Aliyah Diary Post #2

Aliyah Diary Post #2

Chance encounters and profiling Walking to synagogue for morning prayers, I approached a spot where a scrubby-looking man, perhaps in his 50s, very unkempt gray beard, dressed in what appeared to be very old Israeli army khakis, was hunched over a dirt area, busily doing something with his back mostly turned to me.  I initially thought ...

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May 04
Posted in: Israel

Playing Catch-Up

Playing Catch-Up

Shalom from Jerusalem! This morning in synagogue, I gave a D’var Torah (short teaching) regarding Parashat (Torah Portion) Emor (Leviticus 21:1-25:23). I look forward to sharing it with you next week.  Why not this week?  Because whereas it is Shabbat Emor here in Israel, everywhere else in the world it is Shabbat Acharei Mot – Kiddoshim (a double portion), which we here read last week.  This difference in reading cycles occurs only for a few weeks every couple of years. Why?  The reason, like much of Jewish practice, combines historical, pragmatic, and “religious” considerations.

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Independence Days: 1840 and 2012

Independence Days: 1840 and 2012

The Jerusalem (N.Y.) Gazette

July 4, 1840

Strike Up the Band! Our glorious nation is 64 years young today!  It’s a day to celebrate and to reflect in amazement and gratitude on the miraculous feat wrought by God through our brave predecessors!  With  unmeasured sacrifice and valor, the Greatest Generation rose up against tyranny, defeated the mightiest army on earth, and established a new republic conceived in liberty. 

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Aliyah Diary

Aliyah Diary

For nearly 2,000 years, including at each Passover Seder, our people prayed: “Next year in Jerusalem!”   Of course, we didn’t mean, “May we be able to vacation there next year!”   We meant, “May our people’s ancient homeland be restored to us, and may we once again live and thrive there as we can nowhere else.”  Yesterday, the 2nd of Iyar 5,772, corresponding to April 24, 2012, I fulfilled this dream of redemption on behalf of my ancestors, my current family, and, G-d willing, future generations of my family, by “returning” to Jerusalem.  Not as a tourist but as a full citizen of Israel.   (I also retained my American citizenship, another precious legacy from my more recent ancestors that I will pass on to future generations).  This “Aliyah diary” is intended to record and share some of my thoughts and experiences of “coming home” to Jerusalem.   I hope that others will be inspired to claim their birthright and/or support the miraculous rebirth of the Jewish state. 

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Apr 24
Posted in: Israel

Shemini: Imagining No Religion

Shemini: Imagining No Religion

I know a man who professes to be both passionately Jewish and anti-religion.  He recently commented on a social media site that “the world would be a much better place without religion.”  He is certainly not the only one to think so; many people are hostile to religion for a variety of reasons (for example, it’s fantasy, it’s contrived, it’s hypocritical, etc.).  Many more are simply indifferent to religion.  Nor is these a new ideas.  In his Age of Reason, the influential American revolutionary figure and political philosopher Thomas Paine wrote:  

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Apr 19

A Passover Pilgrimage of the Mind

A Passover Pilgrimage of the Mind

The drive from Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv up into Jerusalem takes only about 35 minutes in non-rush hour traffic.  After initially crossing the coastal plain, one begins the steady climb of about 2,500 feet into the Judean Hills.  I always watch across the highway for a glimpse of the slowly-disintegrating personnel carriers left rusting as memorials to the soldiers and civilians who died there during the 1948 War of Independence.  Then, I scan the hills for the first glimpse of the “Chords Bridge” tower that now marks the principal entry into the Holy City.  All the while, as my vehicle (usually a van-taxi) downshifts up the mountain, I marvel at the thought of my ancestors leaving their homes and making this laborious and dusty ascent by foot or donkey three times each year.  The book of Deuteronomy

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Why is Passover so popular?

Why is Passover so popular?

During Passover, the normal sequential Torah reading cycle pauses to revisit passages in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that address Pesach observance.  Even in America, where, to a great extent, most Jews limit their ritual observance and are comfortable living in the nominally Christian (or secular) culture, Pesach observance – one or two Seders, eating of matzoh, and chametz avoidance for most or all of an entire week – is generally or closely followed.  Why do Jews who otherwise minimize Jewish rituals cling to those of Passover?  Here are ten possibilities:

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Tzav: Jewish Messiahs

Tzav: Jewish Messiahs

Any mention of the word “Messiah” is likely to put Jews on edge.  The reason is obvious; in common American usage (although Jews virtually never use that word in English), “Messiah” refers to the person/Divinity referred to by Christians.  Our alleged “failure” to accept their “Messiah” as our “personal savior” led to nearly two millennia of persecution and murder. But, “Messiah” is not inherently a Christian word, concept, or even phenomenon.  It is used in Torah and in many other places throughout Jewish scripture.

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Mar 28

Attention Jews: "Good News" on Prime Time!

Attention Jews: "Good News" on Prime Time!

Recently, my wife, daughter, and I watched television together in modern fashion: each simultaneously surfing the web and checking email. We shared comments about this or that while we half-noted what flickered across the room.  Suddenly, my attention moved from the small screen on my lap to the larger one.   A brief commercial with a colorful banner reading “www.Isaiah53.com” appeared.  This was certainly something different for early evening TV!  As it ran, several people enthusiastically explained how their religious doubts and confusions had disappeared after reading that chapter of the Bible.   The commercial ended with an urging to visit the website. 

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Mar 26

Mussar Topic and Assignment for March 31

Mussar Topic and Assignment for March 31
For our next Mussar class, March 31 at 1:30, please: 1) read Morinis's pages on Patience, 55-62, 2) think about/post in a conspicuous place in your home and/or office, repeat many times to yourself his phrase "Whatever may obstruct me from reaching my foals, it is possible to bear the burden of the situation" (or any other suitable phrase you prefer), and 3) jot down how you encounter the trait of "Patience" in your life between now and the class!    
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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb