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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘shabbat’

British Resort Lost $150,000 in Tourism by Ban on Shabbat Candles

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

The British coastal resort’s University of Aberystwyth lost $150,000 in tourism income by banning orthodox Jews from lighting candles on Shabbat, a decision that forced them to cancel their annual summer visit to the campus on the Welsh coast, according to sources reported by the Cambrian News.

Only 15 families vacationed in Aberystwyth, but not at the university’s student village, where they would have had to give up lighting candles before Shabbat. The local British newspaper quoted one of the visitors, Myer Rothfeld, as saying he has been “overwhelmed” by the welcome from the people of the area.

Most of approximately 1,000 Hassidim from Britain boycotted the campus after 20 years for vacationing because they refused to accept the ban on lighting candles, which the university said was instituted for the first time out of concern for safety following an “incident.”

In their new condition for the Jewish tourists to visit, the London Independent quoted a university spokesman as saying, “The University… would be delighted to welcome this group back, as long as they are able to sign our terms and conditions.” However, one of the annual visitors, identified by the Independent as ”Mrs. Brander,” said, “We have found a holder to make each candle safer. We offered to discuss it with the fire brigade, but the university was not interested.”

What Does It Mean to Be Jewish?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The question “What does it mean to be Jewish?” has often been asked. I suppose you could invoke the old joke “Ask two Jews a question and you’ll get three opinions” to better comprehend how different Jews would respond to this question, so when I weigh in here, I hope readers will forgive me if my opinions don’t always accord with theirs.

But the question is legitimate and should be asked. Jewish people share a common heritage and are affected by many of the same issues today. They face a world in which their religion is part of their identity; no matter how far apart they are on the religious and political spectrums (not to mention any others), they share a common bond that unites them in terms of how they relate to each other and to the outside world.

So what does it mean to be Jewish? To me, it means the following:

● To believe in God. Divine affirmation is the foundation of Judaism. Everything else comes after.

● To observe Shabbat and the various yom tovim. What could be more meaningful, spiritual, and fulfilling – more Jewish – than practicing the religious aspects of Judaism?

● To lead an honorable life. Shouldn’t we all aspire to become tzaddikim, righteous people?

● To keep kosher. Certain things just seem to go together, like lox and bagels, gefilte fish and horseradish – and being Jewish and keeping kosher.

● To do mitzvot. There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, including the above. Carrying out mitzvot is part of our code.

● To carry on Jewish traditions. There’s life after davening, and it’s called Jewish culture. Chanukah gifts, hamantashen, and singing niggunim on Shabbat are just a few of the wonderful customs that have evolved from the religion and its people.

● To be proud of your Jewish heritage. Wear it on your sleeve – you’re a member of a tribe that has nearly 6,000 years of history.

● To feel an immediate bond with fellow Jews. Have you ever felt like you can be anywhere in the world and if you find a fellow Jew, you feel an immediate kinship?

● To involve yourself in a community of Jews. As birds of a feather flock together, it’s only natural for Jews to be immersed in a Jewish world – having Jewish friends, engaging in Jewish activities, living in Jewish neighborhoods.

● To feel a Jewish identity. Even if you’re not as religious as you could or should be, what could possibly make you more Jewish than feeling Judaism is an indelible part of your soul, or that being Jewish is simply who you are?

● To feel a special connection to Jewish history. Who can feel the pain of Jewish persecutions, expulsions, and genocides more than a Jew? Who can feel the catastrophe of the Holocaust more deeply than a Jew?

● To take great pride in Israel. Do you get the chills when you hear “Hatikvah”? After 2,000 years of Jews living in the Diaspora as a weak, defenseless, persecuted people, what greater modern miracle could there be than the resurrection of the Jewish homeland?

● To place an emphasis on education. Jewish parents may be the original “tiger moms and dads.” Perhaps that is why some professions are disproportionately populated by Jews.

● To feel empathy for the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden. You only have to consider how much we’ve suffered as a people to understand how this got into our DNA.

● To have a Jewish funny bone. You can relate to Jewish humor because you’re laughing at yourself and other Jewish people you know – and, nu, do you think there’s any shortage of Jewish foibles?

