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December 5, 2016 / 5 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Mordechai’

Maj. Gen. Mordechai to World Vision: ‘Assume Responsibility and Set your House in Order’

Friday, August 5th, 2016

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, expressed sharp criticism in his meeting Thursday evening with senior staff of World Vision, who are currently in Israel. The Coordinator conveyed the need for the organization to publicly condemn the incident and assume responsibility immediately.

The Coordinator presented to the organization the findings and confession from Mohammed El Halbi’s interrogation regarding his exploitation of the organization’s donations for Hamas’s military wing. The WV representatives emphasized that it renounces any support, direct or indirect, for Hamas, and intends to operate transparently and in coordination with COGAT, as required.

But World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello told the Guardian Thursday that his charity was “mystified” by the charges, because independent audits had found the charity’s programs in Palestine were “clean.”

Costello told Guardian Australia: “I want to reassure Australians that World Vision’s money in Gaza is being spent on reducing poverty for Palestinian people, not terrorism.”

David Israel

The Origins of Purim

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

(Originally published in 2011)


Last year, Makor Rishon carried a very interesting, thought-provoking article about the origins of Purim and Megillat Esther. Among other things, the article addressed the following questions:

  1. Why is Esther the only book of the Tanakh not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls? Is there, in spite of this, any trace or hint of it to be found among the scrolls from Qumran?
  2. Was Megillat Esther canonized when it was first written, or was it incorporated into the Tanakh only during a later era?
  3. How was the holiday of Purim celebrated (if it was indeed celebrated at all) in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora during the period of the Second Temple?
  4. Why are the dramatic events described in the Megilla not mentioned in the book of Ezra, which covers the same time period?
  5. Who is the central figure in the Megilla — Mordekhai or Esther? If it is Mordekhai, then why is the book called “the Scroll of Esther”? And if it is Esther — then why did the Jews originally call the holiday “the Day of Mordekhai”?
  6. Why does the Megilla make a point of telling us that Mordekhai was from the tribe of Benjamin, and that he (or his ancestor) was exiled exiled together with King Yekhonia of Judah?
  7. Why did Mordekhai order Esther not to tell anyone that she was Jewish?
  8. How could Esther instruct the Jews of Shushan to fast during the holiday of Pesah?
  9. What does the Megilla mean when it says at the end that when Mordekhai became a great figure among the Jews, he was “speaking peace for all his seed”? Who were “his seed”?

As a public service, the Muqata presents here a full English translation of the article. The text has been supplemented with several additional notes (which appear in brackets or as footnotes) and hyperlinks.

(The original Hebrew article from Makor Rishon can be read here.)


Makor Rishon

12 Adar, 5770 / 26.02.2010

Yoman, pp. 18-19

The Hidden Chapters of Megillat Esther

by Avinadav Witkun

Why was not even one copy of Megillat Esther discovered among the sacred writings found in Qumran?Why does the Book of Ezra fail to mention the tale of Purim, and how could Esther have asked the Jews to fast for her in the middle of the Pesah holiday? Researchers attempt to decipher the secrets of the Megilla in which there is no mention of God’s name or the Land of Israel’s name.

The holiday of Purim and Megillat Esther arouse no small amount of mixed feelings and emotions.It seems that many have a difficult time accepting the holiday’s unusual customs, the Megilla in which the concealed outweighs the revealed, the concealment of God’s name, and the concealment of Zion.On the other hand, the Megilla spins an amazing, dramatic tale, carrying in its wake an abundance of interpretations on the levels of allusions, homiletics, and mysticism.It practically cries out to the reader not to accept it on its plain, initially understood level.In addition, the Rabbinic commentary that spices it up – sometimes to the point of making one blush – intensifies the story, presenting a stormy tract of tangled, political intrigues, loving relationships that touch the heart, and sobering, bitter episodes in the relationship between Israel and the nations.

