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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Mashiach’

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter 14: The Dybbuk

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Strangely, the person who seemed most affected by Tzeitl’s death was Goliath. Upon hearing the news, he surrounded himself with an impenetrable wall. He even found it hard to play with the children. Shmuelik said the body had to remain wrapped in a sheet on the floor of Hodel’s house until the Sabbath was over. During the Sabbath, mourning was forbidden, and Tevye did his best to remain strong. But come Motzei Shabbos, when the day ended, the children’s sobs at the funeral made everyone feel the very great weight of the loss. Little Moishe and Hannie clung to their grandfather as if he were father and mother in one. For their sake, Tevye kept his face locked in an optimistic expression. When the Mashiach came, he told them, their mother would return. With God’s help, they wouldn’t have long to wait. If they prayed hard enough, the Mashiach could come any day. All things considered, he reasoned, the situation of the dead was a lot better than that of the living. That is, if there were cows which had to be milked, and wagons which broke down in the World to Come, Tevye had never heard about it.

Tevye’s hope-filled posture paid off. After a few days, with the resilience of children, Moishe and Hannie ventured away from Tevye’s shadow to play outside with the youngsters of the kibbutz. Tevye and his daughters sat out the seven-day mourning period in Hodel and Perchik’s tiny, mud hut of a home. Goliath joined them as if he were a part of the family. He kept to a corner, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, but owing to his size, he filled up a substantial part of the room. He was gladdened when the children mustered enough courage to venture outside on their own. It gave him an excuse to sit outside the house, where he could keep an eye on their activities. That way, he could keep out of the way, yet still be a part of the mourning.

Because her family had to eat in her home while they were sitting shiva, Hodel had to be more stringent in the kitchen. While she never mixed milk products and meat, she had become less mindful of some of the other kosher laws. Since she and Perchik normally ate in the dining hall with the other members of the kibbutz, she had to make use of the communal kitchen in preparing the meals for her family. Shmuelik boiled the utensils which needed to be purified, and he kashered the pans in a blazing fire. Perchik called the procedure a primitive voodoo, but he controlled his disapproval as long as Tevye was in the house. However, he warned that when the week of mourning concluded, the foolishness would stop.

“It may seem like foolishness to you,” Hodel answered. “But to me it is important.”

“Has your father been brainwashing you again?”

“Don’t you dare to speak out against my father,” she said in a temper.

Perchik stared at his gentle wife in surprise. She stood glaring at him in defiance, as if she were seeking a fight. Since Tzeitl’s death, something in Hodel had changed. As strange as it sounded, she felt that Tzeitl’s spirit had entered her body. Everyone knew that stories of dybbuks were true. Souls of the dead could enter a person on earth until they found rest. In Anatevka, the Rabbi had exorcised more than a few. After all, Hodel reasoned, God had not brought Tzeitl all of the way to Israel to die in her arms for no reason at all. It was enough that Tzeitl wanted her children to grow up with Ruchel and the young rabbi, Nachman, to make Hodel realize the shortcomings of her present lifestyle. She had experienced a sense of rejection in her sister’s last wish, a condemnation of the path she had chosen, but in her heart, she knew that her sister’s decision was sound. After all, what sort of Jewish tradition could Hodel pass on to the children if the basics of Torah observance, like kashrus, Shabbos, and prayer were not to be found in her house? Soon, she realized, she would be a mother herself, and she wanted to bequeath to the next generation the things which had been important to her. Not only the aroma of freshly baked challahs, but the reverence for religion which had filled her house in Anatevka with a blessing from one Sabbath to the next. After all, it was the faithfulness to tradition which made a people last. Who said that modern ideas were necessarily better than the beliefs of the past?

Kashrut – More Than Just A Symbol On A Box

Monday, September 10th, 2012

When I walk in to the grocery store it is second nature for me to just check to make sure that that bag of chips or that cookie has an OU or other kosher symbol on it. To many Jews, it is just something that they do, and it usually is like that for me. But when this question was asked, I thought deeper. I began to think about how this label gives me a sense of community; and as I made that connection, I thought of our rich heritage, and once that relationship was made I thought about our homeland – Israel.

