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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

In Public Prayer Morsi Appeals to Allah to ‘Deal with the Jews’ (Video)

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Egypt’s Channel 1 broadcast a video of Egyptian Cleric Futouh Abd Al-Nabi Mansour, Head of Religious Endowment of the Matrouh Governorate leading an Islamic prayer service attended by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, during which he asked Allah to kill all the Jews and all of their allies around the world.

Appearing earnest in prayer, Morsi sat cross-legged, eyes closed, open hands raised in front of him, listening and answering “amen” as Mansour led a large group of worshipers in the October 19 prayer.

Middle East media watchdog  Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translated the clip of Mansour’s speech:

“Oh Allah, absolve us of our sins, strengthen us, and grant us victory over the infidels.  Oh Allah, deal with the Jews and their supporters.  Oh Allah, disperse them, rend them asunder.  Oh Allah, demonstrate your might and greatness upon them.  Show us your omnipotence, oh Lord.”

Morsi’s visit to Egypt’s northwest was his first since ascending to the presidency.  Following the prayer, Morsi delivered a speech about Egyptian unity.

Morsi has said he will maintain Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.  Morsi’s new ambassador to Israel presented his credentials to President Shimon Peres last week, sending along a note which raised a firestorm of controversy in Egypt, due to the perceived warmth of its tone.  Morsi’s office confirmed the authenticity of the letter following the insistence of the Muslim Brotherhood that the letter was a “Zionist fabrication”.

“Great and good friend,” Morsi wrote in his letter to Peres, “being desirous of maintaining and strengthening the cordial relations which so happily exist between our two countries, I have selected Mr. Atef Mohamed Salem Sayed El Ahl to be our ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.” Morsi signed off in commonly-used diplomatic language with “highest esteem and consideration.”

In July, Morsi wrote his first letter to Peres saying “I am looking forward to exerting our best efforts to get the Middle East peace process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for all peoples of the region, including [the] Israeli people,” and added “It was with deep thanks that I received your congratulations on the advent of the Holy Month of Ramadan.”

Correction: Memri released an updated video with corrected translation. The new version says “Deal with the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, disperse them, rend them asunder,” instead of “Destroy the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, disperse them, rend them asunder.”

The Power Of Prayer

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Once again I must postpone the continuation of my Oct. 5 column, “Technology, Yom Kippur, Ahmadinejad,” this time due to the heavy reader response to last week’s column.

As you recall, I shared my latest journey. It all started on Pesach in San Diego where I suffered four hip fractures and underwent major surgery, and now I was once again scheduled for yet another procedure on the day after Simchas Torah, Oct. 10.

I underwent my pre-op tests and was ready to go. But with every fiber of my being I believe in the miraculous power of prayer, especially when that prayer emanates from the heart of Am Yisrael , so I asked for one more Cat Scan, knowing full well that the odds of the results being different from the previous one were slim if not nil.

My surgeon studied the Cat Scan. “Rebbetzin,” he said, “the healing process has commenced. You don’t have to come for surgery next week.”

To be sure, my journey is not yet over. In a month I will have to be re-evaluated, but my heart overflows with profound gratitude. I am trying to keep the commitment I made to Hashem that if I would have the merit of healing without human intervention (surgery), I would publicly declare that through the power of prayer, the heavenly gates of healing can be opened and lives changed.

This past Shabbos I gave my usual shiur and taught Torah in the shul where I daven – the Agudah of Lawrence-Far Rockaway. It was Shabbos Bereishis, when once again we began the cycle of Torah readings from the very beginning. In that very first parshah the Torah describes the creation of the world and the creation of man, the very crown of creation. We learn that though the seeds of all vegetation were in place, it was only after man prayed for rain that the seeds blossomed and bloomed.

This prerequisite of prayer is evident throughout our Torah and history. My grandson spoke about it at our Shabbos seudah in his d’var Torah. Our mothers – Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, Leah, Chana and many others – were granted the berachah of children only after they prayed with all their hearts and souls.

This prerequisite of prayer holds true not only with regard to children but in every aspect of our lives. It was only after Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest man ever to walk the face of the earth, turned to Hashem with intense, genuine prayer that Hashem forgave the nation of Israel.

