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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Torah   Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:01 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *

Introduction to the topic: Torah

My intentions in this topic are to share Torah, and my assumptions are that I'm speaking to those who want to hear and want to learn Torah. If this is not true for you and you aren’t and don’t, I nevertheless still believe that there will be much that will be said that will speak to you. I'm not speaking from naivety, but from the general knowledge that most Jews are abominably ignorant about Torah, and I include many who associate themselves with the ultra-Orthodox and modern-Orthodox worlds. We are living in times of tremendous expectations and opportunities and the forces of reactionism are very resistant. One can so-called 'know' a lot and still have his or her eyes closed, and then they only 'no' a lot.

Primarily, however, if we’re honest – really and genuinely honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that our lack of interest in Torah occurs from these reasons.

         One, the Jews we know and identify with don’t themselves respect Torah nor do they find or expect to find value and substance in it.
         Two, we ourselves have never had the opportunity to sit and learn Torah in a serious and respectful way and environment.
         Three, we’ve never been exposed to those whose lives are only Torah and who are genuinely capable of giving over Torah with all the love and life that Torah is.

I say ‘giving’ - not ‘learning or studying’ - because for those who really, really have Torah it's their giving it over is when we ourselves are receiving it – receiving it on many levels. In schools and univerities they teach from the minds and mouths. True Torah is given over from the heart and the soul.

Also, I expect to teach and give over about Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. Even though the vast majority of Diaspora Jews have little affinity with even the country Israel, let alone Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, this doesn't in any way diminish the prominence of  Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, for Jews and the neshamah, the soul, of Jews.

So we've never learned this and no one has ever taught us because no one cares or believes. Suppose we would hear and learn from someone – a 'Ger someone' – who does care and does believe? At the least he's not carrying all the negative baggage about Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, or, if we want, “Israel? Why would anyone in his right mind even think about Israel?!

Listen in and find out. It's always invigorating to hear valid testimony from someone who genuinely cares and who lives what he believes. For those who care, the following link offers a good, NON-RELIGIOUS video about Israel (I didn't say  Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel), competently and respectfully done and an excellent measure of the side of Israel that is not allowed to be seen in the media – not even the Israeli media. (God forbid they should say anything good about anything Jewish.) I apologize that I've lost the original link I had from which you could view the movie for free, and unless some else has it the only site I could find is this one [http://www.israelinsidethemovie.com/ ], where thery're selling the movie for $5 yankee. At this symbolic pittance, it's far more than worth it. If you do attempt to purchase it, if they ask for an email address make one up or create a dummy account (for purposes like this). Failure to do so, will encur receiving continual advertising. It's for a good cause and I'm all for supporting it, but we all have the right to be warned.

The first Torah in this topic is exactly everything we've just discussed. It is only important to add that this was written during the summer when Jews were expelled from the Gush Katif, which most call the Gaza Strip. DO NOT expect to find any politics whatsoever here or in anything I write, except when it's absolutely unavoidable.

B'Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer


*         *         *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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daniel eliezer

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Posts : 82
Join date : 2011-12-01
Location : Beit El, Israel

PostSubject: Re: Torah   Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:09 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *
It was awesome, mamash awesome!
[This ‘awesome’ is the original ‘awesome’, not the perverted one used today.]
(Written in 2005)
My wife has a cousin, Yitzhak, who is not only very close to Rav Pinchas Sheinberg, who lives in Kiryat Mattersdorf in Yerushalayim and is one of the Torah giants of our generation, but he also received s’micha (rabbinical ordination) from him. Yitzhak and I were talking this week about an halachic issue, and afterwards the conversation turned to events that were occurring in Kfar Maimon
[*]on behalf of Am Yisrael, especially those who are living in Gush Katif.

When I shared with him what I shared here on these pages about the rally in Netivot, he responded with deep concern, “but there’s violence in Kfar Maimon!” I replied, “It’s not true, and you really can’t know unless you’ve been there. If I could only do it, I’d see that you and every other Jew would spend only ONE minute in Kfar Maimon. It is such an unbelievable lesson in Ahavat Yisrael!”

I was present on the last night (Wednesday) when thousands upon thousands of Jews assembled in Kfar Maimon. Because of security reasons, Kfar Maimon is, like many other yishuvim in all of Eretz Yisrael, surrounded by a security fence, which made the situation such that the police, border guards, and army were mostly outside the yishuv and we were inside the yishuv. At some point, late in the evening, I took a walk through the multitudes of people to see who was there and what was going on.

The whole length of the security fence was surrounded outside, and sometimes inside, by security forces. They, for the most part, were unarmed, standing relaxed and patiently. On the inside opposite almost every one of them were clusters of Jews, adults and youth, talking animatedly and lovingly with them about everything under the sun. Often times the youth would break out spontaneously in song and even dance praising the soldiers.

We’re brothers, literally. We learn from the cradle to love Jews and to protect Jews, and when we put on the uniform - every single one of us - it is for Am Yisrael that we do it. I have a picture (which I will happily share with all who ask) that says it all. The picture is of a group of Jews inside the fence of Kfar Maimon but standing close to it davening (praying) mincha (the afternoon prayers), and on the outside of the fence are a group of soldiers davening with them. What are fences when you’re davening for Am Yisrael?!

The events of this past week are so wonderfully expressed in this week’s parsha, Pinchas. In response to Pinchas’s actions at the end of last week’s parsha, the Holy One, Blessed be He, speaks on behalf of Pinchas one, in order to silence all the contention surrounding what seemed to be his ‘extreme violence, insolence, and insane behavior’ and two, to reward him and to make known to all others that what Pinchas did was very precious to God. Most intriguingly is that the story of Pinchas, a story that is the Torah’s paradigm of extremism, introduces the apportioning of Eretz Yisrael. What is the connection?

What and why Pinchas did and if he should have is argued intensively by Chazal. Without getting involved, what Sholom quoted Shlomo saying about Aaron is so applicable to Pinchas. “You know friends, how much it takes to see somebody else doing wrong and realize that they only wanted to save somebody else’s life? That [is] already the deepest depths; for that you need a lot of depth.” In Pinchas’s case it wasn’t a life, but a Holy neshamah, because in the continuation of days Zimri’s neshamah came back as Rabbi Akiva and later as Rabbi Yitzhak Levi of Berditchev, but that is a learning for a different time and place.

What’s important is that before we begin the apportionment of Eretz Yisrael, one man, Pinchas, stood up and refused to let a Holy neshamah be destroyed, a Holy neshamah that is an integral part of Am Yisrael. Pinchas, as part of the Tribe of Levi who doesn’t inherit land only cities, did an extreme action to prevent Zimri from losing his portion of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. The result was that Pinchas ended up losing his portion of Eretz Yisrael, because part of his reward was being made a Kohen and Kohanim have no physical inheritance of Eretz Yisrael.

On the surface his behavior was extreme in the utmost, not only in what he did but in where he did it and before whom he did it. Equally, however, although the situation and the provocation were extreme, what isn’t clear is that Pinchas’s behavior never changed. Pinchas always was and only was filled with the deepest of deepest of love, a love of which he never lost sight of. Even if the face of events that seemingly demanded that Pinchas choose between love of God and love of man, Pinchas never wavered.

Pinchas continued to love God with all his and His being, and Pinchas continued to love man [Zimri] with all of his and Zimri’s being. Pinchas fought Zimri with love - not with anger, not with hatred, not with vengeance, nor with any other negative attribute. In his actions Pinchas proved to God that a Jew, even under the most extreme of provocation and circumstances, cannot be deterred nor prevented from continuing to love another Jew. It is this attribute that proved that Pinchas is worthy of ‘bris Shalom’, the covenant of peace, and that because of him it is that we [Jews] are worthy, also, of the covenant of peace and of inheriting Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Peace.

This is why it is in parshat Pinchas that we inherit Eretz Yisrael and determine who gets what, which is decided through Moshe Rabbainu and Divine guidance. However, less important than Yankeleh got this piece, Chaim that piece, and Reuven a third piece, is that we learn that Eretz Yisrael belongs equally to Am Yisrael collectively and Am Yisrael individually. Every single Jew can point at one specific portion and say, “This is where I belong, this is my portion of Eretz Yisrael, this is where and how I contribute to Am Yisrael.”

That is what the daughters of Tzlafchad - Machlah, No’ah, Chaglah, Milchah, and Tirtzah - said to Moshe Rabbainu. “Our father died in the Midbar for things that he, himself, did wrong, but he didn’t do something, God forbid, that caused him to lose his portion of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael. He has no sons, but we, his daughters, have a right to carry his responsibility.

Why, however, couldn’t Machlah, No’ah, Chaglah, Milchah, and Tirtzah come in the name of all the righteous women of Yisrael? At the end of the census that was necessary in order to apportion Eretz Yisrael, the Torah teaches us, “U’v’aileh lo-hayah Ish mip’kudei Moshe v’Aaron…” And amongst these there was no man [still alive] from the census made my Moshe and Aaron…[the first census before the sin of the M’raglim] On this Rashi comments, “Ish” - none of the men were there, but the women had no part in the sin of the M’raglim and they all received Eretz Yisrael.”

To answer, fifty-seven years ago, after the U.N. had voted to grant our existence, we had to fight a war of independence against the united Arab world that openly attempted to destroy us. At the war’s end, we were left with less territory than had been allotted us, but in order to appease the Arabs, the U.S. exerted tremendous pressure on us to withdraw even farther. When the talks had reached a critical stage, Yitzhak Tabankin (a leader of the non [read: anti] -religious kibbutz movement and Knesset member), who was representing Israel, told the Americans, “I have to consult with two people tonight, and in the morning I’ll give you my final answer.” The Americans were convinced that they had finally succeeded with their efforts, and they returned in the morning full of confidence. Tabankin said one word, “NO!” Stunned, the Americans asked, “Who’d you talk to?”

Replied Tabankin, “To my grandfather who is no longer in this world and from whom I inherited this land, and to his grandson who is not yet born and to whom this land belongs.”

That is what the daughters of Tzlafchad - Machlah, No’ah, Chaglah, Milchah, and Tirtzhah - said to Moshe Rabbainu. We are going to bring our father’s grandchildren into this world, and their portion in Eretz Yisrael and in Am Yisrael is their grandfather’s portion. The Holy One, Blessed be He, told Moshe Rabbainu, “They’re right.”

Both Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aaron HaKohen and Yitzhak Tabankin, each in his own way, said that Eretz Yisrael belongs to each and every Jew. Pinchas did it at the beginning of our inheriting Eretz Yisrael, and Tabankin did it at the beginning of our restoring our sovereignty to Eretz Yisrael. That sovereignty, however, isn’t solely physical dominion of Jews over their own lives. It is above everything else the continuation of the lives of our grandfathers to the lives of their grandchildren, even though one will never live to see the other.

We end this week’s parsha with a listing of all the karbanot, the ritual sacrifices, that Am Yisrael as a Nation must bring. The list includes everything from the twice-daily karbanot to the karbanot that are brought on each and every Holy Day. The overwhelming question is “what are the karbanot doing here in parshat Pinchas? They belong in sefer VaYikra where we learn about both the Temple service and about all the different Holy Days.”

The Heliger Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel , zt”l, the Apter Rebbe, says that usually Pinchas is read near or during the three-week period from the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av, the period which marks the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple. It is the most anguishing time of year for all Jews. That fact that the destruction occurs specifically during this time period testifies to the tremendous potential that exists then.

Says the Apter Rebbe, “the reason that we learn about the Holy Days now is because this time of year is when all the Holy Days are created, not the time when they appear during the year.” “These days,” says the Apter, “are days of awesome Sanctity, Sanctity that we haven’t yet been able to bring into the world in its full and completed form. That is why these days are the time of fixing our sight, for fixing how we see what God is giving us. It is one of David HaMelech’s deepest prayers, ‘gal einye v’ehbeetah nif’lah’ot miTorahtecha” - reveal to my eyes and I will dwell upon the wonders of Your Torah [Psalms: 119:18] [Now, in the months of Tamuz and Av, a time seemingly of distress and sorrow, is when I pray that You] let me see all the wonders that are hidden within.’“

The Apter Rebbe is teaching us that, like David HaMelech, we have to daven, mamash daven, that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will open our eyes and show us the awe and the wonder and the magnificence of everything that He is doing. I, as I am, may not be on the level of seeing it, but I am capable of praying that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bless me so that I can be and can see.

In the last Yahrzeit edition of “Kol Chevra” (2004), Yehoshua and Annette Rubin share a beautiful story entitled, “Shlomo’s Eyes” (one day I will introduce Shlomo). They talk about how ‘Shlomo saw’ and about how ‘Shlomo’s looking at you’ affected you, and how ‘Shlomo’s kind of seeing’ is so valuable and important to us. Who couldn’t agree with them, but I don’t begin to think that even for a fraction of a second that I am capable of seeing as ‘Shlomo saw’.

My inability, however, didn’t stop me this week from wishing that I could ‘see as Shlomo saw’ when I was looking at as many Jews as I could during all the gatherings for our Holy brothers and sisters in Gush Katif. It wasn’t something that I wanted for myself, i.e. like wanting to be someone else, but something that I realized that we all need so, so much. How can I look at another Jew who the Holy One, Blessed be He, loves so much that He brought him or her into existence and not love him? How can I not ‘see’? Can there be any plainer definition of what causes ‘sinat chinom’ - senseless hatred?

What I did do, however, was to watch others looking at each other, to watch Jew looking at Jew. And you know, that’s what I saw: Jew looking at Jew. It’s not that there weren’t uniforms and uniform dress, divisions this way and that, and even physical barriers, fences, too, between us. It’s just that when we really looked at each other there weren’t. It was only Jew and Jew.

How do I know? Because all that I could see was love. It was awesome, mamash awesome!

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer

[*]A link to Kfar Maimon from a news source on the other side of the political spectrum, i.e. they supported the Expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. [http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/civics-lesson-at-kfar-maimon-1.164805]



*         *         *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
[*]
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daniel eliezer

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Posts : 82
Join date : 2011-12-01
Location : Beit El, Israel

PostSubject: Re: Torah   Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:49 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *
Machaneh Yisrael: A Taste of the World to Come
(Machaneh Yisrael means the Camp or Encampment of Am Israel)

Silence………………………………… sometimes silence is one of the most tragic things, and sometimes silence is one of the most awesome.

I want to share another story from the period just prior to the Expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif [summer 2005]. This situation was the next-to-last public rally against the imminent expulsion. The location was the cities of S’derot and Ofakim, which are southwest of Be’er Sheva, if your atlases include Israel (not all do, just as Arabic textbooks don’t). Not only is this not a political story, but it is an astonishing story of, well…Jews being Jews…which is the purpose of the Land of Israel.

