Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tzipi Livni

Remarks by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni
to the International Youth Congress
on International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Yad Vashem, 28 January 2008

Mr. Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate,
H E István Hiller, Hungarian Minister of Education and Culture,
H.E. Henri Etoundi Essomba, Ambassador of Cameroon and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Youth who are with us here today,

To be a Jew is to dream the Shoah, live the Shoah, and die in the Shoah without actually having been there.

To be a Jew is to try to imagine the horror, to stop as the most painful images engulf you, and to know that you are still so far from the pain endured by those who were there.

To be a Jew is wanting to ask the elderly if they were there, and what they went through, and yet fearing to do so.

To be a Jewish mother is to understand, with the birth of a second child, how impossible, how inhuman it would be to have to choose between her two children.

To be a Jewish mother is to look at your children and wonder if they are old enough to care for themselves without you.

To be a Jewish mother is to look at your children and to ask yourself whether the right choice would be to keep them with you or to tell them to leap off the train.

To be an Israeli is to know that you were reborn from the ashes of the victims and that you have a responsibility to the generations to come.

To be an Israeli child is to try to fathom the number six million but never being able to.

To be an Israeli is to live on streets named after entire communities that were wiped out because there are not enough streets to name after each one of the victims.

To be an Israeli is to live in a country that appears strong from the outside but is always aware of the vulnerability of its people.

To be an Israeli girl is to receive, as a Bat Mitzvah gift, the book of poems "There Are No Butterflies Here", written by children of the Theresiendstadt Ghetto, and to understand that these children were just like you, and all they wanted was to play, to live and to love.

To be an Israeli teenager is to visit the death camps in Europe, to see the scratch marks on the walls of the gas chambers of those who tried to get out, to see the "showers", the piles of shoes and hair, and never look in they same way again at things that are taken for granted by teenagers in other places.

To be an Israeli mother is to suddenly discover that you have passed on to your children the collective memory and experience of the Holocaust. It is to understand that although you wanted to spare your children the pain so that they would not have to bear the burden that you have carried all your life, as a daughter of the Jewish people you felt the need to pass on this memory so that they and their children and their children's children would remember. And it is to realize that the national cause has overcome your motherly feeling.

To be a Jewish leader in Israel is to ask yourself whether you would have seen the writing on the wall had you been there, and whether you would have made the right decisions at the time.

And it is, above all, to pledge never to forget.

Dear Friends,

There are feelings and experiences which are failed by words the bigger the horror the more difficult it is to pass on the memory of the Holocaust to future generations.

I would like each of you to study the pictures here at Yad Vashem even if you are unable to pass on the magnitude of what you see, I would like to ask you to take only one memory with you, whether a picture of a living skẻleton, or of a pile of human bones, or that of a child, and to pass this image on.

One picture is a world. Each of these pictures screams out the horrors of the Holocaust and holds lives and dreams that vanished.

The terror, humiliation, helplessness, yearning for family, waiting for salvation from those who could do nothing to help - All these you should pass on to others, not to cause them pain, but rather to prevent these images from ever becoming a reality again. As soon as people will cease to think that such crimes are possible, and then they will cease to act to prevent them from returning.

Beyond remembrance of those who died, we are faced with an obligation to the future. This obligation rests on the shoulders of leaders, and on the shoulders of every citizen of the free world.

Horrors of such magnitude are the outset the product of a distorted mind of the leader but they are also the product of the Evil in uniform who agreed to execute, and of society that remained silent.

Anyone who has seen the pictures at Yad Vashem, beginning with people perishing in the Ghettos, understands that the writing was on the wall, and there were those who stood by and photographed.

The obligation to identify, to combat and protest against such phenomena is the responsibility of everyone. Decision makers, teachers and citizens whose ability to voice their protest depends on the understanding that his voice will not die, but will be joined by many others.

As of today, you are all part of the voice which gives substance to the words and the promise of: Never again.


Rabino Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! A father of a teenager I knew had a beautiful 1965 Ford Galaxie convertible -- yellow with a black top. One day he asked his father why he owned a Galaxie while the other person who vied with him for the top salesman in the company drove a T-bird. His father replied, "People don't want to see that you make too much money off of them." Two years later his father bought a '67 T-bird. He asked him why he decided to buy a T-bird. His father replied, "People like to see that you are successful."

The brain is a powerful instrument. Ask it for 10 reasons to rob a bank and it will give them to you -- 1) It will be exciting 2) Think of all the good I can do with the money 3) They're insured ... Ask your brain for 10 reasons not to rob a bank and it will give them to you -- 1) It's wrong 2) You'll probably be caught 3) Your next girlfriend's name will be Bubba ... Knowing that the brain can justify almost any action, you must ask it "What is the right thing to do?" And often, it is still very worthwhile to ask a friend who doesn't have the same vested interests as you for his opinion. It helps to keep you objective.

We can use our brains to better our situation or make it worse. We all know people who can grab misery out of times of joy. A waiter once told me that sometimes he feels like asking some diners after their meal, "So, was anything OK?" We have the ability to look at the glass as half full or half empty -- although that often depends on whether you are pouring or drinking. We must use our brains to focus on the positive.

As part of my community's Bikur Cholim Society (a group of volunteers who visit and help the Jewish sick), I used to visit the Rehab Unit where people are recovering from hip and knee replacements. Often they are in great pain. It is painful to see their pain.
I tell the patient: I wish I could take away your pain, but I can't. Besides praying for your full and speedy recovery, I could -- if you are interested -- teach you how to minimize the intensity of your pain. Nine out of ten patients are fascinated and anxious to learn; one out of ten thanks me for my visit and asks me to leave.

I then continue: There are two types of pain -- meaningful pain and meaningless pain. If one takes a beating, it is painful; if one takes a beating to protect his child or instead of his child being hit, it is less painful. Why? Making a choice to receive the pain rather than have your child receive the pain gives meaning to the suffering.

Pain after an operation is meaningful. It means that you are alive. It means that your body works and hopefully is healing. There is a syndrome where a child is born without the ability to feel pain. Unfortunately, these children do not usually live long because they don't know when they are bleeding, if they are too close to a fire or are injured.
There are other benefits of pain. Pain can be a wake-up call from the Almighty to look into your deeds and your life. Is there anything that you should change or could do better? There is a Torah concept that the Almighty deals with us "mida k'neged mida" measure for measure. If one stubs his toe, he should not only think about the advisability of wearing shoes, but also on a metaphysical level "Who have I been kicking around?" Even if you don't figure out the reason, you can benefit from the introspection and improve your character and actions.

On a spiritual level, pain also serves as an atonement. When I am in pain, I ask the Almighty, "Please, accept this pain as an atonement for anything I have done wrong." One is certainly better off accepting the pain with love and appreciation rather than with anger and resentment.

If the Almighty gives a person pain as a wake-up call or as an atonement and the person ignores it, he has taken something that is meaningful and could benefit him and relegates it to the level of randomness and meaninglessness -- which is not only sad, but more painful.

If you know someone in pain, perhaps you can help them by sharing some of these ideas.

Torah Portion of the Week

One of the most mitzvah-filled Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments. Included are laws regarding: the Hebrew manservant and maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent, personal injury, penalty for killing a slave, personal damages, injury to slaves, categories of damages and compensatory restitution, culpability for personal property damage, seduction, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of widows, children and orphans.
The portion continues with the laws of: lending money, not cursing judges or leaders, tithes, first-born sons, justice, returning strayed animals, assisting the unloading of an animal fallen under its load, Sabbatical year, Shabbat, the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot & Succot).
Mishpatim concludes with the promise from the Almighty to lead us into the land of Israel, safeguard our journey, ensure the demise of our enemies and guarantee our safety in the land -- if we uphold the Torah and do the mitzvot. Moses makes preparations for himself and for the people and then ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

* * *
Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah tells us of one's responsibility if he injures another person,
"... and he shall be healed" (Exodus 21:19)
n meaning that the injurer must pay the doctor bills for the damaged person. The Talmud (Brochos 60a) teaches us that from this verse is derived the principle that a doctor is permitted to heal. Why does the Torah need to tell us that a doctor is permitted to heal?

The Chozeh of Lublin commented on this that a doctor only has permission to heal. He does not have a right to despair about a person's being healed. Even though a doctor might see that from his experience and from all that he was taught about people in similar situations to this patient's that they usually do not recover, the Almighty has the final say about the reality of any person's recovery! Never give up hope. There are plenty of people who have lived for many years after doctors have said that they would not get well.

While this is true regarding medical problems, it is also true regarding a person's behavior and emotions. One can never be certain that a person will change for the better nor that he will not change for the better. We should not expect miracles to happen. However, as long as someone is alive there is always hope for improvement -- if someone is motivated to make the effort to change.


