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October 24, 2016 / 22 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Tzohar’s High Holy Day Programs Estimated To Reach over 60,000 in Israel

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Celebrating its 17th year of the Yom Kippur ‘Praying Together’ program, Tzohar, the religious Zionist Rabbis organization in Israel will be hosting over 60,000 people in more than 300 different locations around the country.

Taking place in community centers, theaters and other locations outside of the traditional synagogues, attendees are all provided with the same prayer book (siddur or machzor) to make it easier to follow along, as well as with explanatory pamphlet about the customs, prayers and meaning of the High Holidays to help guide the participant throughout the services.

The success of the Yom Kippur programs have led to the creation of a similar initiative for Rosh Hashana, where thousands of Israeli families participated in ‘Shofar in the Park’.

“Tzohar is deeply proud to have become a central part of the prayer experience for tens of thousands of Israelis for the High holidays,” said Rabbi David Stav, co-founder of Tzohar.

“The 200 Rosh Hashana programs and 300 Yom Kippur locations come from the fact that they provide an approach to the prayer in a manner that is designed to be accessible and easy to relate to for Jews of all backgrounds and levels of familiarity with tradition.

“People come out of our programs feeling energized and engaged and better educated about the meaning of the holiday and its customs.” Over 350 Tzohar volunteers and their families will be placed all around the country to accommodate all those communities who wish to participate. “Tzohar is committed to always adding additional programs to encourage Jewish participation in life cycle events,” said Yakov Gaon, Executive Vice President of Tzohar.

“The powerful reaction to the Yom Kippur program and our other holiday activities showed the excitement and connection people feel. We look forward to adding even more programs to our yearly calendar and bringing proud Jewish identity to the masses.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Far East Meets Middle East in Summit for Religious Leaders

Monday, September 12th, 2016

By Michael Zeff/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Over 20 religious leaders from east Asia arrived in Israel Monday for a four-day summit in Jerusalem. Participants came from countries such as China, South Korea, India, and Japan, representing spiritual traditions of Taoism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. Throughout the upcoming week, they will come face to face with Arab and Israeli religious leaders of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

“It is time to expand the Israel-Asia dialogue from only diplomatic and economic spheres to religion, spirituality and faith,” summit coordinator Simona Halperin told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “This is a first meeting in history between the religious leaders of Judaism and those of the eastern faiths.”

The summit was a joint project between the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the American Jewish Committee and the World Council of Religious Leaders (WCRL). Notable guests included the president of the Buddhist Association of China, Xuecheng, Swami Avdeshanand Giri, spiritual leader of millions of Indian Hindus, and Bawa Jain, Secretary-General of the WCRL.

President Reuven Rivlin greeted summit participants.

“Welcome to Jerusalem, the holy city to the religions of the sons of Abraham,” Rivlin told the guests. “Your arrival is a very special event, for many years the interaction between our religions hardly even existed.

“This is no longer the situation, as your visit today shows,” Rivlin said.

Xuecheng and Swami Giri also addressed the summit, saying religious leaders should take a leading role towards solving worldwide social and environmental challenges.

“I’m very happy to be here,” said the Swami. “We have a saying in our colloquial tongue: ‘When you have dialogues, then the wisdom dawns and knowledge comes.’ Dialogue imparts clarity.”

Xuecheng expressed his hope to make lasting friendships among religious leaders in Israel. “Only if we make true friends we can really set the goal of mutual respect and understanding. the Chinese religions are working very hard to call out other religions to help in the construction of a peaceful world,” he said.

According to Halperin, during the four days of the summit the religious leaders will meet with rabbis from all Jewish streams, as well as with Muslim, Druze and Christian leaders. The group will tour holy sites and discuss current events including global warming, the environment, the status of religion in contemporary society, the role of religion in peacemaking and more.

“Our spiritual worlds are very close to each other in that they are not missionary religions which makes them very open and tolerant,” Rabbi Daniel Sperber, a professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University and Orthodox rabbi. “I feel a unity and comradery between our peoples, more so than with the western world and Christianity.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Egypt Opens Rafah-Gaza Crossing for Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Cairo has opened the sole land crossing between Egypt and Gaza on its border in the town of Rafah in order to allow Palestinian Authority Arabs to make their way to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The border crossing will be open this week from Tuesday through Thursday to facilitate the holy Islamic pilgrimage, Egyptian officials said, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.

Some 2,008 Gaza residents obtained visas to fly to Mecca from the Cairo airport for the ritual.

