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January 20, 2017 / 22 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘slaves’

From Slaves To Supermen

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

The month of Nissan has rolled around again. Let’s dig in and see if we can discover what Hashem wants from us during this time of year. What is the special quality of this month? Which mountain must we climb? Come, we have a long way to go.

Let’s take our first stop at the Bnei Yissaschar, who focuses on the etymology of the name of the month. He explains that Nissan comes from the word nes, miracle. Seemingly, this should be very easy to understand, for there is no month in the year when greater miracles happened than during Nissan. As a matter of fact, the Ramban writes that the supernatural display of the Exodus remains the one time in history that Hashem revealed His hand fully and completely, thus obviating the need to ever do so again.

But what is the significance of Nissan for the modern Jew? Though it is clear that Nissan was the month of miracles in the past, it is harder to see the significance of the month’s supernatural quality for us living in the here and now. Even if you say that the miracles of the future redemption will take place in Nissan (as the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah 11a indeed states), there still must be an area of growth particular to this month’s quality for all of the Jews sandwiched between the original and future redemptions. So what is it?

Since it is obvious that the unique mitzvos of the month reflect the uniqueness of the month, let’s turn to one of the two mitzvos D’Oraysa which we observe during Nissan, eating matzah at the Seder. Why do we eat matzah on Pesach? The Haggadah seems to be slightly contradictory on the matter. At the beginning of the Seder, we lift the matzah and declare, “This is the poor man’s bread that we ate in Egypt.” Apparently, matzah is a symbol of slavery. On the other hand, in the middle of the Seder we state, “This matzah that we eat is because our dough had no time to rise, because of the speed with which we were chased out of Egypt…” Add this to the fact that we recline (to display freedom) while eating matzah, as opposed to when we eat marror. Apparently, matzah is able to simultaneously represent slavery as well as freedom. If we can explain this duality, perhaps we can answer our original question.

Let’s turn to the second D’Oraysa mitzvah of the month, retelling the story of the Exodus at the Seder. The Gemara (Pesachim 116a) describes how this mitzvah is properly fulfilled. “You start [by describing] the lowly parts, and [after that you describe] the praiseworthy parts.” This means that we first describe how terrible it was in Egypt, and only afterwards do we describe the great salvation Hashem made for us. The Gemara continues, “How do we fulfill this requirement?” Rav says that we say “Originally (in Egypt) we were ovdei Avodah Zarah. [But Hashem redeemed us and brought us close to His Service.].” Shmuel argues that we recite Avadim Ha’yinu, “[Originally] we were slaves [to Pharaoh in Egypt. But Hashem redeemed us from there…]”

If you look in the Haggadah, you will see that we fulfill both opinions. The Vilna Gaon explains that they are both true. He wrote, “There were two exiles to which we were subject, an exile of the body and an exile of the soul. [We therefore thank Hashem for redeeming us from both.]”

Let’s take the Vilna Gaon’s idea and run with it. We are all familiar with the idea of a physical exile, but what does it mean to be in spiritual exile? Let’s analyze the phrase above, in which we described this idea. “Originally (in Egypt) we were ovdei Avodah Zarah.” What does “ovdei” mean? Most people would say it means worshippers, making the sentence read “Originally (in Egypt) we worshipped Avodah Zarah.” The problem is, the phrase Avadim Ha’yinu means “we were slaves,” meaning that the Hebrew root of the word, ayin veis dalet, does not mean worshippers, but rather “slaves.” This makes it a little more difficult to understand Rav. An idolater is somebody who (literally) idolizes his deity and ostensibly fulfills his commands out of free will. A slave on the other hand, is one whose physical actions are constrained and dictated by a master. So why does Rav call idolaters slaves?