Jerusalem 4:33
Guatemala 5:43 - Hong Kong 5:54 - Honolulu 6:04
J'Burg 6:41 KOAH Porto 4:31 - Los Angeles 5:05
Melbourne 8:15 - Mexico City 6:11 - Miami 5:47
New York 4:55 - Singapore 7:02 - Toronto 5:10

Pain comes from the Almighty;
misery is man-made.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Parshas Yisro 5768

Rabino Eliyahu Hoffmann

Fear: Our Greatest Power The last of the Aseres Ha-Dibros (Ten Commandments) is lo sachmod – not to be envious of someone else’s possessions. Early commentaries already question: How can the Torah legislate against a person’s enviousness? If a person experiences envy, how is the mitzvah of lo sachmod going to prevent him from having those feelings?
The Ibn Ezra suggests that Hashem wants our conduct to be so completely dictated by Torah precepts that things that don’t belong to us are beyond our reality. Just like a pauper would never in his wildest dreams entertain the thought of marrying the princess, however beautiful she is, so too the possessions of others should be so far removed from our thoughts that we could never imagine desiring them.
Put differently, we can read stories about exceptionally wealthy or gifted people of past generations without experiencing jealousy – because we’re removed from their reality. That is the extent to which we should internalize the Torah’s concepts of others’ property, he says.
The Beis Ha-Levi suggests a different answer that has repercussions not only to the mitzvah of lo sachmod but to all of the Torah’s mitzvos, not to mention the sometimes hard-to-grasp concept of yiras Shamayim (fear of Heaven).
Suppose, he says, you were consumed by desire for something. Suppose that the object of your desire was not difficult for you to obtain. Overcome by the yetzer hara’s overtures, you are completely helpless and decide to sin. Suppose that the object of your desires is on the other side of a frozen river. As you cross the river, the ice beneath you begins to crack, your foot slips in to the icy waters, and you are moments away from being swallowed up by the undercurrent. You fall to the ground and scrape at the ice with all your might; your very life hangs in the balance.
At that moment, as you battle the freezing waters, are you still in the throes of your forbidden infatuation? Not likely.
Fear is the most powerful emotion. The fear of imminent death completely overwhelms our previous frenzy of desire – the same one we just a minute ago thought was insurmountable! By the way, it doesn’t even have to be fear of death. Maybe he slipped on the ice, and is in the process of falling to the ground. Even the momentary fear of falling is far more powerful than the throes of desire. For at least as long as the fear lasts, all cravings are temporarily put on hold.
Oy va-voy. Do you realize what he’s saying? It means that when we give in to sin, our yiras Shamayim is so weak that it doesn’t even measure up to the momentary fear of someone about to lose their balance. The nature of man is such that even a relatively minor fear outweighs all sorts of desire. The sinner bears witness on himself, he says, that he has not achieved even the smallest measure of yiras Shamayim. To paraphrase the words of a contemporary poet: Our greatest power is our own fear.
When we sin, Beis Ha-Levi points out, we mistakenly rationalize that we were powerless; our desires were so strong we were unable to resist them, despite our good intentions. But for a drop of yiras Shamayim!
The yetzer hara (i.e. human perversity), no doubt, is a formidable opponent. “Were it not for Hashem’s help,” our Sages say, “it would be virtually impossible to overcome.” Yet we have just discovered the yetzer hara’s secret weakness – the potent antidote to human weakness and the seduction of sin -- the fearing heart cannot sin.
And now, Israel, what does Hashem ask of you, but to fear Hashem your G-d (Devarim/Deuteronomy 10:12). Is that really all? Seemingly not, because the verse continues: to walk in His ways, love Him, and serve Hashem your G-d… And furthermore, in the words of Chazal (Berachos 33b), “Is fear of Heaven such a small matter?”
Yes! It is a small matter. The odds are completely skewed in our favor. The smallest measure of fear has the capacity to overcome the most powerful of desires.
Mefarshim question what the mitzvah of “do not desire” is doing among the Ten Commandments, the other nine of which seem to address some of the most fundamental aspects of Judaism.
According to the Beis Ha-Levi, the way we overcome covetousness – through fear of Heaven – is the secret key which unlocks our power to overcome all aspects of human weakness.
A devoted talmid (disciple) of R. Noach of Lechovitz passed away at a young age. His untimely death was the source of great sadness among the rest of the chasidim, and after escorting their friend to his final resting place, they returned to the beis ha-midrash where they bemoaned their loss.
“Oy,” one cried, “what a masmid (diligent scholar)! He would sit for hours studying page after page of the Gemara, without even the smallest of breaks!”
“And what a pious man,” another said. “He refused to ever borrow money, lest he forget to pay back, and he never spoke about anyone else out of concern he might inadvertently come to gossip.”
“What a kind heart he had,” a third said. “He often went hungry so that someone less fortunate would have a warm meal.”
“And what a yirei Shamayim!” another friend piped in.
With that comment, R. Noach, who was within earshot of their conversation, coughed, drawing their attention. “Our friend,” he said, “was a pious soul, and we will miss him dearly – but please do not be so quick to throw around the title yirei Shamayim.
“I am a wealthy and influential man, as you know,” the Rebbe said. “Let Heaven and earth bear witness right now that I would gladly forfeit everything I have for just one more drop of yiras Shamayim!” Have a good Shabbos.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Rav Peter Tarlow

La semana que entra estudiamos la sección semanal del Libro del Éxodo que se llama "Yitro." (18:1-22-23) También en esta semanan celebramos la fiesta de Tu b'Shvat o "El Año Nuevo de los Árboles."
¿No sería injusto suponer que falta una relación entre esta parashá y una fiesta que celebra la importancia de los árboles y la ecología? No obstante, un análisis más profundo nos muestra que haya una relación ocultada entre las dos y a principios hiciéramos caso omiso de ella.
Ésta es una sección semanal fascinante. Estableció en ella la primera burocracia de Israel y nos enseña como Yitro lo transformó desde una colección informal de tribus en una estructura de gobierno formal. El suegro de Moisés y tal vez su mejor amigo, Yitro, se dio cuenta de que Moisés hacía demasiado y que Israel no iba a prosperar sin una organización formal. Moisés debía establecer un gobierno que era justo y funcionaba para todos. Tendría que transformar Israel desde un pueblo nomadito y sin raíces en un totalidad integral.
Quizás esta transformación desde un estado inestable (sin raíces) en una organización es una de las razones que solamente nosotros, el pueblo de Israel, celebramos más que simplemente un "día del árbol" sino un "año nuevo completo para los árboles."
Aunque los árboles, sobre todo en una sociedad del desierto, representan una inversión importante agrícola, los árboles en el judaísmo representan aún más. Nos representan la vida en sí misma. Por eso un nombre que damos a la Torá es: "Etz Jayim" o el "Arbol de la Vida." El judaísmo comprende que los árboles representan el concepto de interconexión y la continuidad. Un árbol no puede sobrevivir con simplemente un sentido superficial de "ser". Los árboles son entidades dinámicas con las ramas extendiéndose desde su tronco.En la misma manera, el pueblo de Israel tiene muchas ramas por todas partes del mundo. Las ramas, sin embargo, necesitan estar atadas a los troncos. Así es también para Israel, es decir que las comunidades de Israel pueden crecer y prosperar solamente si están relacionadas con los valores centrales y éticos del judaísmo. Para el judaísmo, entonces, los árboles representan el concepto que cada parte de la sociedad no es un órgano independiente sino una parte de la totalidad interrelacionada. Como un pueblo somos más que ramas, sino una entidad dinámica llena de sinergia atando el cielo a la tierra.
La lección de Yitro a Moisés es que la vida en el desierto muchas veces no es nada más que una ilusión permanente. Así lo enseñó que Israel necesitaba establecer un gobierno creativo y viviente para poder arraigarse en su tierra prometida. Para Yitro este gobierno tenía que dar a sus ciudadanos el derecho de discrepar uno con el otro y a la vez mantener el respecto mutuo.¿No luchamos los modernos con este concepto de la "totalidad de lo nosotros" contra "las necesidades de lo yo?" Somos meramente individuos, no relacionados a ningún sistema de principios éticos o estamos relacionados uno con el otro? ¿Pueden las ramas cortadas del tronco sobrevivir?
El desafío de Yitro a Moisés era la necesidad de crear un árbol viviente de la vida social que permitiría tanto el respecto de lo "yo" cuanto a lo "nosotros." ¿Es el conflicto eterno entre los deseos del individuo y su responsabilidad hacia su grupo? El desafío de Yitro está con nosotros mientras celebramos otro Tu b'Shvat.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A escalada do terrorismo a partir de Gaza

