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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

We Ain’t Got a Soul in America

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

In our previous blog, where we saw how the prophets of Israel and our greatest Rabbis described the exile as a zombie-like existence for the Jewish People, because when we are scattered in foreign lands, our national format is destroyed, and we are left like dry lifeless bones. To understand this more deeply, we will continue with our translation of the book, “Binyan Emunah,” by Rabbi Moshe Bleicher, a longtime student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and Rosh Yeshiva of the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva in the city of Hevron.

Please note that these are very deep matters, and our condensed excerpts from the book don’t present the total overall picture that readers will glean from the entire book itself.

From the Chapter, “Exile and Redemption”:

In order to understand why the exile is a situation of death for the Jewish People, we have to first meditate on the meaning of life. As much as life is familiar to us, there is a secret of life which we cannot fathom, and this is the force of life itself, a Divine Creation.

An example will make this clear. A human being’s body contains many organs, some of which are extremely complicated and sophisticated. For instance, the eye is an advanced optical mechanism which functions in a wondrous manner. However, if we were to remove the eye and mount it on a wall to serve as a security camera, the eye wouldn’t work at all. Only through its connection with the body, and with the general life force that exists in it – the soul – can an eye fulfill its function.

Why is this? Isn’t the eye sophisticated enough to operate by itself? Is the fact that it can’t function apart from the body a sign that it is a more primitive mechanism than some electronic optical devise which can? No. The reason that the eye cannot function without it being attached to the body is because the eye isn’t a private organ which exists by itself. This is also true for the other organs of the body – the ear, the brain, the heart, etc. If you were to take out all of the organs of the body and connect them together, a man wouldn’t result – only a big, lifeless doll. The thing which gives man his essence as a man is the general life force inside of him. This is what enlivens and operates all the organs of the body, determines their function, and also gives man his consciousness as a man. Isn’t the eye which sees, and the ear which hears, but rather, the general force of life in a man, his soul, which hears via the ear, and sees via the eye.

Just as a life force animates an individual, the same is true for the Clal, for Am Yisrael, as a Nation. Hashem created us as a Nation at Sinai, to sanctify His Name in the world – precisely in our National format in Israel, and not in the wilderness of Sinai, or in other foreign places in the world. Am Yisrael is capable of illuminating existence by revealing the Divine Ideal in life, and through this, to raise existence out of its darkness, and to attach it to its Divine Source. The nations of the world also call upon the Name of God and praise His greatness, but in the very same breath, they are capable of murdering millions and carrying out the most savage and bestial acts. In contrast, when Am Yisrael calls upon the Name of G-d, it is to reveal and establish the Divine Ideal and Morality in the world, with the altruistic aspiration of bettering the life of all mankind.

This lofty moral recognition is the innovation which Am Yisrael brings to the world. “This Nation have I created for myself, they will declare My praise.” The ability of Am Yisrael to declare the praises of Hashem, to illuminate the world and liberate it from its truncated framework of private interests and egotistical concerns, from its bondage to individual lusts, by attaching all of the forces of life to their ideal Divine Source, this stems from the unique vision of Am Yisrael that recognizes the existence of a single unifying Divine Goal which stands at the foundation of the world – the recognition that there is a single unifying force of life that lends ideal meaning to all of the details of life. This is a great Kiddush Hashem, the ability to reveal in life the Universal Unity which gives life to everything.

The Soul of Existence, the Ideal Goal which stands at the foundation of life, is not a mere spiritual thing, but rather a powerful and dynamic life force which activates all of the wheels and gears of existence, pushes them toward greater and greater perfection and expression in life. For example, with an apple tree, the “goal of the tree” isn’t an abstract matter, but a concrete life force which dictates the stages of the tree’s development up till the appearance of its fruit. Similarly, the soul of a person isn’t a spiritual entity disconnected from the body and its powers, but is the very life force which activates and gives meaning to every organ and faculty of life. This same understanding holds true for the Soul of Existence as well.

Applying this metaphor to the world, Am Yisrael is the “body” which is able to absorb this Inner Truth that there is a Divine Soul to existence, and which is able to attach all branches of life to their inner, general, all-encompassing, Clalli, Source. This Clalli Soul appears in Am Yisrael as a dynamic and empowering life force. This is what gives the Nation its life, and from its driving force, the Israelite Nation has the motivation and willpower to establish and build a State in its Land, an army, and a thriving economy. All of its National life surges forth from this inner, exalted Truth, to the point where the Nation of Israel has no private, egocentric interest in attaining glory and accolades on the stage of history, but only to sanctify the Name of God in the world, and to reveal how all of the systems and frameworks of life, with all of their details, stem from the ideal, universal, Divine Life-Force which activates all of existence.

As we mentioned, the principle Kiddush Hashemoccurs when we reveal how the Source of Divine Unity stands behind all of life, uniting everything. Am Yisrael was created to illuminate this Truth, to declare the praises of God. When Am Yisrael gathers in its Land, every Tribe in its inheritance, and with the Beit HaMikdash rebuilt on the Temple Mountthis Clallilife-force appears in the life of the Israelite Nation, in all aspects of its National existence, in their most ideal and healthy format.

Like with an individual man, whose soul gives life to all of his organs and limbs, so too, when Am Yisrael returns to Eretz Yisrael, its unique, Clalli life-force,which only comes to life within the Nation when it dwells in its Land, radiates its powers to all of the national faculties of the Nation, and to every vista of its life. The more the Nation is true to its inner essence, and knows how to direct its varied endeavors to draw vitality and strength from the Source of its life, the healthier it will be, and it will succeed in achieving its mission in the most complete and ideal fashion.

This is a life of national Kiddush Hashem, where the Divine Presence is revealed in our midst, through the realization of the ideal, universal, Divine Goals and Aspirations in the life of the Nation as we live our National Torah life in our unique Holy Land.

However, when the Nation of Israel is exiled from its Land, and its general, Clalli, life force is lost, all of its life undergoes a drastic descent. Its general, Clalli soul ascends to the celestial heights, and no longer functions as the battery source of the now scattered and splintered Jewish People. Now, exiled from its Land, and unable to exist in its National format, the individual, private side of life becomes dominate, and the forces of life appear separately, seemingly independent, one from the other, without stemming from a unifying, general life-force. In this way, the level of life changes, and the entire observance of Torah and its commandments falls into the category of“Set way-marks up for yourselves,” (Yirmeyahu, 32:20), as described in the vivid words of our Sages, concerning a verse found in the second paragraph of the Shema“And you will quickly perish from the Land….” (Devarim, 11:17).

Our Sages teach: “Even though I am exiling you from the Land to outside of the Land, be distinguished by the mitzvot, so that when you return they won’t seem new in your eyes. This can be compared to a king who became angry with his queen, and sent her back to her father house, telling her to continue to wear her royal jewels so that they would not seem new to her when she returned to the palace. Thus said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Israel: My son, keep adorned with the mitzvot so that when you return they will not seem new. This is what Yirmeyahu told them, ‘Set up way-marks for yourselves’ – these are the commandments by which Israel is distinguished”

These words of our Sages are eye-opening and even staggering. Concerning the performance of the commandments in the Diaspora, the inner truth of the matter is that outside of the Land of Israel, where theClalli, life force of the Nation doesn’t appear, there is no essential meaning in observing the commandments. The only reason for our still keeping the precepts inChutz L’Aretz is because of our past connection to theClalli soul of the Nation which vitalized us when we lived in our Land, and because of our connection to the future when the Clalli soul will return and reveal itself in our resurrected national life with the ingathering of our exiles to Zion.

A living holiness, filled with vitality, is the “electricity” which activates the soul of the Nation and the general,Clalli, life force within it. This force is what gives life to the details of the Torah and to its commandments. Thus, when the Nation isn’t living, when it is exiled from the Land and its organs are scattered throughout a netherworld of impure and unholy places, there is no essential value in keeping the mitzvot, and we are commanded to continue to perform them only so we don’t forget how to do them, so they won’t seem new to us when we return to our own Holy Land, where theClalli soul comes to life with the union of the Nation and the Land.

It is important to understand that the startling new insight revealed by our Sages is not that the precepts practiced in the exile are merely road signs to help us remember the way home, as indicated by the Prophet’s command, “Set up way-marks for yourselves,” but that it is possible at all to learn Torah and perform commandments in our altered and “decomposed” situation in exile, where we merely exist, without life, like in the prophesy of the valley of lifeless bones. The ability to do so only stems from our deep inner, historic, and genetic connection, even in our disintegrated situation in exile, to our complete, former, national, Clalli life as a Nation in its Land.

All of our life changes when we are in Galut. Not only does our Clalli soul disappear, but every detail of our life is affected. Regarding the teaching of the Gemara, “Everyone who dwells outside of the Land of Israel is like someone who has no God” (Ketubot 110B), Rabbi Pincus HaLevi Horewitz, author of the commentary,“HaHafla’a,” writes that this is speaking about a person who observes the Torah and mitzvot in Chutz L’Aretz – but because he doesn’t live in Eretz Yisrael, he is like someone who doesn’t have a G-d. The reason behind this is that outside the Land of Israel something profoundly essential is missing – our general, Clalli soul.

Therefore, in the exile, Jewish Belief (Emunah) and the worship of God appears in an incomplete form. If Emunah was merely a philosophical and intellectual discipline, there wouldn’t be any meaningful difference between its revelation during the Galut or at the time of Redemption (Geula). However, as we shall continue to explore, Emunah is the encounter with Divine Existence as it is revealed in our midst when we are a sovereign Nation in our Land. Thus, during the time of exile, when the general, Clalli life-force is withheld from us, and where God only appears in “the four cubits of Halacha,” in the life of individuals, the entire encounter with the lofty goals of the Torah, which appear in a dynamic living fashion in the national life of the Nation in our Land, is lost. It follows that the deeper levels of Emunah also are missing, and the individual Jew encounters his Maker on a shattered level, which is only a shadow of true and complete Emunah.

Tzvi Fishman

T’shuva Brings Healing to the World

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Shut the latches of the spaceship. Fasten your seatbelts. Get ready for another magic mystery tour through the galaxies of t’shuva, as illuminated for us in the writings of Rabbi Kook.

If you were like me, you’d order the book, “The Art of T’shuva” (available online) already today, so you can hurry up and do as much t’shuva as you can before the Almighty searches you out in His Big Computer in the sky and views all the personal youtubes you’ve starred in during the year when you thought no one was watching. But you’re not like me, and so you probably won’t buy the book. That’s one of the reasons why I’m in Israel and you’re still in Flatbush or Boro Park.

As we learned, mankind is always involved in t’shuva. The fact that there are many non-religious people today should not be held as a contradiction. T’shuva must be looked at in an encompassing perspective that spans all generations.

A story about Rabbi Kook may help illustrate. One day, Rabbi Kook was walking by the Old City in Jerusalem with Rabbi Chaim Zonnenfeld, one of the leading rabbis of the Ultra-Orthodox community.

“Look how awful our situation is,” the Rabbi observed. “See how many secular Jews there our in the city. Just a few generations ago, their father’s fathers were all Orthodox Jews.”

“One must look at Am Yisrael in a wider perspective,” Rabbi Kook answered. “Do you see this valley over here, the Valley of Hinom? This was once a site for human sacrifice. Today, even the crassest secularist will not offer his child as a human sacrifice for any pagan ideal. When you look at today’s situation in the span of all history, things do not seem so bad. On the contrary, you can see that there has been great progress.”

The Rambam, at the end of the Laws of Kings, refers to this same development process of redemption which encompasses all things in life. He asks the question — if Christianity is a false religion, why did God grant it so much dominion? In the time of the Rambam, Christianity and Islam ruled over the world. The Jews suffered miserably under both.

The Rambam’s answer is based on a sweeping historical perspective which finds a certain value in Christianity, even though the Rambam himself classifies Christianity as idol worship (Laws of Idol Worship, 9:4, uncensored edition). On the one hand, he emphatically condemns Christianity, and on the other hand he maintains that Christianity has a positive role in the development of world history. How are we to reconcile this contradiction?

The Rambam writes that Christianity serves as a facilitator to elevate mankind from the darkness of paganism toward the recognition of monotheism. In effect, it is a stepping stone enabling mankind to make the leap from idol worship to the worship of God.

The belief in an invisible God does not come easily to the masses. Christianity, weaned mankind away from the belief in many gods to a belief in a “three-leaf clover” of a father, a son, and a holy ghost. Once the world is accustomed to this idea, though it is still idol worship, the concept of one supreme God is not so removed. Furthermore, the Rambam writes that Christianity’s focus on the messiah prepares the world for the day when the true Jewish messiah will come.

Today, because of Christianity’s influence, all the world, from the Eskimos to the Zulus, have heard about the messiah, so that when he arrives, he will have a lot less explaining to do. “Oh, it’s you,” mankind will say on the heralded day. Though they will be surprised to find out that it’s not Jezeus, they’ll say all the same, “We’ve been waiting for you.”

Thus, when world history is looked at in an encompassing perspective, even Christianity, with all of its many negative factors, can be seen to play a positive role in mankind’s constant march toward t’shuva.

When we understand this historic, all-encompassing perspective, we can see that a world movement like Christianity, despite all of its evil, can influence the course of human history toward a higher ideal. But how does one man’s t’shuva bring redemption closer? How does a person’s remorse over having stolen some money bring healing to the cosmos as a whole?

Tzvi Fishman

T’shuva is the Real Tikun Olam

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Now that we recognize that t’shuva is an independent force which God has implanted into the fabric of Creation, we must ask, what does it do?

Throughout his writings on t’shuva, Rabbi Kook has to clothe his profound understandings in a wardrobe of metaphors to express the workings of t’shuva.

“The individual and the collective soul, the world soul, the soul of all worlds of Creation, roars like a mighty lioness in agony for complete perfection, for the ideal existence; and we experience the pain, and it purges us like salt sweetens meat, the pain sweetens our bitterness.”

Rabbi Kook emphasizes that the soul has a built-in motor that guides it toward perfection. The perfection it seeks is the union with God. This is what King David is expressing when he says, “Of Thee my heart has said, Seek My Presence. Thy Presence, Hashem, I will seek.”

One unites with God when one has a knowledge of God and performs His will. God’s will is housed in this world in the Torah and its commandments. Thus, the reunion with God, for the individual, and for the Jewish People in its ideal national format, means a return to the Torah, in the place where the Torah is meant to be kept – the land of Israel.

What empowers the soul to seek out its Maker? What gives it fuel for the quest? The power of t’shuva. Rabbi Kook explains:

“Through the force of t’shuva all things return to God. By the existence of t’shuva’s power which prevails in all worlds, all things are returned and reconnected to the realm of Divine perfection. Through concepts of t’shuva, understandings of t’shuva, and feelings of t’shuva, all thoughts, ideas, understandings, desires, and emotions are transformed and return to their essential character in line with Divine holiness.”

Before continuing, it may be beneficial to say a few words about the concept of returning to God. What does this mean? Where have we gone that we need to return? This is a very profound question, and only the beginnings of an answer will be given here. The soul, in its essence, belongs to the world of souls. When it is placed in this world, in a physical body, it naturally longs to go home. For the soul, going home is being reunited with God. One of the great innovations of Judaism is the teaching that this reunion is not limited to the return of the soul to Heaven after the death of the body. Unlike other religions, Judaism teaches that the soul can find union with God in this world. This union is brought about when a Jew performs the Torah’s commandments.

The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden describes man’s existential plight. In effect, the sum of world history is mankind’s journey to return to the Garden. Not only man, but the world itself wants to return to its original state. This yearning is one of the most powerful forces of Creation. Thus the world “roars like a mighty lioness” to return to its original, ideal closeness to God.

Once we understand that the goal of existence is to be reunited with God, and that the force of t’shuva is at work all of the time, we can understand that the t’shuva of the individual over specific sins, and the encompassing t’shuva of the world longing for perfection, all stem from the same essential drive.

“General t’shuva, which is the uplifting of the world to perfection; and specific t’shuva, which relates to the particular personality of each individual, including the smallest items needing improvement in all of their details… they are both of one essence. So too, all of the cultural reforms which lift the world out of moral decay, along with social and economic advancements, and the mending of all transgression… all of them comprise a single entity, and are not detached one from the other.”

The perfection of all of the different people and ideologies in the world really represents one giant unified t’shuva. To understand this deep idea, it may help to momentarily substitute another word for t’shuva when we speak about the t’shuva of culture, society, and ultimately of the world. Instead of the word t’shuva, let’s use the word geula, or redemption. To Rabbi Kook, t’shuva and redemption share the same direction and goal — to bring healing to a suffering world. Redemption is the ever-active historical process which brings the Nation of Israel and the world to perfection and completion. The zenith of redemption is reached at the End of Days with the arrival of Mashiach and Israel’s great material and spiritual Renaissance. When this great day arrives, the Kingdom of God will be established throughout the world; Israel will be recognized as His truly chosen people; the nations will flock to Jerusalem to learn the laws of the God of Jacob; and Divine truth and justice will reign supreme. In this glorious future, prophecy will be reestablished in Israel, and life itself will experience the zenith of t’shuva when the dead are resurrected from their graves.

Tzvi Fishman

Mashiach, Mashiach, Mashiach, Da Da Da Da DaDa

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Who is Mashiach? What is Mashiach? What’s he all about? Strange as it may seem, we learn about Mashiach from the wicked Bilaam, in the Torah portion of Balak. While the verses are obscure, the Rambam explains them in The Laws of Kings and Their Wars. Since many Diasporians picture the Mashiach to be some type of fairytale hero who will whisk them back to Israel on some kind of magical carpet when he flies down to earth dressed like Superman, with super powers and X-ray vision, we will try to present a more realistic, down-to-earth picture.

The name Mashiach (often translated as the Messiah) is derived from a Hebrew word meaning the “anointed one” – Hashem’s anointed king. The belief in the Mashiach’s coming is one of the Thirteen Fundamental Principles of our faith (13 Principles of the Rambam, Principle 12). Since in our very time, the Almighty has been gathering our scattered exiles to Israel from all over the globe, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook made a point to explain the concept of Mashiach to his students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, emphasizing that the Mashiach wasn’t only the ideal Jewish king, but also a gradually developmental process which evolves over time.

The Rambam writes:

“Anyone who does not believe in the Mashiach, or who does not anticipate his coming, not only denies all of the prophets, he denies the validity of the Torah and Moshe Rabenu, our teacher, since the Torah gives witness to him, as it says, ‘When all these things will come upon you (all the tribulations of exile), then the Lord your God will turn your captivity and have compassion on you, and return and gather you from the nations’” (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 11:1).

Believing in the Torah means believing in the Mashiach and yearning for his arrival. As part of the 13 Principles of Faith, we say, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Mashiach, and even though he may delay, nevertheless, I look forward to his coming every day.”

This means that when a Jew in the Diaspora is eating a bagel and lox and reading The New York Times, or The Jewish Press, or when he’s going to watch the new Woody Allen movie on Motzei Shabbat, he should be yearning for the Mashiach to come. In the Gemara, Shabbat, it is written, “At the hour when a man faces heavenly judgment, they say to him, did you yearn for the salvation of Israel?” (Shabbat 31A). Yearning for the coming of Mashiach, and the salvation he will bring, is complete Emunah/faith. Thus, the Ramban writes, someone who does not believe in him, or anticipate his coming, denies the prophets of Israel and Moshe, our teacher, since the Torah gives witness to him.

How does the Torah give witness to him? The Rambam answers with the verse, “When all these things will come upon you (all the tribulations of exile), then the Lord your God will turn your captivity and have compassion on you, and return and gather you from the nations” (Devarim, 30:1-3).

