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January 18, 2017 / 20 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

The Isaac Covenant Part III: Menorah: Symbol of Exile or Redemption?

Friday, December 30th, 2016
(Originally posted to the author’s blog, Libi BaMizrach}

The thrill of Chanukah is upon us as we once again have the privilege of lighting the Menorah. As the symbol of Chanukah par excellence, it brings to mind both the story of religious revival (the one pure flask which miraculously lasted eight days) and the national/military victory of the Maccabees (who overcame overwhelming odds to push out the Syrian/Greek Tyrants and restore Jewish sovereignty) with which we are all so familiar.

But, of course, the Menorah is not only the symbol of the Hasmonean Chanukah. It is also a central symbol of the Bais Hamikdash in general, even though the Chanukah menorah has eight lamps instead of the original seven. Moreover, it is a symbol all of the Chanukahs in Jewish History [1] . What is fascinating, however, is that it is also the symbol of the Exile.

On a recent trip to Israel with my family, we had a long stopover in Rome. Far from being displeased, I was thrilled to be able to fulfill a lifelong “bucket list” dream – to visit what is perhaps the greatest symbol of the Diaspora (with the possible exception of Auschwitz/Birkenau), the Arch of Titus. This edifice was constructed in honor of the evil Titus upon his completing the defeat of Judea and Jerusalem, after taking over for his father Vespasian. He was particularly monstrous; killing thousands while ransacking and abusing and burning the Bais Hamikdash (Gittin 56a), and returning to Rome with an enslaved Jewish people and the spoils of war.

Famously and prominently depicted on the arch is the Menorah being triumphantly carried off to Rome, along with our other treasures, (where they may or may not still be in the catacombs of the Vatican).[2] A famous symbol, erected in Rome, of the final and crushing end to our national sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael and the beginning of the dreadfully long and painful Exile that we have suffered for over two thousand years.

netanyahu-at-the-arch-of-titus netanyahu-at-the-arch-of-titus

Since that time, we have been under the boot of the Romans and their successors, very much including the Church. As the final Rashi in Parshas Vayishlach takes pains to tell us, Rome is the prime descendant of Eisav, the one who we had to be protected from via the Jacob Covenant.

One of the most inspiring stories I have ever heard was of the time that Rav Yosef Kahaneman zt”l, the Ponovezher Rav, visited Rome on a fund-raising trip.  As described yibodel L’Chaim by Rabbi Berel Wein who knew him well, the Rav arrived in Rome late on a miserable night with his companion Dr. Moshe Rothschild from Israel.  Dr. Rothschild looked forward to a warm hotel room and some hot tea after their journey, but the Rav had something else in mind.  He insisted on immediately being driven to the Arch of Titus; it could not wait for the morning.  Upon arrival, he got out of the car, stood in the freezing cold rain, and stared at the Arch for a while, and then adjusted his Kapota and hat, and shouted:

“Titus! Evil Titus! Take a good look at what has occurred. You dragged my hapless people out of our land two millennia ago and led them into an exile from which they were never to return. You went home to Rome – the most powerful nation on earth – in glory and triumph. But Titus, where are you? What has become of the glory that was Rome? What has become of the infallible empire that was supposed to last forever? The Jewish people however are still here and continue to flourish. Titus, Mir Zenen noch do…Avu Bist Du?  (We are still here! Where are you?”)

Coming from that place, and that story, made for an incredible feeling upon touching down at Ben Gurion airport a few hours later.


This aspect of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus, truly the symbol of the Exile, was a very hot topic on 11 Shevat 5709 (1949), when a committee was formed to determine what the symbol of the new State of Israel ought to be. The well-known symbol chosen was the Menorah flanked by two olive branches, similar to the famous Menorah standing outside the Knesset building.

