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Post  Admin on Sun 07 Apr 2019, 2:32 pm

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Rosh Chodesh: The Meaning of the New Month
Mar 20, 2004  |  by Dina Coopersmith
https://www.aish.com/jl/hol/o/48972041.html?s=mm
Like the moon, the Jewish people will rise up again and light up the night.
The first commandment the Jews were given as a people is the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh, the New Month:

"And God said to Moses… in the land of Egypt… This month is for you, the head of the months. First it is for you among the months of the year." (Exodus 12:1-2)
The Jewish nation was told while still in Egypt that the month of Nissan, the month in which they would be leaving Egypt, should be for their first month, and that from now on, they, as a nation, have a responsibility to count the months and create a uniquely Jewish calendar based on the lunar year.
Isn't this a strange first commandment? You'd think the development of the calendar would only come after the establishment of the basic fundamentals like the Ten Commandments. Why does the Torah consider the process of establishing the new month as a major breakthrough in creating a nation? And what was wrong with the solar calendar that everyone else had been using? What is the significance of basing the Jewish calendar on the moon?
 
THE HUMAN ELEMENT

The mitzvah of sanctifying the new month was a rather involved process. As soon as someone saw the tiniest sliver of a new moon, they would run to the Jerusalem High Court, who needed two witnesses to testify that the moon was actually seen. They would then convene the court, declare the new month and send messengers across the land to tell everyone that the new month had begun on this certain day. They, in turn, would pass on the news and place torches on mountains and high spots to spread the news faster. Sometimes it took two weeks for people to receive confirmation of the day the court had declared as the beginning of the month. (This, by the way, is the root reason why the Jews of the Diaspora would keep two days of the holidays, just in case they were wrong about which day was Rosh Chodesh if the information didn't arrive on time.)

Our calendar determines on which day each Jewish holiday will occur. Each particular holiday brings with it a concrete spiritual reality from above that is available for us to tap into on that specific day. Passover, for instance, contains the opportunity to attain spiritual freedom; Rosh Hashana is the time for judgment.

The determination of this calendar is placed squarely in human hands. Thus if the moon were to appear, in fact, on a Monday, but no one actually saw it until Tuesday, "seeing is believing" and the court would decide that the first of the month was on a Tuesday. As a result, God, as it were, follows the decision of the court and acts accordingly, so that in the case of Rosh Hashana, He would push off His judgment of the entire world by one day!

God is giving the Jewish people an empowering message with this first commandment. Up until now, the Jews have been slaves to the Egyptians. Their time was not their own. Now, says God, you are becoming masters of your time. And not only of your own time, but of My time as well!

The Jews have been slaves to the Egyptians. Now, says God, you are becoming masters of your time and of My time as well!
By being given our own system of measuring time and creating our own calendar, we are taking charge of shaping reality. We are given a certain area of control over nature. Whereas time is steadily moving ahead, never-stopping, marching on in a cyclical, repetitive spiral, we are given the power to stop or start time at will, allowing us to "share" with God that special creativity of determining reality.

THE MOON

As part of this empowering message, it is essential for the moon to be our determining factor in setting up our calendar instead of the sun. The unique feature of the moon is that it appears to us to wax and wane, to disappear and reappear, to grow, diminish and grow again. It is also the smaller of the two luminaries.

Whereas the sun is the symbol of unchanging nature, rising in the east, setting in the west, day in and day out every day of the year, the moon changes and it seems to be telling us something: You can be small and you can diminish until you almost disappear, but then, when things look their darkest, hope springs eternal. You can start looking up again. You can change a situation and yourself for the better, no matter how bad it seems. Nothing is static or set in stone. Human beings have free will and therein is their power of renewal -- an ever-present struggle against the steady, cyclical, repetitive and predictable march of time and nature.

The solar system determines the year, in Hebrew "shana," which comes from the same root as "to repeat, to go over," whereas the moon sets the months, "Chodesh" from the Hebrew root "chadash," -- new, change, different.

The Jewish people are compared to the moon. Though they are small, and suffering has been an integral part of their history among the nations, the Jew knows never to give up. As an individual and as a nation, he will rise up again and light up the night.

Jews live with this belief in the power of miracles, that God supervises over the world and is not dependent on predictable laws of nature. The Jewish nation has a special relationship with God and even when on the lowest of spiritual rungs, about to assimilate and disappear, God maintains His constant love, as a father loves his son.

God relates to Moses a message to give to Pharaoh and to the Jewish people before the 10 Plagues begin, "My firstborn son is Israel" (Exodus 4:22). The Israelites were at their lowest point at this time, undeserving of any miracles in their own right. And yet that is exactly when God sweeps us up, taking us out of the darkness of Egypt, initiating the upward-moving process until 50 days later when we are deserving of receiving the Torah and of becoming a nation.

What a perfect time and place to give the Jewish people the encouraging message in the commandment to sanctify the new moon every month and to determine our calendar this way:

"And God said to Moses ... in the land of Egypt, say to the Jewish people: This month is for you the beginning of the months ..." (Exodus 12:1-2)
 God has given us the power of renewal and change, the gift of expanding, brightening and growing big again after we have been diminished.

WOMEN AND ROSH CHODESH

For women, Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new month, is considered a mini-holiday as a reward for not having been willing to participate in the sin of the Golden Calf.

After the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, Moses went up the mountain for 40 days to receive the 10 Commandments. As a result of a minor miscalculation, the Jewish men believed that Moses had died and they beseeched Aaron to make for them a "god" to go with them in the desert.

"And Aaron said: Take the earrings from your wives, sons and daughters, and bring them to me" (Exodus 32:2). The women heard and refused to give their jewelry to their husbands, but said: "You want to make a calf with no power to save? We will not listen to you." God gave them reward in this world that they keep Rosh Chodesh more than men, and in the next world they merit to renew themselves like Rosh Chodesh. (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer, 45)
 

Why should this be our reward? What is the link between our not willing to give up our precious jewelry for the ill-fated Golden Calf project and the concept of celebrating the reappearance of the moon every month?

Women had the ability to see beyond the very frightening situation the Jewish people experienced after Moses went up to receive the Torah and tarried on his way back. As far as the Jewish men were concerned, all hope was lost. There was no leader, no shepherd, no one to guide them through the desert to Israel. How could Moses be late? He must have died! And in fact the Midrash tells us that Satan showed the Jewish people a vision of their beloved leader lying lifeless on a cot in heaven, to scare them.

When things seemed dark and hopeless, the women knew that light was just around the corner.
But the women could not be convinced to sink into such utter despair. When things seemed dark and hopeless, they knew that light was just around the corner. Patience and trust in God would be all that would be needed to get through the "bad" times and into the good ones. Like the moon, becoming brighter and bigger only after it disappears completely into darkness, they knew that better times were on the way. It was impossible to them that God would leave them stranded after having just received the Torah 40 days earlier. They were willing to believe in the power of renewal and trust God no matter how difficult things seemed.

Let us hope that the Jewish nation, especially in Israel, can take encouragement from this special gift of the lunar cycle by which we count our months. As the organized onslaught of Arab terror is well into its fourth year and solutions seem remote, it's all too easy to lose hope and despair of ever living a normal, safe life in our own country. Rosh Chodesh teaches us that everything can change. It is when a situation reaches its bleakest point that the light appears again.

HAPPY ROSH CHODESH!
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Post  Admin on Tue 02 Apr 2019, 8:06 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/me/Bible-Era-Seal-Unearthed-below-Jerusalem-Car-Park.html?s=mm
Bible Era Seal Unearthed below Jerusalem Car Park
Apr 2, 2019  |  by Adam Ross
SHARES
Bible Era Seal Unearthed below Jerusalem Car Park
The tiny clay impression dates back over 2,600 years and bears the name, mentioned in the Bible, of a royal aide to King Josiah.

“Quick! Come and see this!” an excited voice yells out to around 20 crew members painstakingly sifting through layers of, rock and earth. “I’ve found something!” This is the incredible moment when a stunned archaeological team digging under a car park in the Old City of Jerusalem unearthed one of the most significant archaeological finds of recent years – an official stamp baring the name of a senior official of the Royal Court of ancient Judah.

The tiny clay impression dates back over 2,600 years and bears the name of a royal official known as Natan L’Melech meaning ‘Servant to the King’ who is mentioned in the Bible, an aide to the Judean King Josiah in the 8th Century BCE.

Under the auspices of the Israel antiquities authority, the dig is taking place 40 feet under a former car park at the City of David archaeological heritage site.

Blue bulla with the name Ikkar son of Matanyahu
“This is not just another discovery,” Professor Yuval Gadot, 51, the Head of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, who is leading the dig, told Aish.com. “We are talking about the cradle of civilization and a highly significant item which bears the name of a specific individual.” The seal is the first archaeological evidence of the biblical name Nathan-Melech. Gadot added, “This official was so high profile he is not referred to using his father’s name. There was no need. We are talking about someone who everybody knew.”

In addition, another bluish agate stone seal known as a bulla was also found with the inscription ‘belonging to Ikkar son of Matanyahu.” Gadot said, “It is a very beautiful stone, and the Hebrew is so clear.”

He added, “The big story here, is the context, with both the seal and the bulla were found in the same building. As we are digging, we are seeing that this was a central part of Jerusalem at the time, busy with administrative activity and also close to the temple mount.”

He added, “Life as an archaeologist can be pretty quiet at times, with hours, days and weeks often passing without finding anything.” The day the seal was found, Gadot was paid a visit by an archaeologist colleague from Los Angeles. “Come here and see what we have just unearthed,” he said, bringing him to see the seal. “He didn’t know what to say.”

Highlight of his career
“Without a doubt,” Gadot said, “digging at the City of David site in Jerusalem has been the highlight of my 30-year career. The past matters. Jerusalem is the cradle of civilization and it touches everyone.”

“It’s an exciting time to be an archaeologist,” he added. “There is so much more to be still be exposed.”

Doron Spielman, Vice President of the City of David, shared his reaction with Aish.com after holding the tiny clay seal in his hand. “What is so striking,” he said, “is that it is smaller than a thumbnail, it weighs almost nothing, but its importance is diametrically opposite to its size.”

“There are so many people who think this book (the Bible) was made up and seek to erase Jewish history in Jerusalem, yet here we find the stamp of the seal of the servant of the king.”

“One of the reasons Jews have held onto their faith, across thousands of years, is because they have felt a connection to a constant chain of tradition. Who in the world today can dig 40 feet under the ground where you live and unearth something over 2500 years old, in your native language that appears in the book that you read? We are so unique, and no one else has this gift.”

Seal with name from Bible discovered in the City of David
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=36&v=kZ17akXR170
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Post  Admin on Sat 30 Mar 2019, 11:16 pm

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https://www.aish.com/jl/h/h/Oxfords-Surprising-Jewish-History.html?s=mm
Oxford’s Surprising Jewish History
Mar 24, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt MillerOxford’s Surprising Jewish History
The renowned university town was home to a vibrant Jewish community that is all but forgotten today.

Oxford, the famous university town in England, is world-renown for the scholarship of Oxford University. Yet the city boasts a little-known history too: Oxford was once home to a flourishing, vibrant Jewish community - one of the most significant in all of England – that is all but fotoday.

Medieval Jewish Bankers
Jews came to England in 1066 when French nobleman William the Conqueror invaded England. Jewish bankers had long supported military campaigns and infrastructure projects in France, and soon Jewish communities were lending money to support nobles and kings in England as well. (As the Catholic Church prohibited Christians from charging interest, only Jews were able to engage in lending and other complex financial transactions.)

Oxford became one of the largest English communities and Jewish families lived in a central area called “the Jewry.” One of Oxford’s central avenues today, St. Aldates, was once known as Jew Street. By the end of the 11th Century, about 80-100 Jewish families called Oxford home. They made their living as shopkeepers, money lenders and landlords. As students flocked to Oxford, historians estimate that about 10% of lodging was rented out by Jews. The community was a distinguished one, with rabbis and scholars presiding over an educated, pious community.

St. Aldates street

As England’s Jewish community grew, William’s son William Rufus seems to have enjoyed taunting his Jewish subjects. He used to arrange public debates on theological issues between Jews and Christians, and vowed that he would convert to Judaism if he ever felt that Jews had won. (No matter what, he always ruled that the Jews lost.) For all the humiliation this caused, these early Norman kings safeguarded England’s Jews, preventing the massacres and pogroms that routinely decimated Jews in Europe. This wasn’t due to altruism; English Jews enriched the crown. Each time a Jew died, one third of their estate was seized by the king.


 
This inscription is on the Town Hall in St Aldate’s.

In the Crosshairs of Civil War
After King Henry I’s death, his heirs fought a 19-year civil war, with many of the battles waged in or near Oxford. Henry’s daughter Matilda gained allies in the area around Oxford and demanded money from Oxford’s Jews to fight her cousin Stephen, who was also contesting the throne. Oxford’s Jewish families had no choice but to pay her ruinous taxes.

After a major battle in Oxford in 1142, Stephen gained control of the city and demanded yet more money from Oxford’s Jews. Facing utter ruin, the Jews refused - until Stephen burned down the home of a Jew named Aaron and threatened to do the same for all the Jews in the city. Oxford’s Jews somehow raised the funds to pay Stephen and avert this dire fate. Much of the fighting took place in Jewish residential area of Oxford. One of Stephen’s major fortifications was on a site known as “Jews Mound”.

The Jewish Exchequer
Stephen was succeeded by King Henry II, who revolutionized finances in Medieval England by establishing a central “Exchequer” to keep track of all government spending. His son, the famed Richard the Lionheart, made Jews a key part of this system. Under Richard’s new system, all financial transactions were written on 25 pieces of parchment and placed in secure chests in 25 cities around England - including Oxford, where the Oxford Castle, in the heart of Jewish Oxford, housed the local records. Each chest had four keys, two held by Jews and two held by Christians.Richard even renamed his father’s system, calling Britain’s early accounting records the “Jewish Exchequer”.

Founding Oxford University
Strictly speaking, the colleges that make up Oxford University weren’t a formal university when they were first founded; they were more like a cluster of independent schools. But it is notable that one of the oldest colleges was founded by a Jew. Balliol College, University College and Merton College were the first colleges to be incorporated in Oxford, between the years 1249 and 1264. Merton College was established in 1264; its deed of sale is the oldest surviving document in Oxford and shockingly, it is written in Hebrew.

Merton College deed of sale.

The document shows that a man named Jacob the Jew sold land for the purpose of establishing Merton College. Jacob seems to have worked in partnership with a local official, Bishop Walter de Merton. The deed was likely written by Jacob in his native language, Hebrew. It also contains Latin writing, reflecting the common language spoken by academics in Oxford at the time. While he helped found Merton College, it would have been impossible for Jacob’s sons to study in there. Jews were strictly barred from Oxford and would remain so for over 500 years.

Students Attacking Jews
Tensions between Jews and Christians were never far from the surface in Oxford. In 1244, a group of Oxford students ran wild, attacking Jews in the streets of Oxford and ransacking Jewish-owned houses. Local Jews begged the Constable of Oxford for help. He obliged, arresting 45 students, and imprisoning them in Oxford Castle and a local jail until the violence ebbed.

Oxford’s Jews Thrown into Prison
Anti-Jewish violence began to sweep England in the 12th and 13th centuries. While Oxford never experienced the wholesale massacres that decimated Jewish communities elsewhere in England, life became precarious in the extreme for Oxford’s Jewish families.

During one pre-Easter parade in 1268, students accused a Jew of attacking the university procession and stomping on a crucifix. Authorities rounded up the entire Jewish community of Oxford and imprisoned them until King Henry III came up with what he thought was a fitting punishment and forced the Oxford Jewish community to raise funds for a huge marble and gold crucifix, with verses carved into the base insulting Jews. Originally the king ordered this monstrosity to be erected outside Oxford’s synagogue; eventually he relented and had it housed in Merton College instead. (The crucifix disappeared sometime later, though archeologists have recovered chunks of marble from the area which might be part of the royal structure.)

Only Jewish Student at Oxford
In 1290, King Henry III’s son King Edward I ejected all Jews from England. Up to 40,000 Jews were forced to flee and England remained officially Jew-free until Prime Minister Oliver Cromwell formally invited Jews back into England in 1656.

One Jew did publicly attend Oxford during this time, though he had to formally profess he embraced Christianity to do so. German-born Jacob Wolfgang matriculated in 1608 and endured years of anti-Semitic bullying and violence. Students and tutors used to make fun of his Greek pronunciation and throw rotten eggs at him during lessons with impunity.

Teaching Hebrew and Resisting Calls to Convert
Though Jews were banned from living in Britain openly, one brilliant scholar was allowed to teach Hebrew there. Jacob Barnet (known as “Jacob the Jew”) taught Hebrew to Oxford students in around the year 1600.

Jacob befriended a non-Jewish Oxford scholar, Isaac Casaubon, who repeatedly pressured Jacob to convert to Christianity. Doing so would have opened up new doors for Jacob, allowing him to flourish professionally and socially. In 1609, Jacob finally relented, telling Casaubon that he would convert. His colleagues were overjoyed. University officials started planning a grand conversion ritual in the official Oxford University church of St. Mary’s, in a huge ceremony attended by the entire university. As plans for this major event grew, Jacob had second thoughts, deciding to cling to his Jewish faith after all.

The day before the ceremony, Jacob ran away from Oxford. University authorities ordered local police to find him and Jacob was arrested on the road to London and imprisoned in Bocardo Prison in Oxford. The university chaplain went ahead with his public sermon, issuing a fiery speech, smearing Jews as untrustworthy and evil.

First Coffee Shop in England
Even before Jews were officially allowed back into England in 1656, at least one enterprising Jew opened the very first coffee shop in the country. It was located in Oxford at 84 High Street, established in 1651 by a man called (like previous Oxford Jews) “Jacob the Jew”. Coffee was just beginning to become popular in Europe, and Jacob introduced the new beverage to the students and teachers of Oxford’s storied colleges.

Just a few years later, in 1654, another Jew named Cirques Jobson (some speculate that he was the same Jacob the Jew opening a second branch) established the Queens Lane Coffee House nearby: Oxford’s second coffee shop, and one that continues to serve coffee to this day.

Jews Entering Oxford University
With liberalism sweeping much of England and academia in the 1800s, old barriers began to fall away. Openly Jewish students were allowed to study at the university beginning in 1856. Despite this, snobbery and prejudice kept the number of openly Jewish students very low. When Sir Isaiah Berlin, one of England’s most celebrated philosophers, began teaching in All Souls College in 1932, he was only the fifth openly Jewish teacher working in the university.

Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies

Oxford became markedly easier for Jews to study in when Dr. Cecil Roth, one of Britain’s greatest historians, became a reader in Jewish Studies there in 1939. An Orthodox Jew, Dr. Roth successfully petitioned the university to allow Jewish students to take exams on Sundays instead of Saturdays, the Jewish Shabbat. Since the university didn’t want Jews to gain an unfair advantage by quizzing their classmates about what was on exams, Dr. Roth proposed a simple solution: Jewish student would spend Shabbat, when their classmates were taking exams, at the Roths’ home in Oxford. They stayed there until it was time to take their own exams on Sunday. The Roth home was a popular meeting place for Jewish students until the mid 1960s, when Dr. Roth moved from Britain to Israel.

Jewish Origins of Oxford’s Newest College
Many of Oxford’s beautiful colleges date back hundreds of years, but its newest was founded in 1966 by a remarkable Jewish philanthropist.

Sir Isaac Wolfson was born in 1897 in Glasgow, the son of Jews who’d fled pogroms in Russia. He was raised in poverty and built up one of Europe’s largest businesses, Great Universal Stores, which ran the largest mail order business in Europe and operated thousands of department stores across Britain. Sir Isaac made a fortune, but his greatest pleasure was in giving away the money he’d earned. He formed the Wolfson Foundation in 1955 with the aim of educating young people, and he endowed schools and professorships in Israel and Britain.

This Jewish son of working class immigrants also founded a new Oxford College: Wolfson College, established in 1966. (He also established a Wolfson College in Cambridge, single-handedly altering the landscape of higher education in Britain.) Wolfson College’s first president was the Jewish philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, who declared Oxford’s most modern college to be an experiment in “new, untrammeled and unpyramided” education. Wolfson College continues to educate over 600 graduate students within the university each year.

Sir Isaac Wolfson died in 1991 in his home in Rehovot, Israel.
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Post  Admin on Sat 30 Mar 2019, 11:11 pm

The Golan Heights: 5 Facts
Mar 26, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/me/The-Golan-Heights-5-Facts.html?s=mm
The Golan Heights: 5 Facts
A short guide to the history and strategic value of the Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights are Israel’s buffer against its northern neighbor Syria. In Israeli hands since 1967, the Golan Heights are back in the news today, after President Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty. Here are five facts about the Golan Heights to provide some background at this historic moment.

Historical Ties
The Golan is the site of some of the Torah’s most vivid histories. When Jewish tribes first settled in the land of Israel, the tribes of Gad and Reuben asked Moses for permission to settle east of the Jordan River. Moses agreed and also sent half of the tribe of Manasseh who settled in “Golan in the (region called) the Bashan” in the modern-day Golan Heights (Deuteronomy 4:43).

Jews built a busy and pious community there, but the area was under constant attack from the Aramean kingdom to the region’s north. The Book of Kings describes the monumental battle in the 9th Century BCE when the combined forces of the Jewish tribes of Judah and Israel defeated the Aramean armies in the Golan: “It happened...that (King) Ben-Hadad counted Aram, and he went up to Aphek to wage war against Israel….the battle was joined, and the Children of Israel struck down Aram – a hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day” (I Kings 20:26-29).

Remains of a Byzantine bathhouse, in Kursi National Park, Golan Heights

Jewish communities in the Golan flourished. Many of the battles against the Syrian Greek army that we celebrate during the holiday of Hanukkah took place in the area. Judah Maccabee led Jewish troops against the Greeks in the area, and his grand-nephew, the Jewish King Alexander Jannai, who ruled from 103-76 BCE, annexed the Golan region, adding it to his territory.


 
When the Roman Empire crushed the Jewish kingdom of Judah, the Golan was one of the very last areas to fall, only defeated in the year 67 CE. While Jewish autonomy ended, Jewish life in the Golan continued to flourish. Archeologists have uncovered the remains of 34 ancient synagogues in the area, dating from the end of the Judean kingdom in 70 CE. Throughout the Roman period, Jewish life in the Golan flourished, with synagogues and centers of learning sustaining a literate, pious Jewish community.

That came to end in the 7th Century when Islamic tribes crushed the Jewish communities in the territory. The last battle against the Islamic conquest, fought in the Yarmouk Valley in the year 636, took place in the Golan Heights. After that, Jews were driven out of the area for centuries.

Zionist Farmers in the Golan
Jewish life briefly returned to the Golan in 1891 when Jewish pioneers began to purchase and farm land in the region. Baron Edmond de Rothschild bought 18,000 acres in the area of Ramat Magshimim, in the Golan. Jews built five small farms in the Golan area’s verdant hills.



The Jewish pioneers’ farming experiment came to an end in 1898 when local Turkish authorities evicted the Jews and seized their land. At the end of World War I, Britain took control of the area; in 1923 they gave the Golan to France, along with the territories of present-day Syria and Lebanon. In 1947, Syria forced Jews out of the Golan Heights, and used the area to shell Israeli towns and farms that were in the sights of the towering hills of the Golan instead.

Small Area
The Golan Heights are so often in the news that one might be forgiven for thinking the area is a large one, full of people. In fact, the area of the Golan Heights that’s held by Israel is only about 1,200 square km., or about 500 square miles. About 40,000 people live in the Golan; most of these residents are members of the Druze and Alawite minorities who inhabit several villages and small towns in the hills. In addition, there are 32 Jewish towns and Jewish farming communities across the Golan.

Mount Hermon in the north of the Golan is about 2,800 meters, or 9,300 feet tall, and is a popular skiing destination. A few miles south, the hills along the Yarmuk River, which flows through the southern part of the Golan, are about 400 meters, or 1,300 feet tall. It’s a beautiful region, and several Israeli national parks and protected areas now dot the area.



Between 1948, when the state of Israel was established, and 1967, when Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, Syrian artillery batteries regularly shelled the entire region of northern Israel. They also allowed Fatah, the PLO’s political arm, to carry out attacks from the region. Haifa is only about 60 miles from the Golan Heights, and the Golan affords an excellent view of the Hula Valley in Israel’s north, which is Israel’s most fertile agricultural region.

For years, Israeli children were forced to sleep in bomb shelters. Many roads in Israel’s north could only be driven along after mine-detection trucks cleared the streets. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir recalled the misery that Syrians created for Israelis in the crosshairs of the Golan Heights. “The Syrians seemed bent on an escalation of the conflict; they kept up an endless bombardment of the Israeli settlements below the Golan Heights, and Israeli fishermen and farmers faced what was sometimes virtually daily attacks by snipers. I used to visit those settlements occasionally and watch the settlers go about their work as though there was nothing at all unusual in ploughing with a military escort or putting children to sleep – every single night – in underground air-raid shelters” (quoted in My Life by Golda Meir).

Recognizing that Syria was using the Golan Heights to attack Israel, the UN sent troops to police the border between Israel and Syria. In 1966, Israel appealed to this body, the UN Mixed Armistice Commission, asking them to stop Syria from allowing PLO troops to bomb Israel from the Golan. The UN refused to condemn Syria, though it did condemn Israel when Israeli troops dared fire upon Syrian positions in the Golan.

The Six Day War
After years of provocation, Israel gained the Golan Heights during the Six Day War of 1967. Fighting started on June 5, 1967, when Israel launched a preemptive strike on Egypt. Syria used the Golan Heights to shell villages and farms in the Hula Valley, and also sent planes to bomb Haifa. On June 9, Israel engaged Syrian fighters in the Golan and captured the area with seemingly miraculous speed, by the afternoon of June 10.

Archeologists soon found reminders of the area’s historic ties to Israel: coins dating from the 2nd Century CE inscribed with the words “For the Redemption of Jerusalem”.



Syria tried to regain the Golan six years later, in 1973, when they, along with Egypt, and supported by nine other Arab nations, staged a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur. They were unsuccessful and Syria later signed a disengagement agreement as part of their armistice with Israel that left the Golan in Israel’s hands. UN troops were stationed at the border of the now Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria, though Israel never used the Golan Heights to shell Syrian territory the way Syria used the commanding hills to terrorize Israel.

In 1981, Israel effectively annexed the Golan Heights, reflecting the key security importance of the area. Syrian continues to demand its return. In 1999, during peace talks with Yasser Arafat that many Israelis thought might lead to a permanent peace with the PLO, Syria disclosed its position: they would only agree to peace with Israel if Israel returned the entire Golan Heights. They wanted to be able to reestablish military positions on the hills, and also control the freshwater sources of the area. Given their experience with Syrian aggression in the area, Israelis refused to even consider this outrageous demand.

Humanitarian Aid in the Golan
With the humanitarian disaster of Syria’s brutal civil war now in its eighth year, Israelis have used the Golan region to provide life-saving humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. In June 2016, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Good Neighbors, which coordinates massive amount of medical and material aid in the Golan area.



Under Operation Good Neighbors, Israel has distributed over 1,500 tons of food, over 250 tons of clothes, about a million liters of fuel, dozens of generators, and about 25,000 containers of medical equipment and medicine. In one week in 2018 alone, the IDF’s Bashan Brigade carried out six risky operations in the Golan Heights, delivering hundreds of tons of aid, including clothing and children’s toys, to civilians in Syria.

When fighting from Syria’s civil war neared the Golan in July 2018, the Israeli Golan Regional Council launched a major drive to collect items to distribute to Syrian refugees in a buffer zone just outside Israeli control. “We would love any families in the Golan to make sealed bags for a Syrian child with toys and...coloring pages, crayons and sweets...to provide them with a moment of sweet and sweet joy” the council asked. “These are our neighbors and we see this as a mitzvah to help them in times of trouble” explained Council head Eli Malka. Within hours, thousands of donations had poured in.

The brutal fighting continues to rage near to the Golan Heights, a constant reminder of how crucial it is that Israel control the historic and strategically critical area of the Golan.
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The Golan Heights: 5 Facts
Mar 26, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/me/The-Golan-Heights-5-Facts.html?s=mm
The Golan Heights: 5 Facts
A short guide to the history and strategic value of the Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights are Israel’s buffer against its northern neighbor Syria. In Israeli hands since 1967, the Golan Heights are back in the news today, after President Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty. Here are five facts about the Golan Heights to provide some background at this historic moment.

Historical Ties
The Golan is the site of some of the Torah’s most vivid histories. When Jewish tribes first settled in the land of Israel, the tribes of Gad and Reuben, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, asked Moses for permission to settle east of the Jordan River. Moses agreed, and Jews from the tribe of Manasseh settled in “Golan in the (region called) the Bashan” in the modern-day Golan Heights (Deuteronomy 4:43).

Jews built a busy and pious community there, but the area was under constant attack from the Aramean kingdom to the region’s north. The Book of Kings describes the monumental battle in the 9th Century BCE when the combined forces of the Jewish tribes of Judah and Israel defeated the Aramean armies in the Golan: “It happened...that (King) Ben-Hadad counted Aram, and he went up to Aphek to wage war against Israel….the battle was joined, and the Children of Israel struck down Aram – a hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day” (I Kings 20:26-29).

Remains of a Byzantine bathhouse, in Kursi National Park, Golan Heights

Jewish communities in the Golan flourished. Many of the battles against the Syrian Greek army that we celebrate during the holiday of Hanukkah took place in the area. Judah Maccabee led Jewish troops against the Greeks in the area, and his grand-nephew, the Jewish King Alexander Jannai, who ruled from 103-76 BCE, annexed the Golan region, adding it to his territory.


 
When the Roman Empire crushed the Jewish kingdom of Judah, the Golan was one of the very last areas to fall, only defeated in the year 67 CE. While Jewish autonomy ended, Jewish life in the Golan continued to flourish. Archeologists have uncovered the remains of 34 ancient synagogues in the area, dating from the end of the Judean kingdom in 70 CE. Throughout the Roman period, Jewish life in the Golan flourished, with synagogues and centers of learning sustaining a literate, pious Jewish community.

That came to end in the 7th Century when Islamic tribes crushed the Jewish communities in the territory. The last battle against the Islamic conquest, fought in the Yarmouk Valley in the year 636, took place in the Golan Heights. After that, Jews were driven out of the area for centuries.

Zionist Farmers in the Golan
Jewish life briefly returned to the Golan in 1891 when Jewish pioneers began to purchase and farm land in the region. Baron Edmond de Rothschild bought 18,000 acres in the area of Ramat Magshimim, in the Golan. Jews built five small farms in the Golan area’s verdant hills.



The Jewish pioneers’ farming experiment came to an end in 1898 when local Turkish authorities evicted the Jews and seized their land. At the end of World War I, Britain took control of the area; in 1923 they gave the Golan to France, along with the territories of present-day Syria and Lebanon. In 1947, Syria forced Jews out of the Golan Heights, and used the area to shell Israeli towns and farms that were in the sights of the towering hills of the Golan instead.

Small Area
The Golan Heights are so often in the news that one might be forgiven for thinking the area is a large one, full of people. In fact, the area of the Golan Heights that’s held by Israel is only about 1,200 square km., or about 500 square miles. About 40,000 people live in the Golan; most of these residents are members of the Druze and Alawite minorities who inhabit several villages and small towns in the hills. In addition, there are 32 Jewish towns and Jewish farming communities across the Golan.

Mount Hermon in the north of the Golan is about 2,800 meters, or 9,300 feet tall, and is a popular skiing destination. A few miles south, the hills along the Yarmuk River, which flows through the southern part of the Golan, are about 400 meters, or 1,300 feet tall. It’s a beautiful region, and several Israeli national parks and protected areas now dot the area.



Between 1948, when the state of Israel was established, and 1967, when Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, Syrian artillery batteries regularly shelled the entire region of northern Israel. They also allowed Fatah, the PLO’s political arm, to carry out attacks from the region. Haifa is only about 60 miles from the Golan Heights, and the Golan affords an excellent view of the Hula Valley in Israel’s north, which is Israel’s most fertile agricultural region.

For years, Israeli children were forced to sleep in bomb shelters. Many roads in Israel’s north could only be driven along after mine-detection trucks cleared the streets. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir recalled the misery that Syrians created for Israelis in the crosshairs of the Golan Heights. “The Syrians seemed bent on an escalation of the conflict; they kept up an endless bombardment of the Israeli settlements below the Golan Heights, and Israeli fishermen and farmers faced what was sometimes virtually daily attacks by snipers. I used to visit those settlements occasionally and watch the settlers go about their work as though there was nothing at all unusual in ploughing with a military escort or putting children to sleep – every single night – in underground air-raid shelters” (quoted in My Life by Golda Meir).

Recognizing that Syria was using the Golan Heights to attack Israel, the UN sent troops to police the border between Israel and Syria. In 1966, Israel appealed to this body, the UN Mixed Armistice Commission, asking them to stop Syria from allowing PLO troops to bomb Israel from the Golan. The UN refused to condemn Syria, though it did condemn Israel when Israeli troops dared fire upon Syrian positions in the Golan.

The Six Day War
After years of provocation, Israel gained the Golan Heights during the Six Day War of 1967. Fighting started on June 5, 1967, when Israel launched a preemptive strike on Egypt. Syria used the Golan Heights to shell villages and farms in the Hula Valley, and also sent planes to bomb Haifa. On June 9, Israel engaged Syrian fighters in the Golan and captured the area with seemingly miraculous speed, by the afternoon of June 10.

Archeologists soon found reminders of the area’s historic ties to Israel: coins dating from the 2nd Century CE inscribed with the words “For the Redemption of Jerusalem”.



Syria tried to regain the Golan six years later, in 1973, when they, along with Egypt, and supported by nine other Arab nations, staged a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur. They were unsuccessful and Syria later signed a disengagement agreement as part of their armistice with Israel that left the Golan in Israel’s hands. UN troops were stationed at the border of the now Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria, though Israel never used the Golan Heights to shell Syrian territory the way Syria used the commanding hills to terrorize Israel.

In 1981, Israel effectively annexed the Golan Heights, reflecting the key security importance of the area. Syrian continues to demand its return. In 1999, during peace talks with Yasser Arafat that many Israelis thought might lead to a permanent peace with the PLO, Syria disclosed its position: they would only agree to peace with Israel if Israel returned the entire Golan Heights. They wanted to be able to reestablish military positions on the hills, and also control the freshwater sources of the area. Given their experience with Syrian aggression in the area, Israelis refused to even consider this outrageous demand.

