Really Happened in the Middle East
out of the deep well
gebed van een Tsaddik (Een
lang, maar zeer lezenswaardig verhaal)
of the Oral Tradition
Sanhedrin Establishes Council to Teach Humanity 'Laws of Noah'
The centrality of Israel
essentie van Jeruzalem
Halacha (verzorgd door Yeshiva.org.il)
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What Really Happened in the Middle East
- 10-minute flash video Bron: Naomi Ragen / Margalith Bijleveld
An excellent presentation of the real history and background of the Arab-
Israeli conflict, minus Arab propaganda lies.
Too bad all
the brilliant members of the University lecturers union in Britain didn't
air this to its membership before embarrassing itself with its moronic vote
to consider boycotting Israeli universities. A dose of truth that should be
taken by everyone. Make sure your teenagers see it, and
your leftist friends. In fact, it's a good reminder to everyone just what
happened here, and what continues to happen. Congratulations to the Horowitz
Freedom Center for a job well done.
THIS LAND IS OUR LAND
by Arieh Eldad bron: Moshe Kempinski (
and Beit El, not Tel Aviv, inspired int'l community to support Jewish
rights in Israel
Eldad YNET 13 June 2006
Martian were to come down to Earth and have the bad luck to land in the
Middle East, there is little doubt he would look around at the Jews and
Arabs fighting over the Land of Israel and suggest they share
it.Martians don't know about history and don't care about the future.
They probably just want to go home, and so the solutions they propose
are divorced from past and future alike.
someone who has lived here his whole life, for someone whose fathers and
forefathers were born here and who hopes that his descendants will be,
too, we know that disengaging from the past and the future also means
disengaging from reality.
discuss solutions to the Jewish - Arab conflict in the Land of Israel
without recognizing the past and answering basic questions about rights
over this sliver of land. We must understand the forces and aspirations
driving the nationalist movements fighting over it in order to scratch
out a solution that could one day, possibly, be implemented.
source of the Jewish people's right to this land is God's promise to
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, repeated to Moses and from Moses to Joshua.
Joshua subsequently conquered the land, and all Jewish leaders since -
judges, kings, rebels, true and false messiahs, rabbis and Torah
and spiritual leaders - have guided the Jewish people for thousands of
years in light of this promise.
religious" leaders such as Zionism visionary Theodor Herzl understood
that this was the faith of Israel, and that this spirit inspired
millions of Jews, for thousands of years, in Israel and abroad,
to their homeland, to dream about it and to pray thrice daily to return
to it. It is what drove people to make every attempt to get to Israel,
despite the hardships.
of faith became the power of history. Faith becomes fact when driven by
the actions of millions of people. This is how many people have come to
claim the Jewish people's "historic right" to the Land of Israel,
despite the fact that they do not believe in God or are unwilling to
rely on His promises.
that: Aren't Israeli Jews who reject their divine or historic right to
be here - aren't they really thieves, imperialists, colonialists?
Haven't they stolen land that doesn't belong to them?
Jewish people and its history, as well as its history of monotheism, are
well described in the Torah. This book also forms the basis for
Christianity and Islam. Its words are what drove the League of Nations
to charge Great Britain with a mandate over the Land of Israel, in order
to create a national home for the Jewish people.
the 20th century creation called Tel Aviv that inspired the world to
recognize the Jewish rights to the entire Land of Israel, including both
banks of the Jordan River. Rather, it was Jerusalem and
and Bethlehem and Beit El.
time, no one, including the Arabs, claimed a national right to this
land. There was never an independent Arab country in Israel. Arabs
viewed themselves as part of the wider Arab nation, part of an empire
based in Iraq, Syria, Turkey or Egypt. They never revolted against their
Arab rulers, because they never considered themselves a separate nation
deserving of independence.
Palestine, the Arab population never created any of the distinguishing
marks of a nation: not political independence or a national language or
a unique culture or religion.
Concessions for peace
us say today: We believe that Jews have rights to the entire Land of
Israel, but "reality" forces us to make concessions. They believe that
foregoing our rights to live in Hebron and Beit El and Nablus will bring
peace. They apparently can't see that they are pulling the rug out from
any claim of rights over this land - moral, historical or legal.
addition, their proposals only push peace further away. Throughout the
long years of Muslim imperial occupation, no territorial compromise has
ever advanced the cause of peace. A woman who would propose chopping a
living baby in half is in effect testifying that she is not the baby's
no nation on Earth that would volunteer to forego its rights to half its
homeland, unless they came to that country from the Diaspora but never
managed to get the Diaspora mentality out of their hearts. These people
have failed to internalize a sense that the Jewish people living in
Israel is a natural state of affairs, and to relate to this country the
way a Frenchman relates to France or an Italian relates to Italy.
rulers or 'occupiers'?
cannot be divided. In the national struggle over the Land of Israel, the
more willing we have been to compromise over the land of Israel -under a
guise of seeking peace - while at the same time defending ourselves
against external Arab enemies and Arab terror from within – the more we
have become "occupiers" in they eyes of the world.
that does not feel itself to be the rightful owner of this land will
eventually be kicked out of it like a cruel occupier. Only if we renew
our belief that we are completely entitled to the Land of Israel, if
declare any Arab sovereignty in the Land of Israel as a foreign
occupation that must be fought and expelled - only then can we expect to
as the Arabs sense that the Jews are slowly losing their belief that
justice lies with them, they will continue to try to destroy the State
of Israel and to evict us from this land.
Therefore, debate on this matter mustn't be anchored in some
"existential" present, nor in a past that would make everything here
seem absurd. Rather, it must be based on the future. A large part of the
Jewish people were murdered in exile, and many more are rapidly
disappearing. Only in Israel can the Jewish people become stronger. In
the name of the future of our people, we must renew our knowledge of
our rights to be here. We must know that we are right.
Arieh Eldad is a Knesset Member for the National Union-National
STRUGGLING OUT OF THE DEEP WELL
I received a call this week that reminded me of an old story.
They tell of an old, almost ancient, donkey that fell into an unused dried up
well. The well was very deep and the donkey could not make its way out of the
darkened prison. The donkey began an incessant braying until his owner the
farmer came to see what the noise was about. He looked down and saw his donkey
and then shook his head. The well was much too deep and, as it was, the donkey
was very old. He called together some of his friends and they began to shovel
garbage into the well. This would serve to end the misery of the donkey, bury
it and fill up the dangerous well all at the same time.
The donkey began to bray even louder and then after a short period of time, it
After another little while the farmer looked into the well and he was shocked
to see the donkey standing defiantly on his four legs. As the garbage would
land on its back it would shake it off and then use its hoofs to pack down the
earth below it. Slowly but surely the distance to the top of the well was
becoming smaller. Very quickly the donkey was able to hop up and out into
The lesson to be learned was not to wallow in self pity and crying out as
garbage is being flung unto you. Shake the garbage off your back, stomp it
down and continue to reach for higher ground.
I received a call from a woman, one of the expelled refugees from Gush Katif.
She has been instrumental during these last months, being the liaison between
our Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof and the expelled families in the hotels.
She has funneled help to and expressed the needs of hundreds of families in
distress. She did this while holding together her large family in the midst of
the uncertainty prevailing in their own personal lives.
Yet the call had nothing to do with all the uncertainty around her own life
nor the needs of the expelled communities. The call was about organizing
families and people around the coming election and help bring about the
downfall of Olmert's Kadima party. As overwhelmed as she may have been, she
felt an urgent call to try to prevent the pain and sorrow that they had
experience from being inflicted on other families in Judea and Samaria. A
valiant Jewish mother was feeling an unselfish need to ignore the garbage that
had been flung her way and to continue the struggle to maintain the Destiny of
the Jewish people.
Several years ago I met a young man from Italy that had decided to convert to
Judaism. After years of searching and questioning he ended up at the office of
one of the well known Rabbis in Jerusalem. After this young man unfolded his
life history and personal voyage, he described his love for G-d and his
passion for Torah. He then recounted the questions and challenges he explored
and resolved. The Rabbi remained silent.
Finally the rabbi raised his eyes and looked at the young man and gently
asked, "but do you love the Jewish people?'. The young man, a little flustered
said, 'Rabbi I explained my love for G-d and for His word.". The rabbi
responded," you don't have to be Jewish to love G-d, but you have to love the
Jewish people to truly live as a Jew".
We are a people in the midst of great turmoil and division. We have witnessed
much pain inflicted by one brother on another. There are implications to such
actions. There is justice that must be seen to its complete resolution. Yet we
need to not lose faith in this, our people. We need to find ways as difficult
as it may seem to reach out to each other on the higher levels rather than
remained mired in the lower levels we have succumbed to. We need to continue
to share , influence and impress each other with passion truth and idealism.
We cannot be lured into the bland enticing trap sometimes called realpolitik
or pragmatism. Passionless wishful thinking is neither real nor pragmatic. We
need to shake off the garbage off our backs and strive higher.
We need to do that because we have no choice. The peoples and nations of this
world all formed together out of circumstance or need.
The Jewish people were brought together by Divine destiny.
We have no choice but to build the bridges and elevate a nation stained by
the vicious violence of Amona and the criminal negligence surrounding the
expulsion from Gush Katif.
We need to that because we have no choice.
moshe kempinski (
maar zeer lezenswaardig verhaal
wat ik las op:
by Tzvi Fishman
February 21, 2006
eleven o’clock, Thursday night in Bat Yam, and the Rebbe Meir Baal HaNess
Synagogue is already packed with five hundred people awaiting the arrival of
the righteous Tzaddik. Upstairs, the women’s section is full. It is the middle
of Shovavim, and there is a tangible electricity in the air. At exactly
eleven-thirty, the kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, arrives with a
surrounding wall of students. With his head lowered humbly toward the ground
and his hands clasped before him, the Rabbi makes his way through the crowd to
the stage set up in front of the ark, where rabbis and other elderly
kabbalists stand waiting to greet him. I rise along with the others, not as a
curious journalist, but as a student of Rabbi Leon.
The Rabbi motions for the crowd to sit down. The music
stops. “Please make room,” his powerful voice calls out over the loudspeaker.
In his youth, he served as cantor in the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv, yet the
strength and beauty of his voice hasn’t waned. “More people will be coming
Judea, Samaria and Hevron. Hurry. There isn’t time to waste.”
With the holy cry of the nighttime Shema Yisrael, the
all-night tikun (rectification) is underway. The letters of Shovavim are the
initial letters of the weekly Torah portions in the book of Exodus from Shmot
to Mishpatim. Ever since
Mount Sinai, the period of the year has been considered a special time for
Tikun HaBrit - a time to attain forgiveness for sexual sins.
In the book, “Orot HaKodesh,” (Part 3, Pg. 296) Rabbi
Avraham Yitzkah HaCohen Kook writes that all of the world’s most moral
treasures are hidden in the exalted aspiration toward sexual purity contained
in the prayers of Shovavim. During the evening, Rabbi
Leon will explain the profound esoteric significance of sexual holiness to
each individual Jew, and to the Jewish People at this important stage of
redemption. The gathering will continue all night.
Leon announces that it is time for Tikun Hatzot – (the Midnight
rectification). Everyone somehow manages to find a place on the floor. After a
few moving words from the Rabbi on the destruction of the Temple and the pain
of the exiled Shekinah (Divine Presence), he cries out the opening verses of
the first part of the Midnight rectification - Tikun Rachel. His piercing
lament stirs the hearts of everyone present, and a unified cry rises from the
congregation like a column of incense, shattering the barrier between the
Jewish People and Heaven. For an hour, the tears and lamentations continue.
