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Post  Admin on Sun 06 Oct 2019, 9:07 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Shocking-Anti-Semitism-in-Public-Schools.html?s=mm
 
Shocking Anti-Semitism in Public Schools
Oct 6, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
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Shocking Anti-Semitism in Public Schools
Anti-Jewish bullying in Australia draws attention to anti-Semitism in public schools around the globe.

“Jewish cockroach!” “Jewish vermin!” These hate-filled taunts were directed at a five-year-old Jewish boy in Melbourne, Australia, who’d just started kindergarten in his local public school.

Each time the little boy went to the bathroom, he found himself confronted with a group of hostile children who taunted him for being Jewish and screamed insults at him. The boy began wetting himself at school and home, and didn’t want to go to school. Finally, one recent morning, he spilled his breakfast cereal, then broke down completely.

“He literally fell down on the floor,” his distraught mother told an Australian Jewish newspaper recently. The boy cried, “Mummy, you shouldn’t love me. I’m a worthless, Jewish rodent. I’m vermin.” Horrified, his mother comforted him, then called the school to let them know the horrible abuse her son was receiving.

Incredibly, instead of taking her complaint seriously, the school was “dismissive” and ignored the anti-Semitic elements of the bullying. Instead of addressing the anti-Jewish hatred in their school, school authorities suggested the boy use a different bathroom instead. Within a day, the anti-Semitic bullying repeated itself. The five year old has been diagnosed with acute anxiety and is now being home schooled.

At the same time, another shocking case of anti-Jewish bullying in a Melbourne public is finally coming to light. A 12-year-old student at Cheltenham Secondary College was lured to a sports field to play games - then confronted by a group of nine other boys, ages twelve and thirteen. The students ordered the Jewish boy to bow down and kiss the feet of a Muslim student or else be beaten up (see above photo).


 
The Jewish boy did bow and kiss his classmate’s feet. The humiliating encounter was filmed and shared widely on social media for months. In that time, the boy endured months of misery, with students routinely calling him “Jewish ape” and worse offensive slurs. He was physically attacked, punched in the face, and required a hospital visit. He’s been diagnosed with acute anxiety. When his mother complained to the school, school authorities were also dismissive, saying at first that since the original attack didn’t happen on school grounds, there’s little they can do.

Australian authorities have expressed “concern” in recent days, but some Jewish parents in Melbourne are feeling abandoned. “Essentially, everyone’s solution to this problem is to send your child to a Jewish day school,” the mother of the bullied five year old told reporters. “Do we live in a society where we really have to do that in order to be safe?”

Increasingly, the answer seems to be yes: not only in Melbourne, but in cities and countries around the world, where attending local public schools is no longer safe for Jewish students. Rising numbers of parents are pulling their children out of schools, as rates of enrollment in Jewish schools in many areas soar.

In France, the first official warning that rampant anti-Semitism in public schools was driving Jewish students away came in an official government report in 2004. Teachers and inspectors warned that Muslim students were beating and harassing Jewish students. Instead of tackling the violence and intimidation head on, many French public schools were ducking the issue, the report warned, letting a hostile atmosphere of anti-Jewish hatred grow.

“In the Paris region, there are virtually no more Jewish students attending public schools,” noted Francis Kalifat, a French Jewish communal leader, recently explaining that “a bad atmosphere of harassment, insults and assaults” against Jewish pupils was to blame.

“There are hardly any Jewish children left in state schools. The teachers can’t stick up for them,” Haim Musicant, vice president of B’nai B’rith in France recently confirmed. Across France, Jewish students are increasingly choosing Jewish schools. So great is demand that some Jewish families aren’t able to secure places in local Jewish schools for their kids. Many families - accounting for a whopping 5,000 Jewish students in Paris alone - have been turning to another option, sending their children to Catholic schools, where they say there is less anti-Jewish bullying from Arab and Muslim students.

In neighboring Belgium, public schools are now virtually “Jew free” after a series of high-profile attacks on Jewish students. In 2016, one Belgian Jewish schoolboy was injured after a crowd of fellow students surrounded him, spraying him with spray cans in what they said was an attempt to “gas” him like Jews in the Holocaust. When the student’s mother complained, she said the teacher in charge “downplayed” the incident.

Anti-Semitic graffiti carved into a green at the Woollahra Golf Club.

That same year, another high profile case of a Jewish student identified only as “Samuel” in the Belgian press brought national attention to anti-Semitic violence in an affluent public school in the wealthy Brussels neighborhood of Uccle. Samuel’s mother explained that she’d enrolled him in public school because she wanted him to meet people from diverse backgrounds. When word got out that Samuel was a Jew, students turned on him. He was beaten up and called epithets, often by Muslim students. School officials did little and Samuel’s mother eventually sent him to a Jewish school to escape the bullying.

In 2017, Germany had an anguished national dialogue about anti-Semitic bullying in schools after one Berlin family went public with their son's experiences in his local public school. On the boy’s fourth day of school, in a class on ethics, the teacher asked students to share which houses of worship they’d visited. When the student raised his hand and said he’d been in a synagogue, a strange silence settled on the class he explained he was Jewish. “Everyone was shocked, especially the teachers,” the student later recalled. Afterwards, one teacher told him he’d been “very brave” to admit being Jewish.

Following that, the student endured intense bullying. His grandfather was a Holocaust survivor and he visited the school to share his experiences, hoping that would stop the abuse directed at his grandson. If anything, the anti-Jewish bullying got worse. Finally, the parents, Gemma and Wenzel Michalski, took their story to the press, revealing the hostile situation for Jews in their son’s school. In the weeks that followed, dozens of other instances of anti-Jewish hatred and attacks in German public schools came out. One typical attack involved a Jewish ninth grader in Berlin repeatedly taunted, “Off to Auschwitz in a freight train” by his classmates.

“We have individuals who are thoroughly anti-Semitic… and simply lack the knowledge (about Jews) - and everything in between,” explained Saraya Gomis, Berlin’s official in charge of addressing discrimination in schools. School responses to anti-Semitic bullying of students have been spotty, with some Jewish students left to face anti-Jewish hatred with little support from teachers and school officials. This horrific pattern of tolerating anti-Semitic abuse has been repeated in countless schools around the world.



The hatred directed against Jewish students in many areas is sparking an upsurge in Jewish life, as families choose Jewish schools to avoid hatred and harassment in local public schools.

In Britain, about 70% of Jewish students aged 4-18 now attend Jewish schools; that number is rising rapidly, and increased 12% in the past year alone.

French law prohibits gathering statistics about religious choices, but anecdotal evidence suggests a surge in Jewish families choosing Jewish schools. Elodie Mariano, the co-founder of the nonprofit group Choisir L’Ecole Juive says her organization has helped over 400 French families shift their children from public schools to Jewish schools in France in recent years. “Often these families are not particularly religious,” she explains.

In Australia, observers note that more and more Jewish families are looking at Jewish schools. There is mounting evidence that families are forced to take their children out of public schools and to enroll them in Jewish day schools due to a growing sense of insecurity and fear that their kids will be harmed simply because of who they are,” explained Dvir Abramovich, chairman of Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission.

This upsurge in Jewish education and identity is perhaps the most fitting answer to anti-Semites. For many Jewish families, the choice to give their children a Jewish education is a resounding victory over the anti-Semites whose hatred is turning too many schools into no-go zones for Jews.
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Post  Admin on Wed 02 Oct 2019, 10:27 pm

How to Get the Most Out of Yom Kippur
Sep 24, 2019  |  by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
https://www.aish.com/h/hh/gar/atonement/How-to-Get-the-Most-Out-of-Yom-Kippur-.html?s=mm
How to Get the Most Out of Yom Kippur 
The three Rs of repentance.

The High Holy Day period are gifted to us to take stock of our lives. We are granted time so that when our verdict is sealed on Yom Kippur, our prayers can be accepted. We remember our essence and rediscover what lies within.

This opportunity of teshuva, repentance, is a miracle. Think about it. The other day my dry cleaners returned a white blouse with a note attached. “We are sorry but as hard as we tried, we could not remove these stains. They are permanent.” Yet in the world of teshuva we rise above nature where no stain is permanent. No matter how far we’ve fallen, we can always come back and undo the damage.

How can we make the most of these days?

THE THREE RS OF REPENTANCE
1. Regret
The first step to change is feeling the need to make a transformation. This comes about through remorse. Feeling badly for the lapses, the pain we have caused others, and the times we could’ve done better. Truly looking at ourselves in a spiritual mirror and saying, "Enough! I don’t want to do this anymore."

What prevents us from feeling true regret?


We rationalize. We excuse our behavior by finding valid reasons for our actions.

“I know I shouldn’t have said that but my husband/wife/mother in law/boss/kids….”

“I really shouldn’t be doing this but everyone does it.”

You are the captain of your ship. Your actions and reactions are up to you. You define your destiny.
We blame others for our shortcomings. We cast the responsibility on everyone but ourselves. It's easier to think that others are at fault than confronting reality.

It's also easy to get stuck in the past and fall into dysfunctional patterns.

In order to move forward we need to realize: You are the captain of your ship. Your actions and reactions are up to you. You define your destiny.

We are all created with a Divine spark of holiness and capable of greatness. It doesn't matter who you are, your level of Jewish education, who you were born to. All that counts is that you get in touch once again with your inner light.

It is not about giving huge donations or saving a village. You can make a spouse feel loved through expressing gratitude. You can make a difference in a child’s life with patience instead of blowing up. You can prevent harm by holding back from sending an embarrassing text or WhatsApp. You can touch another person with an encouraging word.

Regret the times you’ve caused hurt. Determine to become the person you were meant to be instead of stagnating. Reconnect to your infinite light.

2. Recite
These 10 days of teshuva provide us with prayers that can propel us toward our goal. Said with a full heart, these prayers open up the gates of forgiveness, repentance and atonement. We recite the prayer of Avinu Malkeinu – Our Father, Our King, each day. We ask God for the gift of life. Not because we want to spend our days in trivial pursuits but we know that we can live a life filled with purpose. We recognize that we’ve messed up and ask for compassion.

On Yom Kippur, we recite the Vidduy Confession, going through in alphabetical order the various mistakes we’ve made throughout the year.

To be most effective it’s a good idea to take time and contemplate the words before we say them. Think about your relationship with God as well as your relationship with the people in your lives. The confession steers us towards pondering our thoughts, deeds and words. (Click here a contemporary translation of Viduy.)

We are asked to use our gift of speech to confront ourselves. Words create a reality. Beyond thoughts, we are uttering the truth and facing the stark actuality of what we have done.

3. Resolve
Real repentance is only complete with resolution for the future. It is not enough to regret our wrongs and then recite prayers and confession for our failings. What we must do now is think about how to actually become new beings by not repeating the mistakes of the past. If we are judgmental, how can we learn to give people the benefit of the doubt? Realizing that we have neglected our Judaism and cast aside mitzvot, how can we reconnect? Which character trait do we wish to work on? How can we set up a steady time, even if it’s for a few minutes a day, to study Torah?

It is not the big things that God is seeking from us. Every single little action makes an impact. Think of a doable plan and commit to implementing it.

Taking the step towards thinking about a strategy for transformation shows that we are serious. We want to make a change. Thinking about the future is the glue that keeps our teshuva together.

Let us be brave during this time period. If we can decide how we will conquer one character trait, grow in one mitzvah, reach out to one person with whom we do not have peace, then we have experienced the triumph of these days.

About the Author

Slovie Jungreis-WolffMore by this Author >

Slovie Jungreis Wolff is a noted teacher, author, relationships and parenting lecturer. She is the leader of Hineni Couples and daughter of Rebbetzen Esther Jungreis. Slovie is the author of the parenting handbook, Raising A Child With Soul. She gives weekly classes and has lectured throughout the U.S.,Canada, Mexico, Panama, and South Africa. You can reach slovie at sloviehineni@gmail.com
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Post  Admin on Sun 29 Sep 2019, 8:42 pm

The Meaning of Rosh Hashanah: An In-Depth Analysis
Sep 25, 2016  |  by Rabbi Asher Resnick
https://www.aish.com/h/hh/rh/new_year/The-Meaning-of-Rosh-Hashanah-An-In-Depth-Analysis.html?s=mm
The Meaning of Rosh Hashanah: An In-Depth Analysis
Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of this misunderstood holiday.

Before discussing the specific aspects of any particular holiday, it is important to understand the uniquely Jewish perspective of time as well as holidays in general. The world at large views time essentially as a straight line. The present moment is a unique point along this line that never existed before and will never exist again. The past is completely finished and the future is yet to occur.

The Jewish model of time is a spiral. While time is certainly moving forward, it progresses ahead specifically through a seasonal cycle. Each year we pass through the same seasonal coordinates that are imbued with whatever spiritual potentials were initially established within them.

This is the significance of the Jewish holidays. They serve as signposts on the spiral of time to teach us which specific quality has been embedded into that particular season. When the Jewish people left Egypt at Passover time, for example, it showed us that both physical and spiritual freedom are incorporated within the fabric of every springtime. Whenever our cyclical journey through time encounters a holiday, therefore, we directly re-experience the quality of that time. In addition, whatever it is that originally occurred at that time actually occurs again every single year. Thus, every holiday is a metaphysical window of opportunity.

So, the key question regarding every holiday is – What is the particular opportunity that it presents us with? There are three clues which help us to uncover the meaning of each holiday.

First, what was the actual historical event that occurred the first time that this day was significant? And what was its metaphysical impact upon the Jewish people and the world? This is the most obvious question to ask. As we explained, it is specifically this metaphysical impact that recurs every subsequent year at the same time. This is what the holiday actually consists of.


 
Second, what are the various mitzvot, Rabbinical guidelines, and customs of the holiday?

If the Torah or the Rabbis tell us to do certain activities or to refrain from others during the holiday, clearly these do's and don'ts are designed to help us access its opportunity. Even the customs, developed from the subconscious of the Jewish people over the centuries, are rooted in an awareness of the unique potential of these days. The more one understands the particular tools that are appropriate for each holiday, the more one will understand the opportunities themselves that these tools are designed to access.

And, finally, what is the name of the holiday?

Judaism views Hebrew names as having tremendous significance. Far from merely serving as convenient labels, Hebrew names both identify and express the underlying essence of whatever it is that they are describing.

With these three clues to guide us, we can now begin to unravel the various layers of meaning and significance within each of the Jewish holidays.

Rosh Hashanah
Let's begin by thinking about some curious aspects of the High Holidays. We'll discuss three different questions and then try to resolve them with the help of our three clues.

What is Rosh Hashanah all about? In addition to its meaning as the “head of the year”, we also refer to it as the "Day of Judgment". Every single person in the world is judged individually on Rosh Hashanah.

In fact, the Talmud tells us that three different books are opened on Rosh Hashanah: The Book of Life – for those judged to be completely righteous, the Book of Death – for those judged to be completely wicked, and the Middle Book for all who are judged to be in between.

If Rosh Hashanah is really the day when every single person is evaluated for life or death, how would we expect people to act on that day? Wouldn't we expect people to spend the day fixing up past mistakes, pleading their personal cases, and praying for God to give them all good judgments?

What, in fact, did the Rabbis tell us to do on Rosh Hashanah? Curiously, there is virtually no mention of our own personal judgment in the Rosh Hashanah prayers. Instead, the prayers are all about the general condition of the world. We pray that the world will recognize God is its exclusive King, that He is aware of everything that occurs, and that the shofar of Mt. Sinai will demonstrate God's love and concern for all of mankind. These are certainly beautiful and meaningful prayers. The difficulty is why we would focus exclusively on the overall world situation just at the time when our lives are on the line? This is our first difficulty.

Now let's think about Yom Kippur. Why is it such a significant day? It is the "day of kapara" – the time of spiritual cleansing. It is the day that we are able to fix up the damage caused by our various past mistakes. That being so, wouldn't it be much more logical for Yom Kippur to come first, i.e., for the "day of cleansing" to precede the "day of judgment"? This is our second difficulty.

The third question arises from a discussion in the Talmud tractate Rosh Hashanah on the nature of the judgment of Rosh Hashanah. The Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashanah presents the story of Yishmael (the father of the Arab nation) pleading for his life (on Rosh Hashanah). The verse tells us that "God heard the voice of the lad where he was." The Talmud explains that the words "where he was" do not refer to Yishmael’s physical location. That would be completely superfluous. Where else would God be answering him other than the specific place he was in? Rather, the verse is speaking in terms of time. Based on this, Rebbe Yitzchak (in the Talmud) said, “A person is not judged (on Rosh Hashanah) except according to his actions of that exact moment."

The commentaries explain that Yishmael was saved at that time even though his descendants were destined to hurt the Jewish people throughout later history. In other words, the negative future deeds of his descendants did not change his judgment at that time.

There is a different source quoted by the Jerusalem Talmud, however, which seems to go much further than this. It tells us that even if an individual was not pure and straight in the past, as long as he is pure and straight in the present, on Rosh Hashanah itself, then he will have a positive judgment.

These two different sources together (i.e., the positive judgment of Yishmael on Rosh Hashanah despite his descendants hurting the Jewish people later in history, and ignoring the fact that the person being judged was not pure and straight in the past) teach us a remarkable fact. It sounds like the judgment of Rosh Hashanah does not have to do with either the past or the future, but rather exclusively with one's situation on the day of Rosh Hashanah. This would seem to be telling us that even if the one being judged was evil during the entire previous year, as long as he was righteous on Rosh Hashanah, he would be judged as a righteous person. This, of course, runs counter to any notion of logic and fairness in the nature of judgment. This is our third difficulty.

To summarize, the three questions are:

Since we are all being judged for life and death on Rosh Hashanah, why don't we do teshuva or plead our personal case?
Why doesn't Yom Kippur – the "day of cleansing" – precede Rosh Hashanah – the "day of judgment"?
How can the judgment of Rosh Hashanah be exclusively a function of the day of Rosh Hashanah itself, irrelevant of the future and even of the past?
We mentioned previously that every holiday has three clues that help us to unlock its hidden meaning. Let's begin with the first one, its historical significance, to try to resolve these various difficulties.

What is it that actually occurred on the very first Rosh Hashanah? Although in the davening (prayers) of Rosh Hashanah it is referred to as “yom harat olam” (the birthday of the world), it was not actually the day of creation of the world, but rather the creation of mankind. The first Rosh Hashanah was day number six of creation, and the day upon which the first man, Adam, was created.

The Birthday of Free Will
Let's ask what may seem like an odd question – What is the great significance of the creation of mankind? Prior to day six, the Torah tells us that God had already created the entire physical world as well as a vast number of different forms of life. What, then, did mankind bring to the world that had not previously existed?

When the Torah describes the creation of mankind, it tells us that man was created "b'tzelem Elokim" (in God's image). One of the most central meanings of this fundamental concept is that human beings have the ability to exercise free will in relation to moral decisions.

To properly understand this, we need to appreciate the Jewish view of a human being. Every person has a body and a soul. The body desires physicality, the soul wants spirituality; the body is interested in short-term gratification, the soul in eternity. What is it that decides which side will prevail?

Judaism understands that there is a third component in the system – free will. Free will is what arbitrates this existential tug-of-war between the body and the soul. It is specifically the creation of free will, which epitomizes our very humanity, that we celebrate and relive every Rosh Hashanah. As Rav Berkowitz, a teacher of mine, once expressed it – Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of free will.

Free will Exists Only in the Present
It is significant that of these three different components within every human being – the body, the soul, and the free will – it is specifically the free will which exists exclusively in the present moment. For example, a person could live his life by a particular set of moral guidelines for many years and then, in an instant, decide to completely shift course. The state of one's free will is, by definition, whatever he chooses at that particular moment.

In contrast to free will, which exists only in the present, the state of both the body and the soul are almost entirely a function of the past. A person's physical health at any given time, for example, is mostly determined by their past diet and exercise even if they happen to deviate from that at the present. Similarly for the soul, it is generally the cumulative past behavior that determines one's spiritual health, not occasional changes afterwards.

Focus of Rosh Hashanah
Now if we put this point – that free will exists exclusively in the present, together with the cryptic statement in the Talmud that: "A person is not judged (on Rosh Hashanah) except according to his actions of that exact moment," we come to a remarkable insight – the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is specifically on the state of our free will. Let's try to understand what that means.

We generally assume that the focus of Rosh Hashanah is on the state of our soul – i.e., the spiritual repository of our actions of the previous year, not on what our free will is choosing at that particular time. This would explain why it seems so obvious that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah would be a cumulative evaluation based on our actions of the previous year.

The spiritual health of one's soul as a result of one's past behavior is obviously of critical importance, it just happens not to be the focus of Rosh Hashanah.

Everything that we have ever done, both positively and negatively, has affected our souls. And if this is left as is, these various impacts will be with us forever, in both this world and the next. Fortunately Judaism says that there is a way to minimize or even to eliminate the negative impact of our past mistakes on our eternity. This mechanism is "teshuva" (return) and the result is called "kaparah" (a spiritual cleansing). This goal of kaparah is so important that we have a holiday devoted exclusively to its attainment – Yom Kippur (the "day of kaparah"). It is on Yom Kippur that we try to address our actions of the previous year and fix up all of our mistakes.

