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Angelina Jolie’s decision: weighing the pros and cons.
Genetic testing can help predict many diseases and one day may help prevent them, but privacy concerns and fears of abuse could derail the technology’s potential… the American Cancer Society said that a woman has a 12 percent chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. That risk jumps to between 50 percent and 85 percent if the woman is genetically predisposed to the disease.CNN, Genetic Tests may Bring Hope, Inspire Fear, January 29, 2007
There are very few personal repercussions for testing positive for recessively inherited diseases, such as Tay-Sachs or cystic fibrosis, since the person himself is not sick. (See “The Ethics of Genetic Screening”). While the finding of an abnormal recessive gene raises the specter of disease in the patient’s offspring, the repercussions of finding a harmful dominant gene is that the patient himself is at risk for developing a deadly disease.
For instance, most cases of breast cancer arise in women without first-degree relatives (e.g. mother or sister) who have previously developed the disease. Nevertheless, a small percentage of cases of breast cancer are believed to be caused by dominantly inherited abnormal genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2, which have a higher frequency in the Ashkenazi Jewish population than in the general population. The gene, which affects men and women, is passed from one of the parents to the offspring. A woman with one of the BRCA genes has a significantly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers during her lifetime.
Screening for genes such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 that predispose to dominantly inherited disease raises an additional, even more difficult, set of ethical problems that do not apply to Tay-Sachs testing.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mass Screening
There are good reasons to encourage mass screening of women for the breast and ovarian cancer genes. If women who test positive are alerted to their increased risk of developing potentially deadly cancers, they may practice increased diagnostic vigilance. They may begin a strict mammography regimen to detect breast cancer early and undergo periodic pelvic ultrasounds to detect ovarian cancer. Genetic screening might also allow for implementation of preventive measures such as prophylactic mastectomy and oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) in women testing positive. Additionally, the patient might be better informed to decide on therapy if she develops breast cancer.
The reasons to discourage mass screening are multiple. At the present, despite advances in mammography and ultrasound, there is no absolutely reliable method of early diagnosis, nor is there an absolutely reliable method of prevention of breast or ovarian cancer.  Even prophylactic bilateral total mastectomy, a very invasive and disfiguring operation that Jewish law permits in certain situations,  cannot completely eliminate the risk of breast cancer.
Removal of both ovaries, in addition to being abdominal surgery, exposes the woman to the morbidity of estrogen deficiency (premature menopause) and the associated increased risks of osteoporosis. Nevertheless, prophylactic surgery does significantly decrease the probability of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
It is important to recognize that prophylactic removal of the ovaries presents a more serious question in Jewish law, since although most leading rabbis hold that sirus (“castration”) in a woman is a rabbinic prohibition, others, such as the Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu Kremer), ruled that it is a Biblical prohibition. “Thus one has to have a sufficiently good reason to permit it and, in the case of the BRCA genes, the reasons are not compelling enough.” 
Even if we decide that it is advisable to screen for the BRCA genes, it is debatable which groups we should screen. Our choices range from the entire population, men and women, to only the highest risk populations. Screening the entire population would offer a very low yield for very high cost. It is currently considered most prudent to only screen men or women with a significant family history of specific cancers, minimizing the occurrences of false negatives,  allowing those testing positive to be extra vigilant, and offering at least some relief to those testing negative for these particular genes. 
There is also a very real fear of the social and economic repercussions of testing positive for an autosomal dominant gene such as a BRCA gene. The test might cause stigmatization of the patients themselves and their children.  Issues of confidentiality arise, including the availability of the test results to employers and insurance companies, potentially making the patient unemployable and less insurable.  While 41 states have laws against some types of genetic discrimination, no federal law yet exists to deal with the problem.
There are members of Congress who have been working for over 10 years to pass legislation that would prevent health insurers and employers from asking for or using genetic testing and that would block insurers from raising premiums based on test results. While such a bill did pass the House of Representatives in 2005, it failed to pass the Senate.  On January 16, 2007, The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was introduced in the House of Representatives with 143 co-sponsors, indicating renewed interest in solving the problem of stigmatization that genetic testing can cause.
It is important to realize that legislation to protect people from having employers or insurance companies use genetic information to discriminate against them is a two-edged sword. Positive results could lead to discrimination and increased insurance premiums, yet it is important to recognize that insurance companies currently use family history, a very inexact form of genetic information, to make actuarial decisions. If genetic screening results were available to insurance companies, a test that confirms the absence of a deleterious gene in a member of a BRCA-affected family may cause a person’s insurance premiums to decrease!
From an emotional perspective, the person testing positive for a BRCA gene is faced with life-long fear and might even have the feeling that they are being treated as a “genetic time-bomb.” Were a prospective suitor to know that a woman carried a greater than 50% chance of developing breast cancer during her life, would he date or marry her?
Implications in Jewish Law
Does the Biblical obligation to guard health  include genetic testing for the potential presence of a dominant, possibly life-threatening trait? Does the approximately 2% carrier frequency in the Ashkenazi Jewish population constitute a “risk to life” which would require screening by Jewish law? It is important to remember that the presence of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene does not imply that the patient will develop breast or ovarian cancer, only that she is at a much higher risk for these diseases. A predisposition is not the same as a diagnosis.
As we shall see, since the presence of a BRCA gene only creates a statistical risk of cancer, it would be hard to argue from a Jewish perspective that there is an absolute obligation to test. Nevertheless, if a woman did choose to test for such a gene before marriage and was found to possess one of the BRCA genes, she would almost certainly be required to tell her prospective spouse of the results.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein  was asked whether a man with Marfan syndrome (a debilitating dominantly inherited disease) must marry. He answered in the affirmative, but was careful to point out that the wife could have the marriage annulled if she was not informed of his condition before marriage.  He must find a woman to marry him who is cognizant of his disease and the repercussions for their children.
The woman is therefore caught in the between a rock and a hard place. If she tests before marriage, she creates a potential impediment to marriage. If she waits until afterwards, she pushes off the age at which she would find out her status. If she marries at a young age, the risk of postponing screening is small, but if she marries later, the risk increases. Compounding this dilemma is the argument that she may be obligated to inform a potential spouse that she is at high risk of having one of the BRCA genes even if she has not been tested.
We are left with the reality that testing before marriage raises issues of premarital disclosure, but earlier gene detection presumably should lead to early cancer detection. However, earlier gene detection still may lead to greater anxiety.
It is important to realize that a woman with a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer may certainly follow a rigorous monitoring program of mammograms and pelvic ultrasounds without knowing her BRCA status. But certainly, she would be much less likely to consider bilateral mastectomy or oophorectomy unless she knew that she had one of the BRCA genes, even with a strong family history.
Informing Family Members
If a woman tests positive for one of the BRCA genes, must she inform her immediate relatives  who are automatically at much increased risk for having the gene themselves?
There are two major conflicts that arise, one from the side of the relative and one from the side of the woman known to be BRCA positive.
Perhaps the relative does not want to know if they are at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. By informing a sister of the BRCA positive woman’s status, are we unjustly robbing her of the right to remain blissfully ignorant? How are we to know if someone does not want to know important information about themself? While we could ask them, it is very difficult to do so without telling what information we would be offering them.
A second concern introduces the issue of confidentiality, a matter taken very seriously in Jewish law (See “Professional Confidentiality in Jewish Law”) What if the woman does not want anyone to know that she is positive for the BRCA gene? It would be virtually impossible to inform a close relative about their increased risk of breast cancer without informing them of the affected woman’s own cancer history. Such a case occurred several years ago in a hospital in Jerusalem. The woman who tested positive for a BRCA gene after developing breast cancer at a young age refused to inform her family of her cancer or her BRCA status. Additionally, she forbade the physicians to inform anyone in her family of the need for genetic testing, including her younger sister!