Then comes part two of the Midnight prayer - Tikun Leah. Reaching the verse,
“Open the gates...” the Rabbi rises to his feet, and everyone with him, to
sing and dance with a thundering roar in honor of the Shekinah. The singing
goes on for half an hour. Hitherto strangers now sway arm-in-arm like the
closest of friends. At that indescribable moment, all of the Jewish people are
And the evening is only beginning. There will be more
Torah learning, plenty of food, a trip to the mikvah (ritual bath) at three in
the morning, and the climaxing Tikun HaYesod authored by the Ben Eish Chai
Ark open, shofars blaring, and all of the congregation on its feet. It is a
spiritual experience not to be forgotten. And in the morning, after the
vatikin prayer, one’s head is crystal clear, like the burst of the first
sunlight after a long winter’s rain.
Leon has led similar all-night vigils for the past five weeks. This coming
Thursday night, February 23, 2006 the final Shovavim prayers will be held at
the Kotel, where thousands will gather to rise to the supreme heights of
tshuva and to bathe in its cleansing light.
AN UNEXPECTED GUEST
Four years ago during the Sukkot [Feast of Tabernacles]
holiday, I was in my house getting things ready to set off on a family outing,
when my son telephoned from our sukkah downstairs in the parking lot.
“There is a rabbi here with 30 students,” he said.
“They want to know if they can use our sukkah.”
That’s interesting, I thought. Out of the tens of
thousands of sukkot in
Jerusalem, a rabbi and 30 students suddenly appear out of the sky like a
spaceship and land in our parking lot. Ever since becoming a baal tshuva
(returnee to being religious) in Hollywood in a rather miraculous way, I
always kept an eye out for heavenly signs and wonders.
“Invite them,” I told my son, wondering what HaKodesh
Baruch Hu [G-d, literally, The Holy One, Blessed Be He] had in mind for me
“The rabbi wants to talk with you,” he said.
After a moment, a rich sefardic accent sounded over the
cell phone, followed by a river of blessings. The truth is, the Hebrew came
out so fast, I had trouble understanding every word. The startling thing was
that each blessing was like a ballistic missile targeted for precisely my
life, my problems, and my ups and downs in serving Hashem [G-d], as if the
rabbi was looking through a window into our house.
After packing a few final things for our holiday trip,
I hurried downstairs to our sukkah. The seventy-year old rabbi was standing in
the parking lot of the building, slicing up tomatoes on a fold-up table that
his students had brought. The first thing I noticed was the big white kippah
[skullcap] which completely covered his head. The next thing was the glow of
holiness which radiated from his face and white beard. Draped over his white
shirt was a large tallit katan [biblical fringed garment]. While he sliced the
tomatoes, he gave orders to his obviously well-trained team of students, like
an army officer commanding his troops. They had removed my table and chairs
from the sukkah and had set up tables and benches of their own. Already laid
out on the table were a wide assortment of salads, juices, pita bread, and
My thirteen-year old son came over to me with an amazed
expression on his face. As the son of a baal tshuva from
Hollywood, he was used to all kinds of people showing up at our house for a
visit, but this surrealistic scene was a first.
“Maybe it’s the prophet, Elijah HaNavi,” he said.
Seeing me, the rabbi repeated his blessings and
continued on with his work, adding a variety of spices to the large bowl of
salad before him. Many of the students, Jews of Mideastern descent in their
thirties and forties, wore large white kippahs like the rabbi. Here and there,
an Ashkenazi face stood out in the crowd. One of them, the driver of their
mini-bus, dressed in the holiday garb of a Hasid, came over to me and told me
the rabbi’s name, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, shlita, from Bnei Brak. I remembered
having seen him a few times at the Kotel, always surrounded by followers and
fervently engaged in prayer.
Earlier that morning, they had been at the Kotel for
the priestly blessing of the kohanim. Their plan had been to eat a festive
breakfast in our Kiryat Moshe neighborhood before returning to Bnei Brak. But
when they arrived, the synagogue sukkah they had intended to use proved to be
much too small for the group. Scouting the area, they came upon our parking
lot and our ample size sukkah.
A verse of the Hallel prayer rang in my ears, “This is
Hashem’s doing; it is wondrous in our eyes.”
That year, I had brought my parents on Aliyah to
Israel from Florida when my mother was stricken with the first symptoms of
Alzheimers Disease. My father, who had several serious medical problems of his
own, could not cope with her alone in America, so, with my wife’s permission,
they moved in with us in Shilo. Because of their frequent medical needs, and
the Melabev, English-speaking Alzheimers group which met 3 times a week in
Jerusalem, we decided to move to Kiriat Moshe, where we were fortunate to find
a building with two vacant apartments.
Without a second thought, I hurried upstairs to bring
my parents down for a blessing from the rabbi.
By the time I could get them organized, the rabbi was
sitting in the sukkah with his students. Slowly, I led my parents over. We
stood outside the sukkah about ten meters away. The rabbi looked up and
immediately, without even studying them, stated their medical problems, as if
reading straight from a detailed medical report.
“Your mother’s head is not working as it should,” he
said. “She is very confused, forgets things, becomes suddenly irritated and
has frequent bursts of uncontrollable anger. Her overall blood circulation is
poor and she suffers from pains in her upper back.”
My son stared at me in amazement. I too was
dumbfounded. The rabbi had described her situation exactly.
“Your father is depressed and extremely nervous,” he
continued. “He worries over every small thing. The arteries in his neck are
clogging, but he needn’t worry about that. He needs to get more fresh air,
that’s all, and take him to the shopping mall where he can see lots of people
in order to cheer him up.”
According to his latest ultrasound, one artery in Dad’s
neck was already blocked, and the other closure was 75%. I asked if there was
something more I could do to help them.
“Bring your mother to me in Bnei Brak,” he said. “Once
the problem has reached the head, it is hard to influence the
Heavenly Court, but perhaps it is possible with G-d’s help to ease the pains
in her back.”
Years before, major surgery had left my mother with
constant pain in her back. Plus, she had terrible arthritis. I had taken her
to a gamut of doctors, chiropractors, reflexologists, and the like, but
nothing had eased her suffering.
A VISIT TO BNEI BRAK
One of the students gave me a phone number to call to
reserve a slot for Mom on the rabbi’s day of visiting hours in Bnei Brak. Like
a dutiful son, I made the appointment. But because of my father’s nervousness,
he rejected the idea out of hand. So as not to waste the opportunity, I
suggested to my wife that we go instead with one of our children who made
hyperactive children look like they were standing still. If G-d hadn’t sent
the rabbi to us to help with my parents, then surely it was to help with our
Leon sees people on Thurdays at his synagogue in Bnei Brak. By the time we
arrived, the waiting room was already full. Each week, scores of people call
for appointments, but only 12 are accepted, so that the rabbi can spend the
time needed with each person in order to help raise him up out of his dilemma,
spiritual darkness, or pain. Sometimes a one-on-one meeting with the rabbi is
a half hour, sometimes an hour, often even two.
When our turn came, we sat down facing the rabbi who
was absorbed in a book of Psalms. Beyond his study, the synagogue was
stunningly lit with brilliant chandeliers. After several minutes, the rabbi
looked up and nodded with a very serious expression, not with the radiant
smile that had warmed my heart on the sukkot holiday. I explained that since
my father was apprehensive about coming, we had come with our son. Being the
father of 14, including five Torah scholars, the rabbi certainly had
experience with children.
The rabbi told the boy to take a book and go study in
the synagogue. When he was out of hearing range, he said, “The problem isn’t
with the boy – it is with the parents. A child is merely the extension of the
parents. When the parents fix themselves, the problem of the child will
“Uh oh,” I thought, certain that the rabbi was going to
turn his x-ray vision on me. But instead, he started speaking about problems
of the circulation system. Gently, without mentioning any wrongdoing, he led
us to understand that transgressions, and improper character traits like anger
and depression, affect the nefesh (soul), and the nefesh effects the blood,
and the blood circulates to all of the organs of the body, eventually causing
a disorder in the region that corresponds to the transgression or faulty
attribute. I remembered studying about this relationship in the book Shaare
Kedusha, but I never had the knowledge to apply it in a practical way. In a
similar fashion, the Rabbi said, emotions like anger and nervousness in the
home can have a devastating effect on the children.
“There have been mistakes,” he inferred in a general
He gave us a diet that would revitalize our blood and
suggested some other very down-to-earth advice. Then for the next fifteen
minutes he spoke about pride, about how poisonous it was in serving G-d,
causing the Divine Presence to flee from a person and leave him in spiritual
“Wow, did you get it on the head,” I said to my wife
when we left.
“Me?” she responded. “Everything he said about pride,
he was talking about you!”
“Me?” I responded in amazement.
How ridiculous could you get? Everyone knew that I was
the famous baal tshuva from
Hollywood who had rejected fame and riches for G-d. Who was more humble than
True, I had learned a lot of things in yeshiva, but
very little about making a married life work and bringing up children. And
like every new immigrant, I had my share of frustrations in beginning a new
Israel. The arrival of my parents had exacerbated things a hundred times over.
Often I felt like an actor in a movie about a man who had two wives, running
back and forth between my sick mother and wife, trying to keep everyone happy.
Add my father’s nervousness, and a super hyper son. Under the emotional
burden, one of my vertebrae moved out of place, and I was paralyzed with pain.
It wasn’t long before I had sunk into a period of depression and despair.
But it wasn’t until reading the booklet that Rabbi Leon
gave me, that it hit me. There was an essay on anger, an essay on the sanctity
of marriage relations, an essay on repentance. The main part of the booklet
was the “Tikun HaYesod Yeshuat Eliahu,” an arrangement of 13 Psalms chosen by
the rabbi, followed by a long confession designed to inspire a person to a new
level of sexual purity, known as shmirat habrit. Along with many insights
based on the secrets of Torah, the essence of the tikun [rectification] was
“Sanctify yourself in what is permitted to you.”
“AND HE REPENTED AND WAS HEALED”
The following Thursday morning, I returned to Bnei Brak
with a list of questions for the rabbi. Once again the waiting room was filled
with people. The rabbi nodded when I entered the synagogue, and continued on
with his prayers. I sat down near his desk, waiting for an opportunity to ask
my questions. After a while I realized that without an official place on the
list, I wouldn’t be permitted to talk with the rabbi. But no one asked to me
leave, so I sat there as inconspicuously as possible, happy to be in his
presence and the special atmosphere of holiness that surrounds him.
Suddenly, a man burst into the study area followed by a
woman in what I guessed was her ninth month of pregnancy. The hysterical
husband held up an x-ray and shouted, “They want to operate! They want to
“Of course they want to operate,” the rabbi said
calmly. “Your wife has a massive growth in her stomach.”
She wasn’t pregnant, I realized. Her over-swollen belly
was the result of a malignancy.
“They want to operate on Tuesday,” the husband shouted.
“Here’s the x-ray. Here’s the x-ray!”
“What do you expect?” the rabbi told him. “You don’t
keep the the laws of family purity.”
Suddenly, the husband was silent.
“And you are violent with your wife, demanding your
way, without thinking about what she wants, or maybe I am wrong?”
The man looked as if he wanted to disappear under the
“Those are very big sins,” the rabbi said. “Do you
“Yes,” the man said meekly.
“Do you promise that from now on you will keep the laws
of family purity and be considerate of your wife?”