Please notice, my friends, that the ingathering of the exiles is proof of the Mashiach. As the Rambam makes clear, the incredible ingathering of our outcasts to the Land of Israel, an occurrence we have witness in our time, this is a revelation of Mashiach, an actual stage in the days of Mashiach, through the concrete aliyah of Jews from all over the globe, and not through miracles.

During the long generation we spent in galut, Mashiach became a misunderstood concept. Partly due to the pernicious infiltration of Xtian doctrines into our collective subconscious, Mashiach was envisioned by many people as a religious superhero who would arrive on the scene in a flash of miracles and wonders, and lead all the Jews out of the ghetto and back to the Promised Land. Helpless and impotent in galut, and constantly at the mercies of the goyim and their governments, we had no way of actualizing our dreams of returning to Zion, and thus this Superman fantasy of Mashiach seemed to be the only way we could be redeemed from the harsh realities of our lives. When centuries passed in waiting and disappointment, a philosophy of passivity arose. We were to pray and wait, and the Mashiach would do all the work when he came. The demand arose that the Redemption occur all at once, and be complete from the start, and not in a gradual, natural, process of historical development and events which came to completion with the passage of time (See our book, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Chapters 11 and 12, from which this essay is condensed.)

Tzvi Fishman

“Why Should I Live in Israel? America Has Everything I Need”

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

I seem to remember the lyrics of an old Bob Dylan song, “Something is going on Mr. Jones, but you don’t know what it is.” That’s exactly what it’s like for a Jew today if he hasn’t studied the book Orot, by Rabbi Kook. Something is going on with the Jewish People and he doesn’t know what it is. Why? Because for the first time in nearly 2000 years, Jews have risen up with great courage, taken up weapons, and fought for the right to live in our own Jewish Land. There’s another thing equally as startling to many devoutly religious Jews – the fact that the pioneers who risked their lives and largely led the way in rebuilding the Land of our forefathers were often far from Torah observance. Obviously, something very big was taking place. But because they didn’t understand it, or couldn’t accept that God had chosen to bring about the beginnings of Redemption in this seemingly traif manner, many Ultra-Orthodox Jews rejected it. It was Rabbi Kook, with his towering Torah vision, who taught us to recognize that, indeed, the long-awaited Redemption was unfolding before our eyes, even if Hashem decided to bring it about through our secular brothers.

What causes many Jews in the Diaspora, as well as communities of Haredi Jews in Israel, to have a negative to modern Zionism and the Land Israel? Rabbi Kook informs us the reason – it stems from an alienation from the secrets of Torah. Here are excerpts from Chapter Two of the book, Lights on Orot – Eretz Yisrael,   a commentary by Rabbi David Samson and yours truly, on Rabbi’s Kook’s classic work Orot. Take your time reading it. Print it out. Study it thoughtfully on Shavuot night when you have the time. Surely, it will help you to understand what is going on, Mr. Jones. (And for readers, like me, who prefer shorter, more bloggier blogs, we will be getting back to them soon, Bezrat Hashem, after our pre-Shavuot mini course in Orot.)

In the first essay of Orot, we learned that Eretz Yisrael is not a secondary, external acquisition of the Nation, but rather an essential, life-giving foundation of Clal Yisrael. Rabbi Kook emphasized that the future of the Jewish People depends not on strengthening the Diaspora, but rather on strengthening our connection to Eretz Yisrael. In this second essay, Rabbi Kook explains in greater depth how an alienation from the secrets of Torah causes a distortion in our comprehension of Judaism and a crisis in Jewish life. He writes:

“By being alienated from the recognition of the secrets of Torah, the Kedusha (holiness) of Eretz Yisrael is understood in a foggy, unfocused fashion.”

