31 March 2016

Two Lessons Learned from Purim

21 Adar Bet 5776

The Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole, 1828 (Wikipedia)

If we celebrate Purim with intent - paying attention to the story, understanding it, and learning from it - we should be strengthened in the lessons it teaches, and learn new ones every year. Purim brings out an amazing aspect of Ge'ulah Shlemah, that of the hidden miracles.

Others have explained, far better than I, the details of Purim; let us skip over that now to how we should allow ourselves to think afterwards. There are a great many messages to be deciphered and assimilated from this mysterious not-quite-holiday (in Jewish terms, one would have to observe most of the prohibitions of Shabbat, as we do on Pesah, for it to be a full holiday), and I don't believe I could capture them all in this space. So, I'll take two in particular, that resonated for me.

A particular learning I took away this year, to be lived the rest of the year, is the explicit need to accept our nationhood; I am sharing this with Israelis as well as those who live in the lands of exile because we all need the encouragement! We have everything it takes to define a nation, and each individual Jew has the privilege of accepting that (or not, in which case s/he is in danger of forfeiting the future of his/her branch of the Jewish people), except one thing: Our leaders don't believe in it, and they are the ones digging the hole in the boat we are all on.

The main mistake our people made was not to return to Eretz Yisrael afterwards. This is why R' Shimon ben Lakish told the Babylonian Jew who wanted to help him out of the Jordan River that he hated him: If that man's ancestors had been among those who came up to the Land, things would have gone a whole lot better than they had, and we would have merited the presence of the Shekhinah in the Second Temple. (see Yoma 9b)

The same is true today! We, and only we (with G-d's help) are responsible for how things go in Eretz Yisrael: not the UN, America, or any other nation or group of nations. A miracle greater than the Splitting of the Reed Sea would be if all the Jews in the world would see how the effort of every Jew, directed to this precious place, would make it the eretz hemdah, tovah urehavah (beautiful, good and spacious land) that our G-d gave us!

The other main point I picked up this year is that the biggest, best-known events of Purim took place after the 42,000 Jews had already returned to E"Y in the book of Ezra (which explains why it turns out that the Shushan government had calculated wrong about the 70 years being already over when they had their extended partying season, culminating in the feast where Ahashuerosh wore the Bigdei Kahuna (Cohen Gadol's clothing) and served food from the serving pieces of the Holy Temple - may this never happen again - where Megillath Esther begins).  Apparently the new olim were having a rough time in the first years of their return home (doesn't this sound so familiar?), battling the nations that had been living there while they were gone while studying Torah; so the rest decided to stay in the "safety" of Persia. Thus, after the 70 years of the Babylonian exile were over, the narrative returns to those who stayed in galuth and tells their story.

And now I can go on to prepare for Pesach, the time of the open, obvious miracles. May our righteous Mashiach be crowned and evident to all, bringing complete redemption, speedily in our days. Amen!

More lessons learned...

The Endless Ages of Purim | Breaking Free from Trauma | Main Message of Purim: Us or Them! | When It Isn't a Terrorist Who Stabs Our Soldiers in the Back | Support Our Soldier | The Israeli Left is a Potemkin Village | Israel Already Pays for US Aid! | The Continuing Conquest and Colonisation of Israel BY THE EU -Video | Shocking Revelations about AP's Collaboration with the Nazi Regime | Illegal Building Reuters Won't Report | Video Response to Brussels Attack from Jerusalem | OP ED: Why Can't Israel Be More Like Morocco? |

23 March 2016

Purim: Why Drink Wine?

14 Adar Bet 5776

Blogger's note: I, among many others, have wondered for years just exactly what drinking wine on Purim is supposed to accomplish. I found the best answer in the article below.

In addition, this article addresses the controversy of a man who only posthumously entered the spotlight because, as is not so well-known or considered, as the physician of the area, he had been in an emergency meeting where then-IDF General Shaul Mofaz shared news that the Arabs in Hevron were planning to wipe out the Jews there. Because the IDF left the situation alone even though, as the Megillah was being read, Arabs could be heard shouting "Itbach al Yahud!" - "Slaughter the Jew!" - what happened the next day is still a subject of great argument, since he isn't around to testify or defend himself as a result. His name: Baruch Goldstein, M.D.

Read on...

The Writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane HY"D
Republished with permission from Barbara Ginsberg; emphases are mine. -CDG

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 695:2) brings down as law the words of our sages' in Megillah (7b): "A man is required to mellow himself (with wine) on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between 'cursed be Haman' and 'blessed be Mordechai'". Many fine Jews have pondered this somewhat bizarre utterance, and have given different explanations.

Is the phrase teaching us that we should get absolutely "plastered" on Purim, to the point where our minds cannot distinguish properly? It seems odd that the sages would encourage such a thing. After all, Purim, like any other holiday, is intended to convey to the Jew certain IDEAS. Since one of the central ideas of Purim is the struggle between good and evil; between Mordechai and Haman - why would the sages want to muddle and obscure these concepts? Furthermore, the expression, "to mellow oneself" does not connote that one should be "rip-roaring drunk," and certainly it is not likely the sages would endorse such a state of mind.

Our teacher, Rabbi Kahane, HY"D, offers a powerful explanation to this question. The point is not that one should drink until he becomes confused and says, "Cursed be Mordechai", G-d forbid. Rather, he should understand that there is no difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman, between blessing the righteous man and cursing the evil one. Both are mitzvot. It is a mitzvah to FIGHT and CURSE the evil-doer precisely the way it is a mitzvah to BLESS the righteous man. The two are equal, complementing one another.



Let us develop this idea. It would not be a shocking revelation if we said that Jews in our generation, as well as in past generations, have a serious problem with the concept of cursing and hating evil. Despite the fact that this subject is a central part of Judaism, permeating the Tanach, Mishnah, Talmud, and halacha, for all kinds of reasons it is difficult for Jews to internalize the need for the burning out of evil, and the hating of the evil-doer. It is a hang-up we are familiar with from the days of King Saul (who in his misguided mercy spared Agag the Amalekite, which eventually brought upon us the episode of Haman!!!!!) - until this very day, where mercy on enemies and murderers has brought us to the brink of tragedy.

For the record, Queen Esther did not fail in this area. After the first day of Jewish vengeance against their enemies, Achashveirosh asked her if she had another request. She answered: "If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews who are in Shushan to do tomorrow also according to this day's decrees, and let Haman's tens sons be hanged upon the gallows." In other words, Esther did NOT have the galut complex of taking pity on a fallen enemy. On the contrary - she requested that the Jew-haters be killed one more day.



When the sages tell us that we should not distinguish "between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai", they are coming to tell us: You are required to mellow yourselves with wine, so that you will not hesitate to come to the full understanding that the concept of "Blessed is Mordechai" is EQUAL to the concept, "Cursed is Haman". That is, HATRED OF EVIL IS NO LESS IMPORTANT OR FUNDAMENTAL THAN LOVE OF GOOD, AND THERE IS NO ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER. Purim is the time to elevate ourselves in our thinking. Precisely by getting a little tipsy on wine, we can remove the usual inhibitions and hesitation, which commonly prevent us from cursing and hating evil!

The Rav has taught us something tremendous. Purim is NOT a holiday of drunken confusion and chaos, or for casting off our heavenly yoke. On the contrary. Purim is the day to cast off the HYPOCRISY of our everyday lives, and to sever ourselves from the phony self-righteousness which causes us to not want to condemn the wicked. Getting mellow or tipsy on wine straightens us out. If foreign, un-Jewish concepts permeate our thoughts all year round, on Purim we reveal our authentic, uninhibited selves. Without apologies, without "the mercy of fools" (as termed by the Ramban); without being "more righteous than our Creator" (as the midrash depicts Saul when he refuses to kill Agag).



At this juncture, let us mention that this Purim is the fourth* annual Yahrtzeit for the holy Dr. Baruch Goldstein, HY"D. In all his deeds, we remember Dr. Goldstein as a man, who in his life and his death, was a symbol of "not knowing the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai." On one hand, he was the epitome of good. His dedication as a doctor to heal his patients was incredible. "Ahavat Yisrael" conquered his heart. From this aspect, he was "blessed is Mordechai." On the other hand, this love was not "out of control." He knew that just as it is an obligation to love the good, it is also a "mitzvah" to hate the wicked. This is the "cursed is Haman" aspect. May we merit to be whole in our attributes, and to internalize our understanding that the war against evil is part and parcel to the goal of bringing good to the world.

*Today, in 2016, is the 22nd yom neshamah, or yahrzeit: both mean death anniversary.

Purim Torah by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, 
from the OU Center, Yerushalayim

Purim Sameach!
More reading:

Purim Appeal 5776

20 March 2016

Inspiration for the 3-Day Fast: Read These Posts!

11 Adar Bet 5776

I thought it would be good to compile a short list of posts that sum up the situation of the Jewish People in one place. If you are participating in the 3-day Esther-style fast going on beginning tonight, and need motivation to continue with however you are participating (I myself cannot fast 3 days due to my medical condition, so I cannot emphasize enough that there are many ways to participate apart from fasting the whole time), take a few minutes and read something from here.

How Things Are (at least from one Jewess's point of view)...

Wanted: A True Fearless Leader for the State of Israel | They Must Go (Abu Yehuda) | Because of the Israeli government's anti-Jew policies - Silent Intifada Weekly Summary 11/3-17/3/16 and if this isn't enough, see the previous ones too. Kol haYehudi has been posting these weekly summaries for quite some time now. | Police harass Jewish young married man under house arrest | The "National Interest" against Jewish Youth | Turkey can't state that Jews WERE targeted in Istanbul...and neither can our Prime Minister...but proof is right here! | Erdogan official 'tweets she hopes Israeli tourists are dead'... | Istanbul suicide bomber had ISIS links | Anti-Semitism Thriving in Europe by Michael B. Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US | Modern Anti-Semitic Propaganda (search) | Anti-Semitic Actions (search) | and more from this blog...

I could link to a lot more nasty stuff, but I'd rather be sparing. I hope this is not too much as it is. The commentary on some of the articles...ugh. They have a right to their opinions; we also have a right to ours. And many thanks to those who went into those snake dens and defended us!

And Our Goals, Summarized...

  • To honor and love HaShem, the Creator of the Universe, with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all "me'odenu" - that would include our might and our possessions, the gifts He has given us.
  • To get the exile out of our Jewish souls, for once and for all.
  • To make Israel a better place for JEWS! The world should have learned a lesson over many centuries when others tried to live in this land and could not succeed. It's proof that HaShem is in charge, no matter how much people believe that everything happens by chance. And, we should treat this as our last chance to get it right. We may not have another.
Adon haSelihot - Lord of Forgiveness

May HaShem accept our prayers with loving favor, continued survival and the greeting of Mashiach Tzidkenu soon in our days, Amen!

UPDATE: an interesting article from Israel Rising: Prophecies that Came True and What's Next by Nadav Sofy

Last but not least, live shiurim are going on almost all the time during the fast - here are the events calendar listing all the speakers and live netcasts and videos  on the HaTzom site (in Hebrew only - רק בעברית). NOTE: The speakers in each time slot may not be the ones listed (the one I watched was not); your guess is as good as mine as to why, if you should encounter this. I have no personal connection with the site.

17 March 2016

Teshuvah, Tefillah, Tzedakah: Wrong Season?


7 Adar Bet 5776

Not exactly - even though the High Holy Days are seven months away.

A three-day fast (the kind Queen Esther of Persia commanded upon the Jewish People all those many centuries ago) has been declared in Israel (Rabbis Arik Naveh and Yuval Asherov haCohen, shlit"a, are featured in the video below), extending to the Jewish world, and so far over 22,600 have signed up. That's since Shabbat Pekudei, when I first heard about it from a very dear friend of mine in the neighborhood. I couldn't find it online, but fortunately, my friend posted the link in our local e-newsletter, so that I could go there, sign up, and spread the word just that much further.

The dates are Monday-Wednesday, March 21-23. Most who are fasting will begin after Ma'ariv/Arvit prayers Sunday night. The fast will end Wednesday night after Ma'ariv/Arvit, whatever time it is for you. 

Moral support for fasters and other participants can be found here.

Essentially, we are now at the point in world history when everything begins to happen that we've ever heard about regarding the Complete Redemption. But it is a long, hard road and we Jews have helped make it so. Not for the reasons the nations are breathing down our collective neck, looking to annihilate us. Nay, it is the exact opposite. We have not been "ourselves" enough. We identify too much with the nations we and our ancestors have lived among (unless you are one of the lucky ones whose family has always lived here. There are some of those too. But even then the land was ruled by others, and Jews were kept poor here by the usual methods.). Generations-wise, we haven't been out of the lands of exile very long. As the saying goes, it is easier to take the Jew out of the exile than to take the exile out of the Jew. We have forgotten HaShem and failed to take Him into account.

Even today's Israeli government refuses to identify Jewishly any more than it absolutely has to, which is why we still have our hodgepodge of British-Ottoman-and now-American law (and probably other obscure laws somewhere in the middle). And, let's not forget "International Law"!

And we mustn't forget our brothers and sisters still in exilic lands. Our confusion here in Israel keeps all but the most intrepid away. But you out there, too, must take HaShem into account. After all, He gave us this land, including you. Those who consider this a shame now will be all the more ashamed later, when the war is won and we inhabit our entire land in peace. Showing faith — davka while the world still doesn't agree that we belong here — is important.

Last but not least, we each need to take heed to ourselves and our personal behavior as well as our attitude towards our fellow Jews. We couldn't do any of this without national consciousness.

The link, in 5 languages: עברית | English | Français | русский | Español

(By the way, I'm happy to have the opportunity to link to more languages that my readers speak.)

***NOTE for those who feel intimidated by this challenge: If for medical reasons you cannot fast, you do not have to fast; you may do other things - tzedakah and Tehillim are highly recommended; also contemplation of our situation as well as our actions and effect on the world around us. Kol hakavod to those who feel the burden and can carry it all the way to the finish line. Complete instructions in all the languages in English only (sorry about that) are now available in PDF format. (It's 23 pages long!) Don't worry; I was also overwhelmed when I first heard about it.***

And when this is all over, have the best Purim ever, G-d willing. Meanwhile, it's time to wake up...the life and family you save may be your own.

All the videos on the site are in Hebrew...

...and we all understand this one (not on the site).

May we succeed, each in his/her own way. Participation is the most important thing.

15 March 2016

2017: Year of Jewish National Consciousness?

6 Adar Bet 5776

A Critical Year of National Consciousness
by Ariel Kahana
עברית למטה

Only with the arrival of  2017 will the Obama-Netanyahu quarrels, like the one that happened this week over the cancelled meeting, come to an end. But then the really difficult war will begin, the war over national consciousness

*Blogger's note: This article was originally published in this past Friday's Makor Rishon (First Source) (1 Adar Bet 5776/11 March 2016) in Hebrew.  HUGE hat tip to Women in Green (Women for Israel's Tomorrow) for having it translated to English by Sally Zahav and emailing it for our benefit. Hebrew is below the English only because I cannot find it online to link to.

“The past actually happened, history is what someone wrote down,” the American comedian Whitney Brown once said. This pithy saying exactly describes the approaching critical year of national consciousness. 

Even at the beginning of the year 2016, all eyes are already set on 2017. During that year Israel, the Palestinians and everyone who is connected to the Jewish-Arab battle over the Land of Israel, will mark the one hundred year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, seventy years of the partition, and fifty years since the Six Day War. 

The battle over the world’s memory regarding these points in time will be almost as bitter and difficult as the wars that accompanied each one of them. Palestinians and their supporters, including self-hating Jews from Israel and the diaspora, have already begun preparations to undermine our rights to the Land in general and to Judea and Samaria in particular. Israel, perhaps thanks to a prime minister with an especially developed historical awareness, has also begun positive preparations. This is good. 

Already during the last Jerusalem Day the government determined that a ministerial committee would begin planning celebrations for the jubilee year of the city’s unification. The task was assigned to Minister Miri Regev and an inter-ministry committee was established, headed by Managing Director of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Yossi Sharabi. On the next Jerusalem Day the government is expected to approve the plan and the events themselves are already expected to begin. Simultaneously, Minister of Education Bennett announced that the academic year for 2017 will mark fifty years of the unification of the eternal capital of the Jewish People. 

However, neither Netanyahu nor Bennett took advantage of their authority to sharpen the message which is no less important: the jubilee year of the return of the Jewish People to the historical tracts of the Land of Israel, meaning Judea and Samaria. One need not be a rightist in order celebrate the miracle of this war of salvation, and one need not be religious to claim that Elon-Moreh, Beit-El, Beit-Lehem and Hevron are the cradle of the Jewish People’s homeland. There is, of course, a political dispute over the question of what to do in these tracts of land today, and it is clear that the educational system must not get involved in the bitter argument. But the past must be told. If not, others will come and rewrite history, and actually, they are already doing this.

The Palestinians have already succeeded for some time to penetrate the international consciousness with the lie that they are an ancient people that have, from time immemorial, lived in the land. They scream “It is all mine”, but are answered by our side with “okay, then we will divide it” and not “It is all mine”. It’s no wonder that many people, and not only the ignorant, are convinced that the State of Israel arose on the ruins of the state of Palestine, even though such a thing never existed.

Israel refrains from screaming about its fundamental rights in Judea and Samaria. And as long as it continues to do so, Israel can expect to suffer a crushing defeat in the battle for national consciousness since her claims are not convincing. The Palestinians in 2017 will scream “Fifty years of robbing us of our country and usurping our lands”. Israel, as it has through the years, will mumble that her actions stem from security needs. That is, she will say implicitly that the land indeed is Arab, but the occupation, the theft and the usurpation, are done in the name of Israel’s security. With such a message as this it is impossible to win. Just as it is impossible to settle in a neighbor’s home just because he is an irksome nudnik, it is also impossible to justify the theft of another people’s land on the grounds of national security. “Give them what is theirs, and solve the security problems in another way”, is the outsider’s expected response. 

The Israeli hasbara system has not internalized this fundamental point. In the opinion of the hasbara people, the claims of history and rights are automatically connected to a contemporary political solution. 

Therefore it is preferred to obscure the past. Instead of differentiating between rights and an agreement that perhaps will exist in the future, both are treated equally. This is analogical to a lawyer not representing the reasons that the accused is not guilty because of misgivings that the judge will not be convinced, which might lead to him actually not being convinced. Like a dog that returns to its vomit, Israel goes back to her futile security claims and flees from the main question – the question of the right to the Land.

The only one in the Israeli system that has understood this concept is Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. She had some time ago already formed a team and a plan to promote hasbara projects that emphasize Israel’s rights in Judea and Samaria. The program includes a presentation that will move throughout the country to tell of the continuity of Jewish communities in the Land of Israel over the years, film clips and hasbara dossiers in Hebrew and English. But in order to implement it, the approval of the minister of the treasury, Moshe Kahlon, is required. “The idea is to emphasize the message of liberation and the return to the territories of the Land, rather than the term “occupation”, say those in Hotovely’s office.  The Yesha (Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza) Council plans its own celebrations to mark the jubilee year of the return of the Jewish People to its historic inheritance. The question is why Prime Minister Netanyahu and head of HaBayit HaYehudi Bennett, who are polished public relations presenters and understand the matters at hand, stand on the sidelines. Why do these two leaders not also initiate celebrations and courses of action to send this essential message, which they both know so well: the historical miracle of the return of the Jewish People to the heart of its homeland.

שנת הכרעה תודעתית
אריאל כהנא

רק כש-2017 תגיע יסתיימו מריבות אובמה-נתניהו אלא שאז גם תיפתח המלחמה הקשה באמת, מלחמת התודעה.

אף ש2016 רק בתחילתה, העיניים כבר נשואות ל-2017. בשנה זו ישראל, הפלסטינים וכל מי שקשור למאבק היהודי-ערבי על ארץ ישראל, יציינו מאה שנים להצהרת בלפור, שבעים שנה להחלטת החלוקה, וחמישים שנה למלחמת ששת הימים.

הקרב על הזיכרון העולמי של תחנות הזמן הללו יהיה מר וקשה כמעט כמו המלחמות שהתלוו לכל אחת מהן. פלסטינים ותומכיהם, בכלל זה יהודים שונאי עמם מישראל ומהתפוצות, כבר החלו בהכנות לקעקוע זכותנו על הארץ בכלל ועל יהודה ושומרון בפרט. ישראל, אולי בזכות ראש ממשלה בעל תודעה היסטורית מפותחת במיוחד, החלה גם היא בהכנות החיוביות. טוב שכך.

(כאן מציין כהנא את ההכנות לחגיגות לאיחוד ירושלים ואז ממשיך:
אלא שגם נתניהו וגם בנט לא ניצלו את סמכותם לחדד את המסר החשוב לא פחות: יובל לחזרת העם היהודי לחבלי הארץ ההיסטוריים, כלומר ליהודה ושומרון. לא צריך להיות ימני כדי לחגוג את נס מלחמת ההצלה ההיא, ולא צריך להיות דתי כדי לטעון שאלון מורה, בית אל, בית לחם וחברון הם ערש מולדתו של העם היהודי. יש כמובן מחלוקת פוליטית בשאלה מה לעשות בחבלי הארץ הללו כיום, ....אבל את העבר חייבים לספר. אם לא כן, יבואו אחרים וישכתבו את ההיסטוריה, ולמעשה הם כבר עושים זאת.

הפלסטינים הצליחו זה מכבר להחדיר לתודעה הבינלאומית את שקר היותם עם עתיק שגם דר מאז ומתמיד בארץ. הם צועקים "כולה שלי", אך נענים מצדנו ב"טוב, אז יחלוקו" ולא ב"כולה שלי". אין פלא איפוא שהמונים, ולא רק נבערים, משוכנעים שמדינת ישראל קמה על חורבותיה של מדינה פלסטינית, אף שכזו לא הייתה מעולם.

ישראל חומקת מלזעוק את זכויותיה העקרוניות ביהודה ושומרון. כל עוד תמשיך בכך היא צפויה לנחול תבוסה מוחצת בקרב על התודעה, משום שטענותיה אינם משוכנעות. הפלסטינים ב-2017 יצעקו "חמישים שנה שגוזלים אותנו בארצנו ומנשלים אותנו מאדמתנו". ישראל, כפי שקורה כל השנים, תהמהם שמעשיה נובעים מסיבות ביטחון. כלומר תאמר במשתמע שהארץ אכן ערבית, אלא שהכיבוש, הגזל והנישול, נעשים בשם ביטחון ישראל. עם מסר כזה אי אפשר לנצח. ...אי אפשר להצדיק גזל של אדמת עם אחר בעילות של ביטחון לאומי...... ככלב השב על קיאו חוזרת ישראל על טיעוני הסרק הביטחוניים ובורחת מהשאלה העיקרית- שאלת הזכות על הארץ.

היחידה שתפסה את הרעיון במערכת הישראלית היא סגנית שר החוץ ציפי חוטובלי. זה מכבר גיבשה צוות ותוכנית שיקדמו מערכי הסברה המדגישים את זכויות ישראל ביו"ש. ....אלא כדי ליישם אותה נדרש אישור של שר האוצר משה כחלון.
"הרעיון הוא להדגיש את מסר השחרור והחזרה למרחבי הארץ, כנגד המינוח כיבוש" אומרים בלשכת חוטובלי.....

השאלה היא מדוע ראש הממשלה נתניהו ויו"ר הבית היהודי בנט , מסבירנים משופשפים, עומדים מהצד. מדוע השניים לא יוזמים גם הם חגיגות ומהלכים שיובילו את המסר המרכזי המוכר להם היטב: הנס ההיסטורי שבחזרת העם היהודי אל לב מולדתו.

Comments are welcome!
תגובות יתקבלו בברכה