There was another evening rally this week for Gush Katif, this time in S’derot, and when it ended we traveled en mass to Ofakim (transl: Horizons or Vistas) to camp the night in a large park. A normally twenty minute drive took three hours, the first of which was spent getting from one side of a traffic circle to the other. Despite the exasperating pace, everyone was relaxed and in good spirits, even though it wasn’t until around 1:30 A.M. that we reached our destination. Then in ones, twos, and threes, as families and in small groups and carrying our backpacks and camping equipment, we walked through the park to find spaces to park our weary bodies.

I awoke at daybreak, after some three hours of continuously interrupted sleep. As my eyes widened to the sight that surrounded me, in increasing astonishment I absorbed the endless number of tents disappearing in every direction beyond my field of vision, and my ears absorbed the silence, a literally sweet silence, that enveloped the camp. It was unbelievably heartwarming.

Since I had awakened a little too late for the first minyanim [pl. – sing. minyan: quorum of 10 men for prayer], I unhurriedly found a place to start davening [Yid. praying] by myself, knowing that shortly I’d be joined by others. As I patiently worked my way through the davening, I’d pause to absorb more of the sight that surrounded me, particularly the sight that greeted my eyes in watching the faces of others as they emerged from their tents and beheld, as I had, the sight that awaited them. I saw on their faces such wonderful feelings of astonishment and rapture. Equally, I listened to the silence that seemed to speak of some special dwelling, and my contemplations only ceased when enough men had assembled and we began davening together.

Now we all know that one of the requirements of davening is ‘yirah’, meaning fear or trepidation. Prayer, true prayer is where we are conscious of and consciously standing before the King of Kings, the Master of all Creation, and it is no small thing to confront Him. I agree with everyone that ‘yirah’ is no easy thing to achieve. Also, like everyone, I know that when I do daven with something approximating true ‘yirah’ that my davening is different and better.

That morning, however, I didn’t even begin to have the ‘yirah’, the fear and trepidation that is needed for davening. Instead, as the prayer opened up and as it opened me up more and more, I found myself discovering the other kind of ‘yirah’. ‘Yirah’ in Hebrew means ‘fear and trepidation’, and it also means ‘awe and astonishment’. As I davened, especially the Shemoneh Esrei, it was the sight that first met my eyes when they opened in the morning and the sight of the faces of others as they too beheld what I had beheld and the sounds of sweet silence that still enveloped the camp - that filled my consciousness.

Just as it hadn’t left me so, too, it hadn’t left them, and as we davened I could feel it embracing our prayers. All of it just filled our prayer, and I could feel our prayer expanding and reaching out across the whole encampment and beyond - beyond to other parts of Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel, and from there to other places wherever Jews are. It was the first time in my life that I understood what it means to be praying with Machaneh Yisrael, with the entire encampment of Am Yisrael.

Obviously, I realize that all of Am Yisrael wasn’t physically there. In truth I fantasized a good part of the morning about what it would have been like if just our entire encampment in and of itself would had prayed simultaneously and together instead of in assorted minyanim that formed according to when we woke up. Still, it was an incredible taste of ‘awesome’ - literally ‘yirah’, and an incredible taste of what we are all working towards.

I bless us that please God the day is coming soon when all of Am Yisrael will be in The Land of Israel. The moment that Machaneh Yisrael crossed the Jordan River into The Land of Israel, it no longer became possible for Machaneh Yisrael to exist outside The Land of Israel. As small communities, as scattered groups, and as individuals we can have existence, but as the entity ‘Machaneh Yisrael’ this we can only have in The Land of Israel.

Even I, Daniel, who so fervently push, preach, and urge the building of Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel wouldn’t have thought so. I have had many wonderful, even awesome experiences, and I have been blessed to share many of them here. It wasn’t until this week, however, until I had stood inside of and davened with Machaneh Yisrael that I could even begin to sense and taste and feel and experience that whatever and however we, Am Yisrael, are and are doing - that it is an awesomeness that defies expression. You literally have to taste it to believe it.

I promise you that it is a taste of the world to come.

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer


*         *         *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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daniel eliezer

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Posts : 82
Join date : 2011-12-01
Location : Beit El, Israel

PostSubject: Re: Torah   Thu Jul 11, 2013 5:23 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *
(This is continuation from last week’s “Machaneh Yisrael”, written eight years ago.)

The ‘Klipah’

We all try to comprehend and understand how the world works and, especially, how ‘Kedushah’ - Sanctity and Holiness fills the world and life. Life fascinates us and frustrates us, intrigues us and challenges us. Be we erudite and pious scholars, parents raising families, children opening up to life and the universe, or any and everything else, amidst the continuity and constancy of existence we look for those times, events, and treasured moments that raise everything that we are and do above the mundane and routine.

Within the Torah, one of the prominent ways of grappling with the reality of how ‘Kedushah’ - Sanctity and Holiness can exist within a mundane world is the concept of ‘klipah’. In Hebrew ‘klipah’ means covering or peel or pod or shell, such as corn husk or banana peel or pea pod or walnut shell, etc. The way that it is used in the world of Torah, however, is not so easily translatable. It is that which contains where that which is contained is the essence and that which contains it is insignificant until almost useless. The latter is proven in that we discard [reject] the ‘klipah’ in order it to get to the essence.

The other term or expression that we use to describe something that holds or contains ‘Kedushah’ - Sanctity and Holiness is ‘kaylim’ - vessels. Both ‘kaylim’ and ‘klipah’ are repositories containing or surrounding ‘Kedushah’ - Sanctity and Holiness, and differentiating between the two absorbs the world of learning, especially how they function and what their purposes are.

In a nutshell and in a pun, that’s what ‘klipah’ is all about. Expectedly, in the world of Torah there are greater and deeper understandings of ‘klipah’, and wrestling with ‘klipah’ fills kabbalistic and chassidic teaching. ‘Klipah’ is a massively complex subject, and probably rare are the few who do master it. Nevertheless, this notwithstanding, even for we who lack intimate learning and knowledge is not difficult for us to see how so much of life contains within and is a container for ‘Kedushah’ - Sanctity and Holiness.

I want to teach about ‘klipah’ with an example that is going to sound ‘political’, but the intention is to show how ‘politics’ are also a ‘klipah’, i.e. that within ‘politics’ there is also ‘Kedushah’ - Sanctity and Holiness. What follows will not contain anything ‘political’ other than the need to describe. Of necessity, I have to name certain events in order to identify time and circumstances, but without any difficulty one understands that on this side there are people and on the other side there are people. In this case all the people are Jews.

Regardless of how it sounds please stay with me. I didn’t orchestrate events nor did I invent language, and I can only use the words that we have. I apologize if I say it poorly, but what follows are really very sweet and deep stories about us.

In Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel, in the early 1990’s, at the beginning of the Oslo Peace process, when massive opposition mounted to what the government was attempting to do, huge rallies and demonstrations were called. Among the very first of these were demonstrations at the Knesset and government center in Yerushalayim. The demonstrators were from every walk of life, but dominant among them were families and large numbers of children and youth. In fact, for the duration of the Oslo Peace process, families and children and youth would lead the opposition.

At the very first demonstrations, the government greeted the demonstrators with barricades behind which stood rows of riot troops and police, three and four deep and shoulder to shoulder. The security forces were outfitted with riot helmets, shields, batons, tear gas, horses, and who knows or cares what else.

Like so many thousands of others, I know that I was deeply shocked at the sight that met my eyes when I came around the corner with my wife, pushing baby strollers and with four other children hanging on or walking alongside. The shock was twofold. One, that the government wanted to greet us, we who were only exercising our legitimate right to demonstrate, with such a blatant display of force, and, two, I for the life of me couldn’t imagine ‘who’ was threatening them such that they needed to do so. (Uniformed policemen, absolutely, but riot troops?)