When I look at the kosher label on a box of cereal or a chocolate bar, it reminds me that this symbol is something bigger than just a letter or a word on the box. It reminds me that I am part of a community – a community bigger than just my shul, or even Denver in general. A community all around the world, a community of Jews. All around the world there are people like me. Someone who won’t eat bacon at his classmate’s birthday party, or who won’t go to that basketball game with his teacher on Saturday. When a terrorist attack happens in India and a rabbi and his wife are killed, we in Denver, Colorado feel the pain and mourn the loss of our fellow brother and sister.

A couple weeks ago I went to a deaf school to learn about the deaf community. One of the teachers asked me what my school’s letters, DAT, stood for, and I told her that they were letters in Hebrew. She pulled out her necklace with the word chai on it and said to me, “I am Jewish, too.” This is what the Jewish community is. It is larger than just me and my friend, larger than just me and everyone in Denver. This is a community all around the world that show and feel a rich connection to a Jewish past; people deaf or hearing, blind or seeing, religious or not.

Our rich history is something that unites us. I often feel that one of the reasons is because in the Torah we see great role models and leaders uniting us. There is Avraham – the original leader; Moshe – who united us and brought us to a great level; and in the future, Mashiach – who will bring us all back to Israel. Unity started when the ‘Father of Judaism’ brought us all together. We know Avraham went around traveling and converting people to Judaism. He showed people there is something greater than just themselves – something bigger than them all in which they can all connect and join together. Moshe brought us out from a time of pain and affliction from the King Pharaoh. He united us, and we all went in togetherness, relying on one another, out of Mitzrayim. We know that in the greatest time of Bnei Yisroel we were all in unity as we heard the Ten Commandments being given. This was what made Hashem so happy, and this is what Moshe brought to Bnei Yisroel. For forty long years he helped us unite when we were in the desert at a hard and rough time. He made sure we were all protected and that we followed the way of Hashem – the ultimate Being that keeps us united.

Finally, I would like to focus on Mashiach. Every day we await and hope for the arrival of Mashiach, who will bring us all back from the galut into Israel. Have you ever thought why this is so important? I think this is so important because all around the world there are people searching for something deep inside with this connection to our history. When Mashiach comes, he will do that. He will bring us all together in oneness underneath the greatness and the awesomeness of Hashem – something that connected us all as one with Avraham.

The third connection that I have to this bottle of apple juice with some letter on it is my homeland Israel and how it came to be. During the Holocaust, six million Jews were killed by terrible people and their entire Jewish identity was threatened. In a sense, to me personally this symbol shows the world ‘we are here; we are here to stay.’ After this tragic event happened, people came together and Israel was formed. When I look at this can, I know that my friend Gali in Israel has the same symbol on her can of soda, too. In Israel today people have come together – Jews everywhere can look at that tiny sliver on the map and say, ‘that is my home.’ Everywhere, people connect to Israel. I am very fortunate to have a community with Bnei Akiva – a youth group centered on Israel – where we learn about Israel and get to experience people with the same fiery passion within for Israel. Israel is our home and on every single kosher symbol we can see that connection to home.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

‘Gotcha’ (I)

I was intrigued by Meir Weingarten’s spin on the El Al cheap ticket fiasco of a couple of weeks ago (“Is ‘Gotcha!’ a Jewish Value?” op-ed, August 24).

First, I’m not sure he is the best choice to present the case for voluntary surrender of the tickets. After all, as a self-described “leader in group travel to Israel” he is not exactly a disinterested party when it comes to matters affecting El Al.

Second, while he referred to “some rabbis who wrote long, intricate articles why it’s not assur” to keep the tickets, he dismissed those articles without any authoritative explanation yet took it upon himself to apply a p’sak issued in a different context, again without authoritative explanation.

Third, he spoke of El Al as if it were human and therefore the beneficiary of halachot governing these kinds of transactions. Can a corporation be Jewish? And who says so? Finally, El Al did not request a return of the tickets and thereby legitimized the choice of customers in keeping them.

Why does Mr. Weingarten take it upon himself to go beyond what the owners of El Al demanded from the purchasers?

