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

Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

Title: The Alternative

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Title: The Alternative


Author: Rabbi Yehuda Schwartz


Publisher: Mazo Publishers


 


 


   The Alternative, by Rabbi Yehuda Schwartz, outspoken “Inside View” columnist, is his first book since retiring from The Jewish Press more than 20 years ago. In it, he describes the cosmological connection between Israel and the nations and looks into the future on the subject of Messianism.

 

   In the early 80′s, Rabbi Schwartz’ weekly column earned him an enviable reputation for his impeccable integrity, even as some may have argued with his style. In The Alternative, as a student of the late gaon Reb Chaim Zimmerman, z”l, the author has faithfully presented his understanding of the gaon‘s position of redemption in our time, as he heard so many times at his public lectures and sitting at this table in Jerusalem for more than 20 years.

 

   With a vengeance against all political correctness that permeates Jewish thinking on the controversial subject, the author also challenges both Christianity and Islam to come up with a better solution for all mankind than provided for in the Torah.

 

   In The Alternative, Rabbi Schwartz presents the halachic argument for the other option in redemption, a natural evolution from Jewish statehood in 1948 until this very moment, when the nations are coming “on Jerusalem,” exactly as predicted by Jewish prophecy. It is the first comprehensive compendium in English on redemption which, except for a few sections limited to Torah scholars, is written in lucid, straightforward and precise language, with adequate endnotes and references to corroborate its conclusions.

 

   Until now, the Rambam’s description of Messianism (see end Hilchot Melachim) has singularly dominated discussion and understanding on the subject of Moshiach. However, the transfer of Jewish ownership from the United Nations back into the collective hands of tzibbur in Israel, Rabbi Schwartz posits, effectively changed the rules of “his coming.”

 

   The new school of thought no longer speaks of the “coming of Moshiach.” Rather, the modern understanding supports the probability that the Jewish nation, returned to its homeland, through a series of “natural causes,” is now preparing the infrastructure for the eventual body of Jewish law which will probably appoint the King of Israel, who will then be anointed with the oil of kings reserved for his occasion, according to tradition, now lying buried beneath the present Temple site.

 

   In Chapter 4, the two redemption possibilities – “hastened” or “in its time” – based on the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) – and specifically outlined and developed in detail in the traditional Shmoneh Esreh, are opened to the reader perhaps for the first time, even though it is recited three time daily. At the beginning, to be worthy of the complete redemption in a “hastened” scenario, we need perfect faith, perfect repentance and perfect healing from the effects of the long exile.

 

   The “in its time” possibility following, outlines and presents in detail the program of a natural redemption in our time, based on the Gemara (Megilla 17b).

 

   Additional Messianic subjects covered in The Alternative are: Messianic Origins, Redemption and the Seven Proofs, Religious Wars, the Temple Mount, and the End of Days – The Future. When asked what he hoped to achieve with The Alternative, Rabbi Schwartz said he hoped it would open the hearts and minds of those many who simply have been confused over the years on the whole subject of Moshiach and were stuck with slogans.

 

   To this reviewer, The Alternative is “an eye-opener,” a must for all serious students of the redemption, and a guidebook to future events as the world continues coming against Israel and Jerusalem.

 

   Rabbi Schwartz’ courage and willingness to put his understanding of this period in book form, as he gleaned from a master of Torah and logic, will leave the burden of proof on future generations against his erudite presentation on the subject.

 

   The Alternative is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Mazo Publishers and selected bookstores.

Title: The Alternative

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Title: The Alternative

Author: Rabbi Yehuda Schwartz

Publisher: Mazo Publishers

 

 

   The Alternative, by Rabbi Yehuda Schwartz, outspoken “Inside View” columnist, is his first book since retiring from The Jewish Press more than 20 years ago. In it, he describes the cosmological connection between Israel and the nations and looks into the future on the subject of Messianism.

 

   In the early 80′s, Rabbi Schwartz’ weekly column earned him an enviable reputation for his impeccable integrity, even as some may have argued with his style. In The Alternative, as a student of the late gaon Reb Chaim Zimmerman, z”l, the author has faithfully presented his understanding of the gaon’s position of redemption in our time, as he heard so many times at his public lectures and sitting at this table in Jerusalem for more than 20 years.

