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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Yom Kippur’

Acharei Mot: The (Surprising) Point of Yom Kippur

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

We call Yom Kippur one of the Days of Awe – but what does awe have to do with forgiveness for our sins?

In this week’s parsha video, Rabbi Fohrman challenges the way we think about Yom Kippur and teaches us that we merge with God, and through that connection, we are purified on Yom Kippur.

Visit AlphaBeta.  /  Rabbi David Fohrman

A Hairbreadth Can Be The Whole Difference

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

In this week’s portion, the Torah tells us that Aharon the high priest cast lots upon two goats, “one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for Azazel” (Leviticus 16:8).

Rashi explains the procedure as follows: “One goat he [Aharon] placed on his right hand, the other on his left. He then put both hands in the urn, took one lot in each hand and placed it upon the corresponding goat. One of the lots was inscribed ‘for the Lord’ and the other ‘for Azazel.’ ” Ibn Ezra explains that Azazel was a height from which the goat was hurled.

Sforno argues that the goat inscribed “for the Lord” was sacrificed as an offering to atone for sins committed in connection with the Sanctuary. The goat sent away was meant to expiate the sins of the community (Sforno, Leviticus 16:5).

Other explanations come to mind. It can be suggested that the lots teach us that there are aspects of life that are based purely on mazal. This doesn’t mean that we do not have the power to precipitate change. What it does teach, however, is that in life we all face a certain fate over which we have no control. The Talmud says it this way: “Life, children and sustenance are not dependent on merit but on mazal” (Moed Kattan 28a).

No wonder we read about the lots on Yom Kippur, the day in which we recognize that there are elements of life that are only in the hands of God.

The Talmud also notes that the goats were similar in appearance, height, size and value (Yoma 62 a,b). Yet a slight shift of Aharon’s hand brought about different destinies for the goats – one to the Lord, the other to Azazel.

It’s been noted that life is a game of inches. This is even true in the world of sports. For example, a hard-hit ground ball to shortstop could result in a double play. Had the ball gone an inch to the left or right, the winning run could have been driven in. So too in worldly affairs. It is often the case that an infinitesimal amount can be the difference between life and death, between belief and heresy, between doing the right and wrong thing.

This may be the deepest message of the lots. The slightest movement could make the difference between heaven and earth, between being sent to the Lord and being cast to Azazel.

Mike Huckabee: How Can a Democrat Support Obama as ‘Pro-Israel?’

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Fox News talk show host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is already looking ahead to 2016 when he thinks American Jews who care about Israel will support him if he makes another stab at becoming the Republican party presidential candidate.

“I’m looking at it very seriously” he told JNS.org when asked about 2016, adding that he is having exploratory meetings to determine “whether people who I trust, and people whose views I have confidence in, believe that there is a pathway forward for me through the primary.”

Presidential candidates always have their eyes beamed on the “Jewish vote,” which includes “Jewish money.” One lesson from the 2012 election was that money cannot buy an election. Just ask Sheldon Adelson who GOP fundraisers said was $150 million poorer, in a virtual way, after President Barack Obama handily won re-election.

Most of the dough went to super PACs. Adelson also spent a few million dollars to prop up Newt Gingrich’s efforts to go head-to-head against Obama, but the money could have been better spent on supporting a yeshiva or some soup kitchens in Israel.

But Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, must view the American Jewish vote as something spiritual with roots in the Holy Land and an ear in the Heavens.

“Israel could have no greater supporter than Mike Huckabee, and as far as any concerns we have about the safety and security of the state of Israel, we couldn’t ask for better than Mike Huckabee,” Fred Zeidman, a Houston businessman and major donor to Republican presidential campaigns, told JNS.

President Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008 and “only” 69” percent in 2012. Republican pounced on the drop as indicative of a trend of Jews fed up with the President’s attitude towards Israel in general and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in particular.

“I would certainly hope” that the downtrend in Jewish support for Obama will continue in the next election, no matter who the Democrats nominate, Huckabee said.

He understands that Jews traditionally vote Democrat because of a liberal socio-economic orientation.

But if Israel is a factor, why would anyone committed to the safety and security of the future of Israel “be supportive of the policies of Barack Obama, which you can call the most frighteningly non-supportive [U.S.] policies on the state of Israel since its inception,” he asked.

“I can’t imagine that somebody could look at those policies and say, ‘Boy, [Obama has] really got the Israelis’ back’—because he doesn’t,” Huckabee added. “If that’s a priority, and that becomes a defining factor in how people vote, then it’s inconceivable to me that they could give their support to someone who supports the current administration’s policies toward Israel.”

The key to Huckabee’s mistake is that for most American Jews, Israel is not a factor.

Huckabee does not understand that the majority of American Jews supports their own concept of Israel, not Huckabee’s, and not mine and probably not yours.