That’s what it was: a blatant display of force. It really was. [To discuss what, why, and how that was is really politics.]

The Oslo Peace process and the opposition has lasted some 13-14 years now, and the infants, toddlers, and youth, who were there at those first demonstrations and rallies, grew up during these 13-14 years. The culmination of the opposition to the Oslo Peace process has been the intensive efforts this past year on behalf of Gush Katif to prevent the uprooting and extermination from Gush Katif of entire Jewish communities, families, lives, and presence - the work of twenty-five years - an entire generation.

Significantly, among the most active and dominant of those involved now are those infants, toddlers, and youth of then. Today they have grown to be youth or young parents with their own infants and toddlers. In large part, it is they who have provided the energy, impetus, and spirit for all that has transpired. It has made a difference.

Over two weeks ago at night, after a massive rally in Netivot, thousands of people walked and hiked and marched in an attempt to reach Gush Katif. At Kfar Maimon government resistance, i.e. aggressive and highly organized and outfitted police and military forces blocked the way of opponents - husbands and wives and children and youth. As lopsided and one-sided as I depict it, that’s what was. (I am describing a scene; not attempting to extract sympathy.)

Last week, after a massive rally in S’derot one night and another rally in Ofakim the following night, there was again a massive night walk/hike/march in an attempt to reach Gush Katif. Literally tens of thousands of people - mothers, fathers, and children and youth - walked the ¾ of a mile to the intersection of the main highway and then another ¾ of a mile to where we encountered another police blockade. This time it was different, very different.

It is true that stretched out in the fields for almost a half-mile alongside both sides of the highway were picket lines of soldiers and police. Also, at the intersection where they stopped us there were a few water canons, a row of mounted police, and a several rows of riot police. But, still, it was different. You could feel it. For one, no one - police nor soldiers - was armed. No clubs, no weapons, no riot gear, no barricades - nothing, and everyone was wearing identification badges. Two, there was a feeling of people doing a ‘job as a job’, and not a feeling of ‘we can’t wait to get them’. As tens of thousands of Jews marched up to them and stopped, literally standing there face-to-face opposite them, there was tension but also a sense of expectancy of ‘let’s wait and see’.

The expected confrontation that did take place took place between the police commanders and our leaders, but it was mostly a sideshow and it mostly took place off to the side. Some of the best drama actually occurred elsewhere. At the very front rows of marchers were predominantly men, young and old, but among this group there were some women and in particular a woman some sixty years of age or so. It did not phase her that we had been stopped, and she of her own initiative decided to push through a row of riot policemen who were standing literally shoulder to shoulder.

The particular riot policeman she targeted repelled her without effort, and she rebounded with a tirade of protestations. She lit into him and his comrades with all of her pent up frustrations, and for several minutes she held court in center stage charging this way and that while unleashing a litany of injustice. After a fashion, a ranking police officer made his way over to where she was, and upon seeing him she turned her wrath on him.

Unlike the riot police, who were under strict orders not to interact with us, the regular police had no such restrictions. To her attacks he responded, but where she was vehement and angry he was only exhibiting the gruffness of an experienced police officer. For a few minutes they went back and forth at each other until the officer said something and she stopped. For long seconds she didn’t respond and finally she retorted, to which he responded immediately.

Suddenly this woman’s face broke out in the most magnificent smile, her face filled with the absolutely most wonderful warmth - what a Jewish mother’s face it was - and…….it was Shalom al Yisrael - peace on Israel. From that moment on the atmosphere defused, and interaction between all of us only improved. In fact, following this a Russian television crew interviewed me, and for the sake of the interview they backed me up until I was only some two meters in front of the riot police. Among the questions that they asked me was, “How do you feel being here tonight?”

I turned my head to look at the faces of the riot police standing behind me, and then I turned back to the interviewer saying, “I feel good!” Seeing the startlement on the interviewer’s face I explained, “Look, if I’m standing here as an opponent to government policy and they are standing there as riot policemen, then obviously it’s a very difficult situation. If, however, I’m standing here as a human being, and they’re standing there as my brother or my father, my son or my husband or my grandson it’s different. You, yourself, feel all the love that’s here tonight. We’re all the same thing; we’re all Jews.” And looking at the interviewer you could see his [cold, harsh] face soften visibly.

What resulted was that since the police forces were too small to be effective against us in any way and since we had no intention of creating conflict or forcing our way through their lines, we opened our sleeping bags on the highway and in the fields and spent the night there. But each side helped the other with food and water and with whatever accommodations that could be shared and provided. In the early morning, before the heat of the day settled in, we dispersed, but it was very clear that we departed as family and friends; not as bitter opponents.

[In fact, as we wended our way back to Ofakim and our campsite, as I walked the main street in the early dawn hours, I passed an Egged bus that was stopped for a red light. Scanning the windows as I passed it, my eyes fell on a uniformed policeman who was sitting on the other side of one window. On the instant that he saw me, instantaneously his face filled with simcha, his lips stretched into an enormous smile, and he began waving excitedly to me. I responded in kind, realizing that he saw from my appearance and backpack and from my being there at this time and place that I could only be a ‘protestor’, and he wanted to show his support.]

Backtracking now, from the early moments when we were first stopped opposite the police forces, for whatever reason the memories of those very early, first demonstrations and how the security forces were poised against us filled my mind. As this night wore on and the different scenes and interactions which I’ve shared developed, my thoughts would continually return to those early demonstrations and compare then and now. In particular, one thought dominated my thinking. During all these years, the one constant of it all is that the we who were protesting had never changed - changed as to which persons were involved but not changed as to what our message was and as to what motivated us.

It was always love: love of Am Yisrael, love of Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel, love of Torah, and love of the Holy One, Blessed be He. How do I know?

After the rally in S’derot, we camped in a large park in Ofakim, but it was extremely hot day, regardless of how much shade there was. Despite this, many people went out in the heat of the day to talk with soldiers and police. In the late afternoon, we hiked into Ofakim to attend a rally where the absolute majority of speakers were as dull, boring, and monotonous as one could imagine. Still, we remained patient and respectful, everyone anticipating the march to Gush Katif. Finally at around 10:00 P.M. we started.

Traveling the main street of Ofakim from the point of the rally to the main intersection was a ¾ of mile walk downhill. The intentions were that our leaders would lead the march, and that we would follow. So insistent, however, so desirous were we that instead of a walk it was literally a surge that had to be continually halted lest we overrun and outrun those who were leading us. Not only that, as we marched we sang. Or maybe, more rightfully, as we sang we marched.

It was astonishing. From property line or building edge to property line or building edge, across sidewalk, curbs, traffic lanes, and center island we marched some forty or so abreast. Rarely was there room to take a full stride, and often you were stepping on or being stepped on. And it all was in song and more song and more song.

By the time we reached the main intersection, we had so accelerated spiritually that had we even wanted to be only a ‘purely political rally’ it was already long past our ability to be so.

We turned west towards Gush Katif, and our marching and spirit only intensified. By the time - which really was in no time - we reached the police forces, the sense was that we were going to overrun them solely from the pure surge of our advance.

Of course we stopped, as I’ve already recounted. What I haven’t recounted, though, is this.

Maybe there were maybe perhaps some several thousand police and army personnel present that night. Compared to our numbers, they were totally inadequate and unprepared to prevent us from doing whatever we might have wanted had we so wanted. We didn’t and don’t.

