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September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘prayers’

King of Morocco Asking Local Jews to Pray for Rain

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Jews throughout Morocco this past Sabbath responded to a plea by King Mohammed VI and prayed for rain. Muslims did the same in Friday prayers at their mosques.

“In conformity with the high instructions of His Majesty the King Mohammed VI, commander of the faithful, these prayers will be called for in all the synagogues to implore the Almighty to spread ample rain throughout the territory of the Kingdom,” the Council of the Jewish community stated.

The Morocco World News reported, “Moroccan Jews performed prayers in all the synagogues in the country, imploring God to spread bountiful rain on the entire territory of the Kingdom.”

The lack of rain this year has threatened the agricultural sector of Morocco, and the economy will be severely damaged if crop production drops because of the drought.

The King’s plea is not unprecedented. In 2007, nearly all of Morocco’s Jewish population of 5,000 turned out en masses on a Sabbath to pray for rain,

Morocco is one of the more enlightened Muslim countries, everything being relative, of course. John Kerry notwithstanding, there is a less than zero chance that the Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah would ask the Jews to pray for rain – for the simple reason that Jews are no Jews living in Saudi Arabia. Okay, there always is one. You just can’t get away from the Jews, but he probably is not orthodox.

But what happens if Mahmoud Abbas gets its Palestinian Authority state? He won’t, but just for the fun of it, let’s say he does. And then comes a drought and there are no Jews living in the Palestinian Authority, because the United Nations has made an exception that a Jew-free country is essential for peace.

Abbas would have several options: One, he could ask Jews in Israel to pray for the Arabs in the PA. Chances are that he would rather die.

But he also could demand that all of the Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries move to Judea and Samaria. That way, he would not suffer the embarrassment of inviting expelled Jews back to their homes but could welcome Jews from the Arab world to fill the gap.

The big question is what happens when the rain comes, whether in the imaginary Palestinian Authority or the real Morocco?

Who gets the credit, God or Allah?

The request of King Mohammed VI sounds great for peaceful co-existence until the arguments over who gets credit turns into war.

There is one other possibility.

Let’s say the rain falls only in the Jewish neighborhoods, or only in the Arab neighborhoods. Get out your Bibles and consult past history for the results in Egypt, when Jews lived in the Goshen neighborhood, and in ancient Samaria, where Elijah made fools out of idol worshippers.

Of course, Islam is not a religion of idol worshippers, even if radicla Islam has corrupted it into a religion of evil.

But since rain always seem to fall on the Jewish Sabbath, just when the non-observant were planning a picnic, it would be best to stick with the Jews.

Abbas to Blame Jews’ Prayers for Rain for Halting Peace Talks

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Jerusalem – Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared on Thursday that Israel must not be a Jewish state. He supported his demand by blaming Jews in Israel for influencing God to send the snowstorm that delayed visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Kerry was scheduled to meet with Kerry Thursday night, while the Secretary of State’s discussions with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were postponed because of the early winter storm.

“The Jews inserted special prayers last month for God to bring them rain but used Kabbalistic ideas in a code that encrypted requests that a winter storm would coincide with Kerry’s visit and disrupt his schedule,” Abbas told the official Palestinian Authority news agency.

He also noted that only a few days before the current storm, IDF soldiers stormed the Al Aqsa compound to learn about the alleged presence of the Holy Temples.

“There are too many coincidences, here,” Abbas told reporters in Kerry’s entourage after the Secretary of State landed at Ben Gurion Airport. “This is only a hint of what would happen if we were to recognize Israel a Jewish state. The Jews cannot be trusted. They will use their influence on God to get what they want. There might even be peace, Allah forbid, one day.

“The Jews will stop at nothing to ditch the negotiations that are aimed at two states, a Palestinian Authority state based on our needs for secure borders and an Israeli state with clear and secure boundaries of Dizengoff Square, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Azreilla Mall.”

Abbas also threatened that if Jews do not rip out from their Sabbath prayer books the prayer for the government of Israel and the IDF, he will go to the United Nations to declare a boycott on all synagogues throughout the world.

“I also will appeal to the International Court, after we gain membership there, to rule Jewish prayers a war crime because they ask Him to take vengeance on Israel’s enemies,” said Abbas.

Martin Indyk, who is the American government’s 56th special envoy to the Middle East in seven years and who is Jewish, did not comment.

Another Jew in Kerry’s entourage, Frank Lowenstein, told reporters he would forward Abbas’ demands to CAIR, the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR). The American Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization has been identified as having ties with Palestinian Authority freedom fighters who blow up Jews to be freed of them. In 1994, CAIR was one of four U.S. organizations of the Palestine Committee of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization and supporter of Hamas.