 

   With a vengeance against all political correctness that permeates Jewish thinking on the controversial subject, the author also challenges both Christianity and Islam to come up with a better solution for all mankind than provided for in the Torah.

 

   In The Alternative, Rabbi Schwartz presents the halachic argument for the other option in redemption, a natural evolution from Jewish statehood in 1948 until this very moment, when the nations are coming “on Jerusalem,” exactly as predicted by Jewish prophecy. It is the first comprehensive compendium in English on redemption which, except for a few sections limited to Torah scholars, is written in lucid, straightforward and precise language, with adequate endnotes and references to corroborate its conclusions.

 

   Until now, the Rambam’s description of Messianism (see end Hilchot Melachim) has singularly dominated discussion and understanding on the subject of Moshiach. However, the transfer of Jewish ownership from the United Nations back into the collective hands of tzibbur in Israel, Rabbi Schwartz posits, effectively changed the rules of “his coming.”

 

   The new school of thought no longer speaks of the “coming of Moshiach.” Rather, the modern understanding supports the probability that the Jewish nation, returned to its homeland, through a series of “natural causes,” is now preparing the infrastructure for the eventual body of Jewish law which will probably appoint the King of Israel, who will then be anointed with the oil of kings reserved for his occasion, according to tradition, now lying buried beneath the present Temple site.

 

   In Chapter 4, the two redemption possibilities – “hastened” or “in its time” – based on the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) – and specifically outlined and developed in detail in the traditional Shmoneh Esreh, are opened to the reader perhaps for the first time, even though it is recited three time daily. At the beginning, to be worthy of the complete redemption in a “hastened” scenario, we need perfect faith, perfect repentance and perfect healing from the effects of the long exile.

 

   The “in its time” possibility following, outlines and presents in detail the program of a natural redemption in our time, based on the Gemara (Megilla 17b).

 

   Additional Messianic subjects covered in The Alternative are: Messianic Origins, Redemption and the Seven Proofs, Religious Wars, the Temple Mount, and the End of Days – The Future. When asked what he hoped to achieve with The Alternative, Rabbi Schwartz said he hoped it would open the hearts and minds of those many who simply have been confused over the years on the whole subject of Moshiach and were stuck with slogans.

 

   To this reviewer, The Alternative is “an eye-opener,” a must for all serious students of the redemption, and a guidebook to future events as the world continues coming against Israel and Jerusalem.

 

   Rabbi Schwartz’ courage and willingness to put his understanding of this period in book form, as he gleaned from a master of Torah and logic, will leave the burden of proof on future generations against his erudite presentation on the subject.

 

   The Alternative is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Mazo Publishers and selected bookstores.

Heeding The Cry Of The Unborn

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Let’s face it: it’s unusual and even somewhat bizarre nowadays to encounter a family with more than two children. It is almost as if a war is launched against the unborn after a “red line” of two or three children has been reached.

Instead of enriching our world with the unparalleled innocence and joy of children, we have impoverished it with various ways of contraception. It’s no wonder the birth ratio of our global population is rapidly deteriorating. In the United States, it stands at 2.11 children per family. Europe’s birth ratio is even lower: it currently stands at 1.38 children per family, and if not for the massive influx of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East, it could have been much worse.

My wife and I were made aware of these shocking statistics after we were blessed with our sixth child a few weeks ago. “When are you going to stop?” many asked. “We really hope this is your last one,” others suggested gently, with a tone of affection and bewilderment.

Why has our society developed a mindset obsessed with birth control and family planning? Are we afraid of overpopulating the world? Have we become unsure of our ability to raise more than two children?

Bringing up children involves an enormous sacrifice of emotion, time, attention and financial resources. Every parent knows that when a child is born, a new environment is created in the home. The new arrival swiftly captures the center stage of consciousness. The focus of life suddenly shifts from “I” to “you,” from receiving to giving.

