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December 9, 2016 / 9 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Time’

Shiloh Musings: Time for Me to Just Wait and Watch American Presidential Elections

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

With just over a week to American Election Day, I think it’s time for me to just find a comfortable seat to observe the fireworks. This is possibly the most bitter election campaign ever. Even when in 1964 Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon B. Johnson, two very different candidates, it was nothing like this. OK, in 1964, nominees were still chosen by politicians and party “machines,” not by primaries. So, Goldwater didn’t have the super long build up of primaries campaigning that Donald Trump has had.

And if you don’t know, Goldwater was totally trashed by LBJ. I was in my teens, and I still remember one of, or the main, campaign slogans you heard from the Goldwater camp:

“In your heart you know he’s right.”

Now over fifty years later, decades after Ronald Reagan did the unthinkable and got elected by the “silent majority,” I see Donald Trump as another step in the rising confidence of the Right.

America has changed a lot in these last fifty-two years.

Hillary Clinton was also a teenager when Goldwater ran against Johnson. I wonder if she had her plans to run for President hatched by then. Or was she more inspired by the aim to correct George McGovern’s highly competent wife, Eleanor, who seemed to make peace with her role as hostess during the 1972 Elections, rather than using her talents for higher office. And just in case you don’t know, Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern.

And about the upcoming American Elections, there’s no unity in the polls. It seems that the various companies or NGOs that poll people about their voting plans each ask different segments of the American public whom they plan to vote for, because there are enormous discrepancies. Also,  there has been a rise in Trump’s numbers and a drop in Hillary’s.

I watch BBC TV News, and they are now trying to prepare people for a surprise. There’s no consistency in poll results, so they have just been showing the range of numbers.

Considering that Hillary’s supporters find Trump despicable, and Trump’s supporters consider Hillary a criminal, whoever wins will have an awfully hard time governing and making Americans feel like one country.

And it’s not just a matter of how the two disparate groups of supporter feel. I don’t remember ever hearing such foul and nasty remarks by presidential nominees about opponents ever before. This does not bode well for the United States of America!

Batya Medad

The Beginning Of Time

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

In the beginning, Hashem created the heavens and the earth.” – Bereishis 1:1


The Sforno explains that “in the beginning” means “at the beginning of time – the very first moment. Before this, there was no time.”

The Sforno seems to be saying that when Hashem created the world, it wasn’t only the physical world that He created but time itself. And so when the Torah says, “in the beginning,” it means at the very first moment in time because before this there was no time.

This Sforno is difficult to understand, as the Midrash tells us that Hashem wrote the Torah many generations before He created the world. And even more significantly, it is self-evident that Hashem existed before He created the world. So how can the Sforno say that at the very first moment of time, Hashem created the world when clearly some things existed before this time?

In order to answer this question, a mashol will be helpful.

Imagine that before Creation, two angels were having a conversation:

“I heard that Hashem is going to create an entire physical world,” one angel says to his friend.

“Really? What will exist in this physical world?”

“Oh, there will be birds and flowers, trees and oceans, and animals, some small and some large. There will even be a huge behemoth called an elephant.”

“Fascinating. Tell me; how heavy is this thing you call an ‘elephant’?”

This question (as well as the conversation) never took place because before Hashem created the physical world, there was no concept of weight. Weight is a measure that is relevant to a physical world. Before Hashem created physicality, there was nothing to measure, so the system of measuring weight by ounces and pounds didn’t exist.

So, too, before the act of Creation if you were to have asked how tall the giraffes would be, there wouldn’t be an answer because inches and feet are measures that are relative to a physical existence. Before there was physicality, there was nothing to measure, so there was no system to measure height. Even something as ethereal as light can only be measured in a physical world. Before creation there was no light, so a system of measuring luminosity didn’t exist.

The First Moment of Time

This seems to be the answer to the Sforno. In the physical world time is relevant. Everything physical has a beginning and an end. You can measure its age and life expectancy, and then compute its half-life. But that is because the physical world is temporary and everything in it has a set amount of time to exist. Since that existence is limited in span, it is measurable. The spiritual world doesn’t function that way. Things in the spiritual world are. Once they begin, they remain. However, change isn’t part of that reality, and so any measurement system dependent upon change isn’t relevant.

This seems to be what the Sforno means when he says, “In the beginning, at the first moment of time.” Before Creation, there was no time because time is a measure of a physical existence. In a spiritual world, there is no such concept as time because nothing is affected by time. It was only when Hashem created the heavens and the earth that anything physical came into being, so it was only then that there could be a system to measure time. At that moment, time itself came into being.

