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October 4, 2015 / 21 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Simchat Torah’

Chief Rabbis Urges Jews to Go to Western Wall and Pray for Peace

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has called on Jews to arrive en masse at the Western Wall on Hoshanah Raba and Shemini Azeret-Simchat Torah to pray show their strength and faith in the face of terror.

Rabbi Yosef’s message was in response to the murder of two Jews and wounding of two others in the Old City Saturday night by a Palestinian Authority terrorist.

He asked Jews “to perform the commandment of the holiday and to pray for the peace of the wounded.” and added:

The situation in which the blood of Jews is spilled like water in the land of Israel, day after day, when their only sin is their being Jews, is unbearable.

We can’t allow a situation in which Jews are afraid to go to the Western Wall,” continued Rabbi Yosef.

The rabbi called on “all the sources involved in the matter to bring about a situation in which Jews will feel secure in all parts of the land of Israel.”

The prayer rally at the Kotel parallels mass protests elsewhere in Israel, including opposite the official residence of the Prime Minister in Jerusalem.

Israel Police Limit Access to Old City of Jerusalem

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Israel Police began limiting access to the Temple Mount early Sunday in the wake of a massive wave of terror this weekend in and around Jerusalem.

Access to the area is to be limited for the next two days, the period spanning the Jewish holidays of Hoshana Raba and Simchat Torah, the final days of the first Jewish festival of the Hebrew calendar.

Two Israeli rabbis were murdered, and a young mother and her 2-year-old toddler were gravely wounded by a teenage Arab terrorist as they were walking back from the Western Wall on HaGai Street near the Lion’s Gate.

At around 3 am Sunday morning, a 15-year-old Jewish teen was stabbed in the chest by a Palestinian Arab terrorist outside the Old City. Police saw the attack, and the terrorist with the knife in his hand, and shot him dead.

Following the attacks, Israel’s government “agreed to proposals by Israeli security services and police to limit access to the Old City for the next two days,” according to a government statement.

Access to the Old City is to be restricted to Israeli citizens, residents of the Old City, tourists and business people who work in the Old City, and students who study in the Old City.

The murderer who carried out Saturday night’s terror attack was a resident of al-Bireh, an Arab village near the Palestinian Authority capital city of Ramallah, in Samaria.

Access to the Temple Mount for Muslim prayer is to be limited to males aged 50 and above, although there will be no age limit on female Muslim worshipers. That access will be through the Lions Gate, where Saturday night’s terror attack took place.

Can Peres and Abbas Save ‘Settlers’ Synagogue from Destruction by Israel?

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

A Jerusalem area community in Samaria is hoping former president Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas can help them stop the planned government destruction of a 20-year-old synagogue allegedly built on Arab land.

The Supreme Court, which previously accepted leftists’ claims that the synagogue was built on private Arab land, received on Friday a last-ditch petition to stop the destruction, based on arguments that the court and the government did not take into consideration international law concerning the  protection of Holy Sites.

The appeal, filed by attorney Gilad Korinaldy on behalf of Givat Ze’ev regional council rabbi Yosef Toledano, also asked the court to consider aspects of Jewish law, the Hareidi website Kikar Shabbat reported.

The court has ordered Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to answer the petition by next Monday night, the end of Simchat Torah in Israel.

The Netanyahu administration has ordered that the 2-year-old Ayelet HaShachar synagogue, where several hundred congregants have prayed, be demolished immediately after the Sukkot-Simchat Torah holiday.

The petition to the court also explained that the community has appealed to Peres and Abbas to “think outside the legal box” and find a political-diplomatic solution.

Korinaldy, who also represented Gush Katif in efforts to save Gush Katif synagogues from destruction in the expulsion of Jews from Gaza in 2005, said, according to Kikar Shabbat:

Synagogues are the voice of the existence of Judaism for generations. All possibilities must be examined to protect the holiness of Israel and respect for God. There is no greater disgrace than Jews destroying a synagogue.

TheJewishPress.com reported here last month that Givat Ze’ev worshippers already have taken holy books out of the synagogue in preparation for the demolition, which Prime Minister Netanyahu postponed from August until immediately after the holidays.

The  suit against the synagogue followed the pattern of several previous appeals by the left-wing Yesh Din and Peace Now grows, arguing that Jews did not legally buy the land on which they built.

It usually is difficult to prove the legal purchase because it is always done through a third-party. Otherwise, the Arab seller would face death, either by an angry mob or by the Palestinian Authority policy that follows the Jordanian law that selling land to a Jew is punishable by execution.