Aaron Ram, Embaixador de Israel em Portugal

São 8 horas da manhã e os seus filhos estão a ir para a escola. De repente, uma chuva de rockets voa por cima das suas cabeças. Não sofrem qualquer dano físico, mas ficam em estado de choque e recusam-se a sair de casa com medo de ser atingidos.
Um rocket aterra no meio da sua casa. Felizmente, ninguém lá estava, mas esta ficou em ruínas. Os seus filhos não conseguem dormir à noite porque têm medo. Você tem medo de sair de casa, mas também de lá ficar. A cena repete-se quatro, cinco vezes por dia. É assim que têm vivido, nos últimos anos, os cidadãos de Israel nas cidades próximas de Gaza. Mais de 40 rockets Qassam e morteiros atingem as nossas cidades e aldeias, diariamente.
Nos últimos dias, a situação piorou, mais de 100 rockets e morteiros atingiram as cidades israelitas de Sderot, Ashkelon e arredores. Os terroristas palestinianos começam também a atingir civis selectivamente usando armas de precisão. Um atirador do Hamas assassinou um cidadão equatoriano, de 20 anos, Carlos Chavez, voluntário no Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.
Israel retirou da Faixa de Gaza, em 2005, por forma a viabilizar uma solução pacífica. Porém, recebeu em troca o terrorismo protagonizado pelo Hamas. Desde a tomada da Faixa de Gaza pelo Hamas, em Junho do ano passado, já foram lançados cerca de 1 500 rockets e morteiros contra Israel, causando mortos, feridos e aterrorizando a população.
Nenhuma democracia ficaria de braços cruzados a assistir ao facto da sua população ser atingida diariamente sem responder. Qualquer país tem a obrigação de proteger os seus cidadãos e agiria tal como Israel por forma a defendê-los.
Existe, no entanto, uma clara diferença entre os ataques terroristas contra Israel e a resposta defensiva da sua parte. Os terroristas palestinianos têm por alvo os civis israelitas e usam os seus próprios civis como escudos humanos. Os grupos terroristas fabricam, transportam e lançam rockets e morteiros a partir de zonas residenciais palestinianas densamente povoadas, usadas para encobrir essas acções. Tentam gerar, intencionalmente, crises humanitárias a fim de obter apoio internacional; atacam as passagens fronteiriças por onde passa a ajuda humanitária, destinada à população palestiniana, e traficam armas e explosivos em carregamentos disfarçados de ajuda humanitária.
Israel não olha para o povo de Gaza como seu inimigo e faz tudo o que está ao seu alcance para evitar atingir civis palestinianos inocentes. Os alvos de Israel são apenas os militantes armados directamente envolvidos em acções violentas e ataques contra cidadãos israelitas.
Israel quer, inequivocamente, a paz com os seus vizinhos palestinianos e acredita que o povo palestiniano tem pleno direito à autodeterminação nacional e a um Estado. Israel apoia a ideia de dois estados vivendo lado a lado em paz e segurança - uma pátria para o povo palestiniano e uma pátria para o povo judeu e está a negociar com a liderança palestiniana moderada do presidente Abbas por forma a alcançar este objectivo.
Infelizmente, os militantes armados palestinianos não são apenas inimigos do povo de Israel, mas também inimigos da paz. Propagam a sua ideologia que reitera violência ao invés de diálogo. Estes extremistas de Gaza opõem-se à reconciliação, às conversações de paz e afirmam que qualquer palestiniano que negoceie com Israel é um traidor da causa árabe, daí que o Hamas seja reconhecido como organização terrorista pela comunidade internacional. O Mundo não precisa de outro Estado terrorista. Não pode haver paz enquanto a liderança do Hamas em Gaza estiver mais interessada na obliteração de Israel do que na solução de dois estados.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Parshas B'Shalach

Rabino Yissocher Frand

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi
Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape
#579 Being Motzi Others in Lechem Mishnah & Other Brachos. Good Shabbos!

Don't Squander It

Rav Zevulen Groz was a student of the Alter of Slabodka in the Slabodka Yeshiva in Europe. He subsequently made Aliyah and became a Rav in Rechovot. Rav Groz writes that when he first went to Yeshiva, his father sat him down and read him the following Medrash from our parsha:

"Vayehi B'Shalach Pharaoh es ha'am" [And it was when Pharaoh sent out the nation]. [Shmos 13:17]. The Talmud states that a pasuk introduced by the word "Vayehi" always connotes pain and suffering. The word "vayehi" is etymologically related to the word "vay" meaning "woe."

The Medrash compares Pharaoh's plight to a fellow who found a satchel of precious stones, but who didn't know what was inside it. He asked a stranger, "Would you like to take this packet I have in my hand? Take it. It's yours!" The stranger took it, opened it up and found diamonds inside. He began separating the diamonds into small, medium, and large size stones. He set up shop and started selling them at various prices depending on their size. The person who originally gave him the satchel came by the shop and saw that the small diamonds were being sold for $10,000, the middle size diamonds for $50,000, and the larger diamonds were selling for $100,000! When he saw what was happening and understood what he gave up, he tore his clothes in mourning. "I had all this wealth in my hands and I let it slip through, without gaining anything in return! Woe is me!"

The Medrash compares Pharaoh to the man who gave away the diamonds. The diamonds are the nation of Israel that was in his hands. When Pharaoh saw the great numbers of Jews that Moshe was taking out, he called out "Woe (vay)!" It is with these words our Parsha begins: When Pharaoh sent out the people he cried out, "Woe is me. Look what I did!"

The father of Rav Reuven Groz asked his son a question on this Medrash. How does the story of Pharaoh compare to the story in the parable? There is no analogy whatsoever. Pharaoh did not give anything away. He was forced by the Ten Plagues to let the Jews go! His arm was twisted until he said "Uncle!"

The father of Rav Reuven Groz explained to his son that the Medrash does not mean that Pharaoh was saying "woe" that he had to let the people go. That was not up to him. Pharaoh was saying that when he realized what Klal Yisrael was, he said, "I had such a people among me and look what I made them do!"

Consider a person who hires a worker and doesn't know that this worker is a genius, a Nobel laureate, or a virtuoso violinist, and makes him the janitor. He has him cleaning floors for years and years. Suddenly, he discovers that he could have booked this worker in great concert halls throughout the world. He could have made a fortune off of him! "For such a person, I paid minimum wage to sweep floors?"

Pharaoh felt the same way. He said, "I was an idiot! I had a Klal Yisrael and I made them build pyramids! I enslaved them. How fooli sh of me. What a waste of talent all those years!" Concerning this he moaned "Woe unto me. I did not appreciate what I had when I had it."

This ends the Medrash. What does it have to do with Zevulen Groz going off to Yeshiva? Going to Yeshiva is an opportunity that is like a treasure. As I constantly say -– and I have a folder full of letters from former students who will attest to this -– everyone says after they leave the Beis HaMedrash that they did not appreciate what they had while they had it. Young boys fail to realize that their years in Yeshiva are numbered. It is an idyllic situation. Their physical needs are taken care of. Their parents pay the bills. They do not need to worry about holding down a job. Baruch Hashem, most of the time, they do not need to worry about their wife or children or some family member being sick. The only thing they need to do is to learn and to grow as a Jew.

When one has that opportunity and does not take advantage of it t o its fullest advantage, he may one day have the same reaction as the fellow in the Medrash who gave away the packet of diamonds or like Pharaoh at the beginning of the parsha: "Look what I had in my possession and I gave it away! I squandered it."

This is perhaps the most important thing that a father can tell his son when he goes off to Yeshiva. I always say this to my current students, based on generations of students who have come and gone: "Don't squander the opportunity while you have it. Your days are numbered."

Remembering the Exodus

We say in our prayers (in the paragraph preceding the morning Shmoneh Esrei), "From Egypt you have redeemed us; from the house of slavery you have brought us forth; all their first-born you killed; and the Reed Sea you split." This is a fulfillment of the halacha requiring us to mention the Exodus during the daily morning prayer.

However, the sequence appears to be incorrect. The killing of the first-born should have been mentioned first. Only after that event took place were we able to move on to the next phase: "From Egypt you have redeemed us; from the house of slavery you have brought us forth."

This question is strengthened when we look at the narration of the Exodus mentioned in the evening prayer. In Ma'ariv we say: "who smote with His Anger all the first born of Egypt; who took His nation Israel out from their midst for eternal freedom." There, the sequence is correct.

Another question may be raised. In Shachris, we say the first-bor n were killed (haragta). In Ma'ariv we only say they were smitten (haMakeh es bechoreihem). Why the difference?

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt"l, addresses both of these issues: It says in the beginning of Tractate Semachos: "And it was in the middle of the night, Hashem smote every firstborn in the Land of Egypt" [Shmos 12:29]. Rabbi Yochanan states: Even though He smote them a fatal blow, from midnight their souls fluttered within them (e.g. – they lingered on) until morning."

The Almighty wanted Klal Yisrael to see the plague of the first-born. The Jews were forbidden to leave their homes until morning [Shmos 12:22]. Had the first-born children died at midnight when the plague struck, the Jews would not have witnessed their death. Therefore, according to Rav Yochanan, although they were struck at midnight, the first-borns lingered until morning and only then did they expire.

