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December 5, 2016 / 5 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘true’

The True Measure of a Man

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

A span, a palm, a hand, an ohm, a knot, a stadion. How beautiful the language of measurement is and we’re not even talking iambs yet.

We probably couldn’t fit the 6,000 animals that live in the Bronx Zoo into the Intrepid, let alone into Noah’s ark that measured three hundred, by fifty, by thirty, cubits. It is as if the Torah goes out of its way to tell us that although Noah spent so many years building his massive ark, ultimately, he needed some Divine pixie dust for it to serve its purpose. The animals would gather. The lions, tigers, and bears would behave. They would all fit inside. The food would last. The roof wouldn’t leak.

The true measure of Noah was that he did not stop to ask, “Why don’t You just make the whole thing?” He worked all those years knowing that God would partner with him and make Noah’s ark far greater than his efforts; his structure, of small physical measure, would expand into a self-contained, fully functioning world.

God doesn’t need a slave to order and say: Build an ark! He could have made it in a second.  God desires a partner.  It is up to us to rise to that role. Noah’s greatness can be measured by the fact that he figured it out. He “walked with God”. Learning that we can accomplish a partnership with God is probably the biggest legacy he left, an immeasurable bequest.

Noah’s accomplishment was the stepping stone to Abraham, who takes humanity to the next stage; walking before God. This was the original intention of creation: To walk, on our own, for our own benefit.  But thank you Noah, as without knowing that we can be partners, there is little hope for us that we can be creators as well!

Thus is the true measure of every human being; his or her ability to construct a life with awareness and willingness for God to imbue the effort with His Infinite power. We are measured by our determination to build something much greater than the sum of all the effort; an eternal partnership, an eternal life.

Wishing you a 25 hour, 1,500 minute, 90,00 second, Shabbat that will become eternal and immeasurable.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

Will Detroit’s Historic Holocaust Museum Stay True To Its Mission?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Of the many local and regional Holocaust memorials and museums scattered across America, one stands out among the best: The Holocaust Memorial Center in suburban Detroit.

For me, the legacy and future of the institution is personal.

Correctly billed as America’s “first Holocaust museum,” the Detroit enterprise was conceived fourteen years before the dominant United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. was even commissioned by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The Detroit museum opened its original doors at its first location in suburban West Bloomfield, Michigan in 1984. The Washington museum opened its doors in 1993.

Although there are currently scores of Holocaust museums and memorials throughout America, the museum in suburban Detroit, when it debuted, was nothing short of historic. It stood as the first freestanding museum in the country devoted to the subject.

This extraordinary project was the dream of Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig, a Polish Holocaust survivor, in tandem with a local congregation of fellow survivors possessing visionary and fiery determination to not only document the heartless brutality of the twelve-year Reich war against the Jews but to understand the underlying socio-economic and political causes powering the Nazi genocides.

Hence, Rabbi Rosenzveig and I always enjoyed a special rapport. We shared the same fire and felt the same burn. In my case, it propelled me to write books on these topics, documenting corporate collusion and ethnic collaboration that made a life-and-death difference to so many.

Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me several times to lecture at the museum on American corporate involvement with the Third Reich and the ethnic factors that facilitated the destruction of six million Jews. This included documenting how IBM co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust with its punch card processes, as well as the involvement of General Motors and Henry Ford.

That the museum allowed me to speak freely on the latter was a courageous act in a city where those two automobile companies were headquartered and maintained powerful influences in the community.

The museum became known for more than just lectures; its extraordinary exhibits delved into the heartless economics that fueled Hitler’s Germany. Rabbi Rosenzveig and I shared an uncanny realization of what was at stake. More than just stimulating memory and sorrow, the challenge was to prod deeper thought about the consequences of corporate connectivity with death machines.

We also shared a common heritage. Rabbi Rosenzveig was from Poland, lost nearly all his family, and told me he was not even sure how old he was. My parents were from Poland. We lost nearly all our relatives, and my parents were likewise unsure of how old they were.

When Rabbi Rosenzveig and I sat together in the museum, the conversation was often just silence and the unspoken certitude that passes noiselessly between two people who understand the agony of a common mission. No need for convincing, but plenty of commiserating. Our job was to inform about the worst and inspire the best for those confronting the Holocaust – the rabbi devoted to his work in Detroit and me speaking around the world on my works and my research.