From the moment that we had started singing, I began to think about the security forces and what it must be like for them. I don’t mean in terms of having to deal with a large and uncooperative mass of people, nor do I mean in terms of having to stand against brothers, sisters, parents, friends and others, especially when individually many of the security forces agree in heart with those who were opposite them.

I mean in the sense of standing there listening to twenty or thirty or forty or fifty thousand Jews marching and singing. [The police refused to release the accurate count of protestors.]

Listening to twenty or thirty or forty or fifty thousand Jews marching and singing songs of Torah and Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

Listening to twenty or thirty or forty or fifty thousand Jews marching and singing, “Am Yisrael, Am Yisrael, Am Yisrael Chai - Ode Aveinu, Ode Aveinu, Ode Aveinu Chai” over and over.

Listening to twenty or thirty or forty or fifty thousand Jews marching and singing songs that they, too, grew up on and that they, too, live with. Songs which are the heart and soul of Am Yisrael.

It does something to you. It is no longer them and us, or those… or… It is us. It makes you we.

There wasn’t any need for speeches. Any need for anyone to explain anything, to teach us something that we didn’t know or hadn’t learned. The opposite is true. It is something that we learned even before we were in the cradle, even before we were brought into this world. It is what being a Jew is all about; what it means to be Am Echad - One People.

Politics that encompass our life [in Eretz Yisrael] are a ‘klipah’ that has to be filtered and sifted to find the ‘Kedushah’ - Sanctity and Holiness that is hidden inside. Within there is only Holiness and Sanctity, it’s just that the boundaries have become blurred. They shift here or there as the need arises to obscure and to prevent realization and fulfillment. Mostly, however, the ‘klipah’ wants to create the illusion that we’re standing outside and that we can never get inside.

For a Jew that’s never true. A Jew is always inside, and a Jew is never alone. It is only the illusion, the ‘klipah’ that causes a Jew to think so. It’s when we know that we are inside that we know that we are all One.

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer


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PostSubject: Re: Torah   Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:48 am

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *
(This is the completion of  “Machaneh Yisrael” and “The Klipah”, written eight years ago.)

“Nachamu, nachamu, Ami”: Return to Our Hearts

Shlomo was always teaching about gates opening up, about the gates of Divine opportunity becoming available. His stories and teachings are replete with this message and theme. He also taught about the opposite - when Divine opportunity and promise were ignored or overlooked or there was failure to take advantage. He brought examples from many times and places, and the Land of Israel was one of them. Like the Six-Day War, about which Shlomo said that the Gates of Heaven were so wide open, but then we wasted and squandered what was given to us.

Shlomo wasn’t talking merely about the liberating of additional parts of the Land of Israel, including Yerushalayim, but specifically about how all the hearts had opened and that there was such openness and oneness. Sadly and tragically, we weren’t ready to live on that level yet, and everything deteriorated.

From time to time I, too, have written about gates being opened and opportunities being made available for all Am Yisrael. Last week, in “The Klipah”, I spoke of the expectation of the coming of the Messianic area, i.e. Maschiach - Messiah. I wasn’t speaking blindly or fantasizing or being delusional. There was tremendous energy and tension here in the Land of Israel, and if your sensitivities are correct, you realized just how much this was similar to labor or birthing pains. (This is the reason that we refer to the advent of the Messianic Era as ‘חבלי משיח’ – hevlei Mashiach, as ‘birthing pains’.)

For those who know that and felt that, they know and comprehend. For those who don’t, then events are open to any interpretation they want.

What I’ve said is true, and equally what could have been has [again] been missed. Understand that I am not talking about the Mashiach as an individual, a single human being, but as an era when we’ve accepted to live with each other and have opened our hearts to our common desire to build the world the way that it should be. Because I am a Jew, I believe that the Holy One, Blessed be He, wants that era to begin with us and to begin here in the Land of Israel.

Because I live in the Land of Israel, I am knowledgeable of so much that occurs here. Because my life is lived as a religious person whose goal is to build both Am Yisrael and the Land of Israel I am aware of just how difficult the work of creating the Messianic Era is.

As part of the efforts to prevent the expulsion of Jews and Jewish presence from Gush Katif, I spent the last 30 hours outdoors with a group of people who were attempting to infiltrate into Gush Katif. I already knew beforehand (at the end of Tisha B’Av) that the gates that had been opened were closing, if not closed, but this didn’t and doesn’t stop me from seeing the Divine processes that are at work in everything that is happening to us.

It’s hurts it really does to know just how much we, Am Yisrael, are and are capable of, and then seeing it not being realized. It breaks your heart…… mamash, it breaks your heart.

By late yesterday afternoon we had accepted that we wouldn’t be able to penetrate into Gush Katif, so we turned our backs on the Gush and began walking out. Because I knew the route through the corn fields, I was leading, and at one point I had picked up my pace to go ahead to see which way would be best.

At the fork in the road I turned around to signal the others to follow me, and as I did my eyes caught the setting sun behind them. It was only moments before sunset, and the sun was poised in the sky with its bottom a scant distance above Gush Katif. It was a deep, bright yellow in color, and as it began its descent it sank into a deep orange and finally a deepening red as it disappeared.

That setting sun over Gush Katif said so much about what is happening, especially at the moment where the top of the sun was deep, brilliant yellow, the middle pure orange, and the bottom deepening red. (Pure orange has been the color of protest against the expulsion.) That bright, brilliant yellow of the sun is everything that is offered us and everything that we are and are capable of. That deep orange is our attempt to raise Am Yisrael from the deep red to that brilliant yellow. That deep red is our heart, the heart of Am Yisrael.

When next I saw the sun, it was when it rose again this morning, the morning of my birthday. As He does everyday, the Holy One, Blessed be He, is teaching us that He hasn’t given up. Everyday He lets us know that He is with us every step of the way. It’s so hard, often excruciatingly painfully hard for us, but He’s here with us even when our attempts to emerge return to our heart.

Few are the ones among us who know what God is doing and why and how, but such is our faith and belief that through all of it we continue to believe and continue to sing and praise. Our deepest beliefs are that it’s healing and fixing - healing and fixing which for whatever reasons we must go through. Shlomo teaches us about time - that there is a fixed and proper time for everything, time that fixes and heals, unfolding in an ongoing process that leads to the time when everything will ultimately be fixed and healed.

But Shlomo also teaches us that there is an unfixed time. This is the time when we, of ourselves, are capable of making the Holy One, Blessed be He, hasten events and bring the end earlier than He, himself, has scheduled. The goal is always that we should be One - we with each other and we together with Him. As Shlomo continually taught, all that we have to do is ‘open our hearts’. So deceptively simple; so deceptively Divine.

“Nachamu, nachamu, Ami” – be consoled, be consoled my people…………“shuvu ailye v’eshuva aleichem” – return to Me and I will return to you.

Our faith in the Holy One, Blessed be He is that when the time comes He’ll do it. His faith in us is that we can make the time come sooner. Why should we wait any longer for what both of us most dearly and deeply want? Now, more than ever, the time has come for us to return to our hearts.

I bless us and all Am Yisrael that we should always and only want the Oneness, and that we should always be open and sensitive to what the Holy One, Blessed be He, is giving us. We should always be opening our hearts, because in however and whatever way He is doing it, He is always trying to bring us to One.

