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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘message’

Yonah – Getting The Message

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

“Hashem occasioned a large male fish to swallow Yonah, and Yonah was in the fish for three days and three nights. And he prayed to Hashem, from the innards of the female fish.” – Yonah 2:1-2


According to the simplistic reading of the megillah, Hashem instructs Yonah to go to Ninveh and tell the people there to do teshuvah. Yonah, for some unknown reason, refuses to go and instead boards a ship setting out to sea, seemingly trying to run away from Hashem.

The mefarshim explain that nothing could be further from the truth. Yonah was a navi, a prophet of Hashem. A navi is a man of astonishing piety and greatness, who spends decades perfecting his avodas Hashem. While it is true that Yonah was running to the sea, it wasn’t because he was hiding from Hashem. Something much more complex was going on.

In that time period, the Jewish nation had veered far off course. Hashem planned to exile them from the land of Israel, and He intended to use the Assyrians to do the “dirty work.” The problem was that Assyrians themselves were so wicked, they deserved destruction. Hashem called on Yonah to go to Ninveh, the capital, to bring the people to repent, so that they could remain in existence and be the tool Hashem would use to expel the Jews.

Yonah’s reaction was: Hashem, if you wish to punish your people, you are the Master of the Universe. You know best, but count me out. I want no part of this. And so Yonah’s plan was simple. Direct prophecy was no longer given outside of the land of Israel. Hashem hadn’t yet given him the formal nevuah. So as long as he escaped the land of Israel before Hashem appeared to him to assign him the mission, he wouldn’t have to deliver it. And so he ran.

Nevertheless, Yonah understood that his running away would cost him his life (Mechilta). But he was so dedicated to his people that nothing mattered, not even his life. He was willing to die rather than play a role in hurting his nation. And so he boarded a boat.

The boat set out to sea and an enormous storm raged, threatening to destroy it. Seeing no other choice, the captain and crew threw Yonah overboard, and instantly the sea was calm. Along came an enormous fish that swallowed Yonah. Inside that fish Yonah did teshuvah. The fish spit him out. Hashem gave him the formal nevuah, and he went on to Ninveh.

Rashi makes a critical observation: When Yonah was thrown overboard the pasuk says he was swallowed by a male fish. Yet when he davened to Hashem, the pasuk says a female fish spit him out.

Rashi explains that both are correct. When Yonah was first thrown into the ocean he was swallowed by a male fish. He remained inside that fish for three days and didn’t repent. So Hashem had that fish spit him out and he was then swallowed by a female fish. This fish was pregnant, and Yonah was squashed inside and uncomfortable. The discomfort caused him to do teshuvah. Then the female fish spit him out.

This Rashi is very difficult to understand. We are dealing with an extremely idealistic man who is ready to give up everything because of his principles. He will run from his home, sacrifice his life, stand up to Hashem Himself, all because he deeply believes in the justice of his cause. How would a little discomfort change his mind?

The answer to this is based on a proper understanding of man.

The Compound Called Man

We humans are a complex breed. One minute we can be tolerant, understanding, and accepting, and the next minute we can be hard-nosed, obstinate, and rigid. In one situation we can be generous, magnanimous, and kind, and in the next situation we can be selfish and self-centered. But it’s the same person. And making sense of our actions requires a fundamental understanding of Creation.

To fashion man, Hashem took two opposing elements and synthesized them. He took a brilliant, untarnished neshamah and put it into a body. The neshamah only wants to do that which is noble, correct, and proper. Instinctively it knows exactly what is right and wrong, and it wants only to do that. The body, on the other hand, is very different. It is imprinted with appetites and cravings, needs and desires. It was formed with all the instincts needed for its preservation. It only knows these passions, and is solely focused on one agenda – staying alive.

The conscious “I” that thinks and feels is made up of both these parts. Deep within me is a desire to accomplish great things, to help others, to serve Hashem exactly as He wishes I should. And there is another part of me that just couldn’t care less. There is a full half of me that knows and experiences only physical desires. I am caught right in the middle of these competing voices, and I have the free will to choose which side I will listen to.

This seems to be the answer to the question on Rashi. As great as Yonah was, he erred. While his motivation was pure, he took a stand against Hashem. And as righteous and virtuous as his motivations were, he was wrong – and on some level he knew it. Deep within him, he knew the right thing to. But that was the problem. Because of his devotion he was willing to pay any price, endure any hardship, to keep his commitment. He had made his decision and was willing to sacrifice all for it – but it was wrong. How do you get him to reconsider? How do you get him to contemplate that he has embarked on a wrong course?

