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 Moadim - 'Precious Times' - " We've been waiting so long..."

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daniel eliezer


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

PostSubject: Moadim - 'Precious Times' - " We've been waiting so long..."   Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:20 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.

*         *         *

…when God opens all the gates…
It worked out for me that junior high was 7th - 9th grades (’61 -‘64) in one school, while high school was 10th -12th grades (’64 -‘67) in another school. I finished 9th grade on top of the world and started 10th grade mad at the world (no mean feat), which primarily meant mad at school, and I literally fought school until the end. Mostly what it meant was that I was a dropout without physically dropping out - passive resistance and warfare of the kind that youth are masters of.

My 10th grade English teacher took a disliking-approaching-hatred to me for reasons I never did fathom. I simply had nothing to do with her. I tolerated her when I had to and ignored her when I didn’t, causing her absolutely no trouble but equally having absolutely no interest in her whatsoever. It’s probably not the way to win friends and influence people, but I just didn’t care, and it really wasn’t something personal - except maybe for her…or maybe the chemistry or lack thereof between us. She happened to be a Jew of the suburban, college-educated, intellectual variety, while I was a goy in my first year of dropping out.

It didn’t help matters that the program I was in was an accelerated program and basically she expected to teach us on the you’re-going-to-college level of studying. I’d always loved reading (not that I was the most sophisticated of readers in coming from non-college family and background), but I was nowhere prepared for the ‘sophisticated’ level of analysis that she brought to the class. The Jewish half of the class was with her and most of the non-Jewish half was also, with there being only myself and one or two others who weren’t.

At any rate, quite often while she was talking or teaching or whatever I’d be either lost or tuned out or both, and when I could get away with it I’d surreptitiously read stories in our lit. text. After enough attempts at calling upon me and getting no positive or productive responses from me, she pretty much left me alone, which didn’t exactly leave me brokenhearted over her abandonment. Despite this, she nevertheless managed to teach me something about herself and, at the same time, about myself.

Periodically, she would have us read aloud in class. Whatever particular story we would be studying, she’d have us open our textbooks, and then choosing someone to start reading at her direction reading would progress around the class. Usually it was a lesson in futility, because everyone would read in a dull, monotonous voice, without any inflection or emotion or even interest. The day finally came when she’d had enough of it, and she exploded at the class. She really, really let them have it, not holding back in the least, totally frustrated at their behavior and their being devoid of any care, involvement, and commitment to what was being read. “The only one who reads with any life and emotion is Daniel!” she admonished them. (I can still hear it to this day.) Blow me away! She noticed!?

I tell this story, because it’s another example of how my less than stellar interactions with Jews while I was growing up would in the course of time come to teach me important lessons about Jews and about myself. Here and there in my writing I share from these stories, and in the “Interview with a Convert to Judaism” that is running around here, I share some truly unbelievable stories.

The purpose of telling this particular story of my English teacher is because it’s an excellent example of how for so many Jews everything remains on the ‘intellectual level’; it never touches…or they never let it…touch them on ‘a heart and soul’ level. And it really doesn’t matter what kind or flavor of Jew they are. Read the stories I shared about Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, and we discover that there’s a distinct difference between ‘we know’[it all] and ‘we are there’ [heart and soul]. Being there ‘as a Jew’ makes a difference, it genuinely does, which we discover in this story.

Today, Monday, July 15th in the [Western] Xtian Gregorian calendar (the Eastern Church uses the Julian calendar), is actually the 8th day of the Hebrew month of Av. For most people, both Jews and non-Jews, this has no meaning, but for Jews who are genuinely connected to being Jews they know that tonight (Hebrew days begin at sundown) the 9th of Av is Tisha b’Av [lit. ‘the 9th of Av’]. Tisha b’Av is the calendar date which, among other things, is when both the 1st and 2nd Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. The first by the Persians and the second by the Romans. Each destruction was followed by Exile, the first Exile lasted 70 years and the second Exile lasts until this day.

Although this exists in our sacred literature and texts and is essential to us as Jews, seemingly incongruously it also happens to be part of documented world history, i.e. it exists as ‘recorded fact’, not merely as words of Prophets and religious leaders. (The world may not yet celebrate our existence, but they certainly do know how to document our demise.)