Humanitarian Aid in the Golan
With the humanitarian disaster of Syria’s brutal civil war now in its eighth year, Israelis have used the Golan region to provide life-saving humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. In June 2016, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Good Neighbors, which coordinates massive amount of medical and material aid in the Golan area.



Under Operation Good Neighbors, Israel has distributed over 1,500 tons of food, over 250 tons of clothes, about a million liters of fuel, dozens of generators, and about 25,000 containers of medical equipment and medicine. In one week in 2018 alone, the IDF’s Bashan Brigade carried out six risky operations in the Golan Heights, delivering hundreds of tons of aid, including clothing and children’s toys, to civilians in Syria.

When fighting from Syria’s civil war neared the Golan in July 2018, the Israeli Golan Regional Council launched a major drive to collect items to distribute to Syrian refugees in a buffer zone just outside Israeli control. “We would love any families in the Golan to make sealed bags for a Syrian child with toys and...coloring pages, crayons and sweets...to provide them with a moment of sweet and sweet joy” the council asked. “These are our neighbors and we see this as a mitzvah to help them in times of trouble” explained Council head Eli Malka. Within hours, thousands of donations had poured in.

The brutal fighting continues to rage near to the Golan Heights, a constant reminder of how crucial it is that Israel control the historic and strategically critical area of the Golan.
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Post  Admin on Sun 24 Mar 2019, 5:43 pm

What Are You Doing to Confront Anti-Semitism?
Mar 18, 2019  |  by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/What-Are-You-Doing-to-Confront-Anti-Semitism.html?s=mm
What Are You Doing to Confront Anti-Semitism?
A crucial lesson from Mordechai and the story of Purim.

Last time I checked, Tel Aviv is not disputed territory in anyone’s book. It isn’t a “settlement,” “occupied” or an “obstacle to peace.” When rockets are launched at Tel Aviv, whether someone pushed the button on purpose or by accident, they are sent for one reason. Evil people seek the annihilation and elimination of the Jewish people. Those rockets are weapons of anti-Semitism, but they are not the only kind.

When anti-Semitic lyrics are shared, when Jews are accused of dual loyalty or of owning the country, controlling the media or using their “Benjamins” to buy elected officials, those are verbal rockets, also weapons capable of great destruction. The rockets from Gaza were met by the Iron Dome high in the sky, exploding them and protecting our brothers and sisters down below.

What were the verbal rockets of Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib met with? The same elected officials who thankfully help supply Iron Dome to Israel failed to provide it to us, their own fellow citizens. Instead of being met with a dome of protection, blowing up such words and accusations, protecting good people below, the House of Representatives allowed them to fall, exploding and causing us great pain, worry and fear. True, there were exceptions. Congressman Ted Deutch, gave an impassioned, compelling, balanced speech on the House floor and we should be very grateful to him. But his colleagues failed him and failed us; they allowed verbal rockets to be launched and, even worse, to land without protecting us. They couldn’t bring themselves to pass a resolution singularly condemning anti-Semitism. And now we have to ask ourselves, if those whom we rely on to protect us fail us, what will we do about it?

When Haman approached Achashveirosh with his diabolical, genocidal plan to exterminate the Jews, he said, “there is a nation scattered abroad and dispersed among the nations.” The Talmud (Megillah 13b) expands on this conversation.

When Haman targeted the Jews for annihilation, he said to Achashveirosh, “Let’s destroy the Jews.” Achashveirosh replied, “Not so fast. I am afraid of their God, lest He do to me what He did to my predecessors.”

Haman relieved the King of that fear when he said, “Yeshno am echad,” which translates literally as “there is a certain nation.” The Talmud quotes Rava, who explains that Haman was telling the King something much more strategic and insightful. Not yeshno am echad, there is a certain nation, but rather yoshnu am echad, there is a sleeping nation. Said Haman, “They have been negligent of mitzvot, they are divided, fighting with one another about brides playing drums at weddings. They are arguing amongst themselves but at the same time they are fast asleep as to what we want to do and how we threaten them.”

We were on the brink of extinction as a people because we were asleep.
We were vulnerable and literally on the brink of elimination and extinction as a people because we were asleep. Our eyes were closed to what was happening around us. We didn’t take the threats seriously and we didn’t stand up for our right to simply exist. Haman recognized and took advantage that there is a nation that is sleeping. All he had to do was continue to lull the Jewish people into a false sense of security, to breed complacency and apathy, and at that moment he could accomplish his goal of ridding the world of our people.

Indeed, Rabbi Soloveitchik suggested that the true miracle of Purim is that an anti-Semite rose, threatened us, and we believed him. We didn’t excuse him, accept his bogus apologies or say he didn’t really understand what he was saying. We didn’t just reject his tropes, we confronted him, we took him at face value, and we were determined not to let him threaten our people.

Identifying an anti-Semite, taking him or her seriously and doing something about it is nothing short of a miracle.

So how did we survive? What spoiled Haman’s plan? Why did we ultimately triumph over Haman such that we are here today and he is a distant memory? The answer is simple: Mordechai and Esther.

We understand Esther’s heroism. She risked everything: her life, her family, her people, to go out on a limb and confront the king without permission.

But what made Mordechai a hero? If you think about it, Mordechai may actually be a villain, a perpetrator in the story, responsible for initiating the decree to exterminate the Jews of Shushan and beyond.

Would it have been so terrible for him to just bow down? Just once? Not only does Mordechai refuse to bow down to Haman, he insists on antagonizing him by camping out on Haman’s route so that Haman would see him every day and be bothered by the one Jew who refuses to show him honor. Mordechai’s behavior provokes Haman and he responds by declaring his intention to destroy not only Mordechai, but all of Mordechai’s people, the Jews. Even after Haman’s plan has been pronounced, Mordechai continues to snub him.

When Achashveirosh remembers what Mordechai had done to save his life and sends Haman to reward him by parading around publicly, Mordechai could have declined the honor. Instead, he accepts, humiliates Haman and infuriates him further!

And this is the person we consider a hero of Purim? Why? A closer look seems to indicate that Mordechai’s ego put the Jewish people at risk. What was the source of Mordechai’s intransigence?

You might think it’s simple - bowing down was idolatry, one of the three cardinal sins for which we must give up our lives rather than violate. Indeed, the Ibn Ezra suggests that Haman was wearing idolatrous symbols. Rashi comments that Haman had declared himself a deity. Either way, it would seem Mordechai was right not to bow down, he was simply following Jewish law and it was his peers who were wrong for bowing, even if not doing so would mean risking their lives.

But that’s not the whole story. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 61b) says that the law of sacrificing your life rather than engaging in idolatry applies if in fact one is buying into the divine nature of the idol. If one is bowing simply out of fear, one is not liable.

So why didn’t Mordechai simply bow down in an effort to save the Jewish people?

Yes, Mordechai would have been entitled to bow down. To save his life, he could have been apologetic for his Jewishness and submitted to a virulent anti-Semite, bowing down to Haman and his worldview that wants a world without Jews. But Mordechai understood what was at stake.

Mordechai understood the antidote: To stand firm, to stand strong, and to stand as a proud Jew, a Torah Jew.
Mordechai, a humble scholar and righteous sage witnessed the growing anti-Semitism of Haman and his desire to see Jews and Judaism erased and he understood the antidote. If Jews were fast asleep, excusing away even the anti-Semitic “tropes” of their time, the answer was not to bow down, even if it was technically allowed. The answer was exactly the opposite. To stand firm, to stand strong, and to stand as a proud Jew, a Torah Jew.

The answer was to not apologize for being a Jew, but rather to be the proudest and most tenacious Jew, and that is exactly what he did. And this is how is Mordechai is known in the Megillah: “Ish Yehudi haya b’Shushan ha’bira – There was a Jewish man in Shushan the capital.” What do you mean a Jewish man; there was only one? There was a large Jewish population in Shushan!

The Megillah is telling us that true, there were many Jews, but some were abandoning their Judaism and others were failing to stand up for it. The Jewish community was asleep; there was only one Ish Yehudi, an unashamed, unembarrassed, unapologetic Jew.

What happens when Jews stand up for ourselves, when we call out and confront anti-Semitic song lyrics, tropes and yes, call out anti-Semites themselves? By the end of the story, the Megillah tells “fear of the Jew had fallen on them and so no man could stand up against them.” Why? “Because Mordechai, the proud, unashamed, unapologetic and fearless Jew earned the respect of his multitude of brothers, he sought the good of his people and spoke for the welfare of the next generation.”

One of the critical, but too often neglected, lessons of Purim is that the answer to our enemies is not to hide, apologize, or erase our Jewishness. To the contrary, it is to swell with and share our Jewish pride. When we act with confidence and pride, we gain respect. It is no coincidence that Mordechai emerges as a leader not only of the Jewish people, but a dignitary in the Persian government.

The mitzvah of Purim is to get to a point that we can’t tell between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai. We are very good at the blessed is Mordechai. We look to explain, excuse, justify and see everyone as a blessing. But we need to get to a point of remembering that identifying a Haman and cursing him is as important as blessing a Mordechai. We have to call out an anti-Semite, hold them accountable, hold those whose silence makes them accomplices accountable.

None of us know what the future brings. It could be that we will look back at these few weeks as an aberration, a small moment in time that bigoted voices spoke freely but we will go back to strong support, tolerance and freedom. But it also could be that history will look back at this moment, when members of Congress could espouse anti-Semitic views with impunity, without condemnation or consequence, and identify it as an inflection point, the beginning of defense of Jewish people turned.

This Purim, don’t just dress up like Mordechai; act like Mordechai.
If you share that concern, that uncertainty, the question is: what will you do about it? Certainly we have to write letters, make phone calls, attend rallies and hold anti-Semites and those who fail to condemn them accountable. But there is something else we must do.

We must appeal directly to the American people, to carry ourselves with pride, but also with dignity, honesty, integrity and righteousness. If like Mordechai our neighbors come to know and respect us, they will be intolerant of leaders who dare promote anti-Semitic rhetoric or tropes. If we carry ourselves properly, those we work with, work out with, shop with, or live near will speak out and stand up to demand resolutions of condemnation and removal of voices of hate from critical committees.

This Purim, don’t just dress up like Mordechai; act like Mordechai.



When God is Hidden: The Meaning of Purim
Mar 12, 2019  |  by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
https://www.aish.com/h/pur/t/When-God-is-Hidden-The-Meaning-of-Purim.html?s=mm
When God is Hidden: The Meaning of Purim
Finding meaning and hope in times of darkness.

“These days will be remembered and kept in each generation, in every family, land and city. These days of Purim will never be abandoned by the Jews, nor shall their memory die out among their children.”

Every year the Scroll of Esther must be read aloud in public, usually in the community synagogue. All adult Jewish men and women are given an obligation to hear every single word to fulfill the mitzvah.

Why? Don’t the other Jewish holidays have miracles far greater and wondrous? And why is Purim uniquely celebrated specifically through reading the Megillah?

Here is the message that sears into the heart and soul of every Jew throughout the centuries. The message that whispers to us in the silence of the night: “Do not be afraid. Even if it feels as if I am so far away, hidden and concealed. I will never abandon you, My dear children.”

The miracles of Chanukah and Passover, the shelter of Sukkot all speak openly about the hand of God in our lives. Divine intervention swooped down and saved the nation of Israel. We sing about the revealed miracles. There is no denying the obvious. How could one not believe? A scroll is not necessary.
But what happens when there is miracle after miracle yet no one seems to see the explosion of God’s mighty hand in this world? When God’s voice is masked by nature seeming to take its natural course?

Purim’s miracles were intentionally hidden. Esther happened to be chosen. She happened to be Jewish. Achashverosh happened to be taken by her. We had one of our own in the palace and wow, were we lucky! Mordechai happened to hear the plot to kill the king. Haman happened to erect the gallows upon which he was eventually hanged.

There is no luck or coincidence here. It’s all meant to be, directed behind the scenes by God’s guiding hand.

The name of God is nowhere to be found explicitly in the Book of Esther. It is only alluded to, hidden, waiting to be found. God purposefully concealed His name to teach us that there are times that great miracles are camouflaged, waiting to be discovered.

We all go through times that we believe that we are alone, on our own. Sometimes they are moments of great success. We think it’s all about being at the right place in the right time, karma, or our very own abilities.

We are ignorant or indifferent to God’s mighty hand in our lives. Propelling us forward, showering us with blessing. It is up to us to truly see and recognize the Source of life in our days.

Then there are those moments of darkness. We are bewildered. What happened to me? How am I ever going to get out of this? Where is God? I feel so abandoned. Why is God hiding?

Our people thought the same when the holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. We were sent into exile. Dispersed as the smoke and fire rose over our once glorious Temple. Fear spread from one to another. Can it be that God has abandoned us forever?

The Book of Esther teaches us that even in the darkness of exile, even in the looming shadows, we must never fear. God is watching over us. Perhaps His hand seems hidden. Perhaps the healing seems to be taking forever. We wonder, does God even care?

Beneath the heavy clouds is the hand of God, tenderly watching over us.

I was born upon the ashes of the Holocaust. My birth and the birth of my siblings were all hidden miracles. And each day we must only look to see God peering at us through the curtains of the heavens. Guiding us. Protecting us. Calling out to us. Granting us life.

We each have our own personal scroll to write. Purim gives us the message of courage and strength to seek the hidden hand of God through the dark clouds. This is the true definition of faith.
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https://www.aish.com/j/as/The-Shtisel-Phenomenon.html?s=mm
The Shtisel Phenomenon
Mar 17, 2019  |  by Judy Gruen
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The Shtisel Phenomenon
Fans can’t get enough of this Hareidi family.
On a recent Shabbat afternoon, I was arranging chicken on a serving platter when I heard one of our lunch guests talking about the hit Israeli series, Shtisel. I dropped my serving fork on the counter with a clang and hustled into the dining room.

“No talking about Shtisel till I’m back at the table!” I commanded, taken aback by my own vehemence. After all, our guest was not giving a D’var Torah; he was just talking about a television show about make-believe people. Yet, like thousands of other Shtisel devotees, my husband and I were hooked on the show from the first episode. It was compulsively watchable, even gripping in its quiet way. Now, I couldn’t bear for even a “bissel” (little bit) of Shtisel talk to take place without me.
“No talking about Shtisel till I’m back at the table!”
The show centers on the Shtisel family of Jerusalem. On one hand, the lives of this hareidi family seem narrowly constrained by religious, social and professional parameters that most Jews – and certainly non-Jews – could not imagine for themselves. Yet the patriarch, the widower Reb Shulem, his daughter Gitty, and youngest son, Akiva, all grapple with universal and timeless issues: adjusting to the loss of a beloved wife and mother, whose presence even after death is keenly felt; navigating the world of dating and trying to find one’s “b’shert;” coping with marital betrayal and then trying to move past the crisis; teenage rebellion; and how far one can push the boundaries of “acceptable” behavior and career choices in society.
A key dramatic arc that is brilliantly teased out through both seasons of the show is the conflict of Akiva, still single in his late twenties, a natural artist who feels compelled to bury his artistic passion and hide his creations because his father, Reb Shulem, believes it goes against Torah values. Watching Shulem’s relationship with Akiva play out against this tension is alternately frustrating and poignant.

Originally broadcast in Israel starting in 2013, Shtisel became an international sensation when Netflix purchased the rights to stream the show in December 2018. Nancy Federman Kaplan and Mimi Cohen Markofsky, two friends in Detroit, were so enamored of the show that they co-founded the Facebook group, “Shtisel – Let's Talk About It.” Currently the group has more than 6,700 members across the Jewish religious spectrum as well as other religions, and grows by a few hundred members each week. Despite the diversity of the membership, the conversation is always respectful. Everyone wants a glimpse into this usually closed and mysterious world.

I pop in there a few times a week for my “fix” of Shtisel talk, insights, and star-sightings: one member posted a picture of herself with the actor who plays the cagey and cold Nuchem; another offered the insight that when the teenage character Ruchami secretly reads Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, it’s a hint that Tolstoy’s adage that all happy families are the same but all unhappy families are unhappy in their own ways also applies to the hareidi world. The rumor that there may be a belated third season has nearly brought the atheists in the group to kneel down and pray.
Cohen Markofsky, who identifies as Modern Orthodox, explained the magic of the show this way: “The writers of the show are telling stories about characters who happen to be hareidi, but the stories and dramas could play out in any religious or even secular setting and probably have the same effect. Its placement in Israel is a plus for Jewish people everywhere! It engages so many people as a looking glass into the lives of a culture in the Jewish population that many group members might never have come across.”

In this way, the show has become an unexpected teacher of Judaism. Jews and non-Jews alike seem to love learning about differing levels of observance within the Jewish community. Members ask questions all the time: What does the name “Nuchum” mean? Why are parents so involved in their childrens’ dating lives? Why are they looking at the eggs in the bowl before they make an omelet?

The hareidi community often gets bad press – unfairly, in my opinion. The extreme acts of a minority become instant news, distorting the lives of quiet faith that should characterize them more fairly. In this way, Shtisel has performed a wonderful feat of public relations, peeling back layers of stereotypes and seeing “ultra-Orthodox” Jews as complex, sympathetic, and multidimensional. There are no perfect characters and no perfectly bad ones, either. Even the most dislikable character, Nuchum, has a few moments that redeem his humanity.