If we respect her privacy, are we transgressing the biblical commandment to not standing idly by as our neighbor is harmed  On the other hand, if we do inform the sister, we are breeching the confidentiality of the affected sister. If we merely suggest genetic screening to the sister (without mentioning the sister with breast cancer), she will surely ask why this suggestion is being made to her.
The Torah strictly limits disclosure of private information to a third party, even though the information is true and no malice is intended, regardless of how or where the information is obtained. This would include divulging medical information to anyone other than the patient. The result is a code of professional and personal confidentiality that is generally stricter than its secular counterpart. Nevertheless, Judaism recognizes situations in which disclosure of confidential material is required.
The Torah writes: “Do not go as a tale-bearer among your people, do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor…” (Leviticus 19:16). Two apparently unrelated concepts are juxtaposed in one biblical command. This teaches us that while there are two separate obligations, confidentiality of communications and protecting others from harm, they are nevertheless intricately related. Because of the potential damage that may occur if pertinent information is not disclosed, the Code of Jewish Law explains that one may not keep a confidence if doing so will lead to harming someone. In such a case one must divulge secrets.
Dr. Avraham Avraham, author of Nishmat Avraham, reports that he asked Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, a leading rabbinic authority in Israel, what the Jewish law would be if a BRCA carrier refused to give permission to contact their close relatives. Rabbi Elyashiv pointed out that there are several uncertainties involved in the scenario that would lead to a ruling allowing the patient to maintain her confidentiality. First, the risk to each family member is not definite, as not every family member necessarily carries the gene. Second, even if a relative did carry the gene, it is not certain that they will develop cancer. Last, there is no completely preventative or assuredly curative treatment for cancer in those relatives who would test positive. Therefore, there would be no obligation to test other family members. As Dr. Avraham wrote: 
It is only a possibility that another carries the gene, and even if she does, it is not certain that she will have breast cancer later. Also, the lack of a method of completely preventing the disease coupled with the stress inflicted on the person carrying the abnormal gene for the rest of her life, make the situation one of multiple uncertainties. Therefore, one may not do anything without the patient’s express permission. Similar considerations would also apply to other diseases and a recognized posek must be consulted first.
Why doesn’t the need to inform close relatives supersede the confidentiality rights of the individual? It appears that Rabbi Elyashiv’s decision is predicated upon the conclusion that the individual herself has no obligation to test! Due to the potential for psychological harm and the reality that there is a limited amount that can be done to mitigate disease, even if it were present, one is not obligated to test oneself for the BRCA genes. Such a level of uncertainty is not included in the biblical requirement to guard one’s health. Therefore, there is no imperative in Jewish law to inform relatives that would supplant the prohibition of lashon hara involved in informing others of the patient’s medical condition.
A Final Thought
We generally approach knowledge as a liberating force. Knowledge is power. Knowledge makes us the master of our fate. But sometimes knowledge becomes the master and makes us the servants. Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler, chairman of biology at Yeshiva University, once described genetic testing for BRCA genes as an issue of “tyranny of knowledge.” He rightly stated that when information causes anxiety, but offers no way to reduce that anxiety, it controls us. In the case of screening for the BRCA genes, where no absolutely reliable diagnostic tool exists, the patient is faced with the prospect that she may develop breast or ovarian cancer, diseases which she cannot guard against without radical prophylactic surgery. Nevertheless, increased diagnostic vigilance may be helpful, and while invasive, prophylactic mastectomy and oophorectomy do seem to increase survival rates. If the positive results of BRCA screening are used to improve health, then the tests are justified. But if they only increase anxiety, they serve no useful purpose.
The famed folk-singer Woody Guthrie, author of “This Land is Your Land,” died in 1967 of the dominantly inherited disease called Huntington’s disease, the same disease that had killed his mother. When Arlo Guthrie, the singer’s son, (now a grandfather without signs of the disease) was offered the chance to be tested for the lethal gene after his father’s death, he reportedly refused. He questioned the value of finding out whether he was destined to die of this terrible debilitating neurological disease, when there was no way to prevent it. Can anyone blame him?