But in our society – where the “I” is idolized and the “you” is invariably abandoned – where does one find space for children and the sacrifice they require? Can the selfish man or woman become selfless and allow room for unborn children?

Perhaps there’s an additional reason for the reluctance of our society to procreate: It’s no secret that children intensify the love and commitment between spouses. When a husband and wife have children they learn to surmount their differences and unite in love and devotion for the sake of their offspring. As more children are born, the commitment only deepens, as every child becomes another binding factor.

Yet today, many prefer to shy away from this binding commitment due in large part to the unprecedented number of divorces around the world. Further, this crisis often raises doubt and ambiguity in the minds of many a husband and wife who wonder whether their spouse is really “the right one.”

“Maybe I should have married someone richer, smarter or stronger,” they fantasize. But if the marriage unit is not established as a fait établi, it will never be able to soar to new heights of love and commitment. For how can one build a towering edifice and an everlasting genealogical tree of blossoming branches and fruits without solid foundations of certainty?

“For this is what God says – He who fashioned and made the earth did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18). Indeed, the purpose of creation was to inhabit the world and elevate it. The world is not complete without the habitation of man. And the world will only reach its ultimate purpose through the unique contributions of each and every human being.

This poignant idea was well articulated by the Talmud (Avodah Zarah, 5a): “The son of David will come [and the world will attain a state of completion and redemption] only when all the souls destined to [inhabit earthly] bodies will be exhausted.” So if a person is blessed with the health (physical, emotional and mental) and ability to procreate, how can he or she halt the future contributions of the unborn that will bring about redemption to the world? And would the world ever have evolved if the parents of our historical heroes had decided not to bear them? And would you, the reader of this essay, be here today if not for the unwavering faith and commitment of your parents to give birth and raise a personal hero of their own?

Woody Allen once said, “I do not want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” Alas, in the end, everyone departs this world. Of course, our inner souls, unaffected by death, will continue to live on forever in the World to Come. Yet there exists a way in which we can continue to have an impact in this world even after our passing: we can have children. Most human achievements come and go. But children have the unique power to carry our lives onward, until the end of time.

Haman-nejad

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Something about this Purim bothered me. It seemed too relevant. Once again, a Persian Haman has emerged – Haman-nejad (nejad or nezhad is a Persian suffix meaning “descendant of”), who has again made the existence of Israel a topic for debate. Some say that the world is better off with Israel, and others say that the world is better off without Israel. “Enlightened” academia has not yet decided, but it looks like the scales are tipping in favor of a world without Israel.

 

These days are reminiscent of the 30s. The giddy optimism after World War I was gradually replaced by the foul winds of anti-Semitism and hatred. Slowly but surely, the enlightened world surrendered to the new fashion. Weak politicians made peace with the trend. Frightened Jews closed themselves in their neighborhoods as violent anti-Semitic incidents became routine. The establishment explained that the Jews must ride the murky wave – and that with time, it would pass.

 

When I was a boy, I was taught that another Holocaust cannot happen because we have a state. This line of thinking was bolstered by religious Zionist determinism that declared that the redemption process was a given. I always found comfort in the thought that while the State of Israel could bring suffering upon itself, its existence was guaranteed. Today, I no longer think so. The redemption is certainly guaranteed, but on one of the declines on the path that leads to redemption, we can certainly lose our state – at a terrible price.

 

Every physical holocaust must be preceded by delegitimization and dehumanization of the intended victims. The murder of six million Jews would not have been possible if not for the fact that it was preceded by the negation of their honor and basic human rights. The Persian tyrant’s nuclear plans are not as dangerous as the public debate that he has managed to arouse and the “Jewish Question” that has once again found its way into public discourse.

 

The average Israeli prefers to hide his head in the sand and trust Israel’s leadership to deal with the problem. Outside Israel, anyone who does not look too Jewish can still feel fairly comfortable. But that is precisely the syndrome of 1938: the threat is so horrific that the average person cannot integrate it – and chooses to ignore it instead.

 

This is not a problem that will go away if we ignore it. If you read the Scroll of Esther, you will understand what made Haman hate the Jews. Then listen to Haman-nejad and you will find the same paradigm.