The two seasons of the show were created by Abot Hameiri Barkai for Yes, an Israeli satellite company, and won 11 Israeli TV Awards (including Best Drama, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Script for Season 1) and six awards in 2015 (including Best Actor and Best Actress for Season 2). The realism of the writing is no accident. Both co-writers have Orthodox roots – Yehonatan Indursky grew up in a hareidi family and attended the Ponevezh Yeshiva, while Ori Elon attended a yeshiva in Efrat.

Ruchi Koval, a Cleveland-based Jewish educator, author and motivational speaker, carves out some time in her day to discuss the show in the Facebook group because, as she explains, “The show has so much subtlety, and so much art in a show about art and artists. I need to unpack much of the symbolism with other members of the group. Also, because I have first-hand insight into the Charedi world, though I don't quite live there, I can be useful in clearing up misunderstandings and answer questions, especially as there are so many non-Jews in the group who are fascinated by what they see. And when I have questions, others in the group help me.”

Koval also points out another draw of the program that strikes me as very true. “There are almost no cars, no smartphones, none of the fast pace we are used to,” she observes. “Watching it, you feel everything slowing down. You want to slow down. Its allure is unmistakable. It is so different from Hollywood and it doesn’t rely on any Hollywood tropes. The Hebrew and Yiddish bring back a lot of memories for people. The nostalgia aspect is strong.”

As a Jewish educator and leader, Koval now has many students asking her questions about Orthodoxy based on their watching Shtisel. “They have 100 questions,” she says. ‘Is this true? Could this really happen? Why do they say a prayer before they eat?’ It's literally a Jewish educator's dream come true.”

While I miss the intrigue and suspense of what will next happen in the lives of the Shtisel family, I can also heartily concur with their oft-repeated phrase, “Baruch Hashem.” That a dramatic series portraying a hareidi family and community has led to such a wellspring of respect, interest, and sympathy is, to me, nothing short of a miracle. As one new gentleman in the Facebook group said, “I identify myself as a secular Jew, however, I felt very much a part of the show, because we are all part of the same history.”
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Ilhan Omar, the Benjamins and Purim Today
Mar 13, 2019  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
https://www.aish.com/h/pur/t/Ilhan-Omar-the-Benjamins-and-Purim-Today.html?s=mm
Ilhan Omar, the Benjamins and Purim Today
The Purim story’s warning of enemies who seek our destruction assumes such powerful relevance today.

George Elliott is credited with saying, “History repeats itself.” Mark Twain sharply improved on it with his observation that “history doesn’t repeat itself – but it does rhyme.” No matter how much things may change, one constant always remains: the Hamans of the world, the Jew haters who seek “to destroy, to murder and to bring to an end all Jews, from young to old”, are somehow forever with us.

It was foretold in the Torah. In the first battle against Amalek, prototype of the anti-Semite throughout the ages, we are informed that although the Jews won the fight, Joshua only “weakened” our enemy. Amalek survived. He continues to plague us in many disguises – masks which have become part of Purim ritual to remind us that people often conceal their true intentions under the guise of noble goals even as they plot the genocide of our people.

What happened in Shushan is the story of our people throughout the ages. It isn’t just ancient Persia, the persecutions and the pogroms of the Middle Ages or even the Holocaust of the 20 th century. Tragically it is the story once again of our own times. Not only Persia/Iran but sophisticated France, cultured England, educated Europe and the rest of the “civilized world” are again proving the truth of Elie Wiesel’s insight that “the only thing we have learned from history is that we do not learn anything from history.”

As we recall the Purim story once again, its warning of enemies who seek our destruction assumes such powerful relevance even here in the United States today.

Let me remind you a little bit about the Jews in Persia of old. When King Achashverosh celebrated his ascent to the throne he threw a huge party to which all were invited. Jews were welcome guests. The drinking was in accord with people’s different faiths. In retrospect, a bill decrying hatred against any and all minority groups would almost certainly have passed in the Persian Congress. Yet it only took a short while for Haman to turn his strategy of genocide into national policy.

What was the key to Haman’s success? His speech is recorded in the Megillah:

And Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws differ from [those of] every people, and they do not keep the king's laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be (Book of Esther 3:8).

The Jews have dual loyalty!

That is their crime. Ilhan Omar didn’t invent the brilliant lie. It’s always been Amalek’s secret weapon. Hitler knew it. Stalin knew it. Read the Torah on the way in which Pharaoh was able to turn the Egyptians against the Hebrews – the same Egyptians who had been saved by the wisdom of Joseph – and you will find the similar strategy:

“ He said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we are. Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies and wage war against us and depart from the land’” (Exodus 2:9 – 10).

Winston Churchill famously said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots.” The lie of Jewish dual loyalty is perpetuated by the Hamans of history even as Jews wherever they reside prove the truth of the promise given by God to Abraham that “I will bless those who bless you.”

Purim, happily, is not merely the story of anti-Semitism; it is the biblical record of a major victory over a nefarious anti-Semite. And perhaps the most ironic part of the story is a truth made famous these past few weeks by a contemporary Jew hater.

Ilhan Omar is right; “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

For Omar “the Benjamins” – a reference to American hundred- dollar bills – was her despicable insinuation that Jews, as the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion long ago put it, control the world behind the scenes with their money.

For the Book of Esther, “the Benjamin” was revealing to us at the outset that Mordechai was “Ish Yemini”, from the tribe of Benjamin. And why was that so significant? The rabbis explain that was the reason Mordechai was able to counter Haman’s libel and to demonstrate to us throughout the ages how best to overcome our enemies.

While others bowed down to Haman, Mordechai refused. It was a trait he inherited genetically. The rabbis tell us that when Jacob met with his brother Esau he bowed down to him. According to some commentaries, it was a sin for which he would be held accountable. And 11 of Jacob’s sons bowed down as well. Only Benjamin, who was not yet born, did not bow. And so Mordechai, a direct descendent of Benjamin, maintained the tradition of his ancestor.

Aware of the threat to their survival, Jews need to put aside their differences and unite in the face of a common enemy.
The man who would not bow down to an enemy in humble submission is the one who encouraged Esther to similarly stand proudly and firmly, without embarrassment or fear, and speak up on behalf of our people. “Who knows,” he told her, “if not for a time such as this have you been placed in this position of rulership.”

Mordechai and Esther are the heroes of the Purim story because they refused to cower before those who sought to destroy our people. They spoke out against their Haman with all of their strength. It’s all about the Benjamins and those who refuse to remain silent when enemies again plot “the final solution” for Israel and for our people.

Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that all this is happening at the very time Jews around the world are celebrating Purim. History records not only the recurring story of anti-Semites and anti-Semitism. It also confirms the Divine intervention that has invariably assured our survival. And this miracle – in the one biblical book in which God’s name isn’t mentioned even once – is a miracle we desperately need today: The miracle of Jews, aware of the threat to their survival, who put aside their differences, united in the face of a common enemy, and collectively recognize that it must’ve been for “a time such as this” that we are given the opportunity to partner with God.
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Post  Admin on Wed 13 Mar 2019, 11:27 pm

Walking Through the Valley of Death
Mar 2, 2019  |  by Naomi Freeman
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Walking-Through-the-Valley-of-Death.html?s=mm
Walking Through the Valley of Death
Violated as a teen, isolated and alone, a young woman discovers a way back to spiritual and physical health.

I was 15 when trauma overshadowed my life. I wasn’t yet able to comprehend the tortuous impact being violated had on me because I was a tough, “cool” teenager with that exterior façade built to protect me from harm. It had seemed that nothing could faze me ever.

Until this happened.

I certainly wasn’t going to tell my parents, or even my closest friends. I just recoiled within myself and didn’t share the details because I was too embarrassed and devastated.

I tried to open up to only one friend, but two weeks after I confided in her, she moved to North Carolina when her father’s company suddenly transferred them. We were separated by a vast physical distance and too young to know what trauma was and that I needed help.

My parents could not tell that something was wrong because I still looked, on the outside, like their same aloof, rebellious teenage daughter. Lack of communication was my norm. And how could I tell my mother what had happened when she had grounded me for being out late the night before? In my immature mind, I viewed everything that had happened as my fault. Unrelenting guilt devoured me. I wore dark, baggy clothes to hide in; they resonated with the shattered way I felt inside. Suicidal, depressing thoughts engulfed me. The world was a scary place with evil people that couldn’t be trusted.

Depressing thoughts engulfed me. The world was a scary place with evil people that couldn’t be trusted.
A month before my sixteenth birthday, my friend’s mom lent me a book by Dick Gregory, “Cookin’ with Mother Nature.” His book testified how he lost over 200 lbs., going from morbid obesity to a slim, healthy athlete.


 
I don’t remember why I was willing to read his book. I didn’t care about anything. I was failing most of my classes in high school. Who cares what we eat? He wrote about the connection between the food we consume and how we feel. Could it be that all the sugar, candy, ice cream, junk food, French fries, pizza … my whole teen diet… could exacerbate how depressed I was?

Somewhere inside of me was a spark of life bursting to be reborn. My soul was desperate to emerge from the pit of despair where I was stuck for so long.

I had never stopped praying. I didn’t know Who else to turn to in those bleak days when I was feeling so alone. I don’t know what influenced me to pray, but from the very beginning, I did… “God… I feel so dirty, disgusting and yucky. I feel lonely and hopeless…. What’s the point of being alive in a world where people hurt each other?”

And I cried. A lot.

I knew I couldn’t control anything or anyone around me. I could only make choices about myself.

If I would take care of myself, maybe that meant I was worth something. Maybe my life mattered.
Something inside compelled me to choose life. Right then I decided to go “cold-turkey” from the junk-food diet, from smoking and drinking and drugs that I consumed and focus on eating fresh fruits for breakfast, salads for lunch, whole grains and vegetable soups for dinner. It was an inner physical cleansing that could cleanse my mind, heart and soul. If I would take care of myself, maybe that meant I was worth something. Maybe my life mattered.

And slowly, cautiously, tentatively, I started running in the morning before school. It was only ten minutes around the block, but it was a beginning of a new life.

This new routine evolved into going to sleep early and arising by 5:30 am. Ten minutes became twenty, then thirty, and eventually an hour in the awesome fresh morning breeze. Awakening before sunrise, hearing the chorus of chirping birds surrounded me with a buoyant feeling of renewal and rebirth. Running was like flying.

It began with that first step around the block: invigorated, revitalized and restoring that lost sense of self-esteem and self-respect. And off the “typical American diet” it seemed like my brain was coming out of a fog. I could learn, absorb, study and pass exams in school again. My grades in school went up. My communication with my parents improved dramatically as I tried to make up for how disrespectfully I had treated them. Though I sometimes laughingly wondered if I was running away from my problems or running into a new future, those morning runs were a soothing, therapeutic, meditative time of prayer, reflection and contemplation, a time of healing and reconciliation with my inner being and with God Who I had felt estranged from. It was during those walks that I sensed that God was always by my side, coaching me on. He had never left me though I had left Him.

Two years after I started running, three years after the trauma, I was diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. I was only 18 and I was sure that the early trauma was connected to my illness. How could my body fight back when I had wanted to die?

But everything was different now. I wanted to live!! I had to live!

I couldn’t run after major abdominal surgery, but I could walk, though at first it was excruciatingly painful.

I survived that cancer, but six years later I found out that the operation and radiation that helped save my life also made it impossible for me to have children without undergoing more invasive treatment. I didn’t want more drugs and more operations, but I walked through that challenge. Thank God, I walked through births and raising children.

I walked through more surgeries, more radiation treatment and chemotherapy, feeling God’s tremendous love surrounding me.
I walked through cancer again when I was 44, 26 years after the first battle with cancer. Twenty-six years of precious life – the number that represents God’s Name of compassion. I walked through more surgeries, more radiation treatment and chemotherapy, feeling God’s tremendous love surrounding me.

Walking was my route of escape from the death dungeon I was entrapped in for one horrible year when I was 15. It was my way of claiming back my self-worth.

Walking almost every morning became my way of getting through a long list of ordeals, feeling God by my side, helping me always. I pray. I say Psalms. I say thank You. I pray that no one should feel alone. Support exists and God has many ways to help us.

It’s been 40 years since I first ventured around the block for ten minutes. Forty is that auspicious Biblical number of rebirth: of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land; and 40 days between the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, until Yom Kippur, the annual season of teshuvah. Forty is the number that represents the power to lift a spiritual state, to be purified and transformed.

For me, every step is another opportunity to thank God and celebrate the precious gift of life, the life that I can hardly believe I am here to live.

*Note from the author. Looking back 40 years, I definitely needed post trauma counseling, but I did not have the awareness then to know how to get help or know what my options were.

If you notice that your child, loved one or friend is acting differently – sad, defiant, rebellious or withdrawn – they may be suffering from something that happened that they are afraid to tell you or anyone about. Reach out. Ask questions. Get help. Walking is a highly recommended endeavor that stimulates healthy production of beneficial endorphins but it is not a substitute for therapy.
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Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel, Renaissance Man
Mar 9, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Rabbi-Yitzchak-Abarbanel-Renaissance-Man.html?s=mm
SHARES
Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel, Renaissance Man
An advisor to kings, Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel dedicated his life to helping Jews in Europe.

In the late Middle Ages, the learned members of the Jewish Abarbanel family emerged as advisors to kings and princes. As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, one scion of the Abarbanel family – Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel – emerged as a true Renaissance man. Scholar, religious leader, philanthropist, diplomat, banker and royal advisor, few figures in European history can match Rabbi Yitzchak’s erudition and greatness – and his concern for his fellow Jews.

Rabbi Yitzchak’s father, Rabbi Judah Abarbanel, was an advisor to a local Spanish ruler, King Henry, who ruled in the city of Castile. King Henry relied heavily on Judah’s good advice and resisted calls by Catholic leaders to persecute the Jews in his kingdom. But the relative peace of that region’s Spanish Jews was shattered when a charismatic populist emerged, preaching hatred against Jews.

Ferrand Martinez, a local monk and royal confessor, hated Spain’s Jews and lost no time in fanning the flames of hatred in his fellow Christians. He would preach against Jews, then lead a mob from town to town, attacking Jewish quarters, breaking into synagogues, and threatening to kill Jews unless they converted on the spot. Seville, Cordova, Toledo and many smaller towns were all attacked by Martinez’s mobs, and the region began to empty of its Jews.

King Alfonso appointed Yitzchak treasurer of the royal court of Portugal.
Rabbi Judah Abarbanel fled along with many of his compatriots, settling in neighboring Portugal where his innate talents once again caught the eye of the local royal rulers. Judah became a favorite advisor to King Alfonso V of Portugal. Wealthy and secure at last, he was able to provide a solid education for his brilliant young son Yitzchak. Yitzchak mastered many languages with ease and excelled in Jewish studies and philosophy. He began to write books about some of the most fundamental questions in Jewish thought, addressing issues such as the nature of prophecy. He also composed commentaries on the Torah. Yitzchak became a rabbi like his father. Eventually, he was forced to abandon his full-time studies when King Alfonso demanded he join his father in working for the royal family and appointed Yitzchak treasurer of the royal court of Portugal.

In the Royal Court of Portugal
Rabbi Yitzchak advised the king well and helped Portugal grow in importance and prestige. He never forgot his Jewish brethren and was always on the outlook for ways to ease the many burdens placed on the Jewish community in what was often a harsh, Catholic land. In 1471, when King Alfonso captured a town in Morocco, he placed the town’s 250 up for sale as slaves. Rabbi Yitzchak sprang into action. He knew it would be impossible to change the king’s mind about the sale, so he offered his own money and raised additional funds among Portugal’s Jews to purchase the slaves himself and then free them. For two years afterwards, Rabbi Yitzchak personally supported these 250 Moroccan Jews, until they’d learned to speak Portuguese and had settled into jobs and occupations.


 
When King Alfonso died in 1481, Portugal became markedly less tolerant of Jews. The old king’s son, King John II, accused many of his father’s old advisors of plotting against him. He summoned a host of advisors and ministers to his palace, including Rabbi Yitzchak. Rabbi Yitzchak was on his way to meet the new king when a friendly informer stopped him with horrifying news: as each royal advisor approached the palace, they were seized and then beheaded. Rabbi Yitzchak lost no time, turning around on the spot and trying to flee with his wife and children to Spain.

Torah Commentary
The family settled in Toledo. There, the uprooted family found themselves bereft, penniless and without connections. Rabbi Yitzchak started working for a Jewish banking company and spent his free time writing commentaries on the Torah. These beautiful, insightful works continue to be studied widely today.

Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm zt”l explained the enduring nature of Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel’s appeal:

“Abarbanel’s literary output was voluminous and multi-faceted…Abarbanel is unique among Jewish Bible commentators in that he does not hesitate to quote the comments of Christian exegetes such as Jerome, Nicholas de Lyre, and others, sometimes even accepting their views. A striking feature of Abarbanel’s works...is their comprehensiveness. One can expect to find in them, on any topic, a comprehensive digest of...views.” (Quoted in The Early Acharonim, compiled and edited by Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm. Mesorah Publications Ltd.: 2008.)

The Abarbanels’ peaceful life in Toledo came to an end in the year 1484, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain commanded Rabbi Yitzchak to become their royal treasurer, reprising the career he’d once performed with distinction in Portugal.

Rabbi Yitzchak could hardly refuse a royal order but he might have had a secondary reason to comply. The feared Spanish priest Tomas de Torquemada was now head of the Inquisition in Spain and he was leading the charge to root out secret Jews who’d pledged loyalty to the Catholic Church out of fear, but who retained a Jewish lifestyle in secret. These secret Jews were subject to horrific torture and murder. Historians speculate that Rabbi Yitzchak thought that by becoming close to Spain’s royal rulers, he might use his influence to blunt the harshest decrees and laws against Jews.