The secrets of Torah which Rabbi Kook refers to are the deep Kabbalistic understandings which chart the inner spiritual blueprint of the Jewish Nation. We are not speaking here about the Tree of Kabbalah which can be found illustrated in popular books on the subject. While this metaphor for the Sefirot, or differing levels of God’s manifestation in the world, is a central understanding of Kabbalah, many other secrets of Torah appear throughout the Aggadah, and the Midrashim of our Sages. Works of wisdom such as the Zohar are the esoteric understandings of these writings. Rabbi Kook’s great genius was in applying this tradition of knowledge toward understanding the development of the Jewish People in our times. His writings illuminate the inner workings of the National Israeli Soul as it awakens to Redemption and physical expression in the rebuilding of the Nation in Eretz Yisrael. The book, Orot, is in effect a deep esoteric study of these themes.

Tzvi Fishman

Surfing the Asifah, Now That’s a Roundup

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Every opening to the outside world is a calculated risk. Every time we open a window we chance being shocked by something vile. Every time we ride in our cars, take the subway, even go to shul – something terrible can offend our senses and even influence our very being.

Opening a book – are you kidding me?

Answering the phone – who can it be?

Turning on a radio? Forget it.

Don’t want to bring up television.

As I understand my own religion, my job in this world is to sanctify that which is mundane with my actions. The entire world is open before me, a Jewish woman or man, to set an example of how it should be used righteously. All of it, every last part of it.

We can’t all do it, some of us don’t have the emotional or psychological mettle. That’s fine. I’m happy and proud to belong to a segment of religious Judaism which simply does not fear new things. And I understand and support those who aren’t available for that experiment.

More power to them and to us.

CAN WE HAVE DAILY CULTURE SHOCK OR DOES IT GO AWAY?

It was heartening to see how many folks were seriously trying to come to terms with the Asifa’s main message. And what they thought the message really was.

Internet: A Plea for Common Sense Dad pointed out a few things. However much we all enjoy and use the internet, using the internet can become an addiction. If you don’t believe me, look up the studies. I haven’t seen anything good come out of an addiction to anything. Even Torah. An internet addiction, though, isn’t like being an alcoholic. Alcoholics might be “dry drunks” as long as they don’t drink, but as long as they don’t drink, they’re ok. Not great, but ok. This is more like gluttony. You might be hugely overweight, but you still have to eat. It’s a lot harder to control yourself and give yourself a tiny portion of something you really want then to avoid it completely. (Dad’s analogy)
Sparrow’s Musings

Internet Asifa a Great Kiddush Hashem In the final remarks, the rabbis pledged to move forward with the continuous forging of new ideas. Future gatherings will probably be at a lower cost and scale but focused on actual changes and improvements the community will need to make. Future agendas will include problems and questions such as attitudes towards education and employment, proper allocation of charity funds, funding Jewish education as a community, today’s shidduchim system, agunos, extremism and intolerance, segregation of Ashkenazim and Sefaradim, participation in the Israeli workforce and armed forces, the system of Halachic rulings in Israel and America, reliance on subsidies, and integrity and honesty.

Many of the attendees left the event feeling invigorated about their future and that of their children and grandchildren, echoing the sentiment that through justice and kindness we may merit the coming of the Messiah.
Yosef Drimmel, Rationalist Judaism

Ignorance is Sacred …. To Whom The Internet is terrifying to the rabbanim perhaps because of porn, perhaps because it exposes youth to foreign ideas, but even more importantly, because it enables open dialogue and an honesty they cannot afford if they are to survive as a community, the community they insist they are; pure, innocent, and above their own frailties. And if a few children must be sacrificed for this wholesome lie, then so be it. It is better than any broken truth.
Judy Brown, Rare View

Satmar and the Asifa – Achdus or Isolation? The organizers of the Asifa are desperate to make this about Achdus even more than they are about fighting internet. They therefore felt it was more important to have Satmar involved than to have women attend.

