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October 28, 2016 / 26 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Sabbath’

Let Us Violate Shabbat So As To Sanctify It

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

“He who wants to enter the holiness of the [Sabbath] day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else….

The seventh day is the exodus from tension, the liberation of man from his own muddiness, the installation of man as a sovereign in the world of time….

The Sabbaths are our great  cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn…”

(Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man [NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951] pp. 13, 29, 8)

Shabbat is serious business, not only because of its halachic requirements but also because of its magnificent and majestic message. To violate it is not just a transgression but a tragedy. Its desecration undermines what it means to be human and to be a real Jew. It deprives mankind of its own sublimity.

It is not the renouncement of technical progress that Shabbat requires but rather the attainment of some degree of independence from an ever-increasing race and cruel struggle for our physical existence, in which we are all involved and which denies us embracing the presence of an eternal moment.

There is only one sanctity that is even greater than Shabbat and that is the holiness of the human being. When we have to choose between these two sanctities, Jewish law is clear: The human being takes precedence. (Yoma 85b; Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shabbat 2:3)

If it is true that the Tel Aviv Light Rail and the high-speed train connecting Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim will indeed save countless human lives by having people switch from car to rail, Halacha will without any doubt demand of us to work on Shabbat to complete construction as soon as possible. Any postponement would be a terrible violation of Halacha itself.

But as Jews, let us make it into a celebration. We can observe Shabbat while working on this holy day. Instead of asking non-Jews to take our place, let us gather as many religious Jews as possible to join in this undertaking and do this work in the spirit of Shabbat and Halacha. Here are some suggestions:

We can organize shacks at the work sites where some people will make Kiddush and where a special Shabbat atmosphere will be created and tasteful Shabbat meals, kept warm according to the laws of Shabbat, will be served. There will be alternate minyanim where the workers can hear the reading of the parsha and say their Shabbat prayers in shifts. Participants can sing Shabbat songs and someone can say a nice d’var Torah informing everyone of the great mitzvah they are performing by working on the holy Shabbat so as to save lives.

Lets us give all the workers colored Shabbat helmets and ask all others who stand by to give instructions to wear nice kippot.

There can be flags and ribbons flying and large posters displayed at the work sites proclaiming: “The people of Israel shall keep the Shabbat, observing the Shabbat throughout the ages as a covenant for eternity.”(Shemot 31:16);“And one shall live by them [My laws]” (Vayikra 18:5)… “and not die because of them.” (Sanhedrin 74a)

Let us make a Jewish celebration out of this. We can show our fellow Israelis and the world that we love Shabbat but that it will not stand in the way of the sanctity of human life. It will actually advance our spirit and commitment to Judaism. Let us reveal that Halacha can deal with the requirements of a modern democratic Jewish state in an unprecedented way.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let us not fail to live up to the challenge of making us all proud to be committed Jews.

After all, is it not Shabbat that made us Jews and that now gives meaning to the State of Israel? Why, in fact, be Jewish if not for this great institution called Shabbat?

Sure, some of my readers will say that these suggestions are insane. But let us not forget what philosopher and writer George Santayana once said: Sanity is madness put to good use.

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Why is Pollard Being Forced to Violate the Jewish Sabbath?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

{Originally posted to the Elder of Ziyon website}

There was always something wrong about the Pollard case, a cloud of hovering stench. Pollard was punished for giving critical info to an ally; info the U.S. was bound to give that ally (Israel) according to signed agreements between the two countries. But still, the U.S. called it “spying” and put Pollard behind bars for life, the same sentence given Aldrich Ames for the treasonous act of sharing critical U.S. defense secrets with the enemy.

Pollard was no threat to anyone, and still, the powers that be didn’t let him attend his father’s funeral. He was dangerous to no one and still the powers that be let him waste away without proper medical treatment. Lame duck presidents running out  their final days in office could have pardoned Jonathan Pollard, but did not do so.

One might suppose that Pollard was the Jew behind bars, a captive  proxy for all the ways U.S. presidents wanted to slap Israel’s hands for being too uppity. And now that he’s been sprung, they’re still slapping him around, the Jew Pollard. They have taken away the thing that is dearest to him, his observance of the Jewish Sabbath.

And they won’t give it back.