What Yonah needed was suffering. Pain is powerful tool. It can cause a person to reconsider, to think things through and view them in a different light. And pain caused him to reweigh the issue and recognize his mistake. Hashem put Yonah into the female fish so that the distress would allow him to rethink things and recognize his mistake. He knew it all along, but had pushed it down. The discomfort caused him to revisit the issue and confront the truth.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

An Important Message From The Jews To The Gentiles About The Jewish Holidays

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s blogsite, The Lid}

Well folks it’s that October time of the year again. Beginning Sunday night with Rosh HaShanah (translated as head of the Year) there are three major Jewish Holidays resulting in seven days we cannot work between the evening of October 2nd and sunset on October 25th.

Many in “our tribe” will be away from our computers for two and a half days Sunday night, all day Monday and Tuesday until an hour after sundown, As for me, as usual I will also be away from my computer on Saturdays.

Along with being the celebration of the Jewish New Year and the creation of the world by God, Rosh Hashanah begins the Yamim Noraim, the ten days of awe (that’s awe as in being God’s presence, not awwwww as in what you say when see an ugly baby– but you don’t want to insult the infant’s grandparents who are showing you pictures while you are in Synagogue during the High Holidays trying to pray).

The ten days between the first day of Rosh Hashanah ending with the final blowing of the Shofar ending Yom Kippur is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and atone for our wrongs.

Now while we are gone, allow me to give you an important reminder–we’ve built a nice little internet here, so PLEASE behave yourselves while we are gone.  Here are a few rules to consider:

  • Don’t talk about us while we’re gone. You know that stereotype about the Jews controlling the media and owning all the banks?  If it’s true we know what you are saying on the phone, radio, and the internet…. with one phone call any one of us can shut down your cash cards and empty your bank accounts. I am not saying the stereotypes are true (or not)…but if I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t want to risk it?
  • Don’t make a mess of the place, the cleaning lady was just here, and won’t be back until after Sukkot (Oct. 25)
  •  No guests while we’re gone.
  • We’ve marked the liquor we know how much is in every bottle.  Remember, we can treat you like adults or we can treat you like kids…the choice is yours.
  •  We left some brisket and kugle in the fridge in case you get hungry.
  • If you eat the brisket and/or kugle please remember:  don’t go swimming for at least an hour.
  • And for God’s Sake!!! Please put the brisket and/or kugle back in the fridge when you are done eating. Brisket makes great leftovers don’t spoil it for the rest of us.
  • Please stop slouching.
  • Don’t run with scissors!
  • We left the phone number of where we’ll be on the side of the fridge (next to the picture of Uncle Sol an me taken before he got out of prison). Uncle Sol looked good in stripes.
  • Play Nice Together: Right now you Trumpers and NeverTrumpers hate each other, I get it we have mutually exclusive objectives. We were friends before this campaign and I love’ ya’ll despite our political differences. Thankfully most of us are still friends, and for the ones who no longer talk to us because we differer, I will be praying for reconciliation while I am at Rosh Hashana services.

Oh and one more thing…summer is over–it’s getting cold, put on a sweater and a hat you will get sick and then we will all catch it.

Thank you for understanding.

To all my friends, Jew or Gentile


Jeff Dunetz

St. Louis Churches Reject Black Lives Matter’s Anti-Israel Message

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Bishop Lawrence M. Wooten, President of the Ecumenical Leadership Council of St. Louis, on Sunday published a letter in the St. Louis Post Dispatch headlined, “Churches reject Black Lives Matter’s platform on Israel.” Bishop Wooten, a graduate of Saint Louis University who served in the city’s public school system for 30 years, has created a Neighborhood Outreach Center, two Charter schools and a local Church that contains and supports more than 45 outreach ministries.

“Recently, Black Lives Matter issued a platform of demands. One of the demands called for the elimination of US aid to Israel. Their argument is that Israel is an apartheid state perpetrating genocide against the Palestinians,” Bishop Wooten wrote, noting that “most of the platform’s readers are likely unaware that its Israel/Palestine section was written by an activist who was born and raised as a Jew, although Rachel Gilmer says she no longer identifies as Jewish.”

Thank you, Bishop Wooten, for pointing out the smaller details of things, where all the pain usually resides, mostly personal, unresolved pain.

