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Post  Admin on Tue 31 Mar 2020, 4:37 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/coronavirus/After-the-Plague-From-I-to-We.html?s=mm
After the Plague: From I to We
Mar 30, 2020
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
After the Plague: From I to We
The shared hell of WWII changed Britain for the better. Coronavirus will do the same.

When this bleak time is over, when schools and pubs and theaters reopen, when we no longer need fear the warmth of a handshake or the closeness of friends, will life simply return to normal or will something within us have changed? Will we look at community, society and humanity differently? Will something good emerge from all this anxiety and pain?

I think it will. When people go through tough times together, a profound bonding takes place. That is what happened after the Second World War. While the war was on, people for the most part lived from day to day. There was little time and tranquility to think about the distant future.

Yet it was precisely then that the seeds were sown for a different kind of society. There was a deep sense that much needed to be changed. There were too many inequalities. There was too much poverty. The economic crash of 1929 and the depression of the 1930s had left scars that had to be healed. Britain had to become a more caring, cohesive and compassionate society.

The architects of this vision in the early 1940s were figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, the political theorist and historian R. H. Tawney, and the economist William Beveridge, people of widely different orientations yet united in their belief that something positive should emerge from the fog of war.

The result was the creation of the welfare state, a system of social insurance for everyone regardless of income or age. The 1944 Education Act provided compulsory free secondary education for all. In 1948 the National Health Service was born. These were revolutionary changes that reshaped Britain from then to today, and almost certainly they would not have taken place without the collective experience of war.
 
Something very similar took place in the USA. There were the benefits, financial and educational, for ex-service men and women, known as the GI Bill of 1944. There was new legislation governing labor relations, a minimum wage, social security, disability and unemployment insurance. These too were the result of the intense social solidarity that emerges whenever a group experiences threat and collective danger.

One of the greatest challenges in free societies is to maintain a balance between the ‘I’ of self-interest and the ‘we’ of the common good.
What happened in both countries is what I describe in my new book, Morality: Restoring The Common Good In Divided Times. There was a shift in emphasis in society from ‘I’ to ‘we’.

One of the greatest challenges in free societies is to maintain a balance between the ‘I’ of self-interest and the ‘we’ of the common good. We must be able to compete but also to co-operate. There is within each of us an ‘I’ that asks: ‘What’s in it for me?’ But there is also a ‘we’ that knows that ‘we are all in this together’.

The longer any nation has known uninterrupted peace and prosperity, the more likely it is that the ‘I’ will prevail. This generates much liberty and creativity, but it also leads to huge inequalities, an emphasis on rights not responsibilities, a breakdown of trust and a feeling that society is unfair.

When a nation encounters adversity, on the other hand, the sense of ‘we’ grows stronger. At such times people are acutely conscious of how much they depend on one another.

Dame Vera Lynn, who recently celebrated her 103rd birthday, recalled her time during the Second World War "when we all pulled together and looked after each other" and urged us to summon the same spirit "to weather the storm of the coronavirus." People remember the tough times more vividly than the easy ones, precisely because they do bring us together.

We have seen striking examples of both in recent weeks. There has been the ‘I’ behavior of people stockpiling and hoarding goods, focusing relentlessly on themselves and their families at the cost of other people. Heaven alone knows why someone feels they need 600 rolls of toilet paper. People have been flouting isolation and insulation guidelines. A Russian woman escaped a coronavirus quarantine and posted her story on Instagram, explaining that "I have a right to my freedom." Well, no actually. We do not have a right to our own freedom if exercising it harms or seriously endangers others. That is why you can’t have rights without responsibilities.

But we’ve also seen some amazing ‘we’ behavior. Following a call from the Health Secretary for an ‘army’ of volunteers to support health professionals, we now have more than half a million people who have signed up to do a variety of tasks from transporting medicines and shopping for those who can’t, to speaking to the lonely and isolated on the phone.

Millions took to the streets, to their balconies and their windows on Thursday night to applaud the bravery of our brilliant NHS workers. It was an extraordinary sight that none of us could ever have imagined only weeks ago. That is a Britain of which we should feel proud. Throughout the country, individuals and groups have been establishing contact with their neighbors, the elderly, the vulnerable and the lonely, offering help.

Virtually all the synagogues I know have established such groups, and I am almost certain that the same is true of churches, mosques, gurdwaras, temples and other religious congregations. Faith is one of the great seedbeds of altruism.

There’s also been an almost non-stop stream of videos and messages on social media, packed with music and humor, lifting people’s spirits and teaching them how to avoid catching or communicating the virus in a gentle and smiling way. Humor heals. It preserves our humanity.

We feel better when we exercise the ‘we’ rather than the ‘I’. We are social animals, hardwired for altruism. There is compelling research evidence that, above a certain income level, we gain more pleasure from giving than from getting. Volunteering has been shown to strengthen the immune system. Making someone else’s life better floods our own with meaning, and this itself has huge health benefits.

I would hope that we emerge from this long dark night with an enhanced sense of ‘we’ in five dimensions. There is the ‘we’ of global human solidarity. Never in my lifetime have we lived through a period in which people in every country throughout the world are suffering the same fears, the same dangers, the same risks. The poet John Donne’s famous words could have been written for now: ‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.’

There is the ‘we’ of national identity. The divisions over Brexit that once seemed to overshadow all else can now be put in perspective. When it comes to real fundamentals like life and health, what unites us is greater than what divides us.

There is the ‘we’ of humility. Despite all our affluence and technological powers, one tiny virus has brought humanity to its knees. From here on, we should never underestimate our vulnerability.

There is the ‘we’ in acts of kindness. Reaching out with help to others should make us permanently aware of other people’s problems, not just our own.

And there is the ‘we’ of hope. Passover contains a message of hope for all of us. Each year we tell the story of the exodus, that begins in suffering and ends in liberation and joy. That is the shape of the human story. Out of the bad, comes good, out of the curse comes blessing. Out of the coronavirus pandemic will come a new sense of collective responsibility, and we will all feel renewed
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Post  Admin on Sun 29 Mar 2020, 11:51 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Jewish-Teen-Running-Worlds-Most-Popular-Coronavirus-Website.html?s=mm
Jewish Teen Running World's Most Popular Coronavirus Website
Mar 28, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Jewish Teen Running World's Most Popular Coronavirus Website
An Aish.com interview with 17-year-old whiz kid Avi Schiffman, the brains behind a popular website tracking Covid-19.

When the Covid-19 was first starting to make headlines in 2019, Avi Schiffmann, a high school junior from Seattle, wanted to learn all he could about the new disease. “It was very hard to find information – I had to go to all these local Chinese government websites,” Avi explained in an Aish.com exclusive interview. “So I decided to start my own website to track the virus."

The site he started – ncov2019.live – is now the world’s most popular website for real-time updates about the disease.

Avi lives with his parents, younger brother and younger sister in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in the Seattle area. His family is traditional in Jewish observance and celebrate Shabbat dinner together. When he was little they lived in Israel for a year where the family has lots of relatives. “I can read Hebrew, but I don’t always understand what I’m reading,” Avi quips.

The family moved to Washington State when Avi was eleven. By then, he was already fascinated by coding and had been creating his own websites and video games for several years. “I’ve been programming for about a decade, which is kind of crazy because I’m only seventeen,” Avi observes. Everything he learned about coding is self-taught. He used online articles and videos to teach himself how to create programs and run websites.

He experimented with several different websites before Covid-19 emerged in 2019, and he applied the lessons he’d learned in website design to create a new site where information about the number of Covid-19 cases and their locations could be tracked in real time. Avi’s father is a medical writer and his mother is a physician; their expertise has come in handy when it comes to understanding the science and medicine behind Covid-19.

To make his website easily usable, Avi turned to a brilliant idea that enables him update information in real time.

“I use something called web scraping,” Avi explains. His website constantly monitors local and national public health bodies in jurisdictions around the world, waiting for them to release updated information. The numbers of sites he has to monitor is vast. China alone has local health authorities for every province. Each time new data is made public, no matter where in the world, ncov2019.live updates itself to reflect these new numbers. The result is an easy to use way to see the numbers of Covid-19 cases around the world at a glance.

Launched in January, it’s already received 250 million visits. “Every 24 hours there are another 25 million visitors.”
For Avi, having up to the minute information is a key goal. “In this day and age it shouldn’t be hard to find the information you want. It should be a basic human right.” With so many people around the world living under lockdown and having anxiety over Covid-19, ncov2019.live has become phenomenally popular globally.

Launched in January, it’s already received 250 million visits. “Every 24 hours there are another 25 million visitors,” Avi notes. People have logged onto his website from every single country in the world, even Greenland. “It’s crazy,” Avi says. About half the users come from the United States and the rest from elsewhere. Israelis have viewed his site ten million times to date.

The site contains no advertisements, even though accepting them could potentially earn Avi huge sums in profit. “I didn’t want to clutter it with stuff,” he says of his website. He also feels that including ads would make the website seem “sell out-ey” as if he was doing it only for money. “It would ruin the user experience; people don’t like advertisements.”

Thousands of people email Avi from around the world each day, and he does his best to read and reply to every single message. Some users have explained how much the website meant to them. One American businessman was trapped in lockdown in Beijing and wrote to Avi to say that ncov2019.live was his only independent source of information about the virus and how grateful he was to be able to read something that wasn’t controlled by the Chinese government.

Some users complained that an earlier version of the website was overly negative because it only listed the number of Covid-19 cases and fatalities from the disease, and said nothing about the very large numbers of people who have recovered. After getting that feedback, Avi started including recovery rates as well. “It makes the website more hopeful,” he feels.

“I’m just a random kid who learned everything by myself."
Avi’s high school stopped classes a couple of weeks ago, and since then he’s been spending virtually all his time on running it and making it better. “I’ve had so many cool opportunities, learning how to run a high traffic website,” he observes. There’s also been a lot of pressure: he doesn’t want his website to experience glitches even for a moment. “Even if it’s nighttime and I’m sleeping, it’s daytime in Africa, and I have thousands of people trying to visit the site."

God willing, the Covid-19 pandemic won’t last forever. Afterwards, Avi hopes to take a gap year to enter coding competitions, then go to college, possibly to study business and computer science. Even though he’s running one of the world’s most popular websites, and is also taking classes in his local community college, Avi characterizes himself as a “terrible student” in high school. “It’s mostly because I spend 100% of my time on other interesting things,” he explains with a laugh.

For now, the entire world is benefiting from Avi’s passion for programming and the website he runs. He hopes that his experience inspires other people to push themselves to reach their potential, too. “I didn’t go to some college class to learn how to make this website,'' he explains. “I’m just a random kid who learned everything by myself. That could be really inspiring to other people around the world who are also dreaming of following their passions and making their mark on the world."
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Post  Admin on Tue 24 Mar 2020, 11:36 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/so/How-Being-a-Hermit-Prepared-Me-for-Corona.html?s=mm
How Being a Hermit Prepared Me for Corona
Mar 22, 2020  |  by Galia Berry
How Being a Hermit Prepared Me for Corona
For 7 years we lived alone on a mountaintop. Then the three boys in Israel were kidnapped.
Ten years ago, I was beset with many personal difficulties. I started to question everything around me, as well as myself. I decided the best remedy was to remove myself from society as I knew it, and run to a mountaintop to clear my head.

Our house in the woods

This decision shocked everyone around me since I had much to be grateful for. I have four wonderful children, all married, who’ve given me the world’s greatest grandchildren. I was physically healthy; I have lovely friends. I’ve been happily married to the same man for more than 40 years – he was supportive of this crazy adventure and joined in with me. I am deeply committed to my faith and keep Torah and mitzvot; I believe strongly in God. Those things never faltered.

I knew that the key to my sanity was in the mountains.
But as someone who felt the most spiritually connected when I communed with nature, and felt disappointed and stifled by the community in which I lived, I knew that the key to my sanity was in the mountains. We bought 5 ½ acres of raw land abutting the White Mountains and started building a house. I figured we’d spend maybe a weekend out of every four in our cabin, but as I became increasingly enamored of our hideaway, I spent more and more time there and less and less time in my hometown.

White Mountains in the fall
After a few months, we made the decision to move there full-time, coming back to our hometown only for Jewish holidays and family celebrations. Our grandchildren visited us in the summer, where we made magical memories together and we taught them various skills – how to kayak, fish, make fire without matches and build a shelter. They saw moose and bears and other wildlife. They learned about the power of God in nature, and they still speak of their time in the White Mountains many years later.

Our grandson with a frog
Our closest neighbor was 1.5 miles away. We were the only Jews in a hamlet of 234 people, many of whom were direct descendants of Revolutionary War heroes. There was no trash pickup; we took our trash to the dump nine miles away every week. Our house was powered by batteries generated by solar electricity, and our home was heated by a wood stove from trees on our property that we chopped, split and stacked, all requiring tremendous physical effort on our part.

The closest supermarket was 45 minutes away, requiring me to plan my menus well in advance. Due to extreme weather conditions, especially in the winter, we managed our food supply very carefully, along with emergency supplies to get us through 3 to 6 months of solitude and blizzards. Although I didn’t embrace the Y2K prepper philosophy per se, our bookshelves were filled with books about survival techniques, supplies, and do-it-yourself manuals. Daily chores were physically demanding and took a lot of time from my day. I loved trying anything new, even dog-sledding. Ironically, despite the isolation, we did have a DSL line so my husband was able to continue working as a computer programmer from our home.

A moose at the pond at the bottom of our driveway

We signed up with Shabbat.com and occasionally hosted guests from all over the world looking for a “unique” kind of Shabbat experience. We hosted singles burned out from dating yet ever hopeful, a Satmar chassid trying to find himself, and Israeli boys on their gap-year tour of the world. Our kitchen was strictly kosher and we used few processed foods. The only time we ventured into the city, 90 minutes away in Portland, Maine, was when my husband had to say kaddish for a yahrzeit at the Chabad of Portland or if I had to go to the mikvah (there were plenty of natural lakes, but the water was just too cold to be practical).

Life was good and I was so grateful. I learned so much about living consciously and conscientiously. But then June, 2014 happened. The three boys, Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, Hy”d, were kidnapped by terrorists. Fifteen days later, their bodies were found. But during those fifteen days, my world changed. I saw how Israelis, no matter what their backgrounds, came together to pray for the welfare of the three boys. Each Israeli looked upon the boys as a son or a brother. Israelis put aside their differences and truly united for a common good. They had each other’s backs.

I wanted a front-row seat, to not only be part of history, but to contribute to it.
And I realized, living alone in our little neck of the woods, that I wanted to be part of that, and more importantly, that as Jews, we are bound together as a klal – a community. I experienced genuine anguish when the news of their murders went public, yet I was experiencing it as though I was outside a sealed gate, from afar, only looking in through a tiny window. And I couldn’t displace the thought that when Mashiach comes, although I would feel elation and joy, it just wouldn’t be with the same intensity of feeling from afar. I wanted a front-row seat, to not only be part of history, but to contribute to it.

Friday fishing for Shabbat
So after living seven years on our mountaintop, we were on the move. This time it was to Israel. I was still a daughter of the mountains – after living amidst nature I knew I could never live in a city again. In Israel there are many agricultural and suburban villages close to nature, where everyone knows everyone and embraces their communities with love and kindness as one giant family. That’s how we ended up in Moreshet, a religious village in the Galilee, where we built a house and from where I hope I never, ever to relocate again.

My years as an incidental prepper have left me in good standing, now that we are in self-quarantine. We made a shopping list of necessary food and emergency supplies, and I was pleased that when I googled “one-month emergency supplies” we were spot-on with every single item chosen. But there is one huge difference. Here in Israel, no one lives for himself. Everyone tries to assist, encourage and share with the other, even people they don’t know.

Quarantines are especially challenging for Israelis since the culture is so touchy-feely. There is always someone to respond and give advice (sometimes, even when you aren’t looking for it). If you run out of something but can’t make it to the pharmacy or supermarket, there is always someone who has your back. We may be in partial isolation due to the quarantine but unlike in our house in the woods, we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
I don’t pretend to understand the pandemic. We've been given a strange gift, but it is a gift and a time of wonder. Although I miss my children and grandchildren, we feel so blessed to be here in Israel, in our front-row seats to Redemption.
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Post  Admin on Mon 23 Mar 2020, 12:52 am

Share this video
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/568927241.html?s=mm


It takes a virus….
In addition to fear and isolation, the coronavirus is also revealing love and unity.
To call and check on my mother every day
To appreciate stocked shelves in the supermarket
To download and learn how to use Zoom
To push my child on a swing in the middle of the day
To assess how I am using my time
To play backgammon with my wife
To feel that regardless of race and religion we are all truly connected
To be home with my family all week
To tackle the worst closet in my house
It takes a virus to…
Check in on a neighbor
To shop for a stranger
To respect and protect the elderly
To reflect on what I need to work on to improve my character
To know in my bones that God really does run the world
To spend more time learning Torah
To reach out to someone I haven’t contacted in a long time
To go for a drive for the drive itself
To finish a book
To cook something I’ve never made before
To take an early morning run for the first time in 25 years
It takes a virus to simplify our complicated lives and show us what is really important.
Are you testing positive?
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Post  Admin on Sun 15 Mar 2020, 11:35 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/s/God-and-the-Coronavirus.html?s=mm
God and the Coronavirus
Mar 15, 2020  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
God and the Coronavirus
What could be the meaning of a virus forcing millions into a “timeout” of quarantine and seclusion?

Coronavirus is now officially a global pandemic. Suddenly we find ourselves smitten by a plague of biblical severity.

Passover asks us to remember the 10 plagues which God sent against the Egyptians. With the help of the Bible we know the purpose behind these afflictions of a people. God had a plan. Egyptian suffering had meaning. What makes our contemporary anguish so particularly unbearable is its seeming incomprehensibility.

In the age of the prophets there would’ve been an effort to discern some divine message in this global tragedy. But today we somehow assume that scientific knowledge precludes the possibility for including God as part of the management of the universe. After all who can argue with Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch who, in the latter half of the 19th century, proved the germ theory of disease – that pathogens too small to see without magnification are the true cause of illness. Germs are the villains and viruses are the sole reasons for the presence of diseases which determine whether we live or die.

And I dare to ask: Doesn’t belief in God demand that we merge the germ theory of disease with the conviction of faith in a supreme being who actually decides where, when and how far viruses spread?

When we are directed by doctors to wash our hands we are required to do so by Torah law.
Please understand exactly what I’m saying. Maimonides long ago made clear that it is our obligation to ensure our good health. We can’t simply rely on God; God has made us his partners in our quest for longevity. Hygiene is a mitzvah; it's an obligation. Taking care of our bodies is a spiritual requirement akin to protecting our souls. When we are directed by doctors to wash our hands we are required to do so by Torah law.

But the ultimate decision of life or death remains, as we make clear every year on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when our fate is sealed, with the Almighty.

That is why I’m amazed that of the countless suggestions for how to counter and to cope with the coronavirus we hear so little of the word God and the possibility that this global pandemic brings with it a profound divine message.

I am obviously no prophet, but here is a thought that I think is worth considering and taking to heart. Every parent knows that one of the most obvious responses to a child’s misbehavior is what is commonly known as a “timeout.” The child is restricted from enjoying pleasurable activities. The child has his normal life disrupted. The child is encouraged to reflect upon his disobedience. Is it too much to consider that as our world continues to sink ever lower in our commitment to virtue that God responded with a virus that has forced millions into a “timeout” of quarantine and seclusion?

The 10 Commandments are the biblical source of the most basic system of ethical and moral behavior. They represent the primary justification for our continued existence on earth. And the commentators took note of a remarkable number. In the original Hebrew, the language in which the commandments were inscribed by God on the two tablets, there are exactly 620 letters.

620 would seem to be a number with no particular theological significance. It would’ve been perfect and readily comprehensible if there were exactly 613 letters in the 10 Commandments. Those are the numbers of mitzvot given to the Jewish people in the Torah. The 10 Commandments are the principles inherent in all of Jewish law. But what is the meaning of 620 letters? The rabbis explained. While the number of mitzvot for Jews is 613, the number seven represents universal law – what is commonly referred to as the seven laws of the descendants of Noah, required as a minimum for all of mankind. And 620 of course is the sum of 613 and seven, the totality of divine guidance for both Jews as well as the rest of the world.

The word corona – as in coronavirus – comes from the Latin word for crown.
The commentary does not end there. 620 is the gematria, the numerical value, of an important Hebrew word, keter, which means crown. A keter – a crown – is placed on top of every Torah scroll. The symbolism is obvious. The crown above the Torah demonstrates the relationship of the 10 Commandments to the rest of the Torah. From the 10 – in number of letters 620 – we have the principles which subsequently found expression in the entirety of the Torah.