Gary Bernstein
(Via E-Mail)

‘Gotcha’ (II)

I wish those who initially took advantage of El Al’s mistake had had the benefit of Meir Weingarten’s article. However, it’s not too late for them to do the right thing – the Jewish thing. We are in Elul, after all.

Harold Marks
(Via E-Mail)

Egypt And Sinai

Re: “Israel’s Trojan Horse” (editorial, Aug. 24):

Wonderful analogy. The Egyptian military was given a way to reenter Sinai without Israel’s protesting. Why should they leave? Would you? And what will Israel do if they stay? Start a war? Another example of Israel’s continuing dilemma.

Selwyn Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

A Reelected Obama

Reader Gary Stein (Letters, Aug. 24) got it exactly right. It is very clear that on Israel and the economy, Mitt Romney is the clear choice over Barack Obama.

Concerning Israel, I have yet to hear from anyone why a reelected President Obama will continue to act as a friend of Israel when there is no longer a political reason to do so.

Misha Gold
(Via E-Mail)

Presidential Double Standard (I)

Re: “The President’s Double Standard” (editorial, Aug. 24):

It’s really very simple why President Obama would ignore attacks on Dennis Ross’s loyalty and rush to the defense of Huma Abedin when similar questions are raised about her.

Obama has always demonstrated a hyper-sensitivity to the feelings of Muslims (to be fair, George W. Bush did so too, as when he repeatedly declared that Islam is a “religion of peace”), while he knows most American Jews are so mindlessly beholden to the Democratic Party that they will vote for him no matter what he says and does.

Michoel Price
(Via E-Mail)

Presidential Double Standard (II)

I was frightened by the “dual loyalty” implications in last week’s editorial titled “The President’s Double Standard.” In discussing a 2011 New York Times article about the pro-Israel advice Dennis Ross gave to President Obama and several presidents before him, you wrote: “The inference is that such advice is so self-evidently against American interests that it could only have been offered by someone whose pro-Israel agenda trumps U.S. interests.”

That really opened my eyes. I’d read that Times article last year and was oblivious to what the writers were implying.

Anne Stern
New York, NY

Communal Disunity

I really appreciated the letter to the editor from Michael Brenner in the Aug. 24 issue. His views on the Siyum HaShas reflect my own and those of many other Modern Orthodox Jews.

I noticed that none of the speakers at either the Citi Field Asifa on the Internet or the Siyum HaShas wore a kippah serugah. Does what we wear on our heads define who we are?

I also appreciated the second item on the My Machberes page, concerning the conflict in the Satmar community between the two Rebbes and their respective followers. That split is a good example of why Mashiach has not yet come. In the name of their religious beliefs they are violating basic precepts of respect for each other.

Leonard Farbowitz
(Via E-Mail)

Perlman-Helfgot

Renewing The Face Of The Earth

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

I sleep every Tisha B’Av night on a narrow cushion in front of the Me’aras HaMachpelah in Hebron. I do this because the following chiddush came to me many years ago: When the spies went to Israel, the pasuk says “vayavo ad Chevron” – “and he came until Hebron.” He instead of they. Rashi says only Calev ben Yefuneh went to Hebron, to pray to Avraham Avinu that he not fall for the plan of the spies.

The spies gave their horrible report on Tisha B’Av night, and this night became a night of crying through the ages. So I said, “Hebron and Me’aras HaMachpelah is where I’m going sleep to remember the power of the prayer of Calev.”

And as I traveled to Hebron, how could I not stop at the tomb of Rachel Imeinu? It’s right on the way.

The Tenth of Av is my birthday, and this year as I walked from my car to Rachel’s Tomb I found myself singing, “Unhappy birthday to you, unhappy birthday to you, Dov Shurin!” – since on my birthday we are all crying for Mashiach.

Once I was in the tomb I took a Tehillim and beg David HaMelech to direct me to a verse that would consol me on my “unhappy” birthday. With my eyes closed, I asked that my finger open to a special page. I opened the book, my eyes still closed, and I asked, “Which page, right side or the left?” I imagined I was told the left. Then I ran my finger down the page until I sensed I should stop.

