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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rosh Hashanah’

BB Gunman Fires at Jews in Baltimore on Rosh HaShanah

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

An unidentified man, possibly of Middle Eastern descent, shot at Orthodox Jews on Rosh HaShanah with a BB gun and blasted a hole in a synagogue window in the Baltimore area late Thursday afternoon.

No one was injured. But residents in the heavily Jewish-populated area are worried.

And it’s about time.

“It says something about what is going on in the world in terms of the anti-Semitism that is growing,” Bernice Seiden told Baltimore’s WJZ television.

The attacker drove by the Bais Hamedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore while several Orthodox Jews were walking and yelled, “Jews, Jews, Jews” as he fired with what apparently was a BB gun.

The pellets missed the targets, some of whom were children, and hit a synagogue window.

The suspect was described as a white male but with a dark complexion, possibly of Middle Eastern descent. He could be charged with a hate crime if caught.

“It’s awful. It’s a very sad state that that’s what we have to deal with. Nothing is safe and nothing is sacred anymore,” Marcy and Steve Sher said.

The attack gives American Jews a lot more to think about during the Rosh HaShanah-Yom Kippur holiday period.

Happy New Year.

Reflections On The Shofar

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Autumn approaches. Before we even realize it, the weather begins to turn, the colors start to deepen. We prepare for a new season. Our activities include adding layers of covering to provide protection against the cold weather soon to follow.

But for every Jew in the world, autumn’s announcement to “Take Cover!” Is preceded and overshadowed by a piercing call that brings a different, contradictory message: “Shed Your ‘Cover.’ ”

That vibrant call, made every year at Rosh Hashanah, is issued from the shofar. When blown on Rosh Hashanah, it reminds us that prior to the conquest of Jericho, Joshua blasted the shofar and “the walls came tumbling down.” On Rosh Hashanah we are taught that true self-analysis involves the breaking down of walls. We all wear all kinds of disguises; penetrate those walls, the shofar says, remove the masks and allow the true persona to emerge.

A tale is told of a desperately sad man who sought counseling. After speaking with him, the doctor suggested he begin intensive therapy the following week. To carry him over, the counselor offered the man a free ticket to see the famous comedian Cornelius, who was in town that night. “He’s hilarious,” the doctor said. “He’ll make you laugh…you’ll feel better.”

With that, the man’s face contorted in pain and he burst into tears. While his patient continued his bitter weeping, the doctor probed. “Why are you crying so? I’ve mapped out a plan to give you relief. Go see Cornelius, he’ll help you.” To this, the desperate man replied amid sobs, “But you don’t understand. I am Cornelius.”

Truthfulness can sometimes be bitter. Looking into yourself can be painful, especially if you think you have little to offer. Here again, the shofar teaches a lesson: Words do not emanate from the ram’s horn but rather a cry – a call whose sounds emerge from the breath of the inner soul, of the person blowing the shofar.

Mystics maintain that some human beings may be evil externally but if you look deeply into the inner being of any person, you will find goodness. The shofar pleads: Return to that inner core, retrieve the power of goodness we so often overlook but which is inherent in every person.

Yet another legend: A short apple tree grew beside a tall cedar. Every night the apple tree would look up and sigh, believing the stars in the sky were hanging from the branches of its tall friend. The little apple tree would lift its branches heavenward and plead “But where are my stars?”

As time passed, the apple tree grew. Its branches produced leaves, passersby enjoyed its shade, and its apples were delectable. But at night, when it looked to the skies, it still felt discontented, inadequate: Other trees had stars, but it did not. It happened once that a strong wind blew, hurling apples to the ground. They fell in such a way that they split horizontally instead of vertically. In the very center of each apple was the outline of a star. The apple tree had possessed stars all along. The inner core was always good, and so it remains.

As with apples, all the more with human beings who must be good. After all, “God does not make junk.” The stars we possess are the seeds of potential goodness; we have the power to rise, but also to fall. What we do with the inner goodness depends on the individual, on each one of us. We can fly higher than the clouds or we can sink deeper than the fish. Such is the challenge of being human; majesty and failure are but a hair’s breadth apart.

A final tale, about an artist who made a sculpture of the most beautiful person anyone had ever seen. Years later, the artist decided it would be interesting to sculpt the ugliest human being as a counterpart to his earlier work.

Israel’s Population Nears 9 Million

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Israel’s population grew by nearly 200,000 in the past 12 months and is 8,904,373 three days before the Rosh HaShanah New Year, which begins Wednesday night.

The figures include 24,801 new immigrants whom Israel welcomed the past 12 months.

More than 176,000 new babies were born in the current Hebrew year, according to the Ministry of Population and immigration, and baby boys outnumbered girls by more than 5,000.

The most popular Hebrew names were traditional, with Yosef, Daniel and Ori leading the pack for boys. The most frequent names for girls were Tamar, Noa and Shira.

The divorce rate was approximately 25 percent, far below the rate of Western countries.

Honey Sales Expected to Soar as Rosh Hashanah Approaches

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Honey cake, gourmet honey, flavored honey, and honey as a recipe in chicken, and even fish, are all expected to contribute to soaring sales of honey this Rosh Hashanah and holiday season.

Ironically, the US Department of Agriculture is conducting hearings to define honey or just how much honey is required to qualify for “pure honey.”

In 2006, members of the honey producing, packing, and importing industries petitioned the FDA to develop a standard of identity for honey. The petitioners stated that “a compositional standard for honey will serve as a tool to help combat the economic adulteration of honey.”

In California, a record drought is having an effect on honey production. The historic drought, now in its third year, is reducing supplies of California honey, raising prices for consumers and making it harder for beekeepers to earn a living.

But kosher sources say that they have noticed an appreciable increase in the sale of honey products, including pastries. Norman’s Dairy even markets an apple and honey flavor in its highly touted Greek Yogurt products.

The hope is that it all makes for a sweet new year.

 

 

 

 

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/violent-guards-and-violent-haredi-extremists-duel-in-beit-shemesh/2013/09/09/

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