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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘zionism’

Keep Jerusalem United!

Monday, May 13th, 2013

From the United States to the European Union to the developing countries, political leaders are calling for the division of Jerusalem. Such proclamations disregard the deep historically Jewish attachment to the city and the fact that true freedom of worship for all three monotheistic religions has only occurred under Jewish rule. They ignore the fact that Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority, not an Arab one, for over 100 years and that even a majority of the city’s Arab population prefer Israeli rule to the Palestinian Authority’s dictatorship.

However, strangely enough, many of these same political leaders who make these proclomations are not inherently hostile towards Israel. Indeed, the very same people who often claim that they respect Israel’s security needs and state that they support Israel’s right to exist as Jewish state will also proclaim that Israel needs to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and the division of Jerusalem.Yet, what many fail to grasp is that the division of Jerusalem is contrary to the security and sovereignty of the State of Israel.

Anyone who has any doubt what a future Palestinian state will look like need look no further than Gaza. When Israel controlled Gaza, the coastal strip was full of beautiful Jewish agricultural communities with lovely greenhouses full of beautiful plants. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, she left the greenhouses in place, thinking that they would assist the local Palestinians economically. The first thing that the Palestinians did upon the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was to destroy them and convert them into rocket launching sites. As a result, all Israeli communities that live close to Gaza have been under a constant barrage of terror attacks ever since.

A Jewish withdrawal of half of Jerusalem would make the situation in Sderot look like paradise. For starters, the Jews would be cut off from the Kotel–one of the holiest shrines in Judaism, as well as the Old City’s numerous historic synagogues, such as the Hurva and Four Sephardic Synagogues. Jews would also be cut off from the Mount of Olives Cemetery, where Menechem Begin and many prominent Jewish thinkers are buried, as well as The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the French Hill neighborhood. Additionally, this places the great archaeological finds of the City of David Archaeological Park into the hands of people who don’t even respect the preservation of Islamic history, much less the history of others.  Jews would also be barred from visiting the grave of Shimon Ha-Tzadik or King David.

If this were not enough, the entire nation of Israel would be within the reach of Palestinian terror organizations. The hills of Judea and Samaria right outside Jerusalem would be utilized to launch rockets at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Netanya, and even Haifa. Thus, almost all of Israel, and not just the southern part, would be living under rocket fire.

No Israeli citizen would be out of the reach of the Palestinian terror organizations should Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders and re-divide Jerusalem. For these reasons, it is pivotal that Jerusalem remain the undivided capital of the Jewish people.

Visit United with Israel.

Hawking Rejects the Zionism of Einstein

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Has Stephen Hawking really left the company of Albert Einstein, an avowed Zionist who worked to create the State of Israel, and replaced him with the august company of Elvis Costello and other Israel boycotters?