When the new, larger, dramatically more architectonic museum opened in nearby Farmington Hills, it set the standard for such edifices. Many said the structure resembled a death camp, and drivers passing by complained that its very appearance made them uncomfortable. In 2003 the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Should a Museum Look as Disturbing as What It Portrays?” The article asserted that the center “may be the most provocative Holocaust memorial of them all,” with its stark exterior suggesting electrified wire and the bleak walls at Auschwitz.

Rabbi Rosenzveig was actually fond of the impact his structure made. He did not believe in making an uncomfortable topic more palatable.

We both shared a fear that the Holocaust could happen again. In 2006, years before the Iran nuclear threat leapt onto front pages everywhere, Rabbi Rosenzveig invited me to speak at the museum’s annual gala. That night, I used the term “Second Holocaust” and warned it could be enabled by petrodollars fueling the Iranian nuclear program.

The idea was to enunciate this warning in Detroit, where gas-guzzling vehicles were still being manufactured. I felt it was ever more appropriate given Detroit’s unique status as the one U.S. city most pivotal to buttressing Nazism – thanks to Henry Ford’s gift to Hitler of an “international Jewish conspiracy” that rationalized his quest to expunge Jewish existence across Europe, and GM leaping to its role as “the arsenal of Nazism” with its manufacture of Blitz trucks, JU-88 airplane engines, Panzer tank motor parts, torpedo heads, and land mine components.

The 2006 gala evening competed with a major sporting event, and my comments were cut short due to the abundance of speakers and the truncated schedule. But the rabbi whispered in my ear that the museum wished to have me back to deliver the fuller message about Iran and a potential Second Holocaust.

Two years later, in July 2008, presidential candidate John McCain echoed the same fear I expressed that night. Referring to Iran’s nuclear program, McCain declared, “The United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.”

Rabbi Rosenzveig died later that year. A Congressional resolution lauded him as one who “endured and bore witness to the horrific atrocities of the Holocaust.”

During his tenure he elevated the Detroit museum to one of international stature and helped many scholars. For example, he worked with renowned Paper Walls author David Wyman on a special volume, The World Reacts to the Holocaust, a massive tome published in 1996 by Johns Hopkins Press. Rabbi Rosenzveig was listed as co-author, and Wyman paid tribute to him in the foreword as the man who “originated the concept of the book.” Wyman also saluted the Detroit center for being the first freestanding Holocaust museum in America.

After Rabbi Rosenzveig departed, he was succeeded by the Holocaust scholar Guy Stern, who had also worked on the Wyman book. He is still with the museum and now heads up its Harry and Wanda Zekelman International Institute of the Righteous.

Stern is hardly the only longtime devoted staffer at the museum. The center maintains a valuable library archive under the baton of Feiga Weiss.

In 2012 I returned to Detroit for a museum co-sponsored two-event visit. I updated my 2006 warning about the Iranian nuclear program in a presentation at a nearby synagogue. In the museum auditorium we helped set the stage for a global recognition of the Farhud, the 1941 Arab-Nazi pogrom in Baghdad. This was referred to by some as the long-overlooked Sephardic Kristallnacht.

While the idea was bold and new when explored within the walls of the museum in 2012, it eventually caught traction worldwide. Last year, together with Jewish leaders in a live-streamed global event at the United Nations, we proclaimed International Farhud Day. This year, on the 75th anniversary of the pogrom, special commemorations were held in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.; in New York in a Manhattan synagogue; in a London synagogue attended by diplomats and dignitaries; and in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

With its special place in American Holocaust commemoration and documentation, the Detroit center must be preserved as it was intended to be and as it has been from its first day – a torch of Holocaust enlightenment that flickers the reminder “Never Again.”

Too many Holocaust memorials have lost their original identity and now are devoted to both the Holocaust and genocide in general, or simply to global genocide.

Don’t get me wrong; as one who plumbs the dark recesses of the genocide of many groups throughout history, I know that all those shameful chapters must be thoroughly illuminated to reduce the chance of their repetition. Holocaust research and memorial centers need to bring those chapters within their walls; otherwise, “Never Again” is just a slogan rather than a fateful warning to the world.