“Yes,” the man repeated.
Leon turned to the woman. “The growth in your belly is your anger at your
husband. But you have to realize that he never learned otherwise. He doesn’t
mean wrong. He’s a high tempered person. He doesn’t know any better. But now
he will change. Can you forgive him?”
The woman nodded, yes.
“Give your belly a hit,” the rabbi told her.
Gently, she tapped on her stomach.
“Harder!” the rabbi said.
Again, she tapped on her belly.
“Harder!” the rabbi commanded.
This time she gave her belly a punch. Like a punctured
beach ball that loses its air, the big round swelling in her stomach simply
disappeared. I was sitting no more than a few feet away. Right before my eyes,
the swelling shrunk and vanished. The woman burst into tears. Once again, the
husband started shouting in utter disbelief, “But I have the x-ray! I have the
“You can throw the x-ray in the garbage,” the rabbi
told him. “It’s over. It’s gone. Your wife is healthy again.”
“But the operation. The appointment is next week,” the
dazed husband muttered. “What will I tell the doctor?”
“You won’t have to tell him. He will see for himself.”
Leon turned to the woman, who was still weeping in shock. “Why are you
crying?” he asked. “You should be happy. HaKodesh Baruch Hu has done a miracle
When I started on the road of repentance in
Hollywood, HaKodesh Baruch Hu had done a similar miracle for me. Through lots
of tshuva [penitence] and prayer, without any medicine, an illness that had
plagued me for years disappeared. So I wasn’t surprised by what I had
witnessed. As Rabbi Leon teaches, the verse says, “Return in penitence and be
healed.” HaKodesh Baruch Hu can do everything. The secret is tshuva.
THE POWER OF PRAYER
I left that day without being able to ask the rabbi my
questions. On the way out, I overheard his secretary telling someone on the
telephone that the rabbi had decided to travel up north with his students in
order to pray for rain. Seizing the opportunity, I asked him if I could come.
He told me that he would ask the rabbi and call me with his answer.
To remind the reader, four years ago there was a very
serious drought in
Israel. The water level of the Sea of Galillee was dangerously low. There was
serious talk of purchasing water from Turkey. So I was very excited when later
that evening I received a call saying that the rabbi agreed that I come along
The following week a long caravan of cars set out from
the yeshiva. The rabbi had requested that everyone recite the entire Book of
Psalms on the drive up north, so there was no time for small talk. Our
destination was a secluded wooded glade called “Maayan Baruch,” just outside
the city of
At the end of the long drive, a bumpy dirt road led us
to a picnic area in a forest of towering eucalyptus trees. The rabbi had
arrived ahead of the group to organize the makeshift camp. It was a beautiful
sunny day at the beginning of November. Like my first view of the rabbi
outside of my sukkah, he had taken off his hat and black overcoat, and with
his big white kippah and flowing tallit katan, he looked like the Baal Shem
Tov himself. Just as before, he was preparing a gigantic salad. When the
minibus arrived with crates of food and tables, the rabbi took charge of the
operation, where to put the tables, where to wash the fruit, who would study
the Zohar [The basic work of the Kabbalah] and who would recite psalms.
One of the things which characterizes Rabbi
Leon is his energy. For his age, he moves about with extraordinary quickness,
far surpassing his students. In years past, they would leave the yeshiva in
Bnei Brak at least once a week to travel to a different location throughout
the country to do a tikun in a large tent that the rabbi had specially
designed for their outings. Even today, Rabbi Leon makes the trip to the Kotel
at least three times a week. His students say that he sleeps no more than two
hours a night, if at all. His nights are filled with study and prayer, like in
the days of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his disciples.
In a short time, tables were laden with a kingly feast
for the seventy people present. The rabbi told us to make our blessings over
the food out loud so that everyone could answer “Amen.” After completing the
Tehillim and the readings from the Zohar, the rabbi told everyone to wash
hands for the meal from the nearby water pipe, whose source was from the
rivers of the Garden of Eden. During the meal, the rabbi gave a dvar Torah,
saying that rains are held back because of transgressions to the
Covenant-Brit, as explained in the Zohar, regarding the Shema:
“Those who do not guard the sign of the holy Brit
[Covenant of sexual purity] cause a separation between Israel and their Father
in Heaven, as is written, And you turn aside and worship other gods, and bow
down to them. And afterward, it says, He shut up the heaven, so that there be
no rain. For to be false to the holy Covenant is considered like bowing down
to another god. But when the holy Covenant is properly guarded by mankind,
HaKodesh Baruch Hu showers blessings from above down to this world.” (Zohar,
Immediately after the meal, the rabbi had everyone
stand in four lines, facing all four directions while he stood in the middle.
In unison, in loud, fervent voices, everyone recited a kabbalistic prayer
based on the incense service. Even before we had finished, there was the sound
of distant thunder over the peaks of the Hermon. At first, we thought it might
be tank fire on the
Lebanon border. The sun was still bright in the afternoon sky. The thundering
grew louder as we continued to pray. The first drops of rain fell while we
were packing the tables back into the minibus at the end of the tikun. On the
drive back to Bnei Brak, the sky darkened, and rain poured down in gushes.
Hailstones bigger than marbles rumbled atop of car roofs, shattering
windshields. Four students collected insurance to compensate for the damage.
To be sure, we were not the only people in Israel praying for rain at that
time. But it is hard to say that the sudden rainstorm was a mere coincidence
after our prayers. Plus, it wasn’t the first time that rain fell after a tikun
by Rabbi Leon and his students.
ZOHAR BY HEART
In “Orot HaTechiyah,” (Ch.
57) Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook writes that the study of the Zohar is
destined to open the road to redemption. By the time he reached twenty, Eliahu
Leon Levi knew large portions of the Zohar by heart.
Leon’s grandfather, the kabbalist, Rabbi Avraham Levi, grew up in the Old City
near the Damascus Gate. Due to economic hardship, the family relocated to
Turkey in the town of Marash. Every night, even in the ice-cold winters, Rabbi
Avraham would rise from sleep at 2 o’clock, immerse in an outdoor pool, go to
the synagogue to recite the Midnight Prayer (Tikun Hatzot) and learn Mishna
and secrets of Torah until dawn.
At the age of 98, he left this world, passing on the
crown of the inner Torah to his son, Yeshua Levi. Under his spiritual
leadership, all of the Jews in the area returned to the Torah. He knew all of
the Bible, the Mishna, and Tehillim by heart. He taught the children of the
community in the morning, tended to his rabbinic duties during the day, slept
a few hours in the evening, and studied kabbalah all through the night.
Inspired by their devoted shepherd, most of the town’s inhabitants would rise
midnight and go the synagogue to recite Tikun Hatzot together. Very often,
Rabbi Yeshua would drag young Eliahu along, even when the boy begged to stay
in bed, in order to accustom him to the attribute of saintliness in the
service of G-d.
With a contingent of families from Marash, the
Levis returned to Israel in 1950 and settled in Tel Aviv. As if inspired by
the air of Eretz Yisrael, the twelve year old Eliahu Leon started to read from
the Zohar when his father wasn’t around. The energetic Torah prodigy had
plenty of opportunity since his father left the house in the middle of the
night to immerse in a mikveh 151 times before reciting Tikun Hatzot. Then he
would continue on until midday with his learning, teaching, and prayers. As
time went on, Rabbi Yeshua noticed that his volumes of Zohar were missing.
Discovering them with his son, he would take them away, only to find them
missing again. As the boy grew older, other books began to disappear from the
bookshelf, including the teachings of the Arizal and other classics of
Kabbalah. In his teenage years, the budding mystic learned at the Porat Yosef
Yeshiva and later at Kfar Chabad, but he states that most of his learning came
from his father.
“He taught me secrets that I haven’t revealed to this
day. You can take the knowledge of all of the scientists, professors, and
doctors in the world, and the Torah contains more wisdom than them all.”
For a period of six years, Eliyahu secluded himself in
the house, studying Kabbalah, fasting, and reciting yichudim day and night.
Finally, his father told him, “Enough. You may make an angel out of yourself,
but what about Am Yisrael? Go out and teach. Go out and pray. Take the gifts
G-d has given you and lift people up.”
MIRACLES BY THE KILO
Ever since the prayer for rain in the north, I have
seen many miracles with Rabbi
Leon. One time, at the end of a nightlong tikun, a young soldier pushed his
way forward through the crowd around the rabbi. One arm dangled loosely at his
side. He said it had been paralyzed for half a year, and that no doctor had
been able to help.
“Why did you pick up that statue of idol worship?”
Leon asked him.
The soldier seemed stunned. As if he were dreaming, he
shook his head to wake himself up.
“That was seven years ago,” he admitted. “I was on a
group tour to
Spain. They took us into a church, and I picked up one of the statues.”
“HaKodesh Baruch Hu gave you seven years to do tshuva,”
the rabbi said. “Now you received the penalty in your arm. Are you sorry?”
“Of course,” the young man answered. “I had no idea.”
“Good,” the rabbi told him. “With your bad arm, pick up
a pretzel, say a blessing, and eat it.”
The soldier looked down at the pretzels on the table.
Sadly, he shook his head. “I can’t move it,” he said.
“Yes you can. You’ve got a new arm now. You can pick up
the front end of a car.”
As if concentrating his strength, the soldier looked
down at his arm. When it made a move forward, he let out a sound of surprise.
He reached out toward the table. A smile broke over his face. Then he grabbed
a pretzel, made a loud happy blessing and ate it. Everyone clapped.
“People sometimes think that Divine Inspiration (ruach
hakodesh) doesn’t exist anymore,” Rabbi
Leon explains. “That it was something only in the past. But that isn’t the
case. Ruach hakodesh is always here waiting. Has HaKodesh Baruch Hu changed,
G-d forbid? He is always ready to give. The problem is that people don’t
prepare the proper vessel in order to receive the light.”
One time, an Ashkenazic rabbi showed up among the
people during visiting hours. He sat quietly in the synagogue, watching
everything that went on in the Rabbi’s study. When a woman stood up from a
wheelchair and started to walk, he burst into the study and raced over to
Leon, peering under his desk and behind his chair as if to discover some
secret hidden button or magic box.
“Where is it?” he said. “Where is it? How do you do it?
What do you do?”
Students tell hundreds of Rabbi
Leon stories of sterile women having babies, lame people walking, and mute
people speaking. When the wife of the Baba Sali needed someone to talk to, she
would come to Rabbi Leon. Every Thursday, the yeshiva on HaShomer Street is
crowded with people, but because of his great humility, many people have never
heard of Rabbi Leon. Another reason is that he has never aligned himself with
any political party. While Knesset members and leading public figures often
come to confer with him privately, he shies away from the public eye.
One time, when I suggested making a video of visiting
hours, so that people could see all the miracles, he said, “If word got out
what happens here, gangsters would show up with machine guns threatening to
kill me if I don’t heal their mothers and brother-in-laws.”
I don’t profess to say that a miracle occurs with every
blessing. Sometimes, nothing seems to happen at all. When I asked Rabbi
Leon about this, he explained. “Hashem decides not me. Everything comes from
Hashem. If a person has merit, feels sincere repentance, and Hashem decides to
intervene, then a miracle occurs. If a person is closed down to tshuva, then
he first has to work on himself to reopen the channels of blessing that he’s
damaged. Everything depends on tshuva, hard work, and merit. My blessings are
nothing. Hashem does it all.”