The keter – the crown – is the most powerful symbol of our connection with God.

The word corona – as in coronavirus – comes from the Latin word for crown.

Perhaps we need to consider the world’s present affliction not just in the context of a disease caused by pathogens but as a divine message reminding us that we have been given our lives to invest them with meaning and virtue as defined by God's 10 Commandments.
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Mar 2020, 8:14 pm

https://www.aish.com/h/purim/t/ts/Purim-at-Goebbels-Castle.html?s=mm
Purim at Goebbels’ Castle
Mar 4, 2020  |  by Laura F. Deutsch
Purim at Goebbels’ Castle
On March 8, 1945, a group of American soldiers observed Purim in Rheydt, Germany, vanquishing a modern-day Haman.
On March 8, 1945, a group of American soldiers observed Purim in Rheydt, Germany. The actual holiday had taken place the prior week; wartime required flexibility. And this was a Purim none of them would forget.

It was celebrated at Joseph Goebbels' vacation home, Schloss Rheydt, a Renaissance-era palace.
Schloss Rheydt was originally built in 1060 for a noble family. During World War II, the town of Rheydt spent an enormous sum renovating the castle. Swastikas and the letter “G” (for Goebbels) decorated many rooms of the house. A huge painting of Hitler hung over a fireplace. The citizens of Rheydt considered it crucial the castle ooze with luxury and Nazi symbols before they gifted it to the town’s favorite son, Joseph Goebbels.

Goebbels was born in Rheydt in 1897. He joined the Nazi Party in 1924 and became Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda in 1933. He understood that rigidly controlled, false information combined with repetitive lies could shape a country's mindset. Goebbels said, “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” He was one of the most influential men in the Nazi era.

Goebbels was also one of the greatest hypocrites of the Nazi era.
He was an enthusiastic proponent of “Lebensunwertes Leben” or “Life Unworthy of Life” which pushed for killing babies born with disabilities. Yet Goebbels himself was born with a club foot and walked with a limp. He was rejected for military service in World War One because of this infirmity. Had Goebbels been born during the Nazi era, he would have been euthanized.

Goebbels’ propaganda machine promoted the ideal Aryan image – blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin and a tall, athletic build – an image Goebbels himself could never live up to. In addition to his limp, Goebbels had dark hair and eyes and swarthy, pockmarked skin. He was also very short. By his own definition, he was an inferior creature.

His propaganda depicted Jews in the most horrifying ways, pushing the ancient libel that Jews killed Christian children. But it was Goebbels who was the actual murderer of Christian children. Goebbels had one son and five daughters (each of their names began with an “H” in honor of Hitler) and on May 1st, 1945, he and wife murdered them with cyanide before they committed suicide.

Did Goebbels know American soldiers used his holiday villa for Jewish celebrations that March of 1945? What would he have thought of an ark and Torah resting on a swastika-draped table in his dining room, celebrating the triumph of good over evil, vanquishing a modern-day Haman?

Jewish Services at Schloss Reydt from Yank: The Army Weekly.
In Yank: The Army Weekly magazine, Cpl. Howard Katzander wrote that Chaplain Manuel Poliakoff assisted by Pfc. Arnold Reich and Cpl. Martin Willen “raised their voices in an ancient Hebrew hymn of jubilation sung at Purim to celebrate the deliverance of the Jews from an earlier Hitler–Haman of Persia.”

Purim was not the only holiday observed at Schloss Rheydt. Three weeks later, hundreds of American soldiers celebrated Passover in that same dining room. If Goebbels was aware of these celebrations, he must have recognized the irony of Jews praying in his holiday villa.

The war was ending. Evil and hatred were not eradicated, but they were beaten. And at Schloss Rhedyt, a celebration cast a ray of hope in a damaged world.
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Mar 2020, 8:13 pm

Purim: Masks and Revelations
Mar 4, 2020  |  by Yisroel Juskowitz
https://www.aish.com/h/purim/t/har/Purim-Masks-and-Revelations.html?s=mm
Purim: Masks and Revelations
Why do we wear masks on Purim?
On Purim we dress up with masks and costumes. This seemingly superficial custom is laden with deeper meaning. On Purim we remember that in the world, nothing is as it seems. The real world lies beneath all the superficiality. In fact, the words Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther, also means to reveal (megaleh in Hebrew) the hidden (haster). The Purim story peels back the mask and reveals that which is hidden.

Many of the main characters in the Esther story wear masks, not identifying who they really are or what their true motives are. Haman pretends to have the only the king’s best interests in mind when he advises the king to annihilate the Jewish People, pretending that the Jews are a threat to his kingdom since they follow their own laws and customs, and not those of the rest of Persia. In reality, he sought to destroy the Jews for his own evil genocidal wishes, as he was the descendant of Amalek, the ancient biblical tribe that was best on the destruction of the Jewish People.

Mordechai never reveals that he is a relative and friend of Esther’s; he pretends to be a simple person who happened to save the King’s life. It is Esther who reveals it to the king at the end that Mordechai is her dear relative.

And of course, Esther herself wears a mask; she pretends to be a gentile queen, never revealing her Jewish identity, until the very end of the Purim story.

And the Master of the Universe Himself wears a mask throughout the story. God’s name is never mentioned in the Megillah. In fact, the entire Purim story seems to come about completely through natural occurrences; there are no open miracles in the story.

The Talmud alludes to this idea as well. The Talmud asks “Where do we find a hint to Esther from the Torah? From the verse “Anochi Aster, haster mipani” which means “Behold I will hide My Face from you.” The name Esther comes from the Hebrew Aster, hidden. Indeed, God is hidden throughout the story and it is up to us to see His Hand.

This is the beautiful irony: Haman is trying to deny the Hand of God in everything, and right in this same story, God is showing that He in fact is orchestrating the whole story! When we read Megillat Esther, we are “revealing that which is hidden”, revealing God's guiding hand even in natural occurrences.

Purim shows us that the entire world is a mask. The real world remains underneath the surface. In life so often we wear masks, afraid to show our true spiritual selves. So on Purim we purposely wear the mask to expose it for what it truly is – nothing more than a façade. And we drink to the point of openly showing our inner spiritual joy. We read the Megillah story and see the secret Hidden Hand of God revealed once and for all.

The Talmud compares our exile to "night” and the Purim story to “dawn.” For when dawn comes, all is revealed, and what once appeared to be dark is now bathed in shimmering sunlight. Let us all remember this beautiful message of Purim, and indeed reveal the inner beauty within, and appreciate God’s Hand in all that we see and do.
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Mar 2020, 8:10 pm

Why Harry S. Truman Recognized the State of Israel
Mar 4, 2020
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Why Harry S. Truman Recognized the State of Israel
Like Eddie Jacobson, God is calling on each of us, saying there is something only we can do.
Our Sages asked a strange question in the Talmud: “Where do we find a hint in the Torah to the Book of Esther?” The Talmud (Chullin 39b) answers with the words, v’anochi haster astir panai, “I will hide my face on that day.” God's most fearful warning had always been that there would come a time when there would be hester panim, the concealed face of God, when it would look as if, God forbid, He has stopped communicating with us.
That is how the Sages found a hint of Esther. We know that Esther is one of the only two books in Tanach which don’t contain the name of God, the other one being The Song of Songs. But where The Song of Songs is a book about God's love for us, Esther is a fearful book because it records the moment when it was resolved “to destroy, to slay, and to exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women, in a single day,” when the first warrant for genocide against the Jewish people was issued.

Purim is the only festival in the Jewish year set entirely in Exile. Every other festival is either based on an event that happened in Israel or on the journey toward Israel. Purim alone is set in the place of hester panim, when we are out of Israel and where it is harder to feel the presence of God.

Yet there is one line in the Megillat Esther that cuts through me like a knife and represents the most powerful statement in Judaism I know that God has not abandoned us.

Wherever we are, God is asking us to realize why He put us here, with these gifts, at this time, with these dangers, in this place.
Towards the end of the fourth chapter, we find Esther telling her uncle Mordechai about all the problems there might be in interceding with King Achashverosh regarding the fate of the Jewish people. Mordechai listens and then responds to her with the famous words, “If you are silent and you do nothing at this time somebody else will save the Jewish people. But who knows, was it not for just this moment that you became a Queen, with access to King Achashverosh in the royal palace?”

This, for me, is the ultimate statement of hashgacha pratit, Divine providence, that wherever we are, God is asking us to realize why He put us here, with these gifts, at this time, with these dangers, in this place. Hashgacha pratit is our fundamental belief that God never abandons us, that He puts us here with something to do. Even in the worst hiding of God, if you listen hard enough, you can hear Him calling to us as individuals, saying “Was is not for this very challenge that you are here in this place at this time?”

That is the essence of the first word of the third book of Torah – Vayikra, "And God called". When you look in a Torah you will notice the word is written with a very small Aleph at the end. Commenting on this, Rashi draws a distinction between the phrases Vayikra el Moshe, “And He [God] called to Moses” and Vayikar el Bilam “And He [God] appeared to Bilam”. The Hebrew language, says Rashi, has two words that sound the same, but are in fact completely different, even opposite, mikra and mikreh. Mikreh is used to describe something that happens accidentally, that involves no Divine providence. Mikra, on the other hand, is used to describe a calling from God, specific to you with a particular task involved.

Why, then, is the Aleph – a letter which makes no sound – written small? To teach us that sometimes it can be very hard to hear God's call. It might even be a silent call. In Hebrew, this is a known as kol demama daka, a voice you can only hear if you are listening. Even in the worst times of darkness, God is always calling on us to do something.

One of my great heroes was a man called Victor Frankl. He was a psychotherapist actually working with university students in Vienna and was taken to Auschwitz during the Second World War. There never was in all history greater time of God being hidden than in the Holocaust. Yet Victor Frankl was a man of faith, and he knew God was calling on him to do something even there, even at the gates of Hell itself.

Frankl asked himself, what does God want of me, a psychotherapist, in the middle of Auschwitz?
He asked himself, what does God want of me, a psychotherapist, in the middle of Auschwitz? He came to the answer, God wants me to give my fellow prisoners, my fellow Jews, a will to live, because only if they have that will, will they have the strength to survive. So he went around to each prisoner that he thought was about to fall into despair, and gave them a role in life, one they had yet to fulfil. This sense of renewed purpose helped force these men, women and children to stay alive, survive Auschwitz, be liberated and then go and do their calling. That is what Victor Frankl heard, even in Auschwitz, a Vayikra, a call, with a tiny Aleph.

Eddie Jacobson and Harry S. Truman
There is another story of a man named Eddie Jacobson. Eddie was an ordinary Jewish guy from the Lower East Side of New York. When Eddie was a child, his parents moved to Kansas City and there he met a child his own age. Soon they became close school friends, did military service together during the First World War, and decided that when the war was over they would go into business together. They set up a clothing store in Kansas City, but the business was not a great success and soon they drifted apart. Eddie Jacobson went on being a travelling salesman selling clothes. His friend, Harry S. Truman, took a slightly different route and landed up as president of the United States.

The State Department advised the president not to support the creation of the state of Israel. But one man got through to him.
In 1947-48, the Jews of the world needed the support of the United States of America for the state of Israel to be proclaimed and recognized. The State Department was against it and advised the president not to support the creation of the state of Israel. Jews and Jewish organizations tried their utmost to see the president in the White House, and every single attempt was refused. Even the leader of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann, the man who would become the first president of the State of Israel, was refused a meeting.

As time became desperate, somebody remembered that Harry S. Truman had a childhood friend called Eddie Jacobson. So they reached out to Eddie and asked if he could get the president of the United States to meet with Chaim Weizmann. Eddie phoned up President Truman and said he had to come and see him. Truman’s officials tried to block the meeting, but Truman said, “This is my old friend, Eddie, from school, Eddie, from the Army, Eddie, from our shop together! How can I not see this man?”

When Eddie arrived at the White House, Truman said, “Eddie, you can talk to me about anything, except Israel.”

“Okay”, said Eddie and he stood in the Oval Office, in front of the president of the United States, and began to cry.

“Eddie, why are you crying?” asked the president.

Eddie pointed to a marble statue in the room and said. “Who is that, Harry?”

“That’s my hero, Andrew Jackson,” Truman replied.

“You really admire this man?” asked Eddie.

“Yes.”

“And he had an influence over you?”

“Yes” said Truman.
Then, said Eddie, “I have a hero. His name is Chaim Weizmann. Harry, for my sake, see this man.”
Harry looked at Eddie and he knew that he couldn’t say no to his old friend. That is how Chaim Weizmann got to see president Harry S. Truman, and that is how America voted in favor of the creation of the State of Israel. If they had not voted, Israel would not have been brought into being. What’s more, Harry S. Truman made the United States the first country in the world to recognize this State when David Ben Gurion pronounced it.

I don’t know how God writes the script of history, but if it can happen to Eddie Jacobson it can happen to any one of us. "Who knows, was it not for just this moment that you became a Queen, with access to the royal palace?” God is calling on each of us, saying there is a reason why we are here, because He has something for us to do, something that only we can do.

We can hear God's voice even when He appears hidden, even when the call, Vayikra, is written with a very small Aleph that you can hardly see and hardly hear.

Did Esther know that one day, the entire future of the Jewish people will rest with her?
We never know when an act of ours will have consequences. Did Esther, growing up with Mordechai, know that one day, the entire future of the Jewish people will rest with her? You never know what significance one friendship or one little moment might have for you and for somebody else that might just change the world.

We must always ask ourselves, what does God want of me in this place, at this time? Because there is always something God wants of us, and we don’t have to be anyone special to have a sacred task. We can just be a Jewish woman called Esther, or a Jewish man called Eddie, and yet, somehow or another, our acts might have consequences that we cannot even begin to imagine. Even though you may feel sometimes that this is a world and an age in which there is hester panim, where you look for God and you can’t find him, He is still saying to us “Was it not for this moment that I placed you here on Earth?”

When God calls, may each of us have the courage to say to "Hineini, here I am, God, tell me what to do and I will do it." May we go out into the world, walking tall as Jews, walking unafraid as Jews, and may we be true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith. May we hear the call of God and answer it. May we all bring blessing to the world.
https://www.aish.com/h/purim/t/ts/Why-Harry-S-Truman-Recognized-the-State-of-Israel.html?s=mm
Chag Purim Sameach!
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Post  Admin on Sat 07 Mar 2020, 6:30 pm

Continued from previous post.
https://jewsforjesus.org/jewish-resources/community/jewish-holidays/purim
Purim Quick Facts
Meaning of Hebrew Name: “Lots” (as in “casting lots” – not as in “lots of something”)
English Name: Purim
Western Calendar Month: February/March
Jewish Calendar Date: Adar 14
Establishment of Purim: Fifth century BC; Esther 9:20–22
Purpose of Purim
The scene: a king tossing and turning for fear that his lovely queen is conspiring against him with his chief advisor. A queen so worried over the king’s plan to put to death her people that she barges into his inner chamber unannounced, looking lovelier than ever. Two advisors to the king are getting ready for a showdown – the town (Persia) is only big enough for the one of them. Haman, hell-bent on the destruction of the Jews, is besmeared with waste matter and wincing in pain by the end of this battle. Mordecai, his Jewish enemy, is clad in purple robes, majestically seated atop the royal horse, freshly bathed and coiffed by Haman himself. The difference could hardly be more pronounced.

If the scene sounds only half-familiar, that’s because it is. Although Megillat Esther (“the Scroll of Esther”) lines up with the basics of the plot described above, the colorful embroideries came later; they were added in the tractate Megillah of the Talmud and in other commentaries.

Jewish literature contains a wealth of such embellishments. Why? More than any other story in Jewish history (except, perhaps, for Passover and Hanukkah), the story of Esther inspires further storytelling and bears repeating. The great Jewish traditions of storytelling and humor come to the fore on Purim, the feast day commemorating Esther’s and Mordecai’s defeat of Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jews of ancient Persia. The great commandment on Purim is that we “proclaim the miracle” by reading Megillat Esther, banqueting together, sending gifts, and giving portions to the poor. The revelry takes other forms too, from dressing up in wild costumes to watching the Purimspiel (Purim play), which brings the story of Esther to life.

Origin of Purim
Megillat Esther starts with the unlikely fate of a Jewish girl living in the Persian Empire.[1] King Ahasuerus (Xerxes[2]) takes Esther, the cousin of the Jewish advisor Mordecai, to be his new queen after deposing Queen Vashti. On Mordecai’s advice, Esther hides her Jewish ancestry from Xerxes until the wicked counselor Haman hatches a plot against the life of the Jews, obliging her to speak out for her people.

The most famous lines of the story come when Mordecai persuades Esther to go to the king unannounced, a capital offense:

Then Mordecai told them [the messengers] to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:13–16)

By their wit and wile – though behind the scenes orchestrated by God – Esther and Mordecai foiled Haman’s plot. Following Haman’s execution and the deliverance of the Jews, Esther and Mordecai established a feast for future generations to celebrate their people’s survival for “their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration” (Esther 9:22).

And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews… obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies… that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor. (Esther 9:20–22)

Thus Purim was born. Purim is so called because Haman cast lots (purim) to determine the most propitious date for implementing his planned genocide, but the verses about the casting of lots are brief and vague. We read in Esther 3:7: “They cast Pur (that is, they cast lots).” The medieval rabbi Rashi comments: “Whoever cast it, cast it, and the verse does not specify who. This is an elliptical verse.” He interprets the phrase that follows – “that is, the lot” – this way: “Scripture explains: and what is the pur? That is the lot. He cast lots [to determine] in which month he would succeed.”[3] Because of Esther’s faithfulness in relying on God’s guidance and her courage to speak to the king on behalf of her people, Haman was foiled, the day of his dreamed-of success of annihilation of the Jewish people became the day of the Jews’ deliverance from death to life – Purim.

How Purim is Observed
The Purim Feast:
The Purim feast is a time of conviviality and merrymaking. It must take place on the day of Purim, not on the evening before (Megillah 7b) on account of the mandated “days of feasting and gladness” (Esther 9:20–22). The rabbis explain: “[We read in connection with Purim] gladness and feasting and a good day; ‘gladness’: this teaches that it is forbidden on these days to mourn; ‘feasting’: this teaches that it is forbidden on them to fast; ‘a good day’: this teaches that it is forbidden on them to do work” (Megillah 5b). Fasting, mourning, and work are all swept aside on this day of celebration and revelry.[4]

Proclaiming the Miracle:
Most important of all, however is not eating and drinking but reading Megillat Esther and thereby “proclaiming the miracle.” This most commonly takes place in synagogue, where the Scroll of Esther (an individual scroll, usually without being combined with any other portion of Scripture[5]) is read aloud in a raucous, buzzing atmosphere. Congregants cheer and laugh or stamp their feet and shout and boo whenever the name “Haman” is mentioned. (This is done on the basis of Exodus 17:14, where God tells us to “blot out the memory of Amalek,” and so of his descendant Haman.)

Despite the apparent chaos of the Megillah reading, the Mishnah and the Talmud set down elaborate rules for the proper proclamation of the miracle. We must read the Megillah from beginning to end (some rabbis disagree about where to start); we mustn’t take long breaks; we mustn’t read it backwards… even the parchment and ink of the scroll must be up to snuff!

In light of these various rules, some so obvious as to go without saying, it behooves us to remember the spirit of “proclaiming the miracle.” One rabbi comments: “When the text says, thou shalt not forget, the injunction against mental forgetfulness is already given. What then am I to make of ‘remember’? This must mean, by utterance [lit. “with the mouth”]. Proclaim the miracle” (Megillah 18a). It is not enough not to forget; remembrance goes a step further: we must fasten our minds on the history and tell it out loud. Only then do we pay God sufficient homage for rescuing His people from the clutches of Haman.

Sending Food and Giving to the Poor:
The famous Jewish commentator Maimonides placed the book of Esther on an equal footing with the Torah, as one of the imperishable books of the Hebrew Bible. His love of Purim was in no way exclusionary – rather, he stressed that all Jews should be able to take part. We see in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah his concern that all members of the community, rich and poor, do their bit in celebrating Purim:

Similarly, a person is obligated to send two portions of meat, two other cooked dishes, or two other foods to a friend, as implied by Esther 9:22, ‘sending portions of food one to another’…. Whoever sends portions to many friends is praiseworthy. If one does not have the means to send presents of food to a friend, one should exchange one’s meal with him.[6]

On Purim, Jews greet one another by sending portions of food, often in the form of gift baskets full of sweets and nuts and fruits, called mishloach manot in Hebrew or shalach manos in Yiddish. In this manner, the feast of Purim spills out of the home into the community at large. No delicacies or lavish spending necessary – two poor friends can just trade food and thus “send portions,” a way for the less fortunate to fulfill the commandment. Maimonides adds that one must give alms on Purim to those who don’t even have enough to eat for themselves.