Since it is specifically Yom Kippur that addresses our behavior and situation of the previous year, what, then, is the purpose of Rosh Hashanah? We mentioned earlier that one of the clues to uncovering the essence of a holiday is to examine its name. The way that Rosh Hashanah is often understood, it would seem more appropriate for it to have been called "Sof Hashanah" (the "end of the year"), and for it to have been placed at the end of the previous year. However, it is actually called Rosh Hashanah (the "head of the year"), and, of course, it is situated at the very beginning of the brand new year. Besides reinforcing that the focus of Rosh Hashanah is not on our actions of the previous year, what else does the name teach us?

Potential in the Present for the Future
The essence of Rosh Hashanah is specifically this point – that it is the very beginning of the new year. Just as God originally created mankind as a completely blank slate on the very first Rosh Hashanah, similarly He creates every one of us anew with a similarly blank slate at the beginning of each new year. Rosh Hashanah is our once-a-year opportunity to establish a fresh new direction and reality in our lives. Don't get stuck in the past. Ask yourself: "If I was born this very instant, without the constraints of my various past habits and patterns, what would I do? How would I ideally want to live this brand-new year?"

This is what it means that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is a judgment on our free will, or in other words, on the choices and values that we express on the day of Rosh Hashanah itself. Since the new year is a completely blank slate for every one of us, God presents all of us with the opportunity to set up whatever values and parameters we would like to govern our brand new year. And then God gives us the type of a year that we ourselves actually chose. In other words, God gives us for this coming year as much as we want to do, not as much as we have done.

The fear and trepidation that is commonly felt on Rosh Hashanah isn't only a fear that God will be tough on us, but also because the opportunity of the day is so enormous. Imagine winning a contest which allows you to have five minutes inside of a department store where you can keep whatever you carry outside. The fear you would be likely to feel just before those five minutes begin is that you will not get all that you can out of this enormous opportunity.

Let's now return to our three original questions. Our first question was – "Why shouldn't we be spending the day fixing up past mistakes in order to receive the best possible judgment?" That was clearly based on our assumption that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah was a judgment on our actions of the previous year.

The key to understanding this actually comes from the third question – the puzzling statement in the Talmud that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is exclusively on the day of Rosh Hashanah itself. This told us that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is not on the state of our souls, but rather on our free will choices. Once we understand that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is basically an assessment of what we ourselves want for our coming year, it is obvious that our past behavior is not the point here. The relevant issue is whether we will appreciate what is truly valuable and make the proper choices for the coming year. This also explains why our prayers on Rosh Hashanah are that the entire world will come to a deep appreciation of God's existence, awareness and supervision. By making these the prayers of Rosh Hashanah, the Rabbis are teaching us the following critical lesson: Recognizing the needs of others, seeing ourselves as responsible for others, and understanding that the greatest need any of us have is to appreciate reality more deeply – are the most important values to base our upcoming year on.

Change for the Future Must Precede Fixing Up Past Damage
This leaves us with just the second question – Why Yom Kippur, the day of cleansing, didn't precede Rosh Hashanah, the day of judgment. On a simple level, this question was also based on the mistaken assumption that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is a judgment on our actions of the previous year. It, therefore, seemed logical that God should allow us the chance to cleanse ourselves from our previous mistakes before He would actually judge us on them. However, even now that we recognize the judgment of Rosh Hashanah to be on the choices we will make on this first day of the upcoming year, the logic of Rosh Hashanah preceding Yom Kippur still needs to be understood.

Everyone is capable of choosing a new path in life, independent of their situation up until that point, anytime they really want to. This could be done anytime throughout the year, and all the more so on Rosh Hashanah. How likely is this, however, to occur? We are all carrying around a lifetime full of past habits and patterns. In light of this, how many people will be strong enough to simply make a decision to carve out a brand new direction in their lives? It would seem, therefore, that it would still make more sense for the purification of Yom Kippur to come first, and thereby help our choices on Rosh Hashanah for the coming year to be less impeded by all of our past mistakes.

Let's use an analogy to point out the mistake in this way of thinking. Imagine that you know someone who is an alcoholic or a drug addict. This addiction has damaged every aspect of his life – his family, his job situation, his friendships, etc. One day he comes to you and tells you that he has decided to fix up all of the damage he has caused. He has compiled a comprehensive list of all the mistakes he has made during the past number of years. And he is planning to go to every person that he hurt with these mistakes and ask for their forgiveness. As admirable as this certainly is, there is one obvious circumstance in which you would be likely to strongly discourage him – if he has not yet begun to work on the alcoholism or the drug addiction itself. You would tell him to direct his energy first and foremost to his personal life situation and direction. Not only because it is so much more fundamental, but also because if he doesn't address this first, it is likely that he will end up hurting many of these same people again in the future. As important as it is that he go to all of the people he has hurt and ask them for their forgiveness, it only makes sense for him to do this once he has straightened his life out first.

Let's try a second analogy to make this even clearer. Imagine a person whose car is full of dents and scratches because he has been such a poor driver. He goes to a body shop to get all of the dents and scrapes fixed up. The man in the body shop, however, tells him not to bother because this would likely end up being a waste of money. He recommends that this lousy driver first work on becoming a better driver. To merely fix up the damage to his car without first changing his poor driving habits would be pointless; it is inevitable that he will end up damaging his car all over again. Only once he has improved his driving, will it make sense for him to get his car fixed up.

Every human being makes mistakes. At least once a year we all need to take stock of ourselves and work on improving. Our spiritual improvement must occur in two different parts of ourselves – our free will and our soul. We need to examine our free will, meaning our values as well as how those values translate into a vision and direction for the future. In addition, we must assess the damage which our previous values and direction have caused to our souls as well as to others around us. Both tasks are critical. Working on our values and choices will determine the quality of our upcoming year, while working on the damage from our mistakes of the past will determine the nature of our soul. By the Torah placing Rosh Hashanah before Yom Kippur, it is telling us very clearly that the first step must be to work on our values and our vision. Only then can we be sure that the work we do to fix up the damage from our past mistakes will end up lasting.

New Direction
It is interesting that people usually assume that the effort required to fix up their soul (i.e., repairing the damage from their mistakes of the previous year) will be much more time consuming than what will be necessary to work on their free will (i.e., improving their values and direction for the coming year). After all, to repair their soul will require first identifying and then rectifying every single mistake they have made during the past year. In contrast to this, we might imagine that improving our free will merely requires some basic introspection and making a few different resolutions for the new year.

Judaism, however, tells us that the reality is exactly the opposite. We have an entire month of Elul to prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashanah, and only one week after Rosh Hashanah to get ourselves ready for Yom Kippur. Think back to the two previous analogies. Isn't it obvious that the work involved in breaking an addiction is enormously greater than rectifying the damage that resulted from that addiction? And, similarly, with changing how one drives versus having the dents taken out of one's car? Changing our values and our vision involves changing who we are. Fixing up past mistakes, on the other hand, is basically a mechanical process. It is critically important, but it is mechanical nonetheless. Additionally, the more that we are able to make ourselves into brand new people for the upcoming year, the easier it will be to rectify our past mistakes through this process.

One of the biggest mistakes we all make is to allow our past to govern and determine our future. The defining quality of our free will, which is really what defines us as human beings, is that it is free and unencumbered. And it is the past, perhaps more than anything else, which is specifically what it is free of. While, as this expression itself spells out (and as Judaism would certainly agree), this is an obviously relevant consciousness for one to have the entire year, Rosh Hashanah is the time which is most ideal for its implementation. At least once a year, at its very beginning, we must take the time to think, not about what we have already done, but rather what we want to do; not about where we have already been but, instead, where we really want to go with our lives. This should give us the ability not only to fix up the damage from our past mistakes, but also to allow us to live an upcoming year which is truly new, not only in name but in reality.

For more in-depth essays, visit Rabbi Resnick’s site at JewishClarity.com
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Post  Admin on Thu 26 Sep 2019, 8:44 pm

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What Rosh Hashanah Says to Us
Sep 21, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
What Rosh Hashanah Says to Us
10 essential insights that go to the heart of Judaism.

An excerpt from Ceremony and Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

What then does Rosh Hashanah say to us? How can it transform our lives? The genius of Judaism was to take eternal truths and translate them into time, into lived experiences. Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the creation of humanity, invites us to live and feel the human condition in graphic ways.

The first thing it tells us is that life is short. However much life expectancy has risen, we will not, in one lifetime, be able to achieve everything we might wish to achieve. Untaneh Tokef tells the poetry of mortality with haunting pathos:

Man is founded in dust and ends in dust. He lays down his soul to bring home bread. He is like a broken shard, like grass dried up, like a faded flower, like a fleeting shadow, like a passing cloud, like a breath of wind, like whirling dust, like a dream that slips away.

This life is all we have. How shall we use it well? We know that we will not finish the task, but neither are we free to stand aside from it. That is the first truth.

The second is that life itself, each day, every breath we take, is the gift of God:

Remember us for life, O King who delights in life, and write us in the book of life – for Your sake, O God of life. (Zikhronot)

Life is not something we may take for granted. If we do, we will fail to celebrate it. God gives us one gift above all others, said Maimonides: life itself, beside which everything else is secondary. Other religions have sought God in heaven, or in the afterlife, the distant past or the distant future. Here there is suffering, there reward; here chaos, there order; here pain, there balm; here poverty, there plenty. Judaism has relentlessly sought God in the here-and-now of life on earth. Yes, we believe in life after death, but it is in life before death that we truly find human greatness.

Third, we are free. Judaism is the religion of the free human being freely responding to the God of freedom. We are not in the grip of sin. We are not determined by economic forces or psychological drives or genetically encoded impulses that we are powerless to resist. The very fact that we can do teshuva, that we can act differently tomorrow than we did yesterday, tells us we are free. Philosophers have found this idea difficult. So have scientists. But Judaism insists on it, and our ancestors proved it by defying every law of history, surviving against the odds, refusing to accept defeat.

Fourth, life is meaningful. We are not mere accidents of matter, generated by a universe that came into being for no reason and will one day, for no reason, cease to be. We are here because a loving God brought the universe, and life, and us, into existence – a God who knows our fears, hears our prayers, believes in us more than we believe in ourselves, who forgives us when we fail, lifts us when we fall and gives us the strength to overcome despair.

The historian Paul Johnson once wrote: “No people has ever insisted more firmly than the Jews that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny.” He concluded: “The Jews, therefore, stand right at the center of the perennial attempt to give human life the dignity of a purpose” (Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, Prologue). That too is one of the truths of Rosh Hashanah.

Fifth, life is not easy. Judaism does not see the world through rose-tinted lenses. The sufferings of our ancestors haunt our prayers. The world we live in is not the world as it ought to be. That is why, despite every temptation, Judaism has never been able to say the Messianic Age has come, even though we await it daily. But we are not bereft of hope because we are not alone. When Jews went into exile, the Shekhina, the Divine Presence, went with them. God is always there, “close to all who call on Him in truth” (Ps. 145:18). He may hide His face, but He is there. He may be silent, but He is listening to us, hearing us and healing us in ways we may not understand at the time but which become clear in retrospect.

Sixth, life may be hard, but it can still be sweet, the way the challah and the apple are on Rosh Hashanah when we dip them in honey. Jews have never needed wealth to be rich, or power to be strong. To be a Jew is to live for simple things: the love between husband and wife, the sacred bond between parents and children, the gift of community where we help others and others help us and where we learn that joy is doubled and grief halved by being shared. To be a Jew is to give, whether in the form of tzedaka or gemilut ĥasadim (acts of loving-kindness). It is to learn and never stop seeking, to pray and never stop thanking, to do teshuva and never stop growing. In this lies the secret of joy.

Throughout history there have been hedonistic cultures that worship pleasure and ascetic cultures that deny it, but Judaism has a different approach altogether: to sanctify pleasure by making it part of the worship of God. Life is sweet when touched by the divine.

Seventh, our life is the single greatest work of art we will ever make. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, in one of his earliest works, spoke about Ish HaHalakha, the halakhic personality and its longing to create, to make something new, original. God too longs for us to create and thereby become His partner in the work of renewal. “The most fundamental principle of all is that man must create himself.” That is what teshuva is, an act of making ourselves anew. On Rosh Hashanah we step back from our life like an artist stepping back from his canvas, seeing what needs changing for the painting to be complete.

Eighth, we are what we are because of those who came before us. Our lives are not disconnected particles. We are each a letter in God’s book of life. But single letters, though they are the vehicles of meaning, have no meaning when they stand alone. To have meaning they must be joined to other letters to make words, sentences, paragraphs, a story, and to be a Jew is to be part of the strangest, oldest, most unexpected and counterintuitive story there has ever been: the story of a tiny people, never large and often homeless, who nonetheless outlived the greatest empires the world has ever known – the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, the Greeks and Romans, the medieval empires of Christianity and Islam, all the way to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Each in turn thought itself immortal. Each has gone. The Jewish people still lives. So on Rosh Hashanah we remember and ask God to remember those who came before us: Abraham and Isaac, Sarah, Hannah and Rachel, the Israelites of Moses’ day, and the Jews of every generation, each of whom left some living legacy in the prayers we say or the melodies in which we sing them.

And in one of the most moving verses of the middle section of Musaf we recall the great words said by God through the prophet Jeremiah: “I remember of you the kindness of your youth, your love when you were a bride; how you walked after Me in the desert, through a land not sown” (Jer. 2:2). Our ancestors may have sinned, but they never stopped following God though the way was hard and the destination distant. We do not start with nothing. We have inherited wealth, not material but spiritual. We are heirs to our ancestors’ greatness.

Ninth, we are heirs to another kind of greatness too, that of the Torah itself and its high demands, its strenuous ideals, its panoply of mitzvot, its intellectual and existential challenges. Judaism asks great things of us and by doing so makes us great. We walk as tall as the ideals for which we live, and those of the Torah are very high indeed. We are, said Moses, God’s children (Deut. 14:1). We are called on, said Isaiah, to be His witnesses, His ambassadors on earth (Is. 43:10). Time and again Jews did things thought impossible. They battled against might in the name of right. They fought against slavery. They showed that it was possible to be a nation without a land, to have influence without power, to be branded the world’s pariahs yet not lose self-respect. They believed with unshakable conviction that they would one day return to their land, and though the hope seemed absurd, it happened. Their kingdom may have been bounded by a nutshell, but Jews counted themselves kings of infinite space. Judaism sets the bar high, and though we may fall short time and again, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur allow us to begin anew, forgiven, cleansed, undaunted, ready for the next challenge, the next year.

And finally comes the sound of the shofar, piercing our defenses, a wordless cry in a religion of words, a sound produced by breath as if to tell us that that is all life is – a mere breath – yet breath is nothing less than the spirit of God within us: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). We are dust of the earth but within us is the breath of God. And whether the shofar is our cry to God or God’s cry to us, somehow in that tekia, shevarim, terua – the call, the sob, the wail – is all the pathos of the Divine-human encounter as God asks us to take His gift, life itself, and make of it something holy by so acting as to honor God and His image on earth, humankind.

For we defeat death, not by living forever but by living by values that live forever; by doing deeds and creating blessings that will live on after us; and by attaching ourselves in the midst of time to God who lives beyond time, “the King – the living, everlasting God.”

The Hebrew verb lehitpalel, “to pray,” more precisely means “to judge oneself.” On Rosh Hashanah we stand in judgment. We know what it is to be known. And though we know the worst about ourselves, God sees the best; and when we open ourselves to Him, He gives us the strength to become what we truly are. Those who fully enter the spirit of Rosh Hashanah emerge into the new year charged, energized, focused, renewed, knowing that to be a Jew is to live life in the presence of God, to sanctify life for the sake of God, and to enhance the lives of others – for where we bring blessings into other lives, there God lives.
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Post  Admin on Tue 24 Sep 2019, 3:23 pm

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Making New Year’s Resolutions Like a Doctor
Sep 22, 2019  |  by Dr. Ari Grubner
Making New Year’s Resolutions Like a Doctor
How to set SMART goals for the new year.

I didn’t think my inspiration for Rosh Hashanah would come from my boss in the hospital, in a room full of fresh new medical doctors.

I had just started my residency in a busy New York hospital and I didn't bank on having much time for spiritual growth and improvement. But it seems God sends us the inspiration we need, no matter where we are or what we are doing.

On a regular Thursday afternoon I took my seat among a room full of my resident colleagues and waited for Dr. Thompson to arrive for our weekly meeting. Dr. Thompson, an experienced and wise physician, is in charge of our residency program and he meets with us periodically to touch base and discuss our progress as new physicians.

On this particular Thursday afternoon, just a few days before Rosh Hashanah, it was clear that Dr. Thompson had a specific agenda to discuss.

“I’d like to discuss goals,” he began. “You have all graduated from medical school. You have all spent countless years studying, taking tests and excelling academically. However you are now at a new stage of your training. You are now practicing as physicians. No one will be on top of you to ensure that you keep studying and to keep improving. No one will call you aside and chastise you for mediocre performance. I know this is new for you, and that’s why I feel the need to point it out.”

He paused for a moment and looked around the room. We were all silent.

“The only way you will continue to grow in your professions is if you set goals for yourself. No one else can do this for you, and no one will really know or care whether you set goals or not. But at the end of the day, if you want to be the best you can be, you will need to be self-driven and you will need to do this.”

Some in the room shifted uncomfortably. “Besides needing to be self-driven, there is another issue with goal-setting at this stage of your careers. In medical school, there was an objective, measurable way to know how you were doing – your test grades. Your goals may have been ‘get an A in microbiology’, or ‘pass this upcoming anatomy test’. Those are good goals, and there is a simple way to keep track of whether or not you have been meeting those goals: simply look at the grade that you’ve received. But this stage in your life is different. Things are not as clear cut.

“Many of you may have some vague goal in your mind, perhaps something like ‘I would like to be a perfect doctor’. That is a nice goal but what's wrong with it?”

The room was silent. Some looked down to avoid being called upon. Finally someone shyly answered, “That goal is too vague.” Another said, “It's unattainable.” Someone else shared, “it is impossible to know when you’ve accomplished it.”

Dr. Thompson nodded and then continued. “Exactly. All those points are correct. We need guidelines to ensure that the goals we are setting actually make sense. We need to set SMART goals.”

Dr. Thompson shared with us a deep, yet simple, structure for goal setting that applies to all goals in life:

Specific: In order for a goal to be appropriate and attainable, it should not be vague.

Measurable: Goals must be objectively measurable. A famous painter was one asked how he knows when he is done adding strokes to his paintings. “When I am done, I just know,” he replied. This is not the way to set personal goals. Goals should be objectively measurable by an onlooker, and should not simply be an inner feeling of “being done”.

Accountable: People spend thousands of dollars to hire personal trainers and diet coaches. The bulk of the benefit from such coaches comes from the accountability to another person. People all have biases and if we are not held accountable by others, we will inevitably bend the truth or simply forget to follow up on the goals we have set. When setting a goal, involve someone else. Tell them about your goal, include them in it if possible, and make it clear that you want them to follow up with you.

Realistic: Goals that are set too high will leave us feeling dejected when we are not able to actualize them. Goals set too low will not help us grow. The only way to really find that perfect balance is through trial and error.

Time-line: When setting a goal, tell yourself you will try it for a specific amount of time. This gives one the ability to re-assess periodically and then to re-assign goals.

Dr. Thompson did not plan on giving a Rosh Hashanah sermon. But God can send us messages that we need to hear through any avenue, even the most unexpected. We just need to have our eyes and ears open to make sure we pick up on it.
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Post  Admin on Sun 22 Sep 2019, 11:20 pm

https://www.aish.com/h/hh/rh/ag/God-Loves-You--Do-You-Love-Him.html?s=mm
God Loves You – Do You Love Him?
Sep 21, 2019  |  by Rabbi Efrem GoldbergGod Loves You – Do You Love Him?
We want to count on God, but can He count on us? We want Him to think of us but how often do we think of Him?

We often picture God this time of year as a judge, sitting at His bench, waiting to catch us, judge us and hold us accountable. Not only is this not a healthy and constructive image, it is not the image our rabbis and our tradition want us to have.

We are deep into the month of Elul, the last month of the year. Elul is an acronym for ani l’dodi v’dodi li – I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me, conveying a deep and profound sense of love that is overarching sentiment this time of year.

"I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me" describes a reciprocal love, of give and take, of two parties both invested in the relationship with each other. God loves us. He thinks about us, cares about us, and craves a relationship with us.

God loves us means He isn’t looking to catch us or punish us. He wants what is best for us. He roots and cheers for us. He wants us to succeed and He wants us to be happy. God knows all of our faults and shortcomings. He is aware of our mistakes and our challenges, and yet He loves us. He is never jealous of us, He is never competing with us and He is never tired of us. He simply loves us. What He wants in return is to be loved by us as well.

But we need to remember: I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me. Elul is all about reciprocity. God relates to us as a reflection of how we relate to Him. We want to count on Him, but can He count on us? We wish He would talk to us, but do we sincerely talk to Him? We want Him to think of us but how often do we think of Him?


 
A few years ago, I saw someone around minyan during the week when I hadn’t seen him coming often before. I met with him about something else and took the liberty of praising him and telling him how great it has been to see him at shul. I asked him, “If you don’t mind, would you tell me what motivated you to start coming?”

He explained that recently he had suffered a terrible disappointment in his life. Something he was longing for and had been seriously invested in didn’t work out and left him back at square one. He was so mad, so angry, so devastated that he got in his car to go for a drive just to clear his head and cool off.

As he was driving around he started screaming at God: How could you? Why would you do this to me? Where have you been?! It was with those last words that it suddenly struck him – where have you been, that is exactly what God is wondering about him. He was overwhelmed not with anger or disappointment towards God, but with a sense of how disappointed God must be with him for cutting Him out of his life. At that moment he decided he was going to start going to shul more, talking to God more, showing God a little more love.

Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – this is the month of reciprocal love. Start showing God some love and you will see and feel Him loving you back.

God doesn’t need our mitzvot. He gives them to us because He wants us to care about Him, to think about Him, to love Him.

And He loves us so much. He showers us with blessings. If we would only take the time each day to think about it we would recognize how much goodness, how many blessings we receive that far surpass what we deserve.

God loves us. The question is: do we show Him love in return?
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Post  Admin on Fri 20 Sep 2019, 12:30 pm

NOW MORE THAN EVER: WHY ISRAEL MATTERS
Tags: Jewish Unity, Jewish Identity, Am Yisrael, Rosh Hashanah, Zionism, Israel Under Fire
By Rabbi Joseph R. Black
An old story is told of how Leon Blum, the Socialist French Prime Minister, met with Ben Gurion, shortly before the establishment of the Jewish State. Addressing Ben Gurion, Blum said: I want you to know that 1st I am a Frenchman, 2nd I am a socialist, and 3rd I am a Jew.
To which Ben Gurion responded, "That's ok. In Hebrew we read from right to left."
I love that story, although when I tell it, I feel a bit nostalgic. Ben Gurion's response to Blum assumes that every Jew should ultimately feel a strong connection to his or her people and the State of Israel; that there is something within every Jewish soul that pulls them to the Promised Land.
While that may have been the case 20, 30 or 40 years ago, I'm not sure that we can assume it anymore. And that concerns me greatly. Simply put, the emotional, historical, and spiritual ties that bound us to Israel in the past are slowly and steadily becoming unraveled in the present.
During the first few decades of Israeli independence, the vast majority of American and World Jewry saw the embattled Jewish State as a symbol of pride, national and spiritual identity. Zionism, and its message of self-sufficiency in a Jewish homeland, was a central component of Jewish identification. This, coupled with the recent memory of the Shoah and its horrors, caused us to see Israel as an extension of our Jewish selves.
We defended Israel's right to exist - holding our collective breaths during times of crisis and rejoicing in her miraculous victories. We demonstrated our support with our political clout and our pocketbooks, by making Aliyah, traveling on organized tours and sending our Children to study and experience the "Miracle on the Mediterranean."
Today, however, the word "Zionist" has become divisive. Israel's enemies have tried to co-opt the term by linking it with policies of oppression and racism.
Some of our Christian friends have used it to describe their love of Israel – and while I understand that this is done out a desire to show solidarity and support, this also can be seen by some as ignoring or redefining the essential element of Zionism as a natural outgrowth of Jewish identity in connection with the land of our people.
Over the past several decades, a great deal has changed. Instead of being the underdog, Israel, in the eyes of many, is now a pariah state. It has become de riguer to demonize Zionism as the source of numerous evils.
As riots continue to increase, I have no doubt that, in addition to Anti-Americanism, they will also be fueled by anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric.
Sadly, for many American Jews, Israel, instead of being a focal point of pride has become a source of discomfort or embarrassment.
I have colleagues who are afraid to even mention Israel from the pulpit – not because of their convictions, but because of the divisions and discord that doing so may create in their communities.
In addition, the more we talk about Israel's "survival" the less focused we are on the real mission of the modern State of Israel as the embodiment of Jewish values, vision and history.
For a growing group of individuals – Jews and non-Jews alike, the issue of whether or not to be openly supportive of the State of Israel goes beyond politics. There are those for whom the idea of a Sovereign Jewish State just feels wrong; for whom the concept of a separate country for the Jewish people is somehow backwards and inappropriate. Their logic goes something like this:
In olden days, it was the divisions between peoples that caused wars and hatred. The mere existence of a modern-day state that proudly and openly proclaims itself to be "Jewish" is contrary to 21st century values and understanding. Our shrinking, modern world with its inter-twined systems of commerce, currency and communication is multi-national and "post-ethnic."

Rather than focusing on the differences between nations, the western world needs to move beyond archaic and divisive ethnic, nationalist and religious distinctions and embrace a Universal ideal of all people united under the banner of a common truth and belief in the equality of all humankind.
Perhaps it was John Lennon who embodied this vision best with his lyrics:
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
How many of us grew up singing this song? How many of us saw it as a plea for sanity, peace and harmony in a world that seemed to be daily descending into the depths of destruction? I know that I did.
John Lennon's anthem of Universal peace reflects a central leitmotif of much of modern Western thought. The concept of tearing down the walls that separate us has become so intertwined with our collective conscience that any talk of particularism goes against the grain of much of modern thinking.

Jewish tradition walks a fine line between Universalism and Particularism. Unlike other faiths, Judaism does not teach that it is only through living a Jewish life that one can achieve salvation. There are many pathways to holiness. We are not the only religion, nor do we see ourselves as the "best" religion.
The often mis-understood concept of "Chosenness" implies that the Jewish people have a unique role to play in the unfolding of history. But we were not chosen to be better. Rather, we were chosen to receive Torah and bring God's presence into the world.

Most of us are comfortable with the Universal ideals of our faith. To state that all humanity was created in the Divine image; to reinforce the concept that salvation is open to all humanity makes us feel good about ourselves and our faith. But there are times when speaking of specific Jewish values, privileges and responsibilities make some feel uncomfortable.
An example of this occurs every Shabbat morning when we celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah – especially when there are many non-Jewish guests present. One of our goals during this service is to make everyone feel as welcome as possible –and we do a pretty good job. And yet, there is a fascinating point in the beginning of the service – during the opening blessings - called Nissim b'chol yom.
These prayers speak of our awareness of God's presence in our lives – whether we know it or not. The blessings state appreciation for God's "everyday miracles." We thank God for rising of the sun, for clothing the naked and healing the sick. It's quite moving. But there is a point in the recitation of these blessings where they shift from Universal to Particularistic concerns and I can sometimes feel a sense of discomfort move over the congregation.


When we say: "Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam – she asini Yisrael. Blessed are You, Eternal our God, for making me a Jew."  I can see people pause for a moment.
Should we be saying this? Is this right? Why are we saying a prayer that's so….. "Jewish?" It's OK to talk about Universal concepts like peace and harmony, fellowship and God's love for humanity…but thanking God for making me a Jew? That seems almost out of place…..
My friends, there is nothing wrong in a Jewish service about thanking God for the gift of our heritage. Yes, our non-Jewish friends and family may not feel included in these words, but that's ok….. they probably don't mind. They are here because they love and support us. If we go to a Christian service, there are lots of prayers that we don't or can't say. This prayer – thanking God for making us Jewish doesn't state that Judaism is better – but it does state that our heritage is a gift from God – and for that we are grateful.
The truth is – while we share so much in common with our non-Jewish friends, neighbors and relatives, we're not all the same. We don't pray the same way and we don't necessarily agree on everything. And that's a good thing. Diversity in an essential element for human interaction.
Copyright © Photo by Bernadett Alpern
1. It is because we are different that we find ways to infuse our lives with understanding and growth through sharing our differences
2. It is because we are different that we can reach out and learn from one another.
3. It is because we are different that we can share, celebrate and, when necessary, overcome our differences - thereby enriching our lives in the process.

Of course, there are those who have no tolerance for differences – who see the world through a prism of perfection and fundamentalist triumphalism. It is fiery fundamentalist rhetoric that is fueling rioting in the streets around the globe. It is intolerance and bigotry that produced an amateurish film that was designed to insult an entire religion. This is not who we are. And this is not who we should be allowed to frame the perspective around our differences.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of who we are and what we stand for. And that goes double for the State of Israel.
When it comes to Israel, instead of being defensive, we have the right and responsibility to be proud of her successes.
No, Israel is not perfect. There are many serious issues that need to be confronted. But the Jewish State is not a pariah either.
Our task, on this Rosh HaShanah and every day following is to work to change the conversation: first in the American Jewish Community and then around the globe.

It's not enough to simply defend Israel's right to exist; we need to spend more time talking about the incredible gift we and the rest of the world have been given by the existence of the modern Jewish State of Israel.
In his recent book, The Promise of Israel, Rabbi Daniel Gordis writes about how we need to refocus our conversation about Israel to the values that the Jewish State provides – not only for the Jewish people, but for the entire world. Gordis writes:
What is at issue between Israel and the international community is whether ethnic and national diversity ought to be encouraged and promoted. Israel has something to say about the importance of human difference that is at odds with the prevailing attitudes in the world today. It is a country that insists that people thrive and flourish most when they live in societies in which their language, their culture, their history and their sense of purpose are situated at the very center of public life.
Gordis posits that Israel is unique because it is Jewish. Unlike the United States, or most other countries around the world, Israel was not designed to be a multi-national melting pot. If someday Israel were to have an Arab majority and elect a Muslim Prime Minister, it would be a catastrophe because the modern State of Israel was created for the purpose of providing a homeland for the Jewish people and to show the world what we, as Jews stand for and believe in. It is for this reason that the Two State Solution is a necessary step in creating peace in the Middle East.
The State of Israel is different than any other nation in the world today. Yes, it exists in order to ensure that the Jewish people will always have a homeland. But it also serves as an example of the power of a people to infuse 4,000 years of history and tradition into the building of a modern nation that embodies the highest aspirations towards which humanity can reach.

Out of the ashes of the Shoah the Jewish people created a vital and complex country that serves as a beacon of Democracy, intellect, artistic genius and economic success for the entire world to see.
Of course, there are problems. The specter of a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat. There is Civil War in Syria. The peace treaty with Egypt may be jeopardized with the new Islamist government. Hamas continues to shell rockets in the south…the list is long and frightening.
If we put these issues aside for a moment – and only for a moment - we also know that Israel is threatened – not only by external enemies – but by internal divisions as well - fueled by some of the same intolerance, bigotry and fundamentalist world views that plague its neighbors. But there is one difference: Jewish tradition teaches that we need to confront our differences – openly and honestly. To do otherwise would be a Chilul Hashem – a profaning of the Divine name.
How many of Israel's neighbors, in the aftermath of the recent anti-American and anti-Israel demonstrations, have gone through a Cheshbon Ha-Nefesh - soul searching? Where is the voice of the Imams and the teachers of the Muslim world who are condemning violence? If they are there – they have been silenced.

The world needs Israel because Israel has so much to teach. If, for example, instead of demonizing the Jewish state, Israel's enemies attempted to emulate her successes, think of what could be accomplished!
I feel very strongly about these issues. My convictions are deep because I am a Zionist. I have always been a Zionist. Ahavat Eretz V'Am Yisrael - a love of the land and people of Israel is central to understanding of who I am - as a Jew and as a human being. And I also believe that most of you feel the same way.
We are all Zionists because the State of Israel - the Land and People of Israel – warts and all - is central to our historical and spiritual birthright as Jews.
Throughout our history the land of Israel has been inexorably linked to our self-understanding.
When pray, we face Jerusalem. During Passover, at the end of our Seder, we pray: "L'Shanah Ha-Ba-ah B'yerushalayim - Next year in Jerusalem." In our prayer books, in our poetry and music, in every age, Jews have been spiritually and physically connected to this land. Zionism is a movement that is the natural outgrowth of that connectedness.

Our task, as we welcome this New Year, is to celebrate the State of Israel. We need to change the conversation about Israel and understand that we have the ability and the responsibility to be proud of what our people have created.

I also want to encourage you to find ways to travel to Israel. Whether it is your first trip or your 10th, there is no better way to truly understand your relationship with the Jewish State and the Jewish people.

May the coming year bring peace to Israel and the world. May all of us come to appreciate and share our love for the State of Israel and our faith.

AMEN
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Post  Admin on Tue 17 Sep 2019, 7:49 pm

But I Haven’t Changed All Year!
Sep 5, 2015  |  by Sara Debbie GutfreundBut I Haven’t Changed All Year!
4 common thoughts that block change before Rosh Hashanah.
https://www.aish.com/h/hh/gar/fulfillment/But-I-Havent-Changed-All-Year.html?s=mm
“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life,” leadership expert Robin Sharma once said. Soon it will be Rosh Hashanah and I feel almost exactly the way I did the year before. Could all this time have gone by without me making any real changes? Am I going in circles, living the same year over and over again?

What are the key thoughts that block us from change every year and how do we dispel them?

1. Thinking that we can’t learn. We become so entrenched in our habits and our routines that many of us believe that we can’t learn how to begin again. But there is a saying: If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. But when you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. There are countless scholars and successful people in every field who struggled when they first started out, but they were determined to learn. We are not imprisoned by our past; it’s never too late to learn new ideas and change the story.

2. Believing that we tried everything. Many people try to change and give up after trying different approaches. But as Thomas Edison warned, “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.” Often we feel like giving up right before we are about to find our answers. We feel like quitting right before we are about to succeed. The path to success is only through failure. As long as we are alive, there are more possibilities and more ideas to try. Every failed approach is a lesson that brings us closer to our goals.

3. Thinking we can remain the same. Even if we’re on the right track, we’ll get run over if we just sit there. Sometimes it seems like the safest route for us is to remain in our comfort zones and not change at all. But not growing doesn’t keep us in the same place; it pulls us down. And when we are down we begin to think that since we have already veered off track, we might as well push off changing for tomorrow. Or next week when our schedules are easier. Or perhaps next month we’ll try again. But when we find ourselves in a hole, the first thing we need to remember is to stop digging. Don’t run back to what broke you. Keep moving forward, however slowly you need to go.

4. Forgetting that we are created in the image of God. Rabbi Noah Weinberg ztz”l said, “Treat yourself with the same awesomeness that you would a volcano. There is tremendous energy available. You just need to tap into it. Open yourself up to see your real potential. Stop looking at what you are. Look at what you can be.” You have the potential for greatness. Instead of knocking yourself, at the end of each day, focus on something that you did right that day and take pleasure in your accomplishment. Connect to the Divine spark within. You can’t change if you’re constantly putting yourself down. Treat yourself as if you have extraordinary power to change yourself and the world around you at any moment. Because you do.

This Rosh Hashanah, let’s all take one concrete step forward in improving ourselves and taste the sweetness it brings to the new year.
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Post  Admin on Sun 15 Sep 2019, 10:20 pm

Queen Wilhelmina and the Munkaczer Rebbe
Sep 14, 2019  |  by Rabbi Yaakov Cohen
54
SHARES
A royal encounter and the importance of gratitude.
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Queen-Wilhelmina-and-the-Munkaczer-Rebbe.html?s=mm
With thanks to Rabbi Paysach Krohn for publishing this story as well as to Rabbi Nachum Aaronson and Rabbi Motel Aaronson for 


About the Author
Rabbi Yaakov CohenMore by this Author >
Rabbi Yaakov Cohen grew up in New York and earned his Bachelors in Psychology, his Rabbinic Ordination and his Masters in Education and Administration; all from Yeshiva University. He now lives in Chicago, IL where he works as the Judaic Studies Principal of Akiba Schechter Jewish Day School and Educational Director at NCSY. Rabbi Cohen is a passionate educator and an inspiring speaker who has travelled throughout the country speaking for organizations, schools, synagogues and universities on a variety of topics and to audiences of various sizes and affiliations. Rabbi Cohen is a community leader and is actively involved with several local organizations and synagogues.



Eli Cohen: The Real Story of Mossad's Master Spy
Sep 14, 2019  |  by Jerusalem U
How did his dangerous work help Israel and what led to his identity finally being revealed?

https://www.aish.com/jw/me/Eli-Cohen-The-Real-Story-of-Mossads-Master-Spy.html?s=mm
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Post  Admin on Thu 12 Sep 2019, 8:47 pm

https://www.aish.com/ho/p/Britains-Kitchener-Camp-Saved-4000-German-Jews.html?s=mm
Britain's Kitchener Camp Saved 4,000 German Jews
Sep 9, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Britain's Kitchener Camp Saved 4,000 German Jews
The little known story is now being told.

Life for German and Austrian Jews had become steadily more restricted ever since the Nazis were elected to power in Germany in 1933. Then on November 9, 1938, mobs ran wild in the streets of German and Austrian cities, vandalizing Jewish homes and businesses, burning synagogues and terrifying and beating up Jews.

That night, which became known as Kristallnacht, nearly 100 Jews died and hundreds of buildings were destroyed. 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps in the aftermath.

Jews scrambled to leave, but there were very few places in the world willing to take in desperate Jewish refugees. The Jewish men confined to concentration camps in 1938 were told they were free to leave - if they could find a country willing to take them in. It proved an almost impossible task.

The Jews of Britain came together to help. In 1933, with Hitler’s rise to power, a group of prominent Jews, including Anthony de Rothschild, Otto Schiff, Simon Marks (chairman of the famous department stores Marks & Spencer), and Dr. Chaim Weitzman (who later became the first President of Israel), had formed the Central British Fund for German Jewry (CBF). In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the CBF came up with two audacious plans to rescue Jews.

The CBF brought about 10,000 Jewish children to Britain in 1938 and 1939 in a massive program that was called the “Children’s Transport”, or Kindertransport.
After the horror of Kristallnacht the British government relaxed the rules of entry of certain categories of people. Unaccompanied refugee children could enter the country, receiving a temporary travel visa, if private citizens guaranteed they would pay for each child’s education, care and eventual ticket out of the country. The CBF organized British citizens to guarantee the expenses.

Kitchener camp, 1939. Georg Benjamin, front left. Courtesy http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/

Some Jewish women were allowed into Britain on two year “domestic” worker visas in order to alleviate the servant shortage. (My own grandmother was among these Jewish women whose lives were saved because British households wanted a supply of cheap domestic servants.) But the 30,000 Jewish men who languished in Nazi concentration camps had no options. No country wanted them.

The CBF got to work, lobbying officials to take in these Jewish men. Britain’s government didn't want refugee camps on its soil. Housing German citizens, whatever their religion, was seen as particularly risky. But the CBF gained permission for a transit camp. A disused military camp called Kitchener camp in the southern English county of Kent was requisitioned to provide temporary shelter. Up to 5,000 men could be brought to Kitchener if the CBF pledged funds to support their upkeep.

Kitchener camp, 1939, Moshe Chaim Gruenbaum, http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/

Time was short and the CBF started bringing Jewish men from concentration camps to England in February 1939. The Jewish community turned to a pair of Jewish brothers, Jonas and Phineas May, who’d previously helped run the Jewish Lads Brigade, a youth group, to run the camp. With their background in running summer camps, the CBF thought Jonas and Phineas could help welcome the traumatized Jewish men.

Lothar Nelken was a judge in Germany who’d been fired from his post for being Jewish and imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp. He arrived in Kitchener camp on July 13, 1939. “At around 9pm we arrived in the camp,” he recorded in his diary. “We were welcomed with jubilation…The beds are surprisingly good. One sleeps as if in a cradle.”

Eventually thousands of Jewish men called Kitchener Camp home. “It was necessary to start a system for admitting 400 men a day,” Phineas wrote on June 14, 1939.

Kitchener camp, Jack Agin, Cook, 1939. Source: Clare Ungerson’s Four Thousand men,
with the kind permission of the Wiener Library

The camp bustled with life. Shabbat services, classes, a newspaper, several bands all occupied the camp’s swelling population. The camp also hosted weddings between the refugees and their fiancées who’d manage to make it out of Nazi Europe. The men hoped to bring their wives and children over to start new lives in England. As war became more likely, the mood in the camp plummeted. Jewish women and children left behind in Nazi Europe were in grave danger.

By September 3, 1939, when World War II was declared, about 4,000 Jewish men had been brought to Kitchener camp. With the world at war, the men realized their families wouldn’t be able to join them.

Many of the refugees were determined to fight Nazis. “Kitchener men” were allowed to join Britain’s Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, a logistics division that helped plan British military invasions. Over 800 Kitchener refugees accompanied the British Army as they fought in northern Europe in 1940. After the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, the Kitchener refugees were brought back to England.

After France fell to the Nazis in 1940, the public mood changed and British authorities were uncomfortable having so many German-born men on English soil. Refugees who’d enlisted to fight were allowed to remain in the army. Other refugees were moved to internment camps, mainly on the remote Isle of Man; many of the refugees were sent to Canada and Australia. Few saw their families ever again.

For 70 years, the story of Kitchener camp was very little known. It is now being told. On September 2, 2019, a plaque was unveiled in the town of Sandwich, near the camp, marking the remarkable story of 4,000 Jewish men who were rescued. Phineas and Jonah May’s children were present, as were the descendants of some of the refugees whose lives were saved at Kitchener.

One descendent who attended was Paul Secher, whose father Otto arrived in the camp in May 1939. “My father didn’t talk about it very much,” Secher said. “I sensed it was a painful subject for him. He managed to escape (Germany) but his parents and a sister didn’t. The burden must have been immense.”
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Sep 2019, 10:25 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/sam/Darwinism-Judaism-and-the-Clash-between-Science-and-Religion.html?s=mm
Darwinism, Judaism and the Clash between Science and Religion
Sep 8, 2019  |  by Melanie PhillipsDarwinism, Judaism and the Clash between Science and Religion
The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is, in fact, foreign to Judaism.