A sharp protest to this choice was voiced by then Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Herzog zt”l. He objected on several grounds: (a) The Menorah depicted there has a stepped base, while the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash stood on a tripod of legs, (b) The menorah on the Arch has dragons and other creatures that may have been idolatrous, and therefore “our government made an unfortunate choice today in choosing the picture of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus which apparently was crafted by foreigners, and not made B’Taharas HaKodesh (in Holy Purity)”. Rav Herzog opined that the solid base that was depicted was surely due to damage that occurred to the Menorah in transport, and the Romans had thus replaced it.Other scholars, notably Daniel Sperber [3], proposed that the menorah had already been altered from its original design before Titus’ arrival. Perhaps, he suggests, the new pedestal was the brainchild of someone eager to introduce a pagan motif into the Temple while at the same time remaining nominally sensitive to Jewish concerns. The most likely culprit in this regard would have been King Herod, who greatly enhanced the beauty of the Bais Hamikdash, while attempting to make it pleasing to the Romans as well. In an interesting article on the subject, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik wrote, “Herod’s relationship with the Temple was a complex one. On the one hand, all contemporary sources, including the rabbis of the Mishnah, agree that he oversaw a stupendous refurbishing of the Temple Mount, elevating its architectural status into an eighth wonder of the ancient world. On the other hand, the contemporaneous historian Josephus recorded the king’s efforts to Romanize the Temple, as well as the outrage this sparked among his subjects:

For the king had erected over the great gate of the Temple a large golden eagle[symbol of Rome], of great value, and had dedicated it to the Temple. Now the law forbids those that propose to live according to it to erect images or representations of any living creature. So these wise men persuaded [their followers] to pull down the golden eagle; alleging that although they should incur any danger which might bring them to their deaths, the virtue of the action now proposed to them would appear much more advantageous to them than the pleasures of life.

Be that as it may, (and there is a great deal more scholarship on the subject) it seems abundantly clear that the Menorah on the Arch of Titus was truly a symbol of the Exile, and it is curious that the Zionist government would take that Menorah as the national symbol.

Chabad Chanukiya

Chabad Chanukiya


The late Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l took this a step further.  It is well-known that the Rebbe insisted, based on the Rambam’s opinion, that the original Menorah – and by extension the Chanukiah – was composed of branches that came out of the stem in straight diagonal lines, notwithstanding all of the ancient depictions of the Menorah, particularly the one on the Arch of Titus, that had curved branches.  Besides rejecting the curved Menorah based on  issues of authenticity, the Rebbe wrote that, in addition…

“the image on the Arch of Titus was specifically created for the purpose of emphasizing the authority and supremacy of Rome over the Jews, so much so that the words Judeo Captiva were placed there.  There were times that they would forcibly bring Jews there to witness their subservience and subjugation, etc”.

Sifting through these thoughts at Chanukah, and in thinking about our time, it seems clear to me that although he disagreed with the Rebbe about the original menorah had diagonal branches,  Rav Herzog agreed that the decision to enshrine the Menorah from the Arch of Titus as the symbol of the nascent State of Israel was ill-advised.  I assume that they both saw our time as the beginning of the Isaac Covenant.    A time when the Jewish people would no longer be defined by the Tituses of the world; a time that we are past merely focusing on survival of the Diaspora, (as demonstrated by the Ponovezher Rav), but are beginning to reverse the damage and move towards the ultimate Geulah.

Chanukah, as generally celebrated in Israel is certainly still far from achieving its true purpose as commemorating the rededication of the pure Light of Torah as our national guide and joy.  For too many, it focuses on only on a military victory  and prowess, hence Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabee Beer, and Maccabiah games.

Nevertheless, let us celebrate how, בימים ההם בזמן הזה, we see many parallels coming true, in our time, of witnessing where

“You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day”.

May we learn to appreciate the gift we have of living in such a time, and look forward to the Avraham Covenant, a time when once again,

“Your children will enter the shrine of Your House, clean Your Temple, purify Your Sanctuary, and will kindle lights in Your holy courtyards, and institute new days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your Great Name.”

May the new light over Zion that has begun to shine only increase in its’ strength, so that soon “we will all merit together to appreciate its illumination”

Happy Chanukah
1 Cf. Rav S. R. Hirsch “Chanukah Through The Ages”, Collected Writings Vol II, Feldheim Publishers, NY 1985 pp213-32
2 Cf. Steven Fine “Art History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity, pp.63-86.
3 Sperber, Daniel “Minhagei Yisrael” Vol. 5 , Inyanei Chanukah

Rabbi Lenny Oppenheimer

INTO THE FRAY: For America: Respite – NOT Redemption

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

[Our] elections model suggests that Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidency, based on the latest state and national polls. A victory by Mr. Trump remains possible: Mrs. Clinton’s chance of losing is about the same as the probability that an N.F.L. kicker misses a 37-yard field goal. – “Hillary Clinton has an 85% chance to win”, New York Times, November 8, 2016.