● To think in “Jewish ways.” How do Jews think? Oy vey iz mir. We think the number 18 brings good luck, so we sometimes give gifts in denominations of 18, like $36 or $180. We try to ward off the evil eye after hearing compliments or wonderful news by saying “kenohora” or mimicking spitting by going “pooh-pooh-pooh.” Oh, and there’s the proverbial Jewish guilt, as well as our inimitable designation of “mishagas” to explain a panoply of crazy behavior with a Jewish edge. Is there such a thing as a Yiddishe kop? Suffice it to say that when you do something stupid, you’re not using it.

Zechut Avot : An Eternal Birthright

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The first time was many years ago. I had just concluded explanations about Yeshivat Knesset Yisrael” which arrived in Hebron from Slobodka, in Lithuania in 1924. The Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah features an exhibit about this illustrious Torah-learning academy, nicknamed the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ which includes a ‘class picture’ from 1928.

As I finished my brief account, an older man approached me, put his finger on a picture of one of the yeshiva students and asked me, ‘do you see him? That’s me.’

That was Rabbi Dov Cohen, a phenomenal Torah genius, who, following my tour, came back to Hebron and gave us his tour.

I always thought that this was a ‘once in a lifetime event,’ having someone point themselves out in a photo taken so many decades ago, here in Hebron.

But it happened again.

On Friday afternoon the Farbstein family came into Hebron for Shabbat. Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, today dean of the ‘Hebron yeshiva,’ now located in Jerusalem, arrived with his wife and many grandchildren. And his mother, Rabbanit Chana Farbstein.

Chana Farbstein was born in 1923. Her father was Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, a Torah giant. Her grandfather was the legendary Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, dean of the yeshiva, located then located in Slobodka, which, a year or so later, moved to Hebron. Chana lived in Hebron until the 1929 riots, in an apartment next to Eliezer Dan Slonim and his family.

Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Farbsteins took a short tour of Hebron, which began in the museum. When we approached the Hebron Yeshiva exhibit, she moved, as hypnotized, to one of the photos on the bottom row, stared at it, and then pointed to a small girl in the right corner, saying, ‘that’s me.’ To her right, a young woman had her hand on little Chana’s shoulder. ‘That’s my mother.’

A ‘once in a lifetime event.’ And it happened to me for a second time.

Chana later told us that she must have been about four years old at the time the photo was taken.

Even though she was barely five and a half at the time of the riots, she remembered them quite clearly: “I remember a big truck going through the streets. They were throwing rocks at our house and calling out my father’s name ‘Chezkel.’ They were looking for him. It was our good luck, he was in Jerusalem.”

“Do you remember what was told to you, what was going on?”

“No one had to explain. We knew exactly what was happening.”

She said that on Saturday afternoon, her family was removed from Hebron and taken to the ‘Strauss Building’ in Jerusalem, across the street from ‘Bikor Cholim hospital. Asked when she ‘left’ the city,’ she replied: “We didn’t leave. The British came, on Shabbat, and took us to Jerusalem.”

Later she also spoke about remembering the pain of having to pray at the 7th step at Ma’arat HaMachpela, not being allowed to enter the structure. “We would stand there for a few minutes, and then leave.”

Were relations with Arabs always poor? “No, when we went shopping in the market an Arab with a large round basket would go with us. We would put the produce we wanted into the basket, he would carry it and later bring it to our home.”

Chana Farbstein is a phenomenal woman. She also stood with us on Friday afternoon, at the cemetery in Hebron, where 59 of the 67 massacre victims are buried. Her son, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, recited two Psalms at the site, his voice breaking, sensing the atrocities and pain of the events occurring 84 years ago.

The next morning, Mrs. Farbstein walked from Beit Hadassah to Ma’arat HaMachpela for morning prayers, and later in the afternoon, to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to attend a special class presented by her daughter-in-law, Dr. Esther Farbstein, an expert on Holocaust studies, author of the book, “Hidden in Thunder.”

After Shabbat, as I arrived to interview her, I found her sweeping the floor.

Her son, Rabbi Farbstein, told me that that last winter she had been very ill, and there was grave concern that she might not recover. But recover she did, and despite only meeting her for the first time, her inner strength and iron will were quite obvious.

Court Ruling against Business on Shabbat Arouses More Complaints

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Small shop owners in cities outside of Tel Aviv may follow the example of Tel Aviv and campaign for their cities to uphold any laws that prohibit stores from opening on Shabbat.