In the night-time prayer, we say "who smote in His Anger the first-born of Eg ypt" because at night they did not yet die. In the morning prayer, we first mention the redemption because the Jews went out from Egypt in the morning. Then we say: "all the first-born You killed" because it was then -- at the time that the Jews were leaving Egypt -- that these first-born (who were smitten the previous midnight) died.

The Connection Between Tu B'Shvat and Parshas B'Shalach

Parshas B'Shalach / Shabbos Shirah always comes out near the holiday of Tu B'Shvat. What is the relationship between the 15th day of Shvat -- the "New Year of Trees," and this week's parsha?

The book Ziv HaMinhagim gives a beautiful explanation of this linkage. Tu B'Shvat is the Rosh HaShanah of trees. Look outside today and gaze at the trees. They appear deader than door nails! Is this the time to celebrate "The New Year for Trees?" There is not a leaf to be seen. It would seem more appropriate to celebrate "Tu B'Shvat" in the springtime when the trees are in full bloom -- April or May.

The answer is that the trees LOOK dead. They LOOK like they will never see another green leaf in their existence. But right now the sap is beginning to run within them. If one travels up to Vermont –- the Maple syrup capital of the world -– he will find Vermonters dressed up in earmuffs boring holes in trees to extract the sap from the maple trees. This is the time of the year when the sap is flowing within the trees. The leaves and the beauty of the fruits that the trees will produce in the spring and summer are all being prepared right now, in the dead of winter.

The trees represent the idea that even when something looks terribly bleak and looks like it has no future, one should not give up on it. One should not give up on the trees when they look like that, and one should not give up on oneself when things look like that for him.

There are periods in a person's life when the future looks bleak and things look miserable all around. "What will be?" But the salvation of the L-rd comes in the blink of an eye! The Almighty is already "running the sap" so to speak so that salvation may come. For this reason Tu B'Shvat is celebrated in the dead of winter.

It states in Parshas B'Shalach "They came to Marah and they could not drink the water, for it was bitter." [Shmos 15:23] Hashem then showed Moshe a tree and told him t o throw it into the water. Why a tree? Why not a rock or a piece of dirt?

The symbolism is as we said before. The people felt hopeless. They were a couple of million people in the desert with no food or water. The natural reaction was: "What is going to be? How are we going to live? What will be our future?"

At that point, Hashem showed them a tree. The tree is the symbol that when all looks futile and bleak, desolate and destroyed, we see that the situation can turn around. Rebirth happens! There can be renaissance and renewal. Throwing the tree into the water was meant as a message to the people: "Don't give up. Don't worry about the desert. Things look bleak now but the salvation of the L-rd comes in the blink of an eye

Pro Zion

We are pleased to announce that this years Mervyn Elliot Memorial Lecture has been confirmed and is taking place on Sunday February 3rd in Leeds from 5.30pm to 7pm at Sinai Synagogue, Leeds.

We have an exciting speaker over from Israel to present the lecture: Rachel Liel, Director of SHATIL, New Israel Fund's empowerment and training centre for social change organisations. As well as being a great speaker other impressive facts about Rachel include:she has held various posts in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, including Associate Director of Rehabilitation Services. named one of Israel's 50 most influential leaders in 2005 by Globes - Israel's leading business daily. in 2006, named by Ha'aretz as one of 40 Israeli women who most contribute to change. chosen again in September 2007 by Ha'aretz highlighting Israel's 100 most influential people.This will be a fascinating talk, if you are in Leeds or can make it to Leeds that weekend then we hope to see you there. More details will follow in next weeks email. We have a collection of articles for you this week.

First we have an article that reports on the attempt by the Government to clamp down on Rabbis who refuse to recognise state-sponsered conversion. Next we have a piece that refers to a high court ruling against the ultra-orthodox bus-lines. Justice Ribenstein says, 'i t is inconceivable for a driver not to allow a woman on a bus because she is wearing pants.' The next article is about a Jewish-born adoptee, adopted by a devout Catholic family, who has been trying to make aliyah for the year and a half. Finally we have a piece written by Rabbi Michael Marmur who reflects on what it means to him to be a Jerusalemite. We hope you enjoy the articles. If you would like to tell us about any events your community are having or have had, then please let us know. All that's left to say is just a quick reminder about the ZF's parliament lobby on January 23rd.

Shabbat Shalom

Charlie, Daniel and all at Pro Zion

O que Israel significa para mim

Aaron Ram

Embaixador de Israel
em Portugal

David Ben Gurion, o primeiro Primeiro Ministro de Israel disse uma vez, “Em Israel, ser realista significa acreditar em milagres”. Tal era tão verdade em 1948 como o é em 2008.
Ao longo dos últimos sessenta anos, a minha vida tem-se desenrolado em paralelo com a vida do Estado de Israel. Fomos jovens e envelhecemos juntos.
Israel, apesar dos vários obstáculos que tem enfrentado, desenvolveu-se e tornou-se um Estado moderno e vibrante. Muitos aspectos da sua sociedade foram mudando à medida que o país se desenvolveu e prosperou. De 600.000 habitantes em 1948, Israel conta agora com uma população que ultrapassa os sete milhões. Desenvolvemos uma agricultura rica e florescente num território em que três terços são deserto. Num país em que escasseia a água, os nossos campos são irrigados por inovadores sistemas de rega desenvolvidos por nós. Construímos novas e modernas cidades em harmonia com antigos locais biblicos. Inventámos novas palavras para uma língua antiga. Fizemos muito em sessenta anos.
Israel é o país de que me orgulho em chamar meu e que nunca tomarei por garantido.
Israel para mim são sítios, sons e os cheiros da minha infância. Um bairro de Jerusalém cheio de imigrantes vindos de vários países, Polónia, Marrocos, Rússia, Iraque; uma enorme variedade de línguas, sabores e costumes, dos quais, nós,os filhos, tornar-se-iam os novos israelitas. Um “Sabra” é um Judeu nascido em Israel. Sabra é também o fruto do cacto, que pica por fora mas é doce por dentro. Esta é uma imagem que descreve bem o nosso povo. Somos uma sociedade informal e temos a certeza que somos capazes de governar o país melhor do que aqueles que foram eleitos para tal.
Israel é um país de contradições. Somos líderes mundiais em agricultura, high-tech e medicina. Temos universidades e centros de investigação. Temos vencedores de prémios Nobel e até vencedores do Festival da Eurovisão. Temos tempo para ir ao teatro, ler livros e ir a jogos de futebol. Toda esta vida plena existe enquanto continuamos a lutar pelo direito de existir. Israel é um país cujo direito de existir continua a ser abertamente desafiado e posto em causa por países como o Irão. Nenhuma outra Nação soberana tem de conviver com esta ameaça quase diariamente. Mas nós sim. Poderíamos ter-nos tornado uma sociedade amarga e militarizada, mas não o fizemos.
O facto de termos vidas normais, de nos distinguirmos em vários campos e de sabermos conviver e integrar os problemas na nossa sociedade e não deixarmos que esses assumam o controlo da mesma - é para mim um milagre da vida israelita.
Israel para mim é a Terra da Bíblia.
O Antigo Testamento é sagrado quer para Cristãos quer para Judeus mas para mim é muito mais do que um mero relato de histórias sagradas. Quando me desloco pelas ruas de Jerusalém, sei que foi exactamente por aí que passou o Rei David e posso ainda tocar no que resta de uma das paredes do Templo construído pelo Rei Salomão. Quando abro a minha boca para falar, estou a usar a mesma língua da Bíblia. Os meus filhos ouvem música rock cantada na mesma língua falada por Abraão e Moisés.
A língua hebraica esteve adormecida durante dois mil anos e era usada apenas como linguagem de oração. Hoje é uma língua viva, o que eu considero outro milagre da nossa realidade.
Israel para mim é a Primavera – altura do ano em que se assinalam três datas muito importantes: O Dia da Memória do Holocausto, o Dia da Memória dos Soldados e o Dia da Independência. Estas três datas são próximas e estão cravadas no nosso destino enquanto Nação. O Holocausto tornou claro ao mundo que os Judeus precisavam de uma Pátria. Os meus avós que viviam na Polónia e não tinham uma pátria, pagaram um preço elevado por isso mesmo. Para que nunca mais se repitam os horrores do passado, temos de continuar a lutar uma e outra vez pelo direito de viver nesta Terra. As muitas guerras e os inúmeros ataques terroristas ocorridos nestes sessenta anos são demasiado. Pagamos um elevado preço por termos de lutar pelo nosso direito de existir. Muito da nossa existência está nas mãos do nosso exército que tem a designação de Forças de Defesa de Israel. O seu objectivo é defender-nos.
Israel é um país multicultural, um colorido caleidoscópio de gente. O meu Israel é um país Judaico e democrático, com uma sociedade aberta e plural em que cada duas pessoas têm três opiniões diferentes e todas são livremente expressas. Desde 1948, Israel absorveu Judeus dos quatro cantos do mundo. Muitos vieram em busca de refúgio, outros porque viram neste país o seu destino Judaico. Juntos construiram um Estado democrático com eleições livres, imprensa livre liberdade de opinião e de crença.
Para mim, Israel é para além e acima de tudo, a minha Casa.
Aaron Ram
Embaixador do Estado de Israel