B’Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer


*         *         *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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PostSubject: Re: Torah   Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:50 am

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *
We’re in the middle of Sefer Devarim [Deuteronomy], which completes Chamishah Chumshei Torah, the Five Books of the Torah. In all of Sefer Devarim Moshe Rabbainu is speaking to us directly himself, not transmitting to us what he is receiving from the Holy One, Blessed be He, like he does in the first Four Books of the Torah. While there are those in the greater constellation of Jews who want to argue that because of this Sefer Devarim is a separate Sefer by itself, this is not an argument that has any necessity whatsoever. To anyone with any modicum of understanding and sensitivity to the love and compassion that comprise the Torah, it is overwhelmingly obvious that Moshe Rabbainu’s love and compassion, which comprise Sefer Devarim, are and can only be Torah.

What might help us understand this better is something that occurs throughout the teachings of Chazal. Quite often when Chazal want to give over a teaching, they use stories to do so, and perhaps the most frequent kind of story is the story of the King and his son, and of the King’s most dear and trusted friend who continually intercedes when things between King/father and son go awry. In the Torah, Moshe Rabbainu is the King’s ‘most dear and trusted friend’, and in my postings we’ve discovered some of the immensity of Moshe and of how true he was in his commitment to the Holy One, Blessed be He, and in his commitment to Am Yisrael.

One of the sources that is much closer to us in time and which will allow us a tidbit of a taste of who Moshe Rabbainu was can be found in the great [Chassidic] Rebbes. To understand these kinds of personalities – Moshe Rabbainu and the Rebbes, it’s necessary to be aware of two things. The first, that they all accepted the unimaginable responsibility of connecting Heaven and Earth, of making the connection between each and every part of Creation to the Creator, and vice versa. The second, they were forever always and only opening windows and doors and gateways in order to lift us up, filled with hope and desire and prayer that we will have the courage of heart to enter what opens before us.

It is probably not something that Gerim think about, but in many ways Gerim have the ability to be ‘dear and trusted friends of the King’.

The Soul of a Rebbe

When it first came out, a dear friend gave me a copy of Tzlotana Barbara Midlo’s sefer, Lamed Vav: a collection of favorite stories of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zt”l. I didn’t immediately start reading it, but for perhaps a week I would just hold the sefer in my hand treasuring it. Afterward, when I began to read it, I would read one story or, at the most, two stories in a night. But I didn’t simply read them. I immersed myself in them and also in Tzlotana’s recounting of Shlomo’s teachings about ‘stories and telling stories’. Until I came to this story…

“Nothing and Everything”

Once there was a group of holy shleppers who wandered around from place to place begging for food. But they were so dirty, their clothes were so torn, that most people didn’t even want to look at them – and turned away from them. They were lucky if they got some stale bread. But how long can grown men live on one loaf of bread? So, sadly enough, they were always hungry...they mamash almost starving.
         Finally their leader said to the others, “We can’t go on like this. If we don’t get some food in the next town, I’m afraid we’ll die. We have to figure out a better way to sustain ourselves, come up with some kind of a plan.”
         They sat together in silence for a few minutes, thinking. Then one of them said to the others, “Listen, the only people who are always welcome in a town are the great Rebbes and their followers. Everybody fights over who gets to invite them for a meal. So I have an idea. Maybe you...” he continued, pointing to the leader “....could pretend to be a Holy Master, and we could pose as you students...”
         The leader smiled, “You know,” he said, “if we clean ourselves up a little bit, it just might work.”
         And, since none of the beggars could think of anything better, that was what they decided to do. They even made up a name for themselves. Their leader would be called the Trich’er Trich’er Rebbe, and they, of course, would be the Trich’er Trich’er Chasidim.
         As the beggars came close to the next town, they sat down to plan their entrance. They decided that, after they washed themselves and their clothes at a nearby river, two of them would go ahead of the others to announce the approach of the famous ‘Trich’er Rebbe.” And the rest would follow immediately after with their ‘Holy Master’.

         Needless to say, when the word got around that a great, if unknown, ‘Rebbe’ was paying the town a visit, everybody came out to greet him. And as one of the beggars had predicted, everybody competed for the honor of inviting the ‘chasidim’ for a meal. Finally the beggar-chasidim went home with one of the richest Jews in the city, who fed them his best food, offered them his best wines, and treated them like kings. For the starving beggars, it was mamash the answer to all their prayers.
         After the meal, the rich man turned to the supposed ‘Rebbe’ and said, “Holy Master, I have to tell you the truth. There’s a reason why I invited you here today. My baby daughter is very sick. The doctors are afraid she may be dying, and they say there’s nothing they can do. Rebbe, I’ve heard that people like you can mamash do miracles. So I’m begging you, please help me. Save may child!”
         The beggar-chasidim turned white as sheets. The ‘Rebbe’ buried his head in his hands in despair. How had their great plan gone so wrong? They were so ashamed that they wanted to cry out, “Can’t you see who we really are? We’re nothing, much lower than you are. We’re just pretending to be holy because we were so desperate for food. How can we possibly help you?”
         But of course they said nothing. How could they admit they were imposters? The townspeople would mamash stone them. Silently the ‘Chasidim all looked at their ‘Rebbe’. He nodded slightly, then followed the rich man into the baby’s room. There he took out a book of the Psalms, sat down by the child’s bed, and asked to be left alone.

         The ‘Rebbe’ stayed in the baby’s room for more than an hour. When he came out, his eyes were red and swollen and his face looked gray and tired. Still he smiled at the rich man and said, “Baruch Hashem, you daughter is out of danger. Not only will she live, but she’ll be absolutely fine.”
         The rich man jumped up and rushed into his baby’s room to see the great miracle for himself, with all the ‘chasidim’ following closely behind. And when the father saw that the child was indeed well, he began to weep with you. But the beggars had a very different reaction. They started to mutter and whisper to each other, “What’s going on here? How can our leader have possibly cured this little girl? We’ve known him for so long, we thought he was just a shlepper like the rest of us. Could it be that he really is a holy, that he can mamash do miracles.? Then why has he been hiding his power from us all this time?”
         The beggars managed to keep their mouths shut until the grateful father had thanked the ‘Rebbe’ for his help, they all had thanked him for the meal, and they were back on the road. Then the ‘chasidim’ grabbed their leader and shook him, all shouting at once: “Okay, now tell us the truth! Are you a beggar, or are you a Rebbe? How in the world did you heal that child? And if you can really do miracles, why didn’t you help US? How could you have let us starve for all these years?”
         Their leader looked at them sadly. “I’m no Rebbe,” he answered softy. “I’ve always been just what I seemed – a poor shlepper like all of you. But when I went into that child’s room...when I saw that beautiful girl and felt the strength of her father’s love....I felt so helpless I thought I would die. I wanted so much to help her, but I knew there was nothing I could do. So I started to pray:
         “Ribbono Shel Olam, I now I’m nothing. Not only am I just a poor beggar, I’m also a liar and a cheat. And now this father has put his child’s life in my wretched hands...
         “But the truth is, Master of the World, this rich man only thinks he’s depending on me, on my supposed power. Really, he’s looking for You. You’re the One he needs, the Only One Who can perform a miracle and heal his child – because You are everything. The problem is he doesn’t know hot to find You. So he’s asked me, a lying, worthless beggar, to be his messenger.
         “Ribbono Shel Olam, I know I’m not worthy of this man’s trust. But please, don’t punish him because of me. I may be a liar, but he is a good and loving father. Please let his daughter live...”
         “And, as you saw, God was merciful. The child was saved...”