 

The story of Purim begins with a feast that King Achashveirosh hosted in his palace, a celebration of his royal decree forbidding the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In honor of the auspicious event, Achashveirosh invited the Jews of his capital, Shushan, to celebrate. He made sure that the Holy Temple vessels that had been stolen by the Babylonians when they destroyed the Temple were prominently on display.

 

The Jews were flattered to be invited, and wanted to prove that they were good Persians. They relished the opportunity to rub shoulders with Persian high society. That is where Haman stepped in. If you look at the caricatures in the Nazi Der Sturmer, you will see that the assimilated German Jew aroused the same disgust as the German Amalek.

 

And what does Haman-nejad say? He says that he has no problem with the Jews. He only has a problem with the Zionists. “It is a shame what the Germans did to the Jews,” he says. “So let the Austrians and Germans find them a place to live in Europe – not at the expense of the Palestinians.” And between us, the Foreign Ministry of the “Singapore of the Middle East” has a hard time explaining why the modern-day Haman is mistaken. If we are not a Jewish state, but rather a state of all its citizens, then what right do we have to act like colonialists?

 

In Tel Aviv, we hear this: “It is all the settlers’ fault. We will eliminate their settlements and everything will work out.” There were German Jews who also thought that the hatred they were experiencing was because of the Ost Yidden – the Eastern (Polish) Jews. About a year ago, I read an interview with German Jewish Holocaust survivors who are still convinced that the horrors that they experienced could have been prevented if not for the Ost Yidden.

 

The Purim story has a happy ending. But Jewish history has other stories that do not end quite as happily. We would be wise to learn the Purim story well to understand what caused the turnabout that saved the Jews. It just may help us deal with the storm clouds gathering on our horizon.

Title: Redemption to Redemption: The VERY Deep & Intricate Connection Between the Holidays Purim and Pesach

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Title: Redemption to Redemption: The VERY Deep & Intricate Connection Between the Holidays Purim and Pesach


Author: Rabbi Pinchas Winston


Publisher: Thirtysix.org


 


 


   Remember to breathe as you read Redemption to Redemption: The VERY Deep & Intricate Connection Between the Holidays Purim and Pesach. The enlightening ideas presented by author Rabbi Pinchas Winston will boggle your mind. They’re the stuff of terrific discussions in any Jewish setting.

 

   Learn why Haman cleverly chose to build a gallows specifically 50 amot high in order to destroy not only Mordechai HaTzadik, but also the entire Jewish people. He was no fool. You won’t be either after reading that passage. You’ll also realize, with the author’s help, why we celebrate Purim only in the Adar sheini of Jewish leap years.

 

   Leaping right into the topic of geula (redemption) do you know why the nun sha’arei binah, the 50 Gates of Understanding, predicate eternal Jewish freedom? Care to learn why that’s relevant to the 50-amot courtyard outside the Mishkan?

 

   Can you explain the ever-higher levels of consciousness that a Jew attains by reaching pardes? And just what sort of orchard is that place, anyway? Balak and Bilaam knew, and this book explains why they invested great effort in cursing the Jewish nation. Hint: it all comes down to the exalted state of unity among the klal at Mattan Torah and the intellectual state that precedes such achdut. Hoshea understood the phenomenon. After reading this book, you can, too.

 

   Most Jews learn that Amalek represented cynicism, the polar opposite of Torah’s eternally positive point of view. Read Redemption to Redemption and learn why this makes Amalek relevant to the manna that fell from Heaven to nourish Jews in the desert. A few paragraphs later, you’ll understand why the power and gift of speech have so much in common with the lessons of Parshat HaMan, too.

 

   As the chapters leave Purim and delve into Pesach, readers will grow wide-eyed with wonder while considering the stunning act of chesed and damage control that Yosef achieved with his somewhat dysfunctional brothers. The life-saving importance of his exemplary behavior is a lesson for the ages: Appearances can conceal or reveal the truth. Yosef teaches us throughout the millennia that anyone associated with Torah life should strive for truth.