Incredibly, this New York Times assessment, predicting an almost certain Clinton victory was posted at 10:20 PM ET on Tuesday, when, in effect, most voters had already cast their ballots. Indeed, it was not until about 5 AM on Wednesday that the paper’s forecasting machinery began to give Donald Trump a greater probability of winning.

Smug and supercilious

Little else could illustrate more dramatically how detached the allegedly “enlightened” social elites have become from the recalcitrant realities in the world around them. Little else could underscore more vividly how the misguided complacency, born of smug arrogance and supercilious superiority, have isolated them from the shifts in the mood of discontent in growing segments of the public, outside their immediate like-minded ideo-intellectual milieu. Worse, it stripped them of any ability –indeed, willingness—to understand them—and even desensitized them to the need to consider them of any weight or merit.

They were so self-absorbed with their own sense of pompous self-righteousness and puffed-up self-importance that they were totally oblivious of an “Other”, which they seemed to be incapable of envisaging. Indeed, although recognizing “the Other” is allegedly the hallmark of their socio-political credo, the only “Others” that these self-anointed paragons of wisdom and virtue can conceive of, are in fact, darker skin-toned versions of themselves.

They were incapable of conceiving that their “progressive” world view of multi-culturalism and moral relativism, in which everything that made America what it is, could be discarded in favor of everything that didn’t, would not have universal appeal for all intelligent life. They were utterly convinced that they embodied “the spirit of the times”, imbued with an unshakeable belief that they were on the “right side of history”—just as ISIS and the Ayatollahs of Iran do.

Intellectual inbreeding in an ideological echo-chamber

In explaining how the Obama administration has managed to enlist the main-stream media to endorse the fatally flawed Iran deal, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications , confessed: “We created an echo chamber. They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say”.

This seems to be precisely what happened during the Trump campaign—particularly in its final weeks. His detractors seized on every piece of information as definitive proof of the coming of his inevitable downfall. Every pejorative item of breaking news was pounced upon as heralding the inexorable demise of his presidential bid. Typical of the misplaced haughtiness this self-reinforcing intellectual inbreeding within a contrived media echo chamber begot, was reflected in a caustic piece written a month before the elections (October 8) by John Avalon, the editor-in-chief of the allegedly “progressive liberal” Daily Beast. Headlined, “All Over But The Shouting: Donald Trump Just Lost The Election”, it informed the readers: “His numbers were already nosediving after a disastrous first debate performance, but the tape catching the candidate bragging about sexual assault has alienated key allies and confirms his critics’ suspicions.”

With unassailable conviction, Avalon assured us: “Mark down the date: October 7, 2016, is when Donald Trump lost the presidency.”


It would seem that, in contrast to Avalon, the voters understood precisely what I pointed out last week—that the elections were for President, not Pope. Consequently, being a crude (the less charitable might say “lewd”) SOB is not necessarily a definitively disqualifying defect. After all, similar epithets could be attached, not implausibly, to previous incumbents, even heaven forfend, Democratic incumbents—from Clinton to Kennedy.

Rejecting unwanted metamorphosis

As I have written elsewhere, Trump was the creation of Obama and Clinton – a reaction of millions of Americans to the unwanted metamorphosis of their nation. In many ways, he is cut from precisely the same cloth as another phenomenon that pollsters failed appallingly to predict: Brexit. For much like the British rejection of the “Europeanization” of their land, so Trump was a response—albeit a somewhat unrefined one—to what tens of millions of Americans perceived as an attempt to decouple their country from its roots and heritage.

Few could convey the on-going metamorphosis in such biting precision as Daniel Greenfield. In a short essay written a day after the election, he acerbically depicted the concern—indeed, fear—that many Americans felt at the realities unfolding before their very eyes, aghast as they watched the dynamic diversity that characterized their county, rapidly descending into increasingly dysfunctional diffusion.

He wrote: “The tidal force of demographics had made the old America irrelevant. Any progressive policy agenda was now possible because we were no longer America. We

[w]ere Obamerica. A hip, happening place full of smiling gay couples, Muslim women in hijabs and transgender actors. We were all going to live in a New York City coffee house and work at Green Jobs and live in the post-national future.”

Beyond “white identity politics”?