One is obligated to distribute charity to the poor on the day of Purim. At the very least, to give each of two poor people one present, be it money, cooked dishes, or other foods…. We should not be discriminating in selecting the recipients of these Purim gifts. Instead, one should give to whomever [sic] stretches out his hand.

It is preferable for a person to be more liberal with his donations to the poor than to be lavish in his preparation of the Purim feast or in sending portions to his friends. For there is no greater and more splendid happiness than to gladden the hearts of the poor, the orphans, the widows, and the converts.[7]

Giving alms far outweighs the preparation of a lavish feast or gratuitous consumption. Feeding the hungry and helping the poor in their distress is a commandment that must be carried out at all times; even on a day of carefree revelry, we must remember the fatherless and widows in their affliction.

Special Synagogue Readings for Purim
Torah Portion: Exodus 17:8–16 (the Israelites defeat the Amalekites, from which tribe Haman is descended).

No haftarah portion, as the central non-Pentateuchal reading of Purim is, of course, Megillat Esther.

Purim Folklore
Purim, like most biblical Jewish holidays, is not what it was in ancient times; rather, the encrustations of centuries of tradition and interpretation have lent the holiday an evolving character all its own. Many of these traditions derive from the Talmud, the chief Jewish interpretive work of the post-exilic period.

All kinds of embellishments were made to the story of Esther in the Talmud, including angelic interventions and even scatological details. Esther gets a divine makeover from angels to please Ahasuerus: “R. Joshua b. Korha said: Esther was sallow, but a thread of grace was drawn about her” (Megillah 13a). Haman was a former “slave sold for loaves of bread,” bought by Mordecai during one of the wars of the Jews against the Amalekites (Megillah 15b). When Haman led Mordecai before Ahasuerus, he had to give him a haircut because Esther closed all the bathhouses, and Mordecai wouldn’t come into Ahasuerus’ presence untrimmed. When mounting his horse, Mordecai asked Haman for help and kicked him on his way up. Haman’s daughter, seeing Haman leading the horse, mistook him for Mordecai and dumped a chamberpot on him; realizing her mistake, she fell off a roof for shame.[8] All of these myths lighten the story and infuse Purim with a dose of hilarity.

Purim Customs
According to one rabbi, “It is the duty of a man to mellow himself [with wine] on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordecai’” (Megillah 7b). So “mellow” did the Jews become on Purim that the rabbis tell a cautionary tale about drinking to excess: “Rabbah and R. Zera joined together in a Purim feast. They became mellow [i.e., drunk], and Rabbah arose and cut R. Zera’s throat. On the next day he prayed on his behalf and revived him. Next year he said, Will your honour come and we will have the Purim feast together. He replied: A miracle does not take place on every occasion” (Megillah 7b).

Not only abundant drink, but also abundant food sets Purim apart. Of Purim’s delicacies, kreplach (tri-cornered dumplings filled with meat) and hamantaschen (tri-cornered cookies with a fruit filling) take the cake (pun intended). These beloved foods may represent any number of things: the shape of the lots; Haman’s triangular ears; a dunce-ish hat Haman wore (an invention of the Purimspiel), which we gobble down in revenge; or even God, hidden inside the events of Esther!

Dressing up has also become part and parcel of Purim celebrations, originating with the Italian carnivalesque attire Jews wore during Purim in the Renaissance. Why do we dress up? Perhaps because God “disguised” Himself in the book of Esther, never being named but pulling the strings all along. Perhaps because Haman changed costumes so often, going from a slave to a chief advisor to a hanged man. Dressing up also reminds us of Mordecai’s many “costume changes” in the book of Esther – from regular courtly dress, to ashes and sackcloth, to a royal purple tunic. By gussying ourselves up in over-the-top costumes, we act out the fast-changing fortunes of the Jews and of Haman in the Book of Esther.

Purimspiel, or the Purim play, which originated in Eastern Europe and has spread worldwide, makes light of the story. Performers and audiences alike clad in over-the-top costumes draw on the rich storehouse of details mentioned in Jewish literature for humor and color. During Purim plays and throughout Purim, we practice various cruelties on Haman. In olden times, Jews would burn effigies of him, though attacks from Christians led to the adoption of a substitute practice: beating objects with the name of Haman written on them. Noisemaking, a longstanding feature of folk cultures, is meant to drive away evil spirits like Haman’s. Many Jews even go so far as to write Haman’s name on the soles of their feet so they can “stomp on him” during Purim. In brief, a rich tapestry of traditions from around the world makes Purim the brightest and most colorful of Jewish holidays.

Spiritual Application of Purim
Some Purim traditions stray from biblical ideals: drunkenness and stomping on one’s enemies, for example. Yet when we return to the contents of the book itself, Purim invites reflection on God. For far too long, Esther has been wrongly viewed as an unspiritual, even unsavory, book of the Bible. Martin Luther infamously complained: “I am so hostile to this book [2 Maccabees] and to Esther that I could wish that they did not exist at all; for they judaize too greatly and have much pagan impropriety.”[9] In contrast, the rabbis of the Talmud so esteemed the book of Esther that they ferreted out sometimes fanciful references to it in other parts of the Hebrew Bible. For example, the Talmud traces Psalm 22 and its famous words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and “Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog,” to Esther in her distress, even though David wrote the psalm.

Aside from disparaging its content, some have leveled accusations against the book’s authenticity, claiming that Megillat Esther is nothing more than a myth or tall tale. These attacks on the veracity of Esther have subsided in recent years, as scholars once more reassert the overall legitimacy and historicity of the story (something Jews traditionally never had reason to doubt).

Others have criticized Purim on different grounds, attributing to it an overweening sense of national pride and wiliness. These claims rest on the bogus belief that when Esther and Mordecai outwitted the genocidal Haman, they portrayed cunning and guile rather than bravery. Unfortunately, many objections to the story of Esther and the celebration of Purim have often been bound up with anti-Semitic sentiment. Indeed, many churches avoid the book of Esther altogether, sometimes venturing the lame excuse that the word “God” does not appear in the book of Esther and so it must be of no religious significance.

Above all, many find in Megillat Esther an indication that the events of history are orchestrated behind the scenes for good by the one character not named in the book: God Himself. Though unmentioned, many see Him as front and center – in the events of Esther’s and Mordecai’s time, and in the preservation of the Jewish people throughout history. We are reminded in the book of Esther that God orchestrates the details of our lives even when we cannot see His hand.  Like Job, we can say: “I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:8–10). And perhaps, like Esther, we have been purposely placed in unusual circumstances (for such a time as this) to be a light of His love to others.
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Post  Admin on Fri 06 Mar 2020, 11:41 pm

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https://www.aish.com/h/purim/t/dt/The-Seventh-of-Adar-Haman-and-the-Death-of-Moses.html?s=mm
The Seventh of Adar: Haman and the Death of Moses
Mar 2, 2020  |  by Rabbi Doniel Baron
The Seventh of Adar: Haman and the Death of Moses
A deep analysis into the connection between Purim, Moses and the Oral Law.

Haman will forever be remembered as the first person in history who would plot to kill all of the Jews - men, women and children, from young to old.

In the month of Nissan, Haman cast “purim,” lots, as part of his effort to choose the most auspicious time to carry out the mission. The lottery pointed to a date in the month of Adar, a full eleven months later. Rather than being disappointed over the delay, our rabbis tell us that Haman was overjoyed. His lottery fell in the very month in which Moses, the great leader of the Jewish people, had died. Moses died on the seventh of Adar. Haman saw this as a sign that he would succeed.

Birth Negating Death
But Haman was oblivious to one very relevant fact: Moses hadn’t only died on the seventh of Adar; it was also the day of his birth. Our rabbis explain that Moses' birth was sufficient to atone and counteract for his death. 1

#Moses hadn’t only died on the seventh of Adar; it was also the day of his birth. What is the significance of this?

At first glance, the focus on Moses is difficult to understand. Why would the month of his death matter to Haman? Further, it appears that there was truth to Haman’s premonition. The month of Moses' death should have been a bad time for the Jewish people. And most puzzling, how does Moses' birth in Adar counter his death in Adar? One would logically expect the opposite to be true. Doesn’t death conclude the life that the birth brought on?
 
There is clearly a deeper meaning to the significance of Moses' birth and death in Adar. A closer look leads us to an explanation that does far more than explain a cryptic comment of the rabbis. It reveals a key principle that remains as true today as it did in Persia some 2,500 years ago.

The Meaning of Moses
Moses was far more than a charismatic leader who led the Jewish people from servitude to freedom. We received the Torah through Moses to the point that it is even called Toras Moshe – the Torah of Moses.

Moses embodied all of the Jewish people. The Medrash relates that Rebbi Yehuda Hanasi, the sage who compiled the Mishna, once delivered a lecture during which the students began to doze. To wake them up, he challenged them with an opaque statement: There was a single woman in Egypt who had 600,000 children in a single birth. And who was she? Yocheved, Moses' mother. 2 The number 600,000 is associated with the number of the entire Jewish nation and Moses was that child – the person who included every Jew. Indeed, after the sin of the golden calf, God proposed to rebuild the entire nation from Moses who included everyone.

Moses represents our link to God's revelation at Sinai. Then, we stood as a unified nation like a single person with one heart.

Attacking When We Are Vulnerable
Haman knew this well. He understood how our national unity and strength was linked to our bond with the Torah of Moses. Haman was a descendant of Amalek, the first nation to ever wage war against the Jews. They attacked us in the desert after we left Egypt with the goal of weakening our link to Torah. The battle took in Refidim and our rabbis reveal that the name of the place alludes to rafu yedeihem min haTorah, the Jewish people’s softening their grip on Torah.

#Haman understood that we are vulnerable when we lose our connection to Moses and our unified bond to the Torah.

Haman understood that we are vulnerable when we lose our connection to Moses and our unified bond to the Torah. The calculated formulation of Haman’s successful petition to Achashveirosh for permission to annihilate us shows just how well he appreciated this.

Our rabbis reveal the subtle implications in Haman’s accusatory words. Haman suggested that we were a scattered and divided nation, having lost the unified state of a nation which was like one person of a single heart that we had attained at Sinai. He suggested that we had fallen asleep in that we no longer performed the statues of the King – i.e. the King of Kings.

Haman’s efforts succeeded and he received permission to kill us. That decree attests to the fact that there was painful truth in Haman’s words.

A Dark Point in Our History
The historical context of the story of Purim is no coincidence and Haman was acutely aware of it. The nation that Haman had sought to kill had been freshly exiled and scattered across the civilized world. Mordechai himself was among those cast out from Jerusalem. We lost our kingdom and our sovereignty and we found ourselves as unwanted guests in a strange land.

While this eventually became our default state over the centuries that followed, at that time the notion of exile was very new to us. As a nation, we did not know what would happen next. Could it be that our bond with God had ended? Indeed, at the advent of exile, Jewish elders challenged the prophet Yechezkel with this very question. “When a master casts out his servant, when a man divorces his wife, do they still have any obligation to one another?”

#The bond between God and the Jewish people is unbreakable – no matter what happens.

Yechezkel’s answer was unequivocal: the bond between God and the Jewish people is unbreakable – no matter what happens. But we hadn’t yet experienced just how it would work in the dark context of exile. How would be saved?

Forging a New Bond
Herein lies the secret of Moses' birth and death – a secret which Haman did not know. We had indeed lost one level of connection to the unbroken chain that linked us to Mount Sinai. But something else – a phenomenon far more subtle – became part of our national identity. To appreciate it, it is helpful for us to focus on a particular incident in the aftermath of Moses' death.

The Talmud teaches that during the mourning period following Moses' death, some 1,700 laws that Moses had taught were immediately forgotten. But all was not lost. An individual named Osniel ben Kenaz was able to restore them by deriving each law through his meticulous analysis of what was known. 3

This story reveals far more than a historical detail about the aftermath of Moses' passing. It is a paradigm for Jewish history and the different means through which we relate to Moses' Torah.

While Moses lived, Torah was accessible directly through him. The clarity of his level of prophecy was unmatched by any Jewish prophet. Moses could resolve every ambiguity and answer every question. When Moses died, although prophecy would continue to exist for hundreds of years, Moses' singular clarity was lost. On account of that loss, there arose a need for us to delve within ourselves, to ponder all the things we could remember, in our effort to understand Torah.

While at first it appeared that the forgotten laws would be lost forever, we soon learned that we could still access Moses' Torah – albeit through a new means. Rather than relying solely on prophetic revelation, we understood that Torah study would require introspection and effort that would enable us to arrive at Torah by looking deeper into our own understanding. It was a new and more subtle way through which we would connect to Torah.

Our discovery of this new connection was born only through Moses' death.

Although none of our prophets ever reached Moses' level, in the years that followed, prophecy remained in the world and it was still possible for us to connect to Torah through some level of Divine revelation. The destruction of the first Temple, however, marked the sunset of the prophetic era.

Once we went into exile authority over Jewish law passed to a body of rabbis known as the Anshei Knesses HaGedola, the Men of the Great Assembly, in which Mordechai was a member. While the Anshei Knesses HaGedola included several prophets among its original numbers, they would all die out at the beginning of the second Temple and the basis of Torah scholarship had moved toward intellectual analysis and looking deep into ourselves as a means to connect to Torah. Torah moved to the more subtle realm that Osniel ben Kenaz had begun; it was still very much with us but required closer analysis and deeper thought to notice its patterns.

The story of Purim took place exactly at the crossroads of this transformation in Torah. In confronting Yechezekel, the elders essential asked whether we were still bound during an era when our direct connection to the Torah Moses revealed to us at Sinai was lost and the Temple which represented the unbroken transmission lay in ruins. Their challenge essentially asserted that we nationally experienced Moses' death and they questioned the future relationship to Torah.

Yechezkel’s unequivocal answer revealed that we were still bound. One thing, however, had changed. In exile, we would need to connect to Torah through a different means rather than through one which abounded with prophecy and the open miracles that characterized the second Temple.

The incredible key to understanding the new and subtle connection lies in Moses' death. Then, we discovered that although Moses was no longer with us in the physical sense, his Torah remained very much alive with us. We discovered that, like Osniel ben Kenaz, we needed to look deeper into ourselves and what we know and that when we do, we can rediscover everything.

We realized that our bond with God had never been broken. Instead, it simply manifested in a different way.

Born Again
Herein lies the incredible secret in how Moses' birth “atoned for his death.” In a sense, Moses never died. In fact, what at first appeared to us as Moses' death turned out to be Moses' rebirth. It was specifically following, and because of, Moses' death that we discovered a deeper connection to Torah. It would later manifest in form that continues until this day: Torah Shebaal Peh, the Oral Law. Torah Shebaal Peh also emanates from revelation at Sinai. However, in lieu of continued prophetic revelation, it develops through the hearts and minds of the Jewish people.

On some level, Moses is never dead to us; his Torah lives on through our toil in the Oral Law.
The Torah tells us that no human would ever know the location of Moses' grave. This is more than a prediction of what archaeologists would discover at some future point. It reveals that on some level, Moses is never dead to us; his Torah lives on through our toil in the Oral Law.

The fantastic message of our rabbis is now clear. The birth that atoned for Moses' death was Moses' death itself. While in the natural world, death is the ultimate reversal of birth, in Moses' case the opposite was true. Through his death, Moses and all he represents was reborn. It brought out the full force of the Oral Law, giving the Jewish people a clear avenue to access the same truth.

What Haman Didn’t Know
Haman appreciated that after the Temple was destroyed the Jewish people had entered into a dark era. It was a national state akin to Moses' death and when his lots fell on the Adar, the month of Moses' death, Haman saw that as a sign that his view was confirmed.

What Haman did not know was that Moses' death itself brought about the birth of a new era in Torah and Jewish history. In fact, the very threat of genocide through Haman’s decree fostered a new national birth. In their interpretation of the Book of Esther, our rabbis emphasize how on Purim, we reaccepted Torah in a different way. In so doing, we affirmed our everlasting bond with God, regardless of whether or not we were are on land or whether we experience revealed miracles.

Moses' death spawned a new birth in Torah during which we discovered a new way to maintain our connection with revelation at Sinai. In the same way, the looming prospect of our own death on Purim incredibly brought about our own rebirth. When we were saved, we realized that even though the Temple had been destroyed, we could still maintain our bond with Torah. It was then that we reaccepted Torah and from the depth of exile were reborn into a new dimension of national existence.

Haman saw only Moses' death; he was blind to our national rebirth, one that he himself helped bring about.
Haman saw only Moses' death; he perceived only the end of a golden era in our history. He was blind to our national rebirth, one that Haman himself helped bring about.

A closer look reveals that this idea lies at the root of our salvation on Purim. No plagues descended upon our enemies, no sea split, and no obvious miracles made the Persian headlines. Instead, something more fantastic happened: God saved us through a series seemingly unrelated events, political developments, rises and falls from power, and “coincidences” that transpired over a period of several years. While a superficial review of the story shows only natural events and human action, a contemplation of the facts on an inner level – from the very type of perspective that enables us to access the Oral Law – makes it clear that it was all a miracle. And we didn’t just embrace the miracle. We realized that while one era of our history had ended, another had just begun.

This new perspective remains with us through the present day. We haven’t yet witnessed the return of revealed miracles or prophecy. And while the guise of our enemies shifts frequently, we still find ourselves under constant threat. We need to appreciate nonetheless that the story of our survival is always miraculous. The Torah of Moses' rebirth lasts forever and against all odds, in yeshivas, classrooms, and households across the globe, we continue to flourish and reveal new depths in our eternal law.
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Post  Admin on Mon 02 Mar 2020, 12:32 am

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Vengeance-is-Mine.html?s=mm
Vengeance is Mine
Feb 29, 2020  |  by Rabbi Dr. David Fox
25
SHARES
Vengeance is Mine
The Allied Forces gave the Jewish boys in Prague a gift: baseball bats and a group of captured Nazis.

Each year Rabbi Gershon Weiss held a festive gathering, a meal of thanksgiving, to commemorate when the war had ended for him and his family. A teen when the Germans took over much of Europe, he had been interned in the Prague ghetto along with his parents. Life had gone from hard to tenuous, from hunger to starvation and the curfews, the arrests, the beatings and the murders were escalating with venom and terror. Surviving was a challenge, each day bringing new threats.

The Jewish youth did their best to survive, often facing peril and grave risk to scavenge for food, to smuggle messages and to evade the homicidal scrutiny of the German enemy while also encountering the betrayal of locals who had once been friends, associates, customers, employees and neighbors. The streets were blocked off, filthy and scary to anyone who ventured out. Young boys underwent rites of passage unlike those of today’s adolescents. There was no fun. No toys, no games. There was no warm security or comfort. There was no safety in numbers because, to the contrary, assembling in groups meant certain detection and swift retaliatory action.

There were, however, moments when their religious pride flowed into hope, and their spirit felt stoked, if not renewed and validated. An aktion was planned, aiming at the fabled synagogue of the Maharal of Prague. The tanks launched explosive shells at its graying walls and the one direct hit failed to detonate, ricocheting instead onto an unintended target beyond the Jewish quarter. Moments like that were not unnoticed by the collection of furtive Jewish teens who kept watch on their embattled streets and homes. And there they stayed, and many survived, a hybrid of young Torah scholars, of non-religious Jews, of those who had sought to assimilate, those who had been wealthy and upwardly mobile, those who were destitute and unschooled.

They formed as firm a pact as they could, dedicated to staying alive and fending, however meagerly, for parents and siblings who hid indoors. They seldom thought about the future, focused instead on today and a possible tomorrow.

When Allied forces rolled in, breaching the Nazi defenses, the war against Jewish Prague rolled to a halt. Victorious conquering troops entered the ghetto, assuring all that they were now safe and free. Slowly, the emaciated and terrified survivors came forth, accepting offers of food, of clothing, of heat and fuel, of liberation. They looked for their friends and loved ones, mourning those confirmed lost, trying to rejoice in their salvation after seasons of woe and despair.