What Tisha b’Av means for Jews is that it is a day of mourning - twenty-four plus hours of mourning and fasting and reciting Eicha and Kinot - over the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Holy Temples as well as other tragedies that we have both brought upon ourselves or which we have endured throughout our history. It’s seemingly a strange thing to mourn over these ancient tragedies, because when we look at the world we really don’t see civilizations mourning over what they had and what they lost. Lament, perhaps, but outright mourn…only Jews!? It so happens that Napoleon of ‘Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte fame’ was once passing a synagogue on the night of Tish b’Av, and he heard all the wailing and lamenting inside. “What’s that?!” he asked in startlement. Told the reason, he responded, “If they’re crying so much for something they lost 1800 years ago, it’ll be returned to them.”

As the nations of the world never believed and as the Church never wanted to believe [from all the Holy Books it stole from the Jews], we have returned to our Holy Land. Our doing so is the commencement of our full and entire return home –as ‘Jews’ and as ‘our being Jews’. There is much work to do, a tremendous amount, but we’ve been blessed to live in the generation when the gates of return have opened entirely for us. Within our tradition, Tisha b’Av is the day when the Messianic Era will be ushered in, and regardless of how we Jews understand this, there is no doubt that we all envision it as the era when peace will have dominion in the world.

But peace, true and genuine peace (not forced, political peace) is ‘שלום’ Shalom, something that comes from the highest and deepest places in Heaven, and in that being so it’s what we’ve been imparted to us to do…our utmost most challenge - and failure, as we have a habit of making it so. Our history is replete with no too few moments when we were literally on the brink of achieving the seemingly unachievable - even the Messianic Era - and we blew it. The following story is a sad example of this.

(I’ve heard a number of versions of this story, with the variations only being in the details not in the essence of the major components of the story.)

The Jews in Spain in the 15th century achieved an exceptionally high level of acceptance in Spain. They were integrated into all levels of society, were active and important participants in the Spanish Court, and were extremely successful in many walks of life. In truth, they were so successful and they had acquired such extraordinary wealth that the most prominent Jews decided to attempt to buy the Land of Israel from the Turkish Sultan who ruled over it.

Whether they themselves appealed directly to the Sultan or whether they turned to the King of Spain and asked him to send messengers in his name or whatever, they approached the Sultan with their proposal to buy the Land of Israel.

[As an aside, can we begin to appreciate what kind of Jews these Jews were that they wanted to use their vast personal wealth for the benefit of the entirety of the Jewish People?!]

While they were doing this or while the negotiations were going on, these Jews also called an assembly of Jews to announce what they had decided and what they were in the midst of undertaking. At the meeting - and apparently class-consciousness or hierarchy was not what it is today – someone said, “How do you know? How do you know that it’s permissible for us to return [to the Land of Israel]? Maybe the end of the decreed time of Exile hasn’t yet been reached, and if we attempt to return now we’ll be rebelling against what’s been decreed. (This is already after 1500 years of Exile!?)”
[*]Of course dissent and argument followed, of which the outcome was that it was decided to wait. “If next year at this time nothing has happened, we’ll know that we are permitted to return.”

Of course, the year was 1492 and not only could Jews no longer buy the Land of Israel and thus return to it, but the Spanish Inquisition descended upon us and Jews were either exiled from the Spanish Empire or they were forced to convert to Xtianity [see: Marannos] or they were put to death as infidels.

There are so many times when God opens all the gates for us…and holds them open so ever, ever long…only wanting us to enter. Would that we would only know this…and believe it.

Tisha b’Av doesn’t have to be. We can make the difference. It’s solely a matter of ‘being there’…when God opens all the gates…

Daniel Eliezer

[*]Parenthetically, the whole coming into existence of the United Nations was to resolve a technical halachic problem regarding our returning to the Land of Israel.Although our returning to the Land of Israel was already in progress, the pre-state, primarily European, religious-halachic community opposed returning to the Land of Israel and rebuilding it. Part of their halachic basis was the Talmud (Ketuvot 111a) where it’s stated that ‘we’re not allowed to attempt to unite and return forcibly to Land of Israel because in doing so we would be rebelling against what had been decreed’. (Echoes of the sin of the M’raglim, hmm, who attempted of themselves to go the Land of Israel after it was decreed we couldn’t go.)