This concept is helpful to us in relating to one of most of the most illuminating facts in our existence: that I will live forever. My body will die, and I the part that thinks, feels, and remembers will live on long after it. Reb Yisroel Salanter compares death to taking off a coat. When I take off my coat, I emerge. Not some splintered version of me, but me minus an outer garment. So too, after my body dies, I live on.

We tend to get confused and think of ourselves as physical beings with a spiritual component, as if I am 85 percent physical with a soul hidden deep down inside there somewhere. That is patently false. We are spiritual beings temporarily in a physical experience. I, the one who is housed inside this body, am completely and utterly spiritual. For a short while I am connected to this outer shell, but in due time my body will die and it will be buried in the ground. I, the one who tells my arms and legs to move, will emerge and live on forever. Who I am and what I shape myself into therefore has great relevance because that is what I will be for eternity.

I Can Change

With this understanding comes a vital revelation: as long as I am alive, I can change. Spiritual entities are. As they were created, they remain static, frozen forever. As great as an angel may be, he remains on whatever level he began. Change practically doesn’t exist in the spiritual world.

One of the most critical understandings of life is that as long as I am in this world, I can change, grow, and make myself into a vastly different person than I was a day ago or a year ago. But once I leave this earth, everything stops. I am what I shaped myself into, and that is where I remain. I will live forever, but I get only one shot at eternity. What I make myself into now is what I will be forever.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Sobriety in Our Time: Iraqi Parliament Bans Alcohol

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Iraq’s parliament on Saturday voted to ban the sale, import and production of alcohol, AFP reported. The new law cements Iraq’s national religion as being Islam, at the expense of all the other religions in that country. The Iraq constitution already forbids legislation that contradicts Islam.

The law was passed as Iraq’s biggest military operation has been on its way, to defeat the ISIS in the city of Mosul, near the Syrian border.

Christian MP Yonadam Kanna told AFP on Saturday that “every violation of this law incurs a fine of 10 million to 25 million dinars ($8,000 to $20,000).” He said he plans to appeal the law in Iraq’s federal court.

Iraq has a homegrown industry satisfying the local market’s need for beer and Arak.

David Israel

Al Jazeera (Qatar) Evicts Jews and Judaism from Jerusalem; Time to Return the Favor

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through}

In October 2016, UNESCO condemned Israel regarding its activities on the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem and excluded all references to Judaism’s ties to the site.  The resolution was put forward by a number of Muslim states, including: Algeria; Egypt; Lebanon; Morocco; Oman; Qatar; and Sudan.

The Qatari-run news outlet, Al Jazeera (AJ), continued to proudly distort history in its coverage of the story. Consider its following statements:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third-holiest site in Islam. It is located in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following its invasion in 1967 – in a move never recognised by the international community – as part of its subsequent military occupation of the West Bank.

Jewish settlers and Zionist organisations have called for complete Jewish control over the mosque compound.

Jewish groups refer to the site as the “Temple Mount” and their increased incursions into the mosque compound have continuously led to Palestinian protests across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military and armed settler incursions have resulted in Palestinian deaths and injuries in recent years in particular. Muslim access to the religious site has also been tremendously limited by the army.”

The AJ media outlet published this on its own. It was not quoting Hamas (which the Qatari government supports).  For a sense of reality, here is a sample redlined report from a balanced perspective:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque sits on the Temple Mount, which was built by the Jewish King Herod 2,000 years ago. The mosquecompound is the third-holiest site in Islam and the Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism. It is located in the eastern half ofEast Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following its defensive war against an attack initiated by Jordaninvasion in 1967 – neither Jordan’s annexation of Jerusalem, nor Israel’s subsequent annexation were in a move never recognised by the international community – as part of Israel’sits subsequent administrative control military occupation of the West Bank. According to the Oslo II accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, and the Peace Agreement between Israel and Jordan signed in 1994, Israel handles all security matters on the Temple Mount/ A-Aqsa compound.

Non-Muslims have regular visiting hours on the Temple Mount, and some Jewish settlers and Zionist organisations have called for non-Jews to be able to pray at the site as they had done before Suleiman banned the practice roughly 500 years agocomplete Jewish control over the mosque compound.Those calls resulted in Palestinians organizing themselves against Jewish visitors.

In September 2015, Israel banned the “Mourabitoun,” the group of Muslim civilian guards who were regularly harassing Jewish visitors to the holy site.  That action further excited Muslims who feared that Israel sought to change the status quo, and sparked numerous Jewish groups refer to the site as the “Temple Mount” and their increased incursions into the mosque compound have continuously led to Palestinian protests across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian Arabs armed settler incursions have resulted in hundreds ofPalestinian deaths and injuries in recent years in particular. Due to the increased fighting and tensions, both Jewish and Muslim access to the religious site has also become morebeen tremendously limited, including an Israeli ban of all members of the Knesset by the army.”