 
One morning, an Allied officer and his platoon approached the young Jewish men. The soldiers wanted to give them a present. The boys were asked to ride with the soldiers in their jeeps and they came to the city limits, on the outskirts of town. They were escorted to a large building, a warehouse. The officer approached the youngsters, hardened as they were from stark diets and the steel nerves which come from long intervals of being on constant alert.

He handed them baseball bats. No mitts, no ball, just solid wooden bats. The boys accepted them, curious, wondering what the point was. No one had played any games in the ghetto, and baseball was an American sport.

Then the officer spoke.

We are inviting you all to go inside, take these bats, and get your revenge. Our soldiers will look the other way.
“We have a gift for you. Inside that warehouse, you are going to see dozens of trembling cowards. We rounded up the Nazis who policed your neighborhood. We know who they are and we know what they did to you. They are standing in there now shaking. They are not wearing their uniforms. We have armed guards blocking the exits and they will shoot to kill if those creeps try anything. But they will not try anything because now the world can see what they are made of. Without their uniforms and guns, they are just miserable scared bullies who know what awaits them.

"And here is our gift. We are inviting you all to go inside, take these bats, and get your revenge. Our soldiers will look the other way, and no one will document this. Either way, these villains are going to suffer consequences, but you boys deserve to be the first to give it to them.”

Decades later, at his annual thanksgiving meal, Rabbi Weiss, our teacher, would finish off the story for us.

“We took the bats and walked in. We were a group of toughened teens who had often imagined such a moment, when the tables would be turned. We eyeballed the shivering Germans, recognizing many of them as the soldiers who had shot this one, beaten that one, chased another one, robbed and pillaged this place and that, the ones who spit and jeered and leered and insulted us, and assaulted our sisters and mothers. And they now stood in terror as our eyes locked with theirs, as we gripped our wooden weapons, and stared them down. The warehouse was rank with the stench of human sweat, and the large room was still with the eerie silence of anticipation.

"And then, with no words exchanged between any of us, we all spontaneously laid our bats on the floor. We filed out. We shook our heads and I realized that I could not do this. Fighting for your life is one thing, but seeking revenge by beating a vanquished enemy was not something any of us could do at that moment. We said little to the kind officer who had wanted to help us with that 'gift.' Instead, we walked back to town, determined to rebuild our lives as Jews.”

Rabbi Gershon Weiss, of blessed memory
The catharsis and healing which might have come from externalizing the rage within was set aside. Each boy who was there emerged with some subjective sense of what their collective decision had meant. For some, it may have been feelings of meekness and weakness. For some it may have been thoughts of moral virtue. For some it might have been a transformative spiritual ascendancy. For some it could have been the beginning of a new war, the internal battle in the mind of the memories and the demons and the regrets which sometimes haunt those who survive a trauma. And I am sure that some who read these words will be critical, decrying the failure those boys displayed by not exacting their physical revenge.

But for me, a young yeshiva student sitting at the table of my esteemed teacher and spiritual guide, Rabbi Gershon Weiss z’l who recently passed away, the lesson took years of pondering, looking for the meaning of that incident. What is the correct way for a Jew to react when given the possibility of revenge? What would I become were I to retaliate, under those conditions? Had Rabbi Weiss’s yearly feast been a celebration of his liberation and survival, or had it been a commemoration of his having triumphed over the compelling inner urge to enact brutal vengeance, and instead empowering himself to exercise the greatness of human spirit in contrast with those who had acted with the basest of human cruelty?
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Post  Admin on Thu 27 Feb 2020, 7:36 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/me/Meet-George-Deek-Israels-First-Christian-Arab-Ambassador.html?s=mm
Meet George Deek, Israel's First Christian Arab Ambassador
Feb 24, 2020  |  by Rabbi Levi Welton
Meet George Deek, Israel's First Christian Arab Ambassador
At age 35, he’s also Israel's youngest ambassador in the world today.
On December 25, 2019, the Office of the President of Azerbaijan officially recognized George Deek as Israel’s new ambassador to their predominantly Muslim country. They bestowed him with the title “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.” At age 35, he’s Israel's youngest ambassador in the world today; he's also the first Christian.

Ambassador Deek's family has lived in the port city of Jaffa for 400 years. This stylish Arab millennial has been defending the Jewish state ever since he joined the Foreign Ministry in 2008.

For many, his rise to prominence began on September 27 2014 when he shared his personal story for the first time in a talk at the House of Literature in Oslo. It went viral as the “the best speech an Israeli diplomat ever delivered”.

The Ambassador with the President of Azerbajan

In the video, Deek recounts how his grandparents fled to Lebanon in advance of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, after being told the Jews would slaughter them if they remained in their homes. After the war was over, his grandfather realized it had all been a lie. The Arab armies did not win as promised and the Jews did not kill all the Arabs. In a highly unusual move, he abandoned his status as a refugee and fought to return home and be readmitted to Israel, with full citizenship rights.

In his speech, Deek laid out his belief that Arabs in Israel don’t have to give up their identity or be “ slaves to the past, held captive by the chains of resentment.” Rather, they could follow in the path his grandfather modeled and live as contributing members of the only democracy in the Middle East.

Deek believes that the Palestinians are prisoners of a calculated strategy of their leadership who wish to turn a humanitarian disaster into a political weapon.

“How come the displacement of the [850,000] Jews from the Arab world was completely forgotten, while the tragedy of the Palestinians, the Nakba, is still alive in today’s politics? It seems to me to be so, because the Nakba has been transformed from a humanitarian disaster to a political offensive. The commemoration of the Nakba is no longer about remembering what happened, but about resenting the mere existence of the state of Israel. It is demonstrated most clearly in the date chosen to commemorate it: The Nakba day is not April 9th – the day of the Deir Yassin massacre, or July 13th – the day of the expulsion from Lod. The Nakba day was set on May 15th – the day after Israel proclaimed its independence. Palestinian leadership declared that the disaster of the Nakba is not the expulsion, the abandoned villages or the exile – the Nakba in their eyes is the creation of Israel. They are saddened less by the humanitarian catastrophe that befell Palestinians, and more by the revival of the Jewish state. “

I believe that a Middle East that has no room for a Jewish state had no room for humanity.
Deek views his role as a representative of Israel as a great opportunity to highlight the diversity and inclusivity of the Jewish state. “This mission is personal for me, spiritual, in a way that transcends politics.” He knows that people are often shocked when finding out he’s a Christian-Arab ambassador for the Jewish state. “I care for Israel as a democratic and Jewish state not any less than any Jewish person. For I believe that a Middle East that has no room for a Jewish state had no room for humanity.”

Ambassador Deek is taking his message to one of Israel’s most strategic partners in the Middle East. Azerbaijan sits on the border with Iran, supplies approximately 40% of Israel’s oil and is one of Israel’s largest arms markets.

Ambassador George Deek
Although he just got married three months ago, he and his wife moved right away to their diplomatic post. “It’s basically a four-year honeymoon,” he jokes. Since coming here, they’ve enjoyed a flurry of official events, visited the statue of Azerbaijan war hero Albert Agarunov in Baku (He was Jewish!), and even went skiing in the Shahdag Mountain Resort.

The highlight for him was the week of Dec 25th. “In the span of one week, I got to be a part of Jewish, Christian, and Azerbaijan secular holidays. This country doesn’t just protect the freedom of religion but the freedom from religious oppression. Also, I don’t think many people realize that there’s been a Jewish community living here for centuries. It’s actually one of the few places in the world where Jews have never experienced persecution or hostility. This past year, more than sixty thousand Israeli tourists came here on holiday. People aren’t aware that this place is so friendly to Israel and the United States.”

I had the opportunity to spend time with Ambassador Deek on a virtual video call.

LW: How does it feel to be the first Christian ambassador for the Jewish state?

GD: It’s a great honor in that sense and I feel like it’s a responsibility as well. I wasn’t chosen because I’m a Christian but because they feel I can do a good job. I think we need more people of different faiths and backgrounds to serve as the face of Israel. We need to showcase the full colorfulness of our country to the global community.

I grew up in Jaffa, a culturally and religiously mixed city, and our apartment was on top of a synagogue. I remember waking up every Saturday as a boy to the soft sounds of prayer entering my bedroom window from the synagogue below. A few hours later, I would hear the mu'azzin’s call to prayer. Of course, on Sunday’s it was the cheerful bells of my Church. As a Christian, when I see the persecution of Yazidis, Christians, Baha’i, Sunni against Shia and vice versa, I feel the responsibility to fight for more tolerance of those who are different.

Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christian communities are growing, with a 450% growth since 1948. Yet, there is rampant ethnic cleansing of Christians and Yazidis going on in neighboring countries, which I consider one of the greatest modern crimes against humanity. If we care about the fate of Christians, and about saving the soul of this region, we [as Arabs] must care for all minorities and make our different identities become a symbol of hope and not a source of hate.

Israel to me is where every Jewish person, regardless of his geography, and every Israeli, regardless of religion, should be able to call a home. It’s in Israel that this revolution of tolerance has begun. If there’s no place in the Middle East for a Jewish State, then there’s no place for anyone whose different.”

LW: What did you learn from your time working in Nigeria?

GD: They say that your first posting is like your first love. I have a special love for Nigeria. This is a country of 170 million people, with hundreds of tribes and languages. One out of every six black people in the world is Nigerian. What I find amazing about them is their model of coexistence. They have a long history of bloodshed over there. But today, you could be a Northerner, Southerner, or be from any of the faiths in that country and they have developed an authentic unity as countrymen.

I also learned about the unjust realities of this world. I was stationed there between the years 2009-2012, when the Boko Haram launched its military terrorism against the government of Nigeria. That was when the girls were kidnapped. These terrorists were doing everything they could to spread hate and violence amongst the people of Nigeria and yet the media barely covered it. It was really sad to see how difficult it was to bring international attention to the crisis. Christians were being slaughtered en masse and yet no one gave it more than a blip on their news coverage, if at all.

So I made it my goal to do as much as I could to help. One year, we diverted our budget for our annual Israeli Independence Day reception towards an infrastructure project for a local farm. We used all the money that would have gone towards the cocktail party and flying in distinguished dignitaries to buy an irrigation system for the farm. Plus, we got an Israeli expert on farming to commit to train the local farmers in how to leverage these systems to maximize crop growth, increase the variety of plants they could grow and provide economic reliability to their community. Plus, food for their families.

Another time, I was approached by a local who knew who wasn’t getting any help with their village water. It was severely polluted and disease was rampant. I arranged for an Israeli company to agree to take on this humanitarian project. They flew out an entire crew, we dug holes in the ground and developed a complete water filtration system for the thousands of people in this village. Now they had fresh water for drinking, bathing and daily use. Disease went down, health went up. What surprised me was how the leaders of the village decided to show their appreciation. As a sign of brotherhood, they told me they were going to make me a Chief of the village. There was an entire ceremony and everything. It was beautiful!

Ambassador Deek (center) during his chieftain ceremonial.

LW: From what I can tell, the fight for justice is one of your great passions. It reminds me of the Torah's moral mandate, the universal Noahide Code, wherein all humanity is enjoined to establish justice. As a lawyer, diplomat, and expert on international law, what’s your biggest advice for how to achieve justice?

GD: Listen to the other side. Often, the first step to treating others unfairly is an inability to listen to their side of the story. Especially today, my generation and those younger are living in increasingly isolated social media echo chambers. We only read and talk to people who think like us or project an ideal of what we want to be. We need more interactions with people who disagree with us.

A couple of years ago, I was speaking to students at UC Davis. Then an anti-Israel group, Students for Justice in Palestine, interrupted my talk. Now, their name sounds nice. After all, who doesn’t want justice? But how can someone demand justice when they break the very tenants of justice itself - to treat others as you want to be treated? How can they demand freedom of speech if they stifle the speech of those who disagree with them? Or, look at the recent blacklist of companies tied to Israel settlements by the United Nations. How can they claim to be uniting the nations when they keep singling out Israel unfairly? Look, if they believe Israel should be treated differently, then don’t support Israel. But don’t pretend what you’re doing is “justice”. Bigotry can never be just.

I’m reminded of the biblical story of Moses and tablets. The first time he received the tablets, he broke them when he came down and saw his people worshipping an idol. So he went up and, together with God, created a second set of tablets. But what happened to the broken pieces of the first set? According to what I’ve learned, the Talmud teaches that the broken pieces were placed in the ark alongside the second set.

I think this is a remarkable lesson for the era of identity politics. There are cultures that forget the past, and there are cultures that are stuck in the past. But peace lives in those who turn those fragments of memory into the stones upon which a better future can be built.
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Post  Admin on Sun 23 Feb 2020, 10:28 pm

Living with Bipolar: Seeing Beyond the Label
Feb 22, 2020  |  by Sara Benbassat
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Living-with-Bipolar-Seeing-Beyond-the-Label.html?s=mm
Living with Bipolar: Seeing Beyond the Label
With the dread of what the neighbors would think, my illness went untreated. Until at last, after a severe breakdown, I was diagnosed with bipolar.

My bipolar is something that has led me through my greatest personal journey. There have been many stops along the way, some breakdowns needing emergency work, some happy stations and some stops in the darkest towns, empty and lonely. And the journey continues, showing me new routes to take.

For many years there has been “something” always there, lurking. Whether it was being the class clown in school to being way over-sensitive as I grew older, from the times when I sat as a child in the corner of a room rocking back and forth having an animated conversation with my deceased grandmother, to the time I desperately tried to dig up the graves of children who had died a hundred years ago, convinced they couldn't breathe.

All of these “episodes” went untreated. They were viewed with horror and silence, with dread of what the neighbors would think. Until at last, after a severe breakdown, I was diagnosed with bipolar.

I’m not a great lover of labels, but getting the bipolar label has given me a lifeline. I no longer feel alone. I no longer worry that I am a crazy, unpredictable person, someone to steer clear of. I accept who I am and acknowledge that even though hundreds of thousands of people are battling the same mental health issues as me, there is sadly a stigma attached, a stigma which will never go away, a stigma which will stop people living the fullest, happiest life they could be.

Being a person with bipolar (not a bipolar person – there's a big difference!) is like having a little extra part tucked away in my brain. It usually sits happily, quietly minding its own business, but it’s always there and it has an effect on the way you think as a person. Things that people may innocently say become mountains in your mind; you replay every word. In general you feel more, so your sensitivity levels tend to be much higher than other people.

For example, someone walking down the street and sees a parent yelling at a child would probably shake their head and have some empathy for the child and then move on, but my bipolar brain will become obsessed. I can see every detail of fear on that child’s face. I will go home and my mind will become full of possible scenarios: Will the child be ok? Is he being abused? What is happening to him now? And as these thoughts overtake me, that little blob sitting comfortably in the back of my mind grows, and keeps growing…. eventually leading to an episode.

So we need to be extra careful; we need to take care not to listen to horrific news, see disturbing videos and read highly emotive books. We need to watch out for triggers, and they're lurking everywhere.

On the other hand, this extra sensitivity gives us the ability to be more empathetic, more understanding, more caring and loving.

Bipolar episodes are different for every person. They can happen weekly, monthly, a couple of times a year or not happen for many years. They also all differ in severity. For example, over the course of the 16 years that I've had my diagnosis there have been a few hospital admissions, some for a few days and the longest for over 6 months, but some only an hour or two.

I tend to experience my bipolar with highs. I will go through a highly stressful time, and I will know (it takes years to come to the point of knowing) when an episode is coming, the free-falling, all consuming, erratic thoughts, the inability to concentrate, the fantasy that becomes my reality of being the queen, a secret agent etc. are all warning signs. Sometimes I can stop the episode before it consumes me. I go to a safe place, I sleep, I take extra medication, (medication is essential), but sometimes there is no stopping it, and I am in my ”happy place” in no time at all.

When I'm convinced that I'm a Mossad agent and those around me are my soldiers, I know who my safe people are.
For the people around me it is very difficult. When I steal the car keys from my husband and try to climb out the bedroom window to drive down the motorway, or when I'm convinced that I'm a Mossad agent and those around me are my soldiers, I know who my safe people are. Those few who know from the tone of my voice that I am on the verge of or in the midst of an episode, those three or four people are thank God always there and they know what to do.

Bipolar is NOT a choice. There is no point telling us to stop, to pull ourselves together. We can control it with medication, but still, at times the medication will stop being effective or will not be a strong enough dosage and a manic or depressive episode will occur.

Please know, despite media reports, we do not commit terror attacks or drive planes in to a mountainside because we have a mental illness, and when such an event happens we are saddened when the media will immediately fall back on the ”mental health issues of the perpetrator”.

We are you, we are me, we are your family and friends.

If someone you know has a mental health issue, do not be ashamed. It's an illness; not a personal choice. Make sure they are on the correct medication, that they know they are loved and that you are there for them, no matter what.

Therapy is incredibly important. I feel everyone would benefit from having a therapist, but for the person with bipolar it is even more important as we have all the anxieties, stress and unknowns that come with it.

My journey is ongoing. I hope to somehow help open the eyes of those blind to the reality of mental health issues and how it affects all of us in one way or another.
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https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Confronting-Death-After-Defying-It.html?s=mm
Confronting Death After Defying It
Feb 15, 2020  |  by Michelle Halle, LCSW
Confronting Death After Defying It
The body that survived the unspeakable cruelty in Bergen Belsen was now giving up on her.

After mailing out hundreds of wedding invitations, I was so disappointed by the response card from Shirley and Lenny Grossman* that read “will not be able to attend”. Shirley and Lenny were dear friends of my parents, and in my youth, they lived right across the street. How could they not come?

Every Saturday night my parents got together with them and other friends, all Holocaust survivors, for a chummy game of cards, topped off with coffee and cake. The Grossmans davened in the same shteibel as us and shared our sukkah every year. My mother and Shirley spent Shabbos afternoons taking long walks together. After I married and my twins were born, I convalesced under my mother’s loving care and Shirley stopped in often to help with the daily feedings.

Why weren’t they coming to the wedding?

I got into my car and drove over to see them, determined to convince them to change their mind. I had heard that Shirley was ill but hadn't known how serious her condition was. She was fighting cancer and appeared weak and depressed.

After the initial small talk, I began to explain my feelings. “I don’t understand how you could miss this wedding. You’ve known me since childhood. You’ve been friends with my parents forever. Who should be there if not you?”

“I can’t, I just can’t,” Shirley replied in a voice heavy with despair.

“Please,” I repeated, “You belong there.”

Shirley shook her head while Lenny sat at her side and held her hand. Then she explained her reason, illuminating a mysterious piece of family history for me.

Shirley spent months in the Lodz ghetto, and then years in concentration camps including Auschwitz. During every second of those years, she used all her physical and mental energy to keep herself alive. She lived through the round ups in the ghetto, starvation, hard labor and selections, all while seeing hundreds of thousands of others dying and put to death. She watched as her co-religionists were shot in front of an empty pit and then she followed orders to shovel dirt into the mass grave, horrified to see the loose earth vibrating above still-moving bodies beneath the surface.

She kept her will to live after seeing a man who came late to the roll call punished by being torn to shreds by the fierce German shepherds trained for the kill. She kept her will to live despite being forced to pass the body of a young boy she had known from her hometown. He was placed in a barrel of ice water, left to freeze at the gate of the camp so all could see his body as they left to work in the morning and while returning to the barracks at night.

This enemy, her cancer, was an oppressor she couldn't beat. After all her years in the concentration camps, her end was near.
Shirley had survived all this, but today she faced extinction again. Cancer was overtaking her and this time she knew the angel of death would win.

Shirley felt betrayed by her body. The body that did not succumb to the malignant cruelty in Bergen Belsen was now giving up on her.

And Shirley was not someone who gave up.

This betrayal - her body surrendering to disease - caused her deep shame. This enemy, her cancer, was an oppressor she couldn't beat. No matter how defiant she felt, or how strong her will to live, Shirley knew that after all her years in the concentration camps and all she had witnessed, her end was near. Knowing her body would yield despite her will to live was more than she could bear. She could not come to the wedding in this state.

This difficult conversation with Shirley was the first time I heard a survivor speak about their struggle with their own mortality and I could think of no words of comfort to offer her. But her words enabled me to finally understand something about my father which had eluded me for decades.

My father was also a Holocaust survivor. By the time he was 15 he was working in the lager alongside thousands of other Polish Jews. He was hauled away by the Nazis because he stepped forward when the SS barged into the house looking for his older brother, Zev. Wanting to protect his brother, my father took Zev’s place.

I'll never understand what it was about my father’s relationship with his brother Zev that gave him the courage to take his place that night of terror in 1940. But my visit with Shirley gave me a clue about something else my father did 35 years earlier.

I was raised in a small town that did not have a yeshiva high school, so I attended high school in Brooklyn. Going out of town to get a Jewish education meant spending all week away from home and coming back for Shabbos.

One Friday afternoon when returning home, I walked into the house and was surprised and happy to see that we had visitors. My father sat on the couch talking with his sister Bella and his brother Mordechai. This was unusual for a Friday afternoon; Shabbos was the day they normally visited each other. But I didn’t give it a thought and I plunked myself down near my father. I noticed he had stubble on his face, and I placed the palm of my hand on his cheek.

“Oh, Abba, when did you decide to grow a beard?” I asked in surprise.

Suddenly, my impression of the scene in the living room started to shift. I turned to look at my uncle more carefully and noticed that he, too, had stubble on his face. I looked at my aunt and realized she was sitting on the couch, but unlike the love seat I had been sitting on, it had no cushions. Tanta Bella saw the unnerved look on my face and began to gently nod her head, letting me absorb the truth of the distraught thoughts ricocheting around in my head.

Unlike that night in 1940, my father was powerless to save him.
I realized that my Uncle Zev had passed away and they were all sitting shiva. And my father didn't tell me.

After all the physical, psychological and emotional horrors Uncle Zev endured during the Holocaust, he was powerless over his terminal illness. Unlike that night in 1940, my father was powerless to save him.

I will never know for certain why my parents didn’t tell me about the shiva and waited for me to discover it on my own. But visiting Shirley and hearing the pain of defeat in her voice gave me a glimpse into what might have been my parent’s rationale for keeping silent.

Death was unspeakable. The enemy had finally won.

In memory of my father Yissachar Dov ben Yaakov on his 12th yahrzeit.
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Post  Admin on Tue 18 Feb 2020, 4:39 pm

Are You Sitting Down?
Feb 16, 2020  |  by Rabbi Ken Brodkin
https://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Are-You-Sitting-Down.html?s=mm
When the unexpected happens.

Last spring my wife, Aviel, was standing at the Kotel.

Suddenly, she felt like someone turned off a switch. The world looked oddly dark. Was something off with her sight? Could it be that she had been living in the Northwest for too long? We returned home to the States, and things got worse. She’s always had such good sight, what could it be?

She tried glasses, eye drops, you name it. Nothing worked. Finally, an optometrist suggested that her poor vision could be the result of a stroke, a brain tumor or MS. We went to an ophthalmologist who ordered an MRI. By this time, Aviel couldn’t read, drive safely or chop vegetables.

On August 15, the day before our wedding anniversary, we got a call from the doctor. She got us on the phone together to share a report from the MRI and asked, “Are you sitting down?”

The question took me back exactly 21 years.

Ken, I have some news that I need to share. Are you sitting down?
It was Friday afternoon, August 14, 1998, and Aviel and I were getting married on Sunday. Just before Shabbos, I got a call from my future brother-in-law, Bruce, with an anguished sound. “Ken, I have some news that I need to share. Are you sitting down?”


 
The question frustrated me. I’m not the type to sit. “Aviel was in an accident,” Bruce said. “She is going to be okay, but come right over.”

Driving home before Shabbos, Aviel made a left turn from a busy road onto her street. She was hit – nearly head-on – by an off-duty police officer who did not see her turn. Had he hit her a moment earlier, the result could have been disastrous. I came to the house, where Aviel looked dazed. The next day, I visited her again. Lying in bed, she was in pain, unsure how she could walk down the aisle. In a strange way, as I thought about what happened, I experienced an even stronger resolve to marry her.

Like many religious Jews, I consider myself to be a person of emunah, of faith. When challenging events occur in my life, I say something like “This is God’s providence.” Sometimes I think to myself, what would I do in a real calamity?

Emunah – or faith – is a necessary quality. If we did not have some faith in the doctor, how could we undergo an operation? Aviel’s diagnosis in the “are-you-sitting-down” call was intracranial meningioma. This was a benign tumor between her brain and her skull that was pressing on the optic nerve. She was promptly scheduled for surgery.

Before Aviel was wheeled off, the surgeon looked at me with a serious expression. He promised me, “We are going to go very slowly and very carefully.” The hours that followed were a time of reflection. If we need faith in humans, how much more so in God?

One Core Principle
The Torah is filled with profound ideas about how to grow closer to God. The Talmud recounts the various attempts to “reduce” the entire Torah to a small handful of principles we carry with us. The prophet Habakkuk managed to distill the essence of the Torah to a single idea:

But the righteous person shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2, 4)

This one simple sentence can define all of life. But what does it mean “to live by one’s faith”?

Habakkuk’s statement occurs in a discussion about one of Israel’s great enemies, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The prophet writes that Nebuchadnezzar’s soul was “unsettled” within him as he pursued his conquests. In contrast with Nebuchadnezzar’s inner turmoil, the soul of the righteous person is calm.

How does he achieve this tranquility?

Rav Avraham Karelitz, known as the Chazon Ish, was a towering rabbinic figure. Born in Europe before moving to Israel in 1933, the world he came from was destroyed in the Holocaust.

The Chazon Ish writes that there is a widespread misconception about the concept of “trusting” and “having faith” in God. People think, he suggests, that faith means that things will turn out well, if we just believe that they will. Yet, Rav Karelitz asks, who is to say what the will of God is?

No, trusting in God is not that but rather the belief that nothing happens by chance, and that everything that occurs under the sun is the result of the decree of the Almighty. (Emunah & Bitachon)

What is faith in God? Some people may believe that faith means things will all work out. In modern culture, people talk about faith as a connection to something intangible in yourself or in the world.

Faith is the Jew's protest against chance. It is our inner belief that the world is imbued with meaning.
Judaism’s view of faith goes deeper. Our emunah is our protest against chance. It is our inner belief that the world is imbued with meaning. We don’t always know why things happen, but God has a plan for our soul. We live in that emunah by looking for meaning in our lives, even in the unexpected turns life takes.

And though we may not understand “why” something happens, we do know that we are not abandoned by God. Each path we walk down is an opportunity in some way to grow closer to God. That brings an inner sense of calm.

Our Chuppah
Aviel’s accident changed everything about our wedding weekend. Our Friday dinner plans got canceled. On Sunday morning, my sisters-in-law applied abundant globs of makeup up to cover the bruises on Aviel’s face. That afternoon, Aviel limped down the aisle to our chuppah.

Standing there, as I beheld her bruised face, I had an overwhelming sense of how fragile our lives are. We were so happy to be alive. And because of that, we saw a deeper meaning in our marriage.

Twenty-one years later, on our anniversary, I again lived to see her saved from a kind of “accident.” We have so many ideas about how time should go and what our lives should look like. But God teaches us how to spend our time.

Unexpected Places
Nothing about our summer turned out the way I anticipated. I thought we would spend our anniversary at a motel, hiking in Oregon. Instead, we were rushing to get Aviel admitted to the hospital.

After the surgery, Aviel was recovering in the Neurocritical Care unit. Thank God, her optic nerve was not damaged, and she was able to see again. I looked at her in the bed, and out of the window at the parking lot. As the sun set, I felt a new sense of calm.

It’s hard for me to say how I would respond in a “real” tragedy. But I think back to that moment, and I try to take the calm feeling with me.

The next time that you find yourself faced with an unexpected challenge, take the time you need to reflect. Discover yourself in the place God prepared for you.

© 2020 Aish.com - Your life. Your Judaism.
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Post  Admin on Fri 14 Feb 2020, 8:42 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Horrific-Valentines-Day-Massacre-of-Jews.html?s=mm
Horrific Valentine’s Day Massacre of Jews
Feb 9, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Horrific Valentine’s Day Massacre of Jews
On Valentine’s Day 1349 thousands of Jews were burned to death, accused of poisoning wells.

Most people associate February 14 with love and romance. Yet hundreds of years ago Valentine’s Day saw a horrific mass murder when 2,000 Jews were burned alive in the French city of Strasbourg.

The year was 1349 and the Bubonic Plague, known as the Black Death, was sweeping across Europe, wiping out whole communities. Between 1347 and 1352, it killed millions of people. Historian Ole J. Benedictow estimates that 60% of Europeans died from the disease. One Italian writer recorded what the plague did to the city of Florence, where he lived: “All the citizens did little else except to carry dead bodies to be buried… At every church they dug deep pits down to the water-table; and thus those who were poor who died during the night were bundled up quickly and thrown into the pit.”

Bubonic Plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis and is most commonly spread by fleas that live on rodents like rats and mice. The disease still exists, and sickens thousands of people each year, including a handful of people in the United States and other developed countries. Caught early, Bubonic Plague is treatable with modern medicines. In the Middle Ages, of course, no medical treatment existed to mitigate the Plague’s devastating effects. It’s estimated that about 80% of people who contracted the Plague in Medieval Europe died.

The Massacre of Jews at Strasbourg, by Eugene Beyer
The first major European outbreak of Plague occurred in Messina, Italy, in 1347, and it spread rapidly from there. Historians estimate that the largest wave of Bubonic Plague – the pandemic that was dubbed The Black Death – originated in Central Asia. As it began sweeping through European communities, terrified people cast about for someone to blame. Jews were a natural choice. As the Black Death advanced, Christians turned on the Jews in their midst, accusing them of spreading the Plague by poisoning Christian people’s wells.

Many Christians leapt to accuse Jews of deliberately spreading the disease to harm Christians.
Jews, often forced into overcrowded and fenced-in Jewish quarters, suffered from the Black Death at rates comparable to their Christian neighbors. Yet even though it was apparent that Jews were sickening and dying as well, many Christians leapt to accuse Jews of deliberately spreading the disease to harm Christians. Historian Heinrich Graetz described the fevered atmosphere of hate and accusations leveled at European Jews: “...the suspicion arose that the Jews had poisoned the brooks and wells, and even the air, in order to annihilate the Christians of every country at one blow”. (Detailed in Graetz’s History of the Jews, 1894).


 
Jewish communities found themselves under attack. Of the approximately 363 Jewish communities in Europe at the time, Jews were attacked in fully half of them by mobs blaming them for spreading the Plague.

These attacks were horrifically violent. In Cologne, Jews were locked into a synagogue which was then set on fire. In Mainz, the entire town’s sizeable Jewish community was murdered in just one day. Jews were massacred and tortured across Europe, in Spain, Italy, France, the Low Countries, and the Germanic Lands. Emperor Charles I, the Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that the property of Jews murdered for supposedly spreading the Plague could be seized by their Christian neighbors with impunity. With this financial incentive to kill Jews, the attacks only intensified.

In 1349, a group of feudal lords in France’s Alsace region attempted to make the attacks on Jews official. They assembled in the French town of Benfeld, and formally blamed Jews for the Black Death. They also adopted a series of steps to target Jews, singling Jews out for murder and calling for them to be expelled from towns. This “Benfeld Decree” had an immediate effect as Jews in thirty communities across Alsace were attacked. Only the city of Strasbourg, which had a large Jewish community, resisted, protecting their city’s Jews.

The atmosphere in Strasbourg in early 1349 was tense. The Black Death had not yet reached the city, though anxious citizens awaited the first case of victims to sicken and die any day. Strasbourg’s Bishop Berthold III railed against Jews, but the city’s elected officials held firm. Mayor Kunze of Wintertur, Strasbourg’s sheriff, Gosse Sturm, and a local lay leader named Peter Swaber all vociferously defended and protected Strasbourg’s Jews.

On February 10, 1349, the restless citizens finally had enough. A mob rose up and overthrew Strasbourg’s city government, installing an unstable government “of the people” instead. This hateful group that was now in charge was a strange amalgam: led by the local guilds of butchers and tailors, it was financially backed by local nobles who hated the Jews and hoped to seize their property. One of this new mob’s first acts was to arrest the city’s Jews on the charge of poisoning Christian wells in order to spread the Black Death.

The Black Death
Friday, February 13, 1349 was a black day for Strasbourg’s Jews. Normally, they would have spent the day preparing for Shabbat, baking challah, cleaning their homes and preparing festive meals. Instead, under heavy armed guard, women, children and men were dragged from their homes, imprisoned, and charged with murder. Any Jew who was willing to convert to Christianity would be spared, they were told. As the terrified Jews awaited their fate, the city’s new governors were building a huge wooden platform that could hold thousands of people inside the Jewish cemetery. For the Jews, the next day was Shabbat. For Strasbourg’s Christian citizens, the next day was February 14, St. Valentine’s Day. They designated this saint’s day as the date on which they would execute Strasbourg’s entire Jewish population.

In the morning of Valentine’s Day, a large crowd assembled to watch. A local priest named Jakob Twinger von Konigshofen recorded the grisly massacre: “they burnt the Jews on a wooden platform in their cemetery,” he wrote. “There were about two thousand of them.” Some young children were yanked away from their parents’ arms, and saved so that they could be baptized and raised as Christians. For most Jews, however, no such aid arrived. As the enormous wooden structure went up in flames, around 2,000 thousand Jews were slowly burned alive.

Their murder took hours. Afterwards, eager townspeople combed through the smoldering ashes, not searching for survivors, but looking for valuables. von Konigshofen recorded the financial motive for this enormous massacre: “...everything (all debt) that was owed to the Jews was cancelled… The council...took the cash that the Jews possessed and divided it among the working-men proportionately. The money was indeed the thing that killed the Jews. If they had been poor and if the feudal lords had not been in debt, they would not have been burnt.”

Strasbourg’s mob government and citizens faced no criticism. A few months later, Emperor Charles IV officially pardoned the citizens of Strasbourg for killing their town’s Jews and for stealing their money.

With the passage of so much time, many have seemed to forget the cataclysm of violence that led to the torture and murder of so many Jews during the Black Death. Yet we owe it to the victims to remember.
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Post  Admin on Fri 14 Feb 2020, 7:41 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Horrific-Valentines-Day-Massacre-of-Jews.html?s=mm
Horrific Valentine’s Day Massacre of Jews
Feb 9, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Horrific Valentine’s Day Massacre of Jews
On Valentine’s Day 1349 thousands of Jews were burned to death, accused of poisoning wells.

Most people associate February 14 with love and romance. Yet hundreds of years ago Valentine’s Day saw a horrific mass murder when 2,000 Jews were burned alive in the French city of Strasbourg.

The year was 1349 and the Bubonic Plague, known as the Black Death, was sweeping across Europe, wiping out whole communities. Between 1347 and 1352, it killed millions of people. Historian Ole J. Benedictow estimates that 60% of Europeans died from the disease. One Italian writer recorded what the plague did to the city of Florence, where he lived: “All the citizens did little else except to carry dead bodies to be buried… At every church they dug deep pits down to the water-table; and thus those who were poor who died during the night were bundled up quickly and thrown into the pit.”

Bubonic Plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis and is most commonly spread by fleas that live on rodents like rats and mice. The disease still exists, and sickens thousands of people each year, including a handful of people in the United States and other developed countries. Caught early, Bubonic Plague is treatable with modern medicines. In the Middle Ages, of course, no medical treatment existed to mitigate the Plague’s devastating effects. It’s estimated that about 80% of people who contracted the Plague in Medieval Europe died.

The Massacre of Jews at Strasbourg, by Eugene Beyer
The first major European outbreak of Plague occurred in Messina, Italy, in 1347, and it spread rapidly from there. Historians estimate that the largest wave of Bubonic Plague – the pandemic that was dubbed The Black Death – originated in Central Asia. As it began sweeping through European communities, terrified people cast about for someone to blame. Jews were a natural choice. As the Black Death advanced, Christians turned on the Jews in their midst, accusing them of spreading the Plague by poisoning Christian people’s wells.

Many Christians leapt to accuse Jews of deliberately spreading the disease to harm Christians.
Jews, often forced into overcrowded and fenced-in Jewish quarters, suffered from the Black Death at rates comparable to their Christian neighbors. Yet even though it was apparent that Jews were sickening and dying as well, many Christians leapt to accuse Jews of deliberately spreading the disease to harm Christians. Historian Heinrich Graetz described the fevered atmosphere of hate and accusations leveled at European Jews: “...the suspicion arose that the Jews had poisoned the brooks and wells, and even the air, in order to annihilate the Christians of every country at one blow”. (Detailed in Graetz’s History of the Jews, 1894).


 
Jewish communities found themselves under attack. Of the approximately 363 Jewish communities in Europe at the time, Jews were attacked in fully half of them by mobs blaming them for spreading the Plague.

These attacks were horrifically violent. In Cologne, Jews were locked into a synagogue which was then set on fire. In Mainz, the entire town’s sizeable Jewish community was murdered in just one day. Jews were massacred and tortured across Europe, in Spain, Italy, France, the Low Countries, and the Germanic Lands. Emperor Charles I, the Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that the property of Jews murdered for supposedly spreading the Plague could be seized by their Christian neighbors with impunity. With this financial incentive to kill Jews, the attacks only intensified.

In 1349, a group of feudal lords in France’s Alsace region attempted to make the attacks on Jews official. They assembled in the French town of Benfeld, and formally blamed Jews for the Black Death. They also adopted a series of steps to target Jews, singling Jews out for murder and calling for them to be expelled from towns. This “Benfeld Decree” had an immediate effect as Jews in thirty communities across Alsace were attacked. Only the city of Strasbourg, which had a large Jewish community, resisted, protecting their city’s Jews.

The atmosphere in Strasbourg in early 1349 was tense. The Black Death had not yet reached the city, though anxious citizens awaited the first case of victims to sicken and die any day. Strasbourg’s Bishop Berthold III railed against Jews, but the city’s elected officials held firm. Mayor Kunze of Wintertur, Strasbourg’s sheriff, Gosse Sturm, and a local lay leader named Peter Swaber all vociferously defended and protected Strasbourg’s Jews.

On February 10, 1349, the restless citizens finally had enough. A mob rose up and overthrew Strasbourg’s city government, installing an unstable government “of the people” instead. This hateful group that was now in charge was a strange amalgam: led by the local guilds of butchers and tailors, it was financially backed by local nobles who hated the Jews and hoped to seize their property. One of this new mob’s first acts was to arrest the city’s Jews on the charge of poisoning Christian wells in order to spread the Black Death.

The Black Death
Friday, February 13, 1349 was a black day for Strasbourg’s Jews. Normally, they would have spent the day preparing for Shabbat, baking challah, cleaning their homes and preparing festive meals. Instead, under heavy armed guard, women, children and men were dragged from their homes, imprisoned, and charged with murder. Any Jew who was willing to convert to Christianity would be spared, they were told. As the terrified Jews awaited their fate, the city’s new governors were building a huge wooden platform that could hold thousands of people inside the Jewish cemetery. For the Jews, the next day was Shabbat. For Strasbourg’s Christian citizens, the next day was February 14, St. Valentine’s Day. They designated this saint’s day as the date on which they would execute Strasbourg’s entire Jewish population.

In the morning of Valentine’s Day, a large crowd assembled to watch. A local priest named Jakob Twinger von Konigshofen recorded the grisly massacre: “they burnt the Jews on a wooden platform in their cemetery,” he wrote. “There were about two thousand of them.” Some young children were yanked away from their parents’ arms, and saved so that they could be baptized and raised as Christians. For most Jews, however, no such aid arrived. As the enormous wooden structure went up in flames, around 2,000 thousand Jews were slowly burned alive.

Their murder took hours. Afterwards, eager townspeople combed through the smoldering ashes, not searching for survivors, but looking for valuables. von Konigshofen recorded the financial motive for this enormous massacre: “...everything (all debt) that was owed to the Jews was cancelled… The council...took the cash that the Jews possessed and divided it among the working-men proportionately. The money was indeed the thing that killed the Jews. If they had been poor and if the feudal lords had not been in debt, they would not have been burnt.”

Strasbourg’s mob government and citizens faced no criticism. A few months later, Emperor Charles IV officially pardoned the citizens of Strasbourg for killing their town’s Jews and for stealing their money.

With the passage of so much time, many have seemed to forget the cataclysm of violence that led to the torture and murder of so many Jews during the Black Death. Yet we owe it to the victims to remember.
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Post  Admin on Tue 11 Feb 2020, 5:22 pm

https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Red-Sea-Spies-The-True-Story.html?s=mm
Red Sea Spies: The True Story
Feb 1, 2020  |  by Raffi Berg
Red Sea Spies: The True Story
Far from being passive victims, it was the Ethiopian Jews' incredible heroism, sacrifice and steadfast commitment that enabled them to be saved.

Gunshots ring out, panic sets in, the black Jews are told to hurry – take only what they can carry and get out of the village as heavily armed troops close in. Terrified, the Jews are helped onto a waiting truck and whisked from immediate danger by white men – Israeli Jews from the Mossad, come to take them out. “We leave no one behind,” says one of their saviours, leaving the vehicle and leading the group across arid, sun-baked plains and mountainous terrain, all the way from Ethiopia to a safe-house in Sudan.

Such are the opening scenes which set the narrative in the Netflix movie “Red Sea Diving Resort” – a film which describes itself as “inspired by true events”. What it does not claim is that it is “based on” facts. (Whether it is a good or bad movie is for viewers to decide).

Ethiopian Jew in Wallaka, Ethiopia, 1984 (Photo: Doron Bacher, Beit Hatefutsoth)
It is, by now, well known that around 30,000 Ethiopian Jews were spirited to Israel, in epic operations carried out by the Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces in the 1980s and early 1990s, in such legendary missions as Operation Moses and Solomon. It is also commonly understood that they were rescued – plucked from the brink of extinction – as civil war, drought and famine gripped northern Ethiopia, an appalling situation which pricked the world’s conscience and culminated with the historic Live Aid charity event watched by billions of people.

That the Jews were saved by Israel is unquestionable – but the conception, and all too often depiction, that they were “rescued” is not only dubious, but incorrect. There is a difference – and it is a big one.

 Red Sea Diving resort
When I set out to write my book “Red Sea Spies: The True Story of Mossad’s Fake Holiday Resort” – the incredible tale of how Israeli agents smuggled Ethiopian Jews to Israel while using a bogus holiday village as cover – I laboured under the illusion that these “hapless” and endangered Jews owed their salvation entirely to the heroic actions of those carrying out the orders of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin to bring them to Israel. However, the more I researched and learned about this special community, the more I came to realize that they were not passive victims of circumstance whose destiny lay in the hands of the Israelis sent to retrieve them. On the contrary – had it not been for the heroism, sacrifice and single-mindedness of the Ethiopian Jews themselves, Moses, Solomon and the other operations of their kind would never have happened. Period.

As the Mossad commander who instigated and led the mission, Dani, told me in one of our many meetings: “It was like two big wheels, two strong wheels, actually met – one was the old Ethiopian Jews’ dream to go back to Zion and Jerusalem, and the other one was the Israeli Jews that came to help them fulfil this – it was the fusion of wheels that was the strength of this operation.”

Arous resort in 2005

For centuries and even millennia, the longing to return to what they knew as the Land of Jerusalem was their life force. “Jerusalem” – a land they literally thought of as paved with gold and flowing with milk and honey – occupied their thoughts and prayers. Grandparents told grandchildren about a city which was Heaven on Earth, animals were shechted (the laws of kashrut were scrupulously observed, along with Shabbat and other tenets of the Jewish faith) in its direction and songs and poems were sung about it (“Shimela! Shimela!" Ethiopian Jewish children would sing on catching sight of a stork, as migrating musters headed to the Holy Land. "Agerachin Yerushalem dehena?" – "Stork! Stork! How is our country Jerusalem doing?")

In 1862, a first valiant but futile attempt was made to walk en masse to Jerusalem. Led by a spiritual leader (kes), Abba Mahari, thousands of Ethiopian Jews headed towards what they believed to be the Red Sea, but they failed to cross and many drowned trying. Years later, when the Ethiopian Jews were visited by scholar Josef Halevy (the first foreign Jew to find them), he wrote how the villagers paid little attention to him until he mentioned the word “Jerusalem,” whereupon they were seized by a burning curiosity and he was showered with questions about Mount Zion and the Temple (they did not know it had been destroyed, assuming the land was still under the occupation of the Romans).

In 1948, when Ethiopian Jews heard that the State of Israel had been declared, they danced jubilantly in the streets, and when they learned it had been attacked they fasted. It wasn’t until 1975 that the State of Israel recognized the Ethiopian Jews as halachically Jewish, entitling them to settle in Israel under the Law of Return.

Their immigration though was not encouraged, nor were they allowed to leave Ethiopia – then ruled by an anti-Zionist Marxist dictatorship – to go there. That all changed with the advent of Begin in 1977 and his instruction to the Mossad to do whatever it took to bring the Ethiopian Jews to the Jewish state. Getting them out of Ethiopia itself was an insurmountable challenge – the country was riven by conflict and its topography meant airlifts were out of the question. The Mossad was stuck for an answer, until the arrival of a cryptic letter from an Ethiopian Jew, wanted by the Ethiopian authorities for Zionist activity, who had run away to Sudan.

“Send me a[n airline] ticket,” it said. The name of the fugitive Jew was Ferede Aklum. Dani was sent to track him down (which incredibly he did, despite having nothing to go on), and the two of them hatched a plan to get more Ethiopian Jews to follow Ferede’s lead and come to Sudan, from where the Mossad would smuggle them out to Israel. Dani and Ferede got word back to Ferede’s village in the Ethiopian Highlands, and the first to respond were Ferede’s brothers, who made the journey without hesitation. When more villagers heard that a way was open to get to Israel, more followed – at first a handful, then a trickle, and ultimately a deluge.

Ethiopian Jews kissing the ground in Israel on arrival
(Photo: Israel Intelligence Heritage Commemoration Center)

Village after village emptied, Jews leaving behind the family homes they had lived in for centuries as well as their way of life, for the sole purpose of going to Israel – and they risked their lives to do it. They travelled by foot – up and down mountains, through jungle, across rivers and over desert – men, women, children, the elderly and the infirm. They left quietly at night so as not to alert their Christian neighbours, who would have informed the authorities. On their way they were attacked by bandits and wild animals, and stalked by hunger and thirst.

The trek was hundreds of kilometres long and took weeks – in some cases, months. Some Jews were caught by Ethiopian soldiers patrolling the border with Sudan, arrested and sent back to where they started. Where they survived imprisonment, they just made the journey all over again.

It is said that when the Jews got to Sudan they kissed the ground, in the mistaken belief that they had made it to Jerusalem; in one case, where an elderly Ethiopian Jew eventually arrived at an absorption centre in Ashkelon following an airlift, he ingested mouthfuls of soil, overcome at finally being in the Holy Land. More than 1,500 Ethiopian Jews died in their effort to get to Israel, to return to their ancestral home and fulfil an ancient dream. No – the Ethiopian Jews were not passive, but very much agents of their own destiny, who took their fate in their own hands, and suffered greatly in doing so.

Memorial in Jerusalem to Ethiopian Jewish refugees

And they were incredibly brave, both those who made it out alive and those who did not. Not only did they put themselves through the most gruelling ordeal, but even after they had reached the camps, mothers sent their children, alone and into the unknown, to get smuggled out by the Mossad, because they knew it would save their lives, while they remained behind.

Every year, their odyssey and their sacrifices are remembered at a ceremony attended by the president, prime minister and other leading state figures, on an occasion known as Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews who Perished on their Way to Israel. By law, it coincides with Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), such is the level of its importance, and it is held on Mount Herzl, the resting place of the founding father of Zionism.

Where the Ethiopian Jews were rescued by the Mossad and IDF, it was from the refugee camps in Sudan where they languished in terrible conditions. The Israelis operating behind enemy lines to get them out of there were heroic, for sure; but no less so were the Ethiopian Jews themselves who paved the way which enabled the secret operations to happen. For this they deserve our utmost respect and deepest admiration, and for the sake of history the narrative ought to be correct.

“Red Sea Spies: The True Story of Mossad’s Fake Holiday Resort” (Icon Books), by Raffi Berg is released in the UK on 6 February, and in the US on 14 April.



Top 5 Reasons to Learn Hebrew
Feb 9, 2020  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Why you should sign up to Aish Academy’s just-launched online Hebrew Ulpan course.
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Top-5-Reasons-to-Learn-Hebrew.html?s=mm
Every Jew can and should learn Hebrew. In honor the launch of Aish Academy’s new Hebrew Ulpan course, here are the top 5 reasons to learn Hebrew:

1. Hebrew is the building blocks of Creation.
Imagine a chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen that produces water; a small change – adding a second another oxygen molecule – produces hydrogen peroxide. So too, in the metaphysical world: the 22 Hebrew letters are the building blocks of Creation. Betzalel's ability to construct the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the forerunner of the Temple, came through understanding how God combined Hebrew letters to create the world.

The Talmud says that Adam named the animals by identifying their essence. For example, the word chamor (donkey) is the same root as chomer (physicality) – because a donkey is notable for hauling physical loads.

As a description of the metaphysical reality, Hebrew is steeped in deeper meaning, whereas conventional languages are arbitrary, with no inherent meaning in the words or letters. For example, Man is named Adam because he was created from dust of the earth (adama), the source of potential growth. Compare this to the Hebrew word for animal, "beheima" which is a contraction of two Hebrew words, "bah" (in it) and "mah" (what) – meaning the essence of an animal is already in it; it will physically grow but it has already reached its spiritual potential.

2. Hebrew is the language of the Bible, Siddur, and Jewish study.
The Torah is written in Hebrew, and learning Hebrew opens access to thousands of years of historical and philosophical texts. Translations can never fully express the nuance of the original.
 
To fully participate in Jewish prayer, rituals and Torah study, there is no more authentic and satisfying way than in the original language. In fact, many of the schismatic religions that emerged from Judaism are riddled with mistaken translations of the original Hebrew.

3. Hebrew is key to Jewish identity.
Hebrew is a special, “holy” language, as we say in the holiday prayers: "v'romam'tanu m'kol ha'lishonot" – God elevated the Jewish people above other languages. Hebrew is the national language of the Jewish people spoken by Abraham, Moses, and King David. Furthermore, the prophet Zephaniah (3:9) predicts that in the future, Hebrew will become the primary global language.

Unlike English, which is read from left-to-right, Hebrew is read from right-to-left. Hebrew expresses a particular “mentality,” and sometimes Western concepts are backwards when viewed from a Torah perspective. That is why Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs us to teach Torah to our children and “speak to them.” Rashi explains that Hebrew is such a core element of Jewish identity that every child should be taught to speak Hebrew; otherwise it is in some respect “like burying the child.”

4. Hebrew is the language of Israel today.
After the destruction of the Second Holy Temple in 70 CE, the Jewish people were exiled around the world and Hebrew basically ceased to be a spoken language in everyday life. Once Jews began returning to the Holy Land in the 19th century, Hebrew became revived as a spoken language, and today is the primary language of nearly half of the Jewish people worldwide.

This may represent the only time in history that an ancient language has been resurrected for modern use, symbolizing the eternal nature of the Jewish people.

Learning Hebrew opens a window into the culture and values of Israeli society. Far beyond hummus and falafel, there is no better way to connect to Israel than by learning its language.

5. Hebrew is at the root of America’s founding.
America's first institutions of higher learning, including Harvard and Princeton, made Bible study and Hebrew part of the required curriculum. The Yale seal depicts the Hebrew words "Urim V'Tumim," an item worn in the Holy Temple. The seals of both Columbia University and Dartmouth feature the Hebrew name of God. So popular was the Hebrew language in the 18th century that several students at Yale delivered their commencement orations in Hebrew.

America’s founding fathers were steeped in the study of Hebrew, quoting the Bible more than any other document. At one point, the founding fathers seriously considered designating Hebrew as America's official language.

In learning Hebrew, English-speakers have a good head-start. Since Israelis love to travel, and because Israeli is a technologically advanced country, modern Hebrew incorporates many “loan words” from English. Additionally, many “English” words derive from the Hebrew original, for example: regular (ragil), giraffe (oref – neck), igloo (igool – circle), albino (lavan – white), sapphire (sappir), couple (kaful – double), havoc (hafech – opposite), idea (yide’a – knowledge), organization (irgun), etc.

Hebrew is at the heart of Jewish life, and unites Jews from all corners of the world. Give your Jewish identity and Torah literacy a boost by registering now for the Hebrew Ulpan at Aish Academy.

The Aish Academy Hebrew Ulpan course is taught by Rabbi Shlomo Eitan. Rabbi Eitan is an internationally recognized linguistics expert and has developed a proven method to teach Hebrew. Unlike other Hebrew language courses, Rabbi Eitan focuses on the structure of the language and through small incremental steps, you’ll master the fundamentals of Hebrew.

Click here to find out more about Aish Academy's Online Hebrew Ulpan Course.

About the Author
Rabbi Shraga SimmonsMore by this Author >

Rabbi Shraga Simmons is the co-founder of Aish.com, and co-author of "48 Ways to Wisdom" (ArtScroll). He is Founder and Director of Aish.com's advanced learning site. He is co-founder of HonestReporting.com, and author of "David & Goliath", the definitive account of anti-Israel media bias. Originally from Buffalo, New York, he holds a degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. He lives with his wife and children in the Modi'in region of Israel.
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Post  Admin on Mon 10 Feb 2020, 12:44 am

https://www.aish.com/h/15sh/i/Tu-BShvat-Three-inspiring-Messages.html?s=mm
Tu B'Shvat: Three inspiring Messages
Feb 5, 2020  |  by Adam Ross
Tu B'Shvat: Three inspiring Messages
Learning wisdom from the trees.

Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, falls on the 15th day of the month of Shvat. Beyond its agricultural significance, this day calls us to harness the power of a new start and take that first step to kickstart the ‘spring’ in our lives. Here are three inspiring messages of the day.

Where you think is where you are.
On Tu B'Shvat we have a custom of eating fruits such as figs, pomegranates, dates and olives, yet in reality look around – there are no fruits yet on the trees! We're in the middle of winter; isn’t this celebration a little premature? The message of Tu B'Shvat is that although the fruit have not yet grown, the process which creates them has begun!

For people, our fruits are our deeds and achievements – and they too have their origin. They begin with an idea. Rabbi Nahman of Breslov taught, “A person is not only where he is physically, but where he is thinking about being.” When an idea crystalizes in our minds, we are already halfway towards achieving it. Tu B'Shvat’s message is that all great accomplishments begin in a compelling idea and goal. So dream, think positive and celebrate the power of our ideas!

Let nature inspire you.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller, one of the last generation’s great rabbis, was known to take time appreciating the awesomeness of nature, marveling at the intricate detail and unfathomable wisdom in the world that God made. “Look at this apple, so perfect, so sweet, so round,” he would say before channeling his gratitude into a blessing. Nature is not only there to feed us, but also to inspire us.

On Tu B'Shvat we can look at trees and their fruit as our teachers and guides. The date palm which grows in salty conditions yet brings forth honey teaches us to extract the good from the bad. The olive tree, which produces oil, encourages us to bring more light into the world, and the grape which is crushed before producing expensive wine, teaches us the value of humility.

The Kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat Seder is replete with these pearls of wisdom intended to help us elevate our lives, improve our character and aspire to greatness.

Spring is on its way.
We all have periods of winter in our lives, times of darkness, coldness and isolation, and sometimes it's hard to imagine ourselves back in a positive place. In Israel, after four long, cold months most trees have lost their leaves, battered by the harsh winds and frost. Just when they look ready to be cut up and used for firewood, new life appears again. The almond tree blossoms, these barren trees which have laid dormant for so long make a comeback.

Tu B'Shvat’s message is not to let the difficult non-productive times in our lives define us. Like trees, we too live our lives in cycles, like the moon that waxes and wanes, shrinking and disappearing before growing and becoming full. Tu B'Shvat falls during a full moon. Life is a cycle, spring is just around the corner and as the Talmud states, better times can come “in the blink of an eye.” As we witness the start of the transition from winter to spring, Tu B'Shvat teaches and builds our patience and trust that good times are ahead.
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Post  Admin on Wed 05 Feb 2020, 6:26 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/pg/5-Steps-for-Personal-Growth.html?s=mm
5 Steps for Personal Growth
Feb 1, 2020
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg adapted by Rabbi Eric Coopersmith
5 Steps for Personal Growth
How to get out of neutral and back into high gear.

In honor of the 11the yahrzeit of Rav Noah Weinberg, zt"l, the 11th of Shvat.

The capacity for change is the secret of the longevity and vibrancy of the Jewish nation. Thrown out of one country after another, the Jews were invariably able to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and start building again in a new country. School systems were running, mutual help organizations were reorganized, and communities were reestablished.

What is at the heart of this ability to change and grow?

As children, we expect that growth and change are necessary for development. But somehow as adults, many of us lose that impulse and think of the growth process as something reserved for young people.

You don't expect the behavior of your ten-year-old to remain the way it was when he was five. If it did, you would view that as a tragedy. If your 25-year-old had the same interests as a 15-year-old, you would be understandably upset.


 
But what about a 40-year old who's acting the same way he did at 35? Is it any less of a tragedy to lose the years between 35 or 40 than it would have been to lose the years between 5 and 10?

Losing the capacity to grow is tragic at any age. Any time you're not growing and changing, you're not living. You're just existing.

What strategies are best to bring about continuous, self-propelled growth? There are five important elements:

1. Setting Goals
Firmly setting goals propels you to change. This is true even if the goal was imposed on you. For example, if you know your parents will disown you unless you have passing grades in college, you'll force yourself to change your study habits. The goal of pleasing your parents will propel you to develop your capacity to understand and retain the subject matter.

The same thing happens if you decide to take a job, or get married. Once you've made your commitment, you'll change and grow in order to reach your goal.

In order to set goals, you have to ask yourself: what do I want to accomplish in life? Do I want to be a good person? If so, what defines "good" and how do I get there? Do I want a happy marriage? If so, how do I make a marriage work? Do I want to raise healthy children? How do I go about insuring that I raise them properly? How do I fulfill my responsibilities as a Jew? What's the best way to earn a living?

One way to begin to develop your goals is to write down ten things that you really want to accomplish; goals that you may have swimming around in your mind. Pick what you think is most important and work out a realistic plan for getting there. Once you are moving well on this goal, pick another and do the same thing. Slowly but surely you'll be able to change everything you want to change about yourself.

2. Take responsibility for yourself.
Deciding that you are going to be responsible for yourself. As the Mishna says in Pirkei Avos: "Im ayn ani li mi li? If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" (Avos 1:14)

You alone are responsible to make the decisions that will direct your life. You are responsible for how much happiness you attain, and how much you accomplish in life. People who tend to blame their situation on others, whether it's their parents, bosses, peers or friends, generally do not accomplish. The beginning of responsibility is to realize that blaming others is a way avoiding the real work of living your life. So stop blaming and start living.

3. Get clarity.
In order to make the choices that will help us set goals, we need clarity on the issues involved.

Imagine yourself taking your brand new, shiny red sportscar for its first ride. As you're cruising along, the guy behind you runs the light and slams into you, completely demolishing the rear end of your car.

Your blood is boiling. You walk over to his car yelling your head off, ready to pulverize the guy. Until he steps out of his car and you find yourself looking up at six feet, five inches of pure muscle.

What do you say? "Pardon me, sir. Just wanted to make sure you weren't hurt. Didn't mean to bother you...."

What happened to your rage? You gained new information: This guy is bigger and stronger than me. Venting my anger could be dangerous!

New information can completely change the way you view a situation. That's why part of taking responsibility for your life is making the effort to attain as much clarity as you can.

When we have clarity, we change.

Determine which issues in life you are unclear about. If you're not moving toward a goal, it means there's something confusing you. Push the fuzziness away. Track it down. What's holding you back? Clarity causes us to act. If you're not acting, you're not clear. Sit yourself down and figure out why.

4. Take an accounting.
Taking an accounting is the primary way of accepting responsibility to follow through on the goals you set for yourself.

At night, plan out what you want to do the next day. The night afterwards, you see whether you accomplished it.

You can do this little by little, even with relatively insignificant things, until you gain control over your time.

How would you like to get up in the morning? Full of energy or moaning your way through for the first fifteen minutes? Do you want to find your socks and shoes where you expect them or would you like to look for them every morning? Learn to take control of your life.

As you get into the habit of planning each day, your mind begins to take control. Instead of confusion or vegetating, clarity begins to shine through. As you use your intellect to pierce through the fog, to see where you want to go and how you want to get there, positive, proactive living -- change for the better -- takes over.

5. Strategize.
Every goal needs a strategy to make it work. And that takes some thinking.

If you're going to college to get a job, don't expect it to happen by itself. You've got to strategize: How am I going to spend these four years so that when I get graduate, all I have to do is wave my degree and I've got a job?

If one of your goals is to have a fulfilling marriage, what to do you need to do – and who do you need to become – to make the goal a reality?

Whatever the goal, taking responsibility involves developing an effective strategy to bring it into fruition.

Life is filled with unlimited potential. These 5 steps can be powerful catalysts to get us out of neutral and back into high gear.
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Post  Admin on Wed 05 Feb 2020, 6:15 pm

https://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/jerusalem/tau-dig-outside-jerusalem-unearths-a-rival-to-king-solomons-temple/2020/02/03/?fbclid=IwAR070WYxjgYOT3D14EJPj7VSawHQSBEHycxEaLup0PB4nALwgDAdJHpGrE8
TAU Dig Outside Jerusalem Unearths a Rival to King Solomon’s Temple
By David Israel - 8 Shevat 5780 – February 3, 2020
Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University led by Prof. Oded Lipschits and Ph.D. candidate Shua Kisilevitz continue the excavating of a unique temple from the time of the First Jewish Temple at Tel Moẓa near Jerusalem. The temple complex, which is the only one of its kind discovered to date in the realm of the kingdoms of Israel and Judea, is similar in many respects to the detailed description of temple built by King Solomon, in Kings I chapter 6.

Researchers say the site contributes greatly to understanding the First Temple period and to comparing the archaeological findings – here and in other sites – with the Bible narrative.

Their article, A Rival to Solomon’s Temple – The Place of Worship at Tel Moẓa Explained, was published in in Biblical Archaeology Review last December. See also: Another Temple in Judah! (PDF).


Ritual stand base with remains of decoration in the shape of a pair of lions or sphinxes in the Moẓa temple / K. Amit
“The excavation at Tel Moẓa began in 1993, as a rescue excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority – in preparation for the construction of a section of road that will replace the exit roundabout at Highway 1,” says Kisilevitz. “Additional rescue excavations were carried out in 2002, 2003 and 2012-13. These excavations uncovered an important site, whose dominant period was the time of the First Temple – From the 10th to the early 6th century BCE (Second Iron Age).”

“The findings indicate that there was an important economic and administrative center here, at the fertile Moẓa valley, with dozens of silos and two large grain storage facilities,” Kisilevitz continues. “At the center of the site, a monumental temple complex of the ‘North Syrian Temple’ type was exposed, whose plan is typical of the Ancient Near East. Among other things, an altar for offering sacrifices was revealed, alongside a table for offerings and many ritual utensils were discovered at the site – among them human- and horse- shaped clay figurines.”


Human figurine from the Moẓa temple / K. Amit
“The temple at Moẓa is the only temple compound of this type discovered to date in the realms of Judea and Israel,” she said. “Its architectural plan and decorations that adorn the ritual vessels are similar to those attributed to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, and described in detail in the Book of Kings I chapter 6.”

In March 2019, following the completion of the construction of the bridge leading to Jerusalem and the removal of sand fillings that covered the site during construction, the archaeologists returned to Tel Moẓa, this time as an academic excavation of Tel Aviv University.


Horse figurine from the Moẓa temple / K. Amit
“The excavations this season were very focused, and the goal was twofold: first, continue to expose the temple structure; and second, use advanced scientific technologies to better understand the site,” says Kisilevitz. “We discovered that the structure was at least 21 meters (63 ft.) long, and that underneath the temple courtyard floor there are remains of another worship-related structure, probably from the 10th century BCE.”

Researchers point out that the temple complex, with its various layers, constitutes an unprecedented finding in the archeology of Israel: worship structures erected at the beginning of the Second Iron Age, and a temple that continued to exist throughout most of the First Temple period, alongside Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, the site contributes greatly to understanding the evolution of worship in Judea, and to understanding the process of forming the Kingdom of Judea.

During the excavation, the researchers sampled materials from four layers exposed in a section on the eastern side of the temple, and submitted them for testing using various technologies: OSL – physical method for dating dirt samples; Carbon 14 dating test for organic materials; and micro-archeology techniques using microscopes, infrared rays, and other scientific instruments to reveal the hidden components within the archaeological findings.


Horse figurine from the Moẓa temple / K. Amit
“The results of the tests will give us a lot of information about the temple,” Kisilevitz says. “Among other things, we hope they will help us to accurately determine the dates of the different layers, find out if the structure has been abandoned at any time, and reconstruct the nature of the activities that took place in the temple courtyard.”

“Since most of the ritual activity took place in the courtyard, while the temple structure itself was only accessible to priests, we hope that further excavation in this area will reveal more objects of worship,” she says.

“The findings of the excavation at Tel Moẓa, past, present and future, are of great importance in understanding the First Temple period, and comparing the archaeological findings to the Bible,” Prof. Lipschits summarizes.

“The very presence of a temple similar to Solomon’s Temple just a few miles from Jerusalem raises many questions,” he notes, “Since the biblical text is rife with struggles against erecting worship sites outside Jerusalem, and even explicitly states that the God of Israel must be worshiped only in the temple in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the books of Kings II and II Chronicles speak of two religious reforms that dealt with precisely this point: King Hezekiah’s reform at the end of the 8th century BCE, and the more radical reform of King Josiah, which destroyed all places of worship outside Jerusalem in the late 7th century BCE.”

“We hope our findings will help us answer a variety of intriguing questions: who erected the temple in Moẓa and when?” Lipschits elaborates. “What ritual has taken place in it at different times? What was the relationship between the community around the temple in Moẓa and the community around the temple in Jerusalem? Did the priests of the temple of Moẓa at some point accept the supremacy of the priests and rulers of the temple in Jerusalem, and if so, when did this happen?

Did the Temple in Moẓa survive Hezekiah and Josiah’s religious reforms, and did it continue to operate until the destruction of the Kingdom of Judea by the Babylonians in 586 BC?”

Two additional excavation seasons are planned at Tel Moẓa, in the spring of 2020 and 2021, with students and researchers from around the world, especially from Israel, Germany, the Czech Republic and the US. Researchers are confident that many exciting discoveries await them on the unique site that does not stop surprising…
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Post  Admin on Sun 02 Feb 2020, 4:28 pm

Dovid, Melech Yisrael: 4 Facts about This Iconic Jewish Song
Jan 25, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Get a deeper understanding of this famous song.
It’s one of the first songs Jewish kids learn in Jewish preschool or summer camp:
Dovid, Melech Yisrael, Chai Vikayam…. David, King of Israel, Lives Forever…
For generations, Jews have sung this song about King David, yet the song carries some deeper meanings too. Here are four facts about this iconic Jewish song.
Remembering King David
King David was born in the year 907 BCE in Bethlehem. He was the youngest of eight boys, and seemingly was overlooked by his family. When the murderous Philistine nation sought to wage war on the Jewish people, David’s older brothers went to go fight, while David stayed behind to tend his family’s animals.

One day, David’s father asked him to visit his brothers on the front lines of the war and bring them provisions. The situation that David came across was a stalemate: the Philistine army had a giant of a soldier, a huge man named Goliath who was clad in armor and towered over all the other men, and he stood on a hilltop, daring anyone to try and fight him. While the Jews debated who could best defeat Goliath, David stepped forward and volunteered. David’s older brother told him he should go back home and tend to the animals and leave the fighting to men who were more capable.

Instead, David picked up some stones and advanced on Goliath, holding his trusty slingshot. Goliath was covered with armor, but David aimed a rock directly at Goliath’s forehead, which was uncovered, and managed to knock out and then defeat the enormous man (I Samuel 17:23-54). David went on to become a decorated military hero in the war against the Philistines, and eventually married Michal, daughter of King Saul. David became king after the death of King Saul, and during his reign he secured Israel’s borders. Among his many military accomplishments was capturing Jerusalem and declaring the holy city Israel’s capital: David’s son King Solomon eventually built the Jewish Temple there.

David’s life was full of travail and struggle; one of his most enduring legacies is much of the Book of Psalms, most of which he wrote and which give expression to the timeless Jewish longing to connect with the Divine.

The fragmentary Tel Dan stela, containing the Tel Dan inscription (or “House of David” inscription) provided the first historical evidence of King David from the Bible. Photo: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem/Israel Antiquities Authority (photograph by Meidad Suchowolski).

King David is mentioned over 1,000 times in the Torah, and is the earliest Biblical figure for whom archeologists have uncovered evidence: a stone found in northern Israel in 1993 refers to the “House of David” ruling Israel 3,000 years ago, in the 9th Century BCE.

King David Living “Forever”
King David reigned for 40 years; the Torah records his death and notes that he’s buried in the “City of David,” an area in central Jerusalem near the Western Wall. Yet Jewish tradition says that in a sense, King David lives eternally.

King David specified that his son Solomon should succeed him as king, yet as David lay dying, another one of his sons, Adonijah, declared himself ruler. King David’s wife Batsheva raced to tell the dying king of this development. David assured her that Solomon was his chosen heir, and Batsheva received this good news by declaring “May my lord King David live forever!” (I Kings 1:31). It wasn’t meant literally - in fact David died soon after - but Batsheva’s words reflected the reality that the timeless Jewish values King David stood for would continue through the reign of his son King Solomon, and through future kings from the House of David.

By continuing to live in King David’s legacy - by being Jewish and praying in the holy city of Jerusalem - we all are ensuring that the Jewish life King David represented continues to live on. King David is also described as the ancestor of the future Messiah: no matter how seemingly dark the situation of the Jewish people might be, we always know that the kingship of the House of David will return one day, and the trajectory of Jewish history will endure.

Waxing Like the Moon
The words David Melech Yisrael Chai Vikayam (David, King of Israel, Lives Forever) were first declared by the great Jewish sage Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi in the 2nd Century CE. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, a court of rabbis who guided Jewish life in the land of Israel. One of the Sanhedrin’s jobs was tracking the waxing and waning of the moon in the sky. When the first new crescent moon reappeared in the sky, the Sanhedrin would call witnesses who’d seen the moon reemerge, then declare that a new Jewish month had begun.

The moon’s fluctuating brightness in the night sky reminded Rabbi Yehuda of the ever-shifting fortunes of the Jewish people. He personally witnessed the oppression and humiliation of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, persecuted by their cruel Roman overlords. Yet instead of giving into despair, Rabbi Yehuda reminded himself that just as the moon waxes and wanes, so too does the glory of the Jewish people. The kings of Israel who were descended from David might have seemed to be no more, but Rabbi Yehuda had faith that one day their glory would return. Thus, he came up with an unusual way to let people know a new moon had reappeared:

“Rabbi Yehuda Nanasi once said to Rabbi Hiyya (another member of the Sanhedrin): Go to a place called Ein Tav and sanctify the New Moon there, and send me a sign that you have sanctified it. The sign is: Dovid Melech Yisroel Chai Vikayam (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 25a).

This declaration gave the Jewish people hope: even when the glory of the House of David seems to disappear from the world, we have faith that one day his kingdom will reemerge.

David Melech Yisrael Chai Vikayam has become part of the monthly “Kiddush Levanah” (Sanctification of the New Moon) service, said by Jews around the world each month when the first crescent of the reappearing New Moon appears in the night sky.

Zionist Anthem
The song David Melech Yisrael Chai Vikayam became a popular song with early Zionists whose activities rebuilding Jewish life in the Land of Israel seemed to fulfill the prophecy of the song, that one day the glory of King David’s life and legacy would begin to be rebuilt.

On November 29, 1947, the nations of the world, meeting in the United Nations, voted on whether or not to establish a modern Jewish state in the ancient land of Israel. One by one, the nations of the world cast their votes. In the end, thirteen countries voted against, ten abstained, and thirty-three voted in favor of allowing Jews to create a Jewish homeland once again. In Israel, reaction to the news was rapturous. Crowds poured into the streets, singing and dancing. One of the songs that reverberated through the land was David Melech Yisrael.

Zipporah Porath was one of the people celebrating in the streets of Jerusalem. The next day, she wrote a letter to her parents describing the scene: “Dearest Mother, Dad and Naomi, I walked in a semi-daze through the crowds of happy faces, through the deafening singing of ‘David, Melech Yisrael, chai, chai vekayam’ (David, King of Israel, lives and is alive), past the British tanks and jeeps piled high with pyramids of flag-waving, cheering children”. (Quoted in Letters from Jerusalem: 1947-1948 by Zipporah Porath, Jonathan Publications, 2005.)

Another reveler was Mordecai Chertoff, who also wrote about the crowd’s joy in a letter home to his parents in the United States. After listening to the UN tense vote on the radio, huge crowds poured into the streets.

“We heard a tremendous roar from Ben Yehuda Street (in downtown Jerusalem). ‘David Melech Yisrael chai chai vekayam’ and the roar is repeated again and again from the throats of the youth of Jerusalem banding together in a huge hora around an armored (British) police car...we ran and danced and ran and laughed and cried interchangeably without even noticing our tears. We got on a large truck with a great crowd… One young man with a trumpet walked the entire city and people followed him to the Jewish Agency...and suddenly (the crowd) started chanting ‘get a flag, get a flag…’ and suddenly the blue and white appeared on the balcony and a jubilant and fresh ‘Hatikvah’ (Israel’s national anthem) which we had never dared to hope for and never anticipated, erupted from five thousand mouths. (Quoted in Palestine Posts: An Eyewitness Account of the Birth of Israel. Based on the Letters of Mordecai S. Chertoff by Daniel Chertoff. The Toby Press, 2019.

Bringing Jews Together
David Melech Yisrael Chai Vikayam has continued to bring Jews together, serving as a simple-to-sing anthem of Jewish nationhood and survival.

Yasha (Yakov) Yosifovich Kazakov was a Soviet “refusenik” (Jew who was prevented from emigrating to Israel) in the 1960s. He later was able to realize his dream and move to Israel. There, he recalled the special role that Dovid Melech Yisroel played for him and other refuseniks longing to build their homes in the Jewish state. “At nights, groups of us would gather in private homes and spend hours singing Israeli songs, new ones and old ones, from Dovid Melech Yisrael to Sharm-el-Sheikh...whenever a new song was broadcast over the Voice of Israel, we’d be singing it within a week” (quoted in Momentous Century: Personal and Eyewitness Accounts of the Rise of the Jewish Homeland and State, 1875-1978, Levi Soshuk and Azriel Louis Eisenberg, eds. Associated University Presses: 1984.

Joyce Boll, an American film producer who worked with David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey, decided to move to Israel after she visited the Jewish state as an adult. She met some family relatives in Netanya, but it was only when she paid a visit to the Dead Sea that Ms. Boll realized she wanted to live in Israel. She met some Israeli soldiers at the Dead Sea, and wanted to connect with them. “I didn’t know a word in Hebrew” Ms. Boll later recalled, “so I sang David Melech Yisrael”, the only Hebrew song she knew, which her grandmother had taught her.

The Israeli soldiers knew the simple, catchy song too, and joined in. As they sang together, Ms. Boll recalls “I thought to myself: ‘This is amazing. We are so different yet one ancient song connects us, connects the entire tribe.’ It was then that I understood where I belong.”

With its easy to remember words, its catchy tune, and its deep meaning of Jewish survival, Dovid Melech Yisrael is a way for Jews of all ages and all around the world to bond, expressing their shared history through joyous music.
About the Author
Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >
Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.
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Post  Admin on Thu 30 Jan 2020, 3:08 pm

My White Privilege Has Nothing to Do with It
Jan 25, 2020  |  by Judy Gruen
My White Privilege Has Nothing to Do with It
Identity politics and the victimization mindset has poisoned too many interactions between citizens.

Standing in line to return an item at Nordstrom Rack, I felt my patience draining away. Half a dozen people were ahead of me and the line had not moved for quite some time. A harried young clerk was processing voluminous returns from a customer, a black woman. I sighed and grumbled to the blonde woman ahead of me about the inefficient and lengthy process.

“I bet she has at least thirty other things in there!” the blonde said, nodding toward the woman and her enormous shopping bag. Her tone was more bemused than annoyed. “If it were me making all those returns, I’d at least look over at the people waiting and say, ‘Sorry, folks!’” I agreed.

At that, a black woman who had joined the line after me reproached us. “Hey, be nice. You don’t get how privileged you are. You don’t know what that woman is going through.”

The blonde and I exchanged a look of disbelief. “And you have no idea what I’m going through, or what she is going through,” the blonde nodded toward me.

This has nothing to do with ‘privilege’ and everything to do with simple, common courtesy.
“This has nothing to do with ‘privilege’ and everything to do with simple, common courtesy,” I added. Dug in and defensive, she replied that we were simply too privileged to realize we were privileged, while she in her victimhood was woke.
 
Though I’ve read countless stories of people weaponizing this word – privilege – and hurling it as a rhetorical cudgel, it was troubling to experience it firsthand. It speaks volumes about the implied guilt of anyone who is white, and the implied untouchable status of people of color. It is, quite simply, reverse bigotry.

When I suggested to our interlocutor that civil courtesies should be color-blind, she dismissed the idea. My expectations for what is polite behavior shouldn’t be imposed on others, she said. I was flabbergasted.

Tears of anger and frustration began to fill my eyes. “Please don’t talk to me about privilege when there are armed guards in front of nearly every synagogue in this city,” I said.

I was wrong to engage her in any debate and I knew it. The Talmud rightly warns against answering those who insult us. Self-restraint and an ability to accept rebuke is considered praiseworthy, but in the moment, my typical self-restraint failed me. It was painful and upsetting that she offered no shred of sympathy for the current wave of violence against Jews. In fact, she turned the focus back on herself and her own feelings of vulnerability.

Shouldn’t we feel each other’s pain? Should either of us be reduced to a bigoted stereotype?
This woman and I are both members of oppressed minority groups. Our hearts should go out to one another over the senseless hatred that still plagues our communities. Instead, she viewed me as a caricature, a one-dimensional being who lives in some mythical world where all I have is “privilege” but no hardships, where I am consumed with self-interest and devoid of human empathy or sympathy. I could take no more and left the line.

Like so many Jews, I carry the weight of historical and ongoing Jewish oppression with me every day. That awareness is alive with tension now because of the alarming rise in brazen, often violent attacks against Jewish institutions and Jews as individuals. Certainly, this woman carries her own emotional burden from the terrible history of oppression, violence, slavery and hatred against blacks. Surely, she has been affected either directly or indirectly. Shouldn’t we feel each other’s pain? Should either of us be reduced to a bigoted stereotype?

Every life is complex. No one lives a life of pure privilege, and in a free country such as the United States, few live lives of pure victimization. Many people discover their greatness through the crucible of oppression: Dr. Martin Luther King, Nathan Sharansky, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Viktor Frankl. Conversely, many people born into privilege often feel rudderless, their material wealth suffocating their spiritual growth. Judaism teaches us never to forget our former oppression, but to look forward to the future and not stay stuck in a painful past.

The victimization mindset has fostered a divisive, resentful and reductionist way of viewing ourselves and others. Through name-calling and call-out culture, people are insulted and shamed through politically correct bigotry.

Am I privileged? Yes, for many reasons: my family, my faith, my community, my health. But even amid hardship and pain, and even through the history of oppression Jews have faced, I can find reasons to thank God.

No, I didn’t know what that woman with piles of clothes at the counter was “going through.” But I do know one thing: turning a perfectly valid human gripe about a long shopping line into an accusation about “privilege” just trivializes the very serious issues that are foundational to the stresses and fractures in our society.

Sometimes, a long line is just a long maddening line.

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Time for Freedom
Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)
by Rabbi Ari Kahn

Time for Freedom
Aside from our physical tormentors, true liberation means to be freed from the things that haunt our minds.

And God spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying: 'This month is the first of the months for you, it shall be the first of the months of the year for you. Speak to the entire Congregation of Israel, saying, on the tenth of this month each person shall take a lamb ...' [Exodus 12:1-3]

These verses mark the first commandment given to the entire congregation of Israel.

The Midrash cited by Rashi on the very first verse of the Torah, questions the propriety of the Torah beginning with the narrative of creation and then the stories of the Patriarchs. One would have assumed that the Torah -- being a book of laws -- would have begun with a legal section. Rashi specifically asks, "Why didn't the Torah begin with the passage from the Book of Exodus that reads This month is the first ... "

We must conclude that ultimately the narratives of Genesis and Exodus are quite important and are therefore included in the Torah. Nonetheless, the verses cited above could have been the beginning of the Torah, and, had they been the beginning, would have made an appropriate one.

* * *
 
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT

As noted above these verses mark the first commandment given to the entire community of Israelites. But there is more to this passage that makes it unique.

For one, we might ask: Why was this the first commandment? Surely God had at least 613 other choices.

Furthermore, why was this Commandment given in the land of Egypt? Why couldn't the Jews wait until Sinai?