Yale University professor of computer science David Gelernter has renounced his previous belief in Darwinian evolution.

Writing that he was sad to give up on “a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory,” he said he had concluded that it couldn’t explain the big picture – not the fine-tuning of existing species, but the emergence of new ones.

Whether or not his argument is well-founded is a discussion for another time. The point here is that it’s unsayable by anyone who isn’t prepared to risk professional and social suicide.

Darwinism, said Gelernter, had passed beyond a scientific argument. Although his Yale colleagues had treated him in a courteous and collegiate manner, people took their life in their hands to question Darwinian evolution.

“They will destroy you if you challenge it,” he said. There was nothing approaching free speech on this topic. “It’s a sort of bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged, violent rejection, which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion.”
 
Gelernter’s conclusions about Darwinism have derived principally from his analysis of the statistical probability of the evolution of new species. Yet anyone who queries Darwinism is immediately labeled “anti-science” and accused of being a religious nut.

Indeed, the pushback against Gelernter’s apostasy has included the observation that he is a religious Jew. Apparently, the only reason he could possibly have come to this “denialist” conclusion, says one pro-evolution website, is that he views science through “Old Testament goggles.”

In fact, a belief that’s unchallengeable has the characteristic of religious faith. That’s why Gelernter calls Darwinism a religion.

Our era is supposedly devoted to promoting individual freedom, tolerance and an end to prejudice. So why are so many views being silenced?
There are plenty of other unsayables in our thought-policed society. Human-made global warming, for example, is considered beyond challenge because the science of that theory is said to be “settled.” This is, in fact, anti-science dogma because nothing is ever settled in science, which is always open to fresh challenges.

So how come our scientific age promotes anti-science ideas more akin to religious doctrine and calls them science?

Our era is supposedly devoted to promoting individual freedom, tolerance and an end to prejudice. So why are so many views being silenced? Why has debate been so widely replaced by hateful insults? And how come this has been accompanied by an upsurge in anti-Semitism, often among precisely the same subscribers to the liberal anti-racist “woke” agenda?

There may be a connection here that is generally overlooked. And it involves the Jews.

At the core of all this moral and intellectual confusion lies an onslaught against the core principles of Western civilization on the grounds that these are innately exclusive, prejudicial and oppressive.

That’s because they are rooted in biblical values that are held to be cruel, obscurantist and inimical to reason, enlightenment, and generosity of spirit.

By contrast, the secular agenda is believed to stand for all good things associated with modernity, such as kindness, rationality, and progress.

The West tells itself that modernity sprang from a repudiation of religion in the 17th-century Enlightenment.

In fact, as a new book points out, Christianity remains at the core of contemporary Western thinking even among those who disdain it. "Dominion," by the British historian Tom Holland, is a magisterial analysis of the way in which Christian values have shaped the West and still do so even in the most unlikely places.

His book is not merely a fascinating account of the extraordinary reach and persistence of Christianity, which has evolved and adapted down through the generations and across societies. He also argues that Christian values, which have sometimes led to slavery, empire, and war, nevertheless lie at the core of what makes the West civilized and good.

This has startled people for whom it is axiomatic that only secularism produces goodness while religion produces only bad stuff. But Holland points out that even attacks by secular liberals on Christian thinking are motivated by Christian values of tolerance and fairness.

Of course, there’s an elephant in this particular room. For although these core Western principles were introduced and spread by Christianity, their origin lay in the Hebrew Bible.

Holland pays due regard to the Jewish foundations of Christianity and also to the terrible way that Christianity has behaved in the past towards the Jews.

But what so many overlook is that moral principles assumed to have been invented by Christianity, such as compassion, fairness, looking after the poor or putting others first, were all introduced to the world by the Hebrew Bible.

It is Judaism’s Mosaic code that gave the West its conscience and the roots of its civilization by putting chains on people’s selfish appetites. And strikingly, every contemporary ideology that aims to undermine or transform the West is based on opposition to Jewish religious beliefs, Jewish moral codes or the Jewish homeland in Israel.

Deep green environmentalism, for example, wants to knock human beings off their pedestal in Genesis as the pinnacle of creation; sexual lifestyle choice negates Judaism’s moral codes; scientific materialism repudiates belief in the Divine creator of the world; anti-Zionism denies the Jews’ right to their own homeland; and liberal universalism is an innate challenge to Judaism which, as a stubbornly and uniquely distinct set of beliefs, always stands in the way of any universalizing ideology.

Much of this secular onslaught goes back to the central Enlightenment idea of a world based on reason, which French Enlightenment thinkers in particular perceived to be in opposition to religion.

But the West’s concept of reason actually comes from the Hebrew Bible. Ideas such as an orderly and rational universe structured on a linear concept of time were revolutionary concepts introduced in the book of Genesis.

These ideas were essential to the development of Western science. Early scientists believed that natural laws necessarily presupposed a law-giver. As Galileo Galilei said: “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.”

The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is, in fact, foreign to Judaism. With so much of the Hebrew Bible interpreted over the centuries as allegory or metaphor, Judaism has never seen science as a threat.

The 12th-century Jewish sage Maimonides was the great exemplar of the belief that science and religion were complementary. He wrote that conflict between science and the Bible arose from either a lack of scientific knowledge or a defective understanding of the Bible.

Without the Hebrew Bible, there would have been no Western rationality or principles such as justice or compassion. But secularism holds that the rule of reason divorced from biblical religion would banish bad things like prejudice or war from the world and the human heart.

Impossible utopianism like this invariably results in oppression. So it proved with medieval apocalyptic Christianity, the French Revolution, communism and fascism; and so it is proving today with the cultural totalitarianism of the Left.

Like all utopians, the Left believes that their ideas are unchallengeable because they supposedly stand for virtue itself. All who oppose them are therefore not just wrong, but evil. So heretics like Gelernter must be stamped out because no quarter can ever be given to any challenge to secularism.

What secular liberals don’t understand is that in attacking the Jewish concepts at the core of the Christian West, they are not merely repudiating their own supposed ideals of tolerance and rationality, but are sawing off the branch on which they themselves are sitting.

Reprinted with permission from JNS.org.
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Sep 2019, 10:23 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/sam/Darwinism-Judaism-and-the-Clash-between-Science-and-Religion.html?s=mm
Darwinism, Judaism and the Clash between Science and Religion
Sep 8, 2019  |  by Melanie PhillipsDarwinism, Judaism and the Clash between Science and Religion
The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is, in fact, foreign to Judaism.

Yale University professor of computer science David Gelernter has renounced his previous belief in Darwinian evolution.

Writing that he was sad to give up on “a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory,” he said he had concluded that it couldn’t explain the big picture – not the fine-tuning of existing species, but the emergence of new ones.

Whether or not his argument is well-founded is a discussion for another time. The point here is that it’s unsayable by anyone who isn’t prepared to risk professional and social suicide.

Darwinism, said Gelernter, had passed beyond a scientific argument. Although his Yale colleagues had treated him in a courteous and collegiate manner, people took their life in their hands to question Darwinian evolution.

“They will destroy you if you challenge it,” he said. There was nothing approaching free speech on this topic. “It’s a sort of bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged, violent rejection, which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion.”
 
Gelernter’s conclusions about Darwinism have derived principally from his analysis of the statistical probability of the evolution of new species. Yet anyone who queries Darwinism is immediately labeled “anti-science” and accused of being a religious nut.

Indeed, the pushback against Gelernter’s apostasy has included the observation that he is a religious Jew. Apparently, the only reason he could possibly have come to this “denialist” conclusion, says one pro-evolution website, is that he views science through “Old Testament goggles.”

In fact, a belief that’s unchallengeable has the characteristic of religious faith. That’s why Gelernter calls Darwinism a religion.

Our era is supposedly devoted to promoting individual freedom, tolerance and an end to prejudice. So why are so many views being silenced?
There are plenty of other unsayables in our thought-policed society. Human-made global warming, for example, is considered beyond challenge because the science of that theory is said to be “settled.” This is, in fact, anti-science dogma because nothing is ever settled in science, which is always open to fresh challenges.

So how come our scientific age promotes anti-science ideas more akin to religious doctrine and calls them science?

Our era is supposedly devoted to promoting individual freedom, tolerance and an end to prejudice. So why are so many views being silenced? Why has debate been so widely replaced by hateful insults? And how come this has been accompanied by an upsurge in anti-Semitism, often among precisely the same subscribers to the liberal anti-racist “woke” agenda?

There may be a connection here that is generally overlooked. And it involves the Jews.

At the core of all this moral and intellectual confusion lies an onslaught against the core principles of Western civilization on the grounds that these are innately exclusive, prejudicial and oppressive.

That’s because they are rooted in biblical values that are held to be cruel, obscurantist and inimical to reason, enlightenment, and generosity of spirit.

By contrast, the secular agenda is believed to stand for all good things associated with modernity, such as kindness, rationality, and progress.

The West tells itself that modernity sprang from a repudiation of religion in the 17th-century Enlightenment.

In fact, as a new book points out, Christianity remains at the core of contemporary Western thinking even among those who disdain it. "Dominion," by the British historian Tom Holland, is a magisterial analysis of the way in which Christian values have shaped the West and still do so even in the most unlikely places.

His book is not merely a fascinating account of the extraordinary reach and persistence of Christianity, which has evolved and adapted down through the generations and across societies. He also argues that Christian values, which have sometimes led to slavery, empire, and war, nevertheless lie at the core of what makes the West civilized and good.

This has startled people for whom it is axiomatic that only secularism produces goodness while religion produces only bad stuff. But Holland points out that even attacks by secular liberals on Christian thinking are motivated by Christian values of tolerance and fairness.

Of course, there’s an elephant in this particular room. For although these core Western principles were introduced and spread by Christianity, their origin lay in the Hebrew Bible.

Holland pays due regard to the Jewish foundations of Christianity and also to the terrible way that Christianity has behaved in the past towards the Jews.

But what so many overlook is that moral principles assumed to have been invented by Christianity, such as compassion, fairness, looking after the poor or putting others first, were all introduced to the world by the Hebrew Bible.

It is Judaism’s Mosaic code that gave the West its conscience and the roots of its civilization by putting chains on people’s selfish appetites. And strikingly, every contemporary ideology that aims to undermine or transform the West is based on opposition to Jewish religious beliefs, Jewish moral codes or the Jewish homeland in Israel.

Deep green environmentalism, for example, wants to knock human beings off their pedestal in Genesis as the pinnacle of creation; sexual lifestyle choice negates Judaism’s moral codes; scientific materialism repudiates belief in the Divine creator of the world; anti-Zionism denies the Jews’ right to their own homeland; and liberal universalism is an innate challenge to Judaism which, as a stubbornly and uniquely distinct set of beliefs, always stands in the way of any universalizing ideology.

Much of this secular onslaught goes back to the central Enlightenment idea of a world based on reason, which French Enlightenment thinkers in particular perceived to be in opposition to religion.

But the West’s concept of reason actually comes from the Hebrew Bible. Ideas such as an orderly and rational universe structured on a linear concept of time were revolutionary concepts introduced in the book of Genesis.

These ideas were essential to the development of Western science. Early scientists believed that natural laws necessarily presupposed a law-giver. As Galileo Galilei said: “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.”

The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is, in fact, foreign to Judaism. With so much of the Hebrew Bible interpreted over the centuries as allegory or metaphor, Judaism has never seen science as a threat.

The 12th-century Jewish sage Maimonides was the great exemplar of the belief that science and religion were complementary. He wrote that conflict between science and the Bible arose from either a lack of scientific knowledge or a defective understanding of the Bible.

Without the Hebrew Bible, there would have been no Western rationality or principles such as justice or compassion. But secularism holds that the rule of reason divorced from biblical religion would banish bad things like prejudice or war from the world and the human heart.

Impossible utopianism like this invariably results in oppression. So it proved with medieval apocalyptic Christianity, the French Revolution, communism and fascism; and so it is proving today with the cultural totalitarianism of the Left.

Like all utopians, the Left believes that their ideas are unchallengeable because they supposedly stand for virtue itself. All who oppose them are therefore not just wrong, but evil. So heretics like Gelernter must be stamped out because no quarter can ever be given to any challenge to secularism.

What secular liberals don’t understand is that in attacking the Jewish concepts at the core of the Christian West, they are not merely repudiating their own supposed ideals of tolerance and rationality, but are sawing off the branch on which they themselves are sitting.

Reprinted with permission from JNS.org.
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Bob Dylan and Me
Aug 31, 2019
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons and with Martin Grossman
A fascinating new book explores Louie Kemp’s 50-year friendship with the music legend.
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Bob-Dylan-and-Me.html?s=mm
What happens when your best friend from childhood becomes a global superstar? In his newly-released memoir, Dylan & Me – 50 Years of Adventures, Louie Kemp chronicles how two Jewish boys from rural Minnesota met at Jewish summer camp in 1953. "Bobby Zimmerman was 12 years old and had a guitar,” writes Kemp. “He would go around telling everybody that he was going to be a rock-and-roll star. I was 11 and I believed him."

The two remained close buddies, and at age 19 Bobby Zimmerman headed off to New York to become folk hero Bob Dylan, while Kemp took over his father’s highly-successful seafood company.

Over the course of 50 years, Kemp enjoyed an "all-access pass" to Dylan's life as a trusted ally and friend, sharing together their hopes and disappointments, triumphs and difficulties. Kemp produced Dylan’s epic 1974 tour, "Rolling Thunder Revue," and Dylan served as "best man" at Kemp's wedding (coaxed into a tuxedo at the groom’s request).

“We remained true to those young boys from northern Minnesota,” says Kemp of their lifelong camaraderie. “We laughed at the same jokes, and confided our deepest thoughts and fears. We never needed anything from each other, but have always been there for each other... We always felt safe with each other in the way that only the closest of friends can. When one of us has needed a dose of truth, we've always known who to turn to.”

1957, at Jewish summer camp: Bobby Zimmerman with guitar. Louie Kemp to his right.

Spiritual Search

 
Beyond the sold-out concerts and private jets, Dylan & Me takes readers inside the songwriter’s spiritual journey. "Bobby always felt a strong connection to spirituality,” says Kemp. "He described people as ‘spirits dressed up in a suit of skin’," and he told Rolling Stone magazine: "I've always thought there's a superior power, that this is not the real world and that there's a world to come."

In the late 1970s, a friend invited Dylan to a series of Bible classes which took a decidedly Christian turn, pushing Dylan deep into the New Testament. Meanwhile, Kemp had become a Shabbat-observant Jew. “Nearly every day, Bobby and I would engage in intense discussions of theology,” Kemp recalls. “But I soon realized I didn't have a deep enough knowledge of my faith to counter Bobby's arguments.”

Kemp phoned Rabbi Manis Friedman, a Chabad educator in Minnesota, and asked him to fly to Los Angeles to teach Dylan “the Jewish version of the meaning of life.”

Kemp’s mission was to help Dylan find the spiritual fulfillment his soul was yearning for.
“It had become my mission to help Bobby find the spiritual fulfillment his soul was yearning for in Judaism – the religion of his ancestors,” Kemp writes. “I would introduce many more rabbis and observant Jews to Bobby, each bringing with him a brick to strengthen the foundation of his faith.”

Beyond these reflections, Kemp’s memoir includes some zany tidbits – like the time in summer camp the two pals raided a rival cabin with shaving cream, then “escaped” by taking a counselor’s car for a joy-ride. Or the time that Dylan traded an old sofa for an original Andy Warhol painting now valued at $60 million.

Then there’s the time that Kemp arranged for film legend Marlon Brando to join Dylan at a Passover Seder. At one point, the person leading the Seder asked Brando, who is not Jewish, to read a passage from the Haggadah. As Kemp describes, Brando obligingly delivered the passage "as if he were performing Shakespeare on Broadway." After the Seder, Brando told Kemp how inspired he was to see people that gathered together every year, all over the world, to thank God and celebrate an event that took place more than 3,000 years ago.

Bob Dylan (L) and Louie Kemp, 1972

Rolling Thunder Revue
In 1974, at the height of Dylan’s superstardom, he called Kemp with an original idea for a concert tour: Instead of flying in private jets and playing giant stadiums, why not travel by bus from town to town, playing in small, intimate venues – maintaining spontaneity by announcing the performances just a few days in advance.

Kemp liked the idea, and then Dylan dropped the bomb – asking Kemp to produce the tour. "Louie, you're a successful businessman,” Dylan said. “If anybody can pull this together, it's you."

The subsequent "Rolling Thunder Revue" became the stuff of legends, with dozens of artists including Ringo Starr, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell joining in the experiential four-hour shows. All the while, as Kemp criss-crossed America with the tour, he managed to juggle his “day job” at the seafood company. (A documentary about the tour, directed by Martin Scorsese, was released in June 2019.)

Bob's drive to write songs that mattered was born in part from his roots as a Jew.
Through it all, a Jewish element always remained. Reflecting on Dylan's lyrical themes, Kemp observes: "Supporting the underdog is virtually second nature to Jews because we have so often been in that position ourselves. We seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to persecution, discrimination, and injustice... There's no question in my mind that Bob's drive to write songs that mattered was born at least in part from his roots as a Jew.”

Indeed, Dylan’s songs from the 1960s such as "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are a-Changin'," and “Like a Rolling Stone” became anthems of the civil rights and anti-war movements. His much-heralded "Neighborhood Bully" was written in defense of Israel:

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive,

He's criticized and condemned for being alive...

He's always on trial for just being born.

1975, backstage in San Francisco (L to R): concert promoter Bill Graham,
actor Marlon Brando, and Louie Kemp

Patron of Discovery
In the book’s acknowledgements, Kemp thanks the founder of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l. Though it does not involve Bob Dylan and thus is not in the book, Kemp shared with Aish.com details of how he became one of Rabbi Weinberg’s beloved partners.

“In December 1985, I was home in Duluth, Minnesota, and got a phone call from Aish’s Yona Yaffe to say that Rabbi Weinberg would like to come spend Shabbos with me. I had not met Rabbi Weinberg but I’d heard a lot of amazing stories about him.

“I laughed and said that Rabbi Weinberg was welcome for Shabbos, but that it was minus-20 degrees with an even-colder wind-chill factor, and lots of snow piled high.” (Mark Twain famously said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Duluth.")

Though Kemp offered to meet in balmy Los Angeles, Rabbi Weinberg preferred coming to Duluth. “He seemed like my type of person,” Kemp says. “He was not afraid of the elements, and was a man on a mission not easily deterred.”

Rabbi Weinberg was enthralled with the white mist as Lake Superior froze over.
Rabbi Weinberg arrived at Kemp’s mansion on the shores of Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world, which was in the process of freezing over. A white mist emanated from the lake, along with the crackling sound of ice being formed. Rabbi Weinberg was enthralled and asked Kemp to borrow outdoor gear: long underwear, sweater, hat, gloves, and boots. With Kemp watching from his warm home, Rabbi Weinberg walked down to the lakeshore, then climbed atop a gazebo to survey the lake’s mystical vision.

“Seeing Rabbi Weinberg’s spiritual depth and appreciation of nature was the first of many insights I would learn from him over the coming years of our friendship,” says Kemp.

Toward the end of Shabbos, in which Rabbi Weinberg generously shared his vast Torah knowledge, Kemp’s curiosity finally got the best of him and he blurted out: “Rabbi, I’m thrilled you’re here – but why Duluth in December?!”

Rabbi Weinberg smiled and said, “I have a plan to save the Jewish people and I need your help.” He went on to explain that Aish had developed the Discovery seminar, exploring the rational basis for belief in Judaism. A team in Jerusalem, headed by Rabbi Motty Berger, was ready to present the inaugural seminar – a 3-day Discovery weekend for 150 people at a Palm Springs resort hotel. All that was needed was funding.

After Shabbos, Kemp wrote a check to cover full cost of the weekend seminar, and promised to bring along a few friends to Palm Springs. Kemp told Rabbi Weinberg: “If it’s half as good as you say, we’ll fund the rest of it.”

At the Palm Springs weekend, Kemp witnessed how Discovery succeeded in changing participants’ attitudes – breaking their misconceptions and inspiring them to study Torah wisdom. Convinced, Kemp wrote a check for $150,000 to expand Discovery to 15 U.S. cities.

Since then, over 100,000 people worldwide have participated in Discovery, influencing untold numbers to become more Jewishly committed. Says Kemp: “Sponsoring Discovery was one of the best choices I ever made.”

Over the years, Rabbi Weinberg would fondly refer to Kemp as “the father of Discovery.” On one visit to Rabbi Weinberg’s office overlooking the Western Wall, he told Kemp: “The merit of all those who’ve attended the Discovery Seminar is credited to your heavenly account.” Rabbi Weinberg then grasped Kemp’s hands, and together they danced in joyous celebration over this great eternal reward.

And it all started at a wintry Shabbos in Duluth.

The Homeless Jew
Kemp, now 77, reflects on what made his friend Bob Dylan so successful, including his unprecedented receipt of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature:

1983: Bob Dylan (left) as the best man at Lou Kemp's wedding

"Some wonder why the Jews have been so successful in so many areas, including the arts. I believe it’s at least in part because the quest for knowledge, meaning, and truth are ingrained in Jewish culture. We have a passion to seek out meaning and give it new expression, both morally and artistically. That drive – along with another Jewish trait known as chutzpah – have always been strong in Bobby, and his gifts have made his expression worthy of the ages.”