Here is how they make Jonathan Pollard break Shabbos:

By the terms of his parole, Pollard is forced to wear an electronic tracking device on his wrist, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The device cannot be removed and must be recharged by Pollard’s own hand. This can only be accomplished by Pollard plugging the device into an electric socket and sitting immobile for several hours a day. It is a violation of the Jewish Sabbath to plug an electric device into an electric socket.

Now when fully charged the transmitter lasts, at most, 24 hours, that is as long as Pollard is sitting still at the base station. If he moves outside the range of the receiver, however, the device begins to track his location, which uses up the battery faster.

Since the duration of the Sabbath is 25 hours (not to mention Jewish holidays which are twice as long), even if Pollard were to sit absolutely still at the base station, he’d need to plug in the device to recharge it at least once during this time, thus violating the Sabbath.

But there’s more: in addition to being forced to violate the Sabbath, Pollard is unable to attend Sabbath services where he might be able to pray with the prescribed quorum of 10 men (a minyan). At an earlier hearing, Pollard’s lawyers argued that, “Courts have held that ‘an opportunity to worship as a congregation by a substantial number of prisoners may be a basic religious experience and, therefore, a fundamental exercise of religion.’”

Perhaps the most irksome part of all of this is the fact that Pollard’s right to observe the Jewish Sabbath was sacrosanct as long as he remained in prison. From the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) website:

Courts have also found that restrictions requiring prisoners to violate the Sabbath or other religious duties violate the First Amendment. McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 204-05 (2d Cir. 2004) (intentionally giving Muslim prisoner an order during prayer may violate First Amendment); Love v. Reed, 216 F.3d 682 (8th Cir. 2000) (failure to provide inmate with food from the prison’s kitchen on Saturday for his consumption on Sunday violates the Establishment Clause where the inmate’s sincerely held religious belief prevented him from leaving his cell or working on the Sabbath, or eating food prepared by others on that day); Hayes v. Long, 72 F.3d 70 (8th Cir. 1995) (requiring Muslim prisoner to handle pork violated First Amendment); Murphy v. Carroll, 202 F. Supp. 2d 421, 423-25 (D. Md. 2002) (prison officials’ designation of Saturday as cell-cleaning day violated Free Exercise rights of Orthodox Jewish prisoner).

While in prison, Pollard could keep Shabbos to his heart’s content. Having been “set free” however, his conditions are actually more, and not less onerous. The question is “why?”

It is widely accepted that the information Jonathan Pollard shared with Israel has been long ago rendered moot and therefore harmless. Releasing him to such harsh conditions in which he cannot leave the house to seek gainful employment or observe his most basic religious rights seems to be gratuitous and cruel: retributive. Of U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest’s recent decision to keep these restrictive parole conditions in place, Nachman Shai, head of the Knesset’s Pollard Caucus, said, “It is frustrating to see that the unmerciful pursuit of Pollard by American authorities continues,” Shai said. “We have been saying ‘enough is enough’ for so long, and the response has been insensitivity and inflexibility. He should be allowed to live a normal life, but he can’t when he is stuck to his house and prevented from working in a manner that has passed all limits of what is reasonable. They let him leave jail, so they should have let him have a longer string.”

One has to wonder whether there is something darker to the decision to deprive Pollard of his civil liberties, just as there was something dark about keeping him imprisoned for so long. Oft-quoted essayist Ahad Haam said that “More than Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.” It is no exaggeration to say that remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy ensured Jewish survival, helping the Jews outlive enemy after enemy over a two-thousand year span. It is what set the Jews apart from the others, helped us stay what we were and still are, so many years later. It kept us alive as a people, a nation.

And maybe that’s the problem, from the perspective of those who insist on taking this cherished right, the right to keep the Sabbath, away from one man, Jonathan Pollard.

Our efforts to honor Sabbath day despite the Crusaders, despite the Inquisition, despite the Holocaust makes it rankle all the more that the courts have played fast and easy with this, our cherished observance. They have deemed our Jewish Sabbath not important enough for them to stop playing this game with Jonathan Pollard, in which they rob him of everything he cares about, by making him break Shabbos.

Or maybe it’s the complete opposite of that: they want to break him.

If you look at the photos of Jonathan Pollard, you can see it happening. He is no longer a cunning New York Jew in a whole mess of trouble, but a kindly-looking meek man, afraid of his own shadow.

All he has left, it seems, is his Yiddishkeit and his love of Israel.