Cave 4 in Qumran, where the 4Q550 scroll was found

In academic research, by contrast, it has become common over the years to cast doubt upon the holiday’s origins, and to portray it as a late creation, without roots;a creation whose roots are alien to Judaism, whose characters are of dubious authenticity, and whose connection to reality or history is between tenuous and nonexistent.In point of fact, there is no reference to or evidence for the holiday of Purim from the era prior to the Mishna, except for two interesting sources:One is in the book of II Maccabees, and the second is in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that was deciphered only in the last few years.

Prof. Hanan Eshel, z”l

At issue is a scroll written in Aramaic[1], which was found in Qumran in 1952.Its crumbling fragments were deciphered only recently, but they have yet to receive the public attention they deserve.This is how Prof. Hanan Eshel [z”l] of Bar Ilan University explains it:“[The scroll] tells of details that are documented in Megillat Esther, but as opposed to the Megilla which is written in Hebrew, these are written in Aramaic.We’re only dealing with a portion of the biblical plot of the Megilla.There are no details to be found regarding Mordekhai, Esther, or Haman, but it does relate that the king couldn’t sleep at night, and that his servants would bring him books dealing with the tales of his father, Daryavesh [Darius], in which there was testimony to the effect that a Jew saved the king, but received no reward.Similarly, there is mention there of a man from the tribe of Benjamin”.The scroll, or more accurately, the crumbs that remain from it, is dated to the year 100 BCE, while the tale of the Megilla happens in approximately the year 490 BCE.“But the main part is missing from the book,” continues Eshel.“Where is the miracle?In I Maccabees [7:43], we see that one of the important battles of Judah Maccabee [the Battle of Adasa] happened on the 13th of Adar, a day before Purim.In II Maccabees [15:35], which was written in Greek outside the Land of Israel, it specifies that the battle took place one day before the “Day of Mordekhai”, but in I Maccabees, which was written in Hebrew in the Land of Israel, there is no such reference to this day.It would seem that in the Land of Israel, they were in no hurry to accept and sanctify the story of the miracle of Purim, as opposed to the Diaspora communities, where they accepted the holiday upon themselves”.

Through the eyes of Diaspora Jewry

Dr. Yigal Levin

In Rabbinic sources as well, one can find hints of criticism against the sages of the generation who opposed the pleadings of Mordekhai and Esther.“Write [my story] for [all] generations” [TB Megilla 7a], Esther demanded of the sages, but in spite of this – it appears that until the promulgation of the Megilla in Hebrew, which gave it sacred validity, quite a few generations passed.“We know nothing about the creation of the Megilla itself, or about the creation of the holiday, until the end of the Second Temple period”, says Dr. Yigal Levin of Bar Ilan University.“The earliest mentions are towards the end of the Second Temple period, in the time of Flavius Josephus and the Book of Maccabees.There is an earlier source, in the form of the Greek translation of the Megilla, in a somewhat different form, in the Septuagint of the 3rd century BCE.This is a source in which it’s unclear whether it contains additions, or whether we possess a version with omissions.In the Greek version, the name of God appears, and there is an explicit statement that what happened to the Jews in Shushan was a miracle.We don’t know when the translation was written.

“In the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have not found to this day even a small portion of Megillat Esther itself.There are researchers who ascribe this fact to the idea that residents of the area didn’t recognize the holiday, but in my opinion there’s no need to ascribe importance to things that are not found.Maybe one day someone will enter a cave and find Megillat Esther there.”Either way, says Levin, in spite of the lack of external historical evidence for the story in the Megilla, it is evident that the Megilla – which is saturated with Persian words – provides a rich portrayal of the Persian court in a fairly credible manner.“We assume that King Ahashveirosh was the Persian king Xerxes I, who reigned in Persia between the years 486-465.He was the fourth king of the Persian Empire after Koresh [Cyrus the Great], and not his direct descendant.He is known primarily from Greek historical works of the period, since it was in his time that the war between Persia and the Greeks reached its climax.Ahashveirosh invaded Greece – this is perhaps alluded to in the verse at the end of the Megilla:“And King Ahashveirosh laid a tribute upon the land and the islands of the sea” [Esther 10:1] – but in the end he was routed by the Greeks, in spite of his success in reaching Athens and burning the temples on the Acropolis.The banquet in the seventh year of his reign most likely marked this battle.Interestingly, Greek history also describes him as a hedonistic, weak-willed king, an image consistent with his character in the Megilla.Regarding Mordekhai, we know of someone by the name of Mordekhai who was a minister to one of these kings, but with no indication of his Jewish identity, or any particular importance beyond his being a senior minister.”