Of course, Hashem does it all. Nevertheless, there have
been many cases when visiting a comatized patient in a hospital that during
the Rabbi’s blessing, the person has awoken from his sleep. Such a dramatic
case occurred last month in the
Shaare Tzedek Hospital intensive care unit. Lately, Rabbi Leon has been
working around the clock to put out a series of books on Tikun HaBrit
[rectifying one's sexual purity] and does not make hospital calls like he used
to. But when the two sons of a head of a certain Yeshiva appealed to the
Rabbi, he immediately drove with them and a student to Jerusalem to pray at
“He was attached to eighteen tubs and wires,” the
student relates. “It was like pushing your way through the vines in a jungle
to get to him. The Rabbi asked the doctors to lessen the anesthesia so that he
could work on raising his levels. After the Rabbi prayed for three hours, all
of the man’s vital signs were on the rise. We left with one of the sons to go
to the Kotel where the Rabbi continued to request mercy from Heaven. While we
were there, the son at the hospital called and said that all of the levels
were back to normal and that his father was breathing on his own. He called in
the evening to tell me that the doctors had removed all of the tubes, and that
his father was sitting up in bed talking about going home for Shabbat.”
THE DREAM OF THE “KARIN A”
The rabbi’s unending efforts to help the Jewish People
are not limited to medical problems alone. A few years ago, the Rabbi dreamt
that a ship dangerous to
Israel was heading our way. The dreams of the Rabbi are no simple matter.
Tzaddikim like Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the Orh HaChaim HaKadosh, the Ben
Eish Chai, and others have appeared to him with important messages. So when he
awoke from the dream of the ship, he immediately alerted a high-ranking army
officer whom he knew, and asked that the information be passed to the proper
security channels. The Air Force sent out a reconnaissance plane. It reported
back that the only naval activity was a joint Egyptian-American war exercise
that Israel already knew about. The Rabbi responded that they were mistaken –
there was a boat dangerous to Israel approaching from the South. Once again,
the plane made a reconnaissance sweep, and sure enough, there was an
unidentified ship in the Red Sea approaching the Gulf of Eilat. It was the
“Karin A” on its way to smuggle a huge quantity of weapons and ammunition into
Students and people who are fortunate to enter his
inner circle also benefit from Rabbi
Leon’s unique talents in the most incredible ways. One of the Rabbi’s
students, Yigal Vanazi, works in Tel Aviv for a computer software firm. One
time, the company was attacked by a virus, and 180 computers shut down. For
two days they struggled in vain on their own to find a solution. When a
company specializing in computer viruses asked for $400,000 to fix the
problem, Yigal thought of the Rabbi.
“I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me immediately,”
he relates. “I called up the Rabbi and told him the problem. He instructed me
to put my hand on one of the computers. After a minute, he said he saw the
virus, and described it to me. Later he showed me the sketch he made in the
yeshiva. It looked just like diagrams of computer viruses that I had seen with
a long curving tail. Then, over the phone, he told me that he had caught the
virus and locked it up in a spiritual safe. He told me to hit the “enter” key
on the keyboard. Immediately, the computer lit up, along with all of the 180
computers in the building. It was amazing!”
Enemy ships, computers, cars, you name it. Once,
Yankela Levine stopped by the Yeshiva to say hello to the Rabbi. He had just
bought a used car from the sexton of a synagogue in Bnei Brak.
“Did he tell you that the car was in an accident and
that the axle connecting the two front wheels is bent out of shape?” the Rabbi
Yankela couldn’t believe it. The sexton was as honest
as could be, he said.
“Maybe so,” the Rabbi answered, “But he should reduce
the sales price by three thousand shekels.”
Having known the Rabbi for many years, Yankela brought
the car to a garage and put it up on a lift. Sure enough, the axle connected
the tires was bent. In great embarrassment, the sexton gave him back the money
he had overpaid.
And, as for me, ever since my father allowed me to
bring Mom to Bnei Brak, she no longer has pains in her back.
GUARDING SEXUAL PURITY – GUARDING THE LAND
Every Saturday night, Rabbi
Leon comes to the Kotel to recite psalms. Two years ago, at a Malave Malka
celebration with students, before the Disengagement Plan from Gush Katif was
announced, the Rabbi said that there was a decree in Heaven that would be
every hard to cancel. “HaKodesh Baruch Hu is very displeased with the lack of
sexual modesty in the Holy Land.”
“There is nothing in the world that so arouses the
anger of HaKodesh Baruch Hu as the sin of transgressing the Covenant. Our hold
Holy Land is in danger if we don’t live our lives in a holy fashion. Sexual
purity is the essence of the Covenant between Abraham and G-d. Remember what I
A student asked what we could do. The Rabbi was solemn
and pensive. “If rabbis begin to speak more about guarding the Brit, about
guarding one’s eyes from gazing at forbidden things, and about the laws
concerning sexual modesty, then maybe HaKodesh Baruch Hu will have mercy. It
isn’t enough just to live in the
Holy Land. We have to live here in all the holiness that the Torah prescribes.
That’s the whole meaning of the Brit. That message has to get out.”
This Thursday night (Feb.
23, 2006) at the Kotel, thousands will gather for the last tikun of Shovavim.
But Rabbi Leon dreams of a tikun far greater than that.
“I should be on the Internet leading a Tikun HaYesod to
all of the Jews in the world,” he says. “If I could do that, then Mashiach
would come tomorrow.”
Acceptance of the Oral Tradition
Rabbi David Dov Levanon
2. The Eclipse of God
3. Torah Innovation
4. The Jews Observed It and Accepted It
The Gemara relates (Shabbat 88b):
"'They stood at the bottom of the mountain' (Exodus 19:17). R' Avdimi bar
Chamma bar Chassa said: This teaches us that the Almighty suspended the
mountain above them like an inverted cask and said, 'If you accept the Torah,
fine; if not, here will be your grave.'
"R' Acha bar Yaakov said: This [explanation of yours] makes for a good case
against the Torah."
"Rabba said: Nonetheless, they reaffirmed their acceptance of it in the days
of Ahashverosh, as it is written (Ester 9:27), 'The Jews observed it and
accepted it upon themselves' - i.e., they observed that which they had already
On the words "a good case" Rashi comments, "Were they called to appear before
the court to explain why they did not fulfill that which they had taken upon
themselves, they could answer that they received it under duress."
Commentators (Tosefot ad loc., and others) raise the question, why did God
have to coerce the Children of Israel into receiving the Torah? After all,
they had already expressed their willingness to accept the Torah when they
went so far as to exclaim, "We will uphold it and we will hear it!" - a
statement more befitting the ministering angels than man. Indeed, owing to
this willingness, they merited two crowns - one representing "we will uphold
it" and another representing "we will hear it."
It is likewise difficult to understand why the Israelites should have been
subject to divine punishment (viz., the Destruction of the Holy Temple) prior
to the time of Achashverosh if they had never received Torah of their own
Authorities have offered scores of answers to these questions. The earliest
among them is from Midrash Tanchuma (Noach 3):
"God made a covenant with the nation of Israel regarding the Oral Torah alone,
as it is written, 'For "al pi" (according to) these words have I made a
covenant with you' (Exodus 34), and the Sages remark that God did not write in
the Torah '"lemaan" (for the sake of) these words,' or '"baavur" (for) these
words,' or '"biglal (because of) these words,' but rather '"al pi" (according
to; lit., "on the mouth of") these words' which is none other than the Oral
Torah which is difficult to learn and involves great hardship, and it is
likened to darkness.
"It is thus written, 'The nation which walked in darkness saw a great light'
(Isaiah 9:1) - these are the scholars of Oral Torah who saw a great light. For
the Almighty illuminates their eyes in matters of prohibition and
dispensation, pure and impure...and the nation of Israel did not agree to
receive the Torah until the Almighty suspended the mountain above them like an
inverted cask, as it says, 'They stood at the bottom of the mountain' (Exodus
19:17), and R' Dimi bar Hamah said: The Almighty said to the nation of Israel,
'If you accept the Torah, fine; if not, here will be your grave.'
"And if you should contest, saying, it was concerning the Written Torah that
the Almighty suspended the mountain above them like an inverted cask, [think
again,] for at the moment that He asked them if they are willing to receive
the Torah, all of them answered, saying, 'We will uphold it and we will hear
it!' for it involves no toil or hardship, and it is not so extensive.
"Rather, it was regarding the Oral Torah [that He he threatened them], for it
involves many fine details of both major and minor commandments and it is as
powerful as death...for only he who loves the Almighty with all of his heart
and all of his soul and all of his might is willing to study it, as it is
written, 'Love God your Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and
with all your might' (Deuteronomy 6:5).
"And whence do you learn that such love is none other than the study of the
Oral Torah? Just look at what follows it: 'These words which I am commanding
you today must remain on your heart,' and what is that? That is Torah study
which is on the heart, i.e., 'Teach them to your children' refers to study of
the Oral Torah which needs to be memorized. This teaches you that the first
paragraph of the 'Shema' is not to be understood as referring to the reward
received in this world, as is the case in the second paragraph...which refers
to the giving of reward to those who are busy with the Written Torah, not with
the Oral Torah.
"And in this second paragraph it is written, 'with all or your heart and all
of your soul,' but it is not written 'with all of your might. This teaches
that whoever loves riches and pleasure cannot study the Oral Torah for it
involves great hardship and lack of sleep, and there are those that wear
themselves out and collapse as a result of it, and therefore its reward comes
in the world to come, as it is written, 'The nation which walked in darkness
saw a great light.' 'A great light' refers to that light which was created on
the first day of creation and was stored away by the Almighty for those who
labor over the Oral Torah day and night, for through their merit the world
continues to exist..."
Let us consider a number of questions in light of the above. Where does
Scripture indicate that the Israelites were coerced into accepting the Oral
Tradition, which is acquired via toil? How was this rectified in the days of
Achashverosh? Maharal (in "Or Chadash") posits that the reaffirmation of Torah
in the days of Achashverosh was because the Jews introduced a new holiday,
instituting the reading of the Scroll of Ester and other practices for all
generations. Here, then, is proof that they took upon themselves the Oral
Tradition, for they introduced new laws through the Sages, and this was due to
the power and uniqueness of the Torah. Yet, were these steps fraught with the
"labor of Torah"?
In order to answer these questions, let us begin by defining the term "Oral
Tradition." According to the above Midrash, the Oral Tradition is not a body
of explicit laws given on Mount Sinai, but rather comprises matters which are
hidden in the Torah and which must be uncovered via toil. It is to this that
Scripture refers when it tells us that "the nation which had wandered in
darkness saw a great light" (Isaiah 9:1). The matters which are hidden in the
Torah amount to more than a difficult deliberation in the Talmud or exposition
upon the Torah's verses; they also relate to seeing God's providence at work
in the world, as it is written, "Ponder the years of each generation"
(Deuteronomy 32:7), and, in so doing, know "the proper action to take."