 

   Redemption to Redemption comes in spiral-bound or PDF formats exclusively through www.thirtysix.org. Answers as to how we Jews can actualize the geula appear in both versions of the book, covering material from Pri Tzadik Parshat Balak 3 to much of the vast world of genuine Jewish literature.

 

   Rabbi Winston has devoted his adult life studying and teaching these lessons. His time has been well spent. It can save generations of Jews from making misguided choices.

 

   The book offers a superb look at the deeper meanings of Torah life. It bears haskamah from Jerusalem’s Rabbi Mordechai Friedlander. Redemption to Redemption: The VERY Deep & Intricate Connection Between the Holidays Purim and Pesach belongs in shuls, homes and educational institutions for every age.

Reflections On Israel’s Independence Day

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

   “For 2000 years Jews would have gladly exchanged the horrors of exile for the current State of Israel. They would have given anything for a Jewish government headed by [Ehud] Olmert and for a Jewish army – despite the Expulsion. After the Holocaust, how can anyone deny the tremendous gift that we have received from the Creator – the gift of the State of Israel?”


 

      There is certainly much truth to this claim, voiced primarily by the “state supremacy” side of religious Zionism. On the surface, it is a decisive assertion, portraying those who disagree as ungrateful apostates. There is something demagogic, though, in this claim. Reality is measured not only by position on the timeline, but also by direction. A baby’s hesitant first steps are generally greeted with delight – but not if he is heading toward an abyss.

 

      The inability of religious Zionism to fight for its most valued principles does not necessarily prove singular love for the state. Is a prayer for Olmert the same as a prayer for the welfare of the state – or the opposite? Does refusal to obey orders to destroy Jewish settlements destroy the army and the state, or does it save them and delineate the borders beyond which the government cannot legitimately act?

 

      Experience from the Expulsion and its aftermath shows that the state-supremacist arguments against all forms of conscientious objection deprived the state of the vital checks and balances that the faith-based public should have supplied. To claim that the state is a holy tool – no matter what – leads to the extreme notion that the regime is also holy. And by definition, a “holy regime” cannot issue an illegal order.

 

      When the state began to strip itself of its basic Jewish values and when, during the Expulsion period, it sank into nihilism on the one hand and fascism on the other (above all else, the state’s refusal to obey a criminal order is more dangerous than carrying it out, the will of the majority is insignificant, etc.), it was time for religious Zionism to step forward. The struggle against the Expulsion was not for Gush Katif alone. It was a struggle over the moral foundation of the State of Israel. It was a struggle to allow the IDF to fight its true enemies, and a struggle for democracy.

 

      The state-supremacy theories that led to our defeat in the struggle for Gush Katif paved the way for the unraveling of the state. These theories led directly to the IDF defeat one year later in Lebanon. The defeat in Gush Katif led to the widespread despondency that we are now experiencing. The public has tasted Israeli “democracy,” and understands that it has no real control over its fate. The public feels that the state is imploding, and is helpless to stop it from happening. The faith-based public that was at the forefront of the struggle against this process – and ran away from the confrontation – bears major responsibility for today’s sorry situation.

 

      Is the State of Israel really the forerunner of our redemption? I believe that it is. The historic events of the last 60 years cannot be ignored or dismissed. To do so would be to defy logic, and to stifle the firm belief in redemption planted in our hearts. But on the other hand, we must understand that what we are experiencing is the path to redemption – not the redemption itself.

 

      Our situation can be compared to that of a prisoner who discovers a secret tunnel leading outside the prison walls. The moment he enters the tunnel, he has entered the path leading to redemption. The farther he proceeds through the tunnel, the more he distances himself from his previous state and the closer he comes to freedom. But suddenly he discovers that the exit from the tunnel is sealed off and its ceiling is about to collapse. Is the tunnel still the path to his redemption? Yes, but only if he manages to overcome the obstacles and exit the tunnel.

 

      We need the maturity to understand that overcoming our present obstacles depends on us. We can no longer stand at the blocked exit of the tunnel and cry, as we did at Gush Katif. We must take responsibility and, with God’s help, open the exit of the tunnel for the entire nation. Exaggerated celebrations and flag waving at the blocked exit point not to extreme faith, but to a lack of connection to reality.