This despite the fact that it is the mother who is in the trenches. Mothers are the guardians of the home. Their husbands are all in the Beis HaMedrash. Morning, noon, and night. Unless they have fallen so low spiritually that they now work for a living. Either way it is the woman that is on the front lines. Not the man.
Emes Ve-Emunah

Tibbi Singer

Sefiras Ha’Omer – Why We Count, What We Count

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the rest day, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving – seven weeks, they shall be complete.” – Vayikra 23:15

Sefer HaChinuch: The Torah commands us to count the Omer so we can relive the Exodus from Mitzrayim. Just as the Jews back then anxiously anticipated the great day when they were to receive the Torah, so too we count the days till Shavuos, the Yom Tov that commemorates the giving of the Torah. To the Jews then, accepting the Torah on Har Sinai was even greater than their redemption from slavery. So we count each day to bring ourselves to that sense of great enthusiasm, as if to say, “When will that day come?”

With these words the Sefer HaChinuch defines the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer. The difficulty with this is the statement that “to the Jews then, receiving of the Torah was even greater than being freed from slavery.” It seems hard to imagine that anything would be greater to a slave than being freed. This concept is even more perplexing when we envision what it was like to be a slave in Mitzrayim.

The lives of Jews in Mitzrayim were defined by misery and suffering. They had no rights. They had no life. They couldn’t own property, choose their own destiny, or protect their own children. They didn’t even have the right to their own time. A Mitzri could at any moment demand a Jew’s utter and complete compliance to do his bidding. If a Jew walked in the streets, it was every Mitzri’s right to whisk him away, without question and without recourse, and force him into slave labor for whatever he saw fit.

Waking in the early morning to the crack of the Mitzri’s whip, the Jews were pushed to the limit of human endurance until late at night when they fell asleep in the fields. Without rest, without breaks, the Jews lugged heavy loads and lifted huge rocks. Sweat, tears, and bloodshed were their lot. In the heat of the sweltering sun and in the cold of the desert night, at the risk of life and limb, the Jew was oppressed with a demon-like fury. A beast of burden is treated wisely to ensure its well-being, but not the Jew. He was pushed beyond all limits. Finally, when Pharaoh was asked to let the Jewish people go, he increased their load, taking it from the impossible to the unimaginable.

How could anything in the world be more desirable to the Jews than freedom? How could it be that anything, even something as great as receiving the Torah, could mean more to them than being redeemed from slavery?

The answer to this question lies in understanding the great level of clarity that the Jews reached by living through the makkos and the splitting of the sea.

For ten months, each Jew saw with ever-increasing clarity that Hashem created, maintains, and orchestrates this world. With absolute certainty, they experienced Hashem’s presence in their lives. This understanding brought to them to recognize certain core cognitions.

Every human has inborn understandings. Often they are masked and subdued. Whether by environment or by desire, the human spends much of his life running from the truths that he deeply knows. When the Jews in Mitzrayim experienced Hashem’s power and goodness, they understood the purpose of Creation. They knew we are creations, put on this planet for a reason. We were given a great opportunity to grow, to accomplish, to mold ourselves into who we will be for eternity. We have a few short, precious years here, and then forever we will enjoy that which we have accomplished. Because they so clearly experienced Hashem, their view of existence was changed. They “got it.”

Because of this, the currency with which they measured all good changed. They recognized that the greatest good ever bestowed upon man is the ability to change, to mold himself into something different so that he will merit to cling to Hashem. They recognized that everything we humans value as important pales in comparison to the opportunity to grow close to Hashem. Because they understood this point so vividly, to them the greatest good possible was the receiving of the Torah – Hashem’s word, the ultimate spiritual experience.

And so, while they anxiously anticipated the redemption from slavery as a great good that would free them from physical oppression, they valued the reason they were being freed even more. They were to receive the Torah.

This concept has great relevance in our lives, as we have the ability to tap into this instinctive knowledge of the importance of learning. When a person gets caught up in the temporal nature of this world, the currency with which he rates things changes. The value system now becomes honor, power, career, or creature comforts. That is what he views as good, and that is what he desires. The more a person involves himself in these, the more important they become, and the less precious the Torah becomes. Our natural appreciation of Torah becomes clouded over by other desires and an ever-changing value system.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/sefiras-haomer-why-we-count-what-we-count/2012/05/10/

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