In one amusing story, Kemp recalls the time he and Dylan attended Yom Kippur services in Santa Monica, California:

We had been there before, and the rabbi recognized Bobby right away. But few if any of his fellow worshippers – all somberly dressed – realized he was standing at the back of the room. Having, as usual, missed the memo regarding the dress code, Bobby was wearing cowboy boots, torn jeans, a hoodie, a black leather jacket, and what looked like a long-lost pair of Jackie Kennedy's sunglasses.

Specifically, he was attending the closing service of the day, Neilah... The Ark housing the holy scrolls of the Torah remains open for the entire service, and it is considered a great honor to be chosen by the rabbi to open it. This carries with it many blessings for the new year. The honor customarily goes to the temple's most generous donor – but not this time.

With his ancient eyes, Rabbi Levitansky scoured the congregation. At last, his gaze came to rest upon a solitary figure standing in the back of the room. He motioned the casually dressed fellow up to the pulpit, and up he came. Bob Dylan opened the Ark on Yom Kippur.

Afterward, when the last echo of the shofar had diminished to silence and most of the congregants had trickled away, the synagogue's biggest donor pulled the rabbi aside. "I want you to know, Rabbi," said the man, "that when you didn't call me up to open the Ark, I was quite hurt. Then I saw whom you chose and I realized you were even wiser and kinder than I'd imagined. So I'm going to double my contribution for the coming year. It takes a great and generous heart to give the honor of opening the Ark for Neilah to a homeless Jew."

In the end, Dylan & Me is not a biography, nor an analysis of Dylan’s songs and their impact. What sets it apart from the endless other books about Dylan is that it’s not based on third-party interpretations, speculations, or unconfirmed rumors. Rather, it is an eyewitness account by someone who knows Dylan… better than anyone else who has tried to explain Dylan to the rest of us.

Kemp says: “My friend has always been Bobby Zimmerman, not the legend ‘Bob Dylan’. We’re just two regular friends who would talk for hours like other friends... except that to the rest of the world, one of us happened to be Bob Dylan."

with thanks to Martin Grossman


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Hurricane Dorian: We're All Living in the Cone of Uncertainty
Sep 2, 2019  |  by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Hurricane-Dorian-Were-All-Living-in-the-Cone-of-Uncertainty.html?s=mm
Hurricane Dorian: We're All Living in the Cone of Uncertainty
How to react to feelings of mortality and fragility.

What if you knew when you were going to die? A group of researches in Germany collected blood samples from 44,168 people with ages ranging from 18 to 109 years old. Over the next 17 years, 5,512 people from that group died. After looking at 226 biomarkers in the samples, the researchers determined that 14 of the blood measurements, including inflammation and fluid balance, were the greatest indicators to predict if a person would die within the next 5 to 10 years.

To test their theory, they analyzed blood sample data taken from 7,603 people in 1997. Then, using the 14 identified biomarkers, they attempted to predict the likelihood that each person would have died within the next five to 10 years. They found their predictions were right approximately 83 percent of the time, higher than even they anticipated.

Based on their conclusion, published in a prominent medical journal, with one sample of your blood you can know if you don’t change anything, how much longer you will live. The question is what will you do with that information?

The truth is, we don’t need a blood test to tell us that we won’t live forever. In South Florida we are currently facing a category 5 hurricane with potentially catastrophic conditions. When a new storm develops and begins heading towards making landfall, the experts offer their best projections of where it is going and when it will get there. The “cone of uncertainty” is formed, and with each periodic update the communities and people in its path desperately look to see if they are still projected to sustain a hit. As long as one remains in the cone of uncertainty, there is an unavoidable angst and the tortuous process of waiting and anticipating what is to come.

None of us have certainty; at these times, we all confront our mortality and vulnerability.
If this past year in the world in general and our community in particular has taught us anything, it is that we are all in the cone of uncertainty always. Each day that we wake up is uncertain of what it can and will bring. Will we be visited by a devastating diagnosis, a mass shooting, a natural disaster, a terror event, a car accident or some other threat? None of us have certainty; at these times, we all confront our mortality and vulnerability.

But what do we do with that feeling? Will we give up, give in, fatalistically become complacent and content? Or, will it motivate us to stop procrastinating and take advantage of each and every moment? Will we not bother trying because what is it all worth, or will we finally stop saying I will get to it and make it, whatever it is for us, happen right now? We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we can only make the most of today.

Our rabbis describe two opposite reactions to a feeling of mortality and fragility. They discourage us from approaching life with the attitude of echol, v’shaso, ki machar namus, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die. Recognition of our own mortality has for some become a license for hedonism, to live selfishly and spend life pursuing immediate gratification and instant pleasure

Instead, our rabbis encourage us to say im lo achshav aimasai, if not now, when. Judaism teaches us to take our feelings of fragility and vulnerability and use them as springboards to grow, change and make a difference. A sense of mortality should encourage us to take advantage of every moment, to cherish every opportunity. Indeed, the Torah believes carpe diem, seize the day, but not for pleasure and selfish interests. Rather, seize the day to contribute to society, positively affect another person, become a better spouse, parent or grandparent, make the most of every moment. It is never too late to become the person you were meant to be.

I am always amazed by our hurricane heroes, the people who step up, show up and so generously help others by lending their generator, putting up shutters, dropping off a flashlight or just sharing where there is no line for gas. Some face a category 5 hurricane turn inward only to take care of themselves and their home. Others confront a collective potential catastrophe and turn outwards asking what can I do for others? Some secure their home, their possessions and their safety and others think about a neighbor, a single, ill, or older person who may need some help. The feeling of mortality and fear of the unknown can inspire a more selfish today or a more selfless today, the choice is up to us.

We have begun the month of Elul and with it the countdown to the High Holy Days. It is not a coincidence that we end Mussaf both days of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur with a moving piyyut that begins each stanza by signing the word hayom, today.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring…literally. Will we be hit by a catastrophic storm or will it shift away from us? Will we suffer damage or emerge unscathed? Will we be in danger or escape safely? Uncertainty is a large cone and we are in it. Nobody, including the weather people, know what tomorrow brings. So for now, let’s make sure to live our best lives in the only dimension we can – hayom, today.
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https://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Elul-How-to-Realistically-Change-the-World.html?s=mm
Elul: How to Realistically Change the World
Aug 31, 2019  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
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Elul: How to Realistically Change the World
Start by thinking small - and in that way change ourselves and our own world.

Feeling down about the state of the world? Hard to read the newspapers with all of the tragedies that have become part and parcel of our daily lives?

Well the month of Elul is here – the month, with its daily blowing of the shofar, meant to remind us that Rosh Hashanah is just a short four weeks away and that we have got to give serious thought to our personal responsibility to do our part to make the coming year a better one.

In light of the immensity of our problems how can we possibly do anything that would make a difference? Can anyone of us imagine that we personally could actually play a role in changing the world?

It is precisely in response to this question that Judaism gave a startling answer. Maimonides expressed it by way of a remarkable illustration. Every one of us, he taught in his Laws of Repentance, needs to think that as God judges the world in His annual review before the High Holy Days, He finds it perfectly balanced between its sins and good deeds. Divine judgment withholds its final decree until you are brought into the equation. And if your deeds also seem to be almost perfectly balanced between the good and the evil, then one, just one additional good deed, no matter how small can be the one to tilt your judgment favorably, which in turn would decide the fate of all of humankind.

The most important piece of advice I can give anyone as I think about ways to change the world with the beginning of Elul are two words: think small.
It may be far-fetched. Yet the greatest philosopher of the Jewish people did not hesitate to phrase it this way in order to impress upon every one of us the truth that every person makes a difference – and every one of our actions has consequences on the divine scale of judgment.

That’s why I think the most important piece of advice I can give anyone as I think about ways to change the world with the beginning of Elul are two words: think small.

Just a few years ago Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel peace prize for turning the concept of thinking small into a major innovation which has already revolutionized the banking system as well as the lives of millions of people. It was in 1974 that Bangladesh was hit by a devastating flood followed by a severe famine. Yunus decided to lend $27 without any collateral to a group of women of the city of Joba nearby the University where he worked as a teacher. Women there made bamboo baskets but were forced to sell them at such a low price that could barely pay for the raw material. They could never purchase larger amounts for lack of capital. Yunus initiated what is now known as microcredit, allowing poor people anxious to make a go of small businesses to succeed.

With the small sum they received they were able to finance their work and to establish themselves. Micro-finance, or microcredit, was born. Thinking small, something never practiced before, created a new way of life and of opportunity. One small act changed the balance of the scale – and millions today prosper.

And there is yet another way to think small. It is expressed beautifully by way of a story told in the name of the Chofetz Chaim.

At one time, he was asked how he was able to have such a great impact on the Jewish world.  This is how he answered: “Originally, I set out to change the world, but I failed.  So I decided to scale back my efforts and only influence the Jewish community of Poland, but I failed there, too.  So I targeted the community of my hometown of Radin, but I achieved no greater success.  Then I gave all my effort to changing my own family and I failed at that as well.  Finally, I decided to change myself and that’s how I had such an impact on the Jewish world.”

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy came to the same conclusion. “Everyone thinks of changing the world,” he wrote, “but no one thinks of changing himself.” And so the world continues with its myriad flaws, everyone complaining about the common sins of others while paying very little attention to themselves.

Most people want to change the world to improve their lives, but the world they need to change first is the one inside themselves.

There is a movement today that has taken the concept a step further into practice. It concerns itself not with the really large issues, issues which realistically most of us will be unable to influence, but with the smaller daily interactions which in fact define everyday life. It’s called “small acts of kindness” and I love it precisely because its demands are so easy and yet, if universally practiced, would really change our lives.

The suggestions are simple. Choose one or a dozen:

Give a genuine compliment to somebody at least once a day.
Write down what you appreciate about another family member and pass it along.
Check in with someone who’s sick.
Ask if you can help someone who may be having a difficult time in life right now.
Lend your vehicle to take someone without one shopping for their necessities.
Hold the door open for the person behind you.
Make a card for someone special.
Deliver flowers anonymously to a hospital patient.
Ask a senior citizen about their life story and truly listen.
Give a hug to a loved one or friend.
Offer to pay another person’s food bill.
Lend a hand to someone doing hard work.
Donate to a homeless person, perhaps give them some food.
Leave a kind server a generous tip.
Let a person out from a side road who’s waiting to get into the main road.
Help another parent out with a stroller or carrying things.
Give someone a book that you no longer need.
Give your parents or grandparents a call just because.
Volunteer at a community event.
Grandiose plans are great – but we rarely do them. Impressive ideas for changing the world are, yes, impressive but frequently impractical and unrealizable. So perhaps this year before Rosh Hashanah we could scale down our ambitions and think small – and in that way change ourselves and our own world.
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Collective Joy
Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)
Aug 25, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan SacksCollective Joy
It is easy to speak to God in tears. It is hard to serve God in joy.

If we were to ask what key word epitomises the society Jews were to make in the Promised Land, several concepts would come to mind: justice, compassion, reverence, respect, holiness, responsibility, dignity, loyalty. Surprisingly, though, another word figures centrally in Moses' speeches in Deuteronomy. It is a word that appears only once in each of the other books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.[1] Yet it appears twelve times in Deuteronomy, seven of them in Parshat Re'eh. The word is simcha, joy.

It is an unexpected word. The story of the Israelites thus far has not been a joyous one. It has been marked by suffering on the one hand, rebellion and dissension on the other. Yet Moses makes it eminently clear that joy is what the life of faith in the land of promise is about. Here are the seven instances in this parsha, and their contexts:

1. The central Sanctuary, initially Shilo: "There in the presence of the Lord your God you and your families shall eat and rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you" (Deut. 12:7).

2. Jerusalem and the Temple: "And there you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns" (Deut. 12:12).

3. Sacred food that may be eaten only in Jerusalem: "Eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns - and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to" (Deut. 12:18).

4. The second tithe: "Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine, or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice" (Deut. 14:26).

5. The festival of Shavuot: "And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place He will choose as a dwelling for His name - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the strangers, the fatherless, and the widows living among you" (Deut. 16:11).

6. The festival of Succot: "Be joyful at your feast - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the strangers, the fatherless, and the widows who live in your towns" (Deut. 16:14).

7. Succot, again. "For seven days, celebrate the feast to the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete [vehayita ach same'ach]" (Deut. 16:15).

Why does Moses emphasise joy specifically in the book of Deuteronomy? Perhaps because is there, in the speeches Moses delivered in the last month of his life, that he scaled the heights of prophetic vision never reached by anyone else before or since. It is as if, standing on a mountaintop, he sees the whole course of Jewish history unfold below him, and from that dizzying altitude he brings back a message to the people gathered around him: the next generation, the children of those he led out of Egypt, the people who will cross the Jordan he will not cross and enter the land he is only able to see from afar.

What he tells them is unexpected, counter-intuitive. In effect he says this: "You know what your parents suffered. You have heard about their slavery in Egypt. You yourselves have known what it is to wander in the wilderness without a home or shelter or security. You may think those were the greatest trials, but you are wrong. You are about to face a harder trial. The real test is security and contentment."

Absurd though this sounds, it has proved true throughout Jewish history. In the many centuries of dispersion and persecution, from the destruction of the Second Temple to the nineteenth century, no one raised doubts about Jewish continuity. They did not ask, "Will we have Jewish grandchildren?" Only since Jews achieved freedom and equality in the Diaspora and independence and sovereignty in the State of Israel has that question come to be asked. When Jews had little to thank God for, they thanked Him, prayed to Him, and came to the synagogue and the house of study to hear and heed His word. When they had everything to thank Him for, many turned their backs on the synagogue and the house of study.


 
Moses was giving prophetic expression to the great paradox of faith: It is easy to speak to God in tears. It is hard to serve God in joy. It is the warning he delivered as the people came within sight of their destination: the Promised Land. Once there, they were in danger of forgetting that the land was theirs only because of God's promise to them, and only for as long as they remembered their promise to God.

Simcha is usually translated as joy, rejoicing, gladness, happiness, pleasure, or delight. In fact, simcha has a nuance untranslatable into English. Joy, happiness, pleasure, and the like are all states of mind, emotions. They belong to the individual. We can feel them alone. Simcha, by contrast, is not a private emotion. It means happiness shared. It is a social state, a predicate of "we," not "I." There is no such thing as feeling simcha alone.

Moses repeatedly labours the point. When you rejoice, he says time and again, it must be "you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the strangers, the fatherless, and the widows in your towns." A key theme of Parshat Re'eh is the idea of a central Sanctuary "in the place the Lord your God will choose." As we know from later Jewish history, during the reign of King David, this place was Jerusalem, where David's son Solomon eventually built the Temple.

What Moses is articulating for the first time is the idea of simcha as communal, social, and national rejoicing. The nation was to be brought together not just by crisis, catastrophe, or impending war, but by collective celebration in the presence of God. The celebration itself was to be deeply moral. Not only was this a religious act of thanksgiving; it was also to be a form of social inclusion. No one was to be left out: not the stranger, or the servant, or the lonely (the orphan and widow). In a remarkable passage in the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides makes this point in the strongest possible terms:

And while one eats and drinks himself, it is his duty to feed the stranger, the orphan, the widow, and other poor and unfortunate people, for he who locks the doors to his courtyard and eats and drinks with his wife and family, without giving anything to eat and drink to the poor and the bitter in soul - his meal is not a rejoicing in a Divine commandment, but a rejoicing in his own stomach. It is of such persons that Scripture says, "Their sacrifices shall be to them as the bread of mourners, all that eat thereof shall be polluted; for their bread is a disgrace to their own appetite" (Hos. 9:4). Rejoicing of this kind is a disgrace to those who indulge in it, as Scripture says, "And I will spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your sacrifices" (Mal. 2:3).[2]

Moses' insight remains valid today. The West is more affluent than any previous society has ever been. Our life expectancy is longer, our standards of living higher, and our choices wider than at any time since Homo sapiens first walked on earth. Yet Western societies are not measurably happier. The most telling indices of unhappiness - drug and alcohol abuse, depressive illness, stress-related syndromes, eating disorders, and the rest - have risen by between 300 and 1,000 per cent in the space of two generations. Why so?

In 1968 I met the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, of blessed memory, for the first time. While I was there, the Chassidim told me the following story. A man had written to the Rebbe in roughly these terms: "I am depressed. I am lonely. I feel that life is meaningless. I try to pray, but the words do not come. I keep mitzvot but find no peace of mind. I need the Rebbe's help." The Rebbe sent a brilliant reply without using a single word. He simply circled the first word of every sentence and sent the letter back. The word in each case was "I."

Our contemporary consumer is constructed in the first-person singular: I want, I need, I must have. There are many things we can achieve in the first-person singular but one we cannot, namely, simcha - because simcha is the joy we share, the joy we have only because we share. That, said Moses before the Israelites entered their land, would be their greatest challenge. Suffering, persecution, a common enemy, unite a people and turn it into a nation. But freedom, affluence, and security turn a nation into a collection of individuals, each pursuing his or her own happiness, often indifferent to the fate of those who have less, the lonely, the marginal, and the excluded. When that happens, societies start to disintegrate. At the height of their good fortune, the long slow process of decline begins.

The only way to avoid it, said Moses, is to share your happiness with others, and, in the midst of that collective, national celebration, serve God.[3] Blessings are not measured by how much we own or earn or spend or possess but by how much we share. Simcha is the mark of a sacred society. It is a place of collective joy.

Shabbat Shalom.


NOTES

1. Gen. 31:27; Ex. 4:14; Lev. 23:40; Num. 10:10.
2. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yom Tov 6:18.
3. The great French sociologist Émile Durkheim (whose father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all rabbis) argued, in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (trans. Karen E. Fields [New York: Free Press, 1995]), that religion is born in the experience of "collective effervescence," which is closely related to simcha in the biblical sense.
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Blinded by the Light: What Bruce Springsteen’s Music Meant to Me
Aug 25, 2019 | by Judy Gruen
https://www.aish.com/j/as/Blinded-by-the-Light-What-Bruce-Springsteens-Music-Meant-to-Me.html?s=mm
Blinded by the Light: What Bruce Springsteen’s Music Meant to Me
A new movie highlights how the rock legend inspired a teenager to pursue his dreams, reminding me everything I love about Springsteen’s music.
When I was single, I once accepted a date with a man I knew I wasn’t really interested in. This was clearly not my finest moment, but many readers may offer absolution when I explain that he had tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert. He was a music producer and in possession of very expensive, enviable seats, the likes of which I would never sit in again. I wrestled my conscience to the ground in about two seconds. No way would I miss this opportunity to see “the Boss” in concert for the first time.

Springsteen and his incomparable E Street Band played with electrifying abandon. Thousands of us danced and sang along with Bruce during “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “The River” and other hits. I’ll never forget the thrill of that evening, and the high that lingered through the following days.

The themes of a lot of Springsteen songs were in many ways distant from my reality. I didn’t grow up in an economically struggling town. I didn’t know anyone who worked on the highway, blasting through the bedrock, and I really had no ambition to drive a pink Cadillac, or drag race on the streets. Some songs were laced with an undercurrent of anger or anxiety; others were about dreams delayed or even deflated. Yet the songs were also shot through with irrepressible youthful energy, eagerness for romance, and a no-holds-barred determination to fulfill one’s dreams wherever they took you, once you escaped the “darkness at the edge of town.”

Who among us didn’t have a “hungry heart” when we were young?
Almost all young people dream of transcending the limitations of their upbringing, and I was no different. I also had dreams of my own and was resolutely determined to achieve them. I also longed to find the comfort of lasting love. Who among us didn’t have a “hungry heart” when we were young? In this way, Springsteen’s songs and their universal appeal spoke to me as well.

In the decades since I attended that incredible concert, I’ve remained a big fan of that young artist who put Asbury Park, New Jersey on the map. I also became a huge fan of “the Big Man,” saxophone player Clarence Clemons, who was a member of the E Street Band from its inception in 1972 until his passing in 2011. Through an act of sheer chutzpah, I also once wrangled an interview with Clemons for a rather shady magazine, despite my having zero credentials writing about the music scene. This, too, was exciting, bringing me close to a source of much musical joy.

As a decades-long Bruce Springsteen fan, I rushed out to see “Blinded by the Light,” the delightful new movie directed by Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) about the impact of the artist’s music on a Pakistani-born British teen named Javed. The film is part coming-of-age story and part movie musical, featuring enough Springsteen music to satisfy the most diehard devotees.

Javed (Viveik Kalra) feels his life is increasingly constricted by outside forces, including economic hardship, stifling parental expectations, and rising prejudice against the Pakistani community. Javed’s father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), forbids him from going to parties, dismisses his son’s quest to become a writer, and pressures him academically so that he can join the professional class. (Malik is a factory worker until he loses his job due to the recession in the late 1980’s.) When dropping Javed at school one day, Malik shouts after him, “Look for the Jews in your class! Do what they do! They are successful!”