During the Sinai revelation, the Jewish people received the Torah in an
explicit manner, from the mouth of the Almighty Himself. The people were, for
their own part, completely passive. They saw and heard the sounds and the
flames and were therefore aware only of the written Torah. Furthermore, God's
manner of leading them at that time reveled the Divine presence. Everybody
prophesied and saw the awesome and exalted sight. They were like children
gathered around the table of their heavenly father being nourished through the
manna and the waters of Miriam's well, like Adam in the Garden of Eden before
the sin. And it was upon such a backdrop that they said, "We shall do and we
At that time, however, they could not conceive of God's "absence." They could
not imagine a situation wherein they would be called upon to introduce laws
which presumably lacked any scriptural precedent (an act calling for toil and
exertion). They could not conceive of circumstances which would call for
understanding God's unrevealed providence over them, while serving him and
carrying out his commandments. In such a setting, then, their acceptance of
Torah was as if carried out under duress. It was as if they had accepted
something of which they did not have a proper understanding. This happened
later, in the days of Achashverosh, while the nation of Israel was in Exile
and God appeared to be "absent." And because at this trying hour they
reaffirmed their acceptance of Torah of their own volition, introducing a new
holiday in honor of the miracle, they demonstrated that their acceptance of
the Oral Torah was not the result of duress.
The Eclipse of God
God's providence in the days of Achashverosh was of a hidden nature, as the
Talmud teaches us (Chulin 139b), "[The Book of] Ester - where is its biblical
source? Answer: 'I shall surely hide ("haster astir"; this expression is based
upon the same Hebrew root as the name Ester).'" One of the salient features of
the Book of Ester is the fact that God's name does not appears in it. And yet,
because the miracle of Purim played itself out within the confines of nature,
we would have expected the Book of Ester to place special emphasis upon God's
presence by including His name in the text itself. This, however is not the
Instead, the narrative aims at teaching us that the miracle of Purim was a
doubly hidden miracle. It allows the reader of the Book of Ester to experience
this hiddenness and causes him to expand upon the text and to seek out the
hidden ways of God at work weaving the miracle. For this reason the Scroll of
Ester, akin to the Torah, was given to be expounded upon, and it is thus
written in the Jerusalem Talmud (Megila ch. 1, p. 80a):
R' Halbo R' Huna in the name of Rav: "And these days are remembered and
practiced - remembered through the reading [of the Scroll of Ester] and
practiced through the feast. That is, the Scroll of Ester was given to be
expounded upon." R' Halbo R' Yisa in the name of R' Le'ezar: "Here it is
written 'Words of peace and truth' and below it is written, 'Acquire truth and
do not sell it,' and this comes to teach us that the Book of Ester is akin to
the Torah: just as this (the Torah scroll) calls for ruled lines, so does that
(the Scroll of Ester) call for ruled lines. Just as this was given to be
expounded upon, so too was that given to be expounded upon."
Where do we find God's name alluded to in the Scroll of Ester? "The King and
Haman shall come today" (The Hebrew acronym of this phrase is God's name).
This comes to teach us to just what extent the Divine Presence descended in
order to rest upon the feast of those two impure individuals, Achashverosh and
Likewise, the Sages of the Talmud remark (Megila 15b): "'On that night the
king found it difficult to sleep.' R' Tanchum said: 'The King of the Universe
found in difficult to sleep,'" for we have a rule that wherever it is written
"king" in the Book of Ester, this refers to the King of the Universe. In other
words, the Almighty ran the world via Achashverosh.
A similar idea is expressed in one of the Petichtot to the Book of Ester (Megila
10b): "Raba bar Ofran opened the discussion on this chapter from here: 'I will
set my throne in Elam, and will destroy thence king and princes' (Jeremiah
49:38); king - that's Vashti; princes - those are Haman and his ten sons';
Elam - that's Shushan the capitol. This means that the Almighty placed his
throne in Elam because Israel was there, and governed the world via the
kingdom of Achashverosh."
There is another verse in the Book of Ester which alludes to the Almighty:
"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and help will come to the Jews
from another place..." The words "from another place" allude to the Almighty.
What is interesting is that the expression "another place" which usually
refers to the "dark side" (negative forces), here refers to the Almighty. This
demonstrates to just what extent the Almighty revealed Himself to us at that
time via crooked, seemingly happenstance ways.
The Jews of that generation were expected to ponder the events taking place.
They were expected to understand that all of the hardships which had come upon
them were the hand of God and to act accordingly. And, indeed, Mordecai and
Ester did so. Mordecai "would not kneel and would not bow down," and Ester
said, "Go, gather all of the Jews who are in Shoshan the capitol and have them
fast for me..." and through their repentance they brought about salvation.
This is how one looks at things through the eyes of the Torah, which calls for
self-sacrifice, toil and great effort of Oral Torah.
The Talmud teaches (Megila 14b): "Twenty-eight Prophets and seven Prophetesses
prophesied on behalf of Israel, yet they neither subtracted from nor added to
that which is written in the Torah - with the exception of the reading of the
Scroll of Ester."
This is a very novel assertion, for the reading of the Scroll of Ester is not
related to any other commandment in the Torah, and the Sages of that
generation toiled in order to find a source for it in the Torah, until God
illuminated their eyes and they found support for it in the Scriptures.
It seems fitting to link this unique idea with a similar source in the Talmud
not attributable to the Prophets. The Sages of the Talmud state (Megila 14a),
"'The king took off his ring' - R' Abba bar Kahana said: The removal of the
ring is greater than forty-eight Prophets and seven Prophetesses who
prophesied for Israel, for none of them succeeded in causing the Jews to
repent, but the removal of the ring caused the Jews to repent. And just as
their repentance resulted from pangs of conscience in their heart, so did the
innovative legislation which they produced rise from the depths of their
hearts, for they felt the need to express thanks for the miracle. Such
innovation is, by its very nature, Oral Torah.
The Jews Observed It and Accepted It
The Sages said (Shabbat 88a): "The Jews observed it and accepted it upon
themselves" (Ester 9:27) - i.e., they observed that which they had already
accepted. The Maharasha writes that what we have here is an allusion to the
claim that "we will uphold it and we will hear it!" and, indeed, we find that
the Sages of the Talmud say (Shavuot 39a), "This [declaration] only relates to
the commandments which they received upon themselves at Mount Sinai. Whence do
we learn regarding the commandments which will come into being in the future?
We learn from that which is written, 'The Jews observed it and accepted it
upon themselves' (Ester 9:27), i.e., they observed that which they had already
In other words, the Oral Torah also involved a kind of "We will uphold it and
we will hear it!" acceptance. On the face of things, Oral Torah constitutes
attaining an understanding of matters - a kind of "we will hear it." It would
appear that in order to achieve such a level of Torah understanding one must
nullify his own conceptions in favor of the word of the Creator and desire to
fulfill His will. By doing this one merits illumination from above; so it was
in the days of Mordecai and Ester, as the Sages say (Megila 7a), "The Book of
Ester was written with divine inspiration...Shmuel said...it is written, 'They
observed it and accepted it,' [and I interpret this to mean] they observed
above that which they accepted below." What the Sages meant by this is that
God was satisfied above by what they had accepted upon themselves below.
Sanhedrin Establishes Council to Teach Humanity 'Laws of Noah'
Monday, January 9, 2006 / 9 Tevet 5766
A group of non-Jewish delegates have come to
Jerusalem to pledge their loyalty to the Laws of Noah before the nascent
Sanhedrin, establishing a High Council for B'nai Noach.
The ten delegates appeared before a special session of the Jewish High Court
of 71 Rabbis led by its Nassi (President) Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz.
B'nai Noach, literally "Children of Noah," also known as Noahides, are
non-Jews who take upon themselves the Torah's obligations for all members of
the human race - consisting of seven laws passed on via Noah following the
flood, as documented in Genesis (see below).
The gathering took place under a banner quoting the Biblical
passage: "For then I will change the nations to speak a pure language so that
they all will proclaim the name of the Lord, to serve him with united resolve
The Noahide delegates stood before the nascent Sanhedrin,
which was reestablished over a year ago in Tiberius and has met regularly
since then. "Each one comes with a name he has made in the world, as a teacher
and example in his community of observance of the seven laws of Noah," said
Rabbi Michael Bar-Ron, introducing the delegates. "At great physical and
financial expense they have come to
Jerusalem, the holy city, from far and wide, to pledge their allegiance, for
the first time in history, before the Sanhedrin, to the laws of the Creator."
Each of the Noahide representatives stood before the
Sanhedrin and pledged:
"I pledge my allegiance to HaShem, the God of Israel,
Creator and King of the Universe, to His Torah and representatives. I pledge
to uphold the Seven Laws of Noah in all their details, according to Oral Law
of Moses under the guidance of the developing Sanhedrin. May HaShem bless and
aid me, my fellow council members and all B'nai Noach in all our endeavors for
the sake of His name. Blessed are you, G-d of the universe who has caused me
to live, sustained me, and brought me to this day."
Roger Grattan, a delegate who lives in
Maine, told Arutz-7 prior to the ceremony, "I am sure that this will be a
paragraph in the history of civilization, although one could also write books
on it. It is also the fulfillment of prophecy." The other members of the
council are Bud Gil, Billy Jack Dal, Andrew Overall, Adam Penrod, Jacob Scharf,
Chairman Larry Borntrager; Honorary Noahide Council Elder Vendyl Jones, Jack
Saunders and Council Speaker Jim Long.
Long addressed the rabbis of the court, requesting formal
recognition of the Noahide Council. "Your honor, esteemed rabbis of the
developing Sanhedrin. We are here because of your Torah. Rabbis before you
elevated the Torah and it drew us in - before that we stumbled in darkness.
Everyone here today can tell you that in the past we have experienced the need
to consolidate our efforts to make the world aware of the truth."
Rabbi Even-Israel Steinsaltz, the Nassi, or head of the
Sanhedrin, replied: "We hereby recognize these men as the first high council
of B'nai Noach in accordance with the conditions they have accepted upon
Rabbi Steinsaltz spoke about the role of the Jewish people
in bringing the Laws of Noah to the world. "I am part of this Jewish family
and I have nothing bad to say about that family, but you don't go up to a man
on the street and ask him to join your family. Instead you talk to him about
joining the true belief in the Creator and about implementing divine justice
toward his fellow man. We are setting up a global mission here – not to
recruit people, but to bring them to the realization that there is one G-d."
The Nassi explained that this aspect of Judaism lay dormant for years as the
Jewish people dealt with staying alive and keeping the Torah in the exile.
Rabbi Steinsaltz called for an extensive project to be
undertaken to help B'nai Noah in the nitty-gritty details of the observance of
the religion. "A Shulhan Aruch for B'nai Noah must be written so that the
individual can have guidance as to what to do," Steinzaltz said, referring to
the compendium of practical Jewish law written by Rabbi Yosef Karo of Tzfat in
the 1560's that is still used today.
He then addressed the ten B'nai Noah representatives, who
had endured hours of Hebrew speeches throughout the day, in English:
"There are those people, so far only a small number, who say
'We are bound by the covenant of Adam and the covenant of Noah and we know we
have to perform and fulfill our obligations.' We, as Jews, have the same
religion as you.
"Within the nation of
Israel there is one tribe that deals with the Temple – the priests. We Jews
are a specific tribe in the world that was chosen to be a tribe of priests –
hereditary priests. Because of this we have special duties. Being a priest
does not mean we are cut off from the other people. While the people of the
world are all different units in the armies of the Lord, we are a special
commando unit that maybe doesn't get paid more, but has special assignments
that may be more dangerous."
Rabbi Even-Israel spoke about the difficulties that would
confront the B'nai Noah movement as it grows. "When we are speaking in
general, almost every human being can more or less accept the laws of Noah,
but when we get to particulars we will come to serious points, at which we
disagree with Christianity and Islam," he said.
"It is one thing when a religion is small, but as it gets
bigger there will be huge pressures. We will be there beside you. We are
members of the same religion that was given by the Almighty to humanity. Part
of it was given to the Jews and part of it was given to humanity as a whole."
