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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Man’

Thoughts Make the Man

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Dear Friends, the clock is ticking down to Rosh HaShanah. You can hear the shofars blasting all over the world. T’shuva may seem like a towering mountain too high to climb, but it’s really not as hard as you think.

Rabbi Kook teaches that even contemplations of t’shuva have significant value. To understand this, we must look at life with a different orientation than we normally do. Usually, we are pragmatists. We judge the value of things by the influence they have on ourselves and the world. For instance, ten dollars is worth more than five dollars because it can buy more. A doctorate is better than a bachelor’s degree because it can lead to a better paying and more prestigious job.

There are things, however, that have an absolute value, regardless of their tangible impact in this world. Truth is an example. Holiness is another. To this list, Rabbi Kook adds good thoughts. Contemplations of t’shuva, even if they do not lead to a resulting change in behavior, bring benefit to the individual and the world.

This is similar to the question in the Talmud — which is greater, Torah study or good deeds? The answer is Torah study because it leads to good deeds. You might think that if the ultimate goal is the deeds, then they would be more important. But our Sages tell us that the thought processes which lead to the deeds are of primary concern. Being immersed in Torah has an absolute value in itself. Thus, Rabbi Kook writes:

The thought of t’shuva transforms all transgressions and the darkness they cause, along with their spiritual bitterness and stains, into visions of joy and comfort, for it is through these contemplations that a person is filled with a deep feeling of hatred for evil, and the love of goodness is increased within him with a powerful force (Orot HaT’shuva, 7:1).

T’shuva can be dissected into two different realms. There is the nitty-gritty t’shuva of mending an actual deed, and there is the thought process which precedes the action. The value of these thoughts is not to be measured according to the activities which they inspire. For instance, a person may decide that he wants to be righteous. But when the person tries to translate this thought into action, he finds himself overwhelmed. To be righteous, he has to get up early in the morning to pray. He has to stop doing a host of forbidden deeds. He has to watch what he says, and watch what he eats. Before he even begins, his will is broken. Though his wish to do t’shuva was sincere, he couldn’t find the inner strength to actualize his thoughts into deeds.

Rabbi Kook says that all is not lost. This person’s original idea to do t’shuva stemmed from the deepest recesses of the soul, where it was inspired by the spiritual waves of t’shuva which encircle the world. Thus he has already been touched by t’shuva’s cleansing streams. In effect, he has boarded the boat. Though his will power  may be weak at the moment, his soul is longing for God.

Through the contemplations of t’shuva, a person hears the voice of God calling him from the Torah and from the heart, from the world and all it contains. The will for good is fortified within him. The body itself, which causes transgression, becomes more and more purified until the thought of t’shuva pervades it (Ibid, 7:5).

In the beginning of his t’shuva journey, a person must realize the absolute value of his initial inspiration. He has to find a new way of judging the value of things, not always looking for concrete benefits or results. When a person undertakes t’shuva, his thoughts weigh as much as his deeds. T’shuva is not just a process of do’s and don’ts, but rather a conscious and subconscious overhaul of an individual’s thought processes and emotions. Already by thinking about t’shuva one is engaged in it. As the saying goes: you are what you think.

Even the thought of t’shuva brings great healing. However, the soul can only find full freedom when this potential t’shuva is actualized. Nonetheless, since the contemplation is bound up with the longing for t’shuva, there is no cause for dismay. God will certainly provide all of the means necessary for complete repentance, which brightens all darkness with its light… ‘A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise’ (Ibid. Tehillim, 51;19).

When we recognize the value of our thoughts, we discover a very encouraging concept. One needn’t despair when confronted by the often difficult changes which t’shuva demands. This is especially true in the initial stages before a person’s increasing love for G-d makes all difficulties and sacrifices seem small. Even if a person cannot immediately redress all of his wrongdoings, he should know that there is a great value in just wanting to be good. One can take comfort that he wants to be a better person. With God’s help, he will also be able to actualize his yearnings. But in the meantime, just thinking good thoughts is already strengthening his inner self and the world.

Clint Doing the RNC (with Video)

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Lynne Lechter is on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Women’s Committee.  She is at the Republican National Convention as a guest of the RJC.  She is one of our good friend Lori Lowenthal Marcus’s sources on what Jewish Republicans have been up to in muggy Tampa. She’s been telling Lori this and that, until, last night, it all came to a giant crescendo with the appearance of the Man. Clint Eastwood.

Lynne wrote:

“It was unexpected. He was hard to hear from where we were, but he did get a lot of applause and chants – make my day. He got a lot of laughs from the empty chair routine and saying Mutt cant do that to himself as if Obama said it, got huge laughter. I think his early comment was about what I am doing here aren’t all Hollywood types liberal. And then saying there are a lot of conservatives in Hollywood. Being conservative they are more quiet about it.”

The note “Sent from my iPhone” explains some of the condensed nature of the text, but we get the gist of it. And we added the video, so you’ll see what she’s talking about. Clint is the man. Which is why they should have made the theme of “For a Fistful of Dollars” the campaign song.