According to Levin, one would expect the miracle of Purim to be mentioned in the Book of Ezra, which deals with that period.“The Persian kings are mentioned there, the accusatory delegations sent by the [Samaritan] inhabitants of Israel are mentioned, but the story [of the Megilla] itself is not mentioned.From the perspective of the date, it would have been appropriate to mention the story of the Megilla.It would appear that in that period, they didn’t see a ‘big story’ in the story of the Megilla.Even if they were aware of it in Israel, it may be that they had no interest in mentioning the story.There are other strange details in the Megilla, for example Esther’s request to fast for her on Pesah.It is possible that at that time, after the destruction of the Temple, the festivals were not commemorated in the Diaspora in any special manner.Pesah was completely connected to the Temple.This theory strengthens the perception that this is a story that was written through the eyes of Diaspora Jewry.”

Festival for the founding of a dynasty

Prof. Jona Schellekens

Prof. Jona Schellekens, a member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Hebrew University, opposes the accepted research that sees the Megilla as a non-biblical, mythical work.“Every year, I sit and listen to the Megilla, and I realize how deep it is, how many levels it has.People get caught up with the surface level, which is not the correct one”, says Schellekens, a demographer by training who is also involved in research of genealogical trees and anthropology.In the periodical Journal of Biblical Literature, Schellekens published his hypothesis opposing the negationist approach to the Megilla prevalent in current research.“To start with, the claim that this is a Persian story, and with Persian pagan characters who underwent conversion, is groundless”, he says.“One can see a clear resemblance to other biblical tales in the Tanakh, and to other characters.This is also what led me to idea that it can be proven that the story was a real, human story, and that is what led to the writing of the Megilla the way it was written.

“The story of Mordekhai and Haman reminded me very much of the story of David and Shaul.It’s about a hero whom they want to kill, about a good, honest man, who looks out for his people but doesn’t receive recognition.I am proceeding from the assumption that at the time these things took place, politics was at play.If Shaul had won, he would have told us that David threatened him by seeking to usurp his dynasty.With the passage of time, King David acquired his legitimacy, and this process was supported, together with other factors, by the biblical story that relates how David could have killed Shaul and inherited his throne, but that he refrained – twice – from doing so.Without a doubt, it was critical to preserve and to tell this story for future generations, in order to oppose the slanderers who questioned the purity of David’s intentions.

“In the time of Haman and Mordekhai, too, there was a political struggle for influence.The Megilla describes the raging emotions of Haman ben Hamedata in a detailed and exceptional manner, and undoubtedly – and this is hinted at in the Megilla – there were those who questioned Mordekhai’s motives:Why are you provoking Haman – [especially] at a time when catastrophes have recently befallen the Jewish people – merely to achieve goals of political influence?Because of this, the Megilla comes and tells us that Mordekhai makes Esther swear that she that she would not reveal that she is a Jew, and that Mordekhai the Jew is her kinsman.In other words, the Megilla is clearing Mordekhai’s name, as someone who did not seek glory for himself.Why would it do this if it weren’t talking about a real, living figure?Only real figures find themselves in this sort of political trouble.Back then, they didn’t live in a democratic society, anyone who rose to a position of authority did so by force, and there were murders right and left, that’s why he required strong legitimization.