As seen above, Al Jazeera is part-and-parcel of the problem of incitement in the conflict. Qatar continues to be an active supporter of violence in the region.

It is well past time to boycott Al Jazeera and its social media site AJ+.  Further, Americans should demand that the United States remove its central military command in the Middle East out of Qatar (perhaps it can help stabilize Iraq by relocating it there).

Distorting history is just part of the problem.  Incitement must have consequences.


Stopping the Purveyors of Hateful Propaganda

The Parameters of Palestinian Dignity

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

The Cancer in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Arguments over Jerusalem

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Paul Gherkin

Sukkot For Our Time

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Editor’s Note: Sukkot is known in Jewish tradition as a time of rejoicing, but its customs and prayers are often mysterious to many of us today. The new Koren Sukkot Mahzor, with powerful commentary and explanatory notes by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, unveils much of the intrigue behind the concepts, minhagim, tefillot, and Torah readings relevant to the weeklong festival. The following is an exclusive excerpt from Rabbi Sacks’s beautiful introduction.


Of all the festivals, Sukkot is surely the one that speaks most powerfully to our time. King Solomon’s Kohelet, which we read on Sukkot, could almost have been written in the twenty first century. Here is the ultimate success, the man who has it all, and yet who, surveying the totality of his life, can only say, in effect, “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”

Kohelet’s failure to find meaning is directly related to an obsession with the “I” and the “Me”: “I built for myself. I gathered for myself. I acquired for myself.” The more he pursues his desires, the emptier his life becomes. There is no more powerful critique of the consumer society, whose idol is the self, whose icon is the “selfie” and whose moral code is “Whatever works for you.”

This is the society that achieved unprecedented affluence, giving people more choices than they have ever known, and yet at same time saw an unprecedented rise in alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, stress related syndromes, depression, attempted suicide, and actual suicide.

Of all things people have chosen to worship, the self is the least fulfilling. A culture of narcissism quickly gives way to loneliness and despair.

Kohelet was also, of course, a cosmopolitan: a man at home everywhere and therefore nowhere. This is the man who had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines but in the end could only say, “More bitter than death is the woman.” It should be clear to anyone who reads this in the context of the life of Solomon that Kohelet is not really talking about women but about himself.

In the end Kohelet finds meaning in simple things. Sweet is the sleep of a laboring man. Enjoy life with the woman you love. Eat, drink, and enjoy the sun. That ultimately is the meaning of Sukkot as a whole. It is a festival of simple things. It is, Jewishly, the time we come closer to nature than any other, sitting in a hut with only leaves for a roof, and taking in our hands the unprocessed fruits and foliage of the palm branch, the citron, twigs of myrtle, and leaves of willow. It is a time when we briefly liberate ourselves from the sophisticated pleasures of the city and the processed artifacts of a technological age, and recapture some of the innocence we had when we were young, when the world still had the radiance of wonder.

The power of Sukkot is that it takes us back to the most elemental roots of our being. You don’t need to live in a palace to be surrounded by clouds of glory. You don’t need to be rich to buy yourself the same leaves and fruit that a billionaire uses in worshipping God. Living in the sukkah and inviting guests to your meal, you discover – such is the premise of Ushpizin, the mystical guests – that the people who have come to visit you are none other than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their wives.

Sukkot is the time we ask the most profound question of what makes a life worth living. Having prayed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to be written in the Book of Life, Kohelet forces us to remember how brief life actually is, and how vulnerable. “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” What matters is not how long we live, but how intensely we feel that life is a gift we repay by giving to others. Joy, the overwhelming theme of the festival, is what we feel when we know it is a privilege simply to be alive, inhaling the intoxicating beauty of this moment amid the profusion of nature, the teeming diversity of life, and the sense of communion with those many others with whom we share a history and a hope.

Most majestically of all, Sukkot is the festival of insecurity. It is the candid acknowledgment that there is no life without risk, yet we can face the future without fear when we know we are not alone. God is with us, in the rain that brings blessings to the earth, in the love that brought the universe and us into being, and in the resilience of spirit that allowed a small and vulnerable people to outlive the greatest empires the world has ever known.

The sukkah became in the course of time a symbol, not only of forty years in the wilderness, but of centuries of exile and dispersion. Too often, home turned out to be no more than a temporary dwelling, a sukkah.