Abbas also charged that Jews, using their experience during the years they illegally occupied Goshen in ancient Egypt, manipulated the storm so that more snow fell on Jerusalem than on Ramallah.

Israel meteorologist Ahmed al-Hail told The Jewish Press that a heavy rain and snowstorm in early December is rare and that the timing is suspiciously similar to the period of the Ten Plagues, when Moses was the Jews’ senior negotiator with Pharaoh. And we knew what happened to him.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman pointed out in an exclusive interview with The Jewish Press, “Don’t thank God for the storm. I am the one who engineered it. Using my contacts in my native country, I arranged for the Kremlin to organize the storm, which arrived via the Black Sea.”

A senior national religious rabbi told The Jewish Press, “If Abbas has a problem, he can ask the Prophet Mohammed to turn to Allah, but he would be wise to make sure that there is no bomb in Mohammed’s turban. The Mossad works everywhere.”

Winter Finally Comes to Israel; Snow on the Hermon

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

The rainy season officially has begun in Israel, with snow falling on the Hermon mountain and streets in Jerusalem flooded.

November was almost totally dry, and special prayers for rain have been inserted Prime Minister Netanyahu daily prayers because 30 days have gone by without precipitation since Jews in Israel began the usual request for precipitation beginning two weeks after Shemini Azereth-Simchat Torah.

Outside of Israel, Jews began adding the request on Wednesday, December 4, coincidentally when rain began falling in some parts of Israel before spreading today.

The Kinneret, which could reach flood levels this year, rose for the first time Thursday after having fallen to 2.6 meters, or 102 inches, below the level at which the Degania dam would be opened to prevent flooding in Tiberias and surrounding areas.

The official forecast calls for scattered showers to continue through Sunday.

Davening–Praying Can Be Good for your Health

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Davening – praying – may not top physicians’ prescribed regimens for boosting health, but it benefits both mind and body beyond the spiritual elevation that comes with it.

Davening provides mental stimulation that helps keep the brain healthy, as an active mind has less chance of memory loss over time. With prayer services of substantial length, davening requires focus, concentration, discipline, and proper articulation, not only to get through the prayers and passages but to finish them on time, since in a minyan you’re praying together with others.

It could be argued that with the repetition of the same prayers week after week, year after year, the congregant is more or less able to daven by rote. That may be true, but there are a lot of words to recall, so even when the prayers are recited by rote, the mind is still stimulated. Indeed, whether one davens from memory or finds new challenges with each recitation, davening, for those of us who do so regularly, is like a daily mental workout.

If Hebrew is not your native language or one in which you are fluent, carrying out this endeavor has additional mental benefits; the recitation is even more challenging and therefore provides a better workout for the brain.

Davening is not a sedentary act; there are specific motions that accompany particular passages. During the course of the service the davener stands, sits, stands, bows, straightens up, turns, takes steps backward and forward, sits, stands, sits, stands, bows, and so forth. It’s not running, it’s not bench pressing, it’s not a high-energy workout, but it’s movement – and that can only be counted as positive.

For some people, particularly the elderly, davening may be one of the few forms of exercise they get. Done multiple times daily or weekly, it contributes to the minimum daily exercise recommended by various health authorities to increase longevity.

There are ancillary benefits that may be associated with davening. How does the davener get to synagogue? Walking is, of course, always healthy, particularly at a brisk pace. Davening at shul is a communal activity, and the camaraderie can lead to higher self-esteem and well-being and thus to better mental health. Singing prayers as part of a group can have similar benefits.

Some who daven are able to read or recite the Hebrew in the siddur but don’t know what the words mean. It behooves the davener to be able to translate the words properly in order to get the full benefit of davening. This provides further mental stimulation.

Because the text has so many layers of meaning, even the seasoned davener who understands what is being recited may discover new interpretations or challenges, which also helps keep the mind active.

Of course, correlations have been made between faith and well-being, and some elderly people have attributed their long lifespan to their faith. So these are benefits on top of the act of davening itself.

Davening can be a conduit to a sharp mind and a limber body. For religious fulfillment and mental and physical stimulation, it is a win-win practice. It’s never too late to start davening your way to good health.

Weeping for Jerusalem

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

I’m in Jerusalem, the city every Jew should be in love with. The world has become a very small place; in the blink of an eye we can cross continents. We belong to the generation that can visit so many cities, so many villages, so many vacation sites. After a while we become immune to them all. But Jerusalem is different.