Which is why they’ll never let him have those things. They’ll never let him observe his Jewish religion or live in the Jewish State.

That would be letting him win, the Jew. The Jew Pollard.


Varda Meyers Epstein

A Soldier’s Mother: Keeping the Sabbath

Friday, July 29th, 2016

On my first trip to Israel when I was 16 years old, I discovered, truly for the first time, the deepest and truest meaning of Shabbat, our Sabbath day. For years in America, I had adopted the traditions, attempted to follow the rules, but what was missing was the absolute depth and beauty of sharing that day with others in song, sharing meals, simply living in the moment. My family was not religious and so I was mostly on my own, sailing through the mechanics.

Only in Israel, sharing each Shabbat day with hundreds of other teenagers who were also enjoying the experience of Israel did I suddenly understand why the rules are what they are and how incredible a gift we as a people have been given.

While I was here, one Shabbat was shared with another group of kids. This one included girls who had recently been “converted” from Reform Judaism to Orthodoxy and the sudden plunge that they experienced was so very different from my slow and easy (and lonely) journey from Conservative Judaism to Orthodox. Though I understood that these girls had been quickly taught that they must be modest, I found their climbing under the blankets in an all-girls room to be a bit absurd, but I held back figuring, with all the superiority a 16 year old can muster, that they needed to be helped along and accepted, not criticized.

Later that night, after yet another amazing meal, hearing 300 kids singing and clapping and even dancing, I was not even a bit bothered the first time one of them complained that the last person out of the room, whoever that was, had forgotten to shut the light. So here we were, four girls in a room with a light on, while Jewish law forbade us from closing it during the Sabbath.

I accepted the situation and turned on my side, but this one girl said out loud, “Oh, it’s so hard to sleep with the light on.”

I closed my eyes and waited for sleep, “I just wish the light hadn’t been left on,” she said.

A few minutes later, “It’s just so hard to sleep with the light on, too bad it can’t be closed.”

And a few minutes later, “It’s so hard to sleep with the light on.”

And then somehow, a crazy thought entered my mind, “Are you hinting that we should shut the light?” I asked her as I sat up in bed and looked at her.

Such incredible relief filled her face with joy, “YES! My rabbi told me that I wasn’t allowed to turn the lights on and off but that I could hint to someone else to do it!”

I looked at her somewhat surprised myself and yet also relieved at having the mystery solved, “to a non-Jew,” I told her. “We can’t turn the lights on or off either.”

David is home for a long weekend. He’s talking about the army, funny stories, serious ones and I listen and smile. He’s happy. He looks amazing. He was so silly, so playful today. He hasn’t been home in more than 2 weeks and I’ve missed him a lot.

His grandmother asks him to tell her one good thing about being in the army, “You get a lot of exercise,” he answered.

“Where you are sleeping, is it air-conditioned?” I ask.

The answer is “sort of.” There are machines there, but to cut down on costs, the air conditioners automatically go off every two hours and then someone has to turn them back on. This works just fine during the week, but on the Sabbath, the air conditioners go off and can’t be turned back on…at least not by the Jewish soldiers in David’s unit.

And so they hinted and explained to a Druze soldier who had heard of such practices but never really experienced them. It took a few minutes but he finally understood what was needed after a sudden power outage cut the electricity. Quite willing to help his fellow soldiers, he turned the electricity back on…everyone thanked him.

Then, he smiled, closed the electricity, laughed and walked out of the room. A minute or two later, he came back in and turned it back on and everyone joined in the laughter.

Another soldier who serves in his unit is from Russia. He is not Jewish, though going through the conversion process. David said that on Friday in the middle of the night, the Russian soldier woke because  it was very hot in the room. He got up and turned the air conditioner back on and then, thinking of the other soldiers, he went room to room to turn the air conditioners on again for the other soldiers.

Keeping the Sabbath is not always the easiest thing to do. Years ago, I found myself in Jerusalem and spent the night with the light on because it was Shabbat and I couldn’t turn the light back on. Now, so many years later, my son’s army life is made that much easier by two non-Jews – both of whom have volunteered to serve in the army.

We are commanded to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. This holy Shabbat, Davidi will be home to share in it with us. He left a short time ago to visit his friends. I’ve got corned beef boiling on the stove top; chicken cooling in the oven. Soon I’ll make the dough for the challah and leave it to rise overnight.