I hosted Hawking for a lecture at Oxford in 1998 where I introduced him to 1000 Oxford students. He could not have been more humble and approachable. Aside from his lecture, delivered through his voice synthesizer, on string theory – little of which I understood but which my students assured me was “brilliant” – I remember his love of babies and practical jokes. Our daughter Rochel Leah had just been born and Hawking and his wife asked us if he could hold her. I can still picture in my mind how his wife took the baby, placed her on his lap, and then wrapped his enfeebled arms around the baby, which he stared at with a huge grin for minutes. He was enraptured.
After the lecture was over and as we walked Hawking to his car, he suddenly raced off in his wheelchair to Haagen-Dazs where he consumed an ice cream. His wife chuckled that he loved giving his hosts the slip as he indulged his childlike spirit.
All who heard and met him were deeply impressed with his humility and accessibility.
And now this, digging a knife publicly into Israel’s back.
Why would one of the world’s leading academic minds condemn the only democracy in the Middle East? Why would he attack a country, situated in a region of such deep misogyny, that celebrates women succeeding in every area of academic, professional, and political life? Why would Hawking pounce on a nation who, with neighbors like Hamas that routinely murder gays on false accusations of collaboration, grants homosexuals every equal right? And why would he condemn a country whose Arab citizens are the freest and least afraid in the entire Middle East?
Could it be because Israel has still not settled the status of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria -.ed]?
But if that is the case, surely Hawking knows that Israel has seen thousands of its citizens slaughtered in gruesome terror attacks ever since it granted autonomy to the Palestinian authority to control 97% of the Palestinian population?
Could it be because Israel has yet to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state?
But then Hawking is a highly educated man and he knows that after Israel withdrew fully from Gaza – dismantling its communities and forcibly removing its settlers – that it lead to tens of thousands of rockets being fired at Israeli hospitals and schools. And besides, Israel has practically begged the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table without any pre-conditions to discuss just that, the creation of a two-state solution, but the Palestinians have refused.
Perhaps its because Hawking believes the demonstrably false lie that Israel is an apartheid state. But then a scientist like Hawking would check facts before he would embrace such fraudulence and could easily discover that Arabs serve in the Israel Knesset – where they freely and regularly disagree with Israel – as well as the Israeli Supreme Court, the civil service, and every other area of Israeli life.
No, one must conclude that for all his academic brilliance Hawking might just be lacking in simple common sense.
In his statement embracing the boycott of the Jewish state, Hawking said, “I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this I must withdraw from the conference.”
One would think that Hawking’s response to these academics might be a call to, say, Hamas to start using the billions channeled to the Palestinians as the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid into building universities rather than buying bombs, or educating women rather than tacitly allowing the honor killings of young Palestinian women whose only crime is to have a boyfriend. No, Hawking decided instead to condemn the country whose scholars have won ten Nobel prizes, from a population of six million, while the entire Arab world, numbering in the hundreds of millions, have won two, outside the peace prize (another four).
Clearly, a knowledge of physics is no guarantor of a knowledge of foreign affairs.

Since Hawking is so often called the Einstein of his generation, it is worth reminding him that Einstein was a committed Zionist who traveled around the United States with Chain Weizmann to raise money for the creation of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an institution that Hawking now refuses to even visit. In a 1921 letter to his friend Friedrich Zangger, Einstein wrote, “On Saturday I’m off to America – not to speak at universities (though there will probably be that, too, on the side) but rather to help in the founding of the Jewish University in Jerusalem. I feel an intense need to do something for this cause.”

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Eight: A Love Song for Hodel

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Months passed. Yankele and his family boarded a freighter and headed back to Russia. Guttmacher’s brother either never received, or didn’t bother to answer the letter Tevye had written to him, so Guttmacher’s two orphaned children became permanent fixtures in Tevye’s home. Another addition to the family also arrived. Ruchel and Nachman had a baby – a princess of a girl whom they named Sarah Tzeitl.

Buildings continued to sprout up in the Olat HaShachar colony. The dry beds of the swamp land were plowed. Crops were planted, wheat, barley, maize, and rye. Looking out from the hilltop synagogue, fields and vegetable gardens decorated the landscape like a colorful patchwork quilt. Wagon loads of water melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, beets, and onions were shipped off to the Jaffa market. Citrus trees were planted, but the religious law of orlah, one of the agricultural laws which God had commanded the Jews to obey in the Holy Land, forbade the settlers from eating the fruit for the first three years of its growth. Laws requiring that gleanings and the corner of fields be left for the poor were also strictly observed, as well as the rules governing mixed plantings and tithes. Nachman, who had spent several days in Jaffa studying the agricultural laws with Rabbi Kook, was appointed to oversee their enforcement on the yishuv.

As if it were another law of the land, Arab marauders made periodic raids on the colony, stealing whatever they could lift or uproot. When two bulls were stolen, the settlers began chaining the legs of their livestock at night, but the measure didn’t foil the Arabs. Instead of leading the bulls away, they chopped them up with machetes and hauled them away in pieces. Once again, the Jews complained to the local Turkish officials, but nothing was done to apprehend the offenders. Past experience had taught Tevye that only a decisive response by the Jews would discourage the Arabs from further encroachments. His motion to organize an ambush was accepted. For a week, the Jews hid at night in the small forest of eucalyptus trees which had been planted to dry up the swamp. On the sixth night, a group of armed Arabs snuck out of the sand dunes bordering the colony. Silently, they darted through the darkness toward the barn. With a roar, Tevye rose to his feet and charged forward. Like a platoon following its commander, the other Jews raced out from their hiding places. Their shouts startled the Arabs. Only four of the settlers had rifles, but the roar of their gunfire terrified the thieves. Dropping their weapons, they ran to their horses and fled. Though none of the marauders had been wounded, the Arabs learned a lesson. Half a year passed without a further incident of trespassing or theft.

For the time being, life was a pleasure. A long stretch of spectacular weather arrived. Work progressed in leaps and bounds. At the end of the day, Tevye collapsed into bed in happy exhaustion. He felt that his sins, as well as the sins of the land, had been granted atonement. New life sprouted up everywhere. In his heart, in his house, and in the once desolate fields. Like the fruit of the sabra cactus which grew wild in the hills, the land was thorny and hard on the outside, but sweet and juicy within. As if overnight, wherever the eye looked, instead of swamp and sand, blossoming gardens and orchards covered the landscape.

“Blee ayin hara,” his wife Cannel said.

Anytime Tevye would praise their good fortune, his wife would whisper, “Blee ayin hara,” hoping that the evil eye would not cast its glance on them. It was an expression she had learned from her father. In this world, a man could never be certain what lay ahead. He could never take credit for his achievement and success, believing that his own wisdom and strength had brought him his good fortune. Everything was a blessing from God, and a man had to keep his head humbly bowed and always give thanks to his Maker.

At least for the moment, Tevye’s heart was at peace. As the Rabbis said, why should a man look out for a storm on a clear, sunny day? Or maybe Tevye had said that. Sometimes he couldn’t remember which words of wisdom the Rabbis had written, and which expressions he had coined on his own. Be that as it may, the only small worry that Tevye had was his unmarried daughter.

The Heart and Soul of the Jewish People

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Yom Yerushalayim, which we marked this week, is a monumental day in Jewish history. It is a celebration of the first time in 2,000 years that Jews regained sovereignty over the Kotel, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest site. And it is a time to thank God for giving us the extraordinary gift that is Jerusalem.

We were overwhelmed and outnumbered by our enemies in 1967, yet the Israel Defense Forces achieved a miraculous victory, reclaiming and reuniting Jerusalem in a defensive war. We salute and remember the brave Israeli soldiers who battled our antagonists and prevailed in just six days.

Many of us, young and old, sometimes take it for granted that we have control over Jerusalem and unfettered access to our holy sites. However, it is important to always recall that there was a time, not so long ago, when Jerusalem was off limits to Jews.

Understandably, it is difficult for younger people, who have never experience a divided Jerusalem, to fathom that there was an era when Jerusalem was not under our purview. For those who lived through it, it was extremely painful and especially frustrating that we were unable to visit Israel’s capital. Jews throughout the world prayed that Jerusalem would once again be ours and we yearned for the time we could once again bask in its holy glow. Now, years after Israeli forces achieved this remarkable feat, even the older generation can easily forget about the centuries when Jews were denied access to our most holy sites.

Yom Yerushalayim comes around once a year, but we must continually thank God for restoring our connection to Jerusalem and for keeping His promise.

Israel’s prime ministers have always maintained that Jerusalem is a “red line” that cannot and will not be crossed. Menachem Begin said it best at Camp David in 1978 when he quoted to President Jimmy Carter from the Book of Psalms: “If I forget thee, O’ Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I hold thee not above my highest joy.” He followed that by emphatically stating, “Jerusalem is the heart of Israel, the heart of the Jewish people.”

Moving forward, the greater Jewish community needs to put a renewed emphasis on shifting the focus to Jerusalem and highlighting its significance.

● We must urge our rabbinic leaders to double their efforts in educating our young people and reminding the older generation about the centrality of Jerusalem. A real in-depth understanding of what Jerusalem means to our people is paramount in order to preserve the rich history of this great city, mentioned more than 600 times in Tanach.

● It would behoove Jewish schools, summer camps, and educators around the world to continue developing and enhancing curricula aimed at transmitting to the younger generation a keen awareness and deep appreciation of the importance of Jerusalem in a historical, cultural, and religious context. Families must commit to visit the city to maintain a durable and unyielding connection with it.

● It is incumbent upon all of us to encourage and support settlement in all areas of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is our capital, and no one in the international community is in a position to dictate where Jews are permitted, or not permitted, to reside within our own capital.

● We all must make the issue of Jerusalem a pivotal part of our lives. We can never take for granted the fact that the capital of the Jewish state belongs to us and is under our rule.

The holy city of Jerusalem is a vital connection to our past and an integral link to our future. With its unique religious and cultural significance, Jerusalem is the lifeblood of the Jewish people and the heart and soul of our nation.

Our children and grandchildren are the leaders of tomorrow. Someday they will be the stalwarts of the Jewish people. We must build a solid foundation for the future by instilling in them a love of Jerusalem and ensuring that they develop a deep appreciation God’s gift to us.

So, after observing Yom Yerushalayim and celebrating the 46th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, let us revitalize our efforts to underscore all that this holy city means to the Jewish people. Let us turn our attention to the importance of communicating to the younger generation just how fortunate they are to have a city they are able to call home.

Faces of Israel: Mazal Elijah, Immigrant from Iraq

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Mazal Elijah and her family had a very difficult life. As members of the Baghdad Jewish community, Mazal’s mother endured much suffering during what is known as the “Farhud Pogrom” or just “Farhud” in Baghdad, June 1941. Within 24 hours of the start of the pogrom, 250 people died. Mazal claimed that some Arabs were decent and tried to save Jews from the Farhud, yet other Arabs behaved horribly and sought to do the same to the Jews of Iraq as Hitler did to the Jews in Europe, yet they were fortunately stopped by the British. Thus, upon getting married around that period of time, her husband was drafted into the army, thus forcing her to move in with her parents so that she wouldn’t get killed. Eventually, he managed to escape from the army, yet for a while things were very uncertain.

After the Farhud, there was a period of calm, yet right before Israel became a state, things became unbearable for the Jewish community in Iraq. “It was impossible for children to play outside for there was a fear that the children would be kidnapped,” Mazal conveyed. “The Arabs hit Jews and there was no police to report it to for the police were corrupted. You could not report abuse to the police.” In Iraq, there were no social rights for Jews. According to Mazal, “All of the Arabs were against the Jews. Jews became like trash.”

Mazal

Yet as if all of this were not bad enough, Mazal asserted that whenever there were weddings or bar mitzvahs in Iraq, one had to bribe the Iraqi Police in order to ensure the event went ahead peacefully. Otherwise, Arabs would show up and start abusing Jews at the event. Mazal asserted that during this period of time, right around Israel’s independence, continuous massacres against Jews occurred in Iraq and during these massacres, Arabs broke into Jews homes, stole whatever they wanted, and then flooded the homes, so that Jews would not be able to live in them anymore. Furthermore, Iraqi Jewish women traditionally would make preserved foods so that certain types of vegetables would be available in the winter months. The Arab thieves would eat up all of the preserves that the Iraqi Jewish women worked very hard to prepare, thus leaving Iraqi Jewish families with nothing.

The situation was especially dire for Iraqi Jewish women. Mazal asserted that rapes occurred all of the time and that if an Arab barged into your home and demanded to marry your daughter, it was impossible to refuse him. Iraqi Jewish women were forced to wear the face veil for their own protection. Pretty Iraqi Jewish girls were hidden by their families, so that Arabs would not demand to marry them. Women could not leave the home without an escort and they weren’t allowed to work, except to sew, knit or do beauty jobs for women. It was not even possible for Iraqi Jewish women to go out for a movie.