This theme has been hammered over and over again in books on Americans and Zionism, but it bears repeating: The existence of Israel makes most American Jews feel good to be Americans, especially when Israel is considered something like a 51st state with kosher food and lots of synagogues open for Yom Kippur. Most American Jews have a good conscience so long as Israel exists, and they don’t care where the borders are so long as no one, God forbid, criticizes Israel.

“Oy, the United Nations says Israel is illegally letting Jews live in Judea and Samaria? The put them back in Tel Aviv where they belong

“Oy, The New York Times condemns Israel for maintain the Western Wall as an orthodox religious site? How Un-American! Let the Women of the Wall make the rules.”

And don’t forget to wave the Israeli flag on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, during the seventh inning stretch.

Huckabee forgets one important point. Sorry man, but most American Jews are not orthodox. Most American newlyweds do not even marry other Jews, unless the term “Jew” is widened to include anyone who decides for himself, ”Yeah, I think I will be Jewish.”

Regarding those who consider Israel a factor, Huckabee certainly has the backing of American Jews, most of them Orthodox, who know that the “peace process” is a bunch of baloney, but dangerously poisonous, and that Judea and Samaria is just as much a part of Israel as is Tel Aviv.

He forgets that most of the remaining real Jews – those who are Jewish according to Jewish law –  are “armchair Zionists.” They buy Israel Bonds on Yom Kippur, pushing down a tab with enough zeros after the “1” so that their name can be announced from the pulpit.

Wild Bushfires Drive Some Australian Jews from Their Homes

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Wild bushfires ravaging Australia forced members of the Jewish community to evacuate their homes, some of which already have been destroyed by flames since the fires broke out Wednesday a week ago due to explosives used in army exercises.

David Lake, a traditional Sephardi Jew lost his home in the blaze at the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and was able to flee with almost no possession except a Kiddush cup and a mezuzah.

“All my possessions were incinerated,” Lake said. “It’s difficult and emotionally traumatizing.

“The Kiddush cup was completely blackened but I managed to restore it – it’s still useable,” he added. He said the mezuzah on the archway in front of his door was “still intact,” but others lying in the ashes were totally destroyed.

Lake has been living since Tuesday at a Chabad house in Sydney, which has 40 rooms available, along with a handful of other Jewish evacuees.

Other Jewish groups rallied to help the victims this week.

Our Big Kitchen, a Chabad-run community kitchen in Bondi, staged a cook-a-thon on Tuesday, preparing more than 1,000 meals for distribution to victims and firefighters.

“We pray that God Almighty has mercy and brings a swift end to this terrible catastrophe, comforts the bereaved and heals the wounded,” said Pinchus Feldman, the chief rabbi of Chabad in Sydney.

The Jewish House, a crisis center, is offering psychological help, as well as shelter for those with pets.

“We’re in touch with 25 families,” said the center’s CEO, Rabbi Mendel Kastel. “Most are all packed up and ready to run if they need to.”

Jewish Aid Australia launched an appeal this week. “Like all Australians, the Jewish community is deeply concerned by the devastation left in the fires’ wake,” said Jewish Aid Australia CEO Gary Samowitz.

Bush fires are akin to Australia’s frontline war. In 2009, bushfires killed more than 170 people and destroyed 150 homes in Victoria, the worst blaze in Australian history.

Two people have been killed, the latest being a pilot whose water bomber plane crashed in rugged country on the southern coast of Australia. The crash sparked another fire, one of more than 50 are burning across the state of New South Wales.

More than 200 homes have been destroyed, and one man died from a heart attack while trying to save his home.

Israeli Clock Change to Cut Time Difference with US – for One Week

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Israel goes back to Standard time, known as “winter” time, at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, leaving only a six-hour and nine-hour difference from the East and West coasts of the United States respectively.

The usual seven and 10-hour gap will return the following weekend, when the United States also turns back its clocks.

This is the first year that Israel in ending Daylight time, known as Summer time, in tandem with European countries, after a tradition of making the fall switch the Thursday night before Yom Kippur.

Many rabbis claimed that if the fast day were to extend into the early evening hours when there is daylight, less people would fast. Somehow, Israelis this past Yom Kippur managed to start and end the fast an hour later than usual, just like almost everyone else in Europe and the United States.

The more significant impact in extending summer time for the religious community has been on the start of morning prayers, when the relatively late daybreak has forced many synagogues to postpone the start of prayers because the earliest time permitted for putting on tefillin is later than it was at the same time of year during “winter” time.

Not Enough Joy and Meaning

Monday, October 7th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otherwise, for most American Jews, why bother?

Egyptian Media Celebrating 1973 ‘Victory’ over ‘the Jews’

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Today is the 40th anniversary of Egypt’s surprise attack on Yom Kippur, 1973, and Egypt is celebrating.