1)While bilateral mastectomy substantially decreases the risk of breast cancer, it does not completely eliminate it. The emotional, psychological, and physiologic disadvantages of such a procedure must also be considered. See the editorial in the iJournal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 22, No 6 (March 15), 2004: pp. 981-983 by Lynn C. Hartmann, Amy Degnim, Daniel J. Schaid entitled: “Prophylactic Mastectomy for BRCA1/2 Carriers: Progress and More Questions.” (http://www.jco.org/cgi/content/full/22/6/981). Also see Hanne Meijers-Heijboer, M.D, et al, “Breast Cancer after Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy in Women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 Mutation,” New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 345:159-164, Number 3, July 19, 2001. (http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/345/3/159)
2)Personal communication with Dr. Avraham Avraham, February 16, 2007. Dr. Avraham explained that because this surgery would be prophylactic and not treatment for a known illness, the husband and wife would need to agree on the surgery.
3)Personal communication with Dr. Avraham Avraham, February 16, 2007.
4)The sensitivity of a test measures how many truly sick people the test will identify as sick. Specificity measures how many healthy people will be identified as healthy by the test. A test with 100% sensitivity will identify every sick person who is tested (even though it may identify some healthy people as sick). A test with 100% specificity will identify every healthy person as healthy (even though it may identify some sick people as healthy). An ideal test (which does not exist) has 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity. That is, it correctly identifies every ill person, but identifies no healthy person as being ill. A result that erroneously identifies someone as healthy when they are actually ill is called a false negative. A result that erroneously identifies someone as sick when they are actually healthy is called a false positive.
5)It is also important to understand how the limitations of the screening test can wreak havoc with people’s lives. Every screening test has a less than perfect sensitivity and specificity. Let us consider testing 100 million women in the United States being tested for a rare (1 in 1000) hypothetical gene causing a deadly disease. For instance, even if a test has a 99% sensitivity and 99% specificity, it would carry a 1% false positive rate. Even with such a small false positive rate, only 99,000 of the 1.1 million positive results would be “true positives.” 91% (one million) of the women whose tests were positive would actually not be carrying the dangerous gene and 1,000 women with the deadly gene would be told that they did not have it. Such errors can have devastating effects. For this reason, any screening test intended for the general population, must have a virtually 100% sensitivity and specificity. Lower specificities can be tolerated if there is a more accurate follow-up test for those who test positive on the initial screening. Since the test for BRCA genes is for the gene itself, and not just for a gene marker, the specificity of the test is virtually 100%. Nevertheless, any false positive results if mass testing were initiated (particularly in those patients without a family history of breast or ovarian cancer), would unnecessarily increase mental distress and possible unnecessary mastectomies and oophorectomies. In the case of the BRCA genes, we test for the specific mutations that are common among Ashkenazi Jews. However, there are other mutations that can cause a defect in the normal gene. If just Ashkenazi Jews at high risk were tested, then the sensitivity of the test would be very high, since we are testing for the mutations that they are most likely to have (i.e. very few people with unidentified defects in the normal gene would be missed). However, if we tested the whole population, we would miss anyone who has a different mutation than the ones that we are testing for and they would believe that they are not at increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer (in women). This is because there are many changes in the BRCA genes known to be pathological mutations. Some other gene changes have not yet been proven to be pathological. In some families where it seems that a gene mutation should be present based on family history, none is found. It is therefore possible that there are other breast cancer disposition genes that have not yet been identified.
6)It is important to recognize that the BRCA genes cause an increased risk of various cancers in men also.
7)A spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents almost 1,300 health insurers, said she does not know of any genetic discrimination cases. Nevertheless, a recent article on the topic of genetic discrimination reported: “America’s Health Insurance Plans believes that genetic testing is important to help guide treatment decisions and options and to improve the quality of care,” Susan Pisano said. “Our understanding is that health insurance plans do not use results from genetic tests for rate setting or underwriting.” But in 2001, in what is believed to be the largest reported case, a railroad company agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that it secretly conducted genetic tests on workers who filed medical claims for carpal tunnel syndrome — a repetitive-stress injury. In settling the case, the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. became one of the first firms to admit conducting genetic tests on its workers.” http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/01/18/genetic.testing/index.html
9)It is questionable whether the obligation to guard health would apply to testing for a recessive trait which will not directly cause harm to the person being screened.