[Lamed Vav, Tzlotana Barbara Midlo, pp184-7]

*      *      *
When I reached the end of this story I sat without moving for at least an hour, the sefer open on my lap. It wasn’t only that the story touched me...but more than that. What I was looking at was myself!? I literally could not move, and try as I might I really didn’t want to. It was such a shock, such a rude awakening to see myself ‘laid open so clearly’.....

When finally I did move, I put the sefer down not to pick it up again until several weeks - maybe a month plus - had passed. What had happened wouldn’t let go of me, and there was even more to it....

…because even more startling to me than seeing myself in the p’shat [plain meaning] of the story was the recognition that ‘this is the truest rebbe story ever – the purest essence of a rebbe’!?!

I didn’t know what to make of it? I’m know I’m looking at myself…yet I’m also know I’m looking at ‘the rebbe’… “How can it be?” I asked myself, “How can it be?! It’s clear to me who I am, but...but how...but ‘how can it be’?!…”

It really, really shook me up, and for the better part of a year and even more it was very much with me. But gradually it faded and left me, only occasionally resurfacing…

…that is, until I came across Shlomo telling about the Rebbe of Alexander [in Poland]...

...the Alexander Rebbe’s traveling on a train, and as the train pulls into the station the Rebbe sees thousands of people waiting for him. Looking at all the people, the Rebbe sat without moving while taking it all in, and then he cried, “What?! They don’t know me…they don’t know who I am…know what I am. I can’t go out there…they’re wrong…they’re wrong…” and the Rebbe wouldn’t move to leave the train.

Finally a young boy got on the train and walked over to the Rebbe. Taking the Rebbe’s hand the boy said, “Come, Rebbe, come. They’re waiting for you…” and the Rebbe got up, letting the young boy lead him outside.

Shlomo added, “…the Moshiach…if a boy would come and take him by the hand…that’s all it would take…”
[*]

Shabbat Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer

[*]In the portion of ‘VaEtchanan’, through indirectness Moshe Rabbainu attempts to get Am Yisrael to pray for him so that God will relent and allow Moshe to come with us to the Land of Israel. We didn’t catch Moshe’s hints and we didn’t pray for him, but it’s mentioned that had Moshe Rabbainu been allowed to enter the Land of Israel his doing so would have ushered in the Messianic Era!?



*         *         *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
[*]
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PostSubject: Re: Torah   Sun May 18, 2014 2:21 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don’t have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I’m saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *

A good dicussion has begun in the Forum: Jewish Ritual and Mitzvot under the Topic: “Reform Judaism and traditional observances”:
http://www.jewishbychoice.org/t400-reform-judaism-and-traditional-observances Anyone who thinks that this is only about Reform Judaism is mistaken; it touches every Jew and Ger/Giyoret, no matter under whose banner we stand. The sooner that we Gerim are willing to admit and to open and to discuss the things the brought us to being Jews yet which we’ve discovered are less satisfying that we anticipated, the sooner we’re going to be able to begin helping Jews get it right. So far Debbie and Sarit are the only two participants, but this is a subject which we who have been Jews for a little while are capable of contributing to.

I’m posting my contribution here and not there, because I don’t want to stifle the discussion that’s begun. There is as there has to be, thank God, room for each and every one of us, and please God we’ll recognize this and contribute. What follows here was written nine years ago, when I was writing solely to and for Jews, from which we see it’s nothing new, just as we see that ‘we Gerim’ have what to say. Even though I have more experience in traditional learning, and thus here I’m speaking about the Torah reading of Chukat and the Parah Adumah – Red Heifer, in BaMidbar [Numbers], most of what I say is easily understood by anyone who understands English, even if our Torah backgrounds are less developed than mine. Enjoy.
*         *         *
God Time

When I studied at Yeshiva University (all of two years, ‘77-’79), the head of the school I was in was Rabbi Morris Besdin, of saintly and blessed memory. That I could study there at all was made possible because in 1956 Yeshiva University’s president, Dr. Samuel Belkin, decided to open up a Jewish Studies Program (JSP) for students (born-Jews) with limited Jewish religious background. Rabbi Besdin was chosen to direct what was probably the first ba’al teshuvah learning program of our generation. Like all good Jewish teachers, he was a blend of deep and unshakable faith and knowledge, toughness (i.e. fine Jewish steel), warmth, compassion, and humor. He was a wonderful storyteller, and even the stories about himself where he came out in unflattering light offered deep insights into what it is to be a Jew.

One of the biggest struggles for students in JSP was the dichotomy between the Judaism that they were learning and the Judaism that was, if at all, practiced in their homes. Often times everything conflicted, but perhaps the biggest headache, heartache, and even stomachache was keeping kosher. As Rabbi Besdin would mimic for us a typical mother, “what do you mean that MY SON CAN’T EAT MY COOKING?!!!”

So Rabbi Besdin, who often had to intercede in behalf of his students, related to us how a conversation would go.

“Tell me, missus, if a diabetic would visit your home, what would you feed him?”

“Why, Rabbi, I wouldn’t give him anything with sugar in it.”

“And if a vegetarian would come...?”

“I certainly wouldn’t give him any meat...”

“And what about a priest visiting on Friday...?” (Those were the [ancient] days when Catholics didn’t eat meat on Friday.)

And to display her worldly knowledge she would exclaim, “Of course I’d serve him fish...”

“So you see, missus, just as much as each of these has a special diet, so does your son. His Jewish soul requires that he eat kosher Jewish food.”

Of significance is that Rabbi Besdin’s examples are not based upon wants or desires; they are based on needs. They are based on wellbeing: the diabetic to prevent his being harmed, the vegetarian to build and live a healthy life, and the priest for his spiritual wellbeing. For a Jew it is all three things simultaneously.

I’m not sharing this story, however, to talk about food. As I write this story and the continuation, familiar words of Shlomo’s keep running through my mind, “...without sounding too Jewish....”, and then Shlomo would share some learning or story or insight. I’m sharing this story because it touches upon something much deeper than food. It touches upon the essence of what makes us Jews, which for us is what life’s all about - being a Jew.

In this week’s parsha, Chukat, it begins “zote Chukat haTorah asher tzivah HaShem....”, “this is the statue [no good translation available] of the Torah which HaShem commanded...” On this pasuk (sentence) Rashi brings the version of the Midrash [see endnote] that says that Satan and the nations of the world are harping on us, “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing it?” [A second version says that it’s the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, i.e. the internal skeptic who hounds our existence.]

Apparently, regarding the rest of the Torah, either the nations of the world, of themselves, are able to achieve some kind of understanding of what we’re doing and why, or they’re able to extract from us understanding. Now, in Chukat, suddenly comes a mitzvah that everyone is incapable of unraveling the reason for it.

What do they care for? Is it going to make the least bit of difference whether they do or they don’t know what and why we’re doing what the Holy One, Blessed be He, asks us to do? We’ve got enough troubles of our own, without their nosiness.

If we ask anyone, our rabbis and teachers, our parents and friends, or ourselves, “why are we doing this mitzvah?”, no one really knows - not a single one of us, but it’s not because we’re lacking (however learned or unlearned we may be). It’s just that as much of an answer or answers as we can provide, we always know that in truth that there’s even more to it. After endless studying and struggling to comprehend and understand, just at the moment when we break through - ‘aha!’ when we finally realize, “I’ve got it! - it’s then when we also see just how much more there is to it,”...and so we begin again.

It is these moments of ‘insight’, and the more ‘incredible the insight’ the better, is when we realize that we are really doing the mitzvot, doing the commandments, for God. Each time we delve deeper, open wider, ascend higher we discover that we’re uncovering more of what the Holy One, Blessed be He, is giving us.