That our returning to the Land of Israel as a people would not be construed as rebellion could occur if the nations of the world would permit us to come back to the Land of Israel. All the political collusion (literally) that brought about the vote in favor of Jews returning to Land of Israel was solely for the sake of overcoming the rabbinical opposition to our return to Land of Israel, where we could live again as an autonomous people in our homeland. The proof that this was the purpose of the creation of the UN is that since that momentous vote, the history of the UN has been rife with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic legislation and behavior.

*         *         *
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


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

PostSubject: Re: Moadim - 'Precious Times' - " We've been waiting so long..."   Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:02 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.

*         *         *
Today was Rosh Chodesh Adar II
[*], the New Moon that ushers in the Hebrew month of Adar. As we know Adar is the month in which we celebrate Purim, and when Adar begins we say, “when Adar comes in we increase our simcha - our joy.” Six years ago, on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Adar, there was a terrorist attack in the Mercaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva in Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] in which eight talmidim [students] were murdered in cold blood. So here we are being assaulted with catastrophe at the commencement of the month in which we increase our simcha. What do we do?

Instead of explaining, let’s read a story…and even stories within a story…so that maybe we can taste a little of what it means to be a Jew – a sweet and holy and simchadik Jew.

For clarity’s sake, Mea She’arim is the oldest ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Yerushalayim (outside the Old City), Tzfat is a religious city in the north of Israel, Bnei Brak a city near Tel Aviv, and ‘the Moshav’ is a moshav settled by the followers of Shlomo, and it’s located about halfway between Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv.

This was originally written to and for Jews, on a mailing-list (now defunct) for the followers of Shlomo, about whom I write and for whom I’ve given his own topic here. As we all know or will learn, in Yahadut – in Judaism there is strong awareness of the interweaving of midot haDin - God’s justice and midot haRachamim - God’s compassion as essentials of Creation, and it is always desired to attempt to find ways to mediate and to sweeten decrees that come through midot haDin, hence our title.

Sweetening What’s Been Decreed

Dearest Chevre,

This is about Tzfat and Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos and unbelievable Simcha from Friday and Shabbos…which I think we all need a little of right now…but a little introduction is needed before I get to them.

Maybe some twelve years ago, during the time of the ‘Intifada I’ (i.e. wanton Arab violence against Jews and euphemistically called ‘struggle for peace’), it became commonplace to murder Jews in Yerushalayim by leaving bombs on buses or in other convenient places. This didn’t rule out other methods of barbarism, like stoning, stabbing, and guns, but bombs caused greater carnage.

In the midst of these gruesome years (Shlomo had already left this world), friends of ours had a bar mitzvah in Yerushalayim, and just a scant 2-3 hours before the bar mitzvah party there was a terrorist attack in downtown Yerushalayim using assault rifles (like in Thursday’s barbarity [Mercaz HaRav]). Besides further depressing and defeating us, we said, “How we can we go to the bar mitzvah on a night like this?!how can we be s’meach (joyful)?!…”

But we thought, “The bar mitzvah boy and his family…it’s not their fault? How could we not go; how could we add this misery to their lives…?!” So we went.

It wasn’t a large bar mitzvah, and if any of you know Mea Sh’earim in Yerushalayim, you know that none of the halls there are big enough for any elaborate and fancy celebrations of any kind. The opposite is true. The halls are built and designed for the ‘AIN’T GOTS’.

It was one of the most stunning bar mitzvahs I’ve ever been to. The family is very musical (not Shlomo, at least not then), and being frum Jews originally from Brooklyn, they wanted a traditional, chaimish (Yiddish: warm, family, loving) celebration. They had put together skits and songs, and it was an evening that exploded with love. They gave everyone a lot that night.

Most of all, though, they brought out the essence of a Jew as Jew. Amidst all the pain – what we know as ‘midot haDin’ – they found the simcha; they brought sweetness. They ‘sweetened the din’ – they mitigated the harshness of what had been decreed. And as we all know through Shlomo and all of the great Rebbes, it’s ‘sweetening the din’ is where we discover the true worth and value and importance of a Jew.

