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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Purim’

Dust Off The Windows (Part Three)

Monday, April 14th, 2014

In my previous column I continued to focus on the dusty windows that obscure our Jewish vision. I noted the inexplicable hatred and persecution that has plagued us throughout the centuries.

In every generation there are those among us who try to convince us it is our distinct Jewish appearance, customs and observances that have alienated us from our non-Jewish neighbors.

But how can these people explain the fact that Muslims, Hindus, monks, nuns, and priests who wear special garb do so generally undisturbed, even commanding respect?

Take a look at the yarmulkes worn by the pope and the cardinals of the Catholic Church. And the pope has a special hat, a mitre, which is quite similar to what was worn by the high priest of our holy Temple.

So how is it that we who introduced religious head coverings to the world should be treated with such disdain and brutality?

In our obsession to blend in with the nations we keep shedding more and more of our Jewishness but, paradoxically, the more we try the more we try to be like others, the more we are resented.

In vain did Ezekiel the prophet call out in days of yore that no matter how much we scheme in your hearts to be like all the other nations, we will never be considered the same as them. And he warned us of the terrible consequences of renouncing our heritage, our covenant.

Sadly, despite the admonishments not only of Ezekiel but of all our prophets, we have yet to learn our lesson. We continue to assimilate with fury – an assimilation compounded by our Jewish illiteracy. The great majority of our people have no knowledge of the Torah, the Prophets, or the Talmud. If you were to ask them just for the titles of our sacred books, not even a description of the contents, they would stare at you blankly.

Hashem, who knows the past, present and future, created in His infinite mercy windows for us. Windows through which we would be able to see what our minds reject and our eyes cannot envision. We have forgotten the message, yet it is easily accessible if we’d only look through the windows.

These windows prominently showcase the message of all our Yom Tovim but we refuse to look. In our pursuit of money, assimilation and good times we allow dust to settle on our windows until we can no longer see through them.

I started to write this series of columns between the weeks of Purim and Pesach. Even small children are aware of the magical story of Purim. Queen Esther was prepared to sacrifice her life to save her people from Haman. They know Mordechai was determined to awaken every Jew. But what really happened in that story?

Years before Haman’s ascent, King Achashveirosh called for a great celebration in honor of his marriage to the evil Vashti. All citizens of the empire were invited, including the Jews. Mordechai warned his brethren not to attend. The food would not be Jewish food. The atmosphere would be a desecration of G-d’s Name.

The people chose to ignore Mordechai’s warning. They had their own rationalizations to justify their participation. “It is not good for us to stay away…to refuse an invitation from the king. Persia is our host country. We have a good life over here. We have good relationships with the Persians.”

So they went and took part in a banquet that quickly became a nightmare of unspeakable drunkenness and debauchery.

Nine years down the line Haman was elevated to his position as second to the king. He convinced the king to annihilate all the Jews, pointing out that the Jews had forsaken their covenant. “It’s time to attack! When they abandon their G-d they become putty in our hands.”

The Clown Therapist Who Sees No Borders

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Reuven Singer can often be seen wearing two very different uniforms that seem worlds apart.

The 33-year-old father, who lives in Karnei Shomron in northwestern Samaria, dons his bullet-proof vest and carries his M16 to protect his community in an event of a terrorist attack, as a volunteer in his neighborhood security watch team. But Singer’s other uniform – a far jollier one – consists of a red rubber nose, clown shoes, and a colorful tie and crazy hat that he wears during clown therapy sessions at a Tel Aviv hospital.

The religious settler travels once a week to the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital), where he works to uplift patients, through jokes, laughter and improvisation.

“A hospital is not a fun place,” Singer tells Tazpit News Agency. You want the patients to feel more comfortable.

“I’ve worked with children and parents who are hysterical before blood infusions, check-ups, or surgery. My job is to relax the parents and help the child overcome the pain and tension. That helps the staff and doctors too. Once you give the parent and child a chance to smile and breathe more easily, it helps everyone,” Singer told Tazpit News Agency in an exclusive interview.

Singer, who has been volunteering as clown therapist for three years, has worked with many different sectors of Israeli society including Palestinian children from Gaza who have been brought into Israel for treatment. “You don’t look at the person before you – I don’t see an Arab, Eritrean, Russian, or whatever ethnicity person is – all I see is the pain.”

“To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s an Arab child or a Jewish child – I want to help bring that person out of the pain and give him or her some positive energy,” Singer explains.

“Sometimes, I throw in a word in Russian or Arabic during a joke and the smile in return is worth everything.”