Yet with its genius for the unexpected and its ability to rescue hope from tragedy, Judaism declared this festival of insecurity to be zeman simchateinu, the season of our rejoicing. For the sukkah, that quintessential symbol of vulnerability, turns out to be the embodiment of faith, the faith of a people who forty centuries ago set out on a risk-laden journey across a wilderness of space and time, with no more protection that the sheltering presence of the Shechinah.

Toward the end of his great History of the Jews, Paul Johnson wrote:

The Jews were not just innovators. They were also exemplars and epitomizers of the human condition. They seemed to present all the inescapable dilemmas of man in a heightened and clarified form…. The Jews were the emblem of homeless and vulnerable humanity. But is not the whole earth no more than a temporary transit camp?

Those words go to the heart of Sukkot. To know that life is full of risk and yet to affirm it, to sense the full insecurity of the human situation and yet to rejoice: this, for me, is the essence of faith. Judaism is no comforting illusion that all is well in this dark world. It is instead the courage to celebrate in the midst of uncertainty, and to rejoice even in the transitory shelter of the tabernacle, the Jewish symbol of home.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Q & A: Elul – A Time To Repent (Conclusion)

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Question: Where does the name Elul come from? Also, how can Elul be both the last month of the year and the prequel to the holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) that occur in the following month, Tishrei, the first month of the new year? Finally, can you please discuss the religious practices of Elul?

M. Goldman
Miami Beach, FL


Answer: The month of Elul as a special period of repentance is marked by the recitation of special supplication prayers, Selichot (lit. the plural of “forgiveness”). To better understand these prayers, we quote Rabbi Nosson Scherman, general editor of Mesorah Publications, in his insightful introduction to the ArtScroll Selichot:

“Within the Siddur and synagogue service, the mood of repentance is expressed in the selichos, prayers of supplication. They are of ancient origin; some of them are even mentioned in the Mishnah (Taanis ch. 2) where special prayers for rain are discussed, but almost all of them were composed between the eighth and sixteenth centuries. The composers of these selichos include some of the outstanding figures of ancient times, among them Geonim (7th-10th century Torah authorities) and Rishonim (11th-15th century authorities). Consequently, it should be clear that their compositions are not merely inspired poetry.

“The central theme of all selichos, as well as of the Yom Kippur Maariv and Neilah services, is the Shelosh Esreh Middot Harachamim, the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. This passage appears in the Torah (Exodus 34:6-7) at the time when G-d proclaimed His readiness to do away with the Jewish people after the sin of the Golden Calf. According to R. Yochanan’s interpretation (Rosh Hashanah 17b), Moses felt that Israel’s sin was so grievous that there was no possibility of his intercession on their behalf. Thereupon, G-d appeared to him in the form of a chazzan wrapped in a tallis and taught him the Thirteen Attributes, saying, ‘Whenever Israel sins, let them recite this in its proper order and I will forgive them.’ Thus, this appeal to G-d’s mercy reassures us both that repentance is always possible and that G-d always awaits our return to Him. The implication is also plain that if we emulate G-d’s merciful ways, He will treat us mercifully in return.

“When it appears in the Selichos service, the Thirteen Attributes is introduced by one of two prayers: The first time during each Selichos service, it is introduced by ‘Kel Erech Appayim – O G-d, [You are] slow to anger…’ All other times, the introduction is ‘Kel Melech Yoshev – O G-d, King who sits …’ After the Thirteen Attributes there is always a direct prayer for forgiveness, following the example of Moses, who, after being taught the Thirteen Attributes, pleaded that G-d forgive Israel (Exodus 34:8-9).

“It is illustrative to see what that repentance brought. Prior to the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses had received the Tablets of the Law from Sinai. When he saw the painful spectacle of the nation of G-d prancing around a false god, he smashed the Tablets – something he had to do because the people no longer deserved them. Then came a long period of prayer, highlighted by the vision of G-d showing Moses how to pray and what to say, and the promise that if Israel would perform this prayer – by making themselves agents of mercy to others – then they could rely on His help in the worst situations. The result was that Moses came back from Mount Sinai on Yom Kippur with the Second Tablets.

“This was a lesson for all time. Jews can lose the Torah and get it back. They can lose G-d’s mercy and win it back. G-d loves us and wants us so much that He shows us how to pray and promises that His ear is always cocked, as it were, waiting for us to call Him, to repent, to evoke His mercy, and to come back to where we were before we fell.”

As to when we commence saying Selichot, we find the following in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 581:1): “It is our custom to arise at the ashmoret (the [last] night watch, while it is still dark) to say Selichot and Tachanunim from Rosh Chodesh Elul and onward until Yom Kippur.”