The Nassi added that while there are those who doubt the
ability of the Sanhedrin to be more than an idea leading up to the true
reestablished court, the Noahide Council is not able to be doubted or
criticized due to its pure motives and unprecedented mission.
Rabbi Yaakov Ariel of the Temple Institute said that
although Tuesday is the Fast of the Tenth of Teveth, which commemorates the
beginning of the destruction, "Our sitting in
Jerusalem now, alongside B'nai Noach, demonstrates the revival and the
fulfillment of the words of the prophets." Rabbi Ariel told those gathered
that he had seen a rainbow that morning, "the closest thing to seeing Noah
himself - the symbol of the covenant between G-d and humanity as witnessed by
Noah," he said.
Famed archaeologist and Noahide leader Vendyl Jones
addressed a festive banquet held for the Council members, speaking about the
Seven Laws of Noah. He explained, in detail, the verses in the first eleven
chapters of Genesis from which the seven laws are elucidated, saying that he
always understood the first six, but never understood the law proscribing the
eating of a limb of a living animal, until he remembered his cattle-branding
Texas. "We would brand and castrate the cattle when I was young, and that
night we would all sit around the campfire and eat what they called 'mountain
oysters' " – the testicles of the still-living animals.
Rabbi Nachman Kahane, Av Beit HaDin, spoke in English. "G-d
created a primitive world," he said. "We don't grow loaves of bread, but grain
that must be harvested, ground up and baked. We were meant to be partners with
G-d. Unfortunately, throughout history, perversions of this idea grew. How can
you be G-d's partner if you are damned and born with original sin? How can you
be a partner of G-d if your religion tells you to send your children to
shopping malls to blow people up? What we are creating today is a reconnection
between the people and G-d. G-d is saying to humanity – everyone has a job. I
happen to be a priest - I have a particular task for when the temple is built
- but all of us have a specific task just the same - I am no better."
Jones told Kahane that his brother, slain Knesset member
Rabbi Meir Kahane, together with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, had organized the
first conference for B'nai Noah nearly 20 years ago.
Conference on Noahide Council
Earlier in the day, several speakers addressed issues
surrounding the B'nai Noah movement as part of a conference on the
establishment of the B'nai Noah Council.
Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, a leader of the Italian Muslim
Assembly, addressed those gathered, speaking about B'nai Noah in Islam.
"Islamic law holds within it the seven laws of Noah and can be taught
correctly to the Muslims of the world." Sheikh Palazzi also said, "I remember
reading that a new Sanhedrin was created in Jerusalem," "my impression was
very positive - I thought maybe something new had been created to allow the
Jewish people to project moral and legal clarity to counterbalance the lack of
it in our world." Palazzi added that the project of creating a council of
Noahide teachers would hopefully counter the negative educational effect of
Gaza withdrawal, "which taught the opposite to my people - it convinced many
that only terrorism works."
Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Zini, who heads Yeshiva Or V'Yishua and is
the rabbi of
Haifa's Technion, spoke about the intuitive natural truths of the laws of
Noah. "We must create a formal connection between the nation of Israel and the
B'nai Noah to show the world that we are a nation of holy priests, as is
dictated in our Torah," he said, speaking partly in French as well, as the
conference will be available on the Sanhedrin's web site for viewing by
prospective B'nai Noah worldwide.
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, who received the blessing of leading
Hareidi-Religious Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv to engage in the project of creating a
court and infrastructure for B'nai Noah, addressed the conference as well.
Rabbi Schwartz is the Deputy Av Beit HaDin [literally, Court Elder] of the
Sanhedrin and the Av Beit HaDin for the B'nai Noah court. He spoke on the
topic of "B'nai Noah and World Peace."
"The Islamic Jihad against the world has restored religion
to the center of the world's consciousness," Schwartz said. "Over thirty years
ago someone by the name of Eisenberg sent a proposal to the United Nations
saying that there will never be world peace unless the citizens of the globe
agree on certain principles of faith. It was adopted by the UN as one of its
official documents but was not followed up upon and has since been forgotten.
We are here today to follow up on that document and remind the UN why it
exists. There will be world peace when the whole world agrees that there is
one G-d. There are people who do not think what I am about to say is
worthwhile, but I suggested years ago that we begin to translate our books,
which are meant for the nations of the world, into Arabic as well [Schwartz
has authored many books on practical observance for Noahides –ed.]. It is not
by coincidence that we have this nation alongside us, surrounding and living
inside the land upon our return to it, who also preserves the heritage of
Abraham our father."
Schwartz has indeed translated his books to Arabic, with the
help of an Arab man he met at a bus stop who asked him a Mishanaic question,
telling him he had already translated the Mishna, a codification of Jewish
oral law. He said the entire printing is sold out. "Muslim parents have
thanked me for teaching their child that there is a different way to heaven
than becoming a shahid, a martyr," he said.
Schwartz explained that although one of the purposes of the
Jewish people's exile was to disseminate belief in the Torah's truths around
the world, their return to
Israel has brought with it the technology to redouble our efforts from here.
"The moment we came to Israel, communication technology flourished. The
telephone and radio spread rapidly, and computers and internet came soon
after, changing the entire concept of communication and education. When we
were in the exile, we were there to teach the world, and now that we have
returned to the Land of Israel, G-d has given us the tools to do the work from
Rabbi David Zilbershlag, Director of Meir Panim and Koach
Latet, both innovative charity associations, spoke about rectifying the
misdeeds of Noah's generation, the generation of the flood. Zilbershlag said
that the new Council of Noahides must focus on kindness and charity, as that
was the basis of G-d's covenant with Noah, (the lack of which resulted in the
destruction of Noah's entire generation) and his later covenant with Abraham.
"It is hard to distribute and spread an idea that is
negative, as the laws of Noah are phrased," Zilbershlag said. "We must make a
great effort to find and distribute the relevant positive commandments in our
tradition throughout the world as well, and the most basic of these is that of
following in the footsteps of Abraham our father."
Rabbi Eliyahu Essas, a former refusenik and founder of the
Teshuva movement in the
USSR, spoke about establishing outreach within Israel to help gentiles who
moved from the Former Soviet Union to Israel become aware of the Noahide laws.
"There are at least 400,000 out of the million people who came to Israel who
are not Jewish according to Jewish law. There are many who think they are
Jews, but do not have a Jewish mother and are therefore not Jewish according
to Jewish law. 150,000 have no blood connection to the nation of Israel –
spouses of Jews and relatives who came under the law of return. Then there are
30,000 who have nothing to do with the Jewish people, but forged documents.
There Jews wanted to be Russians, here, Russians want to be Jews.
"Should we harass such a person to convert, should we leave
him alone, or should we try to get him to become a Ben Noah?" Essas asked,
refraining from offering answers and saying that such complicated matters must
be dealt with by both the Noahide Council and the Sanhedrin's B'nai Noah Beit
Din. He added that the problem of intermarriage was not discussed by previous
generations because it did not exist in such numbers. "We are dealing with 50%
of families in the FSU and even more in
North America. So if one spouse is a Jew and one is Ben Noah, what will be
their status? I want to raise these issues and offer a prayer to the Almighty
to help us find wise solutions."
Council Looking Forward
Spokesman Jim Long outlined the Council's goals. "Education
is a vital part of our effort and we need you to help us with this. We need to
make sure that developing Noahide groups do not split into denominations. As
we move into the public eye, we will be viewed as heretics by many. We each
come from other religions and must develop ways to approach them in a manner
in which they listen without closing their ears. The Noahide movement is a
Torah-based template for an ethical way of life. The Creator requires humanity
to uphold these laws as per his covenant with Noah.
"Anyone who reads the Bible can see that your Torah is your
constitution, your Bill of Rights and your deed to the
Land of Israel. We have plans to publish Noahide prayer books, children's
books and documentaries on science and the world through the lens of the
"We have heard that G-d is with you," Long concluded.
The 7 Laws of Noah
The Seven Laws of Noah are:
Shefichat damim - Do not murder or commit suicide.
Gezel - Do not steal or kidnap.
Avodah zarah – Pray and offer sacrifices only to G-d. Do not
worship false gods/idols.
Gilui arayot - Do not be sexually immoral (engage in incest,
sodomy, bestiality, castration and adultery), crossbreed animals or perform
Birkat Hashem - Do not utter G-d's name in vain, curse G-d
or pursue the occult. Honor your parents.
Dinim - Set up righteous and honest courts and apply fair
justice in judging offenders and uphold the principles of the last five.
Ever Min HaChai - Do not eat a part of a live animal or
THE CENTRALITY OF
by Rabbi Mordechai Becher ( Aish.com)
Why is Israel so important to Judaism -and why does the world pay it such an
extraordinary amount of attention?
The first commandment God ever gave to the first Jew in history was to go to
the Land of Israel. The Torah relates that God spoke to Abraham, and said:
Go [for your benefit], from your land, from your relatives and from your
father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a
great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a
blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2)
Abraham, his wife Sarah, their extended family and their retinue1 all came to
Israel, then known as Canaan. They traveled throughout the land, engaged in
commerce and, of course, in spreading the idea of monotheism.2 God promised
Abraham that although his descendants would go into exile and be enslaved,
ultimately He would free them, bring them back to Israel and make Israel the
eternal homeland of the Jewish people.3 All the Patriarchs, Matriarchs and the
Children of Jacob (the Twelve Tribes) lived in and were buried in Israel.
Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rebecca, Isaac and Leah were all buried in
Hebron, in the cave purchased by Abraham. Rachel was buried on the road to
Bethlehem4 and even Joseph (who died in Egypt) was buried in the city of
Shechem (Nablus).5 Joseph had specifically ordered that the Jews should take
his remains with them at the time of the Exodus and bury him in Israel. 6
Following Joshua's conquest of Israel, the Jews lived there as an independent
commonwealth (and later under a monarchy) for 800 years. Judges ruled the
people for almost 400 years until the coronation of the first king, Saul. Saul
was succeeded by King David, who was followed by his son, Solomon. King
Solomon built the First Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.7 This
Temple stood for 410 years until it was destroyed by the Babylonians, who
conquered Israel and exiled the Jews to Babylon (modern-day Iraq).
Although the Jewish people were in exile they did not forget the Land of
Israel. After 70 years in Babylon, the prophets Ezra8 and Nehemiah9 led many
of the exiles back to Israel where they built the Second Temple. The Jewish
Commonwealth was renewed and the Temple services were once again performed in
Jerusalem. The Jews lived in Israel from the time of their return until the
Roman destruction of the Temple and subsequent exile in about 70 C.E.
The era of the Second Temple, which lasted approximately 420 years, was a time
of great upheaval. The Jewish state experienced invasion by the Greek
Seleucids, which led to the Maccabean revolt in 165 B.C.E. (the Chanukah
story). Later came the Roman occupation, the despotic rule of Herod and the
Jewish revolts against Roman rule that ultimately ended in the disastrous
events of 70 C.E.
We Shall Not Be Moved
Despite all the invasions, exiles and hardship, two Jewish states existed in
Israel during this time, the first lasting for 840 years, the second for 420
years. Even during the long exile that followed the Roman destruction of the
Temple, a continuous Jewish presence (albeit, sometimes quite small) was
maintained in the Land of Israel. The land was invaded by Arabs, Crusaders,
Saracens, Mongols, Mamluks, Ottoman Turks and the British Empire, but through
it all Jews not only remained, but produced monumental works of learning and
liturgy. Rabbi Judah the Prince, for example, wrote the Mishnah in the north
of Israel in 200 C.E.; and the Jerusalem Talmud was edited there in 350 C.E.