“The very fact that it writes that he was exiled together with King Yekhonia of Judah – in other words, that he was not an anti-House of David figure – is significant.On the other hand, his lineage is mentioned, just like the lineage of the House of David is mentioned in Megillat Ruth.He most likely did not have an easy time with a portion of the descendants of David, who did not see him as a legitimate leader, not to mention the fact that he apparently founded a dynasty of Jewish leaders under Persian auspices, as the last verse fairly shouts out, ‘and seeking speaking peace for all his seed’ [Esther 10:3].‘His seed’ is an explicit reference to a dynasty.The founding of a new Jewish dynasty brought with it the establishment of the holiday of Purim, in my opinion.That’s why its ancient name was the ‘Day of Mordekhai’.Ancient practice was to celebrate the days on which dynasties were established as holidays, just as we celebrate Independence Day today.The Jews rejoiced in their new leadership, at least most of them.

“With the destruction of the Persian Empire at the hands of Alexander the Great, the prestige of Mordekhai’s dynasty undoubtedly waned, and consequently, in a later period, the Sages transfer the emphasis from Mordekhai’s leadership to miracle of the salvation, and the ‘Day of Mordekhai’ turns into ‘Purim’.In other words, today we celebrate only a portion of the original holiday, which was appropriate for its time.Indeed, the Sages did not think like we do:They emphasized what was appropriate for future generations and what was necessary from here onwards, and not necessarily the minute historical details or the manner of their development.This is why I reject the idea from current research that sees Purim as being based upon a pagan holiday.This is a genuine Jewish holiday, and there is self-evident proof for this in the Megilla itself.”

Murder in the bedroom

In Schellekens’ opinion, his interpretation is not overly inventive.“According to the philosophy of science, my theory is more preferable than all the others, since it provides the maximum number of answers to the problems arising from the text.Why does it say ‘his seed’ at the end of the Megilla?Why does Esther conceal her Jewishness?I have one assumption that answers all these problems.”The good ending is manifested, according to Schellekens, in the last verse of the Megilla.“The promise of offspring, of descendants, is the greatest blessing of all”, he says.“In many books of the bible, there is a ‘happy ending’.In my opinion, in the past there was a continuation of the Megilla.It’s true that this is only a conjecture, but it’s possible that the continuation was a listing of Mordekhai’s descendants, just like the one that appears at the end of Megillat Ruth.”It may be that those who were loyal to the House of David had difficulty accepting Mordekhai’s prestige and his kingdom in exile, and this would explain the delay in the acceptance of the holiday in Israel.

And what about Esther, the tragic figure who rises to greatness and then disappears somewhere after Mordekhai’s status in the palace is strengthened?Was it really her fate to spend the rest of her days in Ahashveirosh’s harem?“In the end, Ahashveirosh was murdered in his bedroom, 13 years after the biblical story”, mentions Dr. Levin.Perhaps in the spirit of Purim, we can entertain ourselves with the idea that the unofficial ending of Megillat Esther is hidden in this event?Perhaps Queen Esther said her final word there?Is it possible that in this notion there is an echo of the Sages’ statements concerning Esther’s melancholy and covert marital relationship with Mordekhai, and the legend concerning the “devil” bearing Esther’s likeness that would rendezvous with Ahashveirosh at night, at the same time that Esther was being embraced by her beloved, Mordekhai the Jew?If we attempt to find clues to Ahashveirosh’s bitter end in his spacious bed, then we are dealing with a clever devil indeed…


[1] The scroll, from Cave 4 in Qumran, is designated 4Q550.A discussion of it can be found here.

Lurker

Was Mordechai Crazy? A Torah Thought for Purim

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

There is an interesting parallel between Pharaoh and Ahashverosh. Both absolute rulers are sure that their way is just and supreme. Pharaoh rules by force while Ahashverosh rules with the honey trap, but they have the same intentions and the results are the same. Both of them enslave Israel to their will and threaten to destroy the Jewish People. Both Moses and Mordechai ‘irresponsibly’ endanger the nation and at the beginning, make the situation worse.

“Why, Moshe and Aaron?” asks/threatens the king of Egypt. “Why disturb the nation?” You are bothering them. They, after all, are used to slavery. They were born for slavery. “Go take care of your other issues.” You are not leaders. You are private individuals.