If you are a Jew, Jerusalem is in your blood. It’s a city engraved upon your heart. Centuries ago Yehuda HaLevi wrote, “My heart is in the East while I am in the West.” No matter where life has taken us, our hearts have forever remained in the East, in Jerusalem.

When I was a little girl in Hungary I may not have known where Paris or Rome was but I did know the location of Jerusalem. My parents of blessed memory, HaRav HaGoan Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, and Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, a”h, nurtured us with the milk and honey of Yerushalayim. Nowadays, few still thirst for that sweetness. And yet, with all the distractions of modern life, Yerushalayim tugs at our hearts.

I just saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears the veracity of this connection between the Jew and this Holy City.

I was speaking at the Great Synagogue. There was no spare seat to be had and despite the lateness of the night people kept coming. Many lingered after I finished my speech. Some sought advice and guidance. Others just wanted to talk.

Above all they asked for berachos – for shidduchim, for health, for sustenance. And then a tall, lovely, blond-haired girl stood before me. She was crying. Something prompted me to ask, “Are you Jewish?” Her voice cracking with tears, she whispered, “I’m a convert. I came to Yerushalayim to become part of the Jewish people.”

She explained that she came from a country where Jews had been beaten and tortured and maimed and killed during the Holocaust. But her soul whispered the message, “Go, join the people who stood at Sinai; go to Jerusalem!”

I naturally assumed she sought a blessing for a good shidduch. “No, no,” she protested, “that’s not why I’m here. You just related a story that entered my soul. Please bless me with the ability of not forgetting.”

And then she repeated one of the stories I had told in my address.

The story was about a mother who lost her husband and eleven of her children in Auschwitz. She made aliyah but still had no peace. She couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t work. She couldn’t come to terms with her fate.

She sought out a rebbe – perhaps he would offer her some consolation. She spilled out her heart and described each and every one of her children. The rebbe listened and wept with her. And then he said something amazing. “I think I saw someone among the newly arrived children now settled in a kibbutz who fits the description of your Dovidl.”

The rebbe told her he would try to trace the lineage of that child.

A few days later the rebbe called. “I may have some good news for you,” he said. Heart pounding, she returned to the rebbe’s home – and there was her little boy.

“Dovidl, Dovidl,” she shouted. “Mama, mama,” he sobbed as he ran into her arms. When the little boy caught his breath he asked a painful question. “Where is my father? Where are Moishele and Rochele?” As Dovidl enumerated the names of all his brothers and sisters, he and his mother cried uncontrollably. They continued to weep long into the night.

As I told that story, I remarked to the audience that it occurred to me that Dovidl’s children and grandchildren have no memory of those who preceded them. Similarly, we come to Israel, rush off the plane, pick up our luggage and make our way to Jerusalem. And what do we think about?

We’re busy asking ourselves and each other, “Where is a good place to eat?” “Any new restaurants around?” “Did you try out that new hotel?” “Is it worth it the price?”

But do any of us ask, “Where is the Beis HaMikdash?” Does anyone really miss the Beis HaMikdash? Does anyone search for it? Does anyone even think about it? Does anyone even want to remember?

The girl who stood before me begged with tears, “Please, Rebbetzin, give me a berachah that I should never forget to cry for the Beis HaMikdash. I’m so afraid I will forget and become oblivious to its loss. I do not want to be like Dovidl’s children.”

I could only look at her. She had taken my breath away. I couldn’t recall anyone ever asking me for such a berachah – to be able to remain constantly aware of the Beis HaMikdash and, yes, to weep for it.

For thousands of years we prayed, wept and hoped for Yerushalayim. To see Yerushalayim again, to behold the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash, has always been the center of all our prayers. At our weddings, in the midst of our joy, we break a glass to remember our Temple that is no more. When painting our homes we would leave a small spot empty to remind us that no home can be complete if the Beis HaMikdash has not been rebuilt.

We have a thousand and one reminders in our prayers, in our traditions, in our observance, that constantly recall to us Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. And yet, now that we have Jerusalem again we have somehow forgotten our dream – our Beis HaMikdash that we prayed for and continue to pray for.

Sadly, our prayers for the Temple have become just words recited by rote. And here comes a young woman new to our faith and she seeks a blessing not for shidduch, not for parnassah, not for good health, nor for personal happiness – but for the ability to shed tears and yearn to see the Beis HaMikdash rebuilt. Should that not give us all pause? Should that not make us think and consider?