The answer lies in a deeper understanding of what makes people worship idols (or do any sin, for that matter). What makes a holy soul decide to worship foreign gods? The answer is the yetzer hara. While sometimes we feel like serving Hashem and fulfilling His Torah, we all too often feel a compulsion to defy His will. Life is a constant struggle between the will of the yetzer hara and the desire to follow Hashem. The goal of every good Jew is to strengthen the soul day by day until it is the master over the body and its desires. However, what would happen if, G-d forbid, the body would gain supremacy? Essentially, the soul would be forced to concede to the body’s every whim. In other words, we would become slaves to our own desires. We stated above that a slave is one whose physical actions are dictated to him. Is there any greater example of a slave than one who is forced to act on his every desire because he cannot control himself?

Now let’s explain the duality of matzah. By now the answer should be clear. When the soul is a slave to the body, the desire to indulge must be fulfilled. The body’s orders are fulfilled without a second thought. A truly free man, on the other hand, can choose to eat poor bread. He is the master of himself and can decide in what he should indulge, in what amounts, and at which time. While it’s true that we suffered in Egypt from an exile of the body, we were also suffering from an exile of the soul. We were under the dominion of our bodies. Hashem redeemed us from this exile by raising us up to become His holy nation. By the time Hashem slew the firstborn, we were no longer forced to obey the body’s compulsions. We were free.

Now perhaps we can answer our original question. Nissan is the month of the supernatural. By fulfilling the Torah and mitzvos we can increase the power of the soul and enable it to dominate the body. Torah is above nature. Nissan is the time when we must focus on these supernatural abilities Hashem gave us through His Torah and mitzvos. All we need to do is take a few steps on our own and Hashem will surely bless us with added help from Above, just as He did in times of yore. Have a meaningful Nissan.

Shaya Winiarz

Official PA Media Calls Huckabee ‘Inane Creature’ and ‘Wicked Man’

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

The Palestinian Authority did not bite the hand that feeds it. It amputated it, but the United States still finds a way to nourish anti-American hatred.

Its official daily has slandered the United States as a country that “enslaves Hispanics,” and it libeled Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee as a “wicked, despicable man,” according to a Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) translation and publication of the report.

Huckabee visited Israel two weeks ago and said that all of Judea and Samaria belongs to Israel.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official Palestinian Authority daily, responded with an op-ed written by its former editor-in-chief, Hafez Al-Barghouti, who writes regularly for the daily.

Following are excerpts of the translation provided by PMW from the article published in Arabic, beginning with trashing Donald Trump as a “swindler.”

After the statements of the aged teenager, the swindler and realtor, the billionaire, the rabid [Donald] Trump, in which he called to transfer the Palestinian people from the [West] Bank to Puerto Rico, another Republican candidate, Mike Huckabee, made a pilgrimage to Israel to emphasize his support for settlement in the West Bank.

This inane creature…said that it is not possible to push the peace process as long as there is incitement in Palestinian schools. This jellylike man ignores the burning of children, as if those who burned them, the settlers, learned the foundations of good ethics and human dignity….

This wicked, despicable man [Huckabee] came to protect them and their settlements, as if to provide them with matches to practice their hobby of burning, blocking roads, chopping down trees, and harassment of the rooted Canaanite Palestinian, who carved its letters in the stones of this land before any religion.

Huckabee is also a settler, and it is possible that the US is the biggest settlement country, since it was established on the ruins of the original inhabitants, wiped out millions of them, enslaved millions of Blacks, and today enslaves millions of Hispanics in the same manner.

Barghouti concluded by suggesting that Trump and Huckabee might “carry the genes of settlement and racism and haven’t yet gotten rid of them.

Congressional Research Service wrote in July 2014:

Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed approximately $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign  aid.

 

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Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

This Ain’t Torah

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Harassment and exploitation (not only in the area of sex) are expressions of abuse of power. This must be the common denominator to jealousy, lust, and ambition, which, according to the Mishna “remove man from the world.”

The most serious aspect of the Rabbi Motti Elon scandal is the fact that it emanated from a cult, defaming Judaism and the Torah itself, God forbid. I’ve been watching and hearing criticism of the path of the Torah – because of this news item about a sect that’s following its charismatic leader whose every word and action are subject to their adoration.

The phenomena of such unworthy leaders are typical of almost every such cult.

