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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Shabbos’

Beyond Politics: Shabbos with Mr. Cruz

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

I read Nick Muzin’s heartfelt piece about his friend and boss Senator Ted Cruz and Jews and decided to echo it with one of my own experiences with Cruz – from before he was a presidential candidate, or even a senator.

For many years off and on I attended the first day or two of CPAC – the annual massive gathering of American conservatives – in Washington. It started midweek and ran through Saturday night, but, of course, I would have to leave midway to get back to New York before Shabbos.

In 2012, hearing of a group that was bringing a number of Jewish college students to CPAC, I called the leaders and told them that if they would urge the kids to attend, I would organize a private Shabbos program onsite – meals and davening and leining. “SHABBAT@CPAC” was an instant success and Shabbat meal registration is now an option on CPAC’s official program.

That first CPAC Shabbos was revelatory. We hoped for 20-25 people, but ended up with well over 100. (Fortunately, a magnificent spread for the entire Shabbos was supplied by my friend Yanky Brach, who insisted on providing lavish, simcha-worthy food for even more people than that, because “You never know – and you don’t want to turn anybody away from Shabbos!”.) It was all word of mouth. Our suite was tucked away far from the main action – but the word kept spreading and people kept coming. I remember a sublime moment when a bunch of college kids were hustling over before my wife lit candles to help us set up the room – their arrival was preceded by an excited “Shabbos is coming” song echoing down the halls of CPAC.

I remember the guy dressed like he was in a rock band sitting quietly and taking it all in. We were going around the room and introducing ourselves and when it was his turn he stood up and said “This is my first Shabbos meal since my grandfather died when I was seven. I’m 22 now and I’m sitting here thinking of how much I missed. I am going to put Shabbos back in my life.” And, as it turns out, he was in a rock band – a new band playing songs that promote patriotism.

Talk show hosts, campaign operatives, policy wonks, Hill staffers and journalists who otherwise would have had no Shabbos spent hour after hour enjoying a real heimishe Shabbos with divrei Torah, zmiros and, endless, amazing food. Throughout Friday night politicians and pundits came by, drank a l’chaim, said a few words, then headed back to hobnob and socialize at CPAC.

But for me, the standout visitor that Shabbos was a relative unknown. A candidate for the US Senate – outsider and Tea Party darling Ted Cruz.

Mr. Cruz came and sat modestly towards the foot of the long table. But unlike the other politicians, his wasn’t a “drop-by”. He came before Kabbolas Shabbos and he stayed for the meal and he was still there almost three hours later after most of the crowd had gone out to enjoy the more political offerings of CPAC.

At that point, according to the schedule, I was to give a 45 minute shiur on the parsha, just in case anyone wanted to stick around. There was a group of perhaps 20 or so mostly observant Jews…and this fellow Cruz. It was Shabbos Yisro and my topic was the structure of the Aseres Hadibros. Ted Cruz engaged immediately. In describing one shitah as to why the Luchos and Dibros are structured the way they are, I introduced to the otherwise almost entirely Jewish group the fact that Christians count the “10 Commandments” differently than we do and, in fact, Catholics and Protestants differ amongst themselves. Cruz already knew. “My father ‘s a pastor and I’ve argued 10 Commandments cases,” he explained. “I love this.” He was totally knowledgeable, engaged and at home and his participation turned the session into an animated, vibrant, informed discussion that went on nearly two hours.

There were many places a candidate for Senate from Texas should have been that night if his first priority was political ambition. But Ted Cruz prefered to spend his time with us, with Jews enjoying Shabbos.

Since then, I’ve had a chance to be with Senator Cruz at a number of non-political events, for example a lunch visit of Jewish Yale students to his office organized by an alumni group to which Nick and I both belong. The Senator was actually scheduled for a midday “drop-by” this time, no more. But his connection to the politically diverse students was real. He wanted to talk about Israel, then under global onslaught for responding to the terror from Gaza, and about BDS and anti-Semitism and what it feels like to be Jewish today on a liberal college campus. He shared with us his concern over the normalization and intensification of international anti-Semitism and the impact of the widespread perception of America distancing itself from Israel under the Obama administration. Cruz pushed off other meetings and stayed for lunch and beyond. Republican, Democrat and Independent, the young impressionable Jewish students were deeply impacted by the senator from Texas’ knowledge, insight, empathy and passion.

The usual rap that the Left gives conservative candidates is that they are unintelligent. It doesn’t matter if they have academic and professional accomplishments that far outstrip their Democratic opponents. That spin simply wasn’t available with Ted Cruz, whom liberal Jewish icon Alan Dershowitz has publicly proclaimed to be “off-the-charts brilliant.” So instead they spun as a negative what should have been a positive – Cruz’ willingness to stand on principle and not surrender to DC politics as usual. The knock against Cruz now is that he is “unlikeable” because he isn’t popular with the establishment. Nonsense. In the larger social settings I’ve seen and in private one-on-ones, I’ve never found Cruz to be anything other than warm, open, intimate and inspiring. That many in Washington resent his principled service is a badge of honor. As Winston Churchill famously observed – and as Jews know very well – “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Politics is a rough business and it takes guts to stand up for what is right. The Ted Cruz I’ve seen is driven by idealism and principle – above all, a fierce love for America as an exceptional country whose uniqueness derives from its moral leadership. It is equally clear that for Ted Cruz the wellbeing of Jews is a deeply personal commitment and that in the face of rising anti-Semitism, America’s moral leadership only exists inasmuch as it is committed to protecting Jews in Israel and around the world. Rest assured, in private as in public, Ted Cruz is a true Oheiv Yisroel and the kind of unyielding moral warrior we need in the White House.

Jeff Ballabon

Pollard Praying for Miracle of Chanukah in Appeal on Parole Conditions

Friday, December 4th, 2015

Jonathan Pollard is appealing to the U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday for easing conditions of his parole that make it impossible for him to work and require him to violate Jewish law on Shabbat.

HaModia reported that the presiding judge at the hearing, on the third day of Chanukah, will be Katherine B. Forrest, who was appointed to her current position four years ago by President Barack Obama.

A New York financial institution had offered Pollard a job after his recent release from prison following 30 years in jail.

However, the parole’s conditions require Pollard to remain under house arrest 12 hours a day, from 7 in the evening until 7 in the morning, preventing him from attending synagogue on the eve of Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Attorney Jacques Semmelman, acting on behalf of Pollard, previously has filed a brief stating that he cannot find work because he is required to wear a GPS bracelet, which needs re-charring at least once and sometimes twice within 24 hours.

Moreover, he has to remain seated for two hours while the battery for the monitoring system is being re-charged.

His parole conditions also require him to violate the Shabbat by answering the phone if his probation officer calls on the Day of Rest.

Turning on the electricity on Shabbat for the re-charging system is a violation of Jewish law, and even if he uses a “Shabbos clock,” he cannot move from his seat for two hours.

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive of the National Council of Young Israel, told the court in an affidavit that when there is a two-day Jewish holiday, which occurs four times day and sometimes if it immediately followed by Shabbat, it would cause more violations of Jewish law.

Rabbi Lerner, according to HaModia, also pointed out that the parole conditions disturb the meaning of Shabbat. He explained:

Lest anyone think the Sabbath is merely a collection of prohibitions, that is not the case at all. The Sabbath is a special day which, if properly observed, provides spiritual respite and growth.

 

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

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

Hareidi Rabbis Warn New Sport Club Will Cause Desecration of Shabbat’

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Hareidi Rabbis of the Committee for Shabbat” will vote against funding for a new Sportek (country club/sports center) in Jerusalem because of fears of “wholesale desecration of Shabbat.”

“For the sake of Zion and Jerusalem, we will not remain quiet,” the rabbis wrote in their statement.

The Jerusalem City Council is set to vote Thursday night on funding the new complex.

A year ago, Hareidi rabbis said they would not oppose the new Sportek center after an agreement was reached with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to change its location from Ramot to Emek Arazim.

Mayor Nir Barkat agreed to move the sport’s club to a new site to avoid offending Hareidi sensibilities, and as a bonus decided to leave the planned Olympic-sized swimming pool in Ramot, for use by the Hareidim — with separate swimming only.

One senior politician associated with UTJ was embarrassed by the situation told the Hareidi Kikar Shabbat website, “How can we look the mayor in the eyes? He reached an agreement with us, with the approval of the Rabbis, and now we’re going against it? ‘Did you murder and also inherit?’ The mayor won’t believe us anymore.” But regardless of what the politician personally believes, he “will vote only in accordance with the Rabbis’ instructions.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

The Shabbos Project: Jews Worldwide Keeping This Shabbos Together

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

In 340 cities around the world Jews from all walks of life, stars and simple folks, academics and others across the spectrum this week are all going to be ‘Keeping it Together.’

Shabbat. Shabbos. The Sabbath.

However you refer to it, even vocalist Paula Abdul is joining in with Nobel Prize laureates for 25 hours this weekend to keep the seventh day holy, as God commanded His Chosen People.

“The Shabbat Project is an opportunity for the entire Jewish world to keep one complete Shabbat together – from Friday evening just before sunset on October 24, until Saturday night after the stars have come out on October 25,” says South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein.

It was Goldstein who originated the Shabbat Project last year in South Africa. His drive and enthusiasm sent the project around the world in 2014.

“The beauty of this is that it is so practical and manageable. It’s only one Shabbat. It’s something everyone can do…This approach is predicated on the idea that the real energy of Shabbat – its transformative power – is wholly dependent on immersing oneself in the full Shabbat experience.”

In Israel, the Rami Levy supermarket is, as usual, leading the retailers’ part in the initiative. The chain is offering a “challah for a shekel, wine for five shekels” special this week to encourage Jews to participate in the project.

Poster ads are running on Egged buses across the country and along its highways and byways. A local team in the “Startup Nation” has also launched the #Keeping It Together app .  It has everything anyone needs to know about keeping the Sabbath holy, and it’s programmed to put your phone to sleep over Shabbat. (After all, it is the ‘day of rest.’)

A number of special events for the project are being held around the country, starting tonight (Thursday, Oct. 23.)

In the Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill tonight, participants can learn to bake Challah (braided Sabbath bread) for Shabbat. On Friday afternoon, organizers are holding a concert of Shabbat songs. Later the same day, an Oneg Shabbat meal will be held as well.

In Tel Aviv on Friday night, attendees will find a champagne kiddush reception, followed by Shabbat dinner at the Beit El Synagogue. On Saturday, the Sabbath Day, a potluck picnic is planned at Independence Park.

Similar events are planned in Rehovot and Ra’anana.

An enormous neon billboard has gone up in New York City’s Times Square, announcing the initiative.

A special “revolutionary” recipe developed by a crack team in Miami for a Challah Bake tonight (Thursday, Oct. 23) is expected to draw thousands.

A Miami Beach Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi is setting up a big tent at his synagogue to offer super Shabbos meals for anyone in the zip code pledging to keep this Shabbos.

In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself has endorsed the project. Posters appear in subway stations in Toronto. Jews are signing up on the project’s special website.

Every single Jewish community organization, school and synagogue in Buenos Aires has pledged to keep Shabbat this coming weekend. More than 10,000 are expected at a planned Havdalah Unity Concert – produced with the assistance of the government of Argentina, no less and set for broadcast on national TV.

The tagline of the project, “Keeping It Together,” speaks to the unity and well being of the Jewish People as a whole entity, as well as to Jewish individuality. That’s what Shabbat is all about, Goldstein says.

“Keeping it together means keeping our lives together,” Goldstein explains. “Of course, there is the good food, sound sleep and deep relaxation to look forward to on Shabbat, but there’s more.

“Shabbat restores us, not just in a physical sense, but emotionally and spiritually as well, so that we emerge on Saturday night as new human beings ready to face the week with all of its challenges and opportunities.”

Whatever your time zone, if you are Jewish, join with other Members of the Tribe to bring in the Sabbath and help Keep It Together planetwide.

Hana Levi Julian

Paula Abdul is Keeping It Together

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Video of the Day

Walking A Mile With Their Cell Phones

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

I think I’m finally beginning to understand.

For a few years now we have been hearing about “Half Shabbos,” a phenomenon in which our youth engage in forbidden technology-related activities on Shabbos, such as texting and Internet surfing. Various reasons have been offered by educators and other pundits to explain the phenomenon and a number of suggestions have been made about how best to address it. (I, too, wrote on this topic, including an op-ed in these pages in June 2011 titled “From Half to Full.”)

I wrote about the subject with a certain uneasiness; something kept gnawing at me, telling me I did not really understand the dilemma about which I claimed expertise. While I felt confident that my logic was sound and my strategies were useful, I still could not really place myself in young people’s shoes and comprehend what drove them to engage in such activity.

I was no digital native (when I was young we still had corner phone booths) and never had experienced technology from that vantage point. I may have stayed in bed up late at night listening to the radio, but I never had the regular experience of communicating with classmates or others at 2 a.m.

But all of that changed for me during my recent professional transition to executive and educational coaching and consulting. Sure, as head of school (my previous post) I had to be an active user of e-mail, SMS and other communication portals. My phone was positioned reliably on my hip and would be taken out countless times daily as I engaged with various constituents. Still, I was largely content to put my smartphone away for Shabbos, if only because it gave me a day of respite from the 24/6 nature of school leadership. (Technically, it was 24/7 if you count Kiddush at shul and other communal functions, but at least there I could respond in real time to a real person, not an avatar.)

As I moved into my new line of work I began to use social media in a way I never had previously. I had a largely unused Facebook account and was not “on” LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+. Nor had I ever uploaded a video to YouTube. Now, I have accounts with each of the aforementioned and use them often as a means of sharing content, developing my brand and engaging with present and potential clients.

Part of the reason for this is, as noted above, to get my name “out there” and develop credibility. However, I feel that much of this urge to post regularly emerges from the “when in Rome” mentality that affects so many of us. If every “thought leader” out there is posting to his or her Twitter account umpteen times daily, what would it say about me if mine was largely inactive? How would it look if I did not continually have relevant, fresh content to share?

Following this recent experience, I feel I now better understand our children’s struggles. For many of them, technology is not just another activity that is forbidden on Shabbos, such as writing, cooking and the like. It is a way of life, a part of their existence so deep and entrenched that it is extremely difficult to abstain from for even one day a week.

The dependency is so strong that if there aren’t strict rules in place as there are in many schools (where phones are banned entirely or must be checked in to the office at the beginning of the day and kept there until dismissal), our children will invariably succumb to the pull of their technology, especially if their friends are “on.” After all, nobody wants to come across as less socially adept or relevant, even for a brief period. This is particularly true for teenagers.

Rabbi Naphtali Hoff

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/walking-a-mile-with-their-cell-phones/2014/05/08/

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