Yet as if that were not bad enough, sanitary conditions were horrible, as was the medical care. As a result, Mazal’s mother lost 14 children in Iraq due to these atrocious health conditions. She only managed to bring her four living children to Israel. Yet, even the children who lived didn’t have an easy life. Children’s dolls and games didn’t exist in Iraq during that period of time.

Mazal2

However, despite all of these atrocious living conditions, Mazal’s family hesitated to leave because they had many belongings that they didn’t want to part with. For this reason, they didn’t cross the border with Iran and from there go to Israel illegally, like other Iraqi Jewish families did. In the end, they left only when they were expelled from the country. Mazal and her family arrived in Israel without any clothes or food. The Israeli authorities provided them with food, yet her family struggled to eat it because the food given to them seemed too foreign and strange. For example, European-style tea was not dark enough for Iraqi Jews and thus originally they thought it was urine, implying undrinkable. Hot dogs seemed bizarre and not kosher as well.

Yet food was not the only problem. For their first three years in Israel, Mazal and her family lived in a tent instead of a house. This meant that for three years Mazal and her family were exposed to atrocious weather conditions. Sometimes the wind would blow the tent over. When her family was finally given a better place to live, it was a hut without a solid foundation. There were also no paved roads around where she grew up. Another child would be born in that hut under those conditions.

The Religious Significance of the Israeli Flag

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Living in Jerusalem, one of the highlights of my year is attending the annual Flag Parade on Yom Yerushalayim. Watching thousands of blue and white flags being paraded through the heart of the city, one can’t help but well up with pride. But the Israeli flag is more than just an expression of national pride – the flag possesses religious significance.

Growing up in New Jersey, my first encounter with the Israeli flag was in the shul we belonged to. There it stood, adjacent to the ark, flanked on the other side by the American flag. Despite a ruling by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein against the placement of the flag in the sanctuary (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayyim, vol. 1, no. 46), the Israeli flag has become a fixture in the contemporary synagogue.

We Jews have had flags for thousands of years. The Torah (Num. 2:2) describes how the Jews encamped in the wilderness, “each man by his banner.” According to the Midrash, each flag was adorned with its tribe’s unique color and symbol.

And while some may contend that the Israeli flag is a modern invention, Rabbi Ari Shvat, who has done extensive research on the flag, has shown the historical antecedents of this symbol. For example, a flag with the Star of David hung prominently in the synagogues of Prague since the mid-14th century, with the approval of their great rabbis, among them the Maharal, Shelah, Noda B’Yehudah, and Rabbi Yonatan Eybeschutz.

The late historian Avraham Ya’ari, in Toldot Chag Simchat Torah, his groundbreaking work on the development of the customs of Simchat Torah, records that for centuries the flag has been a part of the Simchat Torah celebration – an image we are all familiar with.

Let us not forget the obvious: The design of the modern Israeli flag is based on the tallit. The blue and white motif we are familiar with today was adopted at the First Zionist Congress of 1897, even though it had earlier incarnations.

It was David Wolffsohn, a banker from Kovno who played a role in the early Zionist movement as an assistant to Herzl and later as the second president of the Zionist Organization, who made the decision to adopt the tallit motif. In a jubilee volume celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, Wolffsohn wrote that the choice was obvious: “We already have a flag, white and blue – the tallit that we wrap ourselves up in during prayer. This tallit is our symbol. Let us take the tallit out from its case and unfurl it before the eyes of Israel and before the eyes of all the nations!”

By choosing the familiar religious motif of the tallit, Wolffsohn was determined to imbue the flag with religious meaning.

Rabbi Avraham Yizchak HaKohen Kook also saw religious meaning in the flag. At the rededication of the Churva Synagogue in Jerusalem on Chanukah of 1926, Chief Rabbi Kook not only allowed the flag of the Jewish Legion to enter the synagogue, in his invocation he described the flag as “holy” and a symbol of Redemption.

To many, however, the flag represents secular Zionism and a secular government at times antagonistic to religion. The truths of history, however, prove that things weren’t always so black and white (or blue and white).