But we in the Holocaust community do this best when we conserve Holocaust remembrance and the uniqueness of the Holocaust as an unparalleled and unique twelve-year onslaught perpetrated worldwide in broad daylight with headlines blaring.

Recently it emerged that Detroit’s Holocaust Memorial Center is contemplating changes. The institution is now being directed by Cheryl Guyer, who holds the unusual title of both “interim director” and “director of development.” This means her two hats cover both the soul of the museum and fund-raising – two spheres that aren’t always in sync. (Rabbi Rosenzveig went against conventional economic wisdom when he created the museum.)

Guyer confirmed to me that the museum and its board are undergoing a period of what she called “new strategic thinking and transition.” She refused to elaborate. Asked again, she steadfastly refused to comment, saying, “We are not ready to talk about it.” In the ensuing days, Guyer declined to respond to several e-mail and voice requests for further information.

The museum’s official media spokesman, Glenn Oswald, one of the most affable and responsive publicists in the field, who promoted my earlier events at the museum, was contacted. He too declined all comment and failed to respond to several voice mails and e-mails attempting to gather ordinary background information about the museum. So no one knows just what changes or transitions are in store.

Despite the wall of silence, it has been learned that a new director is being considered to assume the museum’s top leadership slot next year as part of the transition. According to museum sources, a local rabbi with a distinguished record is under consideration. That process is now in full swing. Until a decision is made, the museum continues to remain mum about its plans.

Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust museums, built with community money, belong to the survivors and their succeeding generations. The boards of directors of such museums are mere trustees of the legacy. They don’t own it. They don’t even rent it. They are custodians.

Guyer should therefore check with the community before any “strategic thinking and transition” is announced or implemented, and shine the light of openness upon what is in store. Survivors and their descendants hold the trademark on Holocaust memory. For many, the mark is tattooed on their forearms; for many others, it is permanently written in their hearts.

Edwin Black

True Holiday Thoughts

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

[In Hebrew]

Video of the Day

Gam Zu L’tovah – True Trust In God

Friday, September 9th, 2016

Bitachon is trust in God – a trust that He will make things end up all right. The word bitachon is connected to the Hebrew root of tach (Vayikra 14:42), which means to plaster, to cling, and to cause to cling closely.

Bitachon thus is more than faith and belief that God is able to extricate an individual or a community from a difficult situation.

Belief and faith are called emunah – which is inherent in every Jew’s nature, even though it is not always internalized and part of his or her consciousness.

Emunah in God’s omnipotence does not necessarily comfort or remove anxiety and worry from someone confronted by a threatening situation. Bitachon, though, is a state of mind that can be likened to the firm reliance one has in a good friend or relative, someone to whom we are closely attached and who we know for sure will rally to our aid.

The person who possesses bitachon implicitly trusts that God’s help will be forthcoming if and when he needs it. He will not worry about his predicament but act to the best of his ability to resolve it, confident that God will add His help to pull him through. Such trust generates peace of mind. But how is it possible to have such implicit expectation of God’s help?

There is a well known saying of the great chassidic master Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789–1866) which, translated from the Yiddish, goes as follows: “Think well, and it will be well.”

The implication of this statement is that a positive outlook not only is good for one’s frame of mind, it enhances one’s ability to function more efficiently and the very thought itself can generate a positive power that will improve the situation so that “it will be well.”

How does this work?

Bitachon and the positive outlook and thoughts constitute an avodah, a form of service of God, a rigorous mental exercise. Spiritual stamina has to be mustered in order to combat the bleakness and seeming hopelessness of a given difficult situation. One must work arduously at maintaining the “think positive” process. It often involves shifting from an ingrained negative attitude in which a person may sometimes wallow to a totally different, positive, trusting one. This can be accomplished by constantly habituating oneself to thinking well.

One’s intellect can be trained to learn, understand, and interpret data the same way the hand can be trained in all kinds of precise, coordinated movements. One’s attitude can thus be rehabilitated by a conscious effort to constantly think well – i.e., good and positively. Through the repetition of habit, this will eventually become second nature.