G-d’s response was comprised of just two words, but those two words had and continue to have more power than the most deadly weapons mankind can devise. We are all familiar with those two little words. They are engraved on our hearts and souls; they are the pillars of Yom Kippur: “selachti kidvarecha” – “I [G-d] have forgiven even as you requested.”

Yes, prayer is the foundation, the ultimate defense weapon of our people. Our father Yaakov was endowed with this gift by his own father, Yitzchak, who proclaimed those words that identified us for all time: “Hakol kol Yaakov” – “The voice is the voice of Yaakov.” That voice is the voice of prayer. It is so powerful that it can pierce the bolted heavenly gates and ascend to the very Throne of G-d.

Throughout the long centuries of our persecution, torture, and slaughter, this voice of Jacob has enabled us to triumph. It was prayer that enabled us to survive Hitler’s hell. I know – I was there. I heard it.

In our “enlightened” world, however, this voice has become muted; prayer has come to be regarded as something only a naïve, unschooled person can take seriously. We, the citizens of the 21st century, know the age of miracles has long passed.

And there are still other factors that impede prayer. Ours is a culture that has an

addiction to “instant gratification.” From computers to iPhones, fast food to microwaves, it must all be fast, fast, fast! So if our prayers are not immediately granted, we cut the line and lose connection with our G-d; we stop praying, sit in solitude, and our loneliness consumes us.

Two Old Men

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

As the men danced around below us, I had a lot of time to notice the people who were there – many are friends and neighbors of mine; children and grandchildren of people I know. The rabbi that is so loved in this community; a woman who regularly collects food for needy people. This one has a child who is ill; a boy with Down Syndrome who is so loved and cherished. This family has more boys than I can count; this one just had a daughter who got married. She’s a grandmother now. Her son just got engaged.  That one there is married to her over there. And on and on – a community of people.

Around and around the dancing went as I pointed out different people and stories to my mother. The ages ranged from a newborn baby held in her mother’s arms, transferred to a young aunt, to the grandmother and back to the mother. The baby was at most a few weeks old, sleeping happily despite all the noise.

And back to the dancing – the boys playing on the side; several men sitting down to rest and talking (and they accuse women of gossiping too much!) and finally my eyes turned to two elderly men. One was the one I wrote about in A Torah and the second, not nearly as old, was in a wheelchair. Both were afforded so much respect; as the men danced around they were always so careful not to bump into these two older men.

When the older one walked with a cane, there was always someone who walked behind him; sometimes three men would join together and dance moving backwards, their faces towards the elderly man – almost clearing the path for him. When the other was pushed in his wheelchair, he was often given a Torah to hold and he too was often escorted by others. His voice was amazingly strong when he was given the honor of singing out the beginning phrases of one of the hakafot (circles) as he held the small Torah with the green velvet cover.

Later, after the dancing and the seven hakafot had been finished, each man was given a chance to say the blessing over the Torah on this special day that we end and begin again. Each Shabbat, the weekly Torah portion is divided into 7 sections. Seven men are called up each week to recite the blessing – one at a time. They recite the blessing, the section is read, they say another blessing, and then the next one is called up.

In a synagogue where there are 200 men – giving all 200 the opportunity to say a blessing could take many hours and so – they divide up into several areas – and still each section is read 10-15 times before each man finally gets his chance. For close to an hour, again and again, they began the section:

.וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה, אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַךְ מֹשֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים–אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: לִפְנֵי, מוֹתוֹ

And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.

The next to last chapter of Devarim (Deuteronomy) was read until almost all the men had been given the chance to bless the Torah. There were now two blessings left to be said – the one to say the blessing over the final section of the Torah, and the one to say the blessing over the beginning of the Torah.

One man came up and began a special prayer honoring the one who would be given the opportunity to say the blessing for the final section of the Torah for this year. Calling up the Hatan Torah (the one to receive the last blessing) is done with much fanfare, “Arise, arise, arise,” and then they call out his name Eliezer, son of….and come give honor to the God who is great and awesome.”

And then, four men raised a tallit, a prayer shall over a man as he was escorted to the central area where he would say the blessing and the final segment of the Torah would be read. Four men, perhaps even six, held the edges of the prayer shawl high above their heads to create a canopy…and under the canopy, in the center, about to be honored, was the man in the wheel chair who was rolled down the aisle as all stood and sang. His chair was gently lifted in reverse up to the raised platform where the Torah is read. Usually before saying the blessing, a man kisses the Torah.