If the petition is successful, it would prove the seeming impossibilities of life in Israel.

Who would dream that Peres and Abbas would be the intermediaries to stop the destruction of a Jewish place of worship in the “occupied territories?”

Not Enough Joy and Meaning

Monday, October 7th, 2013

The recent NY Times article on the newly released PEW findings on Jewish continuity paints a bleak future for American Jewry. The study, among other findings, reported that nearly six in ten Jewish respondents (58%) who have gotten married since 2000, have married a non-Jewish spouse. The study also showed that only 20 percent of those who have intermarried are raising their children Jewish by religion.

There are, I’m sure, many reasons for this worsening situation including a serious lack of Jewish education for most American Jews, a more than ever distracting world in which living any kind of religious life becomes more challenging, and many other contributing factors. However I believe there is another cause, which I have seen in my 20 years of outreach to the young and less affiliated: the sheer lack of joy or meaning that so many young Jews associate with Judaism.

More often than not, the perception young people have of Judaism is of a faith filled with rules and restrictions which offers little or no joy or meaning in return.

But why should young Jews be left with any other impression? When Yom Kippur continues to be the most celebrated Jewish experience in synagogue what else should we expect? How many American Jews are present for the somber Yom Kippur service, complete with fasting and chest-pounding/forgiveness asking but are no-where to be found the next week when joyous singing and dancing in honor of Simchat Torah takes place? That balance of reverence and joy is vital to keep our interest and it is so authentically Jewish. In the Temple of old, the Beit Hamikdash, the feeling on Yom Kippur was one of awe and even trepidation as the High Priest performed the service to secure atonement for all of Israel, but the next week that same Temple was filled with a sense of joy and exuberance during the Simchat Beit Hoshava (water drawing ceremony) on which which the Talmud tells us: “Whoever never witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never in his life seen true joy.”

Like most synagogues, MJE has always drawn larger numbers for its Yom Kippur services than for Simchat Torah. This year however, for the very first time, we had approximately the same number of participants for both holidays. It took us 15 years but we did it. The same number of previously less affiliated 20’s/30’s who were willing to fast and pray with us on Yom Kippur returned to sing and dance with us on Simchat Torah.

Young Jews desperately need to experience both the serious and lighter sides of Judaism. We can no longer allow our beloved faith to be marketed as a religion of guilt and restriction without even trying to present it for what it truly is: a path which can ultimately bring joy and meaning to contemporary life. And we must learn to properly articulate how the limitations Judaism does place on our lives are important in helping to create that more joyous and meaningful existence.

The goal of our synagogues and Jewish institutions today must be to demonstrate this balance of reverence and joy; fealty to tradition with personnel meaning and relevance. Jewish educators need to be better trained to invest more explanation and inspiration into our prayer services and provide greater depth and insight as to how living a life of Torah can actually improve our lives and make us happier and more fulfilled people.

Otherwise, for most American Jews, why bother?

Up And Down The East Coast On Torah Tours

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Some of the thoughts we generally associate with Shavuot relate to the tradition of learning Torah all night or the almost overwhelming amount of dairy food that is consumed over the course of the two-day holiday. It has become a routine, something we do every year as the weather starts turning warmer and our Sefirat HaOmer calendars come to an end.

Last year’s Shavuot, however, broke the sense of a familiar routine for me. I traveled to Washington D.C. in June with a team of three other students from Yeshiva University who were participating in The Aaron and Blanche Schreiber Torah Tours program.

Run by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, Torah Tours sends students to various Jewish communities across America for Shavuot and Simchat Torah to assist in creating a positive Torah-filled atmosphere.

My team was fortunate enough to be able to spend Shavuot in D.C. with Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue. Aside from boasting a beautiful large building in the Shepherd Park area, Ohev Sholom is known as being the oldest Orthodox synagogue in the area. Under the leadership of Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, it has experienced increasing growth and popularity.

Since it was my first time participating in a Torah Tours program, I was not quite sure what to expect. It was also my first time spending Shavuot in a community other than my own. Being immersed in a specific type of community for years has a bit of an insulating effect. You get used to things being done in a certain way, you know exactly what is required of you in order to blend in seamlessly, and you already have some expectations formed in your own head of what a community is or should be, based on your limited experience. That Shavuot was a chance to go beyond that, to look past the narrow confines of my own life and my limited experience.