10)Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat II:73
11)A Jewish marriage can be annulled if it took place under false pretenses, such as one of the spouses lacking information that would have caused them to choose not to enter into the marriage. The concept applies in other areas of Jewish law and is called “mekach ta’os,” or “a faulty purchase.”
12)It is important to recognize that the BRCA genes also may occur in men and increase their risk of various cancers.
13)Leviticus 19:16. The Torah commands us to do whatever is necessary to prevent harm from befalling a fellow Jew.
14)Nishmat Avraham, Volume 3 (Even Ha’Ezer and Choshen Mishpat), p. 302, Mesorah Publications, 2004.
Knowledge, Wisdom, and Insight may sound like synonyms, but they are not. Though they all refer to the mind and an accumulation of thoughts and experiences, they have some very real differences in the essence of their meanings and their applications in our life.
Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and data that you have learned about or experienced. It’s being aware of something, and having information. Knowledge is really about facts and ideas that we acquire through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience.
Wisdom is the ability to discern and judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to your life. It’s the ability to apply that knowledge to the greater scheme of life. It’s also deeper; knowing the meaning or reason; about knowing why something is, and what it means to your life.
Insight is the deepest level of knowing and the most meaningful to your life. Insight is a deeper and clearer perception of life, of knowledge, of wisdom. It’s grasping the underlying nature of knowledge, and the essence of wisdom. Insight is a truer understanding of your life and the bigger picture of how things intertwine.
In a nutshell: If knowledge is information, wisdom is the understanding and application of that knowledge and insight is the awareness of the underlying essence of a truth.
Sadly we can gain a lifetime of knowledge, yet never see the wisdom in it. We can be wise, but still miss the deeper meaning.
Knowledge is measuring that a desert path is 12.4 miles long.
Wisdom is packing enough water for the hike.
Insight is building a lemonade stand at mile 6.
Knowledge is knowing how to manage your money, budgeting, spending, saving.
Wisdom is understanding how money impacts the quality of your life and your future.
Insight is realizing that money is simply a tool to be used, that it has no inherent meaning beyond its usefulness.
Knowledge is learning how to paint and using that skill to cultivate a livelihood.
Wisdom is expressing your passion through painting and understanding that art is a form of communication that touches the lives of others.
Insight is perceiving that all things can be art and that creating your art contributes to the understanding and the expression of the essence of the world around you.
Knowledge is knowing which things, practices, people, and pleasures make you happy.
Wisdom is knowing that while those things may bring you pleasure, happiness is not derived from things or situations or people. It’s understanding that happiness comes from within, and that it’s a temporary state of mind.
Insight is knowing that happiness is not the purpose of life, that it’s not the marker of the quality of life—it’s merely one of the many fleeting states of mind in the spectrum of full emotions. Those emotions don’t make up our lives; they are merely experiences.
Knowledge, wisdom and insight all are valuable and all have a place in our lives. The difficulty lies in the fact that many of us are unclear as to their differences, often perceiving the terms and their application to be interchangeable. Being clear and consciously aware of how our minds are engaged may be important to getting the most out of all three. While acquiring and applying information is valuable in and of itself, we also need to distill and judge that information, and ultimately find the deeper meaning and relevance to the whole of our lives. Perhaps the truest form of knowing is in acquiring all three, and understanding how they each enhance the quality and experience of life.
The Universe is Huge And You Are Small (And What That Means)
And I think about how in this universe, there are supposedly at least 100 million galaxies.
And I can’t help but think to myself, “Wow. We live in just one of those galaxies.”
But then I remember how even in this galaxy, our constellation, our sun, is just one speck inside the huge dust of it all. In fact, there are 300 billion other stars in our tiny corner of space.
And as I think about how our solar system is so tiny compared to the Milky Way, I can’t help but realize that our earth is just a tiny speck in relation even to that sun, which is just a speck in the galaxy, which is just a speck in the universe.
