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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘son’

“And Yaakov Left…” A Year Since Rav Yaakov Litman and His Son Were Mudered

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

This past year since Rav Yaakov Litman and his son Natanel were brutally murdered, there has not been a week since our son who was in his first grade class last year brings him up.  Our two oldest sons both learned with him.  They like the rest of the students in their school spent the last year grieving and learning to grow past the pain of losing such a beloved teacher to a murderous terror attack.

It’s strange to find myself back at the same Torah portion as last year and see the exact same relevance as before.  I wrote last year the following in connection with the murder of Rav Yaakov and Natanel and the Torah portion:

So how do you tell your son that he will never see his Rebbe again? How do you tell your 1st grader that Arab murderers gunned his Rabbi and son down for no other reason than because they are Jewish?  

Our son heard the news from us last night and processed it. In many ways kids are more resilient than we are.  “Who is going to be there tomorrow?” he asked my wife. Our older son seemed to wonder the same thing. Rav Yaakov taught him two classes a week as well. The three of us decided to learn together.  That was what Rav Yaakov would want us to do. We picked this week’s Torah portion to learn.

“And Yaakov left Beer Sheva…,”  it began. Yaakov left. Rashi tells us that when a tzaddik leaves a place the people feel his absence

A year has passed and in that year I have begun to understand in a different way what our sages meant when a tzaddik (righteous person) is alive even in their death. They live through their students. To understand the impact this one man and his son had on a school and community is impossible without looking at the students in the school. Everyone who met Rav Yaakov was touched and lifted up.

This is how the great Tzaddiks like Rebbe Nachman, the Baal Shem Tov, Arizal, and others live in both worlds.   Each student carries his life force with him.  I only met him briefly, but Rav Yaakov’s smile on meeting me still stays with me. Seeing both of our sons who had the merit to learn with him still talk about Rav Yaakov shows me that he is up there with the greatest.  His lifeforce is more than just a simple statement, he has given his strength and eternity over to his students and he lives on within them in a very real way.

To this end the entire school put together a video marking a year since he and his son were murdered. Watch and even without the translation you can easily see what impact Rav Yaakov is still having on his students and community.

David Mark

The Scorpion & The Setting Of The Son

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

As we close out the longest stretch of Yomim Tovim in our calendar cycle, we now find ourselves in the month of Cheshvan. While last month one could have fairly claimed to have been overwhelmed with all the areas of growth being asked of us, this month presents an altogether different challenge. That is, how do we grow without the guidance of the special holy days? Our journey thus begins. Let’s go.

Perhaps the most glaring aspect of this month is its nickname – Mar Cheshvan – Bitter Cheshvan. Simply understood, it is a bitter time because there are no holidays to provide the sweet opportunity to come close to Hashem. However, this thought generates the disturbing suggestion that Cheshvan has no special qualities. Since that is obviously untenable, we are forced to conclude that since the month is bitter, its quality is bitterness! That being discovered, we now have to discover how bitterness can be used in the service of Hashem. We’ve made some progress; let’s move along.

Here’s another question for the mix. It is well known that each of the Jewish months aligns with one of the constellations. The mazel of Cheshvan is Akrav – the Scorpion. Working to understand this can be a daunting task for the following reason. All the Torah teachings about the calendar seem to work with a basic understanding that each month’s characteristics can be used properly or improperly. However, while a quality or trait can indeed be used improperly, it never is presumed to have an intrinsic malignance. Yet, I challenge the readers of this column to find a single Torah source that views scorpions in a positive light. The scorpion is invariably a representation of a negative surprise that falls upon the unfortunate. If this is the case, we should be asking ourselves what type of positive growth we can glean from this sinister arachnid. It seems we have a way to go.

In order to answer these questions let’s take a detour to analyze the tribe aligned with Cheshvan – Menashe. The Torah does not discuss him in great detail, but we’ll have to work with what we’ve got. In the sidra of Va’yechi we find Yaakov Avinu at the end of his life. Yosef brings his two sons Ephraim and Menashe to receive their grandfather’s blessing before he dies. Yosef positions his firstborn Menashe on Yaakov’s right side so he would receive the greater blessing – which stems from the right hand. Then Yosef positioned Ephraim (the younger son) to Yaakov’s left so that Yaakov would bless him with his left hand. Yaakov proceeded to cross his hands over each other in order to bless Ephraim with his right hand, for “the younger brother shall become greater, and his offspring’s fame will fill the nations [and he is therefore more in need of the greater blessing].”