Javed’s gloom is transformed to euphoria when hears his first Springsteen song: “Hey I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man, and I believe in the promised land,” Javed hears in the song “The Promised Land.” His eyes widen as big as doorknobs and his face lights up. Reinvigorated, he retrieves his poems from the trash and becomes an instant Springsteen addict, finding both emotional release as well as confidence in the music. He picks up his pen again to write, encouraged in large measure by his English teacher, who tells him that he has a gift.

Malik is at first disturbed by his son’s fandom to an American rock star but is slightly assuaged because he thinks that the name “Springsteen” sounds Jewish. In a running joke in the film, Malik continues to ask his son if he’s sure that “the Boss isn’t Jewish after all.

This feel-good movie is based on the experiences of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the real-life Javed, who co-wrote the film script based on his memoir, Greetings from Bury Park: Race. Religion. Rock'n'Roll. Manzoor’s obsession with Springsteen was no passing fancy. He has attended more than 150 concerts and met the artist several times.

Different forms of music speak differently to different generations. Many in my parents’ generation were shocked and disturbed by the emergence of rock ‘n roll, its hard and angry beats, and its unprecedented explicit lyrics. As an adult myself, I have been similarly appalled by the crudeness and sometimes, violent lyrics and beats of punk, hip-hop, metal and other styles popularized in recent decades.

I loved watching “Blinded by the Light.” Springsteen’s music spoke to me when I was a young adult; not just the words, but the music that thrilled and energized me (especially that saxophone!), lifted my mood, made me jump up and dance. The movie brought me back in time to when I was just old enough to begin to pursue my dreams. It also triggered wonderful memories of times when I have shared this favorite rock music with my husband, including one Springsteen concert we went to together -- before ticket prices shot stratospherically through the roof. I still listen to “Bruuuuce!” when I need the energy to keep pedaling on our elliptical bicycle, when I’m cooking, or just want to tap into that musical magic again.
Music is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, a formidable creative tool that can be used for ill or for good. It can trigger our lower, base instincts, or it can lift our souls as if with a divine kiss.

Of course, Jewish music also fills my soul. Who can ever get tired of hearing the triumphant sounds of “Od Yishama” at a wedding, of singing “Dayenu” during the Pesach seder, or of hearing “Eishet Chayil” on Shabbat? At shul, I am moved to tears each time the Torah is returned to the ark and we sing “Etz Chayim Hi,” together, as one community with one voice.

Those are sublime moments to be treasured. But I can’t live at that exalted spiritual level all the time. Sometimes, I just need to rock out a little with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.


Accidental Racism in the Jewish World
Aug 24, 2019 | by Aryeh Ho
Accidental Racism in the Jewish World
A “harmless” joke highlights the problem of racial sensitivity in some sectors of the Jewish community.

Earlier this year, my wife attended a program on Jewish education. The presenter made a seemingly harmless joke:

“A couple stopped having children after their fourth, because they read a study that said that every fifth child born in America is Asian.”

There was no way for him to know that among the sea of white faces in the audience, one of them was married to me.

I contacted the presenter to inform him that his joke was racially insensitive (it implies that having an Asian child is a negative outcome to be avoided). His first reaction was not to apologize, but to explain.

“The joke is not about race.”
“It doesn’t really disparage Asians.”
“I ran it by some Asian friends!”
“I teach courses on cultural diversity, so I’m well-versed in hot button issues like racism.”

The irony of that last point eluded him.

I responded by quoting the cardinal rule of comedy: If you need to explain your joke, the joke isn’t funny. The lesser-known corollary : If you need to explain why your joke isn’t racist, the joke is racist.

He eventually did apologize. “I’m sorry if you misinterpreted my joke.” In other words, the fault lay with the person who found the joke offensive, not the teller. It was a stunning abdication of responsibility – from a professional educator, no less.

I do not believe the presenter is racist. By all accounts, he is an upstanding, civic-minded, Torah-abiding Jew – the polar opposite of a white supremacist brandishing bigotry and tiki torches. He is not an agent of hate. And one joke in poor taste does not a racist make.

But racism exists on a spectrum. The hateful invective of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, and gun-wielding domestic terrorists occupies one extreme. The other encompasses a far subtler form of racism: the inborn, unconscious biases that shape the worldview of anyone raised in a predominantly white society.

It is not malicious. Most people are not even aware of it. It manifests most commonly as a lack of racial sensitivity – a gaping blind spot to the perspectives of marginalized peoples. It finds expression in comments and questions and jokes that seem harmless, but are actually hurtful.

And it is distressingly common in the Jewish world.

My life as a convert has been charmed. In the 12 years since I joined the Jewish people, I’ve enjoyed the wholehearted embrace of countless families and individuals who have gone out of their way to make me feel like a vital thread in the broader tapestry of Judaism. They’ve welcomed me with open arms and shown me nothing but acceptance and friendship.

Tolerance is a hallmark of Judaism, and I can attest to its truth.
It comes as no surprise that I have never experienced overt racism from fellow Jews. No taunts of “go home, Bruce Lee!” which I heard as a child in the suburbs, and even occasionally as an adult in the streets of Manhattan. Tolerance is a hallmark of Judaism, and I can attest to its truth.

However, to say that I have not experienced any racism whatsoever would be a lie.

I have heard children chant “ching chong, ching chong!” in my presence at Shabbos tables. I have heard adults quip that someone was so tired that their eyes “looked Asian.” I have been asked by the Jewish owner of a neighboring town’s kosher Chinese restaurant if I was a customer or one of the cooks. I have been complimented for speaking without an accent (never mind that I was born and raised in New York).

At their core, these “innocent” comments touch a raw nerve shared by every minority in America. They boil us down to physical traits, linguistic sounds, or vocations. They dehumanize, reducing individuals to stereotypes and tropes. They make us feel different, “othered,” and lesser. We are conditioned to think of ourselves as outsiders, and these comments reinforce that insecurity.

And the effects are amplified for children.

Our youngest son came home from playgroup one day and showed us a new trick he learned from his friends. Using his fingers, he lifted up the corners of his eyes – a universally-recognized gesture used to make fun of Asians. Thankfully, my son is still too young to know what it means. It’s even possible that the boys he learned it from are unaware of its hurtful implications.

But they did it. No teacher or parent stopped it. And I worry about all the teasing and taunts – playful or otherwise – in the years to come.

This is how it starts. The innocent schtick of children becomes the careless insensitivity of adults. An educator stands before a roomful of parents and uses a marginalized group as a punchline – and nearly every parent laughs. Those same parents perpetuate the ignorance by passing it on to the next generation: their children. My children’s peers.

The presenter may not be racist. The parents may not be racist. But the possibility that the joke is racist never crossed their minds. Perhaps not surprising, given how insular and homogenous many Orthodox communities tend to be. Children are largely shielded from an outside world that is far more diverse than what they see at home. Growing up with no regular contact with Asian, Hispanic, or black people, they never learn what is (or isn’t) socially appropriate to say to them.

It doesn’t help that formal Jewish education can sometimes compound the problem. Some schools cultivate an “us against them” mentality that frames all non-Jews as evil. Yes, Jews and non-Jews are different, and have different missions in this world. But the Jewish claim to the status of “chosen people” does not correspondingly relegate all other peoples to sub-human status. After all, non-Jews are also created in the image of God.

Yet I have heard children declare that “Hashem gave the Torah to the Jews, not the goyim,” or that “the goyim destroyed the Beis HaMikdash.” And their tone strongly suggests they are being taught that goyim means “those people who are lesser than us.”

I pray that my children never learn this lesson. After all, their father used to be a goy.

I’ve refrained from speaking out in the past for fear of being labeled “hyper-sensitive” or “too PC.” I’ve heard some Jews suggest that political correctness is a tool used by millennials and liberals to stifle the free speech of anyone who disagrees with them. To which I respond:

That’s easy for a white person to say.

Political correctness gives a voice to muted minorities who historically have been silenced by a loud majority. We live in a time when marginalized groups are finally feeling empowered to speak out. Shaming us for being “too PC” is an attempt to maintain the old status quo. It is stifling our free speech – not the other way around.

I’ve seen Jews roll their eyes when African Americans decry the use of blackface by white performers. I’ve heard Jews dismiss Native Americans who condemn the Cleveland Indians mascot as an offensive caricature. I wonder if those same Jews were as forgiving when a popular clothing retailer released a line of striped pajamas resembling concentration camp uniforms from the Holocaust.

I wonder if people who grumble about political correctness are really concerned about free speech – or if the political correctness is forcing them to take a hard, uncomfortable look at their own biases and prejudices.

Yes, we all have freedom of speech – liberal or conservative, minority or white. But we do not have the freedom to hurt. You have the right to speak your mind. But you do not have the right to make my children feel lesser for who they are. Indeed, causing pain through our words is considered one of the most serious transgressions of the Torah.

Among the many reasons the Talmud cites for the destruction of the Temple was the inability of Jews to put themselves in each other’s shoes. This failure to empathize, to truly understand what it means to be someone else, continues to plague us to this day.

So I choose words, not silence. The Jewish world is becoming more and more diverse – and as a father of children who epitomize that diversity, I feel a responsibility to call out racial insensitivity when I see it. Not to cause trouble. Not to shame or point fingers. But to educate. To inspire people to think before they speak and consider how their words can impact others.

Ultimately, the presenter relented. While he declined to abandon the joke entirely, he resolved to change it to make it less problematic for Asians. I am grateful – both for his willingness to do better, and for the lessons we all can take from this episode:

Learn to take the feelings of others into account when we speak.

Recognize our own biases and prejudices.

Believe others when they express and share their pain.

Together, we can raise awareness of racial sensitivity within the Jewish community. We can break the cycle of ignorance and inaugurate the path to empathy and inclusion.

We just have to recognize that racism is no laughing matter.
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Adopting Abi, A 6-Year-Old Ethiopian Boy
Aug 17, 2019  |  by Marni Linden
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Adopting-Abi-A-6-Year-Old-Ethiopian-Boy.html?s=mm
Adopting Abi, A 6-Year-Old Ethiopian Boy
Adopting Abi was the most challenging thing we've ever done, but at the same time the most significant, life-enhancing and rewarding.

Although we had been blessed with four children, my husband Jay and I always felt as though our family was not quite finished. After several disappointing miscarriages, we seriously considered fostering or adopting a child, but nothing ever worked out. All too soon it seemed our kids had grown and flown away, to school or jobs, throughout the country. But Jay and I didn't feel ready for an empty nest yet. We found the sudden silence of our empty home oppressive, missing the vibrancy, noise, laughter and chaos that children only can provide.

Looking and feeling far younger than our years, we believed we still had the ability to parent one more child. We began to seriously consider adopting, spending two years researching the entire process. We discovered an online support group for people like us called GAARP - Gracefully Aging Adoptive Refined Parents, described as “a forum for adoptive or would-be adoptive parents over the age of 40, who plan to be adoptive parenting into their silver and golden years.” With over 2000 members, we felt reassured we weren’t alone in this unconventional venture, despite the skeptical reaction of some family members and friends.

The minute we saw a photo of Abi's cute little face, with two missing front teeth, we felt he was meant to be our new son.
After the intensive research process, we finally found an ethical adoption agency whose main goal was to find families for older children, not only the healthy baby girls most people wanted. They sent their social worker to meet us and conduct our home study. We were approved and decided to adopt a six-year-old Ethiopian boy named Abi. The minute we saw a photo of his cute little face, with two missing front teeth, we felt he was meant to be our new son.

Our adoption journey was lengthy, involving complicated paperwork and one frustrating delay after another. Did we have any doubts along the way? Yes, definitely. Jay and I talked for hours. Were we truly making the right decision at this point in our lives? One friend tried to persuade us to shelve the whole idea, suggesting that at our age we should consider a relaxing ocean cruise instead. Yet, despite our doubts and fears, we felt compelled to continue the process. I knew, come what may, if we did not adopt Abi, we would always regret it.

My lifeline/support group consisted of other families who had adopted older children. These families were from different backgrounds but they all believed their adopted children were destined by God to be theirs. Our emails flew back and forth late into the night, my anxious questions receiving reassuring answers that only those who had been there, done that, could possibly provide. At last our long roller-coaster journey came to an end. The adoption was finalized and one bright afternoon, we met Abi, hugged him and knew he was ours. Our doubts and fears began to melt away in the warm sunshine.

A Different Life
Life was very different from then on, both for him and us. Older adopted children come with baggage from their pasts and Abi was no exception. Adopting him was certainly the most challenging, emotionally stressful thing we have ever done but at the same time the most significant, life-enhancing and rewarding. There was so much for Abi to learn but he was bright and curious and we learned along with him as we bonded into a family.

People would often tell us what a great mitzvah we did by providing Abi with a loving home. We feel that he gave us a rare gift too, the opportunity to turn back the clock. Suddenly we felt like young parents again, attending PTA meetings and soccer games, helping with homework, reading bedtime stories, singing “Hamalach HaGoel” and “Shema Yisrael” together.

We weren’t sure if Abi was Jewish from birth but were informed he’d been circumcised at one week old. Since we wanted him to be fully accepted by our Orthodox community without question, we decided to have him undergo a halachic conversion. The first step of the process was the hatafat dam brit in the office of a doctor/mohel. The second step of the process – immersion in a mikvah – was far more enjoyable. Abi loved the mikvah – (hey, a small swimming pool!) – and felt disappointed he couldn’t splash around in it longer.

He soon grew accustomed to going to shul with us on Shabbat, participating in the kiddush afterward, even eating the traditional pickled herring with crackers. We enrolled him in the local Jewish school and soon he became more fluent in Hebrew than we were.

However, there were problems too. With so many changes to adjust to in a short space of time, Abi grew easily frustrated when he couldn’t get his way. He did make some friends but dealt aggressively with a few other boys he didn’t get along with. The school had a strict no-fighting policy so Abi had frequent ‘punishment’ days at home. After he picked up and threw a chair at a classmate, we were called into the principal’s office to see what could be done to help Abi. The principal herself was convinced he had ADHD and insisted that Ritalin was the answer. One of his teachers suggested taking him to a psychologist dealing with traumatized children. He gave Abi a battery of tests and recommended a medication to help him calm down and become less aggressive. He also started seeing a child therapist to cope with his past issues. She utilized both play and art therapy with him and it broke our hearts when she showed us a drawing Abi had made of his dimly-remembered birth mother, a woman with tears pouring down her face.

Thankfully, by the end of the school year, Abi’s aggressive behavior had greatly diminished and over the summer we weaned him off the medication, though he continued to see the therapist for another year.

People stared at us, a young, brown-skinned boy with a white couple old enough to be his grandparents. But Abi, a good-looking, captivating child, gradually became an accepted part of our community.
We soon realized that people tended to stare at us, a young, brown-skinned boy with a white couple old enough to be his grandparents. But Abi, a good-looking, captivating child, gradually became an accepted part of our community. Jay and I learned to march to a different drummer as a conspicuous, interracial family, becoming more aware and sensitive towards racism.

Visiting an Ethiopian shul to celebrate the arrival of a new sefer Torah to their community, Jay and I realized what it felt like to be a minority, the only white people within a large group of Ethiopians.

Abi himself quickly learned to deal with racial slurs. When a boy called him a ‘kushi’ (a derogatory term for an Ethiopian) Abi immediately responded, “And you are cottage cheese!”

Sometimes we saw a bit of humor in the situation too. Once when we were discussing healthy food choices, I pointed out that brown bread and brown rice were healthier than white bread and white rice. “I’m brown so I’m healthier too!” Abi pointed out with a grin.

Just as Abi has grown accustomed to our culture, we try to incorporate some elements of his into our lives. We have become friendly with two sweet Ethiopian sisters in our neighborhood. I learned to cook Ethiopian food (thanks to youtube videos) though I still draw the line at eating berbere, a fiery spice similar to jalapeno peppers. When Abi was old enough to understand, we told him about the 2,500-year old dream of Ethiopian Jews to return to Israel, their bravery to undertake that long difficult journey and their fervent belief the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem.

One sunny afternoon Abi and I were walking past a dumpster on our street when he noticed a huge teddy bear perched on top of it. His brown eyes went wide. "Who threw away this nice bear?" he asked, shocked.

"Maybe the kid who owned him doesn't want a teddy bear anymore since he’s all grown up,” I suggested.

"So why don’t his mom and dad adopt a new kid like you and Daddy adopted me?”

For a moment I felt stunned. Abi is well aware of the fact that he is our second-time-around child but we’d no idea how normal a process he thinks this is. We rescued the teddy bear, perfectly clean and in great shape. Perhaps on some level Abi identified with it. Someone else no longer wanted it, but he sure did! Though it’s a huge bear, taking up a lot of space in his bed, he sleeps with it every night. It’s exactly the right size to fill his heart, just as Abi has filled ours.
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A Mother’s Letter in Auschwitz
Aug 17, 2019  |  by Gedalia Guttentag
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/A-Mothers-Letter-in-Auschwitz.html?s=mm
A Mother’s Letter in Auschwitz
In the hell of Auschwitz Erika Bock, 18, received a final message of faith that would accompany her throughout her life.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, summer 1944. A train from Budapest slowed as it approached the infamous camp gates and finally stopped at the platform. The doors to the cattle cars opened; welcome to hell.

Against the incongruous background of a prisoner orchestra playing a Hungarian folk song, the SS guards forced the prisoners – already weakened by the inhuman overcrowding of their journey – out onto the platform in a mad rush of barking dogs and terrified men, women and children.

One of those who stepped out that day was Erika Bock, an 18-year-old girl originally from Pressburg, Slovakia. One of five children, she had been born into a house permeated by Jewish learning. Her father, Samu Bock had studied in the world-famous Pressburg Yeshiva for 13 years. Her mother Gisela was accustomed to fast every Monday and Thursday for half a day, and she had her seat taken out in shul so that she would stand for the whole time out of respect for its holiness.

Like many Central European Jews, she and her siblings were raised as German-speakers with a secular education. But unusual for a girl of her time, Erika also had an extensive Jewish education. The groundbreaking Beis Yaakov girls school system – today a global phenomenon – was in its infancy. In 1939 her parents sent her to Tapolchan, Slovakia where the original Krakow branch of the movement had relocated due to the war.

It was the example of her parents’ home together with her own immersion in Jewish learning that gave her the faith for what she was to endure in the years ahead.

Unlike in next-door Hungary, terror came early to the Bock family in Slovakia. By 1940, persecution of Jews had begun under the Nazi-allied regime of Catholic priest Josef Tiso. When deportations of Jews started in 1941, Samu and Gisela Bock decided that their daughters had to flee to Budapest, where Jews were safe.

They paid a courier to drive Erika and her younger sister Mimi across the border to neighboring Hungary. Due to the danger, a famous rabbi then in Pressburg, Rav Yonason Steif, permitted them to leave on Friday night.

The young girls weren’t on their way to freedom. Their driver betrayed them and drove straight to the nearest Gestapo headquarters.
But unknown to the young girls, they weren’t on their way to freedom. The driver who their parents had trusted crossed the border and drove straight to the nearest Gestapo headquarters. The girls were arrested and taken to a Budapest jail, where they were beaten and held in solitary confinement. Destroying the papers that identified them as Jews, the sisters claimed that they had been deported to Hungary against their will.

Although the authorities couldn’t prove that they were Jewish, Erika and her sister were deported to Auschwitz along with other Jews from Budapest. Standing on the Auschwitz railway platform in 1944, Erika found herself being sent to the left in a selection whose meaning she didn’t understand at the time.

She was assigned the horrific job to sort through the belongings of those who had just been gassed. Told only that they would be going to the East for “resettlement”, many Jews filled their pockets with money, pictures, or prayer books as they left on their final journey.

During one night shift something unusual happened. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, young Erika felt an extreme fear. As she would say later, until you got to Auschwitz there was fear; afterwards, one was so preoccupied with impending death that there was no fear. And yet on that night a sudden terror overcame her, making her teeth chatter.

Two of Erika’s fellow prisoners from Poland called the overseer, a Dutch Jew called Eli. He came over and asked what was happening. “I can’t go on, I don’t want to go on,” said Erika, bent over with panic.

But the foreman rebuked her: “Look at that crematorium. There is my wife, there are my children, but I must continue. You have to carry on!”

But the fear didn’t leave her, and she reached for a siddur in the pile of belongings that she was sorting and prayed.

Later that night, a new consignment of belongings arrived. Erika picked up a handbag and suddenly called out, “This is my mother’s!”

Having been separated from her mother years before, with thousands of Jews from all across Europe arriving and being killed daily, what were the chances that this was really her mother’s handbag?
One of the Polish women said to the other, “Panis zwarisvala – she’s gone crazy!” Having been separated from her mother years before, and with thousands of Jews from all across Europe arriving and being killed daily, what were the chances that this was really her mother’s handbag? And yet Erika insisted that it was the black bag with an ivory handle that her father had given to her mother.

As the others watched, Erika opened the handbag. Inside was a picture of herself, and postcards – addressed to her. They were stamped “undeliverable”, returned to her mother who had never stopped trying to contact her as she was imprisoned.

One, in Hungarian, bore the following message: “My dear child, never stumble, always have trust in God.”

So as her mother was being gassed, which inexplicably prompted an outburst of fear and crying in Erika, she received a final message of faith – one that would accompany her throughout her life.

