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Friday, May 22, 2020

Jerusalem Day and COVID-19: Natural Miracles

The liberation of Jerusalem from the Jordanian occupiers during the Six Day War was a miracle. It was not a miracle in the sense that the laws of nature changed, rather it was an example how Divine Providence, working through the laws of nature brought about a miraculous result.

Today we are also witnessing a miracle. The deadly COVID-19 virus, which has up to this point brought about 10,843 deaths in my old stomping grounds (New Jersey), has so far caused only 279 deaths in Israel. Israel and New Jersey are comparable in population and land mass. Even so, a person was 39 times more likely to die of COVID-19 in New Jersey than in Israel!

It is well known that Israel did not expect such a great victory in the Six Day War.

"In the last days of May, Israelis were digging mass graves, knowing how quickly mass graves could fill."
Similarly with regard to the COVID-19 outbreak, the healthcare establishment here in Israel was expecting a march harsher result than what we have experienced.

Miracles do happen, you just have to open your eyes, and especially your heart to see them. Happy Jerusalem Day!

In Israel You Matter More (Bamidbar 2020)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Psalm of Thanksgiving During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A regular part of our morning prayers is the recital of Psalm 100:
1 A Psalm of thanksgiving. Shout unto the LORD, all the earth.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD He is God; it is He that hath made us, and we are His, His people, and the flock of His pasture.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; give thanks unto Him, and bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good; His mercy endureth for ever; and His faithfulness unto all generations.
This is a major theme in Judaism: to be thankful for what is, for the blessings you have received. This of course is diametrically opposed to those who are always complaining about what they lack, and are therefore in an almost constant state of depression to some degree. The thankful person lifts up the spirits of those close to him, while the chronic complainer is like air pollution to those who can see him or are in earshot.

Interestingly enough, during the seven days of Passover (and on the day before the holiday), Psalm 100 is not recited. The reason being is that part of the Thanksgiving Offering associated with this Psalm contains chametz, "leavened bread", which is forbidden to be consumed during this time:

And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which one may offer unto the LORD. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour soaked. With cakes of leavened bread he shall present his offering with the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving. And of it he shall present one out of each offering for a gift unto the LORD; it shall be the priest's that dasheth the blood of the peace-offerings against the altar. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it until the morning.
But that does not mean that we refrain from being thankful. The opposite is true! Passover is the ultimate expression of thankfulness. It is during Passover that we remember God's kindness and mercy towards our nation, from the times of our forefathers, through the slavery in Egypt and the following redemption, His giving us the Torah and the land of Israel, up to the building of the Holy Temple. Even after the destruction of our Temple and the expulsion from the promised land, we are grateful that the Nation of Israel was able to survive against all odds dispersed around the globe.

Our generation has an even greater reason and obligation to be thankful than previous ones. We have merited to live in an era of renewed Jewish sovereignty in the land of our forefathers. Similarly we are witness to a generation where the Torah is being learned in perhaps unprecedented numbers.

We have to remember all this especially this year, when our feeling of being free men was somewhat cramped by the restrictions imposed upon us as a result of COVID-19. Yes, we really did miss celebrating the seder with our extended families. We would have loved to travel and enjoy Israel's beautiful flowering landscapes that come to life at this time of year. We certainly miss the throngs of Jews visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, giving us a taste of what the festival will be like when the Temple is finally rebuilt. The things we lack cannot stop us, and will not stop us, from serving God with joy.

"For the LORD is good; His mercy endureth for ever; and His faithfulness unto all generations."

Monday, January 06, 2020

Make the 10th of Tevet Fast Meaningful

I hope that these words from Sefer Hasidim (ch. 226) will make your fast more meaningful:
Know and understand, even though the Sages said fasting for a (bad) dream (cancels it) like a fire (burns) fibers of flax, they only said this with regard to one who does teshuvah together with the fast...Since one is shown a bad dream in order that he will examine his actions, because the fast is in lieu of a sin offering. Just as a sacrifice is not effective without teshuvah, as it is written "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination..."(Proverbs 21:27), so it is that fasting for a bad dream is not effective without teshuvah.
Have a meaningful fast, together with sincere teshuvah, and may we merit to see the Holy Temple rebuilt!

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi and Secular Jewess Join Forces to Fight Assimilation

It is nice to see that there are people who not only realize that there is a problem, but are actually doing something about it:
It is Friday afternoon in Hollywood, Florida. Dr. Neta Peleg-Oren, a secular psychotherapist, and Yehuda Kornfeld, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and educator, are sitting opposite me. Both are former Israelis and they are worried.

“This Won’t Happen to Me” is the name of the workshop they conduct together and it is also the title of their soon-to-be published book. “This won’t happen to me” is the sentence that almost every Israeli parent in America utters regarding the assimilation and intermarriage of his/her children, but it happens. There are more than half a million Israeli-Americans and a significant majority of their children marry non-Jews.

Read the rest.
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