Thus far everything makes sense. The difficulty lies in the wording of the pasuk. “He crossed his hands ki Menashe was the firstborn” (48:14). The Hebrew word ki generally translates as “because.” However, in context, this makes no sense; Yaakov didn’t put his right hand on Ephraim because Menashe was the firstborn, but rather in spite of the fact that Menashe was the firstborn. Many commentators therefore conclude that the word ki in this pasuk must mean its highly uncommon translation of “in spite of.” However, let’s continue this analysis in accordance with those who take ki to mean its usual definition of “because” (Chizkuni, Maharshal). The challenge is out: what does the Torah mean when it says Yaakov crossed his hands because Menashe was the firstborn?

The answer is that the Torah is addressing an obvious yet unstated question. Why did Yaakov act strangely by crisscrossing his hands when he could have simply switched Ephraim and Menashe’s positions? Why did he keep Menashe on his right if he thought it was more appropriate for Ephraim to be blessed with the right hand? The answer is “because Menashe was the firstborn.” Since he was older he deserved the honor of being on the more important side. Ephraim needed the greater blessing (which comes from the right hand) but Menashe deserved to be on the right side, so Yaakov resolved the issue by crisscrossing his hands.

It may sound like we answered our most recent question. However, there’s still an issue. Let’s ask ourselves, why did Yaakov think that Menashe should be on the right? Didn’t he see that the younger son was more deserving? Apparently, Yaakov understood that the Torah requires us to give greater respect to the firstborn. However, if that were true, then what prerogative did Yaakov have to supersede Menashe’s birthright by giving Ephraim the greater blessing? Perhaps you’ll answer that Yaakov had a right to decide which son was worthier. But if that were the case then why didn’t he place Ephraim on his right? Suggesting that Yaakov was simply compromising would almost imply that he was uncertain of what to do. Philosophically speaking, is one permitted to choose according to his understanding or is one obligated to bow before the circumstances set in place by the Almighty?

The answer is that of course one is allowed – even obligated – to try and change any given situation (in accordance with what he perceives the Divine Will to be). We are not permitted to sit back on our laurels and absolve ourselves of responsibility, claiming that things are the way Hashem wants them to be. That being said, one’s deeds may be very different if he realizes that in reality Hashem is in control and we only act because Hashem commands us to. One difference may be in the extent to which we try to alter the situation. A true believer will only change what needs to be changed, but refrain from gratuitous modifications because he realizes that (barring the part that Hashem obligated him to change) the situation is exactly how Hashem wants it to be. Worded differently, every situation that Hashem created is perfect with the exception of those that He created imperfect in order to allow us to perfect them. Therefore, we may only ever act where Hashem wants us to, but we must leave everything else as is. That is why Yaakov was permitted to give Ephraim the greater blessing, but he refrained from moving Menashe. Giving Ephraim the greater blessing was necessary and therefore appropriate, while moving Menashe was unnecessary and therefore inappropriate.

Now perhaps we can backtrack and answer our questions. How can we grow from bitterness and what is the lesson of the scorpion? The answer is: we need to recognize that sometimes things are bitter. There will always be months in our lives that are bitter, and sometimes bitter circumstances befall us. While we obviously must try our hardest to improve our situation, our deeds must be tempered with the realization that Hashem is orchestrating everything. Of course we must act, but if indeed we cannot improve our lot then we must calmly accept that some things are bitter and only Hashem knows what is truly good for us. If we can do this, our lives will be that much sweeter.

Shaya Winiarz

Einstein’s Letter to his Son on Solving Unified Field Theory on Auction

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

A letter written around 1929 by Albert Einstein to his son Eduard (nicknamed “Tetel”), discussing his progress in solving the Unified Field Theory will be auctioned by RR Auction in Boston, estimate yield: “$100,000+.”

According to the RRA website, in 1924, Einstein finished laying the essential groundwork the Unified Field Theory, an attempt to explain the nature of gravity in terms of the laws of electromagnetism. He published the theory in 1929. The ideas he put forward conflicted with the emerging understanding of quantum mechanics, which put him at odds with much of the physics community at large, and led to his famous falling out with fellow Nobel winner Niels Bohr. Although he continued to work on the Unified Field Theory for the rest of his life, Einstein was never able to satisfactorily master the problem, and it remains unsolved to this day.

The auctioned letter reveals Einstein as both an accomplished physicist and a caring father, making it an extraordinary historic document.

The one page letter in German, signed “Papa,” reads: “Your letter made me very happy, particularly your comment regarding the hotel. Just like you, I hate it and it is with delight that I am detecting here a deep inner kinship between us, which I treasure. It seems to me it has been so long since I have seen you and I am longing to have you around me once again.