I would totally vote Republican if Clint was running. Are you kidding me? But he’d have to drop the cigar stub. Federal buildings are a no-smoking zone.

Oh, yes, totally forgot – Some guy named Mitt Romney did the acceptance speech thing last night, too. Apparently he’s running for this or that federal post. I think Clint even recommended him…

Moshe Silman Dies

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Moshe Silman, the man who set himself on fire last week during the Social Protest died of his injuries on Friday. Silman suffered burns on 94% of his body.

Arab Attacks 60 Year Old Man at Abraham’s Well in Hebron

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

A video uploaded to YouTube by English Spokesperson for Hebron David Wilder shows a stream of blood on the rocks of the Abraham’s Well underground spring, following a near-fatal rock attack by a local Arab on a 60 year old Jewish man who came to immerse in the spring.


Jewish tradition connects the Patriarch Abraham – the central figure connecting Judaism and Islam and one of three great Jewish patriarchs buried in Hebron – with the small natural spring, saying it was the place where Abraham and his wife Sarah would go to purify themselves.

On Wednesday, a 60 year old resident of Kiryat Arba went to perform a cleansing immersion at the site, and when he reached the bottom of the stairs, was attacked by an Arab who threw a large rock at his head.  The man was found unconscious on his back at the bottom of the stairs leading to the well.  He regained consciousness at a Jerusalem hospital, to which he was evacuated by paramedics.

Psychiatrist: Man Who Set Himself on Fire at Tel-Aviv Rally Attempted Suicide in 2005

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

On Saturday night, during a rally for social justice in Tel Aviv, Moshe Silman, 58, set himself on fire, becoming the symbol that organizers of the march for social justice needed to make their case that much more compelling. Indeed, the Facebook pages of many activists quickly filled up with statements like “His story is the story of all of us.”

Daphni Leef, one of the most notable leaders of the social justice movement last Summer and this time around, stated: “This is the responsibility of the Israeli government which is not taking care of its citizens.”

But while it is true that Silman, who is currently out of danger and in stable condition at the Shiba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, has experienced a series of personal failures in his encounters with the authorities who appear, from the record, to have treated him quite heartlessly, it is also clear that Silman’s case is by no means typical.

A psychiatric report was uploaded to the Rotter.net website, which was attached to Silman’s law suit against Israel’s social security administration, reveals a man raised by a violent father, himself a Holocaust survivor, who used to beat Moshe mercilessly. So much so, that the latter left home at age 14 to escape his father’s wrath. He lived on the streets as a teenager, used drugs and supported himself by breaking into cars. He attempted to rehabilitate himself through his military service, but was ultimately discharged on psychiatric grounds.

Silman was unable to forge steady relationships with women, nor was he ever able to hold on to a job for a long time. He ended up leaving for America and bandied about until he decided to return to Israel some time around the year 2000 (his ability to recall dates and chronological events is impaired, according to the report).

His attempt to establish a business ended in abysmal failure, as he was unable to cope with clients, debt payments and the different government offices. To get out of debt he made his mother sign a mortgage in his behalf which he was unable to pay back. In 2005, after he was evicted for lack of payments from an apartment he purchased in Jaffa, Silman attempted suicide. According to the report, he took pills and slashed his wrists.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Hillel Ma-Naim, recommended at the time that a great deal of support be given by the state to Silman, pointing out that his ability to save money is “highly limited.”

Ynet quoted eye witnesses who said that Silman read out a letter before pouring flammable liquid over himself and setting himself on fire. He wrote, among other things: “The State of Israel robbed me and left me with nothing.”

The letter continues: “I blame the State of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Steinitz for the constant humiliation the citizens of Israel have to endure on a day-to-day basis. They take from the poor and give to the rich.

“I can’t afford medication or rent. I paid millions in taxes, I served in the army and in the reserves until I was 46. I won’t be homeless and that is why I am protesting against all the wrongs the state imposes on people like me.”

An examination of the material attached to Silman’s 2005 law suit reveals a system that keeps on battering an individual who is mentally unable to cope with the elementary requirements of running a business and caring for himself. But the failure here appears more of Israel’s health and social service authorities to identify and extend help to a deteriorating client, than an example of the lack of social justice in Israel.

Midrash and Talmud

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Man is seldom satisfied with his life. Even when he has done great things, amassed vast amounts of wealth and achieved great fame, he still yearns for more and his soul is not fulfilled. “No man dies with even half of his ambition fulfil­led,” say Chazal.

Thus was it with the conqueror, Alex­ander the Great. Here was a man who top­pled empires, before whose armies people trembled, who set his stamp on lands as far away as India. Still he was not satisfied. He yearned to do something that no man had ever done. He yearned to fly high above the heavens.

Alexander And His Flight

Despite all the mighty deeds that he had done, Alexander was still not satisfied.

“Unless I do a thing that was not ac­complished by all the kings who have preceded me, men will never remember me for real greatness.

“They will only say that once there was a king named Alexander who went and made war and conquered many na­tions and gathered a vast amount of booty and set his heel on the heads of people.

“This is all good, but there must still be something that I do that has never been done by any other man from the days that G-d made the world till the present.”

The Eagle

And so, Alexander ordered that his men capture the most gigantic eagles they could find. Once they had gathered several enormous birds, he chose the greatest among them.

“Starve the bird for two days,” he ordered his men.

At the end of the time, Alexander took a large piece of meat and stuck it on his spear. He then climbed on the back of the hungry eagle and he raised his spear high in front of the eagle’s beak.

The starving bird immediately tried to reach the meat and flew into the air. Higher and higher he climbed as he vainly tried to reach the meat, which hung tantalizingly just before him.

The Earth So Small

Higher yet, the eagle climbed, until Alexander was surrounded by swirling clouds. Looking down to the earth far below, he saw that the towns, forests and rivers appeared as dots and ribbons. He looked to where his great army was camped and he could see nothing but little dots. Alexander’s heart thereupon grew light and his head swelled:

“Who is like me and who can compare unto me? I sit here alone looking at the lit­tle ants below me.”

Another Thought

Suddenly, however, a second thought entered the Greek emperor’s mind.

“If my great army, with all its hordes of men, appear to me to be so small, what do I appear like to my army below? Probably, I have disappeared from view and am like nothing in their eyes!”

The thought was a bitter one and destroyed the great happiness that he had felt just a moment before.

Turning the spear with the meat downward he looked at the earth as his eagle turned to descend. The land rushed forward to meet him and he could now see the people becoming larger and larger in his eyes.

“I, too, am becoming larger in their eyes,” he thought.

When he had descended from the back of the eagle he gave orders that a statue of himself be made and in his hand a round ball –symbolizing the earth – be placed. “This shall be so the people will remember me,” he said.

Can The Dead Wake

One of the great differences between the rabbis and the Tzedukim was over the question of whether the dead will someday be resurrected. Our rabbis, of course, maintained that this was a cardinal prin­ciple of the Torah, that the A-Mighty would some day awaken the dead, while the Tzedukim denied this great article of faith.

One day, one of the leaders of the Tzedukim approached Gevihah, the son of Pesisah:

“Shall the dead really rise? How is it possible? If people who once had the breath of life in their nostrils eventually die and become still and cold, how shall those who are dead ever hope to live?”

Gevihah then asked the man:

Germany, the Laws of Man and the Laws of God

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Judaism is about tradition; but more, it is about order. It is about living as human beings and what sets us apart from animals. Paramount among the differences between man and animal are the laws we create or are created for us, at least for those who have faith and believe in a Higher Authority. I do.

I accept that there is a God for so many reasons. As Ben Gurion once said, to be a realist in Israel, you have to believe in miracles. Miracles are not random acts of coincidence. Random acts can happen, here or there, but when the missiles miss by a few minutes or a few meters on a consistent basis, you begin to believe. When a country shoots 39 missiles at a highly populated area, and one person dies…of a heart attack, you know. When you wake up and see this land and what we have done with it, you have faith.

There are, we believe, laws of God and laws of man. Observant Jews believe that laws of God must be followed; laws of man respected when the respect is justified, necessary, agreed upon, and lastly, do not conflict with the law of God. Jews are commanded to circumcise their sons on the eighth day of his life (barring any health issues which take precedence). When the law of the land goes against the law of God, we follow the laws of God because the laws of man can change according to the whim of man.

Germany has just decided that circumcision is not to be allowed in their oh-so-humane country. They, who perpetrated the most barbaric acts in the history of man, believe this simple act is barbaric. The anger that burns inside me has come to a boil and I cannot be diplomatic so I will be honest. To the Germans, I have nothing to say. When I was in Poland, I could not see the living because my eyes focused on the dead. All that I saw was the world they knew. I’d like to go back to Poland some day to see the beauty of the land because for the eight days I was there, I could only see the ashes, the cemeteries, the concentration camps and mass graves. The signs of the living – a young couple stealing a few kisses in a Jewish cemetery; Polish families walking their dogs and picnicking next to the graves of hundreds of Jewish children – these signs upset me, depressed me, and yes, even angered me.

I have never been to Germany; doubt I will ever go. It was painful to go to Poland; Germany would be agony. I have nothing to say to the Germans – they are man, nothing more. They can make all the laws they want. They did in 1933, in 1938, and they will in 2012. Their laws are nothing when compared to the laws of God. Germany has outlawed circumcision. All that means is that it is time for Jews to leave Germany – not just the young ones contemplating having children, but all Jews.

If you are not prepared to uphold the law of a country, you have the option to leave it. If you want to be able to circumcise your son according to the law of God, leave Germany. Now, before it is too late.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/germany-the-laws-of-man-and-the-laws-of-god/2012/06/27/

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