It was only in the 1970s that Erika began to speak about her experiences. After the war she married Mr. David Rothschild of Zurich, and together they built a house famous for being open to all in need, and were instrumental in creating much of the city’s Jewish infrastructure including the school and old age home. But it was an encounter in a Swiss hospital that persuaded her that she had a duty to share her story. While lying in a hospital bed, the nurse noticed the number 82587 branded into her arm. “Frau Rothschild,” she exclaimed, “how clever of you to write your phone number on your arm so that you shouldn’t forget it!”

Shocked that an educated person, only three decades after the Holocaust could be unaware of what those numbers meant, she decided that it was time to speak.

In a talk that she gave to foreign diplomats in Bern, Switzerland in 1998, Mrs Rothschild spoke of that incident: “Can you see that this was something supernatural? At the very moment that my mother, from whom I’d been separated for years, was gassed, I was overcome with feelings of tremendous fear. 'Never stumble, always trust in God!' These words were her last legacy to me, and have remained in my thoughts my whole life.”

Mrs Erika Rothschild passed away just over 20 years ago, and I married her granddaughter, named after Erika’s younger sister Mimi who died in Auschwitz just after liberation. Having survived Auschwitz, a world of suffering and tears, she set up a home full of the warmth of the Judaism that she’d seen at home.

But perhaps the enduring message of the handbag in Auschwitz isn’t so much about suffering, as about the faith possible despite hard times.

Life brings challenges, some of them very difficult ones. We may not be able to explain the darkness – but for the person of faith, the light is there. For Erika Rothschild, her faith was real; it was born in her parents’ home and strengthened in the crucible of Auschwitz.
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Post  Admin on Sun 18 Aug 2019, 10:47 am

Broadway Actor Takes The Narrow Way
https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/video/jewish-testimonies-i-met-messiah/broadway-actor-takes-the-narrow-way/
By Eitan Bar
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What do you do when your life revolves around popularity, but the way of truth is the unpopular one to take? Broadway star Jordan Gilbert chose to follow it, no matter the price, staying true to his faith and his Messiah!
In a world that makes it harder and harder to speak out about our faith, Jordan decided that he won’t be silent.
Eitan Bar is a native Jewish-Israeli who was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel (1984). Graduated with his B.A. in Biblical Studies from Israel College of the Bible (Jerusalem, 2009), his M.A. in Theology from Liberty University (2013) and is now pursuing his Doctorate with Dallas Theological Seminary. Eitan currently serves as ONE FOR ISRAEL's Director of Media & Evangelism. (From 2006 to 2013, Eitan worked for CRU, in which his roles included serving as Israel's VLM-SLM leader.)

Eitan's professional background is in "Multimedia Design and Visual Communications" working for various secular advertising agencies in Tel-Aviv.

Eitan is the producer of:
1) I MET MESSIAH (Jewish testimonials).
2) Answering Rabbinic Objections to Jesus.



https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/527948601.html?s=mm
Why Is the Jewish People So Small?
V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)
Aug 8, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
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Why Is the Jewish People So Small?
Nations are not judged by their size but by their contribution to the human heritage.

Near the end of Va-etchanan, so inconspicuously that we can sometimes miss it, is a statement with such far reaching implications that it challenges the impression that has prevailed thus far in the Torah, giving an entirely new complexion to the biblical image of the people Israel:

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples. (Deut. 7:7)

This is not what we have heard thus far. In Bereishit God promises the patriarchs that their descendants will be like the stars of the heaven, the sand on the sea shore, the dust of the earth, uncountable. Abraham will be the father, not just of one nation but of many. At the beginning of Exodus we read of how the covenantal family, numbering a mere seventy when they went down to Egypt, were "fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them" (Ex. 1:7).

Three times in the book of Deuteronomy Moses describes the Israelites as being "as many as the stars of the sky" (1:10, 10:22, 28:62). King Solomon speaks of himself as set among "the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number" (1 Kings 3:8). The prophet Hosea says that "The Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted" (Hos. 2:1).

In all these texts and others it is the size, the numerical greatness, of the people that is emphasized. What then are we to make of Moses' words that speak of its smallness? Targum Yonatan interprets it not to be about numbers at all but about self-image. He translates it not as "the fewest of peoples" but as "the most lowly and humble of peoples." Rashi gives a similar reading, citing Abraham's words "I am but dust and ashes," and Moses and Aaron's, "Who are we?"

Rashbam and Chizkuni give the more straightforward explanation that Moses is contrasting the Israelites with the seven nations they would be fighting in the land of Canaan/Israel. God would lead the Israelites to victory despite the fact that they were outnumbered by the local inhabitants.

Rabbenu Bachya quotes Maimonides, who says that we would have expected God, King of the universe, to have chosen the most numerous nation in the world as His people, since "The glory of the king is in the multitude of people" (Prov. 14:28). God did not do so. Thus Israel should count itself extraordinarily blessed that God chose it, despite its smallness, to be His am segulah, His special treasure.

Rabbenu Bachya finds himself forced to give a more complex reading to resolve the contradiction of Moses, in Deuteronomy, saying both that Israel is the smallest of peoples and "as many as the stars of the sky." He turns it into a hypothetical subjunctive, meaning: God would still have chosen you, even if you had been the smallest of the peoples.

Sforno gives a simple and straightforward reading: God did not choose a nation for the sake of His honour. Had He done so He would undoubtedly have chosen a mighty and numerous people. His choice had nothing to do with honour and everything to do with love. He loved the patriarchs for their willingness to heed His voice; therefore He loves their children.

Yet there is something in this verse that resonates throughout much of Jewish history. Historically Jews were and are a small people: today less than a fifth of one per cent of the population of the world. There were two reasons for this. First is the heavy toll taken through the ages by exile and persecution, directly by Jews killed in massacres and pogroms, indirectly by those who converted - in fifteenth century Spain and nineteenth century Europe - in order to avoid persecution (tragically, even conversion did not work; racial anti-Semitism persisted in both cases). The Jewish population is a mere fraction of what it might have been had there been no Hadrian, no crusades and no anti-Semitism.

The second reason is that Jews did not seek to convert others. Had they done so they would have been closer in numbers to Christianity (2.2 billion) or Islam (1.3 billion). In fact Malbim reads something like this into our verse. The previous verses have said that the Israelites are about to enter a land with seven nations, Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Moses warns them against intermarriage with them, not for racial but for religious reasons: "they will turn your children away from following Me to serve other gods." Malbim interprets our verse as Moses saying to the Israelites, Don't justify intermarriage on the grounds that it will increase the number of Jews. God is not interested in numbers.

There was a moment when Jews might have sought to convert others (to be sure, there was one instance when they did. The Hasmonean priest-king John Hyrcanus I forcibly converted the Edomites, known as the Idumeneans. Herod was one of their number). The period in question was the Roman Empire in the first century. Jews numbered some 10 per cent of the empire, and there were many Romans who admired aspects of their faith and way of life. The pagan deities of the Hellenistic world were losing their appeal and plausibility, and throughout the centres of the Mediterranean, individuals were adopting Jewish practices. Two aspects of Judaism stood in their way: the commandments and circumcision. In the end, Jews chose not to compromise their way of life for the sake of making converts. The Hellenistic people who sympathized with Judaism mostly adopted Pauline Christianity instead. Consistently throughout history, Jews have chosen to be true to themselves and to stay small rather than make concessions for the sake of increasing numbers.

Why have Divine providence or human choice or both, eventuated in the sheer smallness of the Jewish people? Could it be, quite simply, that through the Jewish people God is telling humankind that you do not need to be numerous to be great. Nations are not judged by their size but by their contribution to the human heritage. Of this the most compelling proof is that a nation as small as the Jews could produce an ever-renewed flow of prophets, priests, poets, philosophers, sages, saints, halakhists, aggadists, codifiers, commentators, rebbes and roshei yeshivot; that they could also yield some of the world's greatest writers, artists, musicians, film-makers, academics, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople and technological innovators. Out of all proportion to their numbers Jews could and can be found working as lawyers fighting injustice, economists fighting poverty, doctors fighting disease, and teachers fighting ignorance.

You do not need numbers to enlarge the spiritual and moral horizons of humankind. You need other things altogether: a sense of the worth and dignity of the individual, of the power of human possibility to transform the world, of the importance of giving everyone the best education they can have, of making each of us feel part of a collective responsibility to ameliorate the human condition, and a willingness to take high ideals and enact them in the real world, unswayed by disappointments and defeats.

Nowhere is this more in evidence today than among the people of Israel in the state of Israel: traduced in the media and pilloried by much of the world, yet still, year after year, producing human miracles in medicine, agriculture, technology, the arts, as if the word "impossible" did not exist in the Hebrew language. When, therefore, we feel fearful and depressed about Israel's plight, it is worth returning to Moses' words: "The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples."

Small? Yes. Still surrounded, as the Israelites were then, by "nations larger and stronger than you." But that small people, defying the laws of history, outlived all the world's great empires, and still has a message of hope for humanity. You don't have to be large to be great. If you are open to a power greater than yourself, you will become greater than yourself. Israel today still carries that message to the world.

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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!
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Post  Admin on Thu 08 Aug 2019, 1:38 pm

But What If I Don't Want the Sacrifices of the Temple to Return?
Aug 3, 2019
by Billye Tziporah Roberts
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/But-What-If-I-Dont-Want-the-Sacrifices-of-the-Temple-to-Return.html?s=mm
But What If I Don't Want the Sacrifices of the Temple to Return?
I’ve never liked the idea of animals dying for me… or God.

Imagine that you lived in the United States in the early 1600s, in one of the first settlements – Jamestown, Virginia or near Cape Cod – where the Pilgrims started out. Life was, to say the least, hard.

Less than half of the Pilgrim families that landed at Plymouth Rock survived that first winter. Fewer than 150 of the 700 original Jamestown colonists survived the first three years.

Disease, starvation, bad water, hostile Native Americans. Not only no luxuries. Almost no necessities.

Now imagine someone from the year 2019 shows up. Someone who lives on that same east coast where you are barely surviving. They describe life as we live it today. They tell you that people live in multi-story buildings, that it's possible to travel from one area of the country to another, even one country to another, in only hours. They talk about places where you can buy all the food, clothing or anything else you need.

Long before that person began trying to explain telephones or the internet, you'd decide that they were either crazy or a liar. How else could you respond to such outlandish stories?

I have a similar problem when I try to imagine what life was like when we had the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. What happened there is so far outside of my current reality that I just can't wrap my mind around it. Especially the idea of bringing sacrifices.

It wasn't that I didn't want the Temple re-built. Believe me, I do. But I always hoped that it could be done without all those sacrifices.
I've always thought it was both uncivilized and unnecessary to slaughter all those innocent animals, not to mention unsanitary. Ick! I mean, what kind of a way is that to show my love, my joy, my appreciation to God?

I would think maybe it was just something that was necessary "back then," but we certainly don't need to do that sort of thing anymore.

My stomach always got queasy thinking about the sight and sounds of the animals being slaughtered, and the blood being slathered all over the alter.

I am also extremely sensitive to odors, so imagining the smells of blood and slaughtered animals and burning flesh only added to my nausea. It was beyond me to imagine all of that being "a pleasing smell to the Lord."

Because of these imaginings, I struggled with the part of the prayers where we ask for the rebuilding of the Temple and the re-institution of sacrifices. It wasn't that I didn't want Mashiach (the Messiah) to come, or that I didn't want the Temple re-built. Believe me, I do. But deep in my heart, I always hoped that it could be done without all those sacrifices.

But one morning, as I was saying that part of the prayers, I had an insight based on something I learned from Rabbi Stephen Baars.

What if I simply couldn't understand what it was like when the sacrifices were made in the Temple? What if, like the American colonists from the 1600s who wouldn't be able to understand life in America in the 2000s, what if it was so outside of what I have experienced that I am just not capable of even imagining what it was like when sacrifices were made when the Temple still stood?

After all, God's presence dwelled in the Temple. Has anything in my life come close to that experience? Maybe. I have had moments when I sensed the shadow of God in my life. But sensing the revelation of the Shechina, the Divine Presence that filled the Holy Temple? That had to have been so very much more.

Imagine you are there:

What if… what you saw wasn't intestines and blood but the living Presence of God hovering over the alter, a tangible vision of the Transcendent, inviting you to participate in an eternal dance with the Divine?

What if… what you heard wasn't the screams of dying animals but the singing of God's praise by His angels and you answering, harmonizing in joyous song about the wonder and love of God?

What if… what you smelled wasn't horrid and overpowering, but pure and fragrant: sweeter than incense and spices? Until every breath was filling you, opening you up, until every pore in your body was taking in the aroma of the world, breathing in time with the entire universe?

What if… after all your other senses were completely overwhelmed by these fantastic sensations what you ultimately felt was simply... God.
What if… after all your other senses were completely overwhelmed by these wonderful, fantastic sensations, what you ultimately felt was simply... God. You were more than filled with God. You were overflowing with God.

And it was the most wonderful, and, of course, completely indescribable, thing you'd ever felt.

And you were almost totally, completely, wholly, a part of it all. Almost.

All you would want would be to push past that almost all the way into the Presence that is God. And after having lived with the direct and immediate sensation of what it means to be connected to God, you would never – ever - want the experience to end.

But, of course, it would have to: when the sacrifices ended, or when the festivals ended, or even just when the day ended.

However much a person might want to stay in that state of closeness to the Eternal, we live in a physical world. We need to go home, back to our jobs, to tending our families; to eating, drinking, sleeping. The wonders of the sacrifices would fade.

But what if… all those overwhelming sensations and emotions didn’t fade completely away? What if they became a tiny little flame that managed to survive somehow, deep inside, under the hearts of those who were blessed to experience the sacrifices?

What if… that tiny little flame remained, even after the Temples were destroyed and the sacrifices were no more?

What if… it still burns, tucked safely away beneath the hearts of the Jewish people? So that even though we don't really remember, we can't really forget either?

Because there is still an echo, passed down from generation to generation, that we can just barely hear if we listen hard enough; just barely feel if we open our hearts enough?

What if …my issues with the sacrifices wasn't really a problem with what happened in the Temple? Instead, they were a problem with my inability to recognize that tiny little flame inside me and allowing it to open my mind to what my heart already knew?

Right now, I am preparing my mind and heart for Tisha B'Av. So I am spending a lot of time thinking about the destruction of the two Temples, and hoping that my thoughts about that tiny little flame turn out to be true.

Because that would mean that I’ll be able to focus, with no reservations, on the wondrous experiences and the closeness to God that the re-built Temple will bring us.

So that I will be able to say, with a joyous and undivided heart: may it be soon.
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Post  Admin on Mon 05 Aug 2019, 10:01 am

A Magic Trick in Auschwitz
Jul 27, 2019  |  by Ronda Robinson
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/A-Magic-Trick-in-Auschwitz.html?s=mm
A Magic Trick in Auschwitz
For Werner Reich. magic sparked a crumb of hope during the Holocaust.

In the hell of Auschwitz it was a magic trick that gave Werner Reich hope. The 91-year-old Holocaust survivor remembers seeing the trick it to this day.

As a 16-year-old, he had come back from a work assignment, climbed onto the top of a bare wooden bunk in the concentration camp barracks and found another inmate doing a card trick. Reich recalls, “It was like finding a gorilla in your bathroom. You can’t comprehend where it came from, what it was doing there. It knocked my socks off, although I didn’t have any.”

The older man, Herbert Lewin – whose stage name as a magician in Berlin had been The Great Nivelli – kindly explained how the trick worked without being asked. “I remembered every detail. It was the first trick I’d ever seen in my life. From that point on I practiced that card trick every single day in my head,” says Reich.

Balm for the Soul
“The trick provided for me a mental diversion from the daily gnawing of hunger and the constant fear for my life. It gave me something to think about, something that was a goal.”

He knew the rhythm, the movement, the flow of the trick well enough to recreate it in England after his liberation from Auschwitz, Poland.

The gift of a card trick during the unimaginable, harrowing time spawned a lifelong interest in magic. Although Reich doesn’t perform magic for pay, he enjoys using it to uplift the spirits of hospital patients and friends. He also donates his talent for fundraisers.

A member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Psychic Entertainers Association, Reich says magic has taught him how to think outside the box and approach problems from a different angle. He has learned to think on his feet, maintain presence of mind and take command of an audience.

“For this reason, I have never had a ‘bad’ audience and am a successful speaker even in the worst school.”

Teaching Youths Not to Hate
Imprisoned in jail and concentration camps from ages 15 through 17, the nonagenarian uses his energy to speak 100 times a year and promote Holocaust awareness at schools, colleges, synagogues, churches and conventions worldwide.

Sometimes he is called on to do an intervention. “Anti-Semitism has been here all the time. It’s just coming to the surface,” says Reich. For instance, a school where teens had been caught painting swastikas invited him to teach them the meaning and consequences of their actions.

The response is always positive, he says. Even though he has every right to play the victim card, Reich tells audiences not to feel sorry for him.



“I have had a very good life!” he reports. “What is important is not to be a bystander. We are all responsible for each other. I always quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.’ I beg them not to be a silent friend.”

A Happy Life Turns Ugly
Born in Berlin in 1927, he describes his early years as a typical middle-class Jewish life. His father worked as a mechanical and electrical engineer. His mother was a proud German who had served in the army in World War I, saved the lives of soldiers and received an Iron Cross military medal.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany stopped allowing Jews to work at major companies, colleges and hospitals. Reich’s father lost his job. The children had to leave school.

At age 6, Reich and his family moved to Yugoslavia, where his father had served during WW I as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army.

“In 1933 people thought in two years Hitler would be out and we’d go back home. We had to sell our house for next to nothing. When we left, 25 percent of all our financial means was confiscated by the government as an emigration tax. We came to Yugoslavia and my father couldn’t find job because the country was strictly agricultural,” Reich recently told an audience at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta.

“I was a kid, I was very happy. I went to school. I learned Croat and Serbian. I didn’t know the problems my parents had. In 1940 my father died, then a few months later Germany invaded Yugoslavia. Everything got turned upside down.”

His mother felt safe because of her military service, but she feared for her children and placed the elder, a daughter, with one couple and Werner with another who worked in the resistance movement. He quips, “It’s like hiding the cheese in the mousetrap.”

The Gestapo Knocks
Werner lived a lonely life, cooking, cleaning and developing film for the resistance movement. One morning there was a knock at the door. Several Gestapo agents burst in and threw everything out of the closets. One stood guard over Reich with a gun, ordering him to leave the door open when he went to the bathroom.

The secret police then arrested the 13-year-old and took him to prison, questioning and hitting him for hours, no matter what answers he gave.
The secret police then arrested the 13-year-old and took him to prison, questioning and hitting him for hours, no matter what answers he gave. They locked him in a basement cell with a concrete floor and bucket for a toilet and fed him only liverwurst sandwiches for three days. “They obviously lacked imagination as far as food was concerned,” he says dryly.

He spent two months in different prisons. In one cell in Gratz, Austria, he looked out a third-floor window to the prison yard below and saw his mother walking in a circle. It would be the last time he would ever see her. He then spent 10 months in Terezin, a concentration camp north of Prague in the Czech Republic.

Little could Reich imagine the horrors to come. “I was sort of convinced all of this was going to stop very soon. I didn’t know anything about death camps.”



He soon found out as one of 2,500 prisoners shipped via railroad cattle cars. “They gave us a piece of bread and a couple of cans of sardines the Red Cross must have sent. Buckets overflowed after an hour. We were lying in our feces and urine.”

Stealing the Horses’ Food to Survive
After three days the train doors opened. “It was a scene out of hell. We asked where we were. They told us we were in Auschwitz.” Stripped, shaved and tattooed with the number A-1828 on his arm, Reich lived on 400 calories a day. After a couple of months there, he passed through three selections by Dr. Mengele. The vast majority were killed after that.

“We were trying our best to survive. It was a question of life or death.” He worked in the stables and stole the horses’ food. After nine months there, in January 1945 he and 60,000 other prisoners went on a three-day death march during which 15,000 died. He then suffered a four-day railroad transport in coal cars to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. In open railroad cars, they endured snow, ice and death from frostbite.



At Mauthausen, he relates, “We got a tablespoon of moldy bread a day. I slept next to a dead man for three days just to get his rations.”

When liberated on May 5, 1945, at the age of 17, Reich weighed just 64 pounds. He then went to Communist Yugoslavia. After regaining his strength, he managed to escape to England, find work and get married. He and his wife, Eva, moved to New York, where his sister settled after the war.

A Lucky Life, A Lucky Man
Reich spent 10 years studying in college at night and worked as an industrial engineer. He and Eva were married for 61 years until her death in 2016. “She was the love of my life. I have two sons, David and Michael, two delightful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. Life has been very, very good to me. I really have no complaints. I was lucky. I was really lucky.”

Herbert Lewin – The Great Nivelli, the magician whose stage name derived from reversing the spelling of his last name – also survived the war. He wound up settling in New York less than 30 minutes away from Reich. After Lewin died in 1977, his former bunkmate spotted the obituary in a magician’s magazine. They never met again after Auschwitz.
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Post  Admin on Mon 29 Jul 2019, 10:56 am

Reuven Bauman: Through Fire and Water
Jul 28, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Reuven-Bauman-Through-Fire-and-Water.html?s=mm
Reuven Bauman: Through Fire and Water
Reuven Bauman’s heroic rescue on a Virginia beach echoes his grandfather’s lifesaving deed 50 years earlier.