The despicable acts of indecency are not the problem here, they’re merely the symptoms. The problem is the cult, its mentality and dynamics.

We must make it clear that a cult not only does not represent the Torah and its followers – it is absolutely anti-Torah. It is wrong, detestable, despicable and an abomination.

Now we must admit a few unpleasant facts:

This kind of cult is typical of our generation, very in and new-age.

The fact that someone’s guru hasn’t yet made an appearance as a defendant on the nightly news does not mean the guru phenomenon is kosher.

The entire Jewish culture, starting with the Bible and going all the way to the latest commentators, repeats time and again the value of freedom. Our tradition demands of us to remain free, slaves only to the Eternal who is above all humans – and it absolutely forbids us to go back to being slaves of slaves.

The most despicable person is the slave whose master pierced his ear after he had said “I love my master” – choosing a love for flesh and blood over love of the Divine.

Not forced slavery, but rather willful slavery, the conscious choosing of subjugation, is the most repulsive level of the anti-Jewish existence.

That’s what every cult does, it may even be the most profound definition of what’s wrong with every cult.

We’ve seen these phenomena in the town of Migdal, in northern Israel, where Rabbi Motti Elon ruled over his cult of admirers.

There were times when I liked Rabbi Motti Elon very much, especially his classes. I still think he is one of the most gifted men of our generation. But I recall how surprised I was when I first saw the ads that were plastered in the streets of Jerusalem, inviting people to his “tish.”

Tish? This Zionist Yeke (German Jew) is having a tish?

Since that time, I’ve kept my distance.

I won’t claim to have presaged that these “tishes” would eventually turn into a cult, including the embarrassing and revolting charges of which Elon has just been convicted, but in my primitive kishkes (guts) I already felt that it’s all gone to his head, or turned his head – I won’t even attempt to psychoanalyze the man.

Naturally, I was told back then that I’m full of it, because a tish is connected to Chassidism, and Chassidism is Yidishkeit, and Yidishkeit can’t be bad.

But I happen to believe that Yidishkeit is Freedom, and freedom is very, very good, and anything that opposes freedom is not Judaism and not Torah, and is very, very bad.

I don’t have the energy to start a debate over Chassidism, but I must say that our generation has turned our glorious tradition into a complete fruit salad, served with pitiful, new-age whining, doused in pseudo-spiritual dressing, replete with hollow poses of Kabbala-like mysticism, self-worship, and heaping portions of slavery to charismatic charlatans.

After all, the self-deprecating before the leader is the other side of the coin of narcissism and self-centeredness, and both sides mean bondage, heresy and lowly paganism.

Instead of Tikun Olam through the kingdom of spirit and morality, the new age post-modernist is cynically employing “spiritual” slogans to usurp the world for his own needs, his dubious jealousy, lust, and ambition.

Rabbi Motti Elon does not concern me. But I am losing sleep over the innocent youths who choose slavery and blindness over an open gaze and freedom.

But what bothers me even more is the fact that thousands of television viewers today think that this anti-Judaism is our—and their—heritage.

Please speak up and tell them it’s not so.

Ehud Tokatly

Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Why The Ear?

The great Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai was once asked by a student, “Rebbe, I have a question which has puzzled me for some time. We find in the Torah a law concerning an eved Ivri, a Hebrew slave. He serves for six years and at the end of that time he may go free. Should he refuse, however, saying that he likes his master and prefers to remain with him, the tribunal takes him and makes a hole in his ear as a punishment.”

“This is true,” said Rabban Yochanan, “but what is there about it that you do not understand?”

“What troubles me is this,” answered the student. “Why is it the ear that is pierced? Was it not the tongue that declared that the slave did not wish to go free? Should not it – rather than the ear – be the organ that is pierced?”

“What you ask is very good and I shall tell you the answer. How does one become a slave? There are two ways: The first is being sold by the court because he stole and did not have money to pay back what he took. In this case it is the theft that caused him to be a slave.

“We tell this slave, this ear which heard the words at Har Sinai, Thou shalt not steal, and which disobeyed G-d’s commandment causing the man to become a slave, shall be pierced!