Once the mental attitude or thought process has become a positive one, it then becomes the proper instrument to elicit God’s Goodness so that things become “good” in the real material sense. Why is that? Because this mental service – avodah – serves as an “arousal from below” which has the ability to generate a reciprocal “arousal from above.”

This process is described at length in the Zohar and chassidus. God decreed at the beginning of Creation that for every good action, word, and thought of man, there would be a reciprocal reaction from on High, resulting in many Divine blessings.

As if measure for measure, God says: “If you rely on Me against all odds and beyond all calculations, I too, will relate to you beyond the calculation as to whether you deserve My help or not.”

What about the phenomenon of “bad things happening to good people”? These individuals may have strong bitachon and yet things don’t end up OK. They get sick, or are involved in a bad accident, or are laid off, or a relative dies unexpectedly, etc. As a result, some may lose their bitachon.

In answer, it can be said that in general we do not know the absolute definition of “good” and “bad,” since we view life only within our narrow, finite terms. The true definition is much more encompassing and takes into account the spiritual, otherworldly realms. Hence, what seems to be “bad” to us may ultimately be the greatest good. This is reflected in the statement of Nachum Ish Gam Zu. He used to always say, “gam zu l’tovah – “this also happened for the good.”

Even in the grimmest moments, he ascribed goodness to whatever circumstances confronted him. The Talmud relates wondrous stories about the happy denouement of many of Nachum’s experiences that looked very bleak at the outset. There may have been many situations that did not turn out so well, but he nevertheless would continue to say, in all circumstances, gam zu l’tovah. He did not predicate the goodness of the situation on his human perspective. When he said gam zu l’tovah, he meant it fully and about every event in his life.

He knew – and so should we – that we can only gain by adopting a cheerful, positive, bitachon-filled disposition.

Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic

Soul Talk – Forget About Reward and Punishment: The Path of True Empowerment [audio]

Monday, September 5th, 2016

There are certain basic life concepts that we think we understand, but in reality need to be updated from time to time. The Torah’s concept of Reward and Punishment can be easily misunderstood if we are still thinking about these concepts as we did when a child.

What does it mean that G-d rewards and punishes us? How does our understanding of these concepts effect our understanding of G-d? How does the proper understanding of these concepts have a practical effect on my day to day life?

Join Rabbi David Aaron and Leora Mandel on Soul Talk where you will get a better understanding of the central concept of reward and punishment.

We would love to hear from you. Please send us your thoughts and questions to soultalk@israelnewstalkradio.com

Soul Talk 04Sept2016 – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

The Meaning of True Independence

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

{Originally posted to Col. Richard Kemp’s eponymous website}

“What kind of talk is this, ‘punishing Israel?’ Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we 14-year-olds who, if we misbehave, get our wrists slapped? Let me tell you whom this Cabinet comprises. It is composed of people whose lives were marked by resistance, fighting and suffering.”

These were the words of Prime Minister Menachem Begin delivered to the U.S. President Ronald Reagan in December 1981. Begin, one of the greatest leaders and fighters of our times, knew the meaning of true independence.

He knew that it was not about firecrackers, dancing in the streets or lighting flames. It was about standing up for yourself and submitting to no man. Declaring to the world, “this is where we stand.”

Israel’s independence was bought at a high price in Jewish blood, fighting first against the might of the British Empire and then against five powerful Arab armies which sought its destruction.

For 68 years Israelis have fought again and again to defend their independence against enemies who would subjugate their country. No other nation has struggled so long and so hard, surrounded by such unyielding hostility.

But in making their stand, Israelis have never had to stand alone. From the beginning, Jews from the U.K., the U.S., Europe, Australia, South Africa and around the world rallied to the fight for independence under the glorious banner of the Mahal. Among them were non-Jews, including a Christian soldier from my own regiment.

In the years since, and even today, the courage of their young successors, the “lone soldiers”’ of the diaspora, travelling thousands of miles from the safety of their homes to stand and fight here to preserve Israel’s independence, inspires awe and humility. As Begin said: “This is the land of their forefathers, and they have a right and a duty to support it.”

Israel’s independence has a strength that cannot be known by those who have not had to struggle for their freedom. What is the meaning of this independence?

