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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rosh Hashanah’

For Better or for Worse

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

It’s time to move out of our homes and into our holy humble sukkahs. Now is the time when we renew our relationship with God, who has chosen us to form an inseparable eternal union – a marriage between the children of Yisrael and the Master of the Universe.

The Torah portion of Nitzavim, which is read just before the New Year, reveals to us that Hashem is our personal “husband,” for better or for worse. Rashi explains (Devarim 29:12) that we were presented with a covenant and a curse: “Since we are forever bound together, let Me teach you how to make Me happy.”

Nitzavim goes on to prophesize everything that has transpired during these thousands of years. This is highlighted by non-Jews gasping and stating, “Why has God caused this land to become desolate? Because they have forsaken God’s covenant.” Thus, on Rosh Hashanah we think of our past year’s sins. The sound of the shofar awakens our emotions. Then ten days of introspection and repentance bring on the great and awesome day of Kippur, of Atonement.

Consider: our God is perfect, and we are anything but. We may have been envious or lustful, or worshipped money, status or a host of other vices. Now we humbly return home to our Love. If we repent out of fear, our sins are forgiven. But if we repent because we truly love our Maker, he gives us an amazing reward – our sins become mitzvahs!

Hashem simply goes beyond the letter of the law in His love for us.

The Holy Ben Ish Chai points out that if you go beyond the four letters of the Hebrew word hadin (the judgment), you get to the Hebrew word sukkah. (The four Hebrew letters that come after the letters in hadin are the letters in the word sukkah). The sukkah is where we arrive after Yom Kippur, free of sins, under the wings of God’s Holy Presence.

Note that the first time sukkah is mentioned in the Torah, it is referring to the stalls our forefather Yaakov built for his animals. Why? Because when Yaakov arrived in Shechem with his family, he built a beis medrash for himself for Torah learning, but for his animals, his “wealth,” he built simple huts.

Yaakov took his children to the window and said, “Look at how I treat my wealth, dear children. Wealth is temporary; like the sukkah, it doesn’t go with you to the next world. But here in this house of Torah, we accumulate the mitzvahs that stay with us – which are eternal.”

We have now received our “new heads” for the coming year, as implied by the words Rosh Hashanah, head for the year, and Yom Hazikaron, a day of resetting our memory apparatus. We are cleansed of our sins on Yom Kippur, after which we enter, with our entire body, into our sukkah. We enter this mitzvah where we achieve oneness with our Lover – Hashem, Blessed be He.

What is it about the Nation of Israel that attracts the love of the One God Who rules the universe?

I came upon an answer on Rosh Chodesh Elul as I prayed the silent benedictions. We bless the day in the following way: “Mikadesh Yisrael v’roshei chodoshim – He sanctifies Israel and the first day of all months.” But it can literally mean “He sanctifies Yisrael and “brand new heads.”

Our nation is forever ready to admit our mistakes and begin all over. With the coming of each new moon, we are aware that we may start afresh.

This is also evident in our morning declaration of Modeh Ani, the origin of which is in the book of Eichah (3:23) which states, “Hashems kindness is new every morning – great is Your belief [in us, to improve in the coming day]. One of the reasons Hashem loves His people is that they are always willing to start over.

Two small examples that are actually big were related to me by Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, shlita, head of the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, where I am currently studying.

The first: A man survived hell in a concentration camp only to discover that his entire family had perished – parents, siblings, wife and children. Everyone.

Miracles and Blessings II

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

As I wrote last week, miracles are constant occurrences at our High Holiday Hineni minyan and they testify to the eternal spark from Sinai that can – in an instant – be kindled into a glowing, powerful flame.

There are dozens of stories I could share but I will limit myself to two that happened this year during Rosh Hashanah.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, after reciting the tashlich prayers in Central Park, I sat down on a bench with my friend, opened my book of Tehillim and said a perek. Though I was far from the crowds, people still managed to find me and ask for berachos.

Seated near my friend was a young man who didn’t look Jewish. He was casually dressed and when he saw people stopping for blessings he asked my friend, “What’s going on?”

“Are you Jewish?” my friend asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“It’s Rosh Hashanah today.”

“Oh yes, I used to go to temple with my parents but I haven’t been there for a long time.”

“Wait until the Rebbetzin finishes giving her blessings and talking to people. She’ll explain it to you.”
When I started a conversation with the young man his responses were rather cynical but I wouldn’t give in.

“What is your Jewish name?” I asked.

“Moshe Chaim,” he said.

I explained the deeper meaning of his name and the calling it implies. I invited him to come hear the shofar the next day. I wasn’t sure he’d come, but he did. I was elated.

Was it mere coincidence that we met in the park? That I sat down on a bench near where he was sitting? That he began asking questions of my friend? No, no, and no. There are no coincidences, only events directed by G-d.