On every Rosh Chodesh women gather at the Moshav for a women’s Rosh Chodesh gathering, a day of learning and meditation and sharing and song and love and the highest highs. Because the first day of this Rosh Chodesh fell on Friday, everything was moved up a day to Thursday, erev Rosh Chodesh. Chaya Sara, my wife, was there, and she left directly from the Moshav to go to Tzfat where I met her. The Beirav Shul in Tzfat is the Shlomo Center in Tzfat, and one of the things they do on Rosh Chodesh and Chol HaMoed is sing and dance Hallel with musical accompaniment. It gets awesome! Shmuel and Tzivyah Polsky, the gabbaim (where else but a Shlomo minyan do you need a woman gabbai?), had invited us to join them for Friday and Shabbat, and we gobbled up the invitation.

On the way to Tzfat on Thursday night, which was already Rosh Chodesh, we…along with all Am Yisrael…learned the devastating news of the murders in Mercaz HaRav [Yeshiva] in Yerushalayim, and like all Am Yisrael our hearts broke even more. Since Chaya Sara and I were traveling separately, on the bus I was riding I sat next to a young chasid, whose wife and three daughters we’re sitting behind us. He was just an ordinary chasid, mostly caught up in the daily concerns of his life and family, so after saying hello we each fell into his own thoughts. For the first two hours of riding, I slept, but halfway there I woke up, and it was then that the news of the horror broke. Knowing that he didn’t know yet (I found out through my cell phone), I shared what had happened with him. The news hit him a deep blow, like all of us, and I could see him sinking into that helpless anguish of despair that overwhelms us. I began talking with him, knowing what he couldn’t know: for me the murders were going to become personal, because within the world that we live Mercaz HaRav [Yeshiva/world] is central and I knew that we were going to be mourning with someone we know whose son was murdered. (Too true.)

It turned out that he’s a Verona chasid (Verona chassidut comes from somewhere in Romania), and I began talking about how Chassidut and about however much it came into existence when it did, that the greatest truth is that it was meant for us who are living here in Eretz Yisrael. The Ba’alei Chassidim [Chassidic Masters] were all focused on discovering and bringing and being ‘b’simcha’, of being joyful. ”Chassidut is the deepest need we have today. It is the most capable of helping us find the simcha,” I said.

He was a little bit of a nebechle chasid, but as my words reached him he visibly straightened in his seat. We talked more about Chassidut, the Rebbes, and he began sharing stories of his growing up in Israel, in Bnei Brak, in Tzfat, and about the tiyuling (travels) with his father, who somehow found the means to scrape together for a car (we’re talking the ‘60s & ‘70s, which was no mean feat) and would take them all over Israel.

I wasn’t talking only to and for him, but also to and for myself, because I, too, didn’t want to sink into all the miserable helplessness of tragedy. It was Rosh Chodesh and not only that but it was Rosh Chodesh Adar, the time when we INCREASE SIMCAH [JOY], and we were going to Tzfat for the highest Rosh Chodesh davening.

When we got to Tzfat, when the bus reached my stop he had gone forward to ask the driver a question, so I couldn’t say goodbye. Grabbing my luggage from the compartments under the bus, I returned to the side door to part from him, but he still hadn’t returned to his seat. Instead, his wife was standing there waiting [for him]. I called up to her asking her to “give him my blessings for a ‘Gut Chodesh and a Gut Shabbos,” but as I spoke I couldn’t help but notice a change in her.

When I got on the bus in Yerushalayim, she was already hovering over and guarding a few seats she had grabbed while her husband stowed the luggage and paid for the tickets. She begrudgingly and grumpily had conceded that no one was sitting next to her husband, which meant that I could sit there, but there was a problem. True, I wasn’t a woman, but since I was wearing tan trousers, a cranberry shirt, and a large, knitted kippah I also didn’t offer much promise of being a….let’s say…a positive influence.

Now, here was this woman standing there looking down at me as I called up to her, and there was such warmth, such interest in her face and entire demeanor. An entirely different person from the one whom I had confronted when I got on the bus. Apparently, although I’d had absolutely nothing at all to do with her, the conversation that I’d had with her husband had affected him, and she noticed it and felt it. It was like life had returned to him.

So even though I was talking for my own self as much as I was for him, as Shlomo says, “you never knowyou never know.”

And now I’m in Tzfat, and when I get to the Polsky home, my wife and Tzivyah and her daughters, Atarah and Aderet, are all broken…and who wasn’t…but the trouble is that they’re not ‘broken people’…not those kind of ‘oiy voy voy Yidden who are always crying and complaining about how miserable everything is. And my wife (?!)…she had spent the day at the Moshav and I knew that it’d been an incredible day for her…but still…a Jewish heart can only hold so much pain….