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Tel Aviv has been mocking the law by simply imposing fines on stores that are open on the Shabbat instead of forcing them to obey the law and stay closed.

Small shop owners complained that have been turned into “Slaves” be  being forced to open on Shabbat in order not to lose customers to larger stores, or face the option of losing money by honoring both the law and the halacha against doing business on the holy day.

Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz, who is running for mayor for Jerusalem, told Channel 2 television, “I think the Supreme Court put its finger on a very painful war. There is discrimination. There are stores that are prohibited from opening on Shabbat and there are those who make fun of the law while the city ignores it. This is not a law. This is a joke.

Tel Aviv is likely to change the law in the face of pressure from secular neighborhood residents who want to shop on Shabbat and see the Supreme Court ruling as a form of religious coercion.

Court Orders Tel Aviv to Enforce Law Banning Business on Shabbat

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The Supreme Court has ordered Tel Aviv to enforce the law that prohibits stores from operating on the Sabbath. It overruled a February ruling by a lower court, which accepted the city’s claim that it carried out its responsibility by fining business owners without a need to force them to close.

The three-judge panel, including Court President Asher Grunis, ruled that under the “current legal management, the municipality in effect allows violating the law.” He added that there is concern that the city prefers to profit more from sales on Shabbat than it can collect from fining businesses violating the law.

Rabbi Who Compiled Laws of the Sabbath Dies at 85

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, who compiled the widely used “Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilkhatah,” died Monday night in Jerusalem  at the age of 85.

Tens of thousands of Jews rely on his two-volume book on the laws of Shabbat. He upgraded the first version more than 20 years ago to change several leniencies that he later prohibited.

He is being buried late Tuesday morning at Har HaZeitim.

‘Danger of Fire’ from Shabbat Candles Shuts Out Jewish Tourists

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Orthodox Jews from Manchester and London have decided to end their annual summer visit to a campus on the Welsh coast after the host University of  decided that lighting candles on Shabbat is a fire hazard.

Jews have not always been welcome guests at the University of Aberystwyth, which is empty of students during the summer vacation. In 2009, the Jews were welcomed with swastikas on the grass and on piece of paper found in residence halls.

University authorities insisted there was nothing anti-Semitic in their new condition for the Jewish tourists to visit, according to the London Independent.

It quoted a university spokesman as saying, “The university… would be delighted to welcome this group back, as long as they are able to sign our terms and conditions.”

However, one of the annual visitors, identified by the Independent as ”Mrs. Brander,” said, “We have found a holder to make each candle safer. We offered to  discuss it with the fire brigade, but  the university was not interested.”

Jewish families rent the university’s facilities on the coast for a vacation away from the Britain’s urban centers. In the past years, they have lit candles on Friday nights at the University of Aberystwyth without any question, until last year, when they were told of the new condition. During the same summer, a visiting rabbi drowned.

The tourists ignored the request until recently, when they decided they could not give up the lighting of candles.

“Ultimately, there was no real decision for us – our religion requires the lighting of candles,” Brander told the British newspaper.

The University of Aberystwyth five years ago defended itself against charges of anti-Semitism by London Spectator columnist Melanie Phillips, who published charges by a student that he had to write anti-Israeli and anti-American opinions or face receiving lower marks.

The student complained that in one course, a comparison was made between the treatment of Jews in Germany before the Second World War and the treatment of Muslims today. The lecturer reportedly told the student, “My assertion that Israel has been engaged in state terrorism lies first in a clear understanding of what the aims and consequences of terrorism are.”

The university replied that the course was given with the aim of being “objective, with no bias and no prejudice against any race or country.”

Shabbat Shalom, Jerusalem

Monday, May 27th, 2013

“The entire world was endowed with ten measures of beauty.  Of these, Jerusalem received nine” (BT Kiddushin 49b).

Once every week its beauty is further enhanced, as Shabbat arrives in the holy city, the approach of the day of rest enwrapping David’s city with sanctity and radiance.  A special tranquility descends on the city of God.  The last of the market stalls have closed, served notice by the trumpets and shofars blasting around them in accord with Talmudic tradition.  Tourists and guests leisurely make their way to the Western Wall, dressed in festive white, accompanied by the waning light of the sun as it sets in the Mediterranean to the west, the city walls engilded in its glow.  Myriads of Jews hurry to the synagogues scattered throughout the city to welcome Shabbat, while the unobservant too are elevated by the unique atmosphere of a Shabbat in Jerusalem.