Should we not ask again and again and still again, “Where is the Beis HaMikdash?” I miss it so. I’m in Jerusalem but the shinning crown of the Holy City is absent and my joy cannot be complete until I see its glory restored.

Café el-Fishawy, Cairo

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Some 240 years ago, a man named al-Fishawy began serving coffee to his friends in an alley of Cairo’s Khan al-Khalili district each evening after prayers. The al-Fishawy’s gatherings grew larger and stretched longer, and the rest is history.

Qahwat al-Fishawi (Fishawy’s Café) is the most renowned café in the Arab world and a monument to the traditional Egyptian way of relaxing with friends—and the occasional stranger— over coffee, tea and tobacco.

We pray for the residents of Cairo to be able to emerge from their current strife and to return to their sweet and harmless (except for the tobacco thing) way.


A Blessed Land, Wet or Dry

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

The last several posts have been about the rain, hail and snow that has hit Israel in the last week. According to a news item I just saw, Israel received over 100% of its needed annual rain – in just this last week. In many places the rainfall was in the range of 150 – 200% of the seasonal expectations.

I opened this post because I wanted to write about something else, anything else, but the rain and the weather. Not because I’m sick of it – but because I thought maybe you were. But here I am again, summing it up because perhaps in making this many posts, those of you outside of Israel will realize what the rain and the water means to us. It is our yearly communication with God (from a people who communicate with Him daily)- yes, we see it as a blessing.

Every drop – even when it brings us mud, floods, and cold.

Sometimes, we see the rain as a message of comfort – I can’t tell you how many times there have been terror attacks and as the victims were being buried, the rain poured down. Some referred to the rain as God’s tears, that God was crying with all of Israel. Sadly, some very religious people take the rain as an indication of God’s whim. But God doesn’t have whims – He has plans; He makes promises and He keeps them.

There are things we do not understand – so many things, but I believe God answers EVERY prayer that is sent to Him. What we, as human beings, fail to accept is that “no” is as much an answer as “yes.” When we tell our children, “no, you can’t do that” or “no, you can’t have that” – we never mean that we don’t love them or that we aren’t listening or trying to do what is best for them. It is no different with God, who is the Father of all we are and all we have. I think God loves us – despite ourselves.

And what all these posts were meant to say is that we felt God’s love over the past week – yes, even in the floods, even in the damage. Trees were knocked down – okay, they will be replanted or re-planned. Houses flooded – okay, they’ll dry out and be repainted. There were, as there always are – so many miracles and so much positive.

A bus of soldiers was hit by a flash flood and swept away – it could have ended so badly – but they were all rescued. Children in several places were also swept away – and again, saved. Two Palestinian women were drowned but many Arabs were saved by our emergency forces.

From trapped cars, trapped homes – from roof tops and elsewhere, Israel’s emergency forces deserve our tremendous gratitude and love as the sun slowly works its way through the clouds and the weather forecasters promise a few warmer days of sunshine ahead.

Yes, Israel got hit with a storm of historic proportions last week – but we had a lot of fun. We saw some pretty silly people try kayaking down swollen waterways (and yes, one needed to be rescued) and since we’re less than two weeks from the elections, even politics made it into the weather with pictures of Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party photoshopped into various places.

He is, in many ways, the darling of the election. He is young, handsome, dynamic and fresh in a system that is predictable and dirty. While most others attack him and put words in his mouth, he has run a surprisingly clean and positive campaign. Several times, over Shabbat, his political enemies have attacked him – putting words in his mouth that he didn’t say, twisting and spinning. Bennett is a religious man and so keeps the Sabbath.

But I saw a report in which he said (paraphrasing here) – something like – “but Saturday night always comes.” There are reckonings to be made in all things. For all the nastiness that has come his way, his party has risen above all expectations and much of Israel laughed as his image was placed water skiing on the flooded highways, rising from the snow below Netanyahu’s feet, and elsewhere on Facebook.

And, I’ve just come home from the local mini-market (called “makolet” in Hebrew) and saw snow on the roof of someone’s car. I took a plastic bag and filled it part way; Elie wanted another. As I was doing it, a little boy across the street said, “Daddy, look snow.” And so I took him a handful too. I gave a snowball to Aliza and one to Davidi and put the rest in my freezer. I’ve done this before – it will turn to ice and be thrown out around Passover time (about 3 months from now). but for now, I have snow in my freezer and my house is warm. Shabbat is coming.

The Sea of Galilee is rising and Israel was reminded last week that blessings come from above, that sun follows rain, that we are forever protected, watched over, loved.

All the rest is the little stuff…I have snow in my freezer!

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

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