So I talked…because you’ve got to somehow take away a little of the pain of another Jew…that’s what Shlomo was always trying to do… You can’t go to bed on an empty neshama. There’s always gotta be a little bit…even a tiny bit…of nechama, of consoling and comforting…

In the morning, Tzivyah gets a phone call, “YOU’RE CANCELING THE DAVENING [WITH MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS], OF COURSE?!!” (in the wake of the tragedy, right?)

“No,” she replied matter-of-factly, “we’re NOT canceling it.”

Maybe in Yerushalayim it’d have been hard but we were in Tzfat, and as Shlomo says, “You’ve always got to be prepared at this moment to cry your heart out [with someone else] and the next minute to turn around and dance the highest simcha.” We had responsibilities for all Am Yisrael; whoever does it just for themselves?!

So Hallel Rosh Chodesh…led by Meir Glazer…was the highest of the high. With Shlomo’s sweetest songs and inspiration…Shlomo [he was no longer alive, but his presence was] davened and sang and danced with us…we brought to the Holy One, Blessed be He, what we Jews are always bringing Him - our love and song and prayer. We davened and sang and danced for…as Meir reminded us before the davening, “…for all those who are filled with such overwhelming pain, for all those for whom this day of great simcha was shatteredand for all Am Yisrael…”

Shabbos…in Tzfat in the Beirav Shul…is always Shlomo, and the shul is usually swamped with visitors who are thirsting for a taste of Shlomo, for a taste of Shabbos. Many of the Shabbos visitors to Tzfat and Beirav these days are American haredi [ultra-Orthodox] boys who are in Eretz Yisrael for a year or two or three of yeshiva learning in Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak. They’ve taken to descending on Beirav for Friday night kabbalat Shabbat davening.

These American haredi boys who come to learn in Eretz Yisrael are blessed and they’re sweet, but… as Shlomo used to say, “without saying anything bad…” they also have a ‘heaviness’ to them. Maybe it’s some of the residue of the Diaspora, maybe it’s some of the arrogance that hovers over the haredi yeshivot, maybe it’s just from the inclination of people who want to ‘hide within the crowd’, but when then come in en mass you feel the ‘weight’, especially in a Shlomo setting and especially in Tzfat.

So Friday night, when they sing and dance, mostly they want to release pent up energy, which means the dancing is aggressive. You’ve got to work a little bit harder, draw them out and let them see and feel that it’s gotta be lighter, higher, sweeter. And mamash, when you succeed, then at the end of davening, where in the beginning you felt that ‘a herd has descended upon you’, now you’ve got sweet boys, each shining with his own glow.

On Shabbos morning it’s 2nd day Rosh Chodesh, so more boys come back, and again the davening of Meir Glazer and Yitzhak Ginzberg (ours, not the Chabbnik) make it the highest and deepest and sweetest simcha.

Ahhh….so now you think this is like a Shlomo promotional... The best is yet to come…!

Okay, now. On Shabbos in Beirav, late in the day, shortly before ma’ariv everyone gathers to sing Shlomo niggunim and hear some Torah or stories. This time the room is packed with American haredi yeshiva boys. Some are continuing from Friday morning’s Hallel, more from Friday night kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbos morning Hallel, and others who were picked up along the way. The small shul is stuffed, and a lot of the reason is because they know that havdalah is going to be Shlomo: instruments and singing and dancing. The anticipation is palpable.

So ma’ariv is over, and the atmosphere while waiting for the instruments to be tuned up is electric. Meir…and I’m not so certain it was Meir because there was such energy in the group pushing him higher and higher…does havdalah. And then the place explodes, mamash explodes. Music and songs and dancing…and around and around and around…It’s unbelievable!!! MAMASH UNBELIEVABLE!!! These last night’s American, haredi, heavyweight, yeshiva boys are going for the sky!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!! Everything and everyone is just getting higher and higher and higher…It’s like the purest of the purest of the purest of Shlomo! I’m blowing my mind from it all!

Who’d believe it?!! It’s like Shlomo would say, “It’s after Moshiachmamash after Moshiach…!!”