“On the other hand, there are people who sell themselves as slaves. Once again we tell such a person, this ear which heard the commandment of the Almighty, Unto Me are the Children of Israel slaves, and not slaves to other slaves, and which disobeyed G-d’s commandment shall be pierced.”

A Joint Holiday

Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai, as the leading rabbi of his time, would get into a great many discussions with pagans who attempted to contradict or attack the Torah. He would always answer them directly and to the point.

Once he was asked, “Both of us, Jews and Pagans alike, have holidays that are happy and call for thanksgiving. Nevertheless, our holidays never come out at the same time so that we might be happy and give thanks together on the same day for the same thing.”

Rabban Yochanan then said, “This is not really true. There is one day on which we both celebrate and rejoice together.”

“Tell me what that day is,” said the man, for I do not know to what you refer.”

“I refer to the times when rains have not fallen and the whole land was parched. All the people – Jew and pagan alike – looked to the sky for rain and on that great day when rain descended from heaven to water the parched earth, every man shouted for joy and proclaimed a holiday of thanksgiving to the Almighty. And this is what our Holy Scriptures say, the wheat fields are clothed with sheep, the valleys are wrapped with produce, they shall cheer and even sing forth, shout unto the L-rd All The Earth.”

Magic

Yet another time, Rabban Yochanan was approached by a pagan nobleman and asked, “Why do you claim that we have magic and sorcery when you yourself have this?”

When Rabban Yochanan heard this he asked, “Where in our holy Torah do you claim that we have laws that are magic and sorcery?”

“I will tell you,” answered the pagan. “In the Torah you have a certain commandment concerning a red cow. You burn its carcass and mix the ashes with water and then bring it before a man who has become defiled through contact with a corpse and you say to him, when the water is sprinkled on you it will make you pure.

“Now I ask you, is this not the magic and sorcery that you object to?”

“Let me explain this to you,” said Rabban Yochanan. “Have you ever seen a man who is mentally disturbed and it is said he has been invaded by an evil spirit?”

“Yes,” answered the man.

“Tell me, what do you do with this person in order to heal him from the evil spirit?”

“We burn incense and throw holy water upon him until the evil spirit leaves him,” replied the pagan.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

The Earthquake (Conclusion)

Monday, June 18th, 2012

“Leave me Zemira,” cried Raamyah, “I have shamed you and your family. I have deceived my child whom I love so much. Turn your back on me for I can offer you only tragedy and unhappiness.”

“ Never!” cried the unhappy Zemira. “I will never forsake you and I forbid you to talk this way. Never say to yourself that hope is lost. Have not our Sages taught, ‘Though a sharp sword rest on the neck of a man, he shall not lose hope but look forward to the mercies of the Almighty’?”

Raamyah Gains Hope

Listening to his wife speak the prisoner took heart once again and for the first time since becoming a prisoner, his eyes lit up.

“If only I knew that Uzziel and his father whom I sold into slavery were still alive, I would flee this prison, and run to them to ask their forgiveness and free them from their slavery. I would then serve them forever.”

“If only some miracle would come about and allow you to be free of this prison, I would go with you and be a maid-servant with you.”

Just as she spoke these words, the door of the dungeon was opened and a guard walked in and said to Zemira, “you must go now for the time for your husband’s execution draws near.”

The Cry

As Zemira heard these words she let out such a terrible cry that the very earth shook. Such a cry had never been heard before as it came from the depths of the soul. The ground trembled beneath their feet and the walls of the building came crashing down. The city was suffering an earthquake.

The guards fled in panic fearing that the end of the world had come, and Zemira and Raamyah were left alone, free from the walls that had enclosed them.

“Look Zemira,” cried her husband, “the walls of the prison are down. Now is our opportunity to flee and find the two poor souls whom I had sold so unjustly.”

They Flee

Since they knew the area around Lebanon well, they decided to flee there. For three days and nights they traveled, fearful of pursuit. No one followed them however, because of the great fear that the earthquake had placed in their souls. For the quake had not only leveled the prison, but, it had caused havoc throughout the land of Israel.