 

      I said the Hallel prayer on Independence Day. But I did it quietly. As for the Israeli flag, they defiled the flag at Gush Katif. But we will purify it.

 

      To learn more about Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership), and their plan for Israel’s future, visit http://www.jewishisrael.org/.


 

Forcing The Messiah Any Day That He Might Come

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Pangs of the Messiah


June 23-July 29, 2007


By Motti Lerner, directed by Sinai Peter


Theater J at the DCJCC


1529 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington DC


http://www.theaterj.org


 

 

 

        “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah,” declares Maimonides in his Thirteen Principles of Faith, “and even if he tarries, nevertheless I shall await him any day that he might come.” And yet, however much one believes, one purchases a house or rents living quarters, seeks employment and social networks and otherwise relegates one’s belief in and longing for the Messiah to one’s prayers. Indeed, both Rabbah and Ullah admitted they wanted the Messiah to come, but each added, “let me not see him” (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98b). The Talmud entertains the possibility that both hoped to be no-shows at the Messianic arrival because of a mysterious institution called “the birth pangs of the Messiah” (chevlei Mashiach).

 

         Even these few examples of an enormous body of Jewish textual attention to the ensuing Messianic era, show what an excellent postmodern symbol that era is. It is simultaneously Edenic and painful (thus the childbirth reference), and one can make a valid argument from Jewish texts that the Messiah will come either as a result of people making the world such a wonderful place that he will be welcome, or such a terrible place that people will have no hope whatsoever without his arrival.

 

         The Messiah remains intangible, for no one has seen him. To that end, Motti Lerner’s “Pangs of the Messiah” (which American audiences have waited painfully for 22 years, so the title is apt) does for Jewish theater what some sects of Chabad Lubavitch have done in the theological realm – stamped a distinctly modern impression on the Messiah. This is not to say either party has resorted to a contemporary, blasphemous reenactment of Sabbatai Zeviism, but each has altered the way we think of and talk about the Messianic era.

 

 


From left to right: Joel Ruben Ganz (Benny), John Johnston (Avner), Michael Tolaydo (Shmuel). Courtesy of Theater J.

 

 

         Set in a West Bank settlement in the year 2012, Lerner’s “Pangs of the Messiah” tells of eight settlers who are caught in the middle of a peace accord between the Israeli and Palestinian governments which would render them homeless. The settlers join together to fight off IDF forces, leaving Rabbi Shmuel Berger (Michael Tolaydo), spiritual leader of the settlement, to grapple with the same concerns that plagued the teachers of Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir.

 

         Tolaydo plays Berger like an aging King Lear who, after losing touch with his peers and his family, sobers up just in time to respond to an engulfing nightmare by suffering a tragic suicide/death. Protagonists have a way of fairing poorly in Lerner’s plays, as does Binder, a stand-in for Yitzhak Rabin in Lerner’s “The Murder of Isaac” (reviewed in theses pages on April 19, 2006).

 

         “I think that a dramatic conclusion is necessary in any play,” said Lerner over email, explaining his choice of tragic endings. “In both ‘The Murder of Isaac’ and ‘Pangs of the Messiah’ the issues at stake are matters of life and death, and the internal actions of the characters are so total that there’s almost no other conclusion.” But Lerner insists the plays are not only not pessimistic, but quite the opposite. “Writing a tragic end is very optimistic – the tragic end paradoxically strengthens the spectator and encourages him to choose life.”

 

         Throughout the play, Berger and his family debate which strategy is most strategic to frustrate the Israeli government’s aims to dismantle the settlements. Berger seeks to exploit his Knesset connections to fight the plan peacefully. But his son Avner (John Johnston), peace activist turned aggressive much to the dismay of his wife Tirtzah (Becky Peters), joins forces with his brother-in-law Benny (Joel Reuben Ganz) to attack the IDF forces sent to dismantle the settlement.

 

 


From left to right: Norman Aronovic (Menachem), John Johnston (Avner), Becky Peters (Tirtzah), Michael Tolaydo (Shmuel). Courtesy of Theater J.