As opposed to Pharaoh, Ahashverosh does not threaten anybody. He simply invites them all to his feast. Is it kosher? Strictly kosher. So how can the Jews show contempt for the king and refuse to attend? True, the vessels on display at the feast are the vessels from the destroyed holy Temple in Jerusalem. But why get bogged down with petty details? This is how Ahashverosh pulls the Jews along, getting them to make peace with the fact that they are in exile, encouraging them to even enjoy their status. Ahashverosh entices the Jews to revel at the feast that celebrates their acceptance of the destruction of the Temple – the palace and symbol of the kingly rule of the Creator in His World. Instead of accepting G-d’s rule, the Jews accept the rule of a mere human: Ahashverosh.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

Mordechai is connected to Jewish destiny. He knows that the exile mentality that Ahashverosh succeeded in creating threatens the Jews’ ability to realize their destiny. He knows that without destiny, there will be no existence for the Jews, either. And so, despite the fact that no danger seems to be looming over the horizon, and strictly because of the betrayal of the Mount and the Temple, Mordechai ‘endangers’ the entire Nation (crazy, pyromaniac…) and restores the Jewish People to their destiny.

Was he crazy? Perhaps. Ben Gurion may also have been ‘crazy’ when he declared the establishment of the State of Israel. History is the judge. But the clear lesson is that the majority will always prefer to ‘manage’ with the current situation and pay for short-term stabilization of their existence in the coinage of destiny. True leadership is concerned about existence, but will never surrender or take its eyes off its nation’s destiny.

Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom.

Moshe Feiglin

The Capacity to Change

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Fundamental to the idea of the korban, which we begin reading about this week, is the power to change oneself. After all the term korban comes from the word karov, meaning coming closer to God. Yet change is not easily accomplished. On its most basic level, the process involves a belief that one has the capacity to transform.

This capacity is implicit in the Purim story. Note how Queen Esther undergoes a fundamental metamorphosis in chapter four of the megillah.

When told that Mordechai was in sackcloth, she wonders why. At this point, Esther does not even know the Jewish people had been threatened. She had become so insulated in the palace of the king that she did not feel the plight of her fellow Jew. Furthermore, when asked by Mordechai to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people, she refuses, claiming that the rules of the palace did not allow her to come before the king.

Yet when Mordechai rebukes her, declaring that she too would not be able to escape the evil decree, perhaps the most powerful moment of the megillah takes place. Esther courageously declares that she would come before the king, even if it meant she would perish.

Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah. Once she becomes queen, she adopts the Persian name Esther. This name, which means “hidden,” reminds us that at the outset of her rulership she abides by Mordechai’s request that she hide her Jewish identity. But as the narrative in chapter four reveals, she returns to her roots. At a key moment she is ready to speak out powerfully on behalf of her people. Esther provides an important example of how change is possible.

Rabbi David Silber notes that one of the smallest words found in the megillah, dat, is used often and teaches an important lesson about Purim. Dat means law. In Persia, the law was immutable, it could never change. And so when Vashti refused to come before the king, Achashveirosh asks, “according to the law (dat) what shall be done to Queen Vashti?” And when it is decided that a new queen would be selected, the megillah once again uses the term dat – the law of selection. And when Haman accuses the Jews of not keeping the king’s laws, again the word dat is used. Indeed, the decree that the Jews be killed is also referred to as dat.

Even when told of Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews, Achashveirosh declares that he cannot change the prior decree that the Jews be killed. The law must remain. All Achashveirosh can do is allow the introduction of a new dat, a new law that stands in contradiction to but cannot take the place of the first.

Rabbi Silber points out that not coincidentally, when Esther agreed to come before Achashveirosh, she declares, “I will go to the king contrary to the law. Esther had been so transformed that she is prepared to defy the immutable law of Persia.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Those Jerusalem Views, Always Changing

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

In 1969 I came to Israel to be a student at Machon Greenberg in Jerusalem.  At the time I had many friends doing the year at Hebrew University.  Most of them were housed in brand new dormitories, called “Shikunei Elef” at the edge of the Givat Ram campus near the orchards that separated the campus from Givat Mordechai and Bayit Vegan. The buildings were long, thin rectangles on barren land.