In an article that appeared on 22 Nissan 1949, just two weeks before Israel declared its independence, the newspaper of Agudath Israel, Hamevaser, called on its readers to place the Israeli flag in their windows. And in the years following the establishment of the state, the flag was proudly displayed in haredi homes on Yom Ha’Atzmaut – including the homes of great leaders such as Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky and the Rebbes of Modzitz and Sadigura. Today the flag still flies over the Ponevezh Yeshiva on Yom Ha’Atzmaut out of deference to its founder, Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, who began the practice.

For me, the importance of finding religious meaning in the flag became crystallized after an unfortunate event: One Purim, a yeshiva bachur who had imbibed a bit too much, noticed the Israeli flag displayed proudly above my door and remarked that it is avodah zarah, idolatry. I quickly responded that the Israeli flag is a symbol of tremendous sacrifice.

The Real Accomplishment

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

The special relationship between Israel and the U.S. is not a cliché. Polls and in-depth surveys repeatedly show that America relates to Israel positively in the most fundamental way – despite, to the contrary, the tireless efforts of the Jews influencing the New York Times and Haaretz.

We share common values, based on the Bible. America’s Founding Fathers saw their new country as a rebirth of the nation of liberty and its universal message. These common goals should have been the basis for the relationship between Israel and the U.S. “And I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you shall be cursed,” God says to Abraham. That is the motto of some 80 million American Evangelicals who are convinced that American prosperity is contingent on its significant alliance with Israel. Hardship, they believe, happens when the U.S. takes a stand against Israel.

But instead of reinforcing our status as the eternal People of the Book and the source of American values, we Israelis have chosen to market ourselves as a young nation searching for its place among the established nations and under their patronage. Our relationship with the U.S. has become – through our own volition – a father-son relationship.

American aid, merely 1.5 percent of Israel’s income, is not something Israel really needs. In the long run, it harms us economically, politically and militarily. But our insistence on receiving it stems from a psychological need. When our pocket money continues to roll in from across the ocean, it shows that “Father” is still there and that we are not alone among the nations. When we try to escape from our Father in Heaven, we must look for a weak replica in foreign lands.

This flawed mentality was the source of the “Obamania” that we experienced during President Obama’s recent visit to Israel. Thus, relations that could have been based on shared values were instead based on dependence.

Israel, fleeing its identity and constantly evading open adoption of those common goals, has consistently based its connection with the U.S. on a completely different foundation. The main goal that we touted was our right to self-defense. Instead of the Shrine of the Book and sites that attest to our biblical foundations here in Israel, our honored guests are always taken to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem. After viewing those horrific images, nobody was supposed to be able to ask any questions. That was good for us; no need to deal with the questions of our identity and the justice of our national existence in this land.

But the Holocaust “lemon” has been completely squeezed out. A new generation has risen in Europe, a generation that is no longer willing to pay for the sins of its predecessors with silence. This generation sees the Palestinians demanding justice as the new Jews, bereft of a homeland, while they view the Israelis who demand security as the new Nazis.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence on restoring the focal point of Obama’s visit from the Holocaust Museum to our deep historical foundations in Israel; his assertive speech in the U.S. in which he explained that Yad Vashem is not the foundation of our existence; rounding out this approach by bringing President Obama to the Shrine of the Book; the explanation that Obama received there that every Israeli child can read what his forefathers wrote here over 2,000 years ago – were, in my opinion, the most important accomplishments of Obama’s visit.

I was in the Channel 2 studio when Professor Shalom Rosenberg of the Shrine of the Book explained to the viewers what the American president was looking at, at that very moment.

“You don’t have a Palestinian scroll to show him?” I asked, unable to withhold my thought. “Not from 1,000 years ago, not from 100 years ago, or less than that. Nothing?”

The professor shifted his weight uncomfortably.

“This is the most important outcome of Obama’s visit and Netanyahu’s major accomplishment,” I said. “It is not about Obama, but first and foremost about Israeli society that has been trained to see Auschwitz as the justification for our existence.”