In every Jew there lives a small but majestic spark engraved at Sinai. Thousands of years have passed since the moment G-d spoke and gave us His Torah but the light is still there. It’s like a computer; you need only log on and it speaks loud and clear: You are a Jew. You stood at Sinai. You have been entrusted with a mission to live by the Torah and to make it known to all your brethren and to all mankind.”

Just bring up the program and you’ll see it’s a flame that can never be extinguished. Trust me, I know. I have seen evidence of it in peace and war, in the concentration camps and the melting pot of assimilation, in health and illness, in wealth and poverty. No power on earth can extinguish this light, this pintele Yid, this Jewish flame.

The next day Moshe Chaim showed up. His pintele Yid was burning bright. He was dressed in honor of Yom Tov. He came early and left late. And then he came for Yom Kippur and stayed for the entire davening. We invited him to come to our classes. Of course, he promised. There was no question about it. And even if it’s not this coming week or the next week or the week after that, I can guarantee he will come. This too I have seen and experienced. Once the computer brings up the program, it remains forever.

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah a young girl came over to me. Her eyes were moist with tears. This was her first real Rosh Hashanah in many years. Somehow she’d lost her way. She’d found a boyfriend whom she truly cared for but who wasn’t Jewish. And then on the previous Yom Kippur her boyfriend was killed in a freak accident. It shook her up. A small but persistent voice began whispering to her: “Yom Kippur!” “Examine your life!” “You’re a Jew!” “Come back to your Creator; make the journey to Sinai – it’s thousands of years but you can make it in an instant.”
Now she stood in front of me, looking searchingly into my eyes. “How do I do that, how do I overcome that vacuum, how can I overcome my past life?” she asked. “You make it sound so easy, Rebbetzin, but does it really happen that way?”

“Yes,” I assured her, and related a short story about a man who was wandering in a spiritual desert. The Etz Chaim – the Tree of Life that is our Torah – was nowhere in his heart but yet something in his soul yearned to reconnect. He went to a Rebbe.

“Rebbe,” he said, “I would like to do teshuvah but it seems to me that it’s such a long journey and I don’t think I’ll make it. There are so many mistakes I’ve made. So many wrong turns. I’ve been driving on strange highways. How can I ever find my direction again? Can I really come back to Hashem? It’s such a long journey. It’s beyond my capacity.”

Beyond your capacity?” the Rebbe exclaimed. “It’s actually a very short journey. You just need to make one turn in the right direction.”

How awesome is the pintele Yid! The flame never dies. In an instant it can be kindled. It can banish the darkness and illuminate our path. One turn in the right direction is all it takes. And do not for one second think what I’ve written applies only to secular Jews. Orthodox Jews are equally in need of a spiritual awakening. To be sure, they know how to read the words of the siddur and the Torah and they may even know the translation of every word, but somehow too many fail to understand the spirit behind the words, to grasp the awesomeness of it all.

It’s like someone who’s born into a wealthy family and since he never knew anything else he becomes complacent. Complacency is poisonous. You can see it in marriages. The moment husband and wife take one another for granted, the marriage becomes sour. In a sense, we the Jewish people are married to our Torah and if we become complacent about it, that holiest of relationships can, G-d forbid, suffer greatly.

May this year be the year the light of Torah illuminates our path. On whatever journey we travel and whatever road we embark, may that eternal light from Hashem guide us. May we internalize this awesome berachah we recite every morning: “Hameichin mitzadei gaver May G-d arrange our footsteps.”

May we see those footsteps and understand them. May we follow them and stand tall and proud on the Torah road of life.

Violent Guards and Violent Haredi Extremists Duel in Beit Shemesh

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Six people were wounded and 10 were arrested at a Beit Shemesh construction site Monday when violent Arab guards beat Haredi extremists who broke into a construction site where the Haredim claim Jewish graves are being desecrated.

The guards blocked medics from treating the injured, one paramedic said.

One of the construction site’s project managers is Aryeh Golobinzitz, who is Haredi from Jerusalem and who previously has been beaten up by members of the extremist Atra Kadisha sect. Police detained Golobinzitz and another manager for questioning, along with six security guards and two Haredim.

The protesters broke into the site, and the guards beat them, and one of the victims claimed he was hit with a metal rod during the brawl, which is only the latest of several clashes. Police arrested more than two dozen people last month after hundreds of  Haredi extremists blocked roads and set fires.

Leading Haredi rabbis have rejected Atra Kadisha claims that the construction is taking place over Jewish graves.

In the spirit of the Days of Awe and Repentance, rabbis from Atra Kadisha and from the opposing Edat Haredim community agreed that an inspector from Bnei Brak would be present at the site to make sure no Jewish graves are desecrated.

The agreement lasted as long as Rosh HaShanah and the Fast of Gedaliah, the day afterwards.

On Monday, five days before Yom Kippur, the agreement was as worth as much as the Rosh HaShanah vows to be law abiding Jews reaching out to each other with love and understanding.