The story is well-known: On July 9, 35-year-old Rabbi Reuven Bauman was on a Virginia beach, chaperoning day campers. Some of the boys got too close to the water’s choppy edge and were caught off-guard by a giant wave. Seeing the boys struggle to regain their balance in the now-deep water, Reuven immediately threw off his shoes and rushed in to save them.

During those perilous moments, Reuven held the boys tightly, keeping them from slipping out further. A nearby fisherman helped the boys reach shore safely. Yet suddenly, Reuven himself was caught in a treacherous rip tide and swept out to sea; his body was recovered five days later.

From where did Reuven derive this extraordinary sense of courage and self-sacrifice for others?

After speaking with the Bauman family, the rest of the story can now be told.

New York City, 1967. Reuven’s paternal grandfather, Wilhelm Bauman (known fondly as Willy), was a cabinet-maker. While out on a job, Willy’s partner was working in an adjacent room. Suddenly Willy heard a massive explosion. Highly-flammable glue had combusted – consuming the adjacent room in flames.

Disregarding his personal safety, Willy rushed into the dangerous inferno and pulled out his injured partner – likely saving the man's life.

In the process, however, Willy was critically injured with third-degree burns covering much of his body. Doctors did not expect him to live through the night.

Willy stayed in intensive care for many months, and eventually – with the help of an experimental burn unit – returned home to his family. Though his ability to walk was permanently damaged (he often used a wheelchair), Willy lived another 40 productive years.

Rabbi Mark Bauman was 12 years old when his father performed this exceptional deed. Mark is also the father of Reuven Bauman, whose valiant rescue on a Virginia beach echoes his grandfather’s lifesaving deed of 50 years earlier.

“Between my father and my son,” Mark says of the heroic courage transmitted through generations, “it was fire and water.”

At great personal cost, Willy Bauman performed a heroic lifesaving rescue in 1967.

Appreciating Reuven
Reuven Bauman was a beloved teacher of children in Norfolk, Virginia, spending countless hours meticulously preparing class material and developing new methods to teach in a clear, accessible way.

On a personal basis, Reuven was devoted to his students, caring and connecting to each on his level. “The boys loved him,” says Reuven’s father. “The other day a parent came over to me and said: ‘My son dislikes school, but he loved Rabbi Bauman’."

Two days before his death, Reuven accompanied the day camp to an amusement park. He rode on terrifying rollercoasters, feeling it was important to share that experience with the kids. “His commitment to his students was his life’s mission,” said Rabbi Mordechai Loiterman, the principal where Reuven taught. “It wasn’t a job he was doing; this is how he defined himself.”

Last year, Reuven published a children’s book, Yanky’s Amazing Discovery, about a boy who overcomes his struggles. The boy is inspired by Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, one of the greatest rabbis of the 20th century, whose character traits could be emulated by a child on any level.

Says Rabbi Mark Bauman: “Reuven felt it was important to portray our Sages in a way that is relevant and accessible, to encourage young people to aspire to their greatness.”

Reuven also wrote children’s poems about the Jewish holidays, which is being prepared for posthumous publication.

Family and friends describe Reuven as the perfect blend of intellect, humility, dignity, sweetness, humor, and love. Regardless of age, level of observance or background, Reuven respected everyone. When the yeshiva’s non-Jewish cook had a heart attack, Reuven took the initiative to buy a card, have everyone sign it, and bring it to the hospital.

"He always made you feel like a 'somebody'," says Yisrael Schwartz, Reuven’s brother-in-law. “His kindness, his smile, his ability to connect with people. Reuven had a quiet, gentle way of making you feel good about yourself.”

Reuven in his element: teaching a class of seventh graders

Reuven lived and died with Kiddush Hashem – deeds that sanctify God’s Name. His jumping into the dangerous waters to save his students was but an extension of his devotion to always putting others first.

Mordechai Bauman, one of Reuven’s five brothers, cites the Talmudic teaching that if someone desecrates God’s Name in secret, the deed is exposed in public. The same is true of the flipside: If a person sanctifies God’s Name in secret, the deed is rewarded publicly.

“Throughout Reuven’s life, he sanctified God’s Name in a very quiet, unassuming manner,” says Mordechai. “Maybe that is why God gave him the opportunity to complete his mission with an act that would cause a public Kiddush Hashem, one which spread across the globe.”

Reuven with his brother-in-law, Yisrael M. Schwartz

Massive Recovery Effort
When Reuven went missing, people far and wide were amazed at the massive outpouring of assistance, as hundreds of volunteers from organizations in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Georgia rushed to Virginia to join the search. Helicopters and a private airplane were commandeered to search up and down the coast; others came with boats and jet skis. Volunteers in SUVs scanned the terrain with binoculars, while other crews walked miles along the shore in 90-degree heat.

“When the call goes out that someone needs help, you just go without thinking twice,” says Yosef Nissel of Misaskim of Maryland, an organization that helps those dealing with tragedy. Nissel and his team of volunteers drove four hours to Virginia Beach with a boat in tow; upon arrival they chartered a second.

After a day or so of searching, the Coast Guard and other public rescue teams ended their effort, conceding it as futile. Yet the army of Jewish volunteers would not be deterred. Driven by the ever-slim chance of rescuing Reuven they pressed on, committed not to leave until they could at least accord Reuven the honor of a proper burial.



Day after day, working for hours on almost no sleep in sweltering heat, volunteers combed 450 square miles in a coordinated and organized effort. They were assisted by a local expert who calculated tides, currents and wind patterns – devising search grids for land, sea and air.

Meanwhile, thousands around the globe were drawn to this tremendous Kiddush Hashem by praying and performing good deeds on behalf of Reuven.

After a break for Shabbat, the volunteers were back in the ocean Sunday morning before sunrise.

On Sunday, as the midday sun beat upon the exhausted crew, a local fishing captain suggested that volunteers head out a few miles to where the ocean turns clear and has thick patches of seaweed. There, about one mile off the coast near the Virginia-North Carolina border, and six miles from where Reuven was last seen, Nissel’s team spotted his body.

Yosef Nissel, a volunteer from Maryland, discovered Reuven’s body one mile from the shore.

For an entire week, volunteer organizations like Achiezer, Misaskim, Chai Lifeline, Chaverim and Hatzalah were featured on the news – highlighting the tight-knit Jewish community and making a positive impression on everyone involved.

Coast Guard members were especially inspired, given that a few weeks earlier an 8-year-old boy had drowned in similar circumstances, swept away by a powerful rip current. In that instance, authorities gave up the search and simply waited for the body to wash up on shore.

In one particularly dramatic moment, when the Coast Guard diver brought Reuven's body out of the water, he proudly declared, "I am a Jew."

Importantly, Reuven received a proper burial, bringing a measure of relief to the grieving family.

Via conference call, over 40,000 people attended the funeral, where his brother-in-law Yisrael Schwartz declared:

“It as if God was saying to Reuven: You've done all this kindness for others in your quiet, unassuming way. Now I will give you a chance to save a life, and make a tremendous public Kiddush Hashem. The name Reuven Bauman will be known around the world as a man of true Kiddush Hashem. Here you go, Reuven. Take this gift. You deserve it.”

For Reuven Bauman, other people always came first. Now we each have the opportunity to give something back, by helping to care for Reuven’s wife and five young children, with a donation to the Bauman Family Fund.

May the memory of Reuven Tzvi ben Menachem Yitzchak continue to uplift and inspire.
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Post  Admin on Mon 29 Jul 2019, 10:50 am

Jews in the American Military
Jul 27, 2019
by Marc Liebman, Captain USN (retired)
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Jews-in-the-American-Military.html?s=mm
Jews in the American Military
Four American Jews who made a major contribution to the American Armed Forces.

Most American Jews do not know of the major contribution their fellow Jews have made to the American Armed Forces. Many actually changed the way the U.S. military operates.

Here are four men who made a difference.

Commander Uriah P. Levy, war hero, fighter of anti-Semitism, philanthropist
Uriah P. Levy served with distinction in the War against the Barbary Pirates and the British during the War of 1812. He was the Commodore of the U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean Squadron. Six times, Uriah Levy took superior officers to court martial for anti-Semitism. Twice he was forced out until a board reviewed the proceedings and reinstated Levy. Despite this, he became the first Jewish flag officer in the U.S. Navy.

While a flag officer in 1850, Levy led the effort to eliminate flogging as a punishment for sailors convicted for crimes under the Articles of War. The U.S. Navy was the first major navy to do so.

After he retired from the navy, Levy learned Monticello - Jefferson’s home and plantation - was about to be sold to pay family debts. Levy bought it and began its restoration. He commissioned the statue of Jefferson that now sits in the Capitol Rotunda as the only privately funded statue on U.S. property. The religious center at the Naval Academy is named after Levy.

Vice Admiral Joseph Taussig - Naval Strategist
Joe Taussig’s father, Ed, was recruited into the U.S. Navy by Uriah Levy and became the first Jewish Midshipman at the Naval Academy. Ed Taussig was the first of four generations of Naval Academy graduates, all of whom had distinguished careers.

By the time the U.S. became involved in World War I, Joe Taussig competed assignments in China, Cuba and the Philippines. In May, 1917, as commander of Destroyer Squadron 8, he led the first destroyer squadron to deploy to Europe. His squadron’s accomplishments led to an assignment in D.C. as the head the Division of Enlisted Personnel, the organization responsible for recruiting, training and retaining enlisted men.

After the war, Captain Taussig testified before Senate Committee for Navy Affairs that when World War I broke out, the Navy was far from ready for war. His comments and his award-winning essay that challenged then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposal that the Navy make up its manning shortfalls by enlisting men being paroled from jail, earned him Roosevelt’s ire.

In the U.S., officers “serve at the pleasure of the President.” As a practice that holds to this day, rarely do Navy or Marine Corps officers speak out publicly against our political leaders. When one does, one puts one’s career at risk.

Admiral William Sims, the Navy’s highest-ranking officer and a critic of Navy preparedness publicly supported Taussig. Sims sent Taussig to the Naval War College first as a student, then as a tactics instructor and eventually he became the head of the Strategy Department.

When Roosevelt took office in 1933, he informed the Navy that he would not approve RADM Taussig’s promotion to Vice Admiral. The dispute went public when two influential columnists – Drew Pearson and Robert Allen – criticized Roosevelt’s decision not to promote Taussig who was the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations. Instead, the Navy gave him command of cruiser and battleship divisions before sending him to run the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Fifth Naval District.

In May, 1940 Taussig was again asked to testify before the Senate’s Committee on Naval Affairs. He said the Navy was not prepared a war with Japan that he believed was inevitable. Allen and Pearson called Taussig the “best strategist in the Navy.”

Roosevelt was furious and as commander-in-chief, he demanded Taussig retire immediately. After Pearl Harbor and early Japanese victories followed the plan Taussig outlined, he was recalled, promoted to Vice Admiral and served on the Secretary of the Navy’s staff.

Today, VADM Joseph Taussig’s legacy lives on. As head of the Division of Enlisted Personnel, he set standards individuals must meet and focused the navy’s efforts to recruit the best and the brightest men and women. He established the Naval War College as think tank for naval strategy and war-gaming that honed the skills of the officers who led the navy to victory during World War II.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rosenthal – Bomber Pilot
When Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Robert Rosenthal had just finished Brooklyn Law School. On December 8th, he enlisted in the Army and after receiving his wings was assigned to fly B-17. He arrived in England in August 1943 as a B-17 aircraft commander in the 418th Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group.

The group was known as “Bloody Hundredth” because of its high loss rates even though they were not much worse than any other B-17 unit. Before the P-38 and P-51s began escorting the bombers all the way to the targets and back, the Eighth Air Force was losing more than ten percent of the bombers on every mission. With the fighter escorts, the loss rate dropped to a more “acceptable” seven percent.

On October 10th 1943, Rosenthal’s crew in a B-17 named Rosie’s Riveters took off on its third mission. The Eighth Air Force expected the bombers to get to their target in Muenster, Germany unescorted. His B-17 was the only one of 13 bombers from his group that returned. When he landed, two of his airplane’s four engines were shut down due to battle damage and it had a large hole in the left wing due to a direct hit by an 88mm shell.

Rosenthal flew his required 25 missions and volunteered to fly a second tour. The first time he was shot down in September 1944, he broke his arm bailing out over German occupied France. The Free French managed to get him back to England and Rosenthal resumed his career as a B-17 pilot.

On his 52nd and next to last mission, Rosenthal flew the lead bomber headed to Berlin. An 88mm anti-aircraft shell set the B-17 on fire. Nevertheless, Rosenthal led his formation over the target before he descended. He was the last to bail out at 1,000 feet just before the B-17 exploded. Rosenthal and his crew landed behind Soviet lines and were flown back to England. Rosenthal flew one more mission before the war ended.

Rosenthal was selected to interview Herman Goering and prepare the case against the head of the Luftwaffe. Goering was convicted of war crimes and the night before he was to be hung, a cyanide pill was smuggled into his cell and Goering committed suicide.

In 1948, Robert Rosenthal returned to the law firm that hired him right out of law school. He was elected to the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 2006 and passed away at the age of 90 in 2007.

Colonel Aaron Bank – The Founder of the Green Berets
As a young man, Aaron Bank traveled extensively through Europe and became fluent in German and French. At the outbreak of World War II, he was 37 and volunteered. He went through Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Because of his language proficiency, Bank was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.).

After training on how to conduct clandestine operations, he parachuted into France on July 31st,1944 as the leader of a three-man Jedburg team code-named Packard knowing that if he was captured, the Gestapo would torture and kill him. Aided by French partisans, Bank’s team harassed the Germans until he was pulled out in late 1944.

Bank’s next assignment was to recruit and lead a team of anti-Nazis and former German soldiers who would kill Adolph Hitler if and when he fled to his redoubt in Berchtesgaden. O.S.S. head, William Donovan reportedly told one of his subordinates to “Tell Bank to get Hitler.” The mission was called Iron Cross and was cancelled just after the team boarded its airplane to fly into Bavaria.

Right after the war ended in Europe, Bank was sent to French Indochina to rescue French and other Europeans held prisoner by the Japanese. While there, Bank worked with Ho Chi Minh who was fighting the Japanese. After the war, Bank served in intelligence billets in Europe before being sent to Korea as the executive officer of the 187th Regimental Combat Team that fought in several battles.

Back in the U.S., Bank was assigned as the Chief of Special Operations Branch of the Army’s Office of Psychological Warfare and ordered to “staff and gain approval for an O.S.S. Jedburg style force.” In 1952, the Army approved and funded 2,300-man unit. Its mission was “to infiltrate by land, sea or air deep into enemy occupied territory and organize the resistance guerrilla potential to conduct Special Forces operations with the emphasis on guerrilla training.”

Bank and seven others started the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) on June 19th, 1952 in Fort Bragg, NC. Within two years, the 10th was manned, operational and split into two units, the 10th and the 77th. After the Berlin uprising in 1953, both were expanded. The structure, training, tactics and employment of Green Beret A Teams that Bank outlined in 1952 are still used today. Colonel Bank retired in 1958.

After Bank left the Army, President Kennedy authorized the wearing of the “beret, man's, wool, rifle green, Army shade 297.” Since then, the Army Special Forces have been known as the Green Berets.

Bank wrote two books. One was the story of his career - From O.S.S. to Green Berets. The other was a novel called Iron Cross that Ethan Nathanson, author of the The Dirty Dozen, helped him write.

Horrified at the lack of security at the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California near where he lived, Bank lobbied for changes. Twice he had to publicly expose the vulnerability of the plant to sabotage. Finally, in 1974, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted on his recommendations for all nuclear power plants in the U.S.

There are many others such as ADM Ben Morrell who is considered the father of the Navy’s SeaBees and General Sydney Sachnow, a Holocaust survivor who is one of the most revered and highly decorated Green Berets ever who had distinguished careers. Their accomplishments along with many others are buried in U.S. military history. They are Jewish role models whose story is worth telling to our children.

If you are interested in more about this topic or are part of a group that would like to see the presentation on these and many more American Jews, the author welcomes the opportunity. You can contact him either through Aish.com or via his website https://marcliebman.com.
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4 Jewish Lessons from Lion King
Jul 23, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/j/as/4-Jewish-Lessons-from-Lion-King.html?s=mm
4 Jewish Lessons from Lion King
The hit movie draws on timeless Jewish values and stories.

Disney’s 2019 remake of Lion King is a beautiful update of the original film with realistic looking computer-generated animals portraying all the beloved animal characters.

Beyond its fidelity to the 1994 film, Don Hahn, the producer of the original Lion King, explained that its creators drew inspiration from sources including Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Bible, particularly the Biblical stories of Moses and Joseph.These stores feature “a character (who) is born into royalty, is then exiled, and has to return to claim their kingdom,” Hahn said.

Here are four key Jewish lessons from the Lion King.

True Meaning of Heroism
A true king doesn’t rule for the sake of his own glory, King Mufasa tells young Simba in Lion King. A truly great leader must devote himself to his people and work on their behalf, not his own. It takes Simba years of exile before he’s finally mature enough to return home and assume the mantle of leadership, risking his life and fighting to protect his pride.

This stirring narrative draws on Biblical stories. The lives of many Jewish heroes involved exile and return. Our patriarch Jacob was raised in the land of Israel, but had to flee for many years and live in exile before he was able to return home. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s royal household before he was forced to flee and live in hiding for many years; he eventually returned to Egypt and helped lead the Jewish people to freedom.

These Jewish heroes experienced periods of doubt and uncertainty.They had to overcome fear and weakness to emerge as brave heroes. They didn’t do it alone: in each case, it was their belief in God and their realization that there’s a divine plan for Jewish survival that gave them the courage to act. Jewish heroes of the Torah didn’t assume leadership because they craved glory or power. It was the recognition that the situation demanded their unique response that spurred them to greatness.

Meaning of Life
In Lion King, Simba becomes embroiled in a bitter feud between his father, King Mufasa, and his evil uncle Scar. Scar kills Mufasa and convinces Simba that he’s to blame for his father’s death. Overwhelmed by shame, Simba leaves and begins a new life in exile, befriending a warthog named Pumbaa and a meerkat named Timon. They teach him that life is meaningless. “Hakuna matata” (which means “no worries” in Swahili) should be his only goal. Though this phrase can mean “be chill” or “relax”, Simba’s friends turn it into an anthem and way of life, instructing their friend that there’s no point in trying to achieve greatness or be selfless and brave.

Jewish thought rejects this nihilistic view in favor of King Mufasa’s wiser way of looking at the world. An Infinite Being created this world with a purpose, infusing the universe with meaning.

As Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. explains, “Just as the universe in its entirety has a purpose, so does everything in the universe… Each individual has a purpose. My existence is not an accident. I have to accomplish something with my existence. Being is not haphazard or meaningless”. We each have an important role to play, Like Simba, our challenge is discovering and fulfilling our life goals that only we can accomplish.

Role Models
One of the most moving scenes in Lion King comes when Simba sees the image of his father before him and is reminded of King Mufasa’s wisdom and the high hopes he had for his son. In the original 1994 Lion King, this stirring scene features Simba recognizing his father’s face in the constellations of the night sky. In the 2019 version, Simba magically sees his father’s face in his own reflection, as he peers into the surface of a pond.

Perhaps the movie’s writers were inspired by a beautiful Jewish tale. The Torah describes Joseph, the favorite son of our patriarch Jacob, being sold into slavery in ancient Egypt. There, he worked for a mighty minister named Potiphar, and seemingly became integrated into the ancient Egyptian society in which he found himself. He proved himself a trustworthy worker, and rose to become an overseer with great responsibility.

Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph and went out of her way to tempt him. One day, she laid a trap for Joseph, who found himself alone with her. It would have been so easy for Joseph to succumb to the loose morals of Egypt, yet in that moment, he suddenly had a vision of his father Jacob. In an instant, Joseph suddenly remembered the moral code his father stood for (Rashi on Genesis 39:11; Talmud Sotah 37). That vision gave Joseph the strength to resist Potiphar’s wife. (In a turn of events, Joseph was cast into prison but later rose to become second in command to Pharaoh himself.)

Fight Against Injustice
Lion King echoes Jewish themes when some female characters refuse to accept oppression and injustice. After the wicked lion Scar seizes the throne, he institutes a repressive, horrible rule that makes his fellow lions suffer terribly. Instead of accepting this dismal fate, two female lions – Simba’s mother Sarabi and his fiancé Nala – resist. Nala even goes on a hazardous journey to find help far away.

Perhaps the scriptwriters were inspired by Jewish teachings. Jewish history features Shifra and Puah, (alternative names for Moses' mother Yocheved and his sister Miriam) two incredibly brave women who resisted evil oppression and are credited with the very survival of the entire nation of Israel. While the scriptwriters apparently were inspired by the story of Moses, who was raised in a royal household only to endure exile before returning, it was Moses’ mother and sister – and other Jewish women – who saved the Jewish people through their long dark years of slavery.

While Jewish men despaired, it was Jewish women who somehow found the strength to go on, and who convinced their husbands not to give up on family life. Jewish women continued to raise children and imbue their families with the hope that one day things would be better. When Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish baby boys be thrown into the Nile, Jewish midwives defied their order.

Throughout history, the Jewish people have been saved time and again by brave Jewish champions. 
Our compelling stories have inspired countless writers, including those who penned Lion King.
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