‘I Celebrate Your Holy Name’

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

I am postponing the follow-up to my previous column – “Technology, Yom Kippur, Ahmadinejad” – so that I might share with you a very personal experience.

As most of you know, in the final days of Pesach, while speaking in San Diego, I sustained a severe hip injury that required immediate surgery. While three of my fractures healed, the fourth did not. Every time I took a step (despite my constant companion, the cane), I was in pain.

To be sure, I continued with my normal schedule of speaking and teaching. My trips abroad, however, had to be put on hold.

For example, I had been scheduled to speak in France where I was especially anxious to address the Jewish community of Toulouse, the site of that horrific massacre of a rabbi and three children by a Muslim fanatic. We had planned to have a mass gathering of the Jewish community during which I was to present the widow of the rabbi with a Hineni medallion symbolizing that her pain was the pain of Am Yisrael.

From Toulouse I was scheduled to go to Marseille, Lyon, Paris, and Budapest, but all those events had to be rescheduled.

As the weeks and months flew by, it became apparent that more surgery would be required. The operation was to take place on October 10and I asked one and all to pray for me. In our computerized world, the Internet makes such requests an instant happening. I received calls, letters and e-mails for a refuah sheleimah from every part of the globe. I felt blessed and strengthened in the knowledge that my brethren were praying for me and wishing me well.

There were those who asked why I shared such private concerns with the public. My answer was simple: “The Power Of Prayer.”

Yes, I have witnessed the power of prayer many times. With my own eyes I have seen that when all else fails, when the skeptics declare the situation is irredeemable, the miracle of prayer turns everything around. We, the Jewish people, never give up. Our strength, our might, is in the voice of Jacob, the voice of prayer. That still small voice can vanquish all. With words that emanate from our inner hearts, we storm the Heavens and open gates that even the best locksmiths cannot open.

That is why I went public.

Though all was in place and I was scheduled for surgery, in my inner heart I was hoping for a miracle.

Even as I write this, I must tell you I fully realize that everything in life is miraculous. To undergo surgery and emerge in good health is itself an awesome miracle. I recall witnessing a car accident some years ago while walking to shul. It was a frightening sight and I davened for the man’s refuah sheleimah. A bystander, visibly shaken, said to me in Yiddish: “Rebbetzin, people think you have to go to a rebbe for a berachah to find a shidduch, parnassah, and so on, but truth be told, you have to go for a berachah simply to go forth from your home and return in one piece!”

So yes, everything is a miracle. Everything is under the guidance of Hashem.

In our morning prayers, when we bless G-d Who resurrects the dead, in that very same berachah we also praise His name for the miracle of rain. At first glance, this is difficult to understand. Can resurrection be compared to rainfall? Of course it can! Our sages juxtapose the two blessings so that we may forever bear in mind that one miracle is the same as the other, the only difference being our perception of the events. Rain is common – we witness it regularly, so we do not see anything unusual or miraculous about it. Resurrection, on the other hand, is something we never experience and therefore the whole concept is miraculous.

As I mentioned above, I am very much aware that all is miraculous, including successful surgery. Just the same, I beseeched G-d for a miracle that all would see and identify with the power of prayer. I was yearning to continue reaching out with the teachings of our Torah to our people in all the lands of our dispersion. I asked G-d that He heal me naturally, without human intervention.

Judaism in a Jar

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

If the recent Sukkot overdose of Shabbat, followed by two days of Yom Tov, and another Shabbat followed by two more days of Yom Tov, isn’t enough to get Diaspora Jews to move to Israel, with its force-feeding of gefilta fish day-after-day, until gefilta fish jelly drips out of people’s noses and horseradish pours out of their ears, I don’t know what it’s going to take until Diaspora Jews are fed up with practicing Judaism in a jar.

With an average of two balls of gefilta fish per meal for the 3 Shabbat meals, and two balls at each of the 2 seudot on Yom Tov times 2 – that makes for 28 gefilta fish balls over the holiday for each and every Jew. For New York’s 1 million Jews, that means that 28,000,000 gefilta fish balls were consumed during Sukkot, not counting the 14,000,000 balls eaten during the two days of Rosh HaShanah and the preceding Shabbat.