Ferdinand and Isabella
While Rabbi Yitzchak did become a vital advisor to Ferdinand and Isabella, they were ardent supporters of the Inquisition and seem to have had personal antipathy to Jews. Rabbi Yitzchak served as Queen Isabella’s personal financial agent and raised the money that she and Ferdinand needed to capture the city of Grenada and complete the unification of Spain as a single, Christian country under their rule. Instead of being grateful for his role in their victory, Ferdinand and Isabella turned on Rabbi Yitzchak and the rest of Spain’s Jews. They issued a decree: in 1492, only Christians would be allowed to reside in Spain. Any Jews who refused to convert would be forced to leave.

Rabbi Yitzchak pleaded with the royal couple to avert this decree, to no avail. He offered to raise vast sums of money for the royal court if only the Jews could stay. Ferdinand and Isabella were unmoved. They told Rabbi Yitzchak that if he converted to Christianity he could remain and keep his position in the royal court. Rabbi Yitzchak told them that was impossible.

Ferdinand and Isabella
On the solemn Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av in the Jewish year 5252 (July 30, 1492), Rabbi Yitzchak and his family joined tens of thousands of other Spanish Jews at the nation’s ports, crowding onto ships to take them away from Spain. Many of these desperate refugees were taken advantage of, sold into slavery or even thrown overboard by unscrupulous ship captains. Rabbi Yitzchak and his family managed to make it to the town of Naples.

When King Ferdinand heard that Spanish Jews were landing in that Italian city, he sent word to the local king of Naples (also named Ferdinand) demanding he deny Jews entry. King Ferdinand of Naples refused to be cowed, and allowed the Jews to settle in his domain. Rabbi Yitzchak had hoped to work full time on writing his Torah commentaries again, but the king of Naples demanded that Rabbi Yitzchak once again assume the role of treasurer in his new home.

No Rest
He became treasurer and royal advisor to King Ferdinand of Naples, as well as his son, King Alfonso II, when he succeeded his father in 1494. Rabbi Yitzchak’s travails were not over. In 1495, Naples fell to France and King Alfonso II fled to the Mediterranean island of Sicily. Rabbi Yitzchak and his family went with the deposed king, continuing to serve him in exile.

Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel desperately worked to make his communities a safer, better place for Europe’s battered, persecuted Jews.
He was by now in late middle age but his wanderings never ceased. When King Alfonso II died, Rabbi Yitzchak moved to the Mediterranean island of Corfu where he lived in poverty, writing and studying and working on his voluminous writings. He moved back to Naples, then later to Venice where the city elders invited him to become a government official. Ever the dazzling statesman, Rabbi Yitzchak eventually rose to become one of the rulers of the Venetian Republic. He died in 1509, a celebrated and famous Venetian. Leading members of Venice’s government attended his funeral, in the Italian town of Padua, which was then home to a large Jewish population and contained a Jewish cemetery.

King Alfonso II
In his commentary on the famous Biblical story when Jacob confronts his brother Esau (who has vowed to kill him), the Abarbanel noted that Jacob feared Esau and “his fear was like that of a real hero who, going to battle, is afraid of death and senses the danger, but out of noble motives scorns life and chooses a brave death…” (Quoted in New Studies in Bereshit by Nehama Leibowitz). This nuanced description of our patriarch Jacob’s feelings might reflect the dramatic realities of Rabbi Yitzchak’s life as well. Time and again, he faced danger and the threat of death. Yet throughout his long life, Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel went into battle, immersing himself in public life, desperately working to make his communities a safer, better place for Europe’s battered, persecuted Jews.
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Post  Admin on Fri 08 Mar 2019, 9:25 pm

March of Life: Descendants of Nazis Remember the Holocaust
Mar 2, 2019  |  by Menucha Chana Levin
https://www.aish.com/ho/i/March-of-Life-Descendants-of-Nazis-Remember-the-Holocaust.html?s=mm
March of Life: Descendants of Nazis Remember the Holocaust
Remembrance, reconciliation and fighting anti-Semitism.

When members of the Protestant TOS church in Tuebingen began to investigate the hidden Nazi history of their city and their own families they were in shock. “Many were horrified to discover that their fathers and grandfathers had been actively or passively involved in the Holocaust as SS guards, Wehrmacht soldiers, civil servants or in other capacities,” explains Claudia Kiesinger, director of TOS America.

Barbel Pfeiffer, a congregant, had been unaware of any personal connection to the Holocaust. Although she had seen photos of her maternal grandfather in his army uniform, she assumed it was a closed chapter in Germany’s history. When encouraged to explore their families’ hidden past, she began asking questions.

Pfeiffer was shocked to discover that her grandfather, an engineer, helped build the Auschwitz gas chambers.
Pfeiffer was shocked to discover the terrible family secret that her paternal grandfather, an engineer, helped build the Auschwitz gas chambers. It took weeks for her to come to terms with that horrific realization. Then in 2012 she traveled to Auschwitz with her church and addressed a group of Holocaust survivors.

“I wanted to speak the words that my grandfather never spoke, say the things he never said. He never asked for forgiveness. When he came back, he told his family what he had done and said, ‘Don't you dare speak of this, nobody must know.’ And so the whole story remained a secret,” explained Pfeiffer.


At the end of the war near the city of Tuebingen there had been eight concentration camps well-known for their cruelty and high death rate. In April 1945 the surviving inmates were sent on brutal death marches to Dachau. Along the way thousands were shot in front of German civilians.

Survivors and their descendants walked side by side with the descendants of Nazi perpetrators.
In response to that vicious death march, the first March of Life took place in April, 2007, following the same route through the German countryside. Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors from the United States joined the March, walking side by side with the descendants of Nazi perpetrators. March of Life, started by Jobst and Charlotte Bittner and members of TOS Church in Tuebingen, is now an independent organization though still affiliated with the church.

In 2018 almost 60 Marches of Life took place worldwide ranging from small Marches in Ueckermünde, Germany with 40 participants to the large March of the Nations in Jerusalem that had 6000 participants. Approximately 20,000 people ventured into the streets with a March of Life in over a hundred cities and towns all over Germany including Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Berlin, Dresden, Hanover, Munich and Hamburg. In addition, Marches have been held in other countries like Romania, Switzerland, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, France, Britain, United States, Canada, Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia as well as Israel.

Claudia Kiesinger feels there has been an overall positive response to Marches of Life in Germany. “The message about looking into the history of one’s own family concerning the Nazi era is a challenging concept but something that every German can relate to. Occasionally there is criticism that March of Life is connecting remembrance with a clear pro-Israel stance or asking “Why do we still have to talk about the Holocaust?”

In 2015 the organization established a house in Caesarea for Holocaust survivors with weekly gatherings and a luncheon.

“Each time both the survivors and the descendants of Nazis share their stories. It is a very emotional experience and sometimes not easy but new friendships are always formed,” explains Kiesinger.

An emotional moment for a Holocaust survivor and the descendant of a Nazi

Sometimes special encounters take place such as one last June between Berta Feinstein and Riva Leibovich who had known each other in the ghetto of Mohyliv-Podilskyi in Ukraine. Berta was 13 years old when she came to the ghetto with her family in 1941. Riva, from Moldova, was just five years old at the time. Riva's mother asked Berta to take care of her little daughter. After the war, the two girls lost all contact with each other. Berta graduated from Kiev University with a degree in Russian Literature and Linguistics and became a teacher in Minsk for 40 years.

In 1990, both Riva and Berta moved to Israel, unaware of each other’s existence. After 73 years, they met again, recognizing and excitedly hugging each other in the March of Life house.

On May 15, 2018, the March of the Nations brought 6000 people from 50 nations to the streets of Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. Its motto: MiShoah LeTkuma – from Holocaust to New Life. In June, 2019 the March of the Nations will take place in a condensed format in different cities throughout Israel. The March of Life has been honored by the Israeli Knesset for its special efforts on behalf of Holocaust survivors.

The March of Life is also involved with sending volunteers on a regular basis to ALEH Negev, a facility for severely disabled children.

“The idea is practical reconciliation: the descendants of Nazis serving the weakest members of Israeli society.”
“The idea is practical reconciliation: the descendants of Nazis serving the weakest members of Israeli society. We have had several exchange and encounter programs with schools in Ashdod and other cities and also a special encounter in Yad Vashem of members of the Krembo Wings Youth movement and young people from Germany, Poland and other nations,” says Kiesinger.


When asked about the organization’s response to the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, Kiesinger replied, “We believe that the most effective way to combat anti-Semitism today is to learn from the past by confronting the unfortunate anti-Semitic history in a personal way, relating to the mostly hidden family histories in Germany concerning the Nazis. Also in other European countries like Austria, Poland, France and Switzerland there was collaboration and sympathizing with the terrible acts committed during the Holocaust. We are continuing to call and train people to do annual Marches of Life in their own cities, to lift a relevant voice for Israel and against modern anti-Semitism and to keep organizing Marches ourselves.”
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Post  Admin on Sun 03 Mar 2019, 9:50 pm

With Mengele in Auschwitz
Mar 2, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/With-Mengele-in-Auschwitz.html?s=mm
With Mengele in Auschwitz
After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, Yantu Weisz lived independent and strong till age 109.

In 1944, Yantu Weisz was 35 years old when the Nazis entered the Hungarian town of Mezokovesd and rounded up the Jewish community. Yantu was herded – together with her sister and mother – onto a cattle car. As the train chugged toward Auschwitz, everyone aboard knew the end of the journey: gas chambers and crematoria.

Days later, the train pulled its weary and dispirited cargo through the notorious red brick gate. As the cattle car door opened, the first thing Yantu saw was a pair of shiny black boots. They belonged to an immaculately dressed soldier with a riding whip – the bespectacled Angel of Death, Yosef Mengele. Yantu and the others were quickly pushed into line where Mengele pointed his whip – to the right for slave labor, to the left for instant death.

Though upset about being childless, that saved her life.
It was clear that Yantu's more elderly mother was destined for death, and the two sisters decided not to abandon her. In those perilous moments they were uncertain which sister will be spared, and which will accompany their mother to the gas chamber.

Because Yantu’s sister had a young child with her, she was automatically sent to the left with their mother.

Yantu was married for 10 years and childless. Though she’d been upset about not having children, it saved her life.

Yet prior to the fateful deportation, Yantu had become pregnant. As she stood in Mengele’s line, instructions were given for all pregnant women to step forward and “receive better care.” As Yantu was about to comply, another woman alerted her not to reveal the pregnancy: Being caught pregnant in Auschwitz meant certain death.

One night, after having been in Auschwitz for a few weeks, Yantu became very weak with abdominal pains. She went to the latrine and the baby slipped out.

Afterwards, Yantu received assistance from a Jewish nurse – perhaps the legendary Dr. Gisella Perl, a Hungarian prisoner in Auschwitz who was ordered to inform Dr. Mengele of any pregnant women in the camp. His evil intent: to perform cruel and excruciating “medical experiments.”

Yet Dr. Perl bravely defied these cruel orders. She would warn any pregnant woman of the life-threatening situation. Then, using no tools, anesthesia, bandages or antibiotics, Dr. Perl often saved the pregnant woman’s life – lovingly and compassionately performing an abortion… in the middle of the night… on the dirty barrack bunks.

(Dr. Perl survived the war and moved to New York City, where she specialized in infertility, making it her mission to bring life into the world, as chronicled in her autobiography, "I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz.")

Following the miscarriage, Yantu felt very sick and – against everyone’s advice – checked into the concentration camp “hospital.” There, Mengele would visit daily, walk around the beds, and point to those to be taken out and gassed. Miraculously, he never pointed at Yantu.

One evening, one of Yantu’s friends came to the hospital and told her to get up, as a transport was taking them to a better place. Yantu was very weak and told her friend to go on without her.

Not one person from that transport survived.

In the course of six months – first in Auschwitz, then in a munitions factory making bullets – Yantu endured the most horrific conditions – a Nazi tactic to make the Jews “subhuman.” Prisoners were given food only once daily – one small piece of bread and something to drink in the evening. Once, Yantu decided to save her bread for the morning as a way to have more strength during the day. She hid the bread under her head and in the morning it was gone – stolen! From then on, Yantu ate her bread immediately.

Whenever Yantu spoke about her Holocaust experience, she always said that no story, movie or book could adequately convey the sheer horror they endured.

Liberation and the New World
One day, all the Nazi guards ran away. Liberation! The war was over and Yantu survived due to physical strength and a tremendous determination to live. With humility, however, she did not regard her survival as commendable, saying that the finer, more genteel people died; only the tougher ones managed to survive.

Yantu's husband Azriel Chaim, despite suffering from diabetes, also survived the war, however in a weakened condition from which he never fully recovered. (When he died at age 67, the doctors said he was like 85.)

After the war, Yantu and Azriel Chaim returned to their hometown in Hungary, to see what remained. One of Yantu's sisters had gone into hiding in Budapest and survived. Additionally, two of Yantu's three brothers survived the slave labor camps.

Following the war, Yantu had difficulty getting pregnant again and suffered a few miscarriages – complications of her experience in Auschwitz. She was well into her 40s when two children were born, whom she referred to as "miracles." Her son, Rabbi Noson Weisz, is today a senior lecturer at Yeshivat Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem. Her daughter, Annie, lives in New York.

Religion was not allowed, and children were required to attend school on Shabbat.
For a few years, the Weisz family enjoyed the thriving Jewish community in Budapest – he with a government job and she as a seamstress. Yet when Hungary became a satellite of the communist Soviet Union, life became difficult. The open practice of religion was not allowed, and children were required to attend school on Shabbat.

The Weisz family wanted to leave – but the border was closed.

With the Hungarian revolution of 1956, the border opened again and Yantu insisted that they leave – so her children could grow up as proud Jews, not Communists. At the first opportunity, they escaped to Vienna, where they applied for exit visas to Israel, USA and Canada. The visa for Canada came first, so they immigrated to Toronto.

Within six months, the ever-adaptable Yantu was fluent in English and had reestablished her career as a successful, high-end dress designer who made wedding and evening gowns.

Yantu and Azriel Chaim Weisz

Independent and Strong
Yantu lived by herself in Toronto until age 102, working as a seamstress and remaining independent the entire time. She described work as “the best medicine for whatever bothers you.”

"Her independence was more important to her than anything," says her son, Rabbi Weisz. “Her eyesight and mental faculties remained sharp until the very end.”

Yantu wanted her son to be a doctor, but he wanted to be a rabbi. So concurrent with yeshiva studies, he attended University of Toronto night school, earning degrees in microbiology and in law. “My mother then wanted me to go to graduate school, so I consulted with the great Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who said: 'She is a Holocaust survivor. Do what she asks,’” says Rabbi Weisz, who earned a Masters in Political Science.

“I want to be buried with a coffin made of my sewing machine.”
Though the children never knew their grandmother who perished that day in Auschwitz, she was a strong presence in their life. "My mother always followed in my grandmother’s ways and quoted her,” says Rabbi Weisz. “For example, my grandmother was a seamstress and said: 'I supported my family with my sewing machine, so I want to be buried with a coffin made of my sewing machine.' My mother was also a seamstress and the memories of her mother were never far."

Yantu passed away in April 2018 at age 109, bequeathing to 70 descendents a legacy of courage and goodness.

Rabbi Noson Weisz teaching at Yeshivat Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem.

"The Talmud says that someone who lives a long life can usually attribute it to a specific merit," says Rabbi Weisz. "My mother's outstanding trait was that if she could avoid it, she never took anything from anybody.”

When her son became engaged to a woman from a prominent, wealthy family, Yantu insisted on paying for half the wedding expenses. This was to the other family’s chagrin, as they could not countenance accepting money from a survivor who was eking out a living. The bride's parents had to come up with creative ways to assume as many expenses as possible since Yantu was always averse to "taking."

"If someone asked for tzedakah, she always gave. Even when people owed her money, she never asked for it back,” says Rabbi Weisz. “She always gave and never took. There aren't people like this around anymore."

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance day, is Thursday May 2, 2019. That Thursday evening (Nissan 28) marks the first yahrtzeit of Yantu Weisz, may her memory be blessed.
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Post  Admin on Fri 01 Mar 2019, 8:44 pm

The Importance of Play: 8 Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health
Feb 26, 2019
by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP
https://www.aish.com/f/p/The-Importance-of-Play-8-Ways-to-Nurture-Your-Childs-Mental-Health.html?s=mm
The Importance of Play: 8 Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health
We need to bring play back into our children’s lives.

Play is the most cherished part of childhood. Sadly, free play for children has steadily declined in the past few decades. The reasons are many: tightly structured family and school schedules, more parents working outside the home, fewer safe places to play and rise of screen time. The average preschooler uses technology 4.5 hours a day.

Mental health issues are on the rise in children. Many experts believe that this directly correlates to the loss of play. Why? Because play is where children learn life adaptability skills. They learn to cope and deal with their stress when they run free, swing from monkey bars, climb trees. In essence they are testing their abilities in “dangerous” situations. Children themselves are allowed to manage just the right dose of danger. This knowledge helps them feel in control of themselves and the amount of stress they can handle, helping them feel in control of their lives.

Play also allows children to develop their imagination and creativity. They learn social skills, how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, make their own decisions and self-advocacy skills. Children who are left to play at their own pace learn to know themselves well. They can discover their own areas of interest and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue. Play also helps children maintain healthy physical activity level.