Thus, Raamyah and Zemira were able to reach the hills of Lebanon in safety. There they encountered a former slave whom Raamyah had ransomed and given his freedom.

The man was overjoyed to see his benefactor and gave them food and water besides shelter and safety.

“Years ago you aided me when I was a poor slave. Now, ask of me what you will and I will be only too glad to aid you.”

“I thank you for your kind words,” replied Raamyah, “but there is only one thing I desire now. If only there was someway for me to discover the whereabouts of Uzziel and his father from Hebron whom I sold as slaves, I would ask nothing else.”

News Of The Slaves

When the former slave heard this, he replied, “there are two servants in this household who have recently come from the land of the Pilishtim. Perhaps they will know where these people whom you seek are located.”

“Please ask them,” pleaded Zemira.

When the two servants were brought in and asked if they know the whereabouts of the two people, one of them shook his head, but the other said, “I believe that the two people whom you seek are slaves in the city of Gahs.”

Zemira Sells Her Property

Hearing this Zemira wasted no time. She realized that if they found the two unfortunates, they would need money in order to ransom them. She sold her father’s property and prepared to go with her husband to the city of Gahs in the land of the Pilishtim.

For many days they traveled until they reached the city. They did not tell the slaves who they were but went directly to the owner and said, “we wish to buy the two slaves that you have here.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

The Earthquake (Part III)

Monday, June 11th, 2012

As Zemira threw herself (and her infant), into the path of the king’s carriage, the crowd shrieked. Hastily, the driver reined the horses up sharply, and the hoofs of the lead horse stopped barely inches from where she lay.

The king, seeing the drama unfolding before his very eyes, leaped from the carriage and, in a moment, was at Zemira’s side.

“What is wrong, my daughter? Why did you throw yourself and your child before my horses?’

Zemira raised her tear stained face and looked into the eyes of the king: “Your Majesty, your servants have taken my husband, the gentlest man who ever lived, and brought him to the dungeons. They have accused him of the most terrible of crimes and say that they will sever his head. You must help me to save him.”

When the king learned who her husband was, he looked at her sadly and said: “My dear young maiden, I wish that I could help you, but if your husband is the criminal you speak of there is nothing to do, for he is indeed guilty of all the crimes with which he has been charged.”

“To begin with, his name is not, as you think, Avinadav the son of Uzziel from Hebron, but rather Raamyah, the son of Yaktan. He left his father’s home and joined a band of robbers who plundered and stole….”

But Zemira would not allow the king to finish his words and she interrupted him saying, “Be that as it may, I beg you to allow me to see my husband in his dungeon and comfort him in his last days on this earth before his execution.”

“Your request is granted,” replied the king.

Zemira Sees Her Husband

The day after the festival of Sukkos, Zemira was brought to the dungeons, the last resting place of the condemned man before execution.

She was taken to her husband’s cell. When she saw his gaunt and sad face, she burst into tears.

“Do not weep, Zemira,” he cried. “Forget me for I have shamed you and tricked you and brought disgrace unto you and your father’s house forever.”

“I will not forget you ever, for you are the husband of my youth,” declared Zemira.

The Husband’s Story

When the husband saw that nothing that he could say would shake his wife, he turned to her and said: “Let me tell you the story of my sad life so that it may be a lesson to you so that you may raise our dear child to be a lover of Torah and the way of G-d.

“My father was an officer in the army and he was rarely home. Consequently, he turned me over to my mother to raise me and guide me in life.

“My mother loved me deeply and taught me to walk in the ways of the L-rd. Thus, the first 15 years of my life were spent in joy and tranquility.

“Alas, when I was 15 years old my beloved mother passed away and my father eventually married a second woman who was as evil as my mother was good. She hated me and made my life one of torture and suffering.

“Because of this I wandered about and found friends who also came from unhappy homes and I began to run with them. My stepmother told my father that I was becoming friendly with these boys and he forbade me to see them. I was very frightened of my father and I, of course, obeyed, but this was not enough for my stepmother. She continued to tell my father lies about me until one day she demanded that either she or I leave the house.