I opened my eyes and I was on the verse in Psalm 104 that reads “You send forth your spirit and they are created, renewing the face of the earth.” What a birthday present from above! It’s all about one’s birthday, about renewal. The verse before this is about death, and this verse is birth. I thought about the Torah giant we just lost, Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, and how Hashem certainly is renewing the earth with new tzaddikim; in fact, we’re told that Tisha B’Av is when Mashiach will be born.

Then I went to Hebron and stayed until Minchah time. At first it was difficult for me to deal with the Nachem prayer we say only on Tisha B’Av in the middle of the Vel’Yirushalayim Ircha blessing in the Shemoneh Esrei. The verses read: “Console the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem …. the city is destroyed, disgraced and empty.”

That’s not the case today, with close to two hundred thousand Jews living here, and we even have our light railroad. It just seemed to me the Nachem tefillah should be updated.

I did notice the Nachem prayer distinguishes between Zion and Jerusalem. So I decided to consult the amazing sefer of the Malbim, HaCarmel, which discusses relevant words and concepts. I turned to where he writes about Zion and Jerusalem. He notes that Metzudas Tzion was the city of David, which was occupied by children of kings, important personalities and Torah scholars, and the rest of Jerusalem is where the simple multitudes lived.

So Zion was what we refer to today as East Jerusalem. In my previous column I wrote about a police officer who was stabbed to death years ago by an Arab who came up from Silwan, which is Zion, which was the city of David and is called exactly that by those Jews who have settled there. So unfortunately the words of the Nachem prayer are in fact relevant today regarding East Jerusalem and its status in the eyes of the international community.

On Tisha B’Av Mitt Romney became the latest presidential candidate to promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, may it really happen this time. The Israeli government needs to make it clear that Jerusalem, and especially Zion, the city of David, is not for sale, period. Until then, the Nachem prayer remains true to its text.

May our Charming Nation see the consolation of Zion, the final Godly building of Yerushalayim, and the renewal of the face of the earth with the coming of Mashiach quickly in our day, amen.

Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums of original composition. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at dovshurin@yahoo.com. His column appears in The Jewish Press every other week.

Mashiach, Mashiach, Mashiach, Da Da Da Da DaDa

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Who is Mashiach? What is Mashiach? What’s he all about? Strange as it may seem, we learn about Mashiach from the wicked Bilaam, in the Torah portion of Balak. While the verses are obscure, the Rambam explains them in The Laws of Kings and Their Wars. Since many Diasporians picture the Mashiach to be some type of fairytale hero who will whisk them back to Israel on some kind of magical carpet when he flies down to earth dressed like Superman, with super powers and X-ray vision, we will try to present a more realistic, down-to-earth picture.

The name Mashiach (often translated as the Messiah) is derived from a Hebrew word meaning the “anointed one” – Hashem’s anointed king. The belief in the Mashiach’s coming is one of the Thirteen Fundamental Principles of our faith (13 Principles of the Rambam, Principle 12). Since in our very time, the Almighty has been gathering our scattered exiles to Israel from all over the globe, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook made a point to explain the concept of Mashiach to his students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, emphasizing that the Mashiach wasn’t only the ideal Jewish king, but also a gradually developmental process which evolves over time.

The Rambam writes:

“Anyone who does not believe in the Mashiach, or who does not anticipate his coming, not only denies all of the prophets, he denies the validity of the Torah and Moshe Rabenu, our teacher, since the Torah gives witness to him, as it says, ‘When all these things will come upon you (all the tribulations of exile), then the Lord your God will turn your captivity and have compassion on you, and return and gather you from the nations’” (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 11:1).

Believing in the Torah means believing in the Mashiach and yearning for his arrival. As part of the 13 Principles of Faith, we say, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Mashiach, and even though he may delay, nevertheless, I look forward to his coming every day.”

This means that when a Jew in the Diaspora is eating a bagel and lox and reading The New York Times, or The Jewish Press, or when he’s going to watch the new Woody Allen movie on Motzei Shabbat, he should be yearning for the Mashiach to come. In the Gemara, Shabbat, it is written, “At the hour when a man faces heavenly judgment, they say to him, did you yearn for the salvation of Israel?” (Shabbat 31A). Yearning for the coming of Mashiach, and the salvation he will bring, is complete Emunah/faith. Thus, the Ramban writes, someone who does not believe in him, or anticipate his coming, denies the prophets of Israel and Moshe, our teacher, since the Torah gives witness to him.