The crossing was last opened in early July, when 3,099 residents entered Egypt via the Rafah crossing during a five-day open period for “humanitarian purposes.”

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, and a religious obligation for all adult Muslims that must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey without causing undue hardship to their families during the process.

Muslims from around the world will be traveling on pilgrimage to Mecca for the Hajj, and millions had already arrived at the Grand Mosque by early Monday morning, with many have slept outside on the smooth white marble paving outside the massive house of worship in their simple white garments as prescribed for hajj.

Saudi authorities have warned they will forcefully stop any disruptions among the faithful that might erupt over the civil war raging in Syria, according to The Telegraph.

Hana Levi Julian

Soul Talk With Rabbi David Aaron & Leora Mandel – For G-d’s Sake: When Religion Inspires Evil [audio]

Monday, August 29th, 2016

How can we comprehend evil done in the name of G-d? We hear about this too often in the news. Evil acts are committed preceded by the call “G-d is Great.” Do we believe in the same G-d that is inspiring so many murders and acts of hatred? What does G-d really want from us?

Listen to Soul Talk with Rabbi David Aaron and Leora Mandel to get a better understanding of evil done in the name of G-d, how we should think about it and what we should do about it.

We welcome your questions. Send us an e-mail at Soultalk@israelnewstalkradio.com.

Soul Talk 28Aug – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Trusting Your Religion

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Being religious isn’t easy but it certainly is a wonderful thing.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed it becoming more and more difficult to keep so covered up with the sun beaming so strong. The urge to go out in a short sleeved t-shirt has grown more and more but I know deep down that’s not who I am. Even just seeing the enticing ice-creams that aren’t kosher make me over-heated and frustrated.

But then I stop and think about what I do have compared to what I think I want.

When I think about the life of a religious Jew, my mind automatically pictures a kippa, skirts, sheitals, challa, a siddur, my candlesticks and then various other things.

Each of these items gives me pride. For me, there is nothing more special than a Friday afternoon. When I step towards my candlesticks, the house filled with the smell of freshly made challa and dressed in my finest clothes, I feel my sense of belonging and purpose. This moment of serenity is, well close to at least, pure bliss.

There are days when I can get irritated, I’m sure everybody does. Sometimes I want to just stop in my shopping mall and sit down for a bite to eat. Or maybe there’s a show I really want to attend that is only playing on Shabbat or Yomtov. Even tiny things like that gorgeous dress is just a tiny bit too short. Yeah, things can be hard. Choices are always difficult, particularly when it’s regarding something you think you truly want.

What is refreshing to remember is that Hashem gave us free-will for a reason. Some say that we have the ability to choose so that we can shape our lives and undergo tests impartially. The way I see it, free-will is a gift of trust.

I can walk into a supermarket, pick up a ham sandwich and walk out of there feeling full. There isn’t going to be anyone stopping me to say, ‘Excuse me miss, you’re Jewish. Please put that back on the shelf and see aisle 5 for your food options.’ Hashem isn’t creating winds to push in the direction we need to be heading in. He leaves it to us, He trusts us to make those decisions.

A big part of this is making mistakes. It’s part of our DNA to mess up – we all do it. However learning from those instances is important. Being religious isn’t about getting up and doing the same thing out of fear or rote. It’s about evolving into someone better; trying to look for the good in everything.

Life shouldn’t be about shutting down and hiding in the corner. The fact is, it can be enriched with the positivity brought through many different forms including notoriously hated things like the internet and TV. Even reading this blog online can spark a flame inside you.

Being frum doesn’t need to go hand-in-hand with being ignorant. I personally make an effort to enjoy life, keep updated on world affairs or even just go out and have fun! There’s always going to be a way in which to do things correctly and so looking for the good path to take is key. We all know in our hearts what is right and what is wrong – just listen to your instincts.

So sure, there could instances which make me irritated, but I know Hashem is putting His trust into me and that’s certainly one thing I don’t want to break.

Selena Myers

Religion and War?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Ask most Jews in Israel: “What was the moral, spiritual reason that the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70?” and they will answer the reason given by the Sages, almost 2,000 years ago: “Because of what is called in Hebrew “sinat chinam”.