On Yom Kippur, which falls on Shabbat this year, there probably will not be any protests, but nothing is certain.

True Meaning of Apples and Honey on Rosh Hashanah

Monday, September 9th, 2013

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai presents a special Rosh Hashanah edition of Malkah’s Eshet Chayil Show for your enjoyment! Chag Sameach!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Sderot Mayor in Rosh HaShanah ‘Tent Protest’ at Netanyahu’s Home

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Sderot Mayor David Buskila “celebrated” Rosh HaShanah by camping out in a protest tent next to the official residence of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem to protest budget cuts to the Gaze Belt town.

He said he intends to remain in tent until the government restores funds that were cut in the austerity budget.

Buskila claimed that the budget cuts will be the death knell for Sderot but that he faces “a wall of incomprehension.”

Last year, the mayor staged a hunger strike until the government came up with funds for Sderot, battered for years by Hamas mortar shelling and rockets, to pay off its deficit and improve its emergency services.

Plans for Munich Olympics Memorial Unveiled

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Plans for a memorial in Munich to 11 Israelis and a German police officer murdered at the 1972 Summer Olympics there were unveiled on Wednesday, the eve of Rosh HaShanah, at the Bavarian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs.

The planned hall of remembrance is slated to be built near the site that housed the games and will cost 1.7 million euros (approximately $2.25 million). It will allow visitors to learn about the events and the victims — 11 Israeli athletes and coaches along with the police officer — as well as to view the site of the failed rescue attempt at the Furstenfeldbruck airfield. Ultimately the airport’s tower will be included in the memorial, which is scheduled to be completed by 2016.

The memorial was designed by a team under the auspices of the ministry in consultation with relatives of the victims, the consul general of Israel, experts from the concentration camp memorial at Flossenburg, the Jewish Museum in Munich and the Bavarian State Ministry for Political Education.

Israeli Foreign Ministry department manager for Western Europe Ilan Ben Dov called the 1972 attack “a trauma for my entire generation” and added, “Every Israeli group that comes to Germany as part of a youth exchange and educational cooperation should visit this site.”

Cooking for Rosh Hashanah and American Flip-Flopping in Syria

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai broadcasts from the busy Fleisher kitchen, where Malkah is preparing food for Rosh Hashanah. Malkah talks about the Fleisher’s plan for the holiday and talk about both the gladness and disappointment on American President Barack Obama’s flip flopping on a decision to strike or not strike Syria. They move on to talking about the vacuum that could be left to fill by Russia, China, or Iran if the United States lessens its influence in the Middle East. The segment ends with a special visitor to the Fleisher household from Beit El!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Israelis to Munch 15,000 Tons of Apples this Rosh Hashanah Season

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

The apple and honey tradition on Rosh Hashanah has Israelis consuming 15,000 tons of apples during the month of September, an increase of almost 50 percent  from average consumption during the rest of the year.

Israel’s crop of apples is of a particularly high quality this year, according to Amos Levin, general manager of the Galilee Development Corporation and chairman of the apple division of Israel’s Plants Production and Marketing Board.

“This summer’s relative cooler temperatures, especially at night, helped produce a higher quality of crop,” he said. Levin noted that this year’s crop, harvested from August through November, is excellent for size, color and taste.

Nearly all of Israel’s apples are grown in the hills of the Galilee and the Golan Heights because apples require cold winters and cooler summer nights to grow best.

The northern apple orchards are located on hills that are more than 2,000 feet higher and cover approximately 10,500 acres.

More than 100,000 tons of apples are sold in Israel each year, with the apple market valued at more than $200 million, serving as the core for the local economy in the Golan Heights. Another 7,000 tons of apples are imported into Israel from the United States and Europe.

While Israel exports little of its apples abroad, this year, the country exported 18,000 tons of apples grown by Druze farmers living in the Golan to Syria, in coordination with the Plants Production and Marketing Board, the IDF and the Red Cross. The Druze apple growers of the Golan have been selling to Syria has for the past eight year, but the apple exports were stopped in 2012 when the war situation became too volatile.

This year the apple industry also drew a number of university students from across Israel interested in learning more about agriculture and helping out Golan apple growers.

Sapir college student, Yotam Eyal told Tazpit News Agency that he and his friends have been picking apples for the past month.

“We are college students from all over Israel – from the Negev, Jerusalem, and the north, who are interested in learning more about agriculture and connecting to the land,” Eyal explained. “There are projects that have been initiated in the past year which get students involved in these areas.”

“It’s good to see where a fruit like an apple that you buy in the supermarket comes from,” commented Eyal. “Picking apples all day in the orchard is hard work. But it has made us appreciate dipping the apple in honey that much more this Rosh HaShanah.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israelis-to-munch-15000-tons-of-apples-this-rosh-hashanah-season/2013/09/03/

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