In a sense the commandment regarding the new moon is a prerequisite for the holiday of Passover which would be celebrated in Egypt. In order to separate a lamb on the tenth of the month, one needs to know when the tenth of the month is. In order to have a seder on the eve of the fifteenth one needs to know when the fifteenth is.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Zat"zal, explained why this commandment was given here, and now. The Jews in Egypt were slaves, and therefore lacked a sense of time. They needed to acquire a sense of time in order to be truly liberated, transformed from objects to independent people.

While this explanation certainly gives us insight into the concept, one could argue that many, if not all, of the commandments contribute to the religious personality of the Jew. It is hard to see why this commandment could not have waited some two months until Sinai. God simply could have told Moses: "In ten days have the people prepare a lamb, and in two weeks we are leaving."

I think that an analysis of the seder which the Jews celebrated in Egypt will help us to understand the importance of this commandment, and why it was indeed given at this particular point in time.

* * *

THE PUZZLE OF THE FIRST SEDER

The Jews were commanded to take a lamb, to slaughter it, and to smear its blood on the door posts and door frames.

This was certainly liberating, considering that many animals were worshipped in Egypt; to kill the animals, and smear the blood was certainly perceived as a defiant act against the Egyptians, and rejection of their deity.

They were then commanded to:

'Eat the meat (of the sacrifice) that evening, roasted; eat it with matza (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs).' [Exodus 12:8]

At first glance this verse seems unexceptional, for thousands of years Jews have observed this rite, eating matza and maror on Passover eve, either with the sacrifice (during the time of the Temple) or by itself. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Jews in Egypt ate the Passover sacrifice with maror and matza.

Upon contemplation, a problem arises: Why do we eat maror or matza?

We are taught in the Mishna [Pesachim, Ch.10] that we eat maror as a "memorial" to the Jewish lives embittered by slavery. If this is the case then it indeed seems strange that the Jews in Egypt prior to the Exodus needed a memorial, as if they had already forgotten what it was like to be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. Perhaps today we need to eat bitter herbs in order to remind ourselves what the bitterness of slavery was like, but why would the slaves need such a reminder?

The matza poses an even more difficult challenge. The reason we eat matza is also taught in the Mishna -- the Jews left Egypt in such haste that they did not even have time for their bread to rise.

The people took their dough before it could rise ... They baked the dough which they took out of Egypt, into matza for it did not rise for they were exiled from Egypt and they could not tarry, and they had not made any other provisions. [Exodus 12:34,39]

That, of course, refers to the matza they took with them. But what about the matza they ate (as commanded) before they left?
Let us consider the sequence of events:

God speaks to Moses prior to the first day of Nisan, telling Moses that there is a concept of New Moons, months and years.
 
He further instructs Moses to tell the people to prepare lambs for the sacrifice by the tenth of the month.
The celebratory, festive dinner will take place on the night of the fourteenth (leading into the fifteenth).
 
At midnight that night, the first born of the Egyptians will die, and God will "pass over" the homes of the Jews who will escape unscathed.

Sometime after midnight Pharaoh will come looking for Moses, and subsequently the Jews will be quickly sent out of Egypt.

The actual exodus will take place in the morning, at which point the Jews will have to leave so quickly that there will not even be time for the bread to rise, hence the introduction of matza.
 

Again, we must ask: Why eat the matza the previous evening? When the Jews ate matza that evening, what was their religious experience while eating it?

* * *
COMPLETE TRUST

The night before redemption, while they were still enslaved to Pharaoh, the Jews smeared the blood of the Paschal lamb on the doors, and then sat down to celebrate the redemption, because at that point they already felt free!

In their minds, they were liberated from the oppression of Pharaoh. They believed so completely in the forthcoming redemption that they were literally able to taste it.

Their trust in God was complete. They were still in Egypt physically, but they were long gone psychologically.

It seems that this was God's purpose on that awesome night. Once the Jews felt liberated, they needed to eat from the bitter herbs in order to remind them of the oppression. They were even able to eat the matza, which would serve as the symbol of their rapid exodus that would actually take place only the next morning. They knew that they would be leaving so quickly that they would not have time for the bread to rise.

They trusted in God completely, and literally tasted the future.

How ironic, then the commandment that every year we are to envision ourselves as if we left Egypt. The Jews in Egypt did just that: They envisioned themselves as if they left Egypt, the only difference being that they accomplished this by looking into the future, while we must look into the past.

In every generation a person is obligated to envision himself as if he left Egypt.[Mishna Pesachim 116b]

* * *
THE NATURE OF REDEMPTION

The issue at hand is in reality the very nature of redemption. Redemption is not merely political, or geographical. True redemption will bring with it complete liberation, physical, and psychological.

One can imagine if the Messiah were to come today, and bring all the Jews to Israel, and cause all the nations "to beat their swords into plowshares ..." it would not suffice if we were still psychologically enslaved.

For example, if we were still tormented by the horrors of the Holocaust, not understanding the ways of God, we would in effect still be enslaved.

The Talmud teaches:

Rav Acha, the son of Chanina taught, "The future world is not like this world. In this world on good tidings, we say 'Blessed is the one who is good and brings good.' When bad news arrives we say, 'Blessed is the true Judge.' In the future the only blessing will be: 'Blessed is the one who is good and brings good.' [Pesachim 50a]

We see that redemption has a psychological aspect to it as well.

True liberation means to be freed from the things that haunt our minds, aside from our physical tormentors.

This is what God wanted to teach us in Egypt; how to become truly free.

There is an old saying that "it is easier to take a Jew out of exile than take the exile out of a Jew." We will see this in future Torah portions as the Jews suffer setbacks during the sojourn in the desert, many due to their inability to free themselves from their past.

God gave them one glorious lesson in Egypt, on the "art of liberation. "

* * *
ANOINTING THE SEASONS

We can now understand why the Torah begins this section with the commandment concerning time.

We are commanded to anoint the seasons, to decide when the new moon has arrived.

We are entrusted with the ability to determine the nature of time. Will it be sacred or mundane?

We are at the same time taught a powerful lesson: The Jew has the ability to transcend time, to trust in God so completely that the problems of the present are resolved when considered in the larger context of eternity.

Will the night be a time of fear, or the final moment before dawn?

The ability of the Jews to trust in God was the final act that ushered in the redemption from Egypt. For when a Jew truly trusts in God, he becomes part of the world to come, tasting redemption.
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Post  Admin on Tue 28 Jan 2020, 9:52 pm

Blaming Jews for Murder: Modern Blood Libel
Jan 27, 2020  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Blaming-Jews-for-Murder-Modern-Blood-Libel.html?s=mm
Blaming Jews for Murder: Modern Blood Libel
Jews have been blamed for violence in cases where they’ve been victims or tried to help.

Recent weeks have seen a slew of accusations against Jews for murder, in complete contravention of the facts. The accusations are chutzpah on steroids. Here are four horrible examples of Jews being blamed for deaths, both of others and at times for their own.

Modern-Day Blood Libel
When the parents of Qais Abu Ramila, an eight-year-old Arab boy living just outside Jerusalem, didn’t know where he was on Friday, January 24, 2020, they called the police. A few hours previously, they’d given the boy a 50 shekel and told him to pick some items at a nearby grocery store. When he still hadn’t returned home hours later, his parents feared the worst and turned to local officials as well as Jewish volunteers for help.

Israeli first responders leapt into action, searching his neighborhood. After appealing for help, hundreds of Israelis joined in the search overnight. Some local residents began to blame Jews. While the search was still going on, police were forced to use precious resources to block an angry mob of Arab men from attacking a nearby Jewish neighborhood after false allegations that Jews had murdered the boy whipped up hatred.

By the early hours of Saturday morning, Israeli first responders feared the boy might have fallen into a pit that recent rains had rendered full of water. Searchers pumped water out of a rainwater-filled area, and found Abu Ramila’s lifeless body. The 50-shekel note was still in his pocket. Magen David Adom ambulance workers tried to revive him but tragically he was declared dead.

Abu Ramila’s parents mourned their son, telling local Israeli journalists that he was “the flower” of their family. They acknowledged that his death was a horrible accident. Yet while the Abu Ramila family was grieving, an anonymous social media post declared the completely fabricated lie that Israeli Jews had murdered the boy, kidnapping and assaulting him before throwing him into a well to drown. This lie was reminiscent of medieval accusations that Jews poisoned wells and killed Christian children. Despite its obvious falseness, the post gained traction, being shared and re-tweeted by prominent figures around the world.


 
Palestinian official Hanan Ashwari re-tweeted the false accusation. Former British MP and radio personality George Galloway took the lie even further, asserting that the boy (whose age he got wrong) was murdered by illegal Israeli settlers” (sic) and - in what sounded a lot like an incitement to violence - called for “anyone (to) check this evil rampage against the people of Palestine. Anyone?” In the US, Rep. Rashida Tlaib also re-tweeted the slanderous lie that the eight year old was murdered by Jews. She deleted the tweet when it’s grotesque accusation proved to be false, but not before it was seen by supporters, baselessly smearing Israeli Jews as murderers.

Blaming Jews for their Own Murders
After two domestic terrorists who were members of a Black-supremacist cult-like religion attacked a kosher grocery store and murdered four people in cold blood on December 10, 2020, some locals blamed the Jewish victims.

That morning, the two terrorists first shot Det. Joseph Seals, a father of five. They then drove a short distance to a heavily Jewish area in Jersey City, where a note later found in their car revealed they intended to attack a Jewish school. Instead of the Jewish school, the murderers entered a kosher grocery store next door, where they murdered three people: Mindy Ferencz, the owner of the store and a mother of three young children; shopper Moshe Deutsch; and worker Douglas Miguel Rodriguez. A manifesto found in the killers’ car showed they set out to murder Jews - yet as news of the horrific murder unfolded, many locals turned their anger not on the murderers who’d attacked their community, but on Jews themselves.

“I blame the Jews” one woman at the scene of the attack said that night. The founder of a group that combats anti-Semitism filmed a crowd of Jersey City residents. One by one locals railed against the Jewish victims, not the terrorists who attacked them. “Four of yours are dead, right” one local asked the obviously Jewish cameraman, before spewing “If they were dead, that’s great.” Other passersby said they blamed “Jew shenanigans” and yelled “Get the Jews out of Jersey City”.

These horrific statements were made in the hours after the murders, when emotions were running high. Yet even later on, when it became apparent that this was a premeditated attack aimed at Jewish children and adults, one member of the Jersey City Board of Education, Joan Terrell Paige, posted on social media calling Jews “brutes” and said she empathized not with the victims but with the murderers: “What is the message they were sending?” she asked of the killers. “Are we brave enough to explore the answer to their message?” When local officials and fellow Board of Education called on Paige to resign, residents rallied to her support, attending a board meeting in order to defend her and repeat her odious message.

Attacking Israel on International Holocaust Remembrance Day
As Israelis and world leaders prepared to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, one BBC reporter took the opportunity to seemingly attack Israelis for remembering the Holocaust at all.

In her internationally-broadcast report on January 22, 2020, BBC reporter Orla Guerin interviewed a Holocaust survivor inside Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. Her report concluded with images of young Israeli soldiers entering the memorial; many were visibly moved as they looked at pictures of victims who might have been their great grandparents or other relatives.

These young soldiers, who every day put their lives on the line to defend the Jewish state, understand the history of the Jewish people they are defending. It’s appropriate that they learn about the Holocaust and its role in recent Jewish and Israeli history. Yet instead of commenting on the fact that Jews continue to face horrific anti-Semitism and that Israel, as the homeland and refuge of the Jewish people, is an indelible part of Jewish survival, Ms. Guerlin used the end of her report to trot out tired tropes attacking the Jewish state. “For decades, it (Israel) has occupied Palestinian territories” Ms. Guerlin asserts, in one sentence seemingly erasing any Jewish connection to the land of Israel, and smearing Israel as an illegitimate country with no right to its land. “...but some here will always see their nation through the prism of persecution and survival,” Ms. Guerlin concludes, apparently denying Israelis the right that every other nation in the world takes as their right: providing a refuge from persecution and fighting for their survival.

This report, viewed by millions of people world-wide, was a smear on Israeli sovereignty and legitimacy. Coming at the end of a report about the Holocaust, in which millions of Jews were murdered because there was no Jewish state to which they could flee, was an especially offensive example of chutzpah.

Jew-Killer Goes Scot-Free in France
After Sarah Halimi, a 66-year-old Orthodox Jewish teacher and grandmother living in Paris was murdered on April 4, 2017, her killer jubilantly announced “I’ve killed the shaitan (Arabic for demon)” and “Allahu Akbar!” before throwing her battered body off her third-floor balcony to her death below. The killer was Kobili Traore; he lived in Mrs. Halimi’s building and often insulted Mrs. Halimi and her family. Despite the fact that he recently told a judge his hatred was fueled by seeing Jewish objects in Mrs. Halimi’s home, he was recently released by a judge, who declared him not culpable for the murder due to marijuana use.

Traore broke into Mrs. Halimi’s apartment after first forcing his way into another apartment in a building next door. The terrified family there barricaded themselves in a bedroom. They, like Traore, were Muslim immigrants from Africa, and they heard Traore ranting and quoting passages from the Koran. They phoned the police, but not before Traore stepped out onto their balcony and climbed on Mrs. Halimi’s balcony. He attacked her and beat her mercilessly before throwing her to her death.

Despite the clearly anti-Semitic nature of the murder, Traore wasn’t charged with a hate crime. He pleaded not guilty, telling the judge that he wasn’t responsible for his actions because he’d smoked marijuana before the murder. In an apparent contradiction of his marijuana defense, he also told the judge presiding over his case that viewing Judaica in the Halimi’s apartment, such as a Jewish candelabra and a siddur (Jewish prayer book) enraged him, making him feel he had no option but to kill Mrs. Halimi.

In December 2019, a French court ruled that Traore was not criminally responsible for his actions. He’s avoided jail time, receiving psychiatric counseling instead. On January 5, 2020, hundreds of Jews marched through the streets of Paris, protesting this outrageous decision. “My sister was massacred,” Mrs. Halimi’s brother William Attal told the crowd: the killer “targeted my sister because she was Jewish”.

The Torah exhorts us to “Distance yourself from a false word” (Exodus 23:7). It’s up to all of us to stand up and point out the truth and dispel these slanderous lies.


https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Stoking-Hatred-between-Black-and-Jewish-Communities.html?s=mm
Stoking Hatred between Black and Jewish Communities
Jan 26, 2020  |  by Rabbi Avi ShafranStoking Hatred between Black and Jewish Communities
Using fake accounts on social media, white supremacists are fanning flames of hatred. They must not be allowed to succeed.

“BLACKS NEED TO RESPECT JEWISH AUTHORITY,” reads the stark, all-caps message on Telegram, an instant messaging service. The word “JEWISH” is reverse-color emphasized.

The message came from a fake account, like similar racist sentiments from similarly nonexistent “Jewish” users that flooded the social media giant Twitter a few months back.

A tweet, for example, from the fictional “Elaine Goldschmidt” who, “frightened by the string of anti-Semitic attacks,” bemoaned the fact that blacks (the tweet uses a much-reviled slur) “were supposed to be on our side. Now we have lost control of them.” The photo used in the profile was lifted from the account of a Scottish woman, Janey Godley, who, when she found out, was not pleased.

The tweet garnered hundreds of “retweets” and “likes,” including one, ostensibly from the unsubtly named, fictional “Ari Shekelburg,” who addresses “Fellow Chosen Ones…”
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Post  Admin on Sun 26 Jan 2020, 9:34 pm

Indifference or Collaboration: Which One is the Road to Auschwitz?
Jan 25, 2020  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Does indifference to evil make you complicit?
On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, on January 27 of this year, remembering isn't enough. To remember is merely to record what was; it does not ensure that there will be no comparable sequel.

Less than a century after we recognized the depths to which supposedly civilized human beings could sink as they sought to carry out a “final solution” of barbaric genocide, we are again witnessing the rise of a similar kind of anti-Semitism to the sickness of Nazi Germany. And merely mouthing the post-World War II slogan of “never again” or building hundreds of memorials to the six million will do nothing to prevent a repeat of the Holocaust unless we take to heart the real lessons we need to take away from a moment in history that brings shame to mankind.

How did Auschwitz happen? How was it possible for a cultured society to countenance concentration camps, crematoria and death factories? How could madness become acceptable to a sane and civilized world?

In a remarkable article in the New York Times last week by Rivka Weinberg, a philosophy professor, the author asks us to change our perspective from the moral message we've been teaching for years as take away from the horrors of the Holocaust. The gist of her argument is captured in the title to her piece: “The road to Auschwitz wasn’t paved with indifference.”

Weinberg asserts that we don’t have to be heroes to avoid genocides. We just have to make sure not to help them along.
Weinberg takes issue with the historian Ian Kershaw who wrote “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate but paved with indifference.” Weinberg asserts no, it was built with collaboration. The Nazis succeeded wherever anti-Semitism was entrenched, where Jew hatred was endemic. Her conclusion: “The truth about how massive moral crimes occur is both unsettling and comforting. It’s unsettling to accept how many people participated in appalling moral crimes but comforting to realize that we don’t have to be heroes to avoid genocides. We just have to make sure not to help them along.”

According to her, what we are to take away from the Holocaust has nothing to do with the sin of indifference. Silence in the face of evil should not be blamed.

“The belief that atrocities happen when people aren’t educated against the evils of bystanding has become part of our culture and how we think we’re learning from history. ‘Don’t be a bystander!’ we’re exhorted. ‘Be an upstander!’ we teach our children. But that’s all a big mistake. All of it: It’s false that doing nothing creates moral catastrophes; it’s false that people are generally indifferent to the plight of others; it’s false that we can educate people into heroism; and it’s false that if we fail to transmit these lessons another Holocaust is around the corner.”

What then is the message?

"Next time the murderers come, it’s understandable if it’s too much to ask for us to risk our lives, our children, or even our jobs, to save others. Just don’t welcome the murderers, don’t help them organize the oppression or make it “less terrible” (that won’t work anyway), and don’t turn people in. That will usually be enough."

To which I can only add, yes that will usually be enough - enough to let the murderers succeed, to let the killings proceed without interruption, to permit the crimes to become so much a part of daily life that soon after having been originally met with silence they will no longer even have the ability to stir the conscience or move the hearts of indifferent viewers.

It is hard to believe that a distance of 75 years from Auschwitz can so cloud our vision and distort our perspective that passivity in the face of evil – simply not actively collaborating – frees us from any guilt and is even sufficient to defeat crimes comparable to the Holocaust. Far better to acknowledge the truth as Elie Wiesel understood it: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.”

To do nothing is by definition in effect to collaborate.

Weinberg wants to limit culpability only to collaborators. How can she not understand what J.K. Rowling expressed so powerfully: “Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters, for without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves we collude with it through our apathy.”

In other words, to do nothing is by definition in effect to collaborate.

That is what the Torah meant when it commanded us in the book of Leviticus, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” Apathy is a sin. But it is more than a sin. Rollo May concluded that “Apathy adds up, in the long run, to cowardice.” It is the kind of cowardice that empowers evil. It is what makes draconian evil possible.

No one can absolve those who remained passive witnesses while six million were slaughtered in their presence.
No one – not any historian or victim, not any student of the Holocaust – can absolve those who remained passive witnesses while six million were slaughtered in their presence. Even if they didn’t “welcome the murderers, help them organize the oppression, or turn people in”, they carry the mark of Cain on their foreheads.

Weinberg feels we have no right to expect heroism. “Heroism is exceptional, saintly; that’s not who most of us are, nor who most of us can be, so we’re kind of off the hook.” It is a philosophy that preaches the victory of the wicked; human beings can never be counted on to fight on behalf of their better nature. We may be created in the image of God but we can never be expected act as if we are Godly. The most we can hope for is to educate against collaboration. And remarkably enough this acceptance of our imperfection is supposed to ensure we have liberated ourselves from the crematoria of Auschwitz.

No, the world needs a different lesson. It is the only one that can offer us hope. It alone can turn the dream of “never again” into the fulfillment of the vision of universal peace. It is the message that asks us to view our survival as possible only on a foundation of morality, rooted in the awareness of our potential for individual greatness.

As we watch the civilized world slowly begin to sink again into the swamp of hatred and anti-Semitism we need most of all to commit that we will never again be passive observers of evil. As difficult as it may seem, we need to call upon our spiritual and intellectual resources to pledge that Auschwitz will never happen again because we have no choice but this time around to be heroes.
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Indifference-or-Collaboration-Which-One-is-the-Road-to-Auschwitz.html?s=mm
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