I spent a Shabbat with one of my friends, and in the afternoon we walked from her dorm through the orchards to Givat Mordechai to see friends of hers.  Two years later I was married, a mother and we lived in a top floor walk-up on Rechov Bayit Vegan which davka overlooked Shikunei Elef.  During the ten years we lived there, I was able to observe how the university’s landscaping department managed to camouflage those plain buildings.

I hadn’t seen them for a long time until last week when I visited a friend who lives in the Senior Citizens Residences of the Shalom Hotel.  During the time we lived in Bayit Vegan we also saw the hotel under construction.

My friend and I went out on the terrace and I was mesmerized by the view.  It was the same basic view I had from my old apartment.  That’s for sure, because you can’t see our building from there.  I walked around and tried to see from the sides, but it blocks our old building.

The Shalom Hotel has two buildings.  In between is the swimming pool.  I couldn’t get a picture of our old home.  It’s blocked by the other building.

There’s so much building going on in Jerusalem.

 

It doesn’t matter how many apartments are built.  Housing prices still go up in Jerusalem.  Supply never reaches demand, because the more there is, the more people want to be in Jerusalem.

When we moved to Bayit Vegan in 1971, it was considered a suburban, almost country-like neighborhood.  There’s little to remind anyone of that today, except for the tall trees in the park near our old building.

This picture is taken on Rechov Uziel, under our Rechov Bayit Vegan.  Our old building is hidden by the trees. When we lived there, we were next to the large park/playground that connected the two streets.  There was just an empty lot in-between us and the park.  I could even see my kids playing there from our apartment.  You can’t do that today.  Just as we were planning our move to Shiloh building began on an apartment house on that empty lot.

Nothing stays the same in Jerusalem.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Batya Medad

Vacationing Tip: Get Lost

Friday, August 9th, 2013

I’m on vacation this month, so there won’t be a regular column.  Or at least there wasn’t going to be.  The questions keep coming in.

Dear Mordechai,

I keep losing my stuff.  What do I do?

Lost

STEP 1: Check your person.  (Your person is you.  That’s just how people say it.  I don’t think you’re expected to carry around a smaller person and go, “Hi, I’m Mordechai, and this is my person.”  But if you do, you should probably check him as well.)

STEP 2: Make sure to check the same five places 68 times.  Especially if it’s not a likely place for it to be.  For example, if you’re looking for your car keys, make sure to keep checking the fridge.

STEP 3: Call for the item.  Continuously say things like, “I can’t believe this!  Where is it?”  Like the item is finally going to break down and tell you.

STEP 4: Calm Down.  Whenever I lose something, my wife ends up finding it, and whenever my wife loses something, I end up finding it.  Now I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking we should stop hiding each others’ stuff.  But it really has more to do with panicking.

STEP 5: Buy a new one.  As soon as you open the package, the old one will turn up.  Guaranteed.  For example, if you lose your car in a parking lot, the best way to find it is to buy a new car.  If that doesn’t work, you can use the new car to drive around the parking lot looking for the old one.

On the other hand, maybe the reason we can’t find anything is because we keep buying new things, and everything keeps getting lost under everything else.

 

Dear Mordechai,

Why does everyone around me move so slowly?  Especially when I’m in a rush.

No Time

 

 This is definitely a problem.  These people are everywhere.

For example, there are the people in front of us one the supermarket checkout line, who, even though they’ve been waiting the same 25 minutes you were, don’t even start looking for their supermarket card until they get to the front of the line.  Like it’s a total surprise to them that they need a Shoprite card.  In Shoprite.

Or how about the person directly in front of you who leaves his cart in line and goes off to do his shopping, even though you got in line behind him in the first place because he had a pretty empty cart?  But then he looked back at your cart, and he got some ideas.

“Orange juice!  Where’d you find orange juice?”

“Over by the refrigerated juices.”

“Ooooh!  I’ll be right back.”