Throughout the centuries, Jews undertook the dangerous journey to Israel
from other lands.
Throughout the centuries, Jews undertook the dangerous journey to Israel from
other lands. The great scholar Nachmanides came from Spain and established a
synagogue in Jerusalem in the 13th century. In the 16th century, Rabbi Yosef
Karo wrote the Code of Jewish Law in the city of zfat; and the song Lechah
Dodi (in the Friday night service) was composed ad first sung there by Rabbi
Shlomoh Alkabetz, student of the great abbalist of Safed, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria
(known by the acronym AriZal).
In the 19th century, during the Ottoman rule, groups of Chassidim came to
srael on the instruction of their leaders in Europe. The famous Lithuanian
rabbi known as the Gaon of Vilna sent many students to settle in Israel. In
the late 19th century, the Zionist movement brought thousands of people to
Israel to establish agricultural settlements and industry there. The
attachment of the Jews to their land throughout 1,900 years of exile
culminated in the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948, now
home to more than 5 million Jews from all over the world.
Jews of the 21st century take for granted the presence of Jewish communities
in Israel. From a historical point of view, however, the return of a people to
their Land after nineteen centuries of exile (in the case of some, 2,500 years
of exile10) the establishment of an independent Jewish state and the
ingathering of Jews from virtually every country in the world are miraculous
and unprecedented events in world history.
The building in which I lived in Jerusalem represents a microcosm of the
"ingathering of the exiles" that has taken place. Although it contains only
fifteen apartments, at one point, the countries of origin of the inhabitants
of our building included Australia, Canada, France, Gibraltar, Greece,
Morocco, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the USA and Israel!
Land of the Spirit
It is not only the historical attachment of the people of Israel to the Land
of Israel that makes it special, but its intrinsic, spiritual qualities as
well. Most of the prophets either lived in Israel or prophesied about it.11 In
Jewish philosophy, prophecy is considered to be a "product" of the Land of
Israel.12 Based on the principle that the structure and nature of the physical
world reflects the underlying spiritual nature of reality, Rabbi Yehudah
Halevy explains that the spiritual capacity to produce prophecy is similar to
the physical capacity to grow crops.
Israel has the capacity to cultivate spirituality more than any other
place in the world.
Different regions have the capacity to grow certain crops better than other
places -- Idaho potatoes, French grapes and the rubber trees of India are some
examples. So too, different areas have different spiritual influences and
potentials. Israel has the capacity to cultivate prophecy, connection to God
and intense spirituality more than any other place in the world.13 It is not a
coincidence that many religions feel a special connection to Israel,14 that
the bulk of the Bible was written in Israel and that the Psalms, which form
the basis of prayer for literally hundreds of millions of people around the
world, were written in Israel.
Of the 613 commandments of the Bible, 343 are directly dependent on the Land
of Israel -- that is, fully 56 percent of Jewish law is, in some way,
contingent upon being in Israel.15 Even those commandments that are not
directly dependent upon the Land will have a different and deeper spiritual
dimension when performed in Israel.16 Maimonides maintains that if, in theory,
a time ever came when no Jews at all lived in the Land of Israel, the entire
Jewish calendar would lose its validity, and we would
not be able to observe any of the festivals.17
The Model State
The Land of Israel is also central to Judaism because it is the best vehicle
for demonstrating Jewish values and ethics in practice. Israel is supposed to
be the place to which the people of the world look for guidance in moral
behavior.18 The tremendous media scrutiny of Israel and the extraordinary
amount of attention paid to this tiny country in the Middle East may well be
due to the fact that, deep down, people expect something more of Israel and
the Jews. There is a sense that the State of Israel should have higher
standards than its neighbors and the rest of the world -- and indeed it
should. This idea is beautifully expressed in the following verses in the Book
of Isaiah (2:3):
And many nations will go and say, "Let us go and ascend to the mountain of
God, to the Temple of the God of Jacob; and we will be instructed in His
ways, and we will walk in His paths"; for from Zion shall come forth the
Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem.
The Jewish ideal is not withdrawal from the physical world in an attempt to
become an angel.19 On the contrary, we want to be involved in many different
facets of the world and apply the moral and spiritual guidance of the Torah to
every aspect of life. This is one of the reasons that the Twelve Tribes of
Israel were so diverse in their characters. They represented a microcosm of
all humanity and demonstrated that it was possible for anyone to be a
righteous person. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
discusses the reason for this diversity within the Jewish people:
The Jewish nation is to represent agriculture as well as
commerce, militarism as well as culture and learning. The Jewish people will
be a nation of farmers, a nation of businessmen, a nation of soldiers and
a nation of science. Thereby, as a model nation, to establish the truth that
the one great personal and national task which God revealed in His Torah is
not dependent on any particular kind of talent or character trait, but that
the whole of humanity in all its shades of diversity can equally find its
calling in one common spiritual and moral mission and outlook in life.20
There is no better way to teach people how to live than by personal example.21
If a person is successful in all spheres of life while remaining moral and
good, others will be more inclined to imitate him than if he were a moral,
noble pauper.22 Although the modern State of Israel is far from perfect (as
virtually every Israeli will be happy to tell you for hours on end), there are
still ways in which it can teach the world Jewish ideals by example.
During one stint on reserve duty in the Israeli army, I noticed an amazing
picture on the cover of an army magazine.23 A senior member of the Argentinean
military had come to visit Israel and was meeting with Ehud Barak, then Chief
of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. The Argentinean was covered with
medals, braid, campaign ribbons and badges from head to foot -- there was not
an inch that did not brilliantly reflect the camera's flash. Barak, on the
other hand, was wearing a simple khaki uniform with paratrooper wings and a
few stars on his shoulder boards to indicate his rank. Now, consider the fact
that Barak was the most highly decorated soldier of a very successful army,
while the Argentineans had recently lost the Falkland Islands!
This photo was a demonstration of the Jewish abhorrence for war and violence
that still prevails in Israel, even though we have fought and won so many
wars. The glorification of military prowess that exists in some countries is
thankfully absent in Israel. The contrast between Barak's modest attire and
his counterpart's shining armor painted a striking picture of their opposing
I had been 'held hostage' for prayers!
Jewish values and priorities come to the fore even in the most mundane
situations. Permit me a personal recollection of one of my favorites: During
my first week in Israel in 1978, I went to a bank in the Meah Shearim
neighborhood of Jerusalem at about noon. The bank was scheduled to close at
12:30 p.m. and I expected to perform a minor transaction and leave. After
waiting in line for about 20 minutes and listening to the teller argue with
his wife on the phone for another eight minutes, I was finally able to
complete my business. As I walked to the exit, the security guard rushed over
and locked the door before I could get out. I asked him, very politely, to
open the door, but he gestured for me to wait. I pointed out to him (a little
less politely this time) that I had come in for a two-minute transaction that
ended up taking half an hour!
Now that I had finally finished, how dare he actually imprison me in the bank
against my will? He yawned and again gestured for me to wait. Just then, one
of the tellers stood up and announced, "Minchah!" (afternoon service). I did a
quick count and realized that together with myself, the security guard and the
tellers we had exactly the 10 men required for a minyan (quorum for prayer). I
realized then that I was being "held hostage" for prayers! Only in Israel!
The Shechinah Is Here
The Hebrew word Shechinah means "Divine Presence." Although in reality, God
permeates all of time and space equally,24 we are not able to perceive His
presence equally in all times and all places.25 Venice Beach, California (as a
purely random example) is a place where the Divine Presence is well concealed,
and Super Bowl Sunday is a time when the Divine Presence is difficult to
There are moments when God allows us more of a glimpse of the Divine Presence
-- at sunset toward the end of Yom Kippur, for instance.26 There are also
places where God allows us a greater degree of perception, such as in the Land
of Israel. The Torah calls Jerusalem the "Gates of Heaven27 and our Sages
point out that even after the destruction of the Temple, the Divine Presence
has never left the Western Wall.28
Tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world, representing every level of
religiosity, ignorant and learned, Zionist and non-Zionist, visit the Western
Wall every year. The Western Wall (Hakotel Hama'aravi or, simply, the Kotel)
is the westernmost retaining wall of the Temple Mount, and dates from the
Second Temple era. (In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the English
began referring to the Western Wall as the Wailing Wall, based on the old
Arabic name for it, El Mabka, the place of weeping. Jews, however, have always
referred to the wall as the Western Wall, preferring to relate it to the Holy
Many Jews who visit have no knowledge of the Temple at all; many know little
or nothing about Judaism or Jewish history. And yet, the Western Wall draws
them like a magnet and often elicits from them deep spiritual feelings. For
many people, a single visit to the Western Wall has changed their lives by
prompting them to investigate their Jewish roots. We believe that much of this
remarkable energy is due to the fact that "the Shechinah never left the
Once on a trip outside of Israel with my two oldest sons, we had a long
stopover in Athens. I decided to take the boys to see the Acropolis, one of
the most famous and magnificent archaeological sites in the world. On top of
the Acropolis, a hill overlooking Athens, stands the remains of the Parthenon
-- a massive pagan temple dedicated to the Greek goddess, Athena. I asked my
children to compare the Parthenon with the Western Wall. They pointed out that
the Parthenon is made of white marble, while
the Kotel is made of limestone; the Parthenon is supported by scaffolding and
the Kotel stands unassisted. The Kotel has hyssop growing out of it, while the
Parthenon is quite bare of vegetation.
Hey, no one is praying at the Parthenon!
The most astute observation made, however, was, "Hey! No one is davening
(praying) at the Parthenon!" My children saw through the pomp and grandeur of
the Parthenon. They saw that the Parthenon and what it represented is dead and
long gone, while Judaism and the Divine Presence that can be felt at the Kotel
are living entities. Many tourists visit the Parthenon, but very few, if any,
find the same inspiration and feeling of connection that is regularly
experienced at the Western Wall.
In 1967, toward the end of the Six Day War, when the Kotel returned to Jewish
hands after 1,900 years, there was an unprecedented outpouring of emotion from
all Israelis.30 Although rarely articulated publicly, there is a widespread
recognition that the Kotel is more than just a place -- it is a portal to a
spiritual dimension and an opportunity to connect with God.
Jerusalem: Palace of the King
The Jewish people have a special relationship with the entire Land of Israel,
but our bond specifically with the city of Jerusalem is as deep as the bond
between mother and child. Jerusalem is first mentioned as the city of
Malchizedek, the grandson of Shem, a monotheistic priest who greeted Abraham
with bread and wine.31 It was to the mountain at the center of the city, Mt.
Moriah, that Abraham later came for the binding of Isaac.32 The city was
originally called Shalem, which means "whole" or "peaceful" but Abraham
renamed it "Yireh," "God will see." God combined these two names and called
the city "Yerushalayim," Jerusalem.33
The geography of Jerusalem precisely reflects the role that the
city is meant to play.
The Bible relates that when Jacob fled Israel to escape his murderous brother
Esau, he went to sleep on Mt. Moriah the night before leaving the Land. There
he dreamed of a ladder that extended from the earth to the heavens.34 The
ladder symbolized the future role of Jerusalem as the site of the Holy Temple
which joined together heaven and earth.