The usual translation goes as follows: “sinah” means hatred, “chinam” means free or baseless, therefore: baseless hatred. However that’s only partially correct. What it really means is this: in Jewish thought there are clear definitions of good and evil, true and false, moral and immoral, definitions that aren’t subject to changes according to the fashionable fad of the day. The Bible calls on those that seek God to hate and resist evil, to pursue justice and true peace – but without hating those that hold ideas that are considered evil. Baseless hatred is when instead of hating and resisting an evil doctrine – I hate the persons and attack them personally, to the extreme point that I erroneously think that the world would be a better place not just if their ideas didn’t exist – but if they themselves also didn’t exist in the world. In contrast the Psalm says: “Sins will cease from the land, and there will be no more evil people”; our Sages emphasize that if the sins disappear, not the sinners, rather when the sinful doctrines disappear – then there won’t be any sinners, because they will have changed for the better.

In spite of this well known accepted tradition as to the moral lesson to be learned from the destruction of the Second Temple – there are those who claim that religious extremism caused the destruction and is indeed the root of most evil, most wars and the most vicious wars.

Is that true?

Were the ancient empires, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece-Macedonia, Rome or Parthia, motivated by religious reasons? No.

How about medieval wars? Where the Chinese, Mongols, or Vikings, to name just a few, motivated by religion? No. Was Christian on Christian or Muslim on Muslim dynastic war religiously motivated? Obviously not.

In the modern world most wars were not religiously motivated at all. The most destructive wars – WWI and WWII – had nothing to do with religion at all.

So from where does the fear of religious war come from? Two possible trains of thought:

1] ‘The best defense is a good offense’: before someone points out to the anti-religion humanist that the “secular religions” – in the sense of blind faith in a man-made doctrine, such as Communism, Nationalism and Fascism – caused two world wars, countless persecutions and executions, resulting in well over 160 million dead, the anti-religionist falsely attacks religion as being responsible for all the hate, wars and suffering in the world. Apparently that attack seems to be based either on the assumption of ignorance of history on the part of the listeners, or perhaps the ignorance of the speaker attacking religion!

2] Those who claim to be pluralists and reject religion, regard all religions as equally guilty of preaching war. But are they?

Christianity claims to be a universal religion, but even President Obama had to go back to the 11th century crusades to find an example of a Christian war against another religion. Inter-Christian war is closer to our times: the Catholic-Protestant wars of the 17th century. Those started as religious wars but ended with mixed Catholic-Protestant coalitions based on the regular dynastic grabs for power that had little to do with any religion.

Judaism doesn’t claim to be a universal religion, doesn’t wish to conquer the world or convert humanity to Judaism. The Jewish nation wishes only to conquer its own tiny land, and that happened back in biblical times. Today the Jewish State only tries to defend itself and certainly has no plans of conquest.

Islam is indeed different: it claims to be a universal religion that all humanity must accept, whether willingly or by the sword, thereby motivating some of its believers to wage imperialist since its inception to this day. But political correctness has called any criticism of Islam “Islamophobia” thereby closing free speech on the matter. What’s left is the false mantra that all religions cause war.

As one of my teachers used to say in high school: do not be confused!

Dovid Ben-Meir

Islam is Not a religion

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

{Originally posted to author’s website, Abu Yehuda)

Today in a 647-word editorial the New York Times has strikingly exemplified the West’s misunderstanding of and impotent response to the threat posed to it by a resurgent, expansionist Islam:

Each new attack, each new convulsion of fear, horror, grief and anger is a progressively greater test of enlightened civilization’s commitment to its core values. …

But whoever struck the blow, whatever its malevolent purpose or toll, the response cannot be to abandon the respect for human rights, equality, reason and tolerance that is the aspiration of all democratic cultures. Though it has become almost a cliché to argue that the goal of terrorists is to bring their victims down to their moral level, it is also a truth, and it must be reaffirmed after every attack.

First, the misunderstanding. The perpetrators of these murderous attacks can’t be “trying to bring us down to their moral level,” because they believe they are on a higher moral level than we are. They are not trying to make us give up our moral principles, which they think are stupid anyway. Rather, they are trying to demoralize us, to terrorize us, to paralyze us so that we will not strike back. To create chaos. To make us see how powerful they are. To make us appease them. To make us submit.

The editors of the Times would have us stress ‘tolerance,’ according to the perception that Islam is a religion like any of the attenuated religions with which we are familiar, a sort of liberal Protestantism or Reform Judaism where they go to mosque on Friday. And if this were a correct characterization of Islam they would be right. But Islam is not a religion in that sense. It is a religion-based ideology, and two of its fundamental principles are that Islam must a) spread throughout the world, and b) become politically dominant wherever Muslims live.

Marxism-Leninism and Nazism were also expansionist ideologies that had a hold on large numbers of people, although without involving religion. The religious basis of Islam only makes it much more effective in gaining and keeping adherents, a task at which it is unmatched. The collection of ideas that make up the Islamic ideology has possibly been the single most effective ‘memeplex’ in human history.