“My father was under her influence and so he drove me from my house. Where could I go if not to the friends that I had made?”

The Influence

“My friends were delighted. One day they said, ‘We have heard that there are bands of men who roam the countryside secretly and who fall upon wealthy merchants and take their money and property. Why shouldn’t we do the same?’

“At first I refused to even listen to them and when they saw this they left me and went to join the bandits themselves. I was left alone in the city until the pangs of hunger seized me and I decided that there was nothing left for me but to go join my friends in their fields.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Mordechai Kedar: The Suffering of Africa – Sins of Europe Projected on Israel

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Those Africans who enter Israel illegally in order to find work are a very small part of the general global problem of emigrants from Africa who are searching for a new land that will allow them to live, even with only a minimum income and standards of living – and the main thing that drives them is survival. Their poor condition, in Israel, in Europe, in North and South America and in Asia, raises the question: how did an entire continent, where a billion people live, about one fifth of the world population, arrive at such a low condition, and how, among the 61 states and entities that it comprises, not even one offers its citizens security, education, health and welfare at a reasonable level. How did it happen that a whole continent is torn by never-ending wars, mass murders costing millions of lives, and famines that still threaten the residents, most of whom want only to flee from it.

The one answer to all of these questions is: Europe, or more accurately, the greedy lust of the European peoples in previous centuries, which was reflected in colonization; and the way in which the Europeans related to the peoples of Africa when they ruled it, and the way that they left Africa and abandoned it to its suffering.

We must remember that in Africa there were never “peoples” in the European sense of the word; there were tribes. These family-based groups, over the course of generations, grew and split off to form new tribes, but their members always remained loyal to tribal culture. Traditionally, each tribe had its own religion, language, customs, laws, dress, standards of behavior, living area, sources of livelihood and economic interests around which every member of the tribe would unite. To defend themselves and their sources of livelihood, the members of the tribe formed a fighting group, without which it would be extremely difficult for the tribe to survive. For thousands of years the tribes of Africa lived this way undisturbed, in continual balance between man and nature, between tribes and neighbors, between man and his beliefs.

The European conquest and colonization that began in the late 15th century, brought continual disaster upon the tribes of Africa: the colonialists saw the black continent as a source of raw material for European industry – gold, silver, copper, iron, zinc, aluminum, diamonds, rubber and wood, and later, oil. But worst of all was that the African was seen as a slave, an amazingly cheap source of labor whose life had value only inasmuch as he could be exploited as a cheap source of labor. The most obvious example of this is the behavior of King Leopold II, king of Belgium (1835-1909), who ruled as Czar of the Congo from 1884 to 1908, and regarded the Congo, and all that it contained, as his private property. He used the residents of Congo as slave labor in his mines and rubber industry, and a third of the people met their death in this work. Slaves who could not fulfill the production quotas that were demanded from them were punished with amputation of a hand. Men were forced into slave labor, families were destroyed and whole tribes were wiped out by famine. Africans were considered lower than animals, and the wealth that the king stole from the lands of the Congo served his large construction building projects in Belgium. Many of the beautiful and stylish buildings in Belgium are the result of his conduct, which earned him harsh criticism from other countries.

During the period from the 16th to the 19th century, millions of Africans were captured by European, Arab and local slave traders and sold into slavery, mainly to South and North America. About one sixth of the slaves did not survive the journey by ship, mainly because of the miserable nutritional and sanitary conditions in these floating prisons. Slave-hunters cast the tribes of Western Africa into a never-ending chain of acts of reprisal because of their collaboration with slave traders.

At the Berlin Conference in the year 1884, the colonialist countries of Europe marked the borders of Africa as a “division of spoils,” and became wealthy from the raw materials and the slaves that were brought out from the lands of Africa. A not insignificant part of European wealth today is a direct result of this act – the greatest plunder in the history of mankind.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/dr-mordechai-kedar/mordechai-kedar-the-suffering-of-africa-sins-of-europe-projected-on-israel/2012/06/11/

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