There are also a lot of people in your way on the road.  Now I don’t begrudge other people for being on the road.  But sometimes I can’t go because the person in front of me is stopped, and has his window rolled down, and is talking to someone who’s sitting in a car facing the other way, who also has his window rolled down, and I want to yell, “Get a cell phone!”

But you know how your mother always told you, “If you do things quickly, you’ll just mess everything up and have to do it over?”  Everyone else’s mother told them the same thing, and they’ve taken it to heart.

But of course, on the other hand, there’s a pretty big chance that if you do things slowly, you’ll mess them up anyway.  At least if you go faster the first time, you’ll have more time to do it over.

 

Dear Mordechai,

Is it possible I just need a vacation?

Stressed

That depends.  How annoyed do you get by everyday things?  For example, I recently came across a poll of the top 20 irritating pieces of technology, and apparently, the invention that annoys us most is car alarms.  Of course, the main reason this annoys everyone is that no one knows what their own car alarms sounds like, so when it goes off in middle of the night, they’re just as annoyed as everyone else, and instead of going out and turning it off, they spends hours trying to block it out and to fall asleep.  So I’m thinking that maybe we should be able to personalize our car alarms, like ringtones.  For example, I would make mine sound like an ice cream truck, so that as soon as a burglar sets it off, everyone will run outside.

Another item on the list was printers.  Everyone knows how frustrating printers can be.  You have a tray that can hold 100 pieces of paper, but if you put in more than 5, it gets stuck.  And sometimes, for no reason at all, it will tell you that you’re low on ink.

“Proceed?”

Yes, of course proceed!  I spend $85 on that cartridge, and the papers are still coming out fine!

But when the printer breaks down, what do you do?  It has one button.  You press the button, and if that doesn’t work, you press the button again.  There’s no way this button is doing anything.

Another item on the list was alarm clocks.  Those guys take so much abuse.  It’s not their fault it’s 7:00.

But if you’ve gotten to a point where you’re finding technology inconvenient – technology, which is supposed to at least be better than not having technology, — then maybe it’s time for a vacation.

 

Dear Mordechai,

Where do you suggest I go to get away from it all?

Still Here

 

If you’re looking to get away from the irritations of technology and people in your way, the best place to go is Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  My wife and I took the kids there recently, and it’s an excellent place to go if you want to get lost.  For example, one thing we did was walk through a gigantic corn maze.  Because getting lost while driving wasn’t enough for us.         

We actually spent a lot of our trip lost, because as it turns out, all farms look exactly the same, and there’s no one to ask directions from but the cows on the side of the road.  And we even did a lot of the steps of what to do if something’s lost: We called around for the place, we calmed down, we went down the same roads 68 times, but nothing.  And the whole time the kids are in the back going, “Look a cow!”  “Look! Another cow!”

Our GPS couldn’t find us either.  In fact, before we left, I had tried, unsuccessfully, to borrow a better GPS just in case this happened.  But then my wife put it in perspective.  “Were going to visit the Amish,” she said.  “We need a GPS?”

Because yeah, we visited the Amish.  The big draw of the Amish, apparently, is that they live without any of the conveniences of modern life, such as cell phones.  Except for one Amish guy that I saw while waiting for a buggy ride (mostly what you do with buggy rides is wait for them) in a town called “Ronks”, which, I have to admit, is a fun name for a town.  Ronks Ronks Ronks.  It sounds like a duck clearing its throat.

I later asked a non-Amish tour guide about it:

TOUR GUIDE: “The Amish don’t use electricity, because they don’t want any wires coming into their house from the outside world.”

ME: “I saw a guy on a cell phone today.”

TOUR GUIDE: “Um… Cell phones don’t have wires.”

But the Amish do have it tough when it comes to parental discipline.

“You kids don’t know how good you have it.  When I was your age, we didn’t even have… Wait.  You don’t have that either.  Well, we had to walk… Well, you have to walk too.  Oh, I got one!  When I was your age, we didn’t even have covered bridges.”

“Whoa, really?”

“Yeah.  All our bridges were uncovered.”