And even so, even after all that, I can’t help but think just how huge the earth seems in comparison to me. And how wondrous.
And after all that, I start to think about what’s on this earth. All the varieties of animals, and how even if we’re just counting ants, there are 10 quadrillion walking around.
And how there are 5,702 species of mammals…
And I realize how within all those huge numbers are us humans. A ridiculously low number relative to all the ants and mammals. And even more ridiculous if we are compared to the universe and the galaxy and the sun.
When I was young, I used to get to this point and stop. I would realize how small we are, how pathetically tiny, relative to it the quadrillion ants and the trillions of galaxies and all that… and there wasn’t much more to say.
Most of us live our lives trying not to think about this tininess. It’s uncomfortable to remind ourselves of all this.
But, recently, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I think… this is the thing: we’re missing a huge element of all this. A part of the equation isn’t being taken into account.
Well, let’s start with looking at all the things humanity has created.
To beautiful buildings:
But all that, all that is just a beginning. Because we don’t just create. We also seek to understand. We’re driven to understand. To dig deeper.
From exploring the very space that scares us so much:
To delving into the atoms themselves and beyond:
All that, all that is a sign: a sign of something more going on. That you can’t just look at us as material beings, that live in a material universe (there’s a song about that, right?). No, we’re something more.
Because all of that art, and all of that science, and every other creative and intellectual pursuit we undertake… it’s all a reflection of something deeper going on.
What’s that deeper thing? What’s going on beneath it all?
It’s what takes us from creativity and intellectuality… to spirituality.
Because inside us all, we’re aware. Aware that our thoughts and our art and all that, it’s a part of something deep. Beyond the materiality. Beyond the numbers.
And that’s why we’re willing to fight and die, destroy our own materiality, for something deeper:
It’s why we are willing to sacrifice our own material security to create new life:
It’s why we meditate, pray, dream of a better world:
Because we know that time and space are one thing. But souls are something else. And when we erase “soul” from the equation of the universe, we’re essentially cutting ourselves out.
When we cut out souls from the cosmic equation, then we lose the most important truth of all when we realize how small we are.
We forget that it’s not that we’re small. It’s that we’re actually big. Huge.
Out of the quadrillions of animals and organisms on this planet, we’re the only ones with this awareness. This awareness that allows us to create and understand, and ultimately connect to something higher.
Out of the light years and light years of the universe, even if there are others like us, we’re still a rare breed. We’re the only things created with this awareness. With this specific kind of soul that encourages us to delve deep. Even out of all those stars and galaxies, there’s still an insane amount of darkness. To then possess a soul that not just lives in a world radiated by a star, but also to be able to reflect that very light and use it, and make things with it, and use it to help us understand it all…
That’s singularly unique.
So, when you take into account our own awareness, our own souls, and realize how insanely unique they are relative to the immensity of the universe… when you rip apart all the materiality and see our inherent spirituality…
Then you realize we’re not one of the same out of a vast sea of uniformity.
Nope, we’re more like lottery winners. Lottery winners that have won a contest with impossibly low odds. Like as if someone on earth won a billion lottery contests in a row. Literally. That’s how lucky we are.
We’re like the celebrities of the universe. We stand out, above the crowd, so totally more impressive than everything, so unique, so beyond, so special…
… that we have no choice but to accept that none of this is a coincidence. That this isn’t about math or chance or being lucky, or lotteries. No.
This is about something more. Something deeper. Something that was meant to be.
And that “something” we call G-d.
Also take a look at The Scale of the Universe (very cool site) http://htwins.net/scale2/
1. “If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.”
2. “The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”
3. “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
4. “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.”
5. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
6. “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
7. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
8. “Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.”
9. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
10. “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”
11. “Success is about creating benefit for all and enjoying the process. If you focus on this & adopt this definition, success is yours.”
12. “Really it comes down to your philosophy. Do you want to play it safe and be good or do you want to take a chance and be great?”