It’s a big boom for gefilta fish companies, but a big belly ache for Diaspora Jews, many of whom end up rushing at the end of the holiday to hospitals where emergency rooms are crammed with gefilta-fish-overdosed Jews suffering from Diaspora Poisoning.

[Incidentally, the booming gefilta fish market may get an additional boost from a very unexpected source - U.S. President Obama who, in a bid to attract more Jewish voters, is planning to announce that if he is re-elected, the traditional White-House Thanksgiving Dinner will feature gefilta fish instead of turkey.]

As we’ve written on many occasions, the Torah isn’t meant to be observed in the Diaspora. Judaism isn’t meant to be kept in a jar, but on the mountains and Biblical valleys of Israel. The Torah was given to be performed in Eretz Yisrael. We described how the holiday of Sukkot is natural to the Land of Israel, with sukkah booths all over the country, on terraces, rooftops, street corners, shopping centers, and army bases – not only in back yards in isolated Jewish ghettos. And here in Israel, Sukkot is an official national holiday, with a long 10-day vacation from school, so kids here grow up being proud Jews, and not some minority with a chip on their shoulder for being different than Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Another example is the prayer for rain which we began saying yesterday in the Amidah prayer. As we said it, rain started to fall outside the synagogue window, marking the start of the rainy season in Israel, and a ushering in a united feeling of joy. In America, where it rains all the time, the prayer is meaningless. The same things happens come Hanukah time, when in Israel we say, “A great miracle happened here,” while Diaspora Jews say, “A great miracle happened THERE.” Judaism is happening in Israel.

As long as the curse of the exile was upon us, we had no choice and had to observe whatever individual  commandments we could in the Diaspora, but now that everyone can come home to a national Jewish life in Israel, where Jerusalem is once again the center of world Jewry, the practice of Judaism-in-a-bottle, in the ghettos of foreign, gentile lands is no longer necessary.

So, as we all proclaimed at the conclusion of our Yom Kippur prayers: “Next Year in Jerusalem!” See you here soon!

Davening with Baby

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Some 21 years ago I had the honor of being the stay-at-home father, while Nancy was the one with the grownup job that required leaving the house every morning and going to a remote work area that involved other people. With nothing to do but my weekly columns and phone interviews, I was the obvious parenting choice.

So I developed many different activities a father can do with a small child. I learned that a small child can be used as a dumbbell, both for leg and arm lifts. In fact, the older the child becomes, the better shape the father should get into, until she is too heavy for leg lifts (and starts attending school regularly).

I also acquired many skills which never again served me in life, most notably the skill of holding the baby in one arm, opening the fridge, grabbing a bottle, twisting it off with your teeth, holding the bottle between your chin and your neck while filling it up with milk.

I’ve seen some mothers perform these tricks giving the impression they possessed four and five arms. I could do three, max.

Here’s a guy at the Kotel, davening with his little baby on Sukkot. You can tell it’s Sukkot from the guy with the lulav in the back. You can tell the proud father is a Lubavitcher from his siddur (prayer book).

On Sukkot we are mesmerized by the fragrance of the etrog and the haddassim. But I’ll bet you this father is too preoccupied taking in the fresh baby smell… I know I would be.

The picture was taken during the priestly blessing, which is another thing fathers get to do with their children.

Our daughter is in America these days, and so I give her the priestly blessing over Skype. You do what you can.

Chag Same’ach.

Combined Power of Torah and the Atom in New Dimona Nuclear Reactor Synagogue

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

The nuclear reactor in Dimona, for the first time in its long and hush hush history, will feature a full fledged synagogue. According to Israel Today, the ceremony of bringing a new Torah scroll into the newly inaugurated synagogue took place on Tuesday, and was attended—understandably—by only a small group of guests.

It turns out that in all the years since the most secret facility in Israel has been in operation, there was no permanent synagogue in it, and no Torah scroll, forcing religious employees to use makeshift spaces for their prayer sessions.

On year ago, Rabbi David Abuhatzeira approached Jewish American investor and businessman Ira Rennert (number 29 on the Jerusalem Post’s list of the World’s 50 Richest Jews, personal wealth estimated at $5.9 billion), and asked him to build a synagogue and furnish a Torah scroll for it.