This view of the Mechaber (Rabbi Yosef Caro), as we shall soon see, reflects the custom of the Sephardic and Oriental communities.

The Rema in his glosses (ad loc.) notes, “And the custom of the Ashkenazi communities [most of European Jewry] is different … to rise at the ashmoret starting on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah – if Rosh Hashanah does not fall on Monday or Tuesday, for in that instance they start on the Sunday a full week earlier.”

The source of this dispute can be found in the Tur (Orach Chayim 581). Ritz Ge’ut (see Bach, ad loc.) is of the view that we should commence saying Selichot from Rosh Chodesh Elul, while R. Hai Gaon is of the opinion that we should start saying them on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah and continue through Aseret Yemei Teshuvah.

Consistent with the first view, we read in Sefer HaManhig (25): “There are places in Sepharad [Spain and Mediterranean and Oriental areas] that start saying Selichot from Rosh Chodesh Elul. And I have a support for their custom, since Moses went up on high [Mt. Sinai] on Rosh Chodesh Elul to receive the second Luchot and he came down with them on Yom Kippur.”

Therefore, the custom spread among Spanish and Oriental communities to rise at the ashmoret during the entire month of Elul as well as during the Ten Days of Repentance. So states the Mechaber.

However, we find in Machzor Vitri, a reliable and early source (p. 345), that we say Selichot the week before Rosh Hashana. This is the view of Rema.

A basis for the Rema’s view is the Ran (Rosh Hashana 16a), who explains that according to the view of R. Eliezer (Rosh Hashana 11a), the world was created in Tishrei, and man on Friday. This view maintains that creation really started on the 25th of Elul. From that day there were an intervening four days before the creation of man (“techilat ma’aseicha”) on the 1st of Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah is therefore the Day of Judgment of man.

Thus, it is proper to commence Selichot a minimum of four days before Rosh Hashanah, according to the view of Rema.

It is interesting to note the Ran’s statement that in Barcelona the custom is to say Selichot from the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah. Since Barcelona is in Spain, we can conclude that in some places in Spain and other Sephardic lands, the custom wasn’t to start saying Selichot on Rosh Chodesh Elul.

Let us hope that because of our recitation of Selichot and blowing the shofar, along with heartfelt repentance, the Heavenly Creator will hasten to answer our prayers for a happy and healthy New Year, one that is marked by our speedy redemption.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Yes We Have Sweet, Edible, Seedless Pomegranates, Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Yirmiyahu Zamiri, 69, owner of Zamiri Nurseries in Yesud HaMa’ala (est. 1882 in the Hula valley, north of the Kinneret) has been laboring for eight years on developing his proprietary (there’s a patent) seedless pomegranate, Makor Rishon reported Friday. The new species of pomegranate, dubbed “Wine,” features soft edible seeds, and a much sweeter red fruit, called an aril, around the seed.

Wine, or “Yayin” as it is called in Hebrew, is an acronym for the names of Zamiri’s grandchildren.

According to Chabad.org, the common practice of eating a pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah has to do with its abundant seeds, 613 on average, which symbolize our hope that we will stand before the Almighty with as many abundant merits. However, according to the Ben Ish Chai, on Rosh Hashanah one should eat only a sweet pomegranate, because we want our new year to be sweet.

At which point our friends at Chabad.org note, “Of course, the pomegranates we have today generally have a bitter, pungent taste. It appears that in Baghdad, where the Ben Ish Chai lived (1833-1909), they had sweet pomegranates. So the website suggests that “in light of the custom to refrain from bitter foods on Rosh Hashanah, it would seem proper to dip the pomegranate in sugar to at least diminish its pungency.”

No need to do that any more. Because Zamiri and his sons have invented the Wine pomegranate which is fire-engine red and sweet beyond belief. Israeli consumers will be seeing the first commercial yield on the store shelves this coming week, just in time for Rosh Hashanah. They’re sold to the stores at about 50 cents a pound, but by the time the consumer sees it the sweet fruit’s price might quadruple.

Israel exports upwards of 25 thousand tons on pomegranates a year, and on the week before Rosh Hashanah Israelis consume about 10 thousand tons, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Despite limited research data, marketers of pomegranate juice have “liberally” used results from preliminary research to promote their products, until, in February 2010, the FDA issued a warning letter to POM Wonderful, for using published literature to make illegal claims of “unproven anti-disease benefits.”


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/yes-we-have-sweet-edible-pomegranates-just-in-time-for-rosh-hashanah/2016/09/24/

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