It is no wonder that experts have found that play can help prevent children from a slew of health issues, stress, anxiety, depression and obesity as well.

We need to bring play back into our children’s lives. Here are 8 tips to help increase your child’s free playtime.

1. Turn off electronics: This is not so easy to do in today’s world but it is essential. Have a no technology zone for the hours when your children come home from school. I always appreciate Shabbos because it is a natural break from the world of technology.

2. Have toys but not too many toys: Too much stuff just creates a whole lot of clutter and actually inhibits a child’s imagination. You can try rotating toys, every few months putting some toys away in a bin and replacing them with toys put away months before. This keeps your play area clean and also allows children to experience their old toys as new again.

3. Have space for kids to play: Children need room inside and outside to play. You want to designate an area in the house where they can play freely. We had an old couch in the basement that we called the jumping couch, our kids were allowed to do whatever they wanted with that couch, jump on it, build forts etc. If you have a yard, make sure it has an area for play, swings, a sandbox etc.

4. Have an art box or an art area: When engaged in art, children’s brains grow. It does not need to be anything elaborate: paper, scissors, crayons, markers, stickers and some glue can keep children engaged for hours.

5. Playing solo: Kids need some alone time to play. When they play with their toys by themselves it helps process new experiences, deal with their fears, conflicts, and everyday events in their lives. You often will hear your child engaging in fantasy play using different voices and reenacting what is happening in their world, which can be therapeutic. It is also great for developing their fantasy and imagination.

6. Get outside: Try to get outside everyday, even in the winter. Let them explore and play in nature—the woods, the park, the beach, wherever. If you live in a safe area, try to just sit on the side and let them let them have as much freedom as possible. They don't need an adult-led activity; they really need to be left alone, in control of their own play.

7. Mix children of different ages: It is helpful to encourage your child to play with children of different ages. Older children help facilitate a younger child’s learning, helping them get to a new level naturally. Older kids can practice their leadership skills more readily. Children will also learn to participate as well as challenge the game. This also helps them learn self-control and negotiation skills.

You also want to avoid intervening. Don't try to protect your child from others. Try not to judge other kids to harshly. Remember learning how to deal with difficult kids can give children the practice they need to deal with all types of people as they grow. These are the times where they are learning the biggest lessons in self-control and resilience.

8. Get support: You are not alone. Try talking to other parents, whether it’s in your neighborhood or just on your block. Put your heads together and see how you can encourage your kids to get outside like how it was naturally done back in the olden days.

Reference: Alexander, Jessica Joelle. The Danish Way of Parenting (pp. 27-28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
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Post  Admin on Wed 27 Feb 2019, 11:09 am

L’Chaim: A Childless Holocaust Survivor Discovers He Has a Namesake
Feb 23, 2019  |  by Rabbi Levi Welton
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/LChaim-A-Childless-Holocaust-Survivor-Discovers-He-Has-a-Namesake.html?s=mm
L’Chaim: A Childless Holocaust Survivor Discovers He Has a Namesake
An inspiring true story about two Chaims and the miracle of life.

My wife Chavi and I were visiting my folks in California. We picked a random Shabbat to go out there and went to the local Chabad for services. A family from out of town was also there that Shabbat celebrating their daughter's Bat Mitzvah. We stayed for the Kiddush and the dynamic Rabbi Mendy Cohen led the entire community in singing, inspiring Torah learning and some hearty l'chaims. The party continued until late in the afternoon.

At some point, I asked the father of the Bat Mitzvah where they originally came from and he told me he was from Mexico City and had converted to Judaism many years ago before he had his kids.

Rabbi Welton with Holocaust survivor Chaim Grossman while wearing suit hand-tailored by Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield.

"So why'd you pick your Hebrew name of Chaim?"

He told me that he had once spent a Friday night Shabbat service at a synagogue in Westchester, NY back when he was just starting out on his spiritual journey. One of his Rabbis had told him that if he ever met a Holocaust survivor, he should remember these words:

"A Holocaust survivor who doesn't believe in God....is a normal person.
A Holocaust survivor who does...is an angel."

During that Friday night service, as they were dancing around welcoming the holiness of the Shabbat Queen, he looked down at the arm of the person he was holding hands with and saw numbers. He felt overwhelmed that he was dancing with an angel and couldn't control the urge to ask the man his name.


 
The old man smiled and said, "Chaim." At that moment, this man from Mexico City decided that when it came the time to pick his Hebrew name, he would name himself after the angel he was lucky to dance with. Years passed and he never saw the man again.

I asked this father, "Is the survivor’s name Chaim Grossman?"

His mouth dropped open. "How do you know that?"

I told him I'm the Rabbi of a synagogue in Westchester. One of my congregants survived Buchenwald, went on to become a pilot in the Israeli Defense Forces, and then immigrated to America. His name is Chaim.

This father began to cry. He didn’t even known that Chaim Grossman was still alive. I leaned in close to him and told him that Chaim Grossman was very much alive and that I would be seeing him the following Shabbat. After Shabbat , we took this photo as this father wanted to send his love to his "Godfather."

The author with Chaim Valencia.

The next Shabbat, I asked Chaim Grossman to sit in the center of the synagogue as I began my sermon. I told him that 3,000 miles away there lived a man that carried his name and who was raising his family in a traditional, observant home.

"This is incredible," I said. "What is the probability that on the exact Shabbat, the only Shabbat in the entire year that we would fly out to California, it would be the same Shabbat of his daughter's Bat Mitzvah? What are the chances that after hours of celebrating, we would have that conversation about the origin of his name? And what are the chances that the Shabbat for which I would return to New York City to tell this story to his namesake would be the same Shabbat on which we read the Torah portion of Shemot. (Exodus) which literally means "Names," as our Sages teach that the way our ancestors broke free of their slavery was by keeping their Jewish names!"

I then pulled out the photo, printed and framed, and looked Chaim in the eye. As he raised his numbered arm to receive the photo of his "Godson," everyone began to cry. You see, Chaim had never been blessed with any children. And yet now he had a proud Jew halfway around the world who was carrying his name and who would pass it on to his children's children's children.

I will never forget the moment when Chaim stood up and blessed God.

I will never forget the deafening applause that followed.

And I will never forget the image of this holy Holocaust survivor hobbling out of the synagogue holding tightly onto the framed photo of a miracle.

As my father, Rabbi Benzion Welton, taught me, "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." I had thought I was going to California on vacation but I was really being sent to bear witness to a profound lesson about "Chaim" which means "Life." As the Talmud says, "If our descendants are alive, then our patriarchs are alive" (Taanit 5b).

Rabbi Welton’s latest project is a historical fiction novel for teens aimed to teach Torah values through an exciting story of magic and adventure that takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. To help him, click here.
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Post  Admin on Sat 23 Feb 2019, 11:41 pm

Do You Have the Attention Span to Read this Entire Article?
Feb 16, 2019  |  by Emuna Braverman
https://www.aish.com/f/mom/Do-You-Have-the-Attention-Span-to-Read-this-Entire-Article.html?s=mm
Do You Have the Attention Span to Read this Entire Article?
Social media is wreaking havoc on our ability to concentrate and think.

Social media is an easy target. There are so many reasons to find it troubling – and yet it is so seductive. I’ve written about the lack of personal privacy and modesty, about the hurt it can cause and the lack of sensitivity it engenders. We all know the illusions it creates – of others who are happier, more successful, more popular – and the confusion that occurs when we seem unable to enjoy any experience unless all of our friends are able to see it and “like” it.

Even death seems to now be a Facebook phenomenon as news of a loved one’s passing is immediately posted online and condolences delivered in the same fashion.

Yet, as I ponder the social media generation, I find a more serious cause for concern: the decay of our ability to concentrate, to control our time and our attention.

Let’s look at these issues in order.

1. Loss of concentration: We were already becoming a sound bite society. If it’s longer than the original 140-word limit Tweet, no one pays attention. How can we learn anything important that way? We can’t.


 
But it’s even worse. In many situations all sorts of information comes at us at once or we fall prey to the ease of switching rapidly back and forth between sites and apps. Under such circumstances no serious learning can take place. This is antithetical to the Torah guidelines to devote long, solid blocks of time to pore over a page of Talmud and learn Torah.

Torah wisdom is acquired through tremendous effort and concentration. Witty cocktail party repartee and news of celebrity birthday bashes can be gleaned as we flip from site to site or from info that pops up on our screen. But insights about marriage, tips for parents, wisdom for living all require serious time and thought, and concentration. This is too precious a commodity to sacrifice on the altar of social media.

2. Controlling our time: Yes, of course we are ultimately responsible, but just as advertisers employ tools of psychological manipulation in constructing ads to sell their products, so too the staff behind these websites strategize how to keep us on their page for as long as possible, how to lead us from friend to friend to friend on Facebook and subject to subject as we surf the web.

Someone recently confessed to me that she can sit down at her computer at 11 PM exploring one idea/item/category with each one leading to something else until the next time she picks up her head it’s 2 AM! I know she isn’t alone.

3. Controlling our attention: This has numerous components. Most of us have noticed that if we visit a retail website and peruse its offerings, those pages will pop up everywhere we go online (even on aish.com!). Even articles are pushed on us by external forces – by algorithms used by websites to keep us interested and engaged and by Apple News Feed. I frequently find myself reading a story that appears on said feed. Unfortunately that item may then lead to all sorts of gruesome and/or inappropriate stories I would rather not read – or even know about. But once it’s in my face, it’s like a car wreck, hard to look way.

Of course, I am responsible. I’m also responsible if I’m seduced by Madison Avenue to buy products I don’t need. But in both cases, I am also the victim of an all-out effort that’s hard to combat.

And since there is such competition online for users’ eyes, every site and offering has to be more outlandish, more attention-grabbing, louder and more colorful and more entertaining than the last. We are less able to invest concentrated thought and learning in our frenetic Internet age.

I’m not suggesting we put the genie back in the bottle. We couldn’t even if we wanted to. I’m just suggesting that we maintain perspective, that we recognize the cost, that we work hard not to lose our precious learning opportunities, that we try our best to reclaim our time, our concentration and our attention.

Perhaps that once-a-week total disconnect called Shabbos is a good place to start...
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Post  Admin on Tue 19 Feb 2019, 12:02 pm

Omar, AIPAC and the Jews
Feb 17, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Omar-AIPAC-and-the-Jews.html?s=mm
Omar, AIPAC and the Jews
Minneapolis leaders have had enough of Ilhan Omar’s insincere apologies and anti-Semitism. An Aish.com exclusive.

“Jews use financial influence to control society… Jews have dual loyalty… Jews are conspiring to take over the world… Jews are hypnotizing humanity…”

These anti-Semitic tropes have been at the core of some of humanity’s worst atrocities – Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms, Holocaust.

And now, Cong. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is bringing this rhetoric to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she tweeted, referring to the influence of Jewish money (“Benjamins” a slang reference to $100 bills), then singling out pro-Israel AIPAC for the corrupt buying of politicians.

Omar’s contention is unacceptable on many levels. Not only does it evoke harsh anti-Semitic myths of Jews controlling the world via money, it is factually wrong: AIPAC pays no money to politicians, nor contributes to their candidacy.

As for Omar’s implication that a pro-Israel policy is bad for America, perhaps she is unaware that Israel is America's most trusted and reliable ally in the Middle East, a beacon of democracy standing on the frontline of the war against terror.


 
When Omar faced backlash and semi-apologized for these dangerous words, many in the Jewish community excused her ignorance, saying she was “previously unaware” and is now “educated.”

Yet Minnesota State Senator Ron Latz (D) is having none of this.

“Rep. Omar has shown a pattern over the years of using anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tropes or themes in her communications,” Latz, told Aish.com.

Latz would know. Last year, he led a group of local leaders in Minneapolis who invited Omar to an educational discussion about issues of sensitivity to the Jewish community. In a two-hour meeting at Latz's home, Jewish leaders respectfully explained to Omar that criticism of Israel must not include anti-Semitic stereotypes. Most attendees came away troubled by Omar’s response, Latz says, yet hopeful her attitude would change.

As it happens, things are worse. Omar deceived the Jewish community about her support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement that uses double standards to delegitimize and demonize Israel as the world’s pariah. BDS has been called "terrorists in suits" for its aim of destroying the Jewish state. 

Prior to the election, when asked at a synagogue to specify her stance, Omar said that BDS was “not helpful in getting that two-state solution” – as if to denounce the movement that she now openly supports. This is deception.

“Evil Israel”
Recently, when asked how the U.S. should work productively toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Omar first criticized Israel’s very identity “as a Jewish state,” then said: “If we see that in any other society we would criticize it. We would call it out. We do that to Iran.”



Omar falsely suggests that the idea of a state religion is somehow fanatical, racist, and anti-democratic – effectively denying Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. Does Omar not know about Western democracies like England, Spain, Denmark, Greece, Costa Rica and 35 other countries who are officially Christian nations? Does Omar not know that 30 countries identify Islam as their official religion?

Yet it is the world’s sole Jewish state – where freedom of religion for all is enshrined into Israeli law – that aggravates Omar. This double standard is called anti-Semitism.

As for the other part of Omar’s tweet – comparing Israel to Iran: Does she not know that Iran is a radical theocracy, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, that routinely vilifies the United States, and that operates terror bases in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Lebanon – including sponsorship of Hezbollah that murdered 241 U.S. Marines?

Is this what Omar compares to Israel, our ally that votes in concert with the U.S. at the United Nations – more than any country in the world including major U.S. allies like Great Britain, France and Canada?

Does Rep. Omar truly require more re-education – or is something more sinister operating here?

The Apartheid Canard

Ilhan Omar
✔️
@IlhanMN
 Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza  #Palestine #Israel

4,758
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Omar’s most sinister Tweet came as Hamas terrorists were bombarding Israel's civilian population with 150 rockets. It was then that she labeled Israel an “apartheid regime,” saying that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and see the evil doings of Israel.”

"Evil apartheid"? Doesn't Omar know that Israel upholds Muslims' freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion – more freedom and rights to Muslim citizens than any Arab nation, and more religious freedom than the "progressive" nations of Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and France?

Doesn’t Omar know that the first country in the Middle East to grant Arab women the right to vote was not Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, or one of other 23 Arab states – but Israel?

Doesn’t Omar know that in Israel today, 10 percent of Israeli parliament (Knesset) members are Arab; that 30 percent of students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are Arab; that one-third of the staff at Israel's Hadassah Hospital – arguably the leading hospital in the Middle East – are Arabs?

Yet on all this, Omar is silent. Nor does she utter a word about gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia, where women have been arrested for driving a car, and make up just 5 percent of the workforce – the lowest proportion in the world. Does Omar not know about the Saudi Arabian smartphone APP allowing men to monitor their wives and daughters – who have no independent right to leave the country?

Why does Omar not criticize the horrific discrimination against Jews throughout the Middle East, where 74% of Muslims believe anti-Semitic stereotypes (ADL survey), and where entry to Israelis is almost universally denied?

Why does Omar not criticize the Palestinian Authority’s apartheid policies which regard selling land to Jews as punishable by death, and its longstanding vow that should Palestine ever become a state, not a single Jew will be permitted to live there?

Anti-Semitism on the Rise
With the rise of anti-Semitism around the world – ADL reports a rise of 56% in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017 – we cannot afford to give a free pass to those spreading anti-Semitic ideas.

When such statements become part of mainstream discourse, it emboldens anti-Semites. Though Jews are 2 percent of the US population, FBI data consistently shows that anti-Semitism accounts for the majority of U.S. hate crimes due to religious bias. Whether the crime is swastikas painted in Jewish cemeteries, or the yeshiva set on fire by neo-Nazis this month in upstate New York, or the horrific murder of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue – we must be vigilant.

We need to call out the hypocrisy of a former U.S. President taking the stage with radical anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan (“Jews are termites”). And to call out the Women’s March for tolerating co-founder Tamika Mallory’s praise of Farrakhan as GOAT – the Greatest of All Time.

If we don’t call this out, we are enabling anti-Semitism to normalize in “accepted conversation.” The current British experience gives an inkling into this dangerous process: When “critics of Israel” in the UK Labour Party began employing anti-Semitic tropes, that trend went unchecked long enough that today, Jeremy Corbyn – UK Labour’s BDS-supporting leader – may soon become prime minister.

With Ilhan Omar now wielding international influence on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, it's time to stop pretending she doesn't know her statements are anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles. To stop pretending that BDS is anything but a bludgeon to delegitimatize and destroy the Jewish state. To ensure that these vile views do not gain ascendance in the US Congress.

It's time for all of us to stop the kid-glove treatment of making excuses for Omar, State Senator Latz tells Aish.com. "She should have learned by now. It is time to hold her accountable for what she says."




Anti-Semitism Is Deeply Woven into the European Fabric
Feb 16, 2019
by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Anti-Semitism-Is-Deeply-Woven-into-the-European-Fabric.html?s=mm
Anti-Semitism Is Deeply Woven into the European Fabric
European culture developed in a dominating, hostile Christian environment over more than a millennium.

Saying that anti-Semitism is integral to European culture does not make one popular in Europe. This does not change even if one clarifies that this is not the same as saying that most Europeans are anti-Semites.

Yet the claim is not difficult to prove. European culture developed in a dominating, hostile Christian environment over more than a millennium. Major incitement against Jews initially stemmed from the Catholic Church. Later, several Protestant churches, including Lutherans, promoted Jew-hatred.