Years before my first trip, I knew that I wanted to live in Israel; now, as I watch my son and hear the stories he tells me about his life in the army over the last two weeks, I smile. I wish I could go back and whisper in my 16 year old year…have faith, you’ll get back here; you’ll raise your children here and they will be everything you dreamed of and so many things you never imagined.

Paula Stern

Meretz Call to Boycott Restaurant Closing on Shabbat Backfires

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

A popular eatery in one of the more upscale communities along Israel’s Mediterranean coastline has decided to “go kosher” and close its doors on the Sabbath.”

But the decision made by the Raanana River restaurant has disgruntled members of the Meretz party. The local branch went so far as the launch a boycott of the restaurant via Facebook.

“Starting this weekend, the River Raanana has become a shomer Shabbat restaurant, closed on Friday nights and Saturdays,” wrote Idit Diamant on the Meretz Ra’anana Facebook page.

“As there are very few restaurants in Ra’anana that remain open on Friday nights and fewer that make deliveries I personally feel hurt by this change,” she wrote.

“I call upon all those for whom this is important to do as I do and to go also during the week to restaurants that remain open on the Sabbath.

“It is important that the greater public in Ra’anana will make known its opinion and support those businesses that stay open on the Sabbath if we want someone to care about our needs.”

Someone who saw the post was upset enough about the boycott to try and launch a counter demonstration.

“I want to point out that I personally oppose religious coercion in any form; I believe everyone should be free to practice their faith as they see fit, but this post disgusts me,” the writer commented.

“This week I have a meeting in Ra’anana, and of course I am going to eat there, to show my support for [this restaurant,]” the commenter wrote in the post.


Additional Details (JNi.Media)

Idit Diamante happens to represent Meretz on the Ra’anana city council, and serves as chair of the transportation committee and the ethics committee, and serves on the Audit Committee, the committee to promote the status of children, to anti-drugs committee, anti-violence committee, subcommittee for planning and construction, the budget distribution committee, and the support committee. She’s a busy lady.

The Ra’anana mayor, Zeev Bielski, represents an independent, local party, aptly named “Ra’anana that We Love.” They have 6 members on the council. Meretz is part of the coalition in Ra’anana, with one of three deputy mayors, Ronit Weintraub. Another deputy mayor is Haim Goldman, from the United Religious List. So it’s not as if Meretz doesn’t know how to get along with religious folks. But that’s a different story.

A mother of four grown boys, Dr. Idit Diamante is a physicist and an engineer, a researcher and hi-tech consultant, who has been in local public service since 1998. On her profile page she states her dedication to women’s causes and to reliable, transparent politics. Heaven knows why, in a moment’s rage, she trashed all that rich experience and seemingly a cool headedness and let her spoiled rich girl’s insensitive side shine through.

Now, here comes the wonderful part about this story: it received close to 300 responses since Friday afternoon, many of which were, predictably enough, from right-wingers who let her have it, as you can imagine. But the most wonderful responses came from people who defined themselves as Meretz members, left-wingers, atheists, who hated it just as much!

Nitay Sheinenzon: “As a member of the Meretz party I express objection and repulsion over this shocking post. Every time a place decides to become kosher and offers service to the religious public, it is blessed, every business that decides to rest on the Day of Rest according to our tradition is legitimate, and I wish them a good day of rest and Shabbat Shalom.”

Nir Koren: “Really? Boycotting a restaurant because it’s kosher? As a Meretz voter, activist and member of the Meretz Conference, I am ashamed that this announcement was posted on a page with my party’s name on it.”

Arik Meshulam: “As a complete atheist, I don’t give a hoot which restaurant is open on Shabbat and which is closed. If a person has decided to close his restaurant on Shabbat, it’s his business, why would you force him to keep it open? It’s his private restaurant. You’re just as bad as the religious people who force businesses to close on Shabbat.”

Erez Wohl: “I join the extreme leftists who think this post is embarrassing. We thought we were past the phase of hate for the religious in Meretz L.”

Finally, a cute post by Daniela Mizrachi: “A good week to everyone and good tidings. Ms. Idit, thank you so much for saving us a lot of advertising expenses, and thank you, everyone, for your support and understanding, we’ll be happy to have you over — River Restaurant, a river of oriental tastes.”

