An impartial observer of the Middle East will realize that these are unusual times. Tens of thousands of Jews, from many different countries, are returning to their national and historic homeland after thousands of years. Arab states are beginning to reconsider their attitudes towards Israel now that they realize that after more than 50 years the Jewish State is here to stay.
” If the nations of the world accuse Israel of banditry by conquering the land of Israel…then the people of Israel will answer and say: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth. The entire universe belongs to Him. He created it and He gave it to whomever He deemed fit. It was His desire to give [the land] to the Caananites first and it was His desire to take it from them and to grant it to us.”
………….The Wisdom of an Apikores
In my younger days, I knew a man who was a convinced and committed apikores (heretic). I used to meet him every Shabbath morning in synagogue where he was a frequent worshipper. He often would walk into the sanctuary, tell people that they were wasting their time coming to the morning service “since there is no God,” and then he would proceed to his seat. Thereupon, he would cover himself with his talith, open his prayer book and join the service with great fervor.
We suggested in a previous essay that Israeli leaders, academicians and the Israeli public should find their way back to the synagogue and re-discover their neshomehs. But this is easier said than done. Many have entered and left without sensing any spiritual significance. In fact, many have entered and have been discouraged.
“Man always dies before he is fully born.” Erich Fromm
The certainty that one has succeeded in the education of one’s children can only be established when one watches the conduct of one’s grandchildren. And even then one cannot be sure.
A problem in some religious circles is the neglect of recognizing the importance of natural beauty and the need to appreciate its profound impact on life. There is increasing evidence that many devoted religious communities with their impressive commitment to Torah and Mitzvoth no longer stress the need to educate their children about the elegance and grace of beautiful surroundings such as impressive mountains, lakes and forests, flowers, beautiful birds or other creatures.
A Project of Common Interest
“Cleanliness is not next to godliness nowadays, for cleanliness is made an essential and godliness is regarded as an offence.” C.K Chesterton, On Lying in Bed, Tremendous Trifles, 1909.
Teshuva, the art of repentance, is far from easy. Not only is it difficult to confront oneself with one’s own shortcomings, it is even more difficult to actually internalize the need to repent and transform this into action. How many of us are really capable of reaching this lofty goal?
The Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem was a place where only the High Priest was allowed to enter once a year: On Yom Kippur. Now even the Holy of Holies was occasionally in need of repair. To provide for such an eventuality there were openings in the upper chamber leading down through the ceiling of the Holy of Holies. These holes were close to the walls and through them the workmen were lowered in “tevoth” (boxes) into this most holy place. These boxes were only open to the side of the walls, so that the workmen “could not feast their eyes on the Holy of Holies.” (Pesachim 26a)
“Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom”
Rarely do I write about my personal feelings. However, singular circumstances brought about by Divine intervention cause us to realize that our customary ways are but the dream state in which we believe we live, until a perpetual murmur from an eternal world wakes us up.
Since Simchat Torah is the day in which we celebrate the Torah, its divinity, greatness and superiority, it is quite perplexing that there is no special mitzvah commanding the Jewish people to study Torah more deeply and for longer on this festival than on any other day. In fact little studying can be done since much of the day is occupied with dancing and singing and even the reading of the Torah is kept to a minimum: Specifically the concluding words of the Torah and not much more than some opening verses of Sefer Bereshith and a small portion related to some festival sacrifices in the Tabernacle.
“Some people like the Jews, and some do not.
But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.” Winston Churchill (1)
In one of its unusual passages, the Talmud (Eruvin, 21b) reports that King Salomon instituted the laws concerning the Eruv, i.e. “mixing of the realms” through which one is allowed to carry objects otherwise forbidden on Shabbath from one domain to another, private and public. At another occasion King Salomon instituted the ritual washing of the hands. Both decrees were received with divine favor and a heavenly voice issued and proclaimed: “My son, if your heart is wise, Mine will be glad, even Mine…” (see Mishleh 23. 15)
There has never been a period in Jewish history during which Halacha has been so challenged as in our days and in this country. For nearly two thousand years, Jews have been living under foreign rule and as such were able to play the role of what I call “comfortable spectators”.
Reading the story of Yitro, Moshe’s father in law and a convert to Judaism, is a serious challenge. For sensitive souls it is not just a meaningful narrative but above all a painful confrontation with one’s own Jewishness.
IAF Col. Ilan Ramon, (With tongue in cheek)
I am worried. Very worried. No, not about Saddam Hussein, we will, with God’s help, deal with him, but about Colonel Ilan Ramon, our first Jewish-Israeli astronaut who at this very hour is located, together with his crewmates, in space shuttle Columbia flying around our universe.
The first astronaut to ever be launched into space was Phileas Fogg. He was sent there by Jules Verne, famed author of 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The launching took place in the year 1873 and became known world wide through Verne’s masterpiece: Around the World in 80 Days.
Opening Remarks by Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo at the introduction of the
Great Issues Lecture Series on Judaism in Crisis. February 3, 2002-Adar 2, 5763
As the war between the USA and Iraq comes closer and closer (and probably has already broken out by the time this essay is read by our readers), one cannot escape the fact that, just like 12 years ago in the days of the Gulf war, it is again the festival of Purim and the miraculous redemption of the Jewish people from the hands of Haman which hovers over this conflict. This should not be lost on us
While it is really difficult in these days to comprehend the ways of Divine Providence, it seems that some moments of divine revelation are granted to us when we carefully direct our attention to some biblical and rabbinical sources. Bereshith: 16: 11, 12: (*)