The wave of Islamic conquest that began in the 7th century was a straightforward military campaign. Defeat the infidels’ armies, kill their leaders, enslave or convert the population to Islam, impose shari’a (Islamic law), and move on to the next conquest.

Today the balance of military power is such that the infidels can’t be confronted head-on. But the jihadists understand the weaknesses inherent in Western societies. They believe that they can be cracked into pieces over time by terrorism and taken over by subversion. And the Western leadership often plays directly into their hands

For example, there is no recognition on the part of Western elites that Islam is anything more than a ‘religion’ in the most trivial sense; and therefore it would violate our ideal of freedom of religion to interfere with it in any way. So, although they admit that there is such a thing as ‘radical Islamism’ which engages in terrorism, it is considered wholly separate and distinct from ordinary Islam, which is peaceful and harmless.

They refuse to see that the ideology that is Islam is pervasive; the difference is just that for whatever reason – temperament, practical considerations, degree of commitment – ‘moderate’ Muslims do not engage in violent activities. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of support in the overall Muslim community for extremists, who are often seen as ‘more devout’, better Muslims because of their zeal.

Religion in the West is exempt from criticism, and in the US it receives exemption from taxation as well. Ideology and politics are not so protected. It isn’t considered bigotry to oppose Marxism or Republicanism, and political contributions can’t be deducted from income on American tax returns. The problem is that the pernicious political ideology of Islam rides along with its religious underpinnings.

Criticism of Islam is systematically suppressed by being called ‘hate’, ‘bigotry’ or even ‘racism.’ Organizations like the ADL or the Southern Poverty Law Center see ‘Islamophobia’ as a form of ‘hate.’ along with anti-black racism or Jew-hatred. Although it should be obvious that one can be opposed to the ideology inherent in Islam without hating Muslims, and certainly without being a racist, this distinction is never drawn.

Because it ignores the ideological nature of Islam, the West does really stupid things. For example, the US allows foreign interests in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iran to pump huge amounts of money into mosques and Islamic centers in America. These institutions teach both the religion and the ideology – they are inseparable – convert Americans to Islam, engage in ‘educational’ enterprises in their communities, support friendly politicians, squelch criticism of Islam, and so forth. And of course they pay no taxes.

Foreign money also goes into educational institutions, endowing Middle East Studies departments that are little more than mouthpieces for pro-Islamic propaganda, giving grants to academics for helpful  research, and – to a shocking degree – influencing the content of textbooks used by American grade school and high school students.

In what must rank as one of the most foolish acts in history since that Greek horse was allowed to enter Troy, US prisons provide taxpayer-funded Muslim chaplains who teach Islam, organize worship services and help inmates convert to Islam. Thus some of the most violent elements in society are indoctrinated with an ideology that lends itself to violent extremism!

So what should the Western response to Islamic terrorism be?

  • First and most important, we must recognize that Islam is not merely a religion that should be given the benefit of ‘tolerance’. It is an ideology that is opposed to the basic principles of the democratic, enlightened West, and should be treated as an enemy.
  • We should stop shutting down criticism of Islam, an ideology, on the grounds that such criticism is the same as irrational hatred of a person because of his ethnicity or race. Criticism of ideologies is entirely legitimate.
  • We should treat Islamic institutions as (anti-Western) political institutions, not religious ones.
  • We should understand that foreign money supporting Islamic causes in a Western country constitutes subversion, and take steps to control it.
  • We should ensure that the history and philosophy of Islam as an expansionist ideology is taught in schools in an honest way (e.g., the primary meaning of ‘jihad’ is not ‘an inner struggle against evil’).
  • We should monitor Islamic institutions for subversive activities.
  • We should not encourage immigration of Muslims to the West.
  • We should eliminate Muslim chaplains in prisons.

The Times concludes thus:

What threatened nations and their leaders can do is to firmly instill the idea that the only sure defense is to stay true to what democratic societies really stand for.

What the editors of the Times intend, of course, is that the West should not allow Islamic provocations to cause us to treat Muslims any differently than anyone else. And they are correct that we should always protect human rights.

But it is not a human right in the West to espouse an ideology that embraces conquest and destruction of Western civilization. Such an ideology contradicts “what democratic societies really stand for,” and tolerance for it is no more justified than tolerance for smallpox or polio. It is suicidal.

Vic Rosenthal

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/abu-yehuda/islam-is-not-a-religion/2016/07/20/

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