How does the Torah give witness to him? The Rambam answers with the verse, “When all these things will come upon you (all the tribulations of exile), then the Lord your God will turn your captivity and have compassion on you, and return and gather you from the nations” (Devarim, 30:1-3).

Please notice, my friends, that the ingathering of the exiles is proof of the Mashiach. As the Rambam makes clear, the incredible ingathering of our outcasts to the Land of Israel, an occurrence we have witness in our time, this is a revelation of Mashiach, an actual stage in the days of Mashiach, through the concrete aliyah of Jews from all over the globe, and not through miracles.

During the long generation we spent in galut, Mashiach became a misunderstood concept. Partly due to the pernicious infiltration of Xtian doctrines into our collective subconscious, Mashiach was envisioned by many people as a religious superhero who would arrive on the scene in a flash of miracles and wonders, and lead all the Jews out of the ghetto and back to the Promised Land. Helpless and impotent in galut, and constantly at the mercies of the goyim and their governments, we had no way of actualizing our dreams of returning to Zion, and thus this Superman fantasy of Mashiach seemed to be the only way we could be redeemed from the harsh realities of our lives. When centuries passed in waiting and disappointment, a philosophy of passivity arose. We were to pray and wait, and the Mashiach would do all the work when he came. The demand arose that the Redemption occur all at once, and be complete from the start, and not in a gradual, natural, process of historical development and events which came to completion with the passage of time (See our book, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Chapters 11 and 12, from which this essay is condensed.)

The Messiah Ain’t JeZeus, That’s for Sure!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

In response to yesterday’s blog about Mashiach, I received a few questions about Jezeus, the heralded Xtian messiah, so before continuing with our discussion about the true Jewish Mashiach, I will try to shatter this terrible Xtian myth that has plunged mankind into darkness for the last 2000 years. Hopefully, this knowledge will give you the ammunition you need should you encounter one of the Jews for Jezeus missionaries who are crawling like cockroaches all over the globe in search of hapless Jewish victims.

It is explained in the Talmud that the first missionary, the “one from Nazereth,” was a student of Rabbi Yehushua ben Prachia, one of the great Sages of the time and leader of the Great Assembly. Traveling together on a journey, they stopped at a lodge along the way. After a lady innkeeper attended to their needs in a diligent fashion, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia praised her for honoring Torah scholars in the appropriate manner. Pure and saintly as he was, he remarked in an innocent fashion, “How pleasant this innkeeper is.” The commentator Rashi explains his remark as referring to, “her deeds.” However, the “Nazereth” jumped up and exclaimed, “But her eyes aren’t pretty!”

When Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia heard his student say this, he proclaimed, “Evil person! You are preoccupied with this!?” meaning looking at women. And he drove him away in the most severe manner, as the Talmud records, “He thrust the Nazereth away with both hands” (Sotah, 47A).

In his lectures about the Mashiach at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, explained that the Sages of the Talmud deliberately stated that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia “thrust the Nazereth away with both hands,” as opposed to pushing him away with the left hand and drawing him close with the right, in the usual educational manner. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Prachia reacted in this emphatic way in thrusting the “Nazereth” away to show that he was clearly not the Mashiach.

The task of the Mashiach (or the Messiah, as he is known in English) is to save the Jews from its enemies and rebuild the Nation of Israel, yet the followers of Jezeus have slaughtered millions and millions of Jews and done everything in their power to keep Israel lowly and weak. Referring to Christianity’s renegade founder, the great Jewish Torah Sage, the Rambam (also known to the English-speaking world as Maimonides), writes:

“Can there be a greater stumbling block than this one? All of the Prophets spoke of the Mashiach as the redeemer of Israel, and as its savior, who would gather their dispersed, and strengthen their observance of the commandments, while this one caused the annihilation of Israel by the sword, and caused their remnants to be scattered and scorned. He caused the Torah to be altered, and brought the majority of the world to err, and to serve a god other than the Lord” (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 11:4, see the uncensored edition of Mossad HaRav Kook Publications).