“The Ecumenical Leadership Council of Missouri, representing hundreds of predominantly African-American churches throughout the state, rejects without hesitation any notion or assertion that Israel operates as an apartheid country,” Bishop Wooten continued. “We embrace our Jewish brethren in America and respect Israel as a Jewish state. Jewish-Americans have worked with African-Americans during the civil rights era when others refused us service at the counter — and worse.”

Yes, dear reader, there’s an alliance between African Americans and Jews, there’s a friendship and an affinity — they just don’t exist on the extreme left of American politics. They probably never did.

“Anyone who studies American history will no doubt find the names Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, two Jews and an African-American, who lost their lives trying to provide civil rights for blacks in the south,” Bishop Wooten noted, concluding, “We cannot forget their noble sacrifices. Neither should Black Lives Matter.”

The letter, which should bring any self-loving Jew to tears, reminded me of the joke about the European Jew who brags about Europe having the best museums and best culture, and what do you have in America, he asks? We, answers his Jewish American friend, have the best goyim.

David Israel

Rav Bina’s Shavuot Message

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Video of the Day

Analysis: Sec. Kerry’s Holocaust Memorial Day Message Minimizes Jewish Loss

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day which opened with drowning the memory of the Jewish victims—undeniably the focal target of the Nazi state death industry—by mixing them with all the many other, PC approved victims. And so, Jewish survivors and children of survivors were told by the honorable Mr, Kerry that “On this day, we pause to reflect on the irredeemable loss of six million Jews and countless Poles, Roma, LGBT people, J Witnesses, and persons with disabilities brutally murdered by the Nazis because of who they were or what religion they practiced.”

And so, with one infuriating paragraph, Mr. Kerry eliminated the memory of the years 1933-1939, in which the Nazi propaganda machine concentrated on the Jews of Germany and the rest of Europe, dehumanized them and prepared the citizens of the future Nazi empire for the systematic removal, processing and methodical killing of the most productive, prosperous and moral national group on the planet.

Everyone else — Polish civilians, Gypsies, Homosexuals and the infirm — were mere footnotes in the global Nazi enterprise of the “final solution.” By opening his remarks on Holocaust Remembrance Day with deliberately discounting the Jewish loss as being part of the overall sadness of the human condition, Kerry is, in effect, acting as a Holocaust denier, even as he mourns the Holocaust.

The Nazi Holocaust was planned against the Jews, only the Jews, and saying otherwise suggests the Nazis were merely those bad people who caused a lot of pain. But that was not the case at all. The Holocaust was an experience in which humanity was divided, essentially, into two groups: those who actively hunted and gathered Jews, and those who stood by and let the hunt last for as long as they could.

The US government was aware of the anti-Jewish Nazi atrocities starting in 1933, when they began, when Jews with US citizenship started filing up in the Berlin embassy to report the beating, flogging, torture and murder of Jewish American citizens who had the misfortune to be in Germany in those satanic years. It was followed by US rejection of Jewish refugees seeking shelter on American shores, and was culminated by the US military actively prolonging the operations of the death camps by refusing to bomb the camps and the railroad tracks used to haul the last remaining members of our Jewish families.

“We draw strength from the heroic survivors who summoned the courage to share what they endured so others might draw from their wisdom and experience and who answered evil in the most powerful way possible – by living full lives, raising children and grandchildren, and advancing the ideals of equality and justice,” writes Kerry with some eloquence. This after having spent last summer bringing back into the fold of civilized nations the Islamic Republic, which is engaged in the most public and unabashed fashion in a state-sponsored effort to annihilate Jews. Kerry was indefatigable in his ceaseless work, spanning several years, to endow the Islamic Republic with the hundreds of billions of dollars it will require to complete its Jew-killing endeavor. Has the man no sense of shame at all?

Kerry concludes: “It is our solemn obligation to not only preach compassion, but practice it – and to do all we can to ensure that ‘never again’ is a promise not only made, but kept.”

For one thing, never again will John Kerry serve as Secretary of State; and never again will he come barreling through Jerusalem and Ramallah trying to win a Nobel prize for himself on the backs of Jewish homesteaders. Other than that, statements like Never Again should be relegated to when you wake up after the all-night binge and can’t find the Alka Seltzer.

David Israel

A Message from a Soldier in Israel

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

My son Naff, a combat engineer in the ‪‎IDF‬, just wrote this and sent it to me, on the occasion of ‪‎Yom HaShoah‬ – Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Today is a day where we remember. A day where we look back on one of the darkest periods of our history. A day that, as I get older and understand more and more, is not just about mourning what we lost, for me today is about looking back on the horrors of the past to remember where we were and at the same time look at how far we’ve come.