Photo credit: RR Auction


Photo credit: RR Auction

“For Easter, Albert and his wife will be visiting here. You could be coming at the same time, no matter. I would make sure you have sleeping quarters at a friend’s house while Albert is here. By the way, there is still another hurdle. On the 14th of March I have to flee to escape from my 50th Birthday Party otherwise I would run the risk of perhaps getting seasick. But there is still a lot of time until Easter. At any rate, I certainly want to see you before you graduate from High School.

“I am now very happy because I finally solved to my total satisfaction, after immensely intensive work, my gravitation-electricity problem. This, in a way, concludes my life’s work—the remainder simply is bonus material. Remarkably, how through all this strenuous work I made it in good shape and am feeling quite well. I do, however, practically live the life of a recluse and follow a frugal way of live. When we see each other again, I shall try to explain to you and describe this lifestyle a bit. In no way do I expect your approval and perhaps desire to join this guild. I could not care less.

“Don’t get overwhelmed by that heavy volume of a book I sent you. One should read it in small segments, always keeping in mind that this represents chosen selections of intellectual work through the centuries, expressed by an unimportant, but decent and clear thinking human being.”

Einstein added a PS: “I have been reading with great admiration Bernard Shaw’s new book on Socialism and Capitalism. I will be sending it to you soon and strongly recommend you definitely read this remarkable book.”

Online bidding for the document began on September 27 and will conclude on October 12. Other offerings in the same auction: Albert Einstein’s letter to the widow of NY Dr. Isidore W. Held, who helped Jewish intellectuals escape from Nazi Germany; an Albert Einstein typed letter from WW2, in which he pledged “my influence” to a would-be Jewish refugee; and a vintage glossy press photo of Einstein in a candid moment, signed in the lower border.


Netanyahu Attacks Arab Father Who Urged Toddler Son to Get Killed [video]

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released the following statement following an incident in which an Arab father was urging his toddler son to attack Israeli soldiers so that they would shoot him dead. They didn’t. The PM commented:

“I’ve just watched a video that shook me to the core of my being. In just a few seconds, it shows why our conflict persists. So here is a short snippet:

“‘Shoot! Shoot! Shoot him! Go! Go! Shoot him.’ A Palestinian father holds up his 4-year-old son. He pleads with Israeli border police to kill his own child. He shouts, ‘Shoot this little boy!’ His boy. He pushes his young son forward toward the soldiers and screams, ‘Kill him! Shoot him!’ The boy pauses. He is scared. Any child would be. He turns back, looking at his father for guidance. With his shirt tightly tucked into his bright red shorts, the boy ambles forward towards the soldiers. One of them extends his hand in friendship. The boy gives him a high-five.

“It’s hard to make a four-year-old hate. Imagine your own child at that age. Think of his smile. Imagine her laugh. Picture the unrestrained joy and innocence that only a child possesses. Encouraging someone to murder a child – let alone your own child – is probably the most inhumane thing a person can do.

“What did this child do to deserve this? The answer is: nothing. He is innocent. He should be in a play-ground. He should be in the sun, laughing with other children.

“Sadly, this father’s crime is not an isolated example. In Gaza, Hamas runs summer camps that teach children to value death over life – suicide kindergarten camps. The Palestinian Ministry of Education in Ramallah recently organized an event for students to honor terrorists who murdered three civilians. Two weeks ago, the Palestinian Authority’s official newspaper praised teenage terrorists and wrote that ‘death as a martyr is the path to excellence and greatness.’ That’s a direct quote.

“Palestinian and Israeli children deserve better. They deserve to live. They deserve to live in peace. Children are not cannon fodder. They are the most precious things in the world. They’re the most precious things we have. I’m sure Palestinian parents, many of them, are as outraged as I am at this video.

“And today I appeal to every father and mother around the world. I ask you to join me in calling for an end to this abuse of children. The Palestinian leadership must stop encouraging children to kill. They must stop encouraging Palestinian parents to call for the death of their own children. It’s horrendous.

“Peace begins with respect. If parents don’t respect their own children’s lives, how will they respect the lives of their neighbors? We must love all children. They should never be pushed to violence or hate. Join me in educating all children for peace.”

David Israel

Summer Break Fun

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
Asher Schwartz

Rabbi Kahane’s Grandson to Be Released into House Detention, Restrictions

Monday, May 30th, 2016

The good news is that Meir Ettinger, grandson of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, is expected to be released on Wednesday, June 1, following 10 months of solitary confinement in administrative detention, meaning he never committed any crime, but former Defense Minsiter Meir Ya’alon was convinced he was going to commit bad things if only he were allowed to roam free. And so, in the same vein, although Ettinger will presumably be allowed to leave jail, he won’t be doing a lot of roaming, Hakol Hayehudi reported Monday.