But this special atmosphere is threatened by an enemy.

His name is M., an entrepreneur from Jerusalem who is leading the campaign to put Jerusalem commercial life into motion on Shabbat.  M. was a contractor before he turned entrepreneur.  On his way to Jerusalem he made a stop at the port of Tel Aviv, where he opened restaurants and bars.  Now he is bringing his Tel Avivian wares to the capital.  He rented the historic train station by Liberty Bell Park, in the heart of Jerusalem, from Israel Railways and the Ministry of Transporation; handsomely renovated the property; and divided it up for rental to business owners.  By the old rails he put up clothing and art stands, and even put aside space for a produce market—just like in Mahaneh Yehudah, they say in the municipal government, except that here the prices will be sky high.

According to the old Gashah Hiver routine, every store is a “boutique.”  Surely enough, the commercial zone that M. has designated for stores and stands is advertised not as a market, but as a “cultural entertainment area.”  The semantics here are very important.  The idea is to use this name to circumvent municipal bylaws and the Hours of Work and Rest Law that was put on the books to cement Shabbat as the national day of rest.

Here’s how it works: since cultural activity counts as rest, having an entertainment area open on Shabbat is consistent with the status quo and municipal bylaws, as long as the tomato stands are interspersed with dancing girls and there are clowns on stilts walking around among the haberdashers.  Hence this is not a commercial space, but a street theater.  Judges have already issued rulings determining that cinemas and theaters may open on Shabbat.

All M. has to do then is find non-Jewish (i.e. Arab) workers, so that if Labor Ministry inspectors come along, there will be no fines for violation of the Hours of Work and Rest Law.

Next, the shopkeepers of Mahaneh Yehudah will come and say they also want to keep their stalls open on Shabbat, and they also will be given the okay to stay open, as long as they bring in some clowns.  The workers there are Arabs as it is.  They even can argue with some justification that there is no need for clowns and musicians: the calls of some of the salespeople there reveal real musical and comedic talent, as any Jerusalemite can attest.

Start Worrying

If we don’t do something, additional businesses will want to join the competition for customers on Shabbat.  Few will stay behind.  The extra business would substantially increase the financial turnover of the Shabbat violators, thus allowing them to offer better prices even during the week. Competitors will be unable to match them and will go out of business, or else join them.

This is an election year for the mayor of Jerusalem, so although there is much that he could do, he is doing nothing.  It is even possible that having the area open on Shabbat will benefit him, coming as it does in the middle of the anti-Haredi wave that is sweeping the country.

What is there to do?  Assemble a social protest movement to protect Shabbat as the day of rest and a key national value.  Successful protest movements are in at the moment.

Then there is another solution:  In the United States of the thirties and forties, Shabbat -observant businesses found themselves in competition with businesses that were open on Shabbat, which gave the competition an additional day of financial turnover while the observant business people were sitting at home or in their synagogues.

In response, religious Jewry and its rabbis developed a defensive economic measure.  Every business that observed Shabbat hung up a sign to that effect.  Rabbis and public opinion leaders called on religious and observant Jews to buy only from Shabbat-observant businesses.  Thus Orthodox Judaism protected Shabbat observers and prevented their businesses from going under, and a relatively closed economic system came into bring: prefer to buy from Shabbat observers whenever possible.

Those were not easy days.  In many Orthodox homes there were people who did not comply.  Yet the move, whose effects are felt to this day, is a good example for effective communal organization in Israel.

So let’s act accordingly: don’t enter the old train station area on any day of the week.  For extra credit, don’t even go near M.’s properties at the Tel Aviv port (albeit most of his restaurants there aren’t even kosher).  Go to malls that are Shabbat-observant and kosher.  Period.  Call Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home, and tell him to enforce the law and have his inspectors shut down the train station area on Shabbat.

Let’s bring back the country’s Jewish soul and return the sanctity of Shabbat to the public sphere.

Originally published in Mekor Rishon, May 24th, 2013. Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/shabbat-shalom-jerusalem/2013/05/27/

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