If powerful institutions and elites promote hatred over a very long period, that hatred comes to permeate the culture. In the 1960s, Christian historian and clergyman James Parkes analyzed the conflict between Christians and Jews during the first eight centuries of the Christian era. Concerning that period he concluded, “There was far more reason for the Jew to hate the Christian than for the Christian to hate the Jew – and this on the evidence of Christian sources alone.”

Parkes held that the Christian theological concept of the first three centuries created the foundations for the hatred of Jews, on which an “awful superstructure” was built. The first stones for this were laid at “the very moment the Church had the power to do so, in the legislation of Constantine and his successors.” Parkes attributed full responsibility for modern anti-Semitism to those who prepared the soil and made the lies credible.

On the Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther, 1543


 
During the Enlightenment and thereafter, many leading European thinkers expressed hatred towards Jews. Voltaire, several German philosophers, early French socialists, Karl Marx, and many others took part in what can only be described as an anti-Semitic hate fest.

The Holocaust was executed by German Nazis with the help of many allies. It was facilitated by the mainly Christian infrastructure of anti-Semitic feeling in Europe, which had accumulated over centuries.

After WWII, many thought the Holocaust had taught Europeans a hard lesson. Anti-Semitism seemed to fade, especially after several highly acclaimed movie and television productions – including NBC’s 1973 series Holocaust and Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Schindler’s List – reached huge audiences. Another example was Claude Lanzmann’s powerful 1985 documentary, Shoah.

Yet classic anti-Semitism targeting Jews continues to exist. Polls by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) exposed that the evil myth that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus is alive and well in Europe. It was found that 46% of Poles, 38% of Hungarians, 21% of Danes and Spaniards, and 19% of Norwegians and Belgians believe this. So do 18% of Austrians and British, 16% of the Dutch, 15% of Italians, and 14% of Germans.

Once a belief is so deeply ingrained in a culture, it takes a very long time to flush it out. Rather than disappear, it will change its shape.

Classic anti-Semitism targeted Jews initially as a religion and later in national/ethnic terms, as a people. In recent decades, however, political correctness has made it impossible for “respectable Europeans” to self-define as anti-Semites.

So the hatred mutated. A third major generation of anti-Semitism has developed: anti-Israelism, which targets the Jewish state. The inroads this has made in Europe were proven by a 2011 study conducted by the German University of Bielefeld. From this study it emerged that at least 150 million adult EU citizens agreed with the statement that Israel is conducting “a war of extermination against the Palestinians.”

Were this in fact the case, hardly any Palestinians would still be alive. To the contrary, the number of Palestinians has increased over the past decades. The persistent myth of Jews being responsible for the killing of Jesus has partially mutated into a new myth: that Israel is committing an act of genocide against the Palestinians.

In another new mutation of anti-Semitism, European Jews are now accused of being responsible for Israel’s actions. A December 2018 study by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) showed that this idea ranks among the most frequent expressions of anti-Semitism in many European countries. Another aspect of anti-Semitism in Europe is the return of the word “Jew” – without an adjective – as a curse. It is also often used as an invective by non-Jews against other non-Jews.
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Post  Admin on Thu 14 Feb 2019, 6:49 pm

AISH  - Page 4 JewishValentinesDay475x222-
A Jewish Valentines Day
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/A_Jewish_Valentines_Day.html?s=mm
Feb 12, 2012  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
A Jewish Valentines Day
Love is the ultimate mitzvah.
Love is in the air.

With the advent of Valentine's Day, the United States Greeting Card Association estimates that roughly 1,000,000,000 greeting cards filled with declarations of love are sent worldwide – and that number doesn't include the flowers, chocolates, jewelry and gifts that have become part of the rituals of this day on the calendar dedicated to expressing the emotion that Shakespeare called "the language of the soul."

As Jews, we may not be sure whether it's proper for us to join the party. After all, for the longest time the full name of this holiday was “St. Valentine's Day” because of its legendary link with the apocryphal story of one of the earliest Christian saints. Yet academics aren't the only ones who have recognized the dubious historical basis of this connection. Vatican II, the landmark set of reforms adopted by the Catholic Church in 1969, removed Valentine's Day from the Catholic church's calendar, asserting that "though the memorial of St. Valentine is ancient… apart from his name nothing is known… except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on 14 February."

What's left for this day, as proponents of its universal celebration declare, is something that people of all faiths may in good conscience observe: A day in which to acknowledge the power of love to make us fully human.

When I am asked as a rabbi if I think it's a good idea for Jews to celebrate Valentines Day, my standard answer is, "Yes, we should celebrate love… every day of the year."


 
And as long as one day has been singled out to emphasize the meaning of love, this might be a wonderful moment for us as Jews to remind ourselves of its deeper meaning as a commandment – a meaning that is all too often lost when it's defined by Hallmark.

Love, for at least one of the major Talmudic Sages, represents the ultimate mitzvah. When a non-Jew asked Hillel to "teach the entire Torah on one foot,” i.e. to summarize its essence, his response was basically the idea implicit in "love your neighbor as yourself."

So in a way, loving others it would appear is the summum bonnum of Judaism.

Related Article: The Power of Love

Love of Self

And yet, the way Valentine's Day is observed around the world leaves out one person worthy of love who is almost universally ignored. Granted, it is a fantastically beautiful thing to acknowledge love for another. But a closer look at the biblical verse that makes “love” a commandment points to someone who needs to be loved even before the object of your Valentines Day passion.

The first necessary step to loving others is to love oneself.
The verse in Leviticus (19:18) reads "love your neighbor as yourself." There are two instructions given here, and in very specific order. The verse is commonly used to remind us to love others, but we ignore, at our own peril, the first necessary step that has to be taken in order to accomplish the goal of loving others. Love your neighbor, the Bible teaches, as yourself.

It is one of the most profound psychological truths that the deep-seated hatred manifested by tyrants or criminals is in reality self-hatred turned outward. To be truly human, you must begin with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Only then can you move forward to a feeling of affection for others as well.

The Chasidic Rabbi of Kotzk was right when he witnessed a man beating another and said to his disciples, "See how even while performing an evil act, this Jew fulfills the words of the holy Bible. He demonstrates that he loves his neighbor as much as he loves himself. We can only pray that he eventually comes to love himself, so that he may alter the way he treats others."

Barbara De Angelis, an American researcher on relationships and personal growth, put it well in saying that, "If you aren't good at loving yourself you'll have a difficult time loving anyone, since you'll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren't even giving to yourself."

The flip side of this, of course, is also true: If you don't how to love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to love you?

Faustian Bargain

This is not to suggest a self-love that's narcissistic, but rather the kind of self-love made possible by self-respect. The kind of self-love exemplified by the remarkable story of Gil Meche, the subject of a front-page headline in the New York Times:.

"Pitcher Spurns $12 Million to Keep Self Respect"

Gil Meche is a 32-year-old Major League pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. His contract called for $12 million for the coming baseball season. Major league contracts are guaranteed; no matter how well or poorly someone plays, or even if he can't play at all due to injuries, he gets paid in full. Meche has a chronically aching shoulder that prevents him from pitching. All he would need to do to collect his salary is to report for spring training. But instead, Meche announced his retirement last week, which means he will not be paid at all.

"When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it," Meche explained. "Once I started to realize I wasn't earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn't feel like I deserved it. I didn't want to have those feelings again."

I don't want to take what I don't deserve.
To Gil Meche, more important than money was the ability to look himself in the mirror and say, "I know I am true to my values, my dignity and my self-respect. I don't want to take what I don't deserve." And with that he demonstrated something we all could learn as the necessary prerequisite for true love.

Indeed, in many areas of life we are confronted with choices in which self-respect appears to be at odds with the seeming need for success. The Faustian bargain seduces us to sell our souls. Only those who are smart enough to choose love, are strong enough to make the right decision.

It isn't egotistical to make sure that you are likable in your own eyes. According to the Torah, it's a first step we all have to take before we proceed on the journey of love of others that will grant us the greatest fulfillment.

So here's my suggestion for Valentine's Day and as all the other 364 days of the year. No, you needn’t send yourself a Hallmark card declaring your love. But you might want to take a moment to live in a way that earns your deepest respect and admiration.

When you truly reach that place, you can then love others as yourself. In turn, they will be your true valentines, loving you for who you are with the kind of love that transcends momentary passion and one pithy phrase.
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Post  Admin on Tue 12 Feb 2019, 8:38 pm

Anti-Israel legislation makes its way to the US government
By Phil Schneider -  February 12, 2019 2419 0
Some Democrats in the Congress today claim that they oppose the BDS movement, but they think that people should have the rights to express BDS views. This is called anti-semitism in Congress. Get used to it. It will just grow and grow as the Muslim population grows in the United States.
Ilhan Omar runs from CNN reporter when pressed on BDS support
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVj1q0kIH90&ab_channel=WashingtonFreeBeacon
The BDS is the New Organized Anti-Semitism
Today, there is a new stylish form of anti-semitism. It is called support for BDS. It is support for a boycott, for economic pressure against the State of Israel. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats support this anti-Israel measure too. Today, it is not out-of-style to support BDS in the progressive crowd. So, rather than say that one is anti-Israel, there is a more acceptable way of doing it. It is called being “unopposed to the BDS.” What needs to be said loud and clear is that the entire goal of the BDS movement is the destruction of the State of Israel. So, if one is “unopposed to the BDS,” they are unopposed to the destruction of the State of Israel. Of course, they won’t admit that. But that is the essential truth.

The drive of these new congresswomen is pure hatred of the State of Israel. But it also is the progressive socialist agenda that Bernie Sanders espoused. In a nutshell, the two unfortunately go hand-in-hand. But they ought not. Even the genuine progressives ought to realize that Israel is the most “progressive” country in the Middle East. The radical congresswomen should be marginalized. Even the progressives in the Democratic Party should know better.
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Post  Admin on Sun 10 Feb 2019, 10:12 pm

A rabbi shocks a priest and imam about what he wants at his funeral
By Leah Rosenberg -  February 10, 2019 5016 0
1
What happens when a rabbi, a priest, and an imam meet at an interfaith conference? Well, in this interview, one answer will definitely give you a laugh!

SHNOOKS! "A Rabbi, a Priest and an Imam
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rDUH_PmXJQ&ab_channel=AccidentalTalmudist

The Question
The question asked by the interviewer was, “What do you hope people will say about you at your funeral?” That is definitely a deep question. It gives people a lot to think about: How am I spending my time? What am I doing in my life to make a difference? How do I connect with others?

And the answers given reflect the seriousness of the question. For the most part.


The Imam’s Answer
The imam said, “At my funeral, I hope they’ll say I put the needs of my congregation before my own.” That sounds nice. He wants to be the type of leader that cares for others. Beautiful!

The Priest’s Answer
The priest said, “At my funeral, I hope they’ll say I extended my ministry beyond the walls of my church.” That also sounds like a nice answer. The priest wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Rabbi’s Answer
Now comes the rabbi’s answer. He said, “At my funeral, I hope they’ll say, ‘Look! He’s moving!'”
This is some good Jewish humor! Laughter really has the power to heal things, and Jews appreciate and know that. Anywhere that it is appropriate to insert some humorous aspect, a Jew will do that. Humor makes situations more relaxed. It is something special to be able to make others laugh. And this video definitely gives a good laugh!
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Post  Admin on Thu 07 Feb 2019, 10:42 pm

Saying Goodbye to Eddie
Feb 3, 2019  |  by Rabbi Zale Newman
http://www.aish.com/jw/s/Saying-Goodbye-to-Eddie.html?s=mm
Saying Goodbye to Eddie
The elderly Holocaust survivor had no money or family. Who would come to his funeral?
Last Wednesday I faced the very real possibility of performing a funeral for a sweet, elderly Holocaust survivor all alone.
After being hospitalized a number of years ago, I joined the Bikur Cholim organization, almost 500 volunteers who visit and provide services for sick people in the Toronto Jewish community. I am part of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences team who visits Jewish patients in this huge hospital. My role is to visit before every Shabbat and Jewish holiday.

Seven months ago I began to visit Eddie “Efraim” Ford, an 85-year-old survivor originally from Budapest. He was six years old when the war broke out and survived by being hidden with a Christian family.

The war took its toll in many ways, but eventually Eddie made it to Canada where he began a new life for himself. He married and divorced and never had children. Aside from a nephew in Detroit, we knew of no other living family members.

When I met him he was fighting cancer that had spread to three parts of his thin, small body. Eddie was quite the personality. He had written a book of poetry and fondly remembered his time as a young member of the choir in the Dohany Street great synagogue of Budapest. He could only remember the tunes to the Shema when the Torah was taken out and some lines of the Aleinu prayer.


 
Every Friday in the hospital, as part of his late-in-life Jewish reawakening, he would put on his huge red kippah and we would sing Shalom Aleichem, Adon Olam and of course Shema Yisroel and Aleinu.

He cherished the hospital Shabbat candles we brought for him which he lit every week, put on tefillin, and made blessings on the cookies and drinks we brought for him. He was “winding down” but we kept this practice going, along with daily visits from our team members up to two weeks ago. When I visited him the last Friday, he was barely conscious, but nevertheless I sang his favorite pre-Shabbat songs for him.

The following Monday, Bikur Cholim received a call from the hospital that he had passed away. There was no one to take care of funeral arrangements. We had his body taken to the non-profit, traditional funeral home for proper Jewish burial. They offered to provide their services and a plot at no cost, as he left the world with no money or assets. It took quite some time to get all of the legal matters in order and the burial was set for noon on Wednesday.

But who would attend a funeral for someone they didn’t know, in the middle of day, out in northern Toronto, in frigid -27C degree temperatures?

I feared it would just be Eddie, me and our Father Above.

I sent out a late night Facebook post. Three people responded that they would join me. We were now up to four attendees, I was hoping for at least a minyan of ten.

When I arrived at the cemetery just before noon, I couldn't get in because of the long line of cars. I assumed there was another funeral taking place at the same time and I wondered how we would find Eddie's designated resting place.

I stopped people who were walking and they all said they were going to the funeral of Mr. Eddie Ford. I had to park far away and walk in the freezing wind to join almost 200 people (!) in a huge, warm circle of love, as we gave Eddie a traditional, sweet, proper, fitting, and loving send off to the Next World. We made a pathway to comfort his long lost brother from a small town in Ontario, whose relative had found about Eddie’s passing on the Internet and informed him so that he could attend.

Toronto Jews gather together

I am in tears just thinking about how humbling and awesome it is to be part of the Jewish People who, on very short notice, would drop everything, drive a long distance to stand outside in an open field on a super freezing, windy day to escort a sweet Jew from Budapest, who was unknown to almost all of them, on his final journey.

We are indeed one family.

Photo credit: Rafi Yablonsky
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Post  Admin on Thu 07 Feb 2019, 9:53 pm

Erasing Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism
Feb 6, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
http://www.aish.com/ci/s/Erasing-Henry-Fords-Anti-Semitism.html?s=mm
Erasing Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism
The mayor of Dearborn is hiding Ford’s Jew-hatred; it’s important the world learns from it instead.

Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, is remembered for many accomplishments: he invented the Model T Ford and pioneered industrial innovations including large-scale industrial plants, standardized interchangeable car parts, and the first moving industrial line for cars. According to a 1999 Gallup Poll, Ford was the 16th most admired person in the 20th century,

Yet Ford has a darker legacy, too. He was a virulent anti-Semite and his odious writings about Jews inspired Hitler and continue to inspire Jew-haters to this day. When a small Michigan magazine, the Dearborn Historian, recently wrote about this, the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, where the Ford Motor Company is headquartered, banned the distribution of the magazine and then fired its editor. (The magazine was published by a Dearborn historical society whose members are appointed by the mayor.) Mayor John “Jack” O’Reilly explained by saying that the magazine article “could become a distraction from our continuing messages of inclusion and respect” that he wants Dearborn to be known for today.

The mayor’s logic flawed. Ford’s legacy of hatred continues to provoke anti-Jewish hatred around the world. Instead of sweeping it under the carpet it’s vital that we shine a light on it and forcefully condemn – not suppress – Ford’s anti-Semitism today.

A hundred years ago, Ford was a beloved American figure. Model T’s had been in production for a decade, bringing motor travel within the grasp of ordinary middle-class Americans. His famous $5 a day production line wage represented a step forward for working conditions at the time. Reporters routinely covered his every move. Popular and beloved, Ford ran for Senate in 1918 and was only narrowly defeated.

The following year Ford formed a publishing company and bought the small weekly newspaper the Dearborn Independent. With no news experience, Ford started to lose money on the paper. “Find an evil to attack” one of Ford’s new hires, an experienced journalist named Joseph J. O’Neil urged. “Let’s find some sensationalism.” Ford knew just whom to attack: Jews. He marked his newspaper’s new emphasis with the headline “The International Jew: The World’s Problem” in 1920.


Soon, the Dearborn Independent was insulting and slandering Jews with every issue. “There is no other racial or national type which puts forth this kind of person” Ford’s newspaper asserted, slanderously writing that Jews were untrustworthy, greedy, treacherous and controlled global politics and financial systems. The relentless attacks proved popular and the Dearborn Independent started making a profit and gaining readers. Soon, the sleepy little local newspaper had a circulation approaching a million subscribers and was one of the biggest publications in the country.

Ford wanted to spread his nefarious lies about Jews to an even wider audience. Between 1920 and 1923, he wrote four books attacking Jews and describing them as uniquely evil and dangerous. The International Jew came out in 1920 and was followed by three sequels. All four volumes falsely accused Jews of controlling the world, being single-mindedly malevolent and dangerous, seeking to harm Christians, and of manufacturing claims of the deadly pogroms that were then sweeping Europe. They freely borrowed material from a famous Russian anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which falsely purported to be the minutes of a meeting of Jews gathering to plot their evil control of the world.