Typically, “progressive liberals” are fiercely protective of minority identities, but somehow denigrate, equally fiercely, any sign that the majority may to wish to preserve its identity. Indeed, in what turned out to be an excruciatingly misguided and erroneous assessment of Trump’s electoral prospects, The Atlantic’s staff writer, Conor Friedersdorf, denounced the conduct of his campaign and warned what fate would befall the Republican Party “If the GOP becomes a party of white identity politics” (August 5, 2016). Since then of course, the GOP has won the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate—and looks set to determine the composition of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. So much for Friedersdorf’s prescience. But of course, in a profound sense, Trump was, purposely or otherwise, invoking identity politics. But his message hit a nerve that went far beyond “white men without a college degree”. It resonated with all those, regardless of gender, race or religion, who identified with the fundamental values and civilizational foundations that made America the exceptional power that it became – i.e. its Anglo-Saxon origins and its Judeo-Christian roots.

Victory of identity over “identity politics”?

In this sense, Trump’s triumph can be seen as a “converse” victory of “identity” over “identity politics—a victory for the vast number of Americans who felt their identity would be permanently jeopardized by the metamorphosis that Obama tried to impose and which a Clinton victory would irretrievably cement.

Greenfield tartly parodies the kind of realities many of Trump’s supporters (even the reluctant ones) recoiled from: “This was Obama’s America…The past was gone… We would become more tolerant and guilty…. It was hot and cold running social justice. The Bill of Rights was done. Ending the First and Second Amendments was just a clever campaign away. Narratives on news sites drove everything…Presidents were elected by Saturday Night Live skits…. Safe spaces were everywhere and you better watch your microaggressions, buddy. No more coal would be mined. No more anything would be made….The end of white people. The end of binary gender and marriage. The end of reason…The end of 2 + 2 equaling 4…It was time to pardon an endless line of drug dealers. To kill cops and praise criminals. To be forced to buy worthless health insurance for wealth redistribution to those who voted their way to wealth….”

So, after decades of being cowed by the dictates of political correctness, it seems as a counter-revolution may just be beginning to take root.

The challenges ahead

It is difficult to overstate the significance of Trump’s victory. For whatever he may, or may not, achieve in the future, it is what he has prevented from happening that is of incalculable importance. For the Obama-incumbency has been one of the most ruinous in the history of the Republic—socially, economically, diplomatically, as well as in terms of security. It has left American society more divided than ever, labor participation at the lowest for decades, American influence waning across the globe, a disastrous Iran deal, allies disheartened and abandoned, adversaries heartened and emboldened, much of the world ablaze with violence, a significant portion, of which due to injudicious US policy in recent years. A Clinton victory would only have sustained and accelerated the downward spiral. That this was averted is something for which we should count ourselves fortunate—very fortunate.

However, Trump’s win is no guarantee of improvement. Far from it! A myriad of difficulties and obstacles will be encountered. Overcoming them will be no small feat. To begin with, there is Trump’s inexperience and lack of familiarity with the mechanisms of government—which hopefully can be partially overcome by a judicious choice of experienced and competent aides and officials who can help navigate bureaucratic obstructionism should such arise.

Many of Trumps stated objectives are, to say the least, controversial. They are likely to arouse stiff opposition in many places within the government apparatus and elsewhere. Dealing with this will require considerable resolve and resourcefulness, and will sorely test the ablest and most committed of administrations.

Refusal to accept defeat?

But beyond these objective difficulties, Trump will face arguably even more harrowing challenges. These will relate to the very legitimacy and authority of his incumbency. Indeed, there are already signs that his defeated rivals do not, and will not, accept defeat. Despite his clear advantage in terms of electors, the popular vote was almost 50:50-with a minuscular advantage (0.2%) to Clinton. This is being seized on by Trump’s opponents as proof as to the invalidity of his presidency, fueling nation-wide protests and refusal to accept his victory.

Elsewhere, rather than acknowledge the dysfunctional defects in their political doctrine, Democrats have looked to lay the blame on the defective nature of Trump’s supporters—attributing their voting either to the basest of motives or their lack of education. By denouncing any call to preserve identity as “bigotry” and social discipline as “fascism”, they are attempting to strip Trump-voters’ preferences of any moral worth, casting them as uneducated, misogynistic oafs. However, as the Washington Post reported, a majority of both White women and college educated Whites voted for Trump.