One of the things that stood out about Ohev Sholom and its community was the incredible warmth and hospitality of those who invited us into their homes, and the genuine friendliness and openness exhibited towards complete strangers. No matter where I went or at whose house I was, I always felt perfectly comfortable and at home.

While the rest of my Torah Tours team returned home after Shavuot, I decided to remain in DC for Shabbat. I realized once it ended what an amazing decision that had been. Shabbat in Ohev Sholom was unlike any I have ever experienced in my hometown, beginning with a beautiful and uplifting Kabbalat Shabbat that remained indelibly imprinted on my mind for long after. The first Shabbat I spent back in Brooklyn was a bittersweet one. All I could do was remember D.C. and wish I could be there once more.

Reflecting afterwards on the time spent in DC, it was clear that although I had thought that I was going to be contributing something to another community, in reality I was the one who benefitted tremendously. What I experienced there was something that would stay with me for the rest of my life and become a part of my being, a part of the way I look at and understand the world and the people around me.

A few months later, I was presented with the opportunity to sign up for Torah Tours again for Simchat Torah. I enthusiastically signed up and traveled to Richmond, Virginia to spend the holiday with the Keneseth Beth Israel (KBI) congregation, under the leadership of Rabbi Dovid Asher. Together with a team of four other members, I got to know another warm and welcoming community and experienced a good dose of Southern hospitality.

While three-day holidays generally seem too long, during our time in Richmond it proved to be a blessing, allowing us to spend more time in a community that did everything possible to make us feel at home. Between festive meals with different hosts, Torah shiurim with community members whose feedback enriched our experience, a relaxed teen tish, enthusiastic dancing with adults and children in celebration of the Torah, and a lovely afternoon walk to the beautiful University of Richmond campus, our Simchat Torah proved to be uplifting and unforgettable.

Iran Surrogates Test Israel’s Military Resolve

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

JERUSALEM – As high-ranking American military commanders arrived in Israel this week in advance of the forthcoming Austere Challenge 12 drill with IDF units, Israel’s military resolve was tested by Iranian proxy militias in Gaza and Lebanon during the recent Sukkot and Simchat Torah holidays.

Hizbullah’s UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) espionage mission earlier this week was discovered by an Israeli Air Force (IAF) radar unit as the unarmed Iranian-built drone flew along the Mediterranean coastline before being shot down by an IAF F-16 over the Yatir Forest near Beersheba. This prompted the Israel Defense Forces to move an American-built Patriot anti-aircraft/anti-missile unit to the Mt. Carmel plateau just outside Haifa. According to Israel’s Channel 10 News, Iran has supplied Hizbullah with dozens of UAVs, some of which can be armed with an explosive weapon.

While several Israel military TV and newspaper correspondents reported that the Iranian drones were nearly 20 years behind Israel’s advanced UAV technology, they also acknowledged that the Iranian UAVs had the operational capability of filming and launching an attack against sensitive installations such as the Dimona nuclear reactor and IAF bases. The upgraded Patriot batteries are meant to complement Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system and are capable of toppling drones, as well as missiles.

At least one Iron Dome system was repositioned near Sderot on Wednesday, after several kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip and the southern town of Netivot experienced a heavy barrage of mortar, Kassam and Grad rocket fire from terror groups inside Gaza over the past few days. While no one was seriously injured during the attacks, an IDF Southern Command officer told Channel 10 News that Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists were in possession of sophisticated multiple rocket launchers that can be remotely operated. This makes it more difficult for IDF units to identify the location of the launchers and their terrorist commanders.

During the past few weeks, the IDF has beefed up its contingent of Nagmash (Leopard) armored carriers along the Gaza border. The state-of-the-art Leopard, which is mounted on a Merkava-4 tank chassis and can transport at least 12 troops deep into enemy territory at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour while firing mortars and machine guns, would be used in any lightning incursion into Gaza or Southern Lebanon. That scenario’s goal is to wipe out terrorist missile squads.

The Austere Challenge 12 drill will feature contingents of American and Israeli soldiers from both offshore naval units and land-based air defense units. They will integrate their anti-missile systems to defend Israel against a variety of simulated enemy missile salvos. The Israeli systems will be highlighted by Iron Dome, Arrow and Magic Wand, the latter offering a new defense against mid-range missiles within 18 months.