Who knows? Maybe next time we will take our visiting VIPs to the altar built by Yehoshua bin Nun on Mount Eval just 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt. The Dead Sea Scrolls are certainly important. But our history in this land does not begin 2,000 years ago. It begins more than 3,300 years ago.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Thirty-Seven: A Son at Last!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

“I think it’s coming,” Carmel said. Tevye opened his eyes. As far as he could tell, it was the middle of the night.

“What’s coming?” he sleepily asked.

“The baby.”

“Go back to sleep,” he said, rolling over onto his side. Tevye was no great scholar, but he was knowledgeable about two things in life — cows and babies. After all, he had fathered seven daughters. And with Golda, it was always the same hysterical false alarms until the real moment arrived. Tevye knew from experience that the birth of the baby could he hours away. Even days.

“Tevye. . .Tevye,” Carmel called in the dark.

Tevye grumbled. The next moment he was snoring.

“Tevye,” Carmel called urgently, poking her husband in the back. “Are you ready to be the midwife?”

Tevye stirred and sat up in bed.

“Midwife? What midwife?”

“I need a midwife, Tevye. I’m having the baby.”

“You’re having the baby?” Tevye asked, still groggy from sleep. He reached over to the table, found the matches, and lit a candle. On the other side of the tent, Guttmacher’s two children were sleeping. Carmel’s eyes were wide with a mixture of fear and wonder. Her forehead was sweating.

“You have contractions?” he asked.

She shook her head yes.

“For how long?”

“For hours,” she said, biting her lip as another painful contraction seized a hold of her hips.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked.

“I tried to. Three times.”

Tevye attempted to think clearly. If that were the case, his wife was liable to give birth to the baby right then and there in his lap. Wasn’t it written that the Hebrew women in Egypt gave birth in a lively fashion before the midwives would arrive? Maybe his Yemenite wife was like them. He stood up and thought about what he should do. In Anatevka, he would go and get Shendel, the midwife. But who knew where Shendel was now?

“Whom should I call?” he asked his wife as he hurriedly pulled on his trousers.

“My mother,” she answered.

“Your mother is a midwife?”

“All Yemenite women are midwives.”

“All of them?”

“Well, maybe not all of them, but most of them. Will you please hurry and call her before the baby comes out!”

“My shoes,” he said. “Where are my shoes?”

“Outside the tent,” his wife answered. Her back arched in pain and she let out a long anguished sigh. She clutched the bed with both hands and whimpered. Sweat shone on her forehead.

“Hurry!” she whispered. “But first check your shoes for scorpions.”

“What a saint,” Tevye thought. His wife worried about him, even when she was in the middle of labor. Quickly, Tevye hurried out of the tent. He didn’t bother to put on his shoes. He ran straight to the tent of Elisha.

To make a long story short, as the great writer, Sholom Aleicheim, would say, Carmel gave birth to a boy! When the moaning and groaning were over, Tevye had been blessed with a son! After seven daughters, a male child was born to Tevye, the son of Schneur Zalman! In the middle of the night, the whole settlement turned out to wish the proud father mazal tovs and L’chaims! While Carmel embraced her precious baby in the tent, Tevye danced outside. Everyone shared his great joy. Hillel was so happy, he played his accordion, stamped his feet, and blew into his harmonica, all at the very same time. Liquor and refreshments arrived as if by magic. Everyone joined in the party.

In the middle of the dancing, Tevye felt he had to make sure that this happiness wasn’t a dream. He simply couldn’t believe his good fortune. After so much hardship and sorrow, how could there be such great joy? He hurried to his tent and demanded to see the baby. The crowd of women made way. Pushing the cloth diaper aside, the father took a glimpse to be certain. There was no doubt about it. The good Lord had blessed Tevye with a boy! Holding his newborn son triumphantly up in one hand like a freshly baked loaf of challah, Tevye carried the bundle toward the door of the tent.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/the-book-shelf/tevye-in-the-promised-land-books/tevye-in-the-promised-land-chapter-thirty-seven-a-son-at-last/2013/05/01/

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