Thus, ostrich-like, with their heads firmly buried in the sands of denial, Trump’s vanquished rivals obdurately refuse to confront honestly the real reasons for their astonishing defeat –thereby virtually ensuring that it will be repeated, something that will only increase their fury, frustration and befuddlement. Respite not redemption

These sentiments of fury and frustration will clearly intensify their efforts – bolstered by a hopelessly biased main-stream media, much of the politically-correct academia, an array of celebrity entertainers and threats of violent civil strife—to thwart any chances of a successful Trump incumbency. This constitutes a considerable threat to his ability to deliver on his pledges, which is why his success in precluding another 4-8 years of a Clinton continuation of the Obama doctrine is a welcome and much needed respite. For America, however, and for everything that made it America, it is far from being an assured and durable redemption.

Dr. Martin Sherman

Tamar Yonah Show – Nibiru: Will this Dwarf Star Wreak Havoc on Earth? [audio]

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

What is Nibiru? What is planet X? When do people think it will hit or affect earth? What is the best thing to do to prepare and be ready IF this should happen? …and are we in the End-Times written about in the Bible?

Join Tamar Yonah as she speaks with Rabbi Alon Anava from AlonAnava.com and Atzmut.com as he talks about Armageddon and Redemption. Which will it be, and how might it happen? This is a DON’T MISS show! PLUS: Read an article entitled: Nibiru: How to Survive the Coming World Disaster Now

Tamar Yonah Show 20Sept2016

Israel News Talk Radio

We Are At The Threshold Of Redemption

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

We are at the threshold of the time of redemption. It was during the month of Nissan that the Jewish people, after two hundred and ten years of slavery, left Egypt, the land of their persecution to begin their dramatic of the formation of the Jews as nation. This journey has lasted until the present, as even today we are found in different stages of our redemption and are asked to react to as well as overcome daily challenges that we face as a people. The strange thing about our leaving Egypt was that though we all left as one people, we comprised of twelve unique and different tribes, each with their own flag as well as no doubt their own customs and views.

The Midrash relates that when the Jews crossed the sea, it split into twelve parts, giving each of the tribes its own path to follow. One would expect that G-d would have preferred all of the tribes to proceed in unison, that there would be only one lane for everyone, as a sign of harmony and agreement, “achdut,” as Rashi states when the Jews received the Torah “keish echad b’lev echad,” as one person with one heart. Yet each tribe, according to this Midrash, was provided with its own path. Perhaps the message was that the Jewish people needn’t be all alike. We can be different! The most important characteristic, however, is that we are all pointing and going in the same direction. How we get there is of little concern, what’s important is that we all have our sights on the same goal.

A remarkable occurrence is happening in the State of Israel today. The vast majority of the people living there, whether observant or non-observant, ultra-religious or not, observe the holidays as national or religious events in their lives. Well into the eighty or ninety percent of Israeli citizens celebrate Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Purim, Sukkot, Tisha B’Av and Pesach. Whether their reasoning is based on Torah law, or on nationalistic pride doesn’t matter, the bottom line is that these holidays are being observed! I see this as a sign that we are experiencing the Messianic era. There is no doubt in my mind that over the ensuing years, those who observe these holidays due to nationalistic pride will come to understand the religious aspect of these holidays as well.

The difference between living in Israel verses outside of Israel is that in Israel, Judaism is the basis of the country’s daily operations. On the radio on Friday, they will wish you a Shabbat Shalom. On Pesach, they will wish you Chag Kasher V’sameach before informing you that all the supermarkets only sell products that are kosher for Pesach. On Purim, nearly everyone dresses in a costume, and on Sukkot, all the stores sell Succah decorations and people wish each other a Chag Sameach. The entire nation is moving in one direction, which is heartwarming.

For the first time in two thousand years, Jews are returning to Israel. Russian, French, English, and German can be heard in the streets of Israel. The prophecy that G-d promised the Jewish people, “And I will bring you from the four corners of the earth…to your land,” which we recite daily in our prayers, is coming into play. It’s such an exciting time for the Jewish people.

Outside of Israel, our Jewish lives are very often in direct conflict to our daily and business lives, creating a palpable tension. One often must make an effort often to swim against the tide, to retain one’s Judaism, it is in this environment that some of us lose direction, mixing-up goals and getting lost in this society.

Rabbi Mordechai Weiss

When This is Finally Over….