Bon appétit.

Hana Levi Julian

Israeli Pavilion to Close at IBC 2015 for Sabbath, Rosh Hashana

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

The Israel Pavilion at the IBC 2015 exhibition at RAI Amsterdam is making a “kiddush Hashem” – a sanctification of God’s Name – before the Nations this year, and showing what a Jewish nation is really all about.

Economy Minister Arye Deri ordered the closure of the pavilion in accordance with the holy Sabbath, and for the Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

This means the pavilion will be open for two of the five days of the exhibition, which runs from Friday, Sept. 11 through Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Last Thursday, the Israeli companies presenting products at the pavilion of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute were notified they will be allowed to exhibit on Friday and Sunday. Israeli business people will be able to hold meetings with potential clients at the exhibition on these two days as well.

Secular Israeli media is presenting this issue as a major disaster for Israeli business, of course, and complaining that the minister is seriously damaging the 18 Israeli companies who are to present at the exhibition.

“Israel’s image as the ‘Startup Nation’ will also suffer a blow when clients find its pavilion in one of the main halls of the exhibition closed,” worried Ynet in an article on Tuesday.

But Deri has already agreed to compensate those companies presenting in the exhibition who suffer damages from the closure.

Yet Minister of Social Services Chaim Katz, also complained bitterly, calling Deri’s decision a “serious violation of the freedom of occupation… it sends Israel light years back.”

Others claimed it would cause “irreversible damage.”

Vibe Israel CEO Joanna Landau sent Deri a letter saying the decision shows “without a shadow of a doubt that the State of Israel’s image is not a top priority for the Israeli government.”

Deri pointed out that coordination for the pavilion was completed before he took office.

However, he said, “since [the exhibition] is taking place on holy days and on Shabbat, which are sacred to the people of Israel and during which there is no official Israeli state activity, Israel’s pavilion will not be operating on these days.”

Hana Levi Julian

Jerusalem Mayor to Close Central Supermarkets on Sabbath

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is planning to force at least eight supermarkets that currently operate on the Sabbath in the holy city to close on Saturdays, according to a report Wednesday on Galei Tzahal Army Radio.

All eight are centrally located.

The move reportedly comes as a peace-making gesture to the hareidi factions in Barkat’s coalition who represent a large population in the city.

Last week hareidi religious men protested violently against the opening of the new “YES Planet” cinema complex in the capital, even though the complex is located far from the hareidi-religious section of the city.

“I’m happy the mayor kept his word to take steps to bolster the status of Shabbat in the holy city,” Jerusalem city council member Aryeh King told Galei Tzahal in a separate interview.

“I really hope that this will be the start of a new era of keeping Jerusalem united in the truest sense of the term. That includes preserving the holiness of the city – and the holiness of the Sabbath.”

King added that Barkat had promised the move in exchange for his return to the coalition.

Hana Levi Julian

Union to Enforce 4th Commandment and Strike the Airport on Shabbat

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Religious coercion has come from the labor union, of all places, but not for the right reason.

The Histadrut announced on Thursday plans to strike the Ben Gurion Airport throughout this Shabbat – from sundown Friday until Saturday night – but don’t think we are on the eve of the Days of the Messiah.

The union’s problem is not Shabbat. Its complaint is that the Ben Gurion Airport Authority is employing too many contract workers, who are outside of the union.

The Histadrut planned to give those workers the chance to obey the Fourth Commandment, as written in Exodus (Shmot) 20, verses 8-11:

Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.                       :

Six days may you work and perform all your labor;

But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities.

For [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.

The Airport Authority and the Histadrut have been talking for a month on the union’s demand to limit the number of contract workers, who now number approximately 500 along with 3,400 unionized employees.

The Histadrut planned to observe Jewish law to the hilt. It not only was going to enforce the Fifth Commandment by not working on Shabbat, but it also was not going to interfere with emergency services, which will operate as usual in line with the dictate that one must work on the Shabbat if it means saving a life.

Later on Thursday, the Histadrut reached an agreement with Airport Authority and called off the strike.

The planned strike came at the peak of the summer tourist season. Air traffic is relatively slow on the Sabbath, but nevertheless there are approximately 200 planes scheduled to take off and land this Shabbat.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/union-to-enforce-4th-commandment-and-strike-the-airport-on-shabbat/2015/08/06/

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