Jerusalem was the capital during both the First and Second Jewish
Commonwealths. It was chosen to be the capital by King David with the
assistance of Samuel the prophet,35 and King Solomon built the Temple there.36
The Sanhedrin, the supreme court of Israel, had its seat in Jerusalem,37 and
Jews from all over Israel and the Diaspora would come to them for guidance.
Today, Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel.
It is fascinating to note how the geography of Jerusalem precisely reflects
the role that the city is meant to play. Jerusalem is situated near the trade
routes connecting Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It is in proximity
to, but not part of, the great civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Greece,
Phoenicia, Rome, Persia, Arabia and Assyria. Jerusalem is located on a
mountain, because it is meant to be a beacon, but it is also surrounded by
mountains,38 as if to show that it must remain somewhat
isolated39 and insulated from foreign influences. Jerusalem is meant to be a
place where people absorb spirituality, learn morality and find a connection
to the Divine. Many empires have conquered Jerusalem, many pilgrims have
passed through it and Jerusalem has left an imprint on them all.
DE ESSENTIE VAN JERUZALEM door Wiesje de Lange
De brosse, tikkende geluiden van mijn toetsenbord vermenging zich met andere
die van buiten komen. Gehamer en geklop dat opstijgt rondom mij, waar buren,
uren na zonsondergang nog vol energie hun medemensen uit de slaap houden door
hun loofhutten (soekot) op te zetten.Waarom ze nu juist wachtten tot de zon
onderging? Geen keuze. Het was vandaag een bijzondere dag, Jom (dag)
Kippoer (der Verzoening) waar Israel zich van jaar tot jaar totaal terugtrekt
van pak weg alle normale aardse beslommeringen. Ingaande Jom Kippoer doet
Israel, schoongewassen en keurig in de kleren zorgvuldig de deuren op slot,
de gordijnen van het belaagde landje worden helemaal dicht getrokken en men
zet zich behaaglijk om de tafel om zich zeer stevig te goed te doen aan eten
en drinken want na deze maaltijd.. geen druppel, geen kruimel. Vijfentwintig
uren lang totale onthouding van alle lichamelijke voedsel. Israel gaat in
gebed, bestormt de hemelen in een lange, bijna ademloze monoloog tot de
Schepper, Die, naar Israel hoopt en vertrouwt, Zich dit hele heilige etmaal
totaal zal wijden aan Zijn volk-in-nood (doorgaans Israel's toestand), Zijn
niet aflatende liefde uitgietend over hun bedreigde stukje aarde, kracht
gevend voor een heel jaar van menselijk scheppen om het verwoeste te
herstellen (ook dit geldt als regel ) en vol vertrouwen te werken aan een
toekomst die schuil gaat, ergens achter de wolkensluiers in de nazomernacht.
Mijn loofhutten bouwende buren (onze soeka staat al, er mankeert werkelijk
niets meer aan, kleinzoons met hamers, spijkers en een frons boven de neuzen
streken neer op de varanda, een dag voor ingaande jom Kippoer en namen de
grootouders dit werk uit de handen terwijl ik in de keuken stond te roeren
in grote pannen door hun bemind eten ) zijn niet uitgedacht, uitgetobd over de
ontzettende gebeurtenissen van de afgelopen maanden, ze hebben evenmin
oplossingen voor duizenden ontheemde landgenoten als hun regering dat toont te
hebben maar de Loofhut moet worden opgezet want het Loofhuttenfeest staat NU
voor de deur, zeman simchateinoe, de tijd van onze vreugde, herdenking aan
onze bevrijding uit Egypte. . En het is wellicht de essentie van Jeruzalem
dat haar agenda voor een groot deel bepaald werd niet door Israel zelf maar
door Hoger Hand. Een Hand die ons wel herhaaldelijk onze zaken laat behartigen
maar tussen deze werkdagen gestrooid zijn er de voor eeuwig vastgestelde
data die onze aandacht eisen. We moeten Shabat maken, feesten voorbereiden,
een loofhut bouwen en het doet er niet toe of Torquemada, Achashverosh, Titus
of Sharon ons leven in de war schopte. Er is een hogere orde Die ons denken en
doen onbetwist beheerst.
Nederlandse dichter maakte in zijn tijd van literaire romantiek een gedicht
over "de Israelitische Looverhut" dat zijn bewondering, eerbied weergeeft
voor dat taaie volk met een geloof dat de eeuwen trotseert alsof het om
dagen ging. Dit jaar vond ik de tekst van dat gedicht ergens op een website,
drukte die af en hing hem op in de Soeka. Nederlands? Rare taal die niemand
spreekt? Maakt niet uit, dit gedicht is een vertaling waard. Na de feestdagen
zal ik daar tijd voor vinden..."Na de feestdagen" is de Israelische vertaling
van "maniana", "morgen", met andere woorden "morgen brengen". Zegt Holland's
A.C.W. Staring ( 1767 - 1840) over onze "Looverhut":
"Wie smalend tot Uw hutje kwam
niet ik, gij
kind van Abraham.
uit een opregt gemoed
Staring spreekt dan verder, - zich enigszins vergissend in jaartallen - tot
zijn in de Lage Landen vertoevende Jood, die elke herfst weer woont " in de
schaduw van Uw Loovertent/als Mozes U heeft ingeprent./Drieduizend malen kwam
de zon/terug waar zij Uw jaar begon/ en nog bouwt gij Uw Loovertent/ als Mozes
U heeft ingeprent./U heugt dertig eeuwen door/ dat U den Schepper uitverkoor/dat
als 't geweld U vlugten deed/ een reddend spoor het diep doorsneed/dat zonder
huisdak levenslang/Uw schaar zwierf op haar kronkelgang/waar vuur en rookzuil
voor haar toog/ en ’t Man haar spijsde van omhoog....."
En weer zegt Staring:"Wie smalend tot den drempel kwam, niet ik gij kind van
Abraham". Het gedicht spreekt mij meer aan dan gewoonlijk, om de ontzettende
gebeurtenissen in Gush Katif. Dakloos zwerven weer velen op Israels
Dat het Loofhuttenfeest "de Tijd van onze Vreugde" heet kreeg dit jaar, (niet
bepaald "het jaar van onze vreugde") voor ons een nieuwe, een speciale
betekenis. We gaan een week wonen in dat oh zo tijdelijke en wankele optrekje
zonder fundamenten. We verlaten onze van steen en beton gebouwde huizen,
versmadend al het comfort dat ze ons bieden en vertrouwen ons toe aan de G'd
die ons veertig jaren in leven hield in een woestijn waar niets groeide. Erets
Jisrael is geen woestijn, integendeel een land van melk en honing maar de
niet te verwerken verwoesting die ons zo diep schokte leek ons terug te
drijven met onweerstaanbaar -want bedreven door de eigen soldaten - geweld,
de woestijn in, het was ons te moede of we een omgekeerde Uittocht meemaakten,
het Land uit, de Jordaan over, de woestijn in. Waarom? Omdat het land de
heiliging van hemelse belofte verloor voor hen die thans tijdelijk regeren in
Jeruzalem. Scherper dan wellicht ooit te voren zag Israel hoe levensgevaarlijk
het is om geregeerd te worden zonder G'dsvertrouwen. Dit vernielt de
fundamenten onder al wat het Joodse volk vermag te doen. Ik hoop met heel
mijn hart dat we dit nu voor altijd zullen weten en gedenken opdat we zo iets
verschrikkelijks nooit weer zullen hoeven mee te maken.Dit Loofhuttenfeest, "Zeman
simchateinoe", de Tijd van onze Vreugde, zullen we ons verheugen over het
feit dat we even allemaal gelijk zijn, even allemaal dakloos een onderkomen
vinden in een simpele loofhut die ons ergens tot troost is.
In het zuiden, niet ver van het verwoeste Gush Katif staat een tentenkamp, een
heel kampement van wankele hutjes. De legerplaats heeft een grootse naam
gekregen: "Ir Emoena" (Stad van Geloof) en hier kunt U de verdrevenen vinden
uit de dorpen van Gush Katif. De tenten en hutjes kunnen natuurlijk niet op
slot, men kan ze daarom niet onbewaakt achterlaten. Om nu de inwoners
gelegenheid te geven de Hoge Feestdagen (Rosh Hashana - Nieuwjaar- en Jom
Kippoer) door te brengen bij familieleden die nog wel een dak boven het hoofd
hebben trokken de jonge mannen van de Jeshieva (religieuze Leerschool) te
Gispin/Golan voor de Hoge Feestdagen naar de tenten van Ir Emoena als
kampbewaarders. Absurde toestanden zijn een gevolg van absurde maatregelen.
Ik was daar
bij U in Nederland voor een hele reeks van spreekbeurten . De tijd vloog om en
voor ik het besefte landde er al weer een vliegtuigje met een blauwe Davidster
op Schiphol ten teken dat het tijd werd om naar huis te gaan. De feestdagen
stonden voor Israel's deuren.
Feestdagen, jazeker, ik wierp me koortsachtig in de tredmolen van alle
huismoeders maar in de avonduren kon U me doorgaans vinden op de een of andere
bijeenkomst van mensen die menen dat we niet zo maar door kunnen stomen alsof
er niets gebeurde. Israel zoekt onophoudelijk naar betere wegen, naar een weg
terug, UIT de woestijn en NAAR het Beloofde Land, en zal daarmee doorgaan tot
er ergens weer een pad droog valt om op voort te trekken.
Feestdagen, ja zeker, maar ook werelds nieuws trok onze aandacht. Onze
vijanden gingen door met hun afkeurenswaardige gewoonten en wij probeerden hun
snode plannen te verijdelen, doorgaans met succes. Een Israelische Professor,
de 74-jarige Robert J. Aumann van de Hebreeuwse Universiteit won een
Nobelprijs voor zijn baanbrekend werk op Economisch gebied . Naar het me lijkt
kunnen enkel hoogontwikkelde collega's van de knappe Professor Robert
begrijpen hoe geniaal zijn analysis wel is. Ik volsta met U te verklappen dat
het iets te maken heeft met op wiskundige wijze oplossen van conflict
situaties. Snapt U nu beter waarom juist een Israeli met deze eer ging
strijken? Waar ter wereld kan een Professor meer conflicten vinden om mee te
jongleren dan hier bij ons in Jeruzalem? Een opiniepeiling, gehouden onder de
leden van de Arbeid-partij gaf nieuwe hoop op een toekomst voor ons landje.
Gevraagd waar men zich vandaag vooral op diende te concentreren verrasten
genoemde leden ons met hun mening.
meende Judea en Samaria te moeten ontruimen terwijl 85% een verbetering in
Israel's sociale voorzieningen op de voorgrond stelde. Voorts was er de
ongelooflijke prestatie van Yuval Diskin, directeur van onze Geheime Dienst.
Hij kreeg nog niet de Nobelprijs -misschien volgend jaar? - maar een andere,
een interne voor het ontwikkelen van werkelijk verbluffende software die me
doet denken aan science fiction. Diskin toverde even software die informatie
zoals deze bij Geheime Diensten binnenkomt met supersnelheid omzet in een plan
de campagne, zodat meteen militair ingegrepen kan worden om de vijand te
dwarsbomen want vechten dat doet de computer voorlopig niet, we moeten dat nog
zelf doen. . Diskin wist precies wat wij hier nodig hebben, wist dat onze
tijd ten zeerste beperkt is omdat deze grotendeels wordt opgeslokt door de
essentie van Jeruzalem.
Wiesje de Lange
N.I.W. dd 22. 07.2005
NRC Handelsblad dd 20.07.2005