13. “It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
J. K Rowling
14. “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
15. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
16. “The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
17. “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”
18. “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
19. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
20. “If you genuinely want something, don’t wait for it – teach yourself to be impatient.”
21. “Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.”
Here at RO, we make it a mission to find things on the Internet that have real meaning — things that take you out of the tempting narrow focus of your own existence and give you some perspective about your neighborhood, your community, and your world. This speech, delivered at Kenyon College way back in 2005, encapsulates that vision perfectly. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did
Is there a rational basis to believe that Judaism is true? In this lecture, Lawrence Kelemen presents a rational approach to the Divine origin of Judaism. You will find out the one unique claim that Judaism makes that no other religion in history has made.
Lawrence Kelemen graduated UCLA and did graduate studies at Harvard. In university he came up with a formula to demolish any religion. When he applied that formula to Judaism – the formula fell apart. You are about to learn why that is so and why Judaism is real. Enjoy!
For more info check out:
Mp3 version of this:
by: Rabbi Dr. Ronnie Hasson
If we look in the Torah, the date (the 6th day of the third month) of Shavuot cannot be found. One cannot find a holiday celebrating the giving of the Ten Commandments, or any specific laws for Shavuot. Even the later works of Mishna, Gemara, Rambam, do not have a special section of the holiday of Shavuot. What then is Shavuot?
Shavuot is the second of the three major festivals (Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot) and comes exactly 50 days after the holiday of Passover as the Torah states: “even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall you count fifty days…” (Vayikra 23:16). Although the Torah says we count 50 days it is really simply rounding-off as there are only 49 days that we count. Traditionally, this day marks the giving of the Torah by G-d to the entire Jewish people on Mount Sinai about 3,000 years ago. However, the date of the giving of the Torah is not known for sure and the Torah never associates Shavuot with Matan Torah. The Talmud discusses that it was possibly on 7 Sivan, even though we today celebrate Shavuot on 6 Sivan. The Maharsha adds that the Torah was given on the 51st day from Pesah and we are celebrating the preparation for Torah on the 50th day. Samson Refael Hirsch writes that the gemara says it was the 51st day. The Torah was not given just on that day but was a work in progress over 40 years. He follows the view that we only received some of the laws at mount Sinai, but not all of them. So we celebrate the final day that we came ready to accept the Torah, not the actual giving which is also why there is no mitzva associated with Shavuot like matza or lulav. It is important to note that initially when we used to still establish the months by the viewing of the moon (which is the ideal situation) Shavuot sometimes took place on the 6th and sometimes on the 7th of Sivan depending on whether the moon was seen on the 29th or 30th of the prior months.
In parashat Emor we read of all the holidays. Each holiday begins on a new line and begins with the name of the holiday. The holiday that we today call Shavuot doesn’t start on its own line, doesn’t have a date, doesn’t have its own section and does not even have a name for the holiday, and doesn’t start with the introduction “And God said to Moshe…” like all the other holidays are introduced.
Some suggest that Shavuot it is not really a holiday on its own it is simply a continuation and culmination of the holiday of Pesah. When Moshe first encountered God at the burning bush, God told him that He will take them out of Egypt and travel to Har Sinai to receive the Torah. In this verse it is clear that the Exodus of Pesah and the giving of the Torah 50 days later are one extended event.
The first time a name is given for the holiday is by the rabbis of the Mishna period as we see in the Midrash Shir Hashirim: Rebi Yehoshua ben levi calls this holiday by the name Atzeret. Later we began calling the holiday by its modern name – Shavuot. (It seems that this began around the time of the Geonim (circa 1000 CE)
The Keli Yakar writes that the Torah does not establish any day to commemorate the giving of the Torah, as we celebrate it every day with our constant study and performance of the mitzvot. The Akedat Yitzhak writes similarly that this holiday was not established by the Torah to commemorate the giving of the Torah. This is partly because we cannot celebrate the giving until after it is given, and therefore the Torah cannot command it within the Torah before it was given. Abravanel states that this holiday is not in commemoration of matan torah and is completely unrelated to it. The Ten Commandments are a testimony to itself and does not need a specific day to celebrate it. Rather the holiday is solely to celebrate the beginning of the wheat harvest. And Sukkot is the holiday at the end of the harvest. We believe that it is the time of matan torah but not the basis of the holiday. Pesah and Sukkot are both explained in the Torah and given specific reasons for their celebration in addition to their agricultural reasons but Shavuot only has its agricultural reason. This may also explain why in the prayers we say “on this day of Shavuot, the season in which we received the Torah.” This holiday of Shavuot is the holiday of the harvest of the first fruits and the beginning of the wheat harvest which occurs in the season (not the day) that we received the ten commandments.