Aye, but you think that’s the whole story…?

On Friday morning davening, there was a man, a man who’d come from Haifa, who brought his older-teenage son with him. His son lives in a wheelchair, because he’s grotesquely paralyzed, apparently a victim of cerebral palsy. Obviously, a boy like him is only a spectator, but from the initial rounds of dancing father and son and wheelchair were always included. This was no small feat, because a big wheelchair in a cramped, crowded, dancing shul is an exceptional challenge.

But it didn’t matter. When we danced they danced. On Shabbos morning, some of the yeshiva boys took it upon themselves to ‘dance for and with this boy’, and from then on he wasn’t merely ‘included’; he was a genuine part of the simcha. In fact, Shabbos morning so overwhelmed him that he broke into tears from all the emotion.

Now it’s motzei Shabbos, and we’ve been building up for two days. We’re singing and dancing like the Holiest Angels, flying beyond BEYOND…and anyone who’s ever been in the midst of the intensity of Shlomo simcha…knows that he or she has never experienced anything in this world like it…like every time it’s all new again…like it never happened before…we’re dancing with the highest holiest energy you could never ever begin to imagine, and the boy…the boy with his father…is in the center…in the center surrounded my musicians…who are surrounded by concentric circles of singing flying dancers…nothing else exists…music and singing and dancing…music and singing and dancing…

What a way to end Shabbos in Tzfat! Beyond…!!!

Anyway, at least for now it’s gotta end…so already it’s after Shabbos and we’ve gotta make the bus. There’s an 8:00 P.M. bus, which when it fills up Egged brings another bus, and when that fills up Egged brings another. Chaya Sara and I just manage to catch the last of these, and as I turn from paying the driver a great explosion of joy greets me! Boys who I’d been davening and singing and dancing with the last two days are on the bus. They’re flying…mamash, unbelievably flying! What faces! What light!

Because it’s a four hour trip by bus from Yerushalayim to Tzfat, halfway through there’s a break at a rest stop. Within two minutes of the bus stopping, a saxophone starts blasting out a Shlomo niggun, and for 15 minutes of rest-break these ‘American, haredi, heavyweight, yeshiva boys’ are ‘marbim b’simcha’, fulfilling the mitzvah of ‘mi’sh’nicnas Adar, marbim b’Simcha’* singing and dancing with any and all.  [*When [the month] of Adar comes in, we increase and expand [our] simcha.]

I really haven’t told this well…you mamash really had to have been there…and I really wish you had…but I also wish that I could take you inside my heart and soul and share with you other things that Tzfat gave me. I don’t which is greater: what I’ve attempted to share…or what I can’t…

Daniel Eliezer
[*]The Hebrew calendar is according to the lunar year, and in order that Holy Days will fall in their designated seasons then every 2-3 years an additional month is added to coordinate the calendar with the solar year. The month that is doubled is Adar, which results in there being from time to time both an Adar I and an Adar II. Purim always occurs in the Adar which is closest to the following month of Nissan, the month in which Pesach [Passover] occurs.

*         *         *
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


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

PostSubject: Yom HaAtzmaut – “But Am Yisrael?!”   Sat May 03, 2014 4:21 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.

*         *         *
Yom HaAtzmaut – “But Am Yisrael?!”
(This version includes a short Shlomo Torah at the end.)

Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) in Israel is a funny day, or perhaps confusing day would be better. Exactly what it is and what it means is not decidedly clear nor universally accepted. For many it is Israel’s equivalent to the Independence Day that exists in many countries of the world, but maybe “Israel [Identification] Day” would be the best way to describe it. To the religious who participate wholeheartedly in the essence of the state, there is the fundamental need of prayer and thanksgiving for what there is. For those who do not believe that the existence of the state has any positive meaning for Am Yisrael, then thanksgiving and prayer and celebration are an anathema.

Although after more than thirty-four years of living in Israel my understandings have changed and deepened and broadened, from just about the beginning I understood Yom HaAtzmaut as a day of celebrating Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel and rejoicing in its existence; of rejoicing that God has returned us to her and that I have merited to be part of this joy. Almost every year, weather permitting, we have found some way to explore and enjoy the very physical reality of living and being in Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel.