An administrative decree signed by OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Roni Numa bans Ettinger from Judea and Samaria for a period of one year. Another decree, signed by GOC Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, bans Ettinger from Jerusalem and from the community of Yad Binyamin.

In addition, Ettinger must obey a night curfew for the next four months, and he has been banned from contacting a list of 92 acquaintances.

Ettinger is the second rightwing activist banned from contacting a long list of his friends — another young man was served last Friday with a decree running 87 names he is forbidden to contact.

Stay tuned for a solidarity with Meir Ettinger event his friends are organizing, which suggests that they’d be contacting him via YouTube.

Jewish activists Meir Ettinger and Evyatar Slonim were placed in administrative detention—an old British Mandate “temporary” regulation which is being employed by Israeli courts to incarcerate security risks whose alleged crimes cannot be proven—last August. They were then transferred to the security wing of Eshel prison near Be’er Sheva in early October.

Ettinger’s uncle, Binyamin Kahane, was killed with his wife Talya in a shooting attack near the settlement of Ofra in December 2000.

During his stay in isolation, his attorney, Sima Kochav, wrote: “They keep [Palestinian] security prisoners in this wing, which means the IPS is violating its mandate and risking the life of a prisoner needlessly. Not only have they damaged his conditions unreasonably, disproportionately and contrary to the ordinance, but they are, at this moment, risking his life in a tangible way. The [Arabs’] cells are adjacent to his cell.”

Kochav also pointed out that “while the prisoners exit to the yard, they knock on his cell doors, talk into his cell window, and threaten his life. Likewise during the outings, when the prisoners are in the yard, the detainee (Ettinger) is showered with curses, insults, and, worst of all, death threats. In addition, the prisoner in the cell next to Mr. Ettinger’s is banging on the walls throughout the night and shouting, in order to disturb and harm Mr. Ettinger.”

David Israel

Beginning The Journey

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community (let’s call him Lord X) on his 92nd birthday. The interviewer said, “Most people, when they reach their 92nd birthday, start thinking about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?”

Lord X replied, “When you get to 92, you start seeing the door begin to close, and I have so much to do before the door closes that the older I get, the harder I have to work.”

Something like that is the impression we get of Abraham in this week’s parshah. Sarah, his constant companion throughout their journeys, has died. He is 137 years old. We see him mourn Sarah’s death, and then he moves into action.

He engages in an elaborate negotiation to buy a plot of land in which to bury her. As the narrative makes clear, this is not a simple task. He confesses to the locals, the Hittites, that he is “an immigrant and a resident among you,” meaning that he knows he has no right to buy land. It will take a special concession on their part for him to do so. The Hittites politely but firmly try to discourage him. He has no need to buy a burial plot. “No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.” He can bury Sarah in someone else’s graveyard. Equally politely but no less insistently, Abraham makes it clear that he is determined to buy land. In the event, he pays a highly inflated price (400 silver shekels) to do so.

The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail and highly legal terminology – not just here but three times subsequently in Genesis, each time with the same formality. For instance, here is Jacob on his deathbed, speaking to his sons:

“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29-32).

Something significant is being hinted at here; otherwise why mention, each time, exactly where the field is and from whom Abraham bought it?

Immediately after the story of land purchase, we read, “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything.” Again this sounds like the end of a life, not a preface to a new course of action, and again our expectation is confounded. Abraham launches into a new initiative, this time to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, who by now is at least 37 years old. Abraham leaves nothing to chance. He does not speak to Isaac himself but to his most trusted servant, who he instructs to go “to my native land, to my birthplace” to find the appropriate woman. He wants Isaac to have a wife who will share his faith and way of life. Abraham does not specify that she should come from his own family, but this seems to be an assumption hovering in the background.

As with the purchase of the field, so here the course of events is described in more detail than almost anywhere else in the Torah. Every conversational exchange is recorded. The contrast with the story of the binding of Isaac could not be greater. There, almost everything – Abraham’s thoughts, Isaac’s feelings – is left unsaid. Here, everything is said. Again, the literary style calls our attention to the significance of what is happening, without telling us precisely what it is.

The explanation is simple and unexpected. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, God had promised them two things: children and a land. The promise of the land (“Rise, walk in the land throughout its length and breadth, for I will give it to you”) is repeated no less than seven times. The promise of children occurs four times. Abraham’s descendants will be “a great nation,” as many as “the dust of the earth” and “the stars in the sky.” He will be the father not of one nation but of many.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/beginning-the-journey/2013/10/24/

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