( artigo publicado no Semanário gratuito SEXTA, 18.01.2008 )

Israel nossa Pátria

Por. Mijael Polaj

El olvido es desgraciadamente una de las grandes virtudes del hombre; es cierto que sin él, después de grandes penurias, no podríamos seguir viviendo. Pero muchas veces la ingenuidad no permite al ser humano ver la realidad que lo circunda. Hoy en día el petróleo mueve al mundo, y hay que darle a los “Señores dueños de este gran potencial“ la razón.
Vivimos estos días en Jerusalem la visita del Presidente de los Estados Unidos. En las calles se podía ver un poster que decía:
Nuevamente quieren poner la fuerza en contra de la razón. El Judaísmo por excelencia es la “Religión de la Paz”, todas nuestras plegarias terminan con la palabra Shalom, ¿a quién vino a convencer?
En un texto extraído de un libro escolar publicado por el Ministerio de Educación de la Autoridad Palestina versa lo siguiente:
“La Civilización Occidental es la representación de la más alta forma de vida material alcanzada por el hombre, pero esto por sí solo no le trae a él alegría y satisfacción, como ustedes han visto… Nosotros no decimos que el colapso de la civilización occidental y el traspaso del centro de la civilización a nosotros, el Islam, sucederá en próximo decenio, o dos, o incluso en los próximos cincuenta años… Sin embargo la civilización occidental ha comenzado a derrumbarse y transformarse en una pila de escombros...”.
Por miles de años el pueblo judío ha sufrido persecuciones, expulsiones, genocidio, holocaustos, destrucciones y pogroms.
Hemos llegado a nuestra tierra, y por primera vez en más de 2000 años tenemos la posibilidad de defendernos, sin embargo el mensaje es claro. Un ejército no puede ir en contra de una ideología religiosa fanática, destructiva, y asesina. Ni siquiera la mayor potencia militar del mundo, los Estados Unidos, puede contra ella.
El Rey David nos enseña que el enemigo es como un abeja, ella sabe que va a morir cuando suelte el aguijón, pero aun así, pica. ¿Hay algo más denigrante, más inhumano, que el deseo de matar y morir por el odio a otros? ¿Puede haber algo mas macabro que dejarse mutilar con explosivos, tuercas, tornillos, clavos, y pedazos de metal, con el único propósito de causar aún más daño?.

Causas del odio
Los antisemitas dicen que nos odian por que somos ricos. Sin embargo, en Polonia y en Rusia cuando no lo fuimos nos odiaban también.
Nos odiaban cuando nos acusaban de sucios, pero en Europa durante la peste negra, los que no la contraían eran los judíos por sus rigurosas leyes higiénicas.
Nos odian por que somos influyentes. No obstante, cuando vivíamos en África y en los países árabes bajo el dominio totalitario y la opresión nos odiaban también.
Dicen que nos odian por que somos distintos, sin embargo durante los dos milenios en la diáspora nos hemos asimilado a las vestimentas, costumbres, incluso comida y bebida del país donde vivimos; y a pesar de todo, nos odian.
Pensamos que al llegar a Israel el mundo nos dará una posibilidad de unirnos, vivir todos en un solo país, el lugar de nuestros antepasados, la tierra que El Creador del Mundo le otorgó al Pueblo de Israel.

Derecho a la tierra
Abraham el primer patriarca del pueblo judío vivió en la tierra de Israel en el siglo 18 antes de la EC (hace 3.800 años). Más tarde, nos establecimos en esta tierra - ésta vez como un pueblo - cuando fuimos liberados de la esclavitud en Egipto. Eso significa, que desde el tiempo de Yehoshúa (el sucesor de Moisés, en el siglo 6 AEC), hasta la Destrucción del Primer Templo de Jerusalén (siglo 13 AEC), la tierra estuvo en nuestras manos.
Después del primer exilio de Babilonia, el gobierno judío se restableció en la tierra, quedándose hasta la destrucción del Segundo Templo en el año 70 EC.
Hoy, 2000 años después del último exilio; tenemos nuevamente un país, un estado, un ejército.
Es necesario aclarar, que a pesar de los exilios intermedios, siempre hubo población judía en la tierra de Israel, o sea la hay desde hace 3300 años.
Los estados árabes en cambio, se independizaron en los siguientes años: La República Turca en 1923, Arabia Saudita en 1932, Irak 1932, Egipto en 1936, Líbano en 1943, Jordania en 1945.
¿Acaso el pueblo palestino existió alguna vez en la historia?
El Tanaj cita en variadas ocasiones “Pleshet” o “Plishtim”, refiriéndose a los Filisteos que llegaron a las costas del Mar Mediterráneo alrededor del siglo 16 AEC. El Rey Shaul combatió en contra de ellos, y el Rey David luchó contra Goliat (el filisteo). Una de las razones por la que los reyes de Israel los combatieron, fue por su paganismo e idolatría, lo que es totalmente opuesto a la religión musulmana y la creencia en un solo D'os.
Los Romanos llamaron a esta zona la Provincia de Philistea alrededor del año 135 EC, y ésta tierra fue nombrada así (Palestina) debido a los habitantes del mismo nombre, que vivieron en la zona varios siglos atrás.
Los Filisteos nunca fueron creyentes en un solo D'os, ni menos creyentes en Alá. El Islam es muy posterior a ellos. Ni siquiera fueron descendientes de Ismael (hijo de Abraham) - el patriarca de la religión musulmana -.
Los Filisteos llegaron a esta tierra provenientes del Mar Egeo, no son oriundos.
Vale decir, los filisteos de los tiempos bíblicos, no tienen ninguna relación con los palestinos de hoy.
Un poco de Historia
En el año 1948 leyendo la declaración de independencia David Ben Gurion dijo: "En el medio de esta brutal agresión, ahora llamamos a los habitantes árabes del Estado de Israel a preservar los caminos de paz y poner su parte en el desarrollo del estado, con una base de completa igualdad de derechos como ciudadanos en todos sus cuerpos legales e instituciones.... Nosotros extendemos nuestras manos en paz y vecindad a todos los estados vecinos y sus habitantes y los invitamos a cooperar con la nación judía independiente para el mutuo bienestar de todos.”
Luego de la declaración de independencia de Israel la respuesta vino rápidamente, el joven Estado de Israel fue atacado por una gran parte de los ejércitos árabes.
Inmediatamente después del voto de la partición en la Naciones Unidas, el representante de uno de los países árabes contesto: “El representante de la Agencia Judía nos dijo ayer que ellos no eran los atacantes, que los árabes habían comenzado el ataque. Nosotros no negamos esto... nosotros le dijimos a todo el mundo que vamos a pelear”. Jamal Husseini al Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas en el 16 de Abril de 1948.
Esto fue solamente el comienzo, siguió luego la Guerra de Independencia, la guerra del Sinaí, la Guerra de los Seis Días, la Guerra de Yom Kipur, la Guerra de Shlom Ha Galil, luego, en un conflicto que no era el nuestro - la Guerra del Golfo- fuimos atacados con 39 misiles "Scud" que milagrosamente no causaron daño. Finalmente la "intifada", una guerra interna apoyada por Siria, Líbano, Irán y otros países árabes.
En los últimos tres años, ha habido más de 16.000 ataques terroristas; bombas humanas, autos explosivos, autobuses, francotiradores, burros explosivos, sandias explosivas y bebes con explosivos.
Nos preguntamos muchas veces ¿en que va a terminar todo esto? ¿Acaso educan a sus hijos para buscar la paz?