Singer has found himself in situations where rocks have been thrown at his vehicle on his way home to Samaria from the hospital.

“Palestinians throwing rocks at my vehicle won’t stop me,” he says. “I believe that when Arab patients see me, it will give them a chance to see that a religious settler is not a monster and maybe in turn it will make them stop throwing rocks.”

Singer’s day job is aerial photography but he says that it’s his volunteer work that is most meaningful. “I volunteer in two very different professions, but both save lives in different ways.”

He describes a unique Purim two years ago in Karnei Shomron when he dressed up in the clown costume he usually donned for clown therapy session. Suddenly in the middle of the Purim seuda (festive holiday meal) the community was alerted to a potential terror threat.

“Here I was, dressed as a clown with a red rubber nose, and I had to go out with my M16 for a security check,” he says. “That was truly a bizarre experience.”

Today an estimated number of 320 clown therapists operate across Israel. Following a chance meeting with a clown therapist who treated Singer’s daughter when she was hospitalized five years ago, Singer decided to take a six-month clown therapy course where he learned how to be a medical clown himself.

“I go to the hospital every week and act as a clown to make someone feel better. I want to change a child’s reality for good and this is how I do it.”

Perfect Purim Hamantashen – Baked in Israel (Video)

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

This Year’s Esther-Award Goes To…

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

It is easy to spot Haman in today’s world. The Iranian Mullah’s with their destroy-Israel infatuation, a few European NGOs who back killers with the slogan of human rights, a PA which teaches its children to hate Jews and to detest life, to name a few…

But who is this year’s Esther?

My vote is with Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett, a world renowned actress, and hidden Esther-like Jew, stood up against EU and UN-types when she said goodbye to Oxfam in favor of the Israeli SodaStream. There was an element of a Purim-like turn around, when Oxfam tried to pressure Scarlett to drop SodaSteram, but this time, it was they who got the cut.

Why did she do it? She could not bring herself to project the Oxfam narrative about Arab oppression because she had seen the factories which employ satisfied Arabs, and hearing from them directly she understood what it would mean to lose their jobs in the name of “liberation.”

In her own words she explained that, “SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma’aleh Adumim factory every working day.” She defined Israel as the facilitator of normalcy while undermining the Israel-is–to-blame for everything account.

But what good could come to Scarlett by standing up for truth? On the face of it, very little. She could have gone on happily making movies without having to face the ire of bad guys, who no doubt, have the ability to threaten physical violence as well. Just stay out of it, its not your fight, why do you, a Hollywood starlet, need this Middle East headache?

And that is exactly why Scarlett wins the Esther Award – she did not need this headache, but still she used her position to publicly shame and expose the BDSers. As Mordechai said, “And who knows if for this time you were made queen?”

However, Scarlett’s actions did much more then defend the Jewish State. By said no to the narrative that Oxfam was drawing about Israel, she actually defended the world from accepting a general warped outlook which seeks to portray evil as good and good as evil. In Nazi Germany, it began by vilifying the Jew and extolling the Nazi party. Today, it begins by painting the oppressive Jihadists as freedom fighters, and Israel, the one shining light of hope for humanity in the Middle East, as the most evil force in the region. Experience shows that once these lies are accepted, the world is thrown into chaos and millions can die.

Scarlett bravely said no, and thereby stopped the lies from passing through her. Like Esther, she put herself on the line for truth, and like Mordechai, she would not bow down and give homage to the lies. And while it may have not seem like much, sometimes, just a sliver of courage is enough to put the bullies down, give the world another chance, and encourage a new generation to fight on for truth.

Happy Purim

Lego Purim

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Happy Purim (Photo Essay)

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Devout reader Avi Abelow sent us this batch of photos from Purim at his shul, Zayit Raanan, in Efrat. Send us yours and maybe we’ll publish them too.

Purim Sameach.


Zayit, Efrat

The Early Minyamoys. Photo by Avi Abelow

The Early Minyamoys.
Photo by Avi Abelow

Someone is always a vampire. Photo by Avi Abelow

Someone is always a vampire.
Photo by Avi Abelow

Sorry Rabbi, but that's not really a costume when you normally wear it 30 days out of the year.  Photo by Avi Abelow

Sorry Rabbi, but it’s not really a costume when you normally wear it 30 days out of the year.
Photo by Avi Abelow