Thus, if you come across a missionary for Jezeus, you have permission from the Talmud and from the Rambam to thrust him away with both hands.

The prohibition against idol worship tops the list of the Ten Commandments. No one is allowed to make or worship a graven image. As the Rambam explains, “The essential principle concerning idolatry is that people are not to worship anything created – neither angel, planet, star, the elements, or something derived from them” (Rambam, Laws of Idol Worship, Ch.9).

This includes great golden Buddhas, Hindu monkey gods, totem poles, statues of Jezeus, and the like. I would post a few photos in illustration, but it is even forbidden to gaze upon the picture of an idolatrous figure, as it says, “Turn not after their idols” (Vayikra, 19:4. See Rambam, 2:2, loc. cited).

In his writings on Christianity, which he calls, “Minut,” Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook explains that it began as a breakaway sect of Judaism which grew in influence and ultimately led the world astray with its doctrines. He categorizes it as idol worship, and says that its founder brought the majority of the world to err by serving a god other than the Almighty. By abandoning the mitzvot, Christianity enshrouded the world in a seemingly legitimate offshoot of idol worship. While imitating many of Judaism’s values and beliefs, Christianity actually led the world away from the true service of God.

Mashiach Now!

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Only an infant expects his desires to be gratified immediately. He wants his bottle now! He wants his rattle now! If he doesn’t get it, he screams, he hollers, he cries. Sometimes, when a child gets to be an adult, he still wants everything handed to him on a silver platter now, without having to do any work. For instance, some big babies demand Peace Now! To get their way, they are willing to do the most self-destructive things, like surrendering their homeland to the enemy and give them guns which end up killing Jews.

There are also people who want Mashiach Now! While the wish for Mashiach’s coming is a very praiseworthy thing, these people don’t realize that Mashiach’s coming is a process that evolves over time. These people want everything to be finished at the start. They say that when Mashiach comes and does all the work of rebuilding the Land of Israel, and gathers all of the exiled Jews to Israel, and fights the wars of Hashem, and rebuilds the Beit HaMikdash, then they will come on aliyah. First, everything has to be perfect. First, the Mashiach has to do all the work. If not, come hell or high water, they’re staying right where they are in Brooklyn, Boston, and Beverly Hills.

The Talmud speaks of “Tzaddikim who do not believe” (Sotah 48B). Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook explained that there were people at the time of the Second Temple who complained about the situation in their days, when a small portion of the Jews returned from exile, yet didn’t achieve the greatness of the past and the exalted level of the First Temple because the majority, including the community leaders, preferred to remain in Babylon with their businesses and wealth (Kuzari, Ch.2). In their eyes, the Second Temple was an affront. They would weep and express reservation and scorn, declaring, “This is the Temple? How pathetic.” The Prophets rebuked them for their attitude, asking, “Who has despised the day of small things?” The Talmud answers: “The small-minded among them who didn’t have faith in the Almighty” (Sotah 48B). You are disbelievers, the Prophets told them. The Lord is returning His children to Israel, it is He Himself who has re-established the Holy Temple, and yet you complain?

In our time too, Rabbi Kook taught, there are “tzaddikim” who criticize the Almighty for the way that He is returning the Jewish People to Zion. In their eyes, it isn’t glatt kosher enough for them. There are those who even say that what is happening now is the work of the Satan. Somehow they forget that everything that happens is from the Holy One Blessed Be He. Is it the Satan who has gathered millions of Jews from all over the world to Israel? Is it the Satan who has made the Land of Israel blossom and bloom after having lain fallow for two thousand years? Is it the Satan who has restored Jewish sovereignty over vast stretches of The Holy Land, and brought about miraculous victories in war, rebuilt Jerusalem, and made Israel the Torah center of the entire Jewish world? And still these people complain. They want everything perfect now! They want everything complete without having to lend a hand in the work and get their shoes dirty.