We have never been a family that joins the masses at national parks or picnic grounds or other public places of celebrating. Some of this is because that’s just not what we are, and some of this is because our limited budget has never included a vehicle. Other than a company car here and there, we’ve been dependent upon family, friends, Egged buses, or our outstretched arms. Fortunately, we’ve usually lived in a location that’s allowed us to fill the backpacks and water bottles and then step out the door and pick a direction. Even here, in the heart of Indian territory, we have where to go; what to do and see.

Some years ago when we were living in a neighborhood in Jerusalem that doesn’t recognize Yom HaAtzmaut, we had no choice but to flee the community. Our limited means, however, and the uncertain weather created restrictions, but as you know Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel isn’t dependent upon how much of or where you see it - but upon how you see it.

Thus, in the early afternoon we chose to walk (it wasn’t big enough for a hike) the [then] small section of woodland that ran from French Hill to Sanhedria along the back of Ramat Eshkol in Jerusalem. At a comfortable and steady pace it was perhaps a half-hour of walking. We did it in some two and a half to three hours. It wasn’t that the children were young or we lazy. It’s just that almost every step of the way we found something of interest. Cries of “Abba, Ema, look at this!” or “Honey, did you see this?” or “Children, come here!” abounded as we examined flowers and rocks and bushes and trees and bugs - separately and together. It was all an equal wonder to everyone. The children weren’t yet old enough to have learned the necessary science in school to know what we were looking at, and my wife and I grew up on a different part of the planet.

But so what! A little patch of woodland that today is scarcely more than a highway buffer zone (after being cut up by highways and overrun with high tension towers) was for that day our place of very happily celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut.

The memories of this day came up some years later, after we’d left Jerusalem to live in Indian territory again. One afternoon I was returning home in a car driven by a young Beit El woman who was unknown to me. In the course of our conversation, I discovered that she had taught our oldest daughter, Na’amah, science in junior high school, and she admired Na’amah very much, particularly her keen interest in biology. Somehow our conversation jumped to the topic of holidays and vacation sites, and she related how it was their habit on those occasions to pile everything into the car and head for one of the ritual sites frequented by other like-minded holiday goers.

As I listened to her litany of ritualized vacations, because she had mentioned my daughter’s interest in biology, I decided to tell her the story of our Yom HaAtzmaut tiyul (walk/hike) in that abbreviated patch of woodland. Specifically, I elaborated on just how much our Na’amah had so exuberantly led the exploration. The driver, herself, knew the area that I talked about, and it was with some wonder that she listened to my raptures of something that was less statuesque than National Park scenery.

The road that we were traveling was one of the bypass roads created by the Oslo Piece Accords. These new roads had been cut through unpopulated and undeveloped areas on the eastern slopes of the Judean and Shomron hills. Our particular road crossed the northern Judean Desert and climbed into the Shomron hills. As we crested one hill in the road to begin our descent to the next crest, suddenly my companion, the driver, exclaimed, “It’s so beautiful! I never saw it like this before!”

She was talking about the vista, and particularly all the immediate scenery that surrounded us. Without having intended to, my rendition of our Yom HaAtzmaut tiyul had awakened her to an Eretz Yisrael that she had probably never experienced. Born, raised, and living in Eretz Yisrael for going on thirty years, she had never learned to see beyond the trite and routine. From a casual conversation she had raised her vision and SEEN.

In its own way, this story touches what is perhaps the essence of so much of what we are going through. Do we see or do we SEE? Let me explain.

In 1967 Chaim Herzog, z”l, a son of the former Chief Rabbi, Isaac HaLevi Herzog, zt”l, served in a different capacity than the one he would serve in when he became President of the State of Israel. In 1967, Chaim Herzog was a former senior officer in the IDF military intelligence. Part of his responsibilities, particularly during the spring preceding the Six Day War, was to speak on the radio. There would be a one or two sentence summary of the news and then Chaim Herzog would begin to speak. He would give a brief assessment of the [military] preparations that were being made in the various Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, etc.) followed by a brief review of how the IDF was responding, and he would conclude with a brief summary.

His last broadcast was on the last day of the war. I will translate from the Hebrew. (If you understand how the Queen’s English has a formality lacking in American English, try to picture Chaim Herzog, who spoke the Queen’s English, speaking Hebrew with that same formality.)