According to a source quoted by Israel Today, Rabbi Abuhatzeira impressed upon Rennert (renowned as one of the earliest innovator of “junk bond” financing) the mind boggling effect of combining the holiness of the Torah with the power emanating from the nuclear facility in Dimona.

The new synagogue edifice stands on the nuclear plant’s grounds and holds 300 seats.

There are several hundred religious Jewish employees working at the plant.

The source told Israel Today: “We have no doubt that by building a synagogue and bringing a Torah scroll to a special place like this, will we will be protected from above against all external threats, including from Iran.”

And maybe inflict some holy damage, too…

God, Are You Threatening Me?

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Standing in synagogue this past Rosh Hashanah, an irreverent thought sprang, unbidden, into mind when the cantor arrived at the famous (or, rather, infamous) prayer of Unesaneh Tokef, which lists deaths that could eventuate in the upcoming year – “who by fire, who by sword, who my beast…” God, are you threatening me? thought I, at the moment when just such a thought could be most damning.

The hilarity of the moment, set against the determined somberness of the scene, brought on a burst of laughter, which I desperately struggled to smother. My blasphemy need not thwart the careful concentration of the other swaying, teary-eyed and appropriately quaking attendees. An awkward snort prevailed, which I easily passed off as a nose-blow, hiding my face in a tissue to authenticate my piety.

But the thought, and the frustrated emotions brought with it, did not leave me after exiting the prayer service that day. The ominous nature characterizing a good portion of the High Holiday liturgy can be difficult to understand. And I suspect I’m not alone in these struggles.

The writers of our holiday liturgy (in the case of Unesaneh Tokef, Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Germany, 11th century, tortured for refusing a Christian conversion according to popular tradition) were no fools. On the holiest days of the year, they sought to compose lines that would stir religious fervor and zeal in the hearts of repenters, proving successful for centuries. If, today, we find ourselves struggling to relate to these prayers, it stands to reason that the change has taken place within us.

But what changed? While fear used to motivate, even inspire, mine is a generation that views threats as challenges and raises a skeptical brow at austere ultimatums. Reverence often seems a throwback to old times, and absolute authority, whether in classroom or in the synagogue, is a concept increasingly more difficult to swallow.

As a counselor at an Orthodox Jewish sleep-away camp this past summer, I witnessed this phenomenon first hand. I worked with forty teenage girls, ages 15 and 16, and quickly discovered the most dependable way to get nothing done: threats.

A quick anecdote to illustrate the point: when color-war rolled around, to the dismay of some and adulation of others, it fell on my shoulders to inspire the creativity, enthusiasm (measured exclusively by volume in the dining room), and leadership potential in my campers. Those campers of mine, chafing at the bit for authority, trotted off, whistles hung importantly around necks, to cut, paste, glue, sing, swim and dance the day away. Naturally, the campers who remained lounging in the back of the bunkhouse were not the ones easily inspired by the day’s competitive, pink and green flurry.

My first tactic to get those recalcitrant few out of the bunkhouse and onto the field: the nonchalant, well-it’s-your-loss shrug. No movement. Second tactic: bribes. No response (apparently stale cookies held little clout). Frustrated, I resorted to the last and final course of action: if you don’t leave the bunkhouse right now, I’m going to have to… call your mother, dock your cell phone privileges, send you home. The end of my sentence would not have made a difference, the response to the first half was so complete. In a moment I became the challenger, and the enemy. While before my campers had been laxly apathetic, they now sat up, alert, suspicious and determined to move nowhere.

Who by sword, who by fire; the stakes are definitely higher than leaving camp a week early. But the response I witnessed in my campers, and in myself, is not the quiet for which I had hoped. Was this true a generation ago? I cannot say. Nor will I hypothesize about why my generation has such a hard time fearing authority.

What I can propose is a refocus on the positive, making the long High Holiday services a more pleasant, less conflicted, prayer experience. There are many prayers within the extensive liturgy that focus on Divine love and compassion, from the repeated recitation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, to the beautiful description of the Jewish people as God’s handiwork (pe’ulatecha), beloved (dodeinu), treasure (segulatecha) and more. Selecting to focus on positive imagery and the message of forgiveness and progress can quell our conflicted feelings at the prayers that seem to daunt and portend.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/god-are-you-threatening-me-refocusing-the-prayer-experience/2012/09/30/

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