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Today is the 17th of Tammuz; a day devoted to national self-reflection.  So let’s pause and reflect on the very intense month our nation has been through.

So many things have happened, and so much has changed.

It began on Friday morning, the 15th of Sivan (June 13) when we learned that three of our children had been kidnapped.  Within hours, Jews across the spectrum and across the world were united in worry and prayer for these boys, whom almost none of us knew personally.  Those emotions – pain, worry, faith and solidarity – followed us for the next 2-1/2 weeks until one evening we heard the dramatic and devastating news.  The national worry turned immediately to national mourning, mixed with fury as we heard the audio recordings of the evil monsters laughing as they murdered our three holy, innocent children.

From the bereaved families to the Prime Minister, cabinet members and Chief Rabbis who spoke at the funerals, down to pretty much every blogger and facebook commenter I saw, the sentiments were just about universal.  Like many others, I also wrote about this a few weeks ago: the evil is unfathomable and the tragedy is devastating, but something positive did come from all of this – we learned that in spite of our many differences, we really are one family and we can come together for the most noble of purposes.

No sooner were the boys buried, though, then we learned about the horrific murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and a few days later the unthinkable was confirmed: some of our own people are capable of the exact same level of evil.  This shook us to our core and unleashed a flurry of condemnations from political leaders, rabbis and ordinary people – again with almost complete wall-to-wall unanimity.

But before we had a chance to digest that, rockets started flying, sirens began to blare, tens of thousands of our men were called up for emergency reserve duty (known as “tzav 8” here in Israel), and all Israelis found themselves constantly asking where the nearest bomb shelter would be. From our brothers and sisters abroad, the prayers resumed and expressions of genuine solidarity flowed in.

For a few hours this morning it looked like there was a cease-fire; by now it is clear that the fighting continues, and a ground operation may be just around the corner.  If so the prayers will certainly intensify, as we once again worry about the safety of our young men.  At some point, though, this round of fighting will come to an end (hopefully with a complete victory for the IDF).

And then maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to return to our normal lives for at least a while (although by now it should be clear that nothing involving Israel and the Jews is ever “normal”).  That would be a real blessing.  We all have important things to do in our personal and communal lives and it would be wonderful to be able to actually focus on those again.

And at that point, the differences, disagreements and emphatic disputes will return in all of their intensity.  The arguments will continue, and that’s actually a good thing.  Our rabbis tell us (Avot 5:17) that “an argument for the sake of Heaven is destined to prevail”.

The problem is that it might look like the unity is quickly dissolving.  But it doesn’t have to.  When we return to routine, things don’t have to go back to exactly the way they were.

In fact, that’s really what this time of year is about.  Our Rabbis also tell us (Yoma 9b) that the present exile was caused by “baseless hatred”.  Anyone who studies the history of that time understands that this is a reference to the many factions among the nation.  They were divided religiously, politically and ideologically, and they didn’t conduct those disputes as “arguments for the sake of Heaven”; instead there was civil war.

Rabbi Alan Haber

Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l: Exile and Its Egregious Effects

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

We may not notice it as much as previous generations did due to the relative good relations with the non-Jewish world (though recent events have shaken us), but we are in exile and have been for almost 2000 years. The prolonged exile has devastated normal Jewish life in numerous ways.


The period of the Three Weeks of mourning the Temple’s destruction, from 17th of Tamuz until 9th of Av, is designed to remind us of all that we are mourning. While it is true that the Three Weeks have now passed and we have reverted back to our relaxing summer vacations, it is important particularly now to reflect on the growth that we were supposed to have attained.

We do this in the spirit of the Talmud in Brachot 32b, “The early pious ones would prepare for prayer for an hour, pray for an hour, and contemplate their prayers an hour afterwards”, in order to apply and bring the growth they just experienced into their regular lives. At the end of our reflections, we will see a strong link to our weekly Torah portion, Shoftim

The Three Weeks determines the “who we are and how we live” as Jews. When we mourn for the Temple, when we feel the pain of its loss and the sufferings that our ancestors experienced during this period, it is not a “pain” that we are mourning. Pains don’t last 2,000 years. The most intense and sharpest of pains dissipate. A year later they’re weak, ten years later they’re weaker, and a thousand years later they’re not felt at all. It isn’t the pain that our ancestors felt which we are mourning; it is the loss that is affecting us to this day.