Tel Aviv

Zombies in Tel Aviv

Zombies in Tel Aviv
Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90


Beit Shemesh

Photo by: Yaakov Lederman/Flash90

Photo by: Yaakov Lederman/Flash90

Photo by Yaakov Lederman/Flash90

Photo by Yaakov Lederman/Flash90

Purim Guide for the Perplexed, 2014

Friday, March 14th, 2014

1. Purim’s Scroll of Esther represents fundamental tenets of Judaism:

*Faith in God, in contrast to idolatry and cynicism;

*Value/principle-driven realism (right vs. wrong and civil liberties), in contrast to opportunism and wishful-thinking; *Attachment to roots (religious, cultural, historical), in contrast to detachment;

*Optimism confidence and courage, in contrast to fatalism, despair and fear;

*Tenacious defiance of enormous adversity, in contrast to defeatism, submission and accommodation;

*Community-driven responsibility, in contrast to selfishness/recklessness.

2. According to Jewish sages (as indicated by Yoram Hazony’s, The Dawn.), the Torah was initially bestowed upon the Jewish people in Sinai, and then – symbolically – during the time of Queen Esther. Hazony explores the political sophistication of (the eventual vizier) Mordechai and Queen Esther, who snatched – against all odds – victory out of the jaws of a Haman-conspired holocaust. Mordechai’s political savory was preceded by that of Joseph, who, a thousand year earlier, ascended to be the vizier for Pharaoh, and Daniel, who had risen to a similar position in the court of Persia’s Darius a few decades earlier. Hazony contends that the Mordechai-Haman confrontation was also a clash of civilizations between faith in God and idolatry, as was the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh and Abraham and pagan worshippers.

Mordechai introduced civil disobedience, insisting that absolute right and wrong are superior to state decrees. In addition, Mordechai, Moses and Abraham, as well as Gideon, the Judge and Samuel, the Prophet, ushered in the concepts of limited government, civil liberties and the centrality of the constituents.

3. Purim’s Clash of Civilizations constitutes an early edition of the war between right and wrong, liberty and tyranny, justice and evil, truth and lies, as were/are Adam/Eve and the snake, Abel and Cain, Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob and Esau (grandfather of Amalek), the Maccabees and the Assyrians, the Allies and the Nazis, the West and the Communist Bloc and Western democracies versus Islamic rogue and terrorist regimes.

4. Purim’s historical background according to Prof. Israel Eldad: *Xerxes the Great, King Ahasuerus, succeeded Darius the Great. He ruled the Persian Empire (from India to Ethiopia) during 465-486BC, 150 years before the rise of Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian Empire. *Greece was Persia’s key opponent in its expansion towards the Mediterranean and Europe, hence the alliance between Persia and the Phoenician-related Carthage, a rival of Greece.

*Greece supported Egypt’s revolt against Persian rule, which was subdued by Persia with the help of the Jewish warriors of Yeb (in Egypt) and Carthage, which had a significant Jewish population and a Jewish-Hebrew connection dating back to King Solomon’s alliance with the Phoenician kingdom (e.g., the names of Carthage’s heroes, Hannibal and Barca, derived from the Hebrew names, Hananyah and Barak).

*Xerxes was defeated by Greece at the battle of Salamis (480 BC), but challenged Greece again in 470 BC.

*According to a Greek translation of the Scroll of Esther, Haman (the Agagi) was Macedonian by orientation or by birth. Agagi could refer to Agag, the Amalekite King (who intended to annihilate the Jews) or to the Greek Aegean Islands. Haman aspired to decimate the Jews of Persia and opposed improved relations between Xerxes and the Jews of Yeb. He led the pro-Greek and anti-Carthage faction in Persia, while Mordechai was a chief advocate for the pro-Carthage orientation.

5. “Purimfest 1946” were the last words of Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows (Newsweek magazine, October 28, 1946, page 46). On October 16, 1946 (in the Jewish year 5707), ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg. An 11th Nazi criminal, Hermann Goering, committed suicide in his cell. Julius Streicher’s library, in his ranch, documented his interest in Purim and its relevance to the enemies of the Jewish people.

Parsha Zachor Reminder

Friday, March 14th, 2014

This Shabbat we read Parshat Zachor. It is generally considered to be an obligatory commandment to hear this section of the Torah read each year.

From Devarim (Deuteronomy) 25:17-19:

Remember what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt.

That he encountered you on the way and cut off those lagging to your rear, when you were tired and exhausted; and did not fear God.

And it shall come to pass, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies round about, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess it, that you shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget.

Parshat Zachor is always read on the Shabbat before Purim. Haman, one of the primary antagonists of the Megillah story, was a descendant of Amalek.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/parsha-zachor-reminder/2014/03/14/

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