 

 

         Part of the trouble centers on Benny’s recent imprisonment for murdering Palestinian families, which he blames on Berger’s teachings. Berger’s and his wife Amalia’s (Laura Giannarelli) daughter, Chava (Lindsay Haynes), blindly supports Benny (her husband), while his father Menachem (Norman Aronovic) initially suspects his motives, only to later join forces with him to outvote Berger. Berger’s disabled son Nadav (Alexander Strain) serves throughout as a Shakespearean “fool” character, speaking the widely ignored voice of truth.

 

         To make matters worse, the set design of a West Bank house (with white minimalist design, save for a few book cases and pieces of living room furniture) includes the Hebrew verses from Genesis (chapter 12) in which G-d promises the land of Israel to Abraham is written on the floor. The characters literally trample G-d’s promise throughout the play. (G-d’s name does not appear on the floor). The irony, of course, is that both the Israelis and Palestinians agree that the land went to Abraham; they differ regarding which son received the inheritance from him.

 

         The trampling of G-d’s word also takes the form of otherwise well-intentioned religious men trying to force G-d’s hand at launching the Messianic era. Benny (probably intentionally) misinterprets his teacher Shmuel Berger’s words, using them to justify his violent plans:

 

         Benny: You’re not calling the police because you know that this war is a holy war. Because you know it will bring about an awakening on earth that will create an awakening in heaven, and bring redemption. Because you know that we must obey His will and go on fighting, and not allow Him to rest until redemption is complete

 

         Shmuel: G-d in heaven. We must carry on fighting in order not to allow the Almighty to rest? To force Him to complete the redemption? Everything is done by His will. Redemption, too, will be only completed by His will

 

         Benny: This morning you told me explicitly that when that desperate time comes, we shall do everything to shake the heavens in order to avoid disaster

 

         Shmuel: Shake the heavens with dynamite? With prayer. With endeavor. Step by step. Patiently

 

         Yet to an immature, overly aggressive fundamentalist like Benny, Berger’s call for patience falls upon deaf ears. Indeed, Berger himself longs for the Messiah just as much as his peers. But the difference between religion and fundamentalism lies perhaps in what decisions people make to realize that longing. The Bennys and Avners of this world seek to act violently upon those religious longings, and they view anyone who stands in their way as blasphemous non-believers.

 

         It is easy to read Berger’s suicide as a pessimistic note in an already tragic tale. When his family and congregation needed him the most, the rabbi removed himself from the occasion in a cowardly fashion. Another death in a conflict that has seen far too many deaths on both sides. And yet, as Lerner explained, there is perhaps a more optimistic sign. Pulling her son Nadav aside as he cries over the toy house he built which was destroyed by settlers who beat him to send a message to his father, Amalia tells him, “We will live, Nadav. We’ll leave here and live Abba will speak on our behalf in heaven and maybe the Almighty will have mercy on us”

 

         Menachem Wecker is a painter, writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. He welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com

Tending The Garden

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

         I’m often asked why it is that men played such a major role in Jewish history. “Where are the feminine voices, the feminine role models? Why are they not leading the way?”

 

         The short answer is that the women are there of course, in full force, but working through their inner mode, often not noticeable to the indiscriminating eye. But to understand why they are not at the forefront we need a deeper understanding of the workings of our world and of the purpose of why we are here to begin with.

 

         “I have come into My garden, My sister, My bride” (Song of Songs 5:1).

 

         A common perception is that the purpose of our world is for human beings to fulfill G-d’s will in order to receive their reward in the World to Come. This, however, is a simplistic (and selfish) level of relating to G-d.

 

         The Midrash explains that, “G-d desired to have a dwelling place in the lower worlds” (Tanchumah, Naso 16). G-d wanted a relationship with us here in this physical world. This world is  G-d’s “garden” where we can become connected and united with Him. We connect to G-d through the study of Torah and the practice of mitzvot, which changes our world into a more G-dly place, where G-d can feel “at home.” Ultimately, the depth of our relationship will be realized only after the redemption, in the Messianic era. Our job now, however, is to prepare the world for this time.