But all this is fine and good when I’m sitting in the quiet of my home or the sanctity of the synagogue or study hall. What about when I’m on the street, at work, in the mall, or a thousand other places that demand of me compliance to some Divine ruling, but deny from me the peace of mind to discover ‘aha!’ before I do it? When, instead, I’m surrounded by all sorts of doubts, uncertainties, and anxieties: “What will they think...?”, “How will I ever be able to explain...?”, “Why does everyone have to be looking at ME”, and.....

It doesn’t even have to be Satan and non-Jews, does it. What could ever be more sacred than a Jewish mother, and yet, “what do you mean that MY SON CAN’T EAT MY COOKING?!!!”

Talk about INTIMIDATION?

“Mom, I’m only doing what God commanded us to do.”

“GOD?! I’m you’re MOTHER!! You’re telling me that I don’t know what’s good for YOU?!!!”

......and all our Holiness unravels, no matter how and what we answer. It’s only when we’ve invested considerable years of our lives in building that Holiness and living it that we begin to have the fortitude to stand quietly and in equanimity in the face of INTIMIDATION...

...well, hopefully at least from family, from other Jews, and from ourselves.

What about Satan and the nations of the world, however? What absorbs them so much about our being Jews? We’d think by now that they’d just leave us alone, and let us go our own way. Why do they always have to be looking at us from an infinite number of angles and perspectives? It’s been some 3300 years since we brought the Torah into the world. How many empires and civilizations have been created and have disappeared in all that time? They have nothing else to think about? No other concerns? We’d think that they’d have tired of it all eons ago. The Jew this and the Jew that and the Jew......ad nauseam......ad infinitum.

Maybe, however, they’re right? Maybe there really is something to all the commotion and instigating that they do concerning us? Maybe it’s not for the ‘sake of hatred’ that they pursue us, even if they think that it is? Maybe there are other reasons? After all, if ‘God’ - a wise and intelligent ‘God’, right - gave the Torah, then surely that wisdom and intelligence is going to be visible in everything that He commands us. Certainly it’s going to be possible to discover what the wisdom and intelligence is and see how it is used and applied.

In answer, says the Torah, “Zote Chukat haTorah asher tzivah HaShem....”, “this is the statue of the Torah which HaShem commanded...” God commanded it; there is no other reason. We’ll never ever discover any greater reason than that. Torah is what God wants and what God wants us to do, and His deepest pleasure and ours is in doing that. Of course, it’s true that the fulfilling the Torah accomplishes things in and for all existence, still what’s being asked and commanded is the ‘desire to do’ and ‘doing it’ for He who is asking and commanding. That’s what it’s all about.

It makes no difference whether I’m the Kohan HaGadol – the High Priest walking into the Holy of Holies on Yom HaKippur, where I’m confronted by the magnificence of God’s Presence, or whether I’m an inconspicuous Yid [Yiddish: Jew] dropping a few coins into an outstretched hand, totally oblivious to anything more than, “God wants me to be compassionate.” Really, what’s in it for me or us? What difference does it make to God?

There isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t done a mitzvah - any and every mitzvah - for the first time. I suspect, that regardless of however much we ‘knew’ about the particular mitzvah beforehand, that the first time that we did it we were awed by just the doing of it. In fact, it is only afterward that we remember that we ‘forgot’ to do this aspect or to have this intention or....

Do I really think that I can ever again in my life put on ‘tefillin’, phylacteries, with the same purity and innocence as I did the first time I put them on? I love davening [praying] and I love ‘tefillin’, and the mitzvah and doing the mitzvot only gets deeper and deeper, but still......I will never again do the mitzvah as I did it that first time.

Why do I reminisce, maybe even wax nostalgic, over this? Because when I learn Torah, I never have the understanding that what I did that ‘first time’ is what the Torah wants. But how could it not? The very first time I did it there was such awe, such love, such a sense of ‘just doing it’. I didn’t know ‘better’, so I just let myself do it naturally, enjoying the doing of it for the sake of doing it and being less concerned about whether ‘I got it right or not’ because, “what did I know?”

And honestly, I can’t say that I’ve ever done the mitzvah better. Technically, of course, I have, just as my awareness of it has improved, but it bothers me that I’m either too conscious of it or too habitual in doing it. I want the ‘newness of not knowing what it’s all about’ to encompass me along with the comfort that I am more than I am with it and the discomfort that I am less than I am when I am without it. And it isn’t only the mitzvah of ‘tefillin’. I want it to be the same with every mitzvah. I want every mitzvah every time I do it to be as if it’s the first time.

Why do I have to let Satan or the nations of the world or even my own negative inclinations deprive me of the awe and the love and the ‘just doing it’. Let me be totally and absolutely ignorant of exactly ‘why’ I am doing it, and let be only be totally and absolutely concerned that God wants me to be doing it. And if somewhere and somehow I connect to greater and deeper understandings.......ahhh!

Reb Zalman [Zalman Shachter-Shalomi (worth Googling) was visiting in Israel] spent the evening encouraging us to increase the kind and the amount and the quality of the time that we spend with the Holy One, Blessed be He. He didn’t delve into the deeper and more exalted mysteries of Heaven and Earth, instead he shared with us more concrete ways and means of building and richening our relationship with God, what he calls, “God time.”

In awareness that [almost?] none of us live lives that are 100% of the time online with God, Zalman said, “You know, at the end of life when the summing up is done, there are going to be some really great “Shema Yisraels” accounted for. There are going to be some really awesome “Shema Yisraels” accounted for.” And you could see it on him and you could hear it in his voice that maybe not every day and maybe not all the time is it possible, but when we do do it psssssss............Gevaldt!

Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Eliezer
18 Iyar 5774

Endnote: Rashi quote this Midrash (Tanchuma: Parshat Chukat 7) relating to Satan, but it, i.e. ‘chukah’ actually relates to the four mitzvot in the Torah that are called ‘chukah’, statue. Each of these ‘chukot’ (plural) has an inherent contradiction in it.

One is the mitzvah of ‘yeeboom’, [Deut. 25:5-10] where a man has to marry his brother’s wife to bring a child if his brother has died childless. The mitzvot of marital sanctity state that a man’s wife is forever forbidden to his brothers even after he is no longer married to her (whether because of demise or divorce). The only time this doesn’t apply is when he dies childless, at which time it is obligatory for one of his brothers to marry his widow so that the deceased brother can have someone to inherit him and perpetuate his name.

The second is ‘c’ly’im’, the restriction of combining two similar but incompatible things, e.g. a garment of wool and flax [Lev. 19:19] or plowing with an ox and a mule as a team. ‘C’ly’im’ are things that are related, but in reality they don’t belong together.

The third is the sacrifice of the ‘scapegoat’ which is sent to ‘azazel’ on Yom HaKippur [Lev. 16:1-34]. All animals that are brought as karbonot, as sacrifices, are sacrificed only to HaShem. The holiest day of the year is Yom HaKippur, the Day of Atonement, yet it is specifically on Yom HaKippur when a sacrifice is brought to ‘azazel’.

The fourth is the mitzvah of ‘Parah Adumah’, of the Red Heifer [Num. 19:1-22], which is for the sake of spiritually purifying someone who has become ritually impure because of contact with the dead. A ritually pure person performs the rite of purifying the ritually impure person, but the outcome is that he who was impure becomes pure and he who was pure becomes impure!?

B’Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer
12 Iyar 5774

*         *         *
What I write doesn’t invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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