The drill comes on the heels of a report in the latest edition of Foreign Policy magazine, whereby a former Clinton administration official said that the U.S. and Israel are working on a plan that would involve a joint U.S.-Israel surgical air force and missile strike team to potentially be used against key Iranian nuclear and military installations. The objective would be to set back the Iranian nuclear program by several years – without igniting a full-scale regional war. The Iranian regime has threatened to launch ballistic missiles against Israeli cities and American bases in the Middle East in the event of an attack against its nuclear sites.

Cory Booker & Shmuley Boteach: The Rabbi and the Rhodes Scholar (Video)

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Twenty years ago this Monday, corresponding to the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah, a young African-American Rhodes scholar walked into a Chabad Jewish student center in Oxford, England. He had had a date with a Jewish woman who told him she was going to be at the Sukkot festivities at Rabbi Shmuley’s and would meet him there. As it turned out, he was stood up, and as he waited sheepishly in the corner of the room not knowing what to do next, he was approached by the Rabbi’s wife who invited him to sit in ‘the hot-seat’ next to the young Chabad Rabbi. Being the most joyous night of the Jewish calendar, the young student would later join with hundreds of other students dancing with the Torahs. This accidental meeting would change both their lives.

Cory Booker had little exposure to the Jewish community prior to that evening and I, who was serving as the Rabbi to the students of Oxford University, had only sporadic exposure to the African-American community. But in the days, weeks, and months that followed we began studying together almost daily. We studied the great texts of Judaism and discussed the great speeches of African-American leaders. Cory would later serve a full term as President of our Jewish student organization, which was then the second largest student group at the University with thousands of members. Together we hosted luminaries like Mikhail Gorbachev and other world leaders who lectured on values-based leadership.

Twenty years, countless conversations, and hundreds of Friday night Shabbat dinners later, Cory today is a much-loved honorary member of the American Jewish community, regularly lecturing at Synagogues and Jewish conferences across the country. More significant, Cory has challenged the Jewish community to live up to its Biblical calling to serve as ‘a light unto the nations.’ In many of the speeches we deliver together he asks the Jewish participants if they study the weekly Parsha, if they honor the commandments, and cherish the Sabbath. What allows an African-American Christian Mayor to challenge Jewish leaders to deepen their Jewish commitment? Because those same leaders are amazed at Cory’s knowledge of Judaism and appreciation of the Jewish contribution to civilization.

I have long believed that the next wave of Jewish commitment will be inspired by non-Jews. In massive conferences like Christians United For Israel we are already seeing a great wave of Christian interest in Judaism and a desire to reconnect Jesus back to his Jewish roots. But Cory has taken this a step further, studying Judaism with a view to teaching it to Jews.

A few years ago AIPAC invited Cory and me to address a large group in Chicago. It was the week where we read the story of Genesis in Synagogue and Cory delivered a moving speech on the creation of Adam and Eve, culled from a speech by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The wife of a prominent American Jewish leader approached me after the speech and asked if I would study the Parsha of the week with her, as I do with Cory. I asked her why now. She responded, “When you hear someone so prominent in the American political landscape deriving inspiration from the Torah, and he’s not even Jewish, you become a little embarrassed that you are ignorant of your tradition and you want to discover what he has discovered.” I have heard similar sentiments expressed by other Jewish listeners on many occasions.

My friendship with Cory also sparked a lifelong closeness between me and the African-American community. I became the first-ever white morning radio host on America’s legacy black radio station, WWRL in New York City. I took the Rev. Al Sharpton to Israel to alleviate the enmity between him and the Jewish community, I was the driving force behind an effort to have 600 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina find permanent homes in Utah where they have been moved only temporarily, and I preached at the Martin Luther King chapel at Morehouse College at a conference with Coretta Scott King. And as part of my current run for Congress in New Jersey, I travelled to Rwanda to highlight the 1994 genocide and help combat efforts to deny it. The Rwandan government invited me to meet President Paul Kagame in New York last week and I hosted a reception for Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo with American Jewish leaders.

There are those who believe that the black and Jewish communities share a common history of persecution. But being among the world’s foremost victims is not the basis of our bond. The relationship between blacks and Jews is built on shared faith rather than shared oppression, common destiny rather than common history, shared values rather than shared interests, and a mutual commitment to social justice rather than a mutual alienation from the mainstream.

I thank God for a friendship that has endured for two decades and the enrichment it has brought to us and our respective communities.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/the-rabbi-and-the-rhodes-scholar/2012/10/07/

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