems in perspective and be appreciative of what we have even during the more difficult periods of our lives.

This message is reinforced by the Gemara’s famous account (Pesachim 119b) of the great “Feast of the Leviathan” that will take place in the messianic era. Our righteous forefathers will sit to enjoy the special meat of the Leviathan, and when the time comes to recite the blessing on the cup of wine they will initially hand it to Avraham to grant him the honor of reciting the berachah. Avraham will refuse, noting that he had fathered a sinful son (Yishmael) and thus does not deserve the honor. The cup will then be passed to Yitzchak, but he, too, will refuse, because he had a wicked son (Eisav). Next will be Yaakov, who will also decline, due to his marriage to two sisters, which the Torah forbade.

Moshe Rabbeinu will then be approached, and he will say, “I do not have the merit, since I was not worthy to enter into the Holy Land.” Finally, David HaMelech will take the cup and make the blessing.

The rabbis ask, what special merit does David possess that the others do not? After all, like Avraham and Yitzchak, he also had sinful children. So why will he be given the privilege of reciting the berachah?

The Midrash answers that, as mentioned, David HaMelech was always praising Hashem, even when confronting difficult situations. As expressed through the praises of Tehillim, David believed with complete faith and conviction that everything Hashem does is for the best, and he therefore responded to all events – good and “bad” – with songs of praise to Hashem. This special quality rendered him singularly worthy from among all the great tzaddikim to recite the blessing.

David HaMelech spent his days immersed in Torah study and prayer. The Gemara states that David would never sleep more than sixty “horse breaths,” preferring to devote all his time to the service of Hashem. And this passionate engagement in Torah continued even until his final day.

The Gemara relates that King David knew he would die on Shabbat, though he did not know on which Shabbat. He therefore made sure to spend every moment of Shabbat engrossed in learning, since the angel of death cannot seize a person’s soul as he studies Torah.

Yoram Ettinger: Shavuot Guide for the Perplexed

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Shavuot is the holiday of the Torah, which impacted the US Constitution in particular and the state of Western morality, liberty, and democracy in general. Shavuot is celebrated by decorating homes and houses of worship with Land of Israel-related fruit, vegetables, herb and flowers, demonstrating the indigenous connection between the Torah of Israel, the People of Israel, and the Land of Israel.

Shavuot – a spiritual holiday – follows Passover – a national liberation holiday: from physical liberation (the Exodus) to spiritual liberation/enhancement.

The two portions of the Torah, which are recited/studied around Shavuot, are נשא and בהעלותך, which mean – in Hebrew – spiritual enhancement and elevation. נשא is the longest portion of the Torah (176 verses), highlighting the inauguration of the ancient tabernacle and altar. בהעלותך highlights the Menorah (Candelabrum) of the ancient tabernacle, which had seven branches, similar to the seven day week and the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot.

Shavuot is celebrated 50 days following Passover. The Jubilee – the cornerstone of liberty and the source of the inscription on the Liberty Bell (Leviticus 25:10) – is celebrated every 50 years. Judaism highlights the constant challenge facing human beings: the choice between the 50 gates of wisdom and the corresponding 50 gates of impurity. Egypt represented the gates of impurity and the receipt of the Torah represented the gates of wisdom. The 50th gate of wisdom is the gate of deliverance. The USA is composed of 50 states.

Shavuot highlights the eternity of the Jewish People. Thus, the first and the last Hebrew letters of Shavuot (שבועות) constitute the Hebrew name of the third son of Adam & Eve, Seth (שת), the righteous ancestor of Noah, hence of all mankind. The Hebrew meaning of Seth – שת – is “to institute” and “to bestow upon”, מתן in Hebrew – the Hebrew word for the bestowing of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (מתן תורה).

Shavuot (שבועות) is a derivative of the Hebrew word “Shvoua’” (שבועה) – vow, referring to the exchange of vows between God and the Jewish People. The origin of Shavuot occured 26 generations following Adam and Eve. The Hebrew word for Jehovah equals 26 in Gimatriya (assignment of numerical values to Hebrew letters). There are 26 Hebrew letters in the names of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs: Abraham (אברהם), Yitzhak (יצחק), Yaakov (יעקב) Sarah (שרה), Rivka (רבקה), Rachel (רחל) and Leah (לאה).

The Hebrew root of Shavuot is the word Seven – “Sheva” (שבע). Shavuot is celebrated 7 weeks following Passover; God employed 7 earthly attributes to create the universe (in addition to the 3 divine attributes); There are 7 basic human traits, which individuals are supposed to resurrect/adopt in preparation for Shavuot; 7 key Jewish/universal leaders – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aharon, Joseph and David – represent the seven qualities of the Torah and the wholesomeness of Judaism and the Land of Israel; 7 days of Creation and a 7 days in a week; The Sabbath is the 7th day; The first Hebrew verse in Genesis consists of 7 words; There are 7 species of the Land of Israel (barley, wheat, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date/honey); 7 represents multiplication – שבעתיים – “Sivatayim”; There are 7 directions (north, south, west, east, up, down, one’s own position); 7 gates to The Temple in Jerusalem; 7 Noahide Commandments; Moses’ birth/death was on the 7th day of Adar; Jethro had 7 names and 7 daughters; Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles) last for 7 days each; each Plague lasted for 7 days; the Menorah has 7 branches; Jubilee follows seven 7-year cycles; according to Judaism, slaves are liberated, and the soil is not-cultivated, in the 7th year; there are 7 continents in the globe and 7 notes in a musical scale; there are 7 days of mourning over the deceased, 7 blessings in a Jewish wedding, 7 congregants read the Torah on each Sabbath and 7 Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Abigail, Choulda and Esther). Pentecost is celebrated, by Christians, on the 7th Sunday after Easter.

Shavuot is the second of the 3 Jewish Pilgrimages (Sukkot-Tabernacles, Passover and Shavuot), celebrated on the 6th day of the 3rd Jewish month, Sivan. It highlights Jewish Unity, compared by King Solomon to “a three folds cord, which is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The Torah – the first of the 3 parts of the Jewish Bible – was granted to the Jewish People (which consists of 3 components: Priests, Levites and Israel), by Moses (the youngest of 3 children, brother of Aharon and Miriam), a successor to the 3 Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and to Seth, the 3rd son of Adam and Eve. The Torah was forged in 3 manners: Fire (commitment to principles), Water (lucidity and purity) and Desert (humility and principle-driven tenacity). The Torah is one of the 3 global pillars, along with labor and gratitude/charity. The Torah is one of the 3 pillars of Judaism, along with the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/holidays/yoram-ettinger-shavuot-guide-for-the-perplexed/2012/05/24/

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