It is true that babies dirty their diapers, and teenagers do all kinds of stupid things that they shouldn’t do, and yes, even adults make mistakes. But is this a reason to throw the baby into the trash can, or kick the teenager out of the house, or burn an adult at the stake? Yes, there are problems in Israel; yes, not everything is perfect with the government; yes, the Supreme Court still has a goyisha cop; yes, not everyone is religious. But what about all the incredible good things? There’s more Torah being learned in Israel than everywhere else in the world. And in just a handful of decades, Israel has become one of the leading nations in just about every field you can name, from agriculture to computer technology. Just because we haven’t yet reached our ultimate Torah ideal, is this a reason to throw out the baby and kick the teenager out of the house?

Miracles In Moscow

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

“If you put Google, Apple, and Microsoft together, it still doesn’t compare to the miracles of Jewish renaissance I have witnessed in this country,” I said to two reporters from The New York Times and Moscow Times.

I had just finished a talk at a Shabbos night meal for 35 English-speaking ex-pats in the Marina Roscha shul in Moscow, a seven-story tall Jewish center that features, among other things, a mikveh, library, swimming pool, fitness center, banquet hall, theatre and two restaurants (one milchig, one fleishig).

It was one of over twenty talks I gave in Russia during my visit there last month. This particular event was hosted by one of the more than ninety Chabad shluchim serving the Jewish people of Moscow. The hosts were Rivkie and Rabbi Yanky Klein. Yanky is the son of Rabbi Binyamin Klein, one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s secretaries, and a grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Shusterman, the Rebbe’s baal korei.

“My grandfather actually got married in the Marina Roscha shul over 70 years ago when the building was a dingy shack and a dangerous place to visit,” Rabbi Klein told the two reporters. “On the day of his wedding, ten Jews had to surreptitiously enter the building at intervals so that no KGB personnel or KGB informer would suspect a religious ritual taking place inside. The wedding was performed quickly and quietly.”

“I remember Mrs. Klein, Yanky’s mother,” I added, “telling me that her father, Yanky’s grandfather, the same Rabbi Shusterman, used to take a detour around the Kremlin just to avoid coming near that dreaded place.”

The Kremlin in his eyes was the symbol of communist oppression – an oppression that claimed the lives of countless Jews and which brutally repressed Jewish life, closing down shuls and chedarim and arresting Jews who dared keep Shabbos or refused to send their children to communist schools.

“Fast forward to 2012,” I told the two reporters. “Right now, you are at a joyous Shabbos dinner together with hundreds of people (there were over 400 that evening enjoying staggered meals in the various entertainment spaces of the Marina Roscha) being served a sumptuous meal. Is this not a miracle?”

During my entire stay in Russia I kept pinching myself. Could I really be in what used to be the Soviet Union? Next to the Marina Roscha shul is the Chesed Center, a gorgeous sleek-looking building. The center services 15,000 Jews. And when I say “service,” I don’t just mean food (though it does have a soup kitchen). This humanitarian center provides dental care, eye care, haircuts, manicures, Hebrew classes, art classes, wheelchairs, shoes, clothes, Bolshoi Ballet tickets, etc. All this with high-class trappings. No smell of bleach or peeling walls. Quite the opposite. It exuded the aroma of the cosmetics floor in any American department store. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t want to leave. An aside: In the basement is perhaps the largest kosher kitchen in the Russia, preparing all kosher airline meals coming out of the country as well as all the challahs sold in Moscow.

Next to that building is yet another miracle. It is the site of the future Russian-Jewish Museum of History and Tolerance Center – expected to be the biggest Jewish museum in the world when it’s completed (scheduled to open in November 2012). Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to open it and he provided a good portion of the funds for the building. A visit to the museum will be mandatory for all Russian schoolchildren in grades 4– 7.

Who could have imagined any of this just two decades ago? Can any of us who lived through the terrifying Cold War era not get goose bumps when seeing this transformation?

On the last day of my trip, I hired a cinematographer for a project I’m working on, walked to Red Square, and filmed a standup saying the following: “Lenin and Stalin, where are you with your failed philosophies and ideologies, and where in contrast are the Chabad chassidim who fought you in the 1920s and ‘30s to keep Judaism alive in your land?”

As I said these words, four policemen were standing by. Just twenty ago, these words – in Red Square no less! – would have landed me in jail.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/miracles-in-moscow/2012/07/04/

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