“I am speaking from a building that until three days ago was the Jordanian police headquarters on the Temple Mount [what is known today as the Wakf]. Before me I gaze across all of the Temple Mount that has been returned to us. Below me I see the incredible number of people who are streaming to the Kotel.”

He talked for a minute or two and then returned again to his opening words to conclude.
“Before me I gaze across all of the Temple Mount that has been returned to us. Below me I see the incredible number of people who are streaming to the Kotel. Outside the walls [of the Old City] lies a burnt tank that gives witness to the terrible price we’ve paid.” And then, with the following words, he concluded his broadcast, “Would that we will be worthy of it [all].”

I think that in the history of the modern State of Israel and even then in the immediate aftermath of that miraculous war and especially today Chaim Herzog’s words strike a responsive chord. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or non-religious, conservative or liberal, communist or socialist, young or old, kibbutznik or city dweller his message is heard the same and equally by all of us: “…if we will be worthy…”

I graduated high school in America in June 1967, and if there was a Six-Day War then I certainly don’t recall it, so I couldn’t have heard Chaim Herzog’s words then. When did I hear them? A year ago on a recording that had been made to perpetuate those historic moments.

Like all of those who heard the original broadcast, I, too, fully understood the implications of his closing words, yet, upon hearing them, within seconds I was filled with the greatest wrath. You see, in his words Chaim Herzog, one of Israel’s prominent leaders and a spokesman for his generation, gave vivid expression to one thing in which we so fail, to one thing that so impedes us. What he should have said was this:

“Before me I gaze across all the Temple Mount that has been returned to us. Below me I see the incredible number of people who are streaming to the Kotel.” And it is with these words that he should have concluded his broadcast, “We see [from this] just HOW WORTHY WE ARE!”

It comes across better in Hebrew, especially the understanding of what God has done for us, but the message can still be heard. With the change of a few words, we go from uncertainty to the most rapturous joy. It’s like Shlomo says, “We need the eyes of the Moshiach.” Every second of every minute of every hour of every day we need to see just how much God is giving us.

From time to time I tell this story of Chaim Herzog (whom I genuinely respect), and usually what I want to say is heard and accepted. Not long ago, however, a friend, an Israeli, insisted on arguing with me about whether we “really are worthy”. It was the culmination of three quarters of an hour of conversation in which I worked with increasing success to overcome his pessimism and defeatism. Without the slightest bit of annoyance or rancor I replied, “You’re right. You and I have the right to decide for ourselves that individually you and I are not worthy ……. “But Am Yisrael?! To say that Am Yisrael – the Jewish People are not worthy………?!”

My words hit home - literally, and I could actually feel the shift that took place inside him. This man, who is half a century in age, who had lived through the Six Day War, and who could have heard Chaim Herzog’s words, finally came to understand.

We are returning to Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel, returning from our very long Exile. But we are still not home. It is when we can clearly see what God is doing for us that the Exile will be behind us, and we will be home at last.

Shir HaMa’alot [Ps. 127,2]: “Sing [the song] that goes up in God’s restoring Zion; we were like dreamers. Then our mouths filled with laughter, our language pure joy….”

B’Shalom v’Yom HaAtzmaut S’meach,

Daniel Eliezer

Shlomo has a teaching (that says like this.

“What’s keeping me from being the way I’m supposed to be? And here comes the deepest Torah in the world, an unbelievable Torah in the B’nos Desheh (name of sefer), from the brother of the Bais Yaakov (name of sefer).

You know on Pesach you have to bring a ‘korban chatas’, a sin offering. So he asks the deepest question in the world. ‘Last night we got out of Egypt,’…I mean how much sinning do you have time to do Seder night, even if you are an expert on sinning, right, like some of us…‘So the next morning you already have to bring a sin offering?!’ So he says the deepest Torah in the world. That night, when we got out of Egypt, we could have brought Mashiach. The gates were open. The gates were open. We were so happy to get out of Egypt that we didn’t ask for more. Baruch HaShem, I’m getting out of Egypt.

You know it was suddenly so clear to me, you know, during the Six Day War, when we came back to Yerushalayim, we could have asked the Ribbono Shel Olam, bring Mashiach. At that moment, the gates were open. We were so happy to go out and blow the shofar by the Holy Wall, and Moshe Dayan was a great general, we were so happy. That’s it. Why didn’t we ask for more?”

*         *         *
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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