We have risen from the ashes of a broken world and we didn’t fix it. Fixing it wasn’t good enough – we created a new one, a better one, one where I can serve, for the first time in two thousand years, in a Jewish army, and commit myself to the sentence that everyone uses today “never again”.

If I could go back in time and visit my great-great-grandfather in the camps and tell him “Sabba, I’m your great-great-grandson and I live in the land of Israel, but not only do I live in the land but I also voted last year for a Jewish government and on top of that I serve in the first Jewish army in two thousand years.” What would he say? Would he believe me? Probably not, that’s why I see today as a day to measure how far we’ve come as a nation to show the world you can kick me down but I will get up over and over again.

Have a meaningful day, people, and I want to thank all the people who don’t just use the words “never again” one day a year to post to Facebook because it’s what’s done. I want to thank the people who stand behind those words every day even when it gets hard. It’s because of people like that that we’ve gotten this far.

 עם ישראל חי

{Written by Naff’s mother, HaDassah Sabo Milner, shared by blog site, A Soldier’s Mother}

Guest Author

Pesach’s Message for Modern Times

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

It’s the festival we have all grown to know and love. Some say Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur are the pinnacle holidays, but I believe Pesach truly defines us.

Pesach is about the Jews’ plight to freedom from the clutches of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The story is famous, but not just amongst ourselves. It was that moment in history that we unified as a people and walked towards the acceptance of the Torah and its laws.

Throughout the ages, persecution has been a recurring theme for our religion. Be it expulsion, pogroms, holocausts or mass-murder, new faces have risen to direct hatred toward us. Many have tried to rid the world of each and every one of us, but not once have they managed to succeed.

When I sat down for this year’s seder, surrounded by family, we discussed the story in detail. We spoke about our forefathers; the inhumane work they were forced to do, the murder of newborn babies and the heinous attacks they received. Yet, putting things into a modern-day perspective, we could have been reviewing the events of the past century.

Times may have changed, yet the oppression continues on.

Admittedly, there are some stories through our history that are difficult to envisage. For instance, the flood that destroyed the world besides for Noah and his children; it’s easy to understand the concept, but to imagine it actually taking place is hard. Or the idea that Lott’s wife, after turning around to watch the destruction of their city, changed into a pillar of salt. However, I don’t think anyone can deny how simple it is to comprehend the grief our ancestors had for hundreds of years. It’s relatable because it’s repeated so frequently.

The struggle faced in Egypt became the past. It may have happened millenniums ago but the message of endurance is still applicable. We are not in slavery but symbolically, we are bound together through a different type of chains.

So what should we understand that we can take into our lives in the 21st century?

When the tribes first went down to Egypt, Yosef was an important figure. His father and brothers settled comfortably and started to adapt to their changed surroundings. Food and water were in abundance in contrast to what they had just come from. Easily, their trust grew in this new country and its leader because their means and day-to-day existence became better and more relaxed.

Generation after generation continued to settle there, steadfast in the knowledge that they were welcomed like royalty decades before. Over time, Yosef and his brothers passed away, leaving behind their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a land that was never going to be their real home.

A new king rose to power, decidedly ignorant to why the Jews deserved any right to be treated well. They became complacent and thought that this is where they belonged. Little did they know what trauma was awaiting them in the future.

This is the original story of our survival. The reason why this tale is so famous is because it shows that G-d is always there, forever in the background, no matter how cloudy it may seem.

If you changed the details to concentration camps, Nazis and Europe, surely the resemblance is more than apparent?

It doesn’t matter what they dress up as or what they’re called, the original Pharaoh and his henchmen are still here. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Nazis have all been defeated, but this story remains the essence of our identity because it serves as a harrowing reminder.

I used to think to myself; why is the constant theme of seder night Leshana Haba’ah Benai Chorin (Next year we hope to be free) or Leshana Haba’ah B’Yerushalyim (Next year we hope to be in Jerusalem). Surely, with our passports and technology, we are finally have our freedom?

I’ve grown to realize that the message of the Pesach story is in actual fact a warning against this feeling. When we start to feel accepted, that is when we should be worried. Our trials and tribulations strengthen our faith and unity. We are our strongest when we are united, and we are never more united than when we feel pain. We are not free, we never will be.

One day, eagle’s wings will approach, and with that, our redemption will at last be final.

Selena Myers

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