 

         A garden is made up of plain earth. But it is precisely within its lowly, sullied soil, that the most radiant, dazzling flowers can grow. Similarly, it is specifically in our physical world that the most profound relationship between G-d and us can be forged.

 

         Making our world into G-d’s garden requires two roles. First, we must uproot the weeds and clear the debris from our garden. We must subjugate the darkness and negativity, which obscures the G-dly source and essence of our world. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we must tend to the garden’s various plants, nurture them and ensure that they blossom fully. We must cultivate and bring out the latent inner qualities and potentials of all aspects of our world. Both of these roles are necessary in transforming our physical world into a divine garden. On the whole, they reflect the respective roles of man and woman.

 

         When we fight negativity – the spiritual “weeds” and “debris” around us – by drawing down new holiness to overcome it, we are employing the external, “masculine” mode. When we reveal the inherent beauty in creation by working within the physical reality to uncover the holiness already there – cultivating the physical earth so that it brings out breathtaking flowers – we are employing the inner, “feminine” mode.

 

         These are two roles and two directions to creating a home for G-d.

 

         Bringing G-dliness down into our world. Or raising and elevating our reality to reveal its inherent G-dliness.

 

        Conquering negativity and physicality. Or cultivating and uncovering the essential positivity within creation.

 

         Man’s primary role is to introduce new G-dliness to our world. He accomplishes this primarily through his Torah study. Woman’s primary role is to uncover the G-dliness that already exists within creation. Mitzvot bring out the inner spirituality within the physical realm of our world.

 

         Man does by bringing in a new element of G-dliness into our world. Woman is by revealing the G-dliness in what already exists. Both roles are vital.

 

         When evil abounds we need to fight it headstrong. We vanquish darkness by introducing more G-dly light into creation. It is useless, even counter-productive, to sit down and negotiate with terrorists who wish to destroy you – you need to fight them head on. But there comes a time when the evil has been largely subdued and the second approach – of finding the inherent good, and revealing the common ground of unity – is more effective.

 

         From the beginning of time, we have fought the evil around us by defeating value systems that were antithetical to a G-dly world. The masculine energy was largely at the forefront of this battle. But we are now at the doorstep of a new era. Moshiach will overpower all evil and then focus his energies on education and cultivation. In order to transform the very fabric of our world and reveal its implicit G-dliness, the feminine approach of nurturance and uncovering is more appropriate.

 

         So, to get back to the original question, where are the women’s voices? Why aren’t they noticeable?

 

As mentioned, they are there, but because their role is from within, their approach is by necessity more hidden, more secretive. They work from behind the scenes, not always discernable to the non-discriminating eye. We need to discover and tap into their energy, their hidden, inner voices to learn from their depth of wisdom how to deal with the challenges of our own lives.

 

         As we stand on the threshold of this new era, the importance of the feminine role is becoming more accessible and appreciated. Geulah, redemption, is the feminine era. It is an era of peace, when we no longer need to fight the negativity of our world, but rather inculcate more and more goodness and G-dliness within creation.

 

        Redemption is described as the time when “Nekeiva tesovev gever -The female shall surround the male” – Jeremiah 32:21) when the feminine qualities will take precedence over the male qualities. After resting our weapons we will bask in and absorb the tranquility of peace. Having overcome the darkness, we will finally appreciate the splendor of the light.

 

         Women are charged with bringing this era because they are intrinsically connected to its feminine vision. The world is ready for more of this feminine perspective. Let us not lose our feminine approach, our feminine mode or our feminine touch; let us use it to transform our world into G-d’s garden.

 

         Excerpted from the newly released book, Tending the Garden-The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman (Targum Press), now available in Judaic bookstores worldwide.

 

         Chana Weisberg is the author of four books including the best-selling Divine Whispers and the newly released Tending the Garden. She is a associate editor for www.chabad.org  and lectures worldwide on a wide array of issues. To date, she has lectured on three continents and in close to fifty cities throughout the United States. To have her speak for your community or to be a part of her upcoming book tour, please contact her at chanaw@gmail.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/tending-the-garden/2007/05/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: