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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘shofar’

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.

Guinness Record for Shofar Blowing Broken in NJ

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

More than 1,000 people blew shofars for five minutes Sunday at a New Jersey Jewish center to break the Guinness World Record for the largest shofar ensemble.

The participants blew together on the shofars for five minutes at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in the “Great Shofar Blowout” sponsored by the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, NJ.com reported.

The previous shofar ensemble record was held by Swampscott, Massachusetts, which blew 796 shofars on the beach in 2006.

The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life has been planning to break that record since 2006, according to NJ.com.

As part of the event, there were special classes to learn how to blow the shofar.

“Our mission is to bring Jewish learning to life so we do a lot of things experientially,” Robert Lichtman, executive director of the partnership told NJ.com.

Tunnel Vision

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

When the shofar blows on Rosh Hashana this year, let us not forget that the wailing sound could have been ambulance sirens. You see, there had been a diabolical plan probably being worked on last Rosh Hashana and perhaps for many Rosh Hashanas in a row as jackhammers and pickaxes ripped at the earth, desperately clawing for a pathway into our land. The Tunnels dug by Hamas to infiltrate Israel were in the works for years, and from the information gathered by Israeli intelligence during operation Protective Edge, it seems that the goal had been to use these tunnels to launch a massive terrorist attack this very Rosh Hashana: Dozens, if not hundreds, of terrorists planned to coordinate infiltration to our holy land via numerous tunnels to attack as many communities as possible.

With the hand of the almighty the tunnels have been destroyed, but let us not forget the lessons that they teach us. The Gemara in Rosh Hashana 10B tells us that Rosh Hashana was a time for miracles: It was on this day of the Holy calendar that G-d opened the wombs of our barren matriarchs to provide them with the progeny that became our forefathers, it was on this day that after Yosef had reached the lowest point of his subterranean journeys to reach the pits of Pharoah’s prison that he was finally released, and it was on this day that the demoralizing and backbreaking work when the Jews were enslaved in Egypt ceased. And so, on the birthday of the world’s creation, we see that miracles have been happening throughout history. On the same day that was the dawn of history, our people have been redeemed time and time again.

Today is no different. This Rosh Hashana is no different. We have been redeemed from a terrible evil. The tunnels were destroyed, the plots of Hamas for their unparalleled terror attacks on our Holy Rosh Hashana were foiled. But the question is, how will we react to this modern salvation? How will we treat our lives and our year? Will we rise to the challenge, make ourselves better people, the type of people worthy of G-d’s miraculous salvation? Will we love each other and strive to reach higher heights in our service of G-d?…..who knows who could have died from such an attack if it had succeeded this Rosh Hashana? Maybe your cousin? Perhaps your old friend from childhood?…….Or could it have been you?

We need to mend our ways this New Year, but we also need to open our eyes. G-d’s miracles are everywhere if only we would venture to look at our world in panorama; They are happening above us, around us, and even underground. And so, when we say in prayer so many times this Rosh Hashana, “Melech Ozer, U’moshiah, U’magen- The King who helps good things happen to us, saves us from bad things that are happening, and protects us from bad things happening in the first place” remember that many of us our living on borrowed time, saved from things we never even knew we were in danger of in the first place this past year.

The miracles in life aren’t always things we see. In fact, often they are things that we never will know about in this lifetime. I keep thinking about how G-d saves us from countless perils every day, and we don’t even notice. However, when they are revealed to us, when our dimmed eyes focus themselves as the heroic acts of G-d are illuminated, it is important to take note.

And so, when the shofar blows on Rosh Hashana this year, let us not forget that the wailing sound could have been ambulance sirens. When we cry out before G-d to save our souls, let us not forget that the crying could have been for souls not saved on that very day. And when the Jews who have the privilege of davening the High Holiday prayers in the Holy Land make their way to synagogue, let us not forget what or who could have been lurking underground beneath their feet…

Where Do Shofars Come From?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

A guide at the Gush Etzion Zoo (bet you didn’t there was one of those in Gush Etzion) explains to Junior High School students how to extract the ram horn shell after it dried, and eventually make it into a shofar, on September 15, 2014.

Yom Ha’atzma’ut Explosion of Joy 66

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Many Israeli communities celebrate Yom Ha’Atzma’ut with fireworks, and Shiloh is no exception. Decades ago, when we were living in Bayit V’Gan Jerusalem, only the big national and municipal ceremonies had such impressive displays. We could see the fireworks at Mount Herzl from our apartment and later on, when the trees got taller, from the roof of the building.

As is our custom here in Shiloh, we greet the festive day, making the transition from Memorial Day to celebrating Independence Day in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) Shiloh Synagogue when everyone comes to pray together, no matter which of the many Shiloh synagogues we normally pray in. First we pray Mincha, the afternoon prayer and then while waiting for nightfall, Rav Elchanan Bin-Nun gives an inspiring sermon. After that begins the Evening Prayer, Aravit which includes dancing and singing plus a long shofar blowing to remind us that the siren is modeled on the Jewish Biblical shofar.

 

I’m optimistic that things here in Israel will get better and better. It’s really up to us. That’s the “hope,” “Hatikvah,” which is based on faith in G-d. HaTikvah.jpg

Coalition Chair’s Letter of Praise for 100 Shofars Protest in NYC

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Protesters who plan to demonstrate today at the world’s largest shofar-blowing event in history in New York City have drawn praise from the Israeli government coalition chairman, who expressed his admiration for their “courage.”

Israeli government coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin  is “deeply moved” by demonstrators who are to gather to protest participation in the Israel Day Parade of groups promoting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

In a letter sent to Richard Allen, founder of JCCWatch – organizer of the rally being held in New York – Levin praised the rally, set for Tuesday April 29 at  5 pm, “courageous stance of so many friends of Israel involved in the parade, calling to delegitimize those who delegitimize Israel.

“It is not logical or reasonable for Israel supporters to condone or overlook or indirectly cooperate with BDS groups which represent the antithesis of support for Israel. Refusing to recognize the State of Israel’s sovereign right to develop and maintain an independent legal position on any issue of national importance is not legitimate.”

The UJA-Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) which sponsors the annual Israel Day Parade, agreed this year to permit a number of anti-Israel groups to march this year in the parade, setting off a tsunami of protest over their participation. Among those  are:

  • Partners for Progressive Israel: which encourages the public to boycott Ahava Cosmetics, SodaStream and wine from nine Israeli vineyards.
  • The New Israel Fund: which finances NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that promote BDS activities against Israel. NIF funds Machsom Watch, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Women Against violence, Social TV and Mossawa, all of which signed a letter to the Norwegian government pension fund, urging it to divest from Israel.
  • B’Tselem: A major recipient of funds from NIF, the group has produced the anti-israel video shown at Israel Apartheid Week events held at various universities around the world. The organization’s board chairman, Oren Yiftachel, has publicly called for “effective sanctions” against Israel.

The rally, promoted as the “largest shofar blowing event in Jewish history,” is set to take place this afternoon (April 29) at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time (New York City) in front of the UJA-Federation building at 130 East 59th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues. Participants are urged to bring their shofars to the rally. Those who do not have a shofar but who wish to participate can receive one to use on site.

Scheduled speakers include Rabbi David Algaze from the World Committee for the Land of Israel / Havurat Yisrael; Richard Allen, JCCWatch; Dr. Paul Brody of the Jewish Political Education Foundation; Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel; Beth Gilinsky of National Conference on Jewish Affairs; Mort Klein, head of Zionist Organization of America; Robert Muchnick of Manhigut Yehudit, and Lauri Regan of Endowment for Middle East Truth.

Women Wearing Tefillin Is Really Not Such a Big Deal

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

I wouldn’t quite call it a trend, but a growing number of women and girls in the Orthodox Jewish community are interested in wearing tefillin publicly. Two Modern Orthodox schools have made public statements that indicate they will allow, not encourage or discourage, their students to wear tefillin.

This has generated a lot of discussion, mostly negative, from within the Orthodox Jewish community. Some of the JewsNews sites have reported this bit of news in a very negative way. Some, to the very liberal side of Orthodox Judaism have embraced the decision.

The halachic background is not overly complex. Technically, tefillin should fall into the same category as all other time bound mitzvos. Lulav, Shofar, Sukkah, and daily prayer are also time bound mitzvos and are voluntary for women. The conclusion in the Talmud exempts women from tefillin. Some rishonim explicitly permit tefillin for women. Some explicitly prohibit it. The Rema famously discourages it. That is, he does not prohibit it, he just advises against it. Some of the Achronim explain why it would be prohibited or advised against.

Some people are assuming their intentions are less than perfect. That’s complete conjecture and not something worth discussing. But I think the halachic arguments are important. I also think that working out whether it’s permitted or prohibited is vital. But I think it’s misplaced in the context of the current issue. The discussion right now should not be whether it’s good policy or against our best interests to allow women to wear tefillin.

Instead, the discussion should be whether we tolerate women who want to wear tefillin in Orthodox Judaism. In other words, even if I disagree with their decision, is this something worth the cost of declarations and opinions that cast these women and these institutions in a negative light?

We already disagree on plenty of things and we can get along just fine. Some eat kitniyos on Pesach, others do not. Some use the eruv, some do not. Some open soda cans on Shabbos, others do not. Some visit rebbes and ask for blessings, others do not. Some go to Uman, others do not. Some say Kabbalas Shabbos, others do not. Some do Yom Kippur Katan, others do not. Some do every segula, some do none. There are literally hundreds of things that already divide us in practice. Yet we are capable of carrying on as a group. I don’t see why a few women putting on tefillin should be such a drastic decision that it means more than eating in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres vs. not eating in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres.

In other words, what are the stakes here? And why are they being presented as so great? What is going to happen if a few women wear tefillin? What’s the dire consequence that we must avoid at all costs?

I don’t see it. I think those who don’t want women to wear tefillin should just not wear tefillin or even teach their daughters that they don’t think they should wear tefillin. But I don’t see how doing a mitzvah can make someone unorthodox.

If an opponent of women wearing tefillin found out his daughter started wearing tefillin, would the daughter be disowned? I can’t imagine. So why are we disowning other daughters?

The opposition must identify something objectively wrong that will happen if we tolerate a few women wearing tefillin. Or even if we tolerate many women wearing tefillin. Until they’ve done so, I don’t think we can allow this difference to divide us. We’ve been able to avoid completely breaking apart over a million other things. I don’t accept that this particular issue is so vital that it must break us up now.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/women-wearing-tefillin-is-really-not-such-a-big-deal/2014/01/28/

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