Ford’s books were immediate successes, translated into twelve languages and distributed world-wide. In in its first two years, The International Jew sold over 2 million copies. The fact that it bore Henry Ford’s name only added to its appeal and sense of respectability among people who admired the world-famous businessman. Ford was so intent on his hateful message reaching a wide audience that he refused to copywrite the books so that anyone was free to publish them without permission. Even today, the books remain in circulation, with no copywrite limiting their dissemination.

One early fan of Ford’s books was Adolf Hitler. In 1931, a reporter travelling from Detroit to Munich to interview Hitler and was startled to see a large picture of Henry Ford hanging on the wall above Hitler’s desk. “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration” Hitler explained.

Back home in the United States, some outraged Jews and others were boycotting Ford products. Faced with the prospect of damage to his profits, Ford stopped the Dearborn Independent’s weekly anti-Jewish slanders, and in 1927 Ford made what was widely regarded at the time as a half-hearted apology for his relentless attacks on Jews. But his books continued to flourish, finding readers around the globe.

Henry Ford died in 1947, and in the decades since, his family and the Ford Motor Company have repudiated his anti-Semitism. Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II, in particular, supported many Jewish organizations and charities. When the Holocaust movie Schindler’s List came out in 1997, the Ford Motor Company sponsored a nation-wide commercial-free screening on American television.

Yet the anti-Semitism of Henry Ford in the 1920s continues to affect the world today. The International Jew and his other anti-Semitic books remain widely available.

Dozens of editions are listed on Amazon alone, with many boasting hundreds of glowing five-star reviews. Extremists use Ford as a source of inspiration and validation of their odious hatred.

This hatred has real world consequences. Anti-Semitic incidents have been rising globally; in the United States, the number of anti-Semitic attacks rose 37% between 2016 and 2017. In Britain, they rose 34%. A major 2014 study by the Anti-Defamation League found that over a quarter of the world’s population harbors anti-Semitic feelings.

At the same time, the number of people doubting figures about anti-Jewish attacks and violence is growing as well. A 2019 poll found that about a third of Britons know little or nothing about the Holocaust, while 5% had never heard of it. In France, 20% of people aged 18-34 have never heard of the Holocaust. In the United States, 9% of millennials have never heard of the Holocaust, and over 40% of people do not know what Auschwitz was.

This situation cries out for more education, not less. Instead of hiding Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism and whitewashing his legacy, we need to use it to educate our children about the disastrous consequences of Ford’s writings and how to counter them. It’s a terrible mistake to deliberately forget the past. We need to confront Henry Ford’s legacy head-on, exposing and debunking the anti-Semitism he espoused.
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Post  Admin on Thu 31 Jan 2019, 8:56 pm

http://www.aish.com/jw/id/Israel-Sends-Huge-Rescue-Team-after-Brazil-Dam-Collapse.html?s=mm
The 132-strong Israeli team containing both regular and reserve soldiers includes Search and Rescue units, the Navy’s Underwater Missions Unit, engineering experts, doctors, and firefighters as well as several dogs and their handlers from the IDF’s elite canine unit, ‘Oketz.’
An entire plane load of supplies, including rescue vehicles, equipment and medical supplies made the 14 hour flight with soldiers given vaccinations and briefed at the airport on what to expect.

Technology helps locate cellular signals
After being met at the airport by their military counterparts in Brazil, the team got to work.

“We immediately met with the fire department, the company which operates the dam and local rescue teams,” Cohen said. “We are working in teams in the worst affected places, according to where the Brazilians need us most.” Each team is equipped with drones, sonar equipment and crucially, advanced technology able to detect the location of cell phones.

Being briefed at Ben Gurion airport

“When we reach a new rescue site, we use an advanced technology which can detect cellular signals,” Cohen explained. “If we get a positive reaction, the dogs go in and then we start digging.” She added “In flooded areas, divers from the navy lead the search with sonar equipment.”

On Monday the Israeli teams retrieved 15 bodies and several more on Monday, sadly none of them alive. “We are hoping to find more, and we are doing everything we can,” Major Cohen said. The death toll rose to 65 and is expected to rise.

“Of course it’s difficult - it’s a terrible tragedy and emotionally hard. We meet together at the end of each day and there are mental health support staff here if we need.”

Warm Welcome
Major Cohen has served for 13 years in the Home Front. In Brazil she is tasked with maintaining close ties with civilians and local emergency services who she says are deeply appreciative.

“Yesterday I was with some people from one of the villages affected and I heard the same message from everyone I met, they are deeply grateful and have given as a very warm welcome.” She added, “I tell them, we are here for them and will do whatever we can to help.”

Israeli soldiers and divers search for survivorsThe mission has also prompted an outpouring of thanks on social media. One Brazilian from Sao Paulo wrote, “Thank you Israel! We will never forget what you are doing for us.” Another posted, “You have no idea how much it means to us. I hope this is the beginning of a great friendship between our peoples.”

Although the team are a little far away from the nearest Jewish community, they were nevertheless delivered a hot meal on their arrival from Chabad in Brazil.

Proud to be representing Israel
“There is an overwhelming feeling of pride among the Israeli delegation here,” Major Cohen said. “It is a terrible tragedy for these villages but I cannot emphasize enough how honored and privileged we feel to be representing Israel helping another nation in need.” She continued to stress the close connection with the Brazilian teams they are working alongside. “We are so proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Brazilian people and let them know that we are here for everything that they need. We know that back home the Israeli people feel the same.”

This is not the first time Israel has dispatched its humanitarian search and rescue teams abroad to assist in natural disasters. Among many mission, in 2010, Israel sent an emergency response team to the earthquake in Haiti and building field hospitals to treat the injured. In 2015, a team of search and rescue and medical staff were sent to Nepal following the powerful earthquake which struck the country and over 70 soldiers were sent to Mexico to help rescue bodies from collapsed buildings after the powerful September 2017 earthquake.
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Post  Admin on Thu 31 Jan 2019, 7:26 pm

Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Italian Heroism in the Holocaust
Jan 26, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
http://www.aish.com/ho/p/Beneath-a-Scarlet-Sky-Italian-Heroism-in-the-Holocaust.html?s=mm
Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Italian Heroism in the Holocaust
A bestselling novel is reminding readers of real-life cases of Italian heroism in the face of danger.

They are stories that need to be told. As the Holocaust recedes ever further into history, it’s more imperative than ever to record history, ensuring we have the testimonies of those who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand.

Recent years have seen a number of bestselling books about the Holocaust. One of the most celebrated recently is Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan, which is currently in production to be a major television movie starring Spider-Man hero Tom Holland. The book has been a runaway bestseller, reaching the top of Amazon Charts, and has been translated into ten languages. The story it tells is of a remarkable Italian hero who helped Jews escape the Holocaust. While fiction, it has some true components, and mirrors the real-life heroism of hundreds of Italians who risked their lives to help Jews.

Mark Sullivan first heard of the man on whom his fictional hero is based in 2006. Somebody mentioned a 79 year old man in Italy who said he’d helped rescue Jews. Fascinated, Sullivan placed a call to the man, Pino Lella, in Milan. “I understand you’re an unsung hero,” Sullivan said.

Mark Sullivan, left, and Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Lella

“I no hero. I’m more of a coward,” Lella replied.
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Post  Admin on Wed 30 Jan 2019, 2:58 pm

Things Judaism has Taught Me about Life
http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Three-Things-Judaism-has-Taught-Me-about-Life.html?s=mm
Jan 26, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Pearls of hard-earned wisdom.

Things Judaism has Taught Me about Life
WATCH .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK5ZJAs7YsQ&ab_channel=J-TV%3AJewishIdeas.GlobalRelevance.

About the Author

Rabbi Lord Jonathan SacksMore by this Author >
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is an international religious leader, philosopher, and respected moral voice. The author of over 30 books, Rabbi Sacks has received multiple awards in recognition of his work including the 2016 Templeton Prize. He is the recipient of 17 honorary doctorates, was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009. He served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013.

These weekly teachings from Rabbi Sacks are part of the ‘Covenant & Conversation’ series on the weekly Torah reading. Read more essays from the series on www.rabbisacks.org.

Now available for additional learning: The FAMILY EDITION of Covenant & Conversation, designed to enhance your parsha conversation with everyone from teenagers to great-great-grandparents. To read and print this new learning resource, for an inter-generational discussion around your Shabbat table on Rabbi Sacks’ ideas for the week, click here! http://rabbisacks.org/ccfamilyedition/


The First Jew I Met in Iran
Jan 21, 2019  |  by Majid Rafizadeh
http://www.aish.com/jw/me/The-First-Jew-I-Met-in-Iran.html?s=mm
Face to face with the challenges of living a double life under the Iranian theocracy.

In my early 20s, I taught university in Iran under the rule of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At the time, it was strictly forbidden, on pain of termination, to discuss human rights in class. However, I found it impossible not to bring up the topic in one of my classes. Young minds needed to know the truth, and I hoped that their reactions to the subject matter would generate new ideas and new hope in their generation. While I described to my students the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust, something grabbed my attention at the back of the class.

The class was segregated by gender, with boys sitting in the front rows of desks, and the girls seated in the back. One of my female students was crying. She cried so quietly that I might not have noticed, but for the subtle tremble of her shoulders. Small in size and wearing a gray scarf and mandatory Islamic dress, no one else noticed her crying. I was stunned by how emotional she was, and walked up to her with some tissues. I couldn’t help but wonder what had upset her to such a degree. At the time she didn’t offer me an explanation, so I returned to teaching the class.

Later, I learned that my student, Sara, had relatives on her grandfather’s side who died in the Holocaust. I was saddened and surprised. Many questions raced through my mind: Is she Jewish? The shock of that thought brought on another, important question. Why am I surprised to have met a Jew? Why did I suddenly begin feeling as if I had met a foreigner, someone from another country? Her relatives had actually lived longer than mine in Iran. Why was she hesitant to say that she was Jewish?

Why am I surprised to have met a Jew? Why did I suddenly begin feeling as if I had met a foreigner, someone from another country?
I soon came to understand the reason she felt the need to keep herself hidden. They were the same feelings that many other people commonly felt in the region when they were faced with the decision of whether to reveal that they were Jewish.

First, there are systematic and concerted efforts made from the top down by the theocratic regime and several other governments in the region to eliminate Jewish history. There is also a strong push to incite antagonism against the Jewish people.


 
The regime openly encourages debates that revolve around casting doubt on and questioning the authenticity of the Holocaust. They ratchet up anti-Israel slogans, and celebrate national anti-Israel holidays such as Quds Day. They promote and accept Holocaust deniers such as the former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the intricate teachings that may imply that Jews are impure (najis).

All of these actions, combined with many more forms of intimidation enacted by the regime, not only create a hostile environment for Jewish communities inside Iran, but also abroad.

Other examples of disrespect and fear-mongering that the regime engages in include inviting people from around the world to participate in Holocaust cartoon competitions with a nearly $50,000 prize. This is sponsored by two organizations that are directly or indirectly linked to the Iranian government. The Owj Arts and Media Organization is funded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Center is supported by the Islamic Development Organization (IDO), funded by the parliament.

To have the ruling leaders torment them in this way only further isolates the Jewish community and puts them at risk of being targeted by both extremists and regime loyalists.

These policies force many families and individuals to have two different lives in private and public, two different names, and maybe two different religions. This, in turn, breeds a deep mistrust toward the Jewish community, which only enhances the “them-versus-us” culture that has been building for decades. A deep division runs through the society, leaving interaction unstable at best, and potentially explosive at worst.

Despite generations of their families living on the same land, and the rich history and influence that they have had in the region, many Jews do not feel that they are safe or a welcome part of the society. One man I spoke to, who asked that his last name not be revealed, said he does not tell people about his life. This isolation is no longer just physical, but mental and emotional, a state of existence that could create long-lasting psychological trauma.

Second, the Iranian regime promotes its anti-Semitic and anti-Israel narrative through various means including the curriculum taught in schools, commentary on social media, news reports and entertainment on television, and nonstop political rhetoric. Its narrative does not stop at the borders of the Middle East. Lately, it has attracted an audience in the West as well.

From the perspective of these Islamist leaders, Jews, like other religious minorities, are regarded as a potential threat to the regime’s national security and national identity. They may be viewed as outsiders who disrupt the regime’s attempt to homogenize the population for easier control.

Since the Iranian regime is opposed to Israel’s existence, Iranian authorities view the Jewish people through prisms of suspicion.
One reason behind these perceptions of Iran’s theocratic establishment is that the roots of Jews in Iran date back to a pre-Islamic era, an era that the Iranian government attempts to de-emphasize or erase from the memory of the society. Another reason is rooted in the notion that for the Iranian regime, Jews and Israel are mingled in one category; if you are Jewish, the thinking goes, then you are an Israeli. Since the Iranian regime is opposed to Israel’s existence, Iranian authorities view the Jewish people through prisms of suspicion. They are viewed as Israeli allies, conspirators, and loyalists to Israel and the United States, not the Iranian government.

Some Jews secretly confess that they are indeed living two separate lives. In their private life they practice their faith, but in public they are extremely cautious, avoiding saying anything about their lives. Out of fear or in order to survive economically, socially, and academically, some may convert to Islam on the surface but continue to practice Judaism at home. Some have two names, one Muslim, one Jewish.

Despite this solid bias against Jews, in order to enhance its global legitimacy in some circumstances and events, the Iranian regime has boasted about tolerance, and pointed to the fact that there are Jews in Iran, as a sign that the regime is cosmopolitan and civil. Depending on the circumstance the Jewish community may be paraded past foreign governments as an example of progress, or trampled down by the Iranian regime as a toxic presence in the country and region.

Not surprisingly, I was admonished for speaking about human rights and the Holocaust in my class. I never saw Sara after the last day of class. She took the time to give me a thank-you card. She was carrying an English book with a title suggesting religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. I hoped in that moment that I’d reached her, and my decision to speak about human rights had aided in the liberation of her mind, and hopefully the minds of her classmates.

When I flipped the card open to read it, the words inside brought tears to my eyes. It read, “My Hebrew name is Yaffa.”

This article originally appeared on Tabletmag.com
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Martin Luther King: Quotes about Israel and Jews
Jan 19, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
http://www.aish.com/ci/s/Martin-Luther-King-Quotes-about-Israel-and-Jews.html?s=mm
Martin Luther King: Quotes about Israel and Jews
Stirring calls to live up to our potential and to look at others with fairness and warmth.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of America’s most eloquent voices for civil rights, for humanity and for peace. Here are memorable quotes about Jews and Israel that contain King’s stirring calls to live up to our potential and to look at others with fairness and warmth.

Jews and African-Americans:
When King was invited to address the American Jewish Committee convention in 1958, he noted the great similarities between Jews and African Americans, who both experienced hatred and prejudice and who worked to overcome that hatred:

My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility.

Anti-Semitism and racism:
There are Hitlers loose in America today, both in high and low places… As the tensions and bewilderment of economic problems become more severe, history(‘s) scapegoats, the Jews, will be joined by new scapegoats, the Negroes. The Hitlers will seek to divert people’s minds and turn their frustration and anger to the helpless, to the outnumbered. Then whether the Negro and Jew shall live in peace will depend upon how firmly they resist, how effectively they reach the minds of the decent Americans to halt this deadly diversion…. (May 14, 1958 address to the National Biennial Convention of the American Jewish Congress)

Probably more than any other ethnic group, the Jewish community has been sympathetic and has stood as an ally to the Negro in his struggle for justice. (March 26, 1968 address to the 68th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly)

Learning from Jewish history:
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in the Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried, ‘Let my people go’. This is a kind of opening chapter in a continuing story. The present struggle in our country is a later chapter in the same unfolding story. Something within has reminded the Negro of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)

It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)

Zionism and Anti-Semitism:
On October 27, 1967, just a few months after the Six Day War, King had dinner with students from Harvard University in Boston. Professor Seymour Martin Lipset was present and recalls how one of the students criticized Zionists. King was incensed, saying “Don’t talk like that!” - and continuing:

When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!

The following year, just days before his tragic murder, King addressed an annual Jewish assembly and explained his pro-Israel feelings at greater length. He explained that Israel and Arab states had different conceptions of what constitutes “peace”. Arab states are consumed with inequality and require fundamental changes in their societies before they can feel secure. Israel, in contrast, desires only secure borders and for the world to recognize its right to exist.

Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality. (March 26, 1968 address to the 68th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly)

Fighting for Soviet Jews:
On December 11, 1966, King addressed 50,000 people in 32 states at demonstrations for Soviet Jews via a telephone hookup. His eloquent words reminded the crowds that they all had a vital responsibility to work to help their fellow Jews who were trapped in the Soviet Union. Here are three quotes from that stirring speech:

We cannot sit complacently by the wayside while our Jewish brothers in the Soviet Union face the possible extinction of their cultural and spiritual life. Those that sit at rest, while others take pains, are tender turtles and buy their quite with disgrace.

The denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to the affirmation of human rights everywhere.

Jewish history and culture are a part of everyone’s heritage, whether he be Jewish, Christian or Muslim.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39. His stirring words continue to live on, inspiring us to work towards his vision of a world without hatred, without prejudice. His palpable affection and respect for Israel and the Jewish people can inspire us today.
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