But if you look at Egyptian media in Arabic, very often it says that this “victory” was over “the Jews” – not over Israel, or over Zionists.

While many of the articles only talk about the “glorious victory,” without naming over whom, when the enemy is named, more often than not, they are called “the Jews.”

This interview with an Egyptian general in El Balad  is peppered with referencs to “the Jews.”

Vetogate, while discussing Muslim Brotherhood threats against the celebrations, notes that  it is a happy day because “this is a black day in the history of the Jews.”

This interview with Sadat’s sister at Al Mogaz mostly refers merely to “the enemy” but has a reference to the victory over “the Jews.” Nothing about Zionists or Israel.

Al Masry al Youm incidentally talks bout the “victory over the Jews.”

By the way, here is how Time magazine reported the end of the war that the Egyptians are wildly celebrating:

From a purely military viewpoint it was already clear that the Israelis had come breathtakingly close to a victory that would have matched their swift triumph in the Six-Day War. Despite the important advantages possessed this time by the refurbished Arab armies—the element of surprise, the early losses they inflicted, their easy penetration of the Bar-Lev Line along the east bank of the Suez Canal and Israeli bastions in the Golan Heights—the Israelis managed in scarcely more than two weeks to reverse the tide of battle and push the battlefronts into Syria and Egypt. At week’s end the Israelis claimed that they had captured most of the city of Suez; their armies had fought to within 30 miles of Damascus and about 45 miles of Cairo.

Although the details were still obscured by censorship, the bridgehead made by an Israeli armored force across the southern sector of the canal may rank as the most brilliant military feat in the country’s short but tempestuous history. In the end, Egypt may well have agreed to a ceasefire because it realized that to continue fighting would lead to another disaster.

Enlarging their bridgehead on the west bank of the Suez Canal (TIME, Oct. 29), Israeli forces last week proceeded to neutralize, both militarily and politically, the dug-in Egyptian forces on the east bank. With at least 20,000 men and 500 tanks at their disposal on the southern portion of the west bank, the Israelis cut the vital highway between Suez and Cairo, encircled and later captured most of the city of Suez and pushed on to the port of Adabiya. In the process, they trapped the Egyptian Third Army, which was still in position on the east bank of the canal.

The Egyptian public hardly realized what had happened. At the week’s beginning, a mood of euphoria still persisted in Cairo. Many Egyptians initially resented the declaration of a ceasefire because they believed that it was cheating Egypt out of a clear-cut victory. In any case, full-scale fighting broke out again almost immediately. In the 24 hours that followed the ceasefire, the Israelis drastically improved their position on the west bank. They destroyed large numbers of missile and artillery sites and, most important, they isolated the Third Army, cutting it off from food for its 20,000 men and fuel for its 400 tanks. Time after time, the Egyptians fought ferociously to free themselves but failed.

By [Wednesday morning,] the Egyptian government fully realized to what extent it had blundered in underestimating the seriousness of the Israeli bridgehead on the west bank. But it was too late to change the course of battle; the Egyptian Third Army was, as Moshe Dayan put it, “technically blocked.” In a particularly stinging gesture to the Egyptians, the Israelis announced that they would supply blood plasma to the Third Army, since the Egyptian government was incapable of doing so. The Israelis added that the encircled Arabs were in no immediate danger of dying from thirst or hunger.

… But already, hundreds of thirsty and hungry Egyptian soldiers were walking out of the harsh, blazing desert with their hands up and handkerchiefs waving. From their east-bank positions, the nearest fresh water was 100 miles away; the water conduit from the west was held by the Israelis, who seemed determined to supply them with water only in exchange for surrender. At best, the ones who held out could probably expect to go through what Gamal Abdel Nasser, as a young major, was forced to do in 1949: to await an armistice, after which, by joint agreement, they can walk through Israeli lines to safety.

Israel Asking UN Recognition of Yom Kippur – Is Tisha B’Av Next?

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

JTA is reporting that Israel has asked the United Nations to recognize Yom Kippur as an official UN holiday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Israel’s ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor met Monday with UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson to request international recognition for Yom Kippur.

It means UN employees would be allowed to take a day off without having to give up a vacation day.

There are 10 UN holidays, including the Muslim observances of Eid Al-Fitr, Eid Al-Adha and the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, along with Christmas Day, Palm Sunday, Easter and the Islamic New Year.

But, to keep it real, it may not be outlandish to extend to the international body a request to include the Jewish day of mourning for our two destroyed temples as an official day off for Jews—especially since the UN is so frequently involved in attempts to reenact those festivities…

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-asking-un-recognition-of-yom-kippur-is-tisha-bav-next/2013/10/02/

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