Un poco de historia contemporánea
“El mundo árabe no está en un estado de ánimo comprometedor.... Las naciones nunca van a ceder, van a luchar… No van a lograr nada por medios pacíficos o tratados. Tal vez podrán lograr algo, pero sólo por la fuerza de tus armas …Tal vez perderemos Palestina, pero, es muy tarde para conversar sobre soluciones pacifistas”. Secretario de la Liga Arabe Azzam Pasha 16 de Septiembre de 1947.
"La nación árabe no se avergonzará en declarar: que no vamos a estar satisfechos excepto cuando borremos a Israel del mapa del Medio Oriente".Ministro del Exterior Egipcio Salah al-Din-1954
La OLP, Organización de Liberación Palestina fue fundada en 1964 e inmediatamente comenzó sus actividades terroristas, entre ellas la matanza de niños en un colegio de Maalot al norte de Israel, el asesinato de los deportistas israelíes en las olimpiadas de Munich y la matanza en el aeropuerto de Lud.
“Yo llamaré a los Musulmanes a lanzar una guerra santa (jihad) y usar todas sus capacidades para restaurar una Palestina musulmana y rescatar la mezquita sagrada Al –Aksa de los Sionistas usurpadores y agresores. Los musulmanes deben estar unidos para enfrentarlos a ellos, y a quienes los ayudan". Rey Fahd de Arabia Saudita. Saudi Press Agency, 15 de Julio de 1986
“Y es un hecho: El día de la resurrección no va a llegar hasta que los Musulmanes hagan la guerra en contra de los Judíos y los maten”.Dr. Mohammed Madi, en la televisión Palestina, 30 de Marzo, 2001
“Con el favor de Alá , este estado injusto… Israel será borrado … Bendito sea aquel siga el jihad por la causa de Alá… Bendito sea aquel que se ponga un cinturón con explosivos en su cuerpo o en el cuerpo de su hijo y lo haga volar en el medio de los judíos”. Sermón del Sheikh Ibrahim Mahdi un par de días después de que Yasser Arafat declaró el cese del fuego . PA Televisión, 8 de Junio del 2001.
"Nuestro propósito final es la liberación de la Palestina histórica, desde el Río (Jordán) hasta el mar (mediterráneo) … ". Faisal Husseini, Al-Arabi, 24 de Junio del 2001.
Algunas Conclusiones
Como vimos anteriormente, el pueblo palestino no existe. Los que así quieren llamarse son descendientes de árabes de la región o expulsados de Jordania por su Rey en el sangriento Domingo negro.
El conflicto esta basado en un odio muy profundo. La descendencia de Abraham paso a Itzjak y no a Ishmael.
El país Palestina no existe y lo que queda es el nombre que los Romanos le pusieron a esta región. Si vamos a guiarnos por lo que ellos quieren llamarlo y reclamar, no seria extraño que vengan los “Canaaneos” a reclamar su tierra también .
El pueblo Judío vio pasar muchas culturas a lo largo de la historia, los Egipcios, los Griegos, los Persas, los Asirios, los Babilonios, los Romanos… En las palabras de los historiadores ¿cuál es el secreto de su supervivencia? La respuesta.. La existencia de Di-s
El pueblo judío quiere la paz y reza por ella, uno de los nombres de D-os es "Shalom" que significa paz.
El que hace la paz en las alturas que haga la paz sobre nosotros y sobre todo Israel, Amén.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Parshas Bo

Rabino Raymond Beyda

"For I have hardened his heart in the heart of his servants." (Shemot 10, 1.)
Many commentators ask, "How is it that Hashem hardened the heart of Pharaoh and took away his free choice so that he would not want to release the Jews from his land even after being stricken with plagues?"

There was once a Jew who lived in an anti-Semitic country. He had a dispute with the Gentile resident of that nation and the case was to come before the local court. The man sent a beautiful gift, secretly to the non-Jewish judge. Upon receipt, the judge asked him "How is it that you are sending me a bribe? Doesn't it say in your holy Torah that it is forbidden to bribe the judge, because his heart and mind will be prejudiced in favor of the one who sent the gift? Don't your rabbis teach that bribes blind judges and prevent a just judgment from taking place?"

The Jew replied calmly. "If two Jews came before you in dispute I know that your mind in regard to them would be fair and just. You would see them as equals. You would not have any prejudices and because of that, you might be able to reach a true and fair judgment. Therefore, if one would give you a bribe, he is ruining the possibility of you doing your job properly and according to the truth because he would tilt the scales of judgment in his favor. This is not the case in my trial, because in my dispute one of the claimants is of your people, and I am a simple Jew. I only sent you the bribe so that you would lean towards me and make it even again in your eyes and give you the chance to rule in this case in a fair and just manner."

Now, perhaps we can understand hardening of Pharaoh's heart. The Pharaoh did not wish to release the Jews from bondage. When Hashem struck him heavily with plagues, there was a strong possibility that he would give in and release the Jews even though that was not his true desire. In other words, the plagues would have removed his free will from him. Therefore Hashem, hardened his heart to balance his true wish to afflict the Jews against the power of the plagues. With the power of the plagues on one side and the hardening of his heart on the other the balance scale was now even. This gave Pharaoh a chance to make his choice as to what he wished to do. The true will of Hashem, is that everyone should have free choice in order to earn reward for good deeds and punishment for bad. In the end, the power of the 10th plague made Pharaoh get up in the middle of the night -seek Moshe and Aharon – and of his own free will chase the Jews out of his land.

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Parshas Bo

Rabino Dovid Siegel

Yirmiyahu 46:13

This week's haftorah reflects the painful reality that people do not learn from the past and history will undoubtedly be repeated. The setting is the Babylonian destruction of the Egyptian Empire. The prophet Yirmiyahu states in the name of Hashem, "I will direct my attention to the multitudes of Alexandria and to Pharaoh and all of Egypt...I will deliver them into the hands of their killer, Nebuchadnezar, the King of Babylonia." (46: 25,26)

The Radak explains that these passages refer to a massive massacre predicted for Egypt and her Pharaoh. Radak reminds us that the Egyptian people have a long history of hostility towards the Jewish nation. After an extended period of calm following her devastation at the Sea of Reeds, Egypt resumed her hostility towards her Jewish neighbors. It resurfaced during the reign of the Egyptian premier, Shishak, who invaded the Land of Israel shortly after the demise of Shlomo Hamelech. During this vulnerable Jewish era, Shishak forced his way into Israel and cleared out the treasury of the king. Our Chazal (quoted in Rashi's commentary to M'lochim I, 14-6) cite that Shishak even had the audacity of stealing the glorious throne of Shlomo Hamelech. Egypt continued her hostility towards Israel, and after receiving heavy sums from Israel in exchange for military protection, betrayed her Jewish "ally" and abandoned her. But Egypt's final crime came when Pharaoh N'cho executed the pi ous King Yoshiyahu because he refused to allow Pharaoh's army to enter Israel enroute to Assyria.

Because of this full record, Hashem decided that the time had arrived to repay Egypt for all her cruelty. Although, in truth, she had previously received forty years of exile, apparently this was not sufficient treatment for her. This time, a massive massacre was being planned and an appropriate execution was awaiting her Pharaoh. With this, Hashem would remind Egypt of the very special relationship He maintained with the Jewish people. Hashem's historic lesson to the earlier Pharaoh was characterized in His opening statement that the Jews are "My son, My first-born" (Shmos4: 24). Through these words Hashem warned Egypt at the outset that her hostility toward His chosen nation would be repaid in full. And now, nearly a thousand years later, the time had come for Egypt to review this lesson. Egypt would soon be massacred in response to her cruelty and hostility towards Hashem's first born, the Jewish people.

It is interesting to note the particular analogy Yirmiyahu uses when predicting the Babylonian army's invasion. He says "They cut down her forest, for the enemy could not be counted; they exceeded the locusts, beyond any imaginable limit." (46: 25, 26) Yirmiyahu compares the Babylonians to locusts invading the land in unimaginable proportions. In fact, he describes the totality of this massacre as even greater than the work of the locusts. This analogy seems to bring us back to the historic plague of locusts in this week's parsha. It suggests a corollary between the Egyptian plague in earlier times and the invasion of Egypt by the king Nebuchadnezar in later times.

The explanation of this may be gleaned from the insightful words of the Kli Yakar in this week's sedra. He notes the Torah's introduction to the plague of locusts and explains it through a shocking Egyptian phenomenon. The Torah introduces the plague and states, "I have hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his servants in order to place My signs in his midst. And for you to tell your children and grandchildren how I played with Egypt."(Shmos 10: 1, 2) "Why," asks the Kli Yakar, "was this introduction chosen for the plague of locusts and not for any other plague?" He responds by citing the testimony of Rabbeinu Chananel regarding an indisputable fact about the land of Egypt. Rabbeinu Chananel testifies that there has never been a locust invasion in Egypt since the massive plague of locusts sent to her by Hashem. Nowadays, even when all surrounding countries are infested with locusts these devouring insects will not penetrate the Egyptian borders. And if they remotely filter into Egypt they never destroy the existing crop.

He explains that this miraculous phenomenon was meant to serve as an everlasting testimony about the plague of locusts. In response to Moshe Rabbeinu's plea for the removal of locusts the Torah states, "There did not remain one locust throughout the entire Egyptian border." (Shmos 10:19) Apparently, this passage became an everlasting statement and from that point and on locusts would never remain in the land of Egypt. This indisputable testimony reminds the world of Hashem's harsh response to Egypt for all the cruelty she showed His chosen people. The plague of locusts therefore deserves a special introduction stating the purpose for all the plagues, to tell of their occurrence to our children. Because, in fact, the plague of locusts and its everlasting testimony were to serve as the perfect vehicle through which to remember Hashem's revelations in Egypt.

We now appreciate the perfect analogy of Yirmiyahu regarding the Babylonian invasion. The prophet was hinting to the fact that Egypt's attitude towards the Jewish people could not be condoned. They, more than anyone, should have anticipated the consequences of their cruel actions. The total absence of locusts from Egypt should have been a constant reminder to them of their past experiences for mistreating the Jewish people. Obviously no one could claim that Egypt hadn't been fairly warned. However, typically, people do not learn their lesson and history must undoubtedly be repeated. If the historic plague of locusts was not a sufficient reminder for them, then the present Babylonian "locusts" would do the trick. Hashem therefore ordered a full scale massacre for Egypt to repeat their earlier experience. They would once again realize that the Jewish people are very dear to Hashem and hostility towards them is certainly not a welcomed policy. Eventually Hashem will protect His people and respond to all hostility in a most befitting fashion.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Parshas Vaera

Olas Shabbos

Rabino Eliyahu Hoffmann

Believe, And It Will Come True

Moshe said to Hashem, “Behold! The Children of Israel have not listened to me, so how will Pharaoh listen to me?” (6:12)
Rashi comments that Moshe makes use of a kal-vechomer, an argument that derives the more obvious from the less-so. If Bnei Yisrael, who have every reason to want to believe [that Hashem will redeem them], refuse to do so, then Pharaoh, who has every reason not to believe, certainly won’t!
Mefarshim question the logic: The Torah says the Jews were unable to listen [i.e. accept] Moshe’s promises because of the unbearable conditions of their slavery: “…due to shortness of breath and hard work,” (6:9). How, if so, does their lack of acceptance prove that Pharaoh will likewise discount Moshe’s promises? He was (obviously) not affected by the atrocious conditions to which he subjected his slaves.
The Kedushas Yom Tov notes a difficulty with the order of the verses at the beginning of parshas Va’eira:
I have also heard the screams of the Children of Israel, and I recall My covenant. Therefore, say to the Children of Israel, “I am Hashem. I will take them out from beneath the burden of Egypt…”
Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying. “Come, speak to Pharaoh, king of Egypt – that he should send the Children of Israel out of his land.” (6:5-11)
Wouldn’t it have been more logical for Hashem to first instruct Moshe to approach Pharaoh and command him to release the Jews, and then to tell the Jews of Hashem’s promise and their imminent redemption?
“Jews receive their sustenance in this world only through their faith [in Hashem]” (Midrash).
The Ohev Yisrael (parshas Noach) explains that the Hebrew word for faith, emunah, has two connotations. 1) Belief in its most simple form. 2) It also means to draw, or raise, such as (Esther 2:7), “And [Mordechai] raised Hadassah [Esther].” To the extent one believes in Hashem and places his complete faith in Him, he says, his beliefs play themselves out and his wishes are fulfilled.
Perhaps the concept can in some basic way be explained thus: When we pray, we accept the fact that our prayers can in some way influence Hashem. For example, we know that prayers have the capacity to overturn Heavenly decrees, despite the fact that the decrees were themselves in essence Hashem’s will. Just as a father has a hard time saying ‘no’ to his son, especially when his son asks for something very sweetly, so too, to the extent we can express it, our prayers can influence Hashem’s actions, especially when they’re ‘sweet’ and emanate from the depths of our souls. Shir Ha-Shirim (Song of Songs 2:14): “Let Me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet.”
Prayer, in its essence, is an expression of faith. We place our needs and desires before Hashem, and recognize that only He can truly fulfil them. This, perhaps, is the underlying concept of the second meaning of emunah, to draw. The deeper our faith in Hashem, the greater our ability to draw or bring about His positive influence on our lives and in the world.
With this concept he explains a puzzling Rashi in parshas Noach. “And Noach and sons and his wife and the wives of his sons entered the Ark, because of the flood waters (Bereishis/Genesis 7:7).” Why does the Torah go out of its way to state the obvious, that they entered the Ark because of the flood?
Because, Rashi explains, Noach’s faith was deficient – he believed, but not completely. He didn’t enter the Ark because Hashem said the flood was coming; he waited until it came.
How is it possible, the Maggid of Zlotchov [quoted in Ohev Yisrael] asks, that Noach, whom none other than Hashem Himself called a tzaddik, was deficient in his faith?
Noach believed that Hashem could bring a flood. But he didn’t want to believe He would. Noach feared, he says, that his belief the flood was imminent could in some way influence things, so he chose to ‘not to believe’; to be circumspect, in order that his faith not be in any way a factor in the harsh decree.
R’ Chaim of Brisk once asked his students. “We know,” he said, “that every feeling and emotion can be used for both good and bad. One can love Hashem, love another Jew, or he can choose to love something forbidden. We can use anger to empower ourselves when we act inappropriately, to rebuke those who defame Hashem, or we can abuse anger by losing our tempers. But of what possible use,” he asked, “is the emotion of apikorsus (disbelief, atheism)?
“I’ll tell you,” he answered. “When a poor man comes knocking at your door, and says he lacks funds to marry off his daughter, do not comfort him, or yourself, by telling him, ‘It will be alright, just believe in Hashem.’ No! This is not the time to bring up faith. Be an apikorus! Say, ‘This man needs help – I must do something for him, now, or who knows what will be!” Perhaps Noach found another use for the middah of disbelief.
The reason, the Kedushas Yom Tov explains, that Moshe first promised the Jews, “I will take them out from beneath the burden of Egypt…” and only then told Moshe to speak to Pharaoh, is because their faith was to be the impetus of the ge’ulah (redemption). By placing their unswerving trust in Hashem, they would annul the Heavenly decree that they must suffer slavery in Egypt, and perhaps, indeed, influence Hashem [to the extent we can express it] to redeem them before the appointed time.
Perhaps it was the fact that things had only gotten worse since Moshe arrived. For whatever reason, they found it hard to believe. And Moshe said to Hashem, “Behold! The Children of Israel have not listened to me – they have failed to place their trust in You, and in doing so, they may have squandered the opportunity to hasten the redemption. “So how will Pharaoh listen to me?”
Ultimately, of course, Hashem brought the plagues on the Egyptians, gradually relieved the nation from its servitude, they trusted Hashem, and were redeemed. Have a good Shabbos.

Shabat Shalom

Postagem: Andre Moshe Pereira, Pres. Kehillah Or Ahayim - Comunidade judia Or Ahayim


Rav Peter Tarlow

La parashá para la semana que entra se llama "VaYerá". La van a encontrar en el Libro de Éxodo 6:2-9:35. Esta sección trata de una de las partes más problemáticas de la Biblia, el uso de las pestes como una herramienta para logar la liberación nacional. Hay una gran cantidad de comentarios rabínicos sobre la necesidad de estas plagas o si eran morales. ¿Debería haber sufrido el pueblo de Egipto a causa de los pecados del faraón en su liderazgo?

Toda esta historia del drama de la liberación nacional es única entre los otros dramas nacionales. La mayor parte de las historias nacionales presentan ésta como "la rebelión del pueblo" contra una potencia extranjera cruel. Solamente en el caso de Israel D'os recibe el crédito para este logro. Hasta el gran libertador, Moisés, se ve como un mal orador a quien D'ós debe animar para que lleve a cabo su lugar en la historia del pueblo judío. Así en nuestra historia, solamente es D'os que da libertad al pueblo y es D'ós que nos enseña a través de una serie de diez plagas varias lecciones.

Las diez plagas presentan problemas éticos adicionales. Al leer esta historia por la primera vez, parece ser nada más que un cuento de niños. Si la volvemos a leer, sin embargo, en un nivel más sofisticado, vemos una historia más correcta que muchas reediciones de otras historias enseñadas en los colegios.

La Biblia nos enseña dos lecciones importantes. La primera es que la mayoría de la gente tiene miedo de las revoluciones; buscamos lo conocido hasta cuando los patrones nos hacen la vida insoportable. Es la tarea del liderazgo animar a la gente y por eso leemos en esta parashá (6:9) "v'lo shamu el Moshe mikotzer ruach umeavodah kashah/ a causa de la esclavitud cruel aplastó el espíritu del pueblo, ellos (el pueblo) tenían miedo de escuchar." El liderazgo, entonces, debe buscar la manera para desafiar la "atrofia de voluntad" y llevar el pueblo adonde temen ir, y ayudarlos a ver que más allá de la degradación está la época de la liberación.

La segunda lección de esta parashá es que la historia se realiza en el nivel macro y no el micro. Es decir, que los buenos/inocentes también sufren de lo malo causado por las acciones de los culpables que han apoyado un gobierno malo. Este principio bíblico es invariable y corresponde a todos los pueblos y sus gobiernos. Así encontraste con las historias ajenas, el Libro de Éxodo nos presenta con la comprensión que el camino a la libertad no está pavimentado por la gloria sino por las plagas y hasta por el sufrimiento de los inocentes. La libertad está ganada no por alabanzas sino por los temores universales. Visto así ¿Clasificarían Uds. nuestra liberación como un milagro?

Rav Peter Tarlow es el rabino de Oneg Shabat, y director de la casa de Hillel de la Universidad de Texas A&M

Parshas Vaeyra

Rabino Yissocher Frand

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi
Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape #577, Davening For Non-Jews. Good Shabbos!

Treating Torah Like An Heirloom

The following passage appears at the beginning of the parsha:

"Therefore, say to the Children of Israel, 'I am Hashem and I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be a G-d to you; and you shall know that I am Hashem your G-d, Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt. I shall bring you to the Land about which I raised My hand to give it to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and I shall give it to you as a heritage – I am Hashem." [Shmos 6:6-8]

The Talmud [Bava Basra 119] raises the question as to whether the Land of Israel was originally given to those who exited Egypt (and divided up among their heirs) or was it given directly to those who entered the Land. The Talmud infers from use of the word "morasha" [heritage] as opposed to the word "yerusha" [inheritance] in the above pasuk [v erse] that it was given to those who came into the Land.

A morasha is like an heirloom, as opposed to an inheritance. A yerusha has the connotation that the one who possesses it actually owns it. The connotation of morasha is that I do not necessarily possess an object; it is only mine in terms of being able to pass it on to the next generation. The Talmud states that those who left Egypt played the role of "morishim" – they were the ones who gave the inheritance to the next generation, but they were not "yorshim". They themselves did not own it.

The Baal HaTurim points out that the word "morasha" appears in two places in the Torah. The other location is the pasuk "Moshe commanded us the Torah, a 'morasha' for the congregation of Israel." [Devorim 33:4].

The Shemen HaTov elaborates on the connection between the "morasha" of Eretz Yisrael and the "morasha" of Torah: As explained above, the connection between those who left Egypt and Eretz Yisrael w as only at the level of "morasha". They did not possess it, but they did possess it enough to give over to their children, the next generation.

This is the same relationship with the Torah that exists in many families between parents, children, and grandchildren. Torah can sometimes be a "morasha" in the sense that one generation doesn't really possess it. They do not possess Torah in the sense of full ownership or even understand it in any significant fashion. They possess it only in so much as to allow their children or their children's children to acquire it and to become the proud possessors of Torah in the fullest sense of the word.

We see this with our own eyes. Today we can look around and find Heads of Yeshivas, Rabbinic scholars, Gedolim who have mastered Torah discipline and knowledge. These are people who have gained authoritative familiarity and ownership of Torah law. Many times their parents happen to be very simple and unsophisticated Jews, not T orah scholars by any stretch of the imagination. How did such a thing happen?

The answer is that Torah is a "morasha" to the congregation of Yaakov. Sometimes the job of the "previous generation" is to cherish Torah, to believe in it and treat it like one treats an heirloom and then to give it over to the next generation. That is the nature of Torah. This is probably the meaning of the Gemara in Tractate Nedarim, which says "be careful of the children of the poor, for from them Torah emerges" [Nedarim 81a]. The Talmud is not just speaking of people who are economically poor. It also includes people whose parents are "poor" in their knowledge of Torah. Even from such people, may come children who excel in Torah study.

A person who has been in Yeshivos for any amount of time often sees this. Often, children of wealthy people –- monetarily wealthy or even wealthy in Torah knowledge -- do not achieve great promise in their learning. But on the contrary, we often se e children of people who are poor –- monetarily or even in Torah knowledge –- but who cherish Torah, who do become great Torah scholars.

Get Rid Of The Frogs – Tomorrow

The plague of Frogs greatly troubled Pharaoh and the Egyptians. They were oppressed to such an extent that Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aharon and said "Entreat Hashem that He remove the frogs from me and my people, and I shall send out the people that they may bring offerings to Hashem". Moshe Rabbeinu told Pharaoh to name the moment when he desired for the frogs to leave. Pharaoh chose to let them leave the next day. [Shmos 8:4-6]

This is striking. Wherever he turned there were Frogs. They were destroying the country and making life unbearable for the Egyptians. And yet when given the choice by Moshe, Pharaoh asked that they be removed TOMORROW!

Why Tomorrow? If we found roaches in our house and called the exterminator and he asked us when we would like to have the roaches removed, we would naturally say "Immediately!"

The answer is that Pharaoh suspected that the Frogs were going to leave today anyway. He did not want to give Moshe credence in the eyes of the people. He was trying to set a trap for Moshe and have Moshe agree to have the Frogs leave the next day, and then they would be gone before the agreed upon timeline.

Even though he could have gotten rid of them 'today', getting rid of them 'today' would perhaps be giving into Moshe Rabbeinu. It might appear as a confession to the power of the Almighty if he told Moshe to get rid of them 'today'. That was the last thing Pharaoh wanted to do.

Normal people would swallow their pride, forget the philosophy, forget the theology and ask for immediate relief from their suffering. Not Pharaoh. About this it is written: "The wicked even at the gates of Gehinnom do not repent." [Eiruvin 19a] A wicked person would rather suffer than admit that Hashem is the L-rd.

Parshas Vaera

Rabino Wein

A Hard Heart

Stubbornness can be a virtue or a terrible character defect. When it is a virtue we call it tenacity. When it is a defect it is just plain foolish and counter productive. Pharaoh’s stubbornness, as exhibited in this week’s parsha, is an example. His advisers inform him that Egypt is headed for disaster because of his stubbornness but he refuses to give in to the reality of the series of plagues that threaten to decimate Egyptian society.
Of course the Torah tells us that his tenacity was reinforced by the fact that God hardened his heart. The commentators, especially Maimonides, judge that to mean that the Lord gave him the courage of his convictions not to be influenced by the events transpiring in his country but to continue on his evil path to enslave the Jewish people.
Hardening his heart did not influence Pharaoh’s choices in the matter. It merely allowed him to transform what previously appeared to be tenacity into ultimate foolishness and disaster. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other such leaders displayed this same reckless stubbornness over the past century, resulting in the destruction of societies and the deaths of tens of millions of people.
Because of his behavior, Pharaoh becomes the paradigm for the self- destructive trait of foolish stubbornness. The Jewish people are also characterized as being a stubborn people. This trait has served us as well when we were and are tenacious in preserving our values and traditions. It is a foolish trait when we continue the policies and misbegotten certainties that have always led to our tragedies and misfortunes.
Rashi and Midrash teach us the source of Pharaoh’s suicidal stubbornness. It lay in his belief in himself as a god – arrogant and convinced of his own infallibility. People who are never wrong never have to change their policies, beliefs or behavior.
I am reminded of a sign that I once saw on the desk of a prominent public figure that said: “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up!” He was joking about it (I think) but that danger lurks in all of us. Once we are convinced of the absolute rectitude of our position, we not only are tenacious in maintaining it, we become downright blindly stubborn.
Moshe meets Pharaoh at the river’s edge where he went to perform his bodily functions. Pharaoh is exposed there - not as a god but only as a mortal man. Moshe means to teach Pharaoh that the justification for his stubbornness – his sham sense of infallibility – is itself false. A little humility on the part of Pharaoh would have saved himself and Egypt a great deal of grief. That is why the Torah stresses that the desired quality for true leadership is humility.
Moshe becomes the paradigm for humility just as Pharaoh – his arch- nemesis – is the paradigm for arrogant stubbornness. This lesson of wise tenacity versus foolish stubbornness exists in all areas of human life and society – family, community, national policy and personal development. May we be tenacious enough in life to avoid foolish moments of harmful stubbornness.

Shabat shalom.

Rabino Berel Wein


Yehudah Ben Abraham

Oneg Shabat

La espiritualidad es un poco como correr hacia arriba en una escalera automática que va para abajo.

Es fácil caer hacia atrás.

Todos hemos estado allí. Algunos están allí justo ahora, caídos en la base de la escalera, preguntándose si alguna vez volverán a levantarse, no digamos llegar hasta arriba.

Derribados por las dudas, la pereza, la ira, la adicción, podemos sentir que todo terminó para nosotros. "Este asunto de la espiritualidad no funciona para alguien como yo".

Este asunto de la espiritualidad funciona precisamente para alguien como tú. Recuerda, el lado oscuro de nuestros pensamientos tiene su fuerza.

Si nos alineamos con éste, nos mantendrá abajo, con su pie pisando nuestra cara. La única cosa por hacer cuando caemos es regresar inmediatamente a las prácticas que nos sostienen y nos dan energía.

¿Qué práctica espiritual -compartir, autolimitarnos, pedir ayuda al Boreh Luz, etc.- puedes volver a emprender?

No necesitas dispararte hacia la cima.

Sólo da un paso.Y el que sigue.Y el que sigue.

Finalmente llegarás allá.

Shabat Shalom

Postagem: Andre Moshe Pereira, Pres. Comunidade Judia Or Ahayim