This is the recognition and the statement that we make when we fast on 17th of Tamuz and keep the laws of mourning of the Three Weeks and Tisha B’av. It is a statement that not having a Temple renders us a broken people, unable to live a normal life. It means that we have been thrown to a state of spiritual disease and illness, where we cannot think correctly, feel correctly or live correctly.

We are in a state of darkness, unable to reach out and to relate to our Creator as we should to live spiritual, healthy and full lives. It is not simply that extra opportunities are lost to us, but we are crippled and we live as cripples. This is the most important and tragic effect of all. A blind man reaches the point where his blindness is so accepted that he is not aware of a sense of loss. He is not aware that he does not live a normal and full life, that he is handicapped and that there are whole areas of experience and existence that are closed to him. He starts thinking that this is life at its fullest. He doesn’t know that the inability to see colors, the inability to see the magnificence of God’s creation, is a lack and a loss. He accepts it as being the norm. That is tragic because in doing so, he reduces God’s creation.

If this is true in material matters, how much more so is the effect when it comes to accepting a spiritually crippled life as being the norm. If we come to feel that as a people without a Temple we are living a full life, think of the effect this has on our understanding of what existence is all about, of what our relationship with our Creator is all about. We accept as a normal way of living life without God’s face turned to us. Somehow it seems to us as though the way we live is perfect. It doesn’t make sense to us to go and bring animals, slaughter them in a Temple, put them on an altar and burn up the meat. As a nation, we have begun to feel that maybe sacrifices aren’t necessary after all.

Rabbi Boruch Leff

A Song of Love, a Song of Life

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

One of the more perplexing Pesach customs is the public reading of Shir HaShirim (The Song of Songs). A variety of explanations are offered from every corner of our tradition. A new idea occurred to me over the holiday and I think it might be a useful perspective on the issue, but more importantly, I think there is a broader lesson that is worth sharing.

Pesach celebrates a two step redemption from slavery to freedom. First there was the flight from Egypt. This was punctuated by the 10 plagues and a hasty escape. Almost immediately, a new challenge arose. The Reed Sea miraculously split and paved the way for complete salvation.

At that moment, we were free. For the first time in forever, we were completely free. It must have been exhilarating. The one thing every single person wanted more than anything else was freedom, and now they had it. Everything they yearned for was in their hands. The only struggle they had known was no longer a struggle. It was over.

Freedom is binary. Either one is a slave or one is free. There is no middle ground. It’s a simple on/off switch. The switch had been flipped.

A slave has a very limited capacity to worry about anything other than survival or freedom. A slaves concerns are immediate. Is there room for love? The arts? Philosophy? Personal growth? Not really. Life is very simple. It’s agonizingly simple. Survive and hope for freedom.

This was the life of the Israelites until this very moment. At present moment they were finally free. Now what?

Freedom is very different than slavery. One difference is that there is no switch. Life was no longer a binary struggle for the Israelites. From now on it would be a lifetime of tension and challenges. Slavery, for all its hardships, offers a cynical simplicity to life. Just survive the day and struggle for freedom. When the slave achieves freedom, there is no continuation of prior struggles. Everything begins anew and there is nothing from the past that illuminates the future.

The Israelites were free. They had no idea what they were supposed to do next. So they complained. A lot. But all their complaints were somewhat related. They had no idea how to be free, how to fend for themselves, how to ask for things nicely, how to carve out their own destiny. Hence, the kvetching. They saw a problem, they cried, and they expected their problems to be solved. They were looking for binary solutions to lifelong struggles. They needed food and water. They wanted a final solution to their thirst and hunger.

But real life is not like that. Reality is that hunger and thirst are lifetime struggles. There is no water lever or bread switch in the real world. In the real world, people work for their food. But this was not the life the Israelites knew. They had no idea how to live in a world of eternal struggles. Theirs had been been a world of on and off, and now they were in a brave new world that they were completely unequipped to handle.

Shir HaShirim is a love song. There is nothing more un-binary than love. No one ever says that they have enough love. No one ever asks for someone to love them less or to stop loving them. No one says they have enough love. We are in a permanent struggle with the people we love. We work so hard to give more love to our loved ones and we are in a constant state of receiving more and more love from others. Sometimes love is hard, sometimes love is easy, but love is a lifetime struggle. There is no love switch.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/a-song-of-love-a-song-of-life/2014/04/23/

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