It means that Israel’s right to exist is not to be sanctioned by the peoples of the Middle East or by the leaders of the Western world. It is to be determined only by the Jewish people who, down the millennia, have fought, suffered and died for that inalienable right.

It means that Israel is not to have its borders imposed by international bodies or by foreign states, no matter how powerful they might be. It means that Israelis are not to be dictated to about where they can and cannot settle in their land. It means that Israel is not to be told how it may or may not defend the lives of its people under the sovereign independence of the law. It means that Israel is not to be lectured or scolded about human rights by those that have no glimmer of understanding of what human rights truly are.

The civilized world has an obligation to respect this independence just as it respects the independence of other free, democratic nations.

Israel has shown mankind how a besieged nation — against all odds — can survive and flourish, decide its own destiny and unwaveringly retain its honour, its decency, its dignity, its integrity and its compassion. It was not for nothing that British Premier Winston Churchill described the Jewish people as “beyond any question, the most formidable and most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”

Today not just Israel but the whole of civilization should celebrate the independence of the nation that continues to shine a beacon light onto that world.

 

Colonel Richard Kemp

The Devil is Precise: ‘Breaking the Silence’s’ True Nature

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

This week, an anti-Semitic claim was made on an international stage. It was reminiscent of a play from many years ago, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which was about the Salem witch trials. In the play, one individual tells a lie, blaming innocent people for a crime that never happened.

The latest lie took place on a world stage, rather than in a show yet accused Jews of poisoning wells.  Of course, there were those who believed Jews were baking Passover matzah with the blood of Christian children.  Need a scapegoat because a child went missing? It must have been those Jews. Never mind that it is forbidden by Jewish law to eat blood, let alone that of a human; blood libels were never meant to be rational.

Blood libels have been around for a long time and eventually morphed into water libels. When the Black Death hit Europe in the 14th century, the Jews were blamed. The rationale was that the Jews were affected less, thus they must have been poisoning wells and collecting water elsewhere. 510 Jewish communities were massacred between 1348 and 1350. On February 14, 1349, 900 Jews were burned alive in Strasbourg as a preventive measure; the plague had not even arrived there yet. Yet, the main cause of the Black Death’s sweep of Europe was most likely poor hygiene, assisted by fleas and rats.

Just last week, in front of the European Parliament, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, claimed that Israeli rabbis had instructed Jewish residents to poison Palestinian water supplies.

How did this centuries old anti-Semitic claim emerge now from Abbas at a very public forum? That would be the work of the “human rights organization” Breaking the Silence (BTS), a grantee of the extremist American Jewish organization, the New Israel Fund (NIF).

BTS is best known for spreading false allegations of misdoings within the Israel Defense Forces. It appears that they have moved on to spreading blood libels against Jews.

On June 14, 2016, Yehuda Shaul, a co-founder of BTS, was allegedly filmed telling a group of tourists that Israeli settlers had poisoned the water system of a Palestinian village a few years ago, causing its residents to be displaced. In the business of anti-Semitism, that was all that was needed for the story to spread quickly.

On June 16, the PLO expanded the rumor, claiming that a Rabbi Shlomo Melamed, chairman of the Council of Settlement Rabbis, had given permission to settlers to poison the wells in Palestinian neighborhoods across the West Bank.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) followed on June 20, claiming on television that the Council of Settlement Rabbis was trying to either scare away or kill Palestinians by poisoning their drinking water.  The Arab League condemned the supposed act – and then of course, Abbas took to the international stage with it. What all of these alleged human rights agents forgot to mention is that Rabbi Shlomo Melamed and the Council of Settlement Rabbis do not exist.

Just a few days later,  the New Israel Fund sent out a plea urging donors to support BTS because they are being attacked by the Israeli government and were barred from receiving an award from Ben Gurion University. As John Proctor asks in The Crucible “Is the accuser always holy now?” Breaking The Silence does not deserve awards, let alone any funding.

The New Israel Fund and American Jews – people such as Julianne Heyman, Alisa Doctoroff, and Yaffa and Paul Maritz – provide funding for these heinous organizations. And it must end.

Ronn Torossian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-devil-is-precise-breaking-the-silences-true-nature/2016/07/03/

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