“Wow!  What did you do?”

So where do they take vacations?  Amusement parks, apparently.         I see them at every one.

 

Got a question for “You’re Asking Me?”  Send me a smoke signal.  My cell phone’s still missing.  Or maybe call it, and I’ll listen for the ring.

Mordechai Schmutter

Zechut Avot : An Eternal Birthright

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The first time was many years ago. I had just concluded explanations about Yeshivat Knesset Yisrael” which arrived in Hebron from Slobodka, in Lithuania in 1924. The Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah features an exhibit about this illustrious Torah-learning academy, nicknamed the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ which includes a ‘class picture’ from 1928.

As I finished my brief account, an older man approached me, put his finger on a picture of one of the yeshiva students and asked me, ‘do you see him? That’s me.’

That was Rabbi Dov Cohen, a phenomenal Torah genius, who, following my tour, came back to Hebron and gave us his tour.

I always thought that this was a ‘once in a lifetime event,’ having someone point themselves out in a photo taken so many decades ago, here in Hebron.

But it happened again.

On Friday afternoon the Farbstein family came into Hebron for Shabbat. Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, today dean of the ‘Hebron yeshiva,’ now located in Jerusalem, arrived with his wife and many grandchildren. And his mother, Rabbanit Chana Farbstein.

Chana Farbstein was born in 1923. Her father was Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, a Torah giant. Her grandfather was the legendary Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, dean of the yeshiva, located then located in Slobodka, which, a year or so later, moved to Hebron. Chana lived in Hebron until the 1929 riots, in an apartment next to Eliezer Dan Slonim and his family.

Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Farbsteins took a short tour of Hebron, which began in the museum. When we approached the Hebron Yeshiva exhibit, she moved, as hypnotized, to one of the photos on the bottom row, stared at it, and then pointed to a small girl in the right corner, saying, ‘that’s me.’ To her right, a young woman had her hand on little Chana’s shoulder. ‘That’s my mother.’

A ‘once in a lifetime event.’ And it happened to me for a second time.

Chana later told us that she must have been about four years old at the time the photo was taken.

Even though she was barely five and a half at the time of the riots, she remembered them quite clearly: “I remember a big truck going through the streets. They were throwing rocks at our house and calling out my father’s name ‘Chezkel.’ They were looking for him. It was our good luck, he was in Jerusalem.”

“Do you remember what was told to you, what was going on?”

“No one had to explain. We knew exactly what was happening.”

She said that on Saturday afternoon, her family was removed from Hebron and taken to the ‘Strauss Building’ in Jerusalem, across the street from ‘Bikor Cholim hospital. Asked when she ‘left’ the city,’ she replied: “We didn’t leave. The British came, on Shabbat, and took us to Jerusalem.”

Later she also spoke about remembering the pain of having to pray at the 7th step at Ma’arat HaMachpela, not being allowed to enter the structure. “We would stand there for a few minutes, and then leave.”

Were relations with Arabs always poor? “No, when we went shopping in the market an Arab with a large round basket would go with us. We would put the produce we wanted into the basket, he would carry it and later bring it to our home.”

Chana Farbstein is a phenomenal woman. She also stood with us on Friday afternoon, at the cemetery in Hebron, where 59 of the 67 massacre victims are buried. Her son, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, recited two Psalms at the site, his voice breaking, sensing the atrocities and pain of the events occurring 84 years ago.

The next morning, Mrs. Farbstein walked from Beit Hadassah to Ma’arat HaMachpela for morning prayers, and later in the afternoon, to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to attend a special class presented by her daughter-in-law, Dr. Esther Farbstein, an expert on Holocaust studies, author of the book, “Hidden in Thunder.”

After Shabbat, as I arrived to interview her, I found her sweeping the floor.

Her son, Rabbi Farbstein, told me that that last winter she had been very ill, and there was grave concern that she might not recover. But recover she did, and despite only meeting her for the first time, her inner strength and iron will were quite obvious.

David Wilder

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/zechut-avot-an-eternal-birthright/2013/08/05/

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