R. Haayim paltiel (student of maharam Rotenberg) asks why we even mention matan torah in the amida and not hag bikurenu (holiday of the fruit harvest). The reason he explains is because on all the holidays we do not mention the mitzvot in the amida i.e. hag hamatzot or halulav rather it is a prayer to Hashem thanking him for his kindness of taking us out of Egypt on Pesah, or protecting us in the wilderness on Sukkot. Therefore on Shavuot as well we do not mention the specific Mitzva of the loaves of bread sacrifice or the Bikkurim rather we mention the good that God has done for us during this time, which the giving of the Torah.
So, what is Shavuot? Shavuot is one of our three Biblical Festivals, that like the other holidays has several aspects to it and can be appreciated on several levels and dimensions. The Torah describes it as Hag Hashavuot (the festival of weeks), Hag Hakatzir (the feast of the harvest) and Yom Habikurim (the day of the first-fruits). In addition to these 3 aspects of the holiday, the rabbis also called it Atzeret. Just as after 7 days of Pesah there is Shemin Atzeret, so too after 7 days of Pesah (and 7 weeks) there is Shavuot, which is an Atzeret as well. Finally, we later added the term zeman matan Toratenu as well, to remind us of the tradition that we celebrate the giving of the Torah. Although today this seems to be the central theme that we focus on, it is the least central theme in the early times of the Bible and Mishna. By studying the sources and gaining a better understanding of the many different dimensions to our religion and customs we gain a deeper appreciation for it, and elevate simple customs to an integral part of our life. God commanded us to take a day to enjoy, to celebrate, and to appreciate His world and the life He gave us, and that is what Shavuot is.
On Passover we commemorate our exodus from Egypt and creation of our nation. On Shavuot 7 weeks later we commemorate what defines us as a nation and this is the revelation of God and the giving of his law at Sinai. There was only one revelation and there may never be another revelation. We must remember this event, which we metaphorically all attended “in spirit” and keep the Torah, the five books, as our focus. Every time we discuss law, or tradition, or we argue whether we should or shouldn’t be doing something, we must go back to the original guide given at the one and only revelation of God to mankind.
NCAD – National Convert Awareness Day
Shavuot has 5 names for the holiday (can you name them all? Answer below), and should possibly have a 6th name: Convert awareness day. On Shavuot we learn that Ruth converted to our religion, found God and eventually gave us our King David and the future Messiah. At Mount Sinai our rabbis teach us that we were all converts. Those of use that were direct descendents of Abraham still were not part of the religion of God and not bound by any of His commands until we came to Sinai and all converted and accepted him as our Master. In addition many people, including for example, Moses’ wife, who was not a direct descendent of Abraham, converted on Shavuot as well. In reality, all of Jacob’s sons, the father of the 12 tribes married non-Abrahamic descendent women, so the mother’s of all the tribes were not “Jewish” and according to our modern concept would all be considered not “Jewish”. In addition Maimonides mentions that when we came down to Egypt only 70 of us where direct descendents of Jacob and thousands were simply people from the local tribes that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob invited to join the community of God. Maimonides describes that this was Abraham’s main mission, to accept converts and teach them the way of God. When the Israelites left Egypt, they there were 600,000 men, 2 generations prior they were 70 men. Even if we assume the 70 became 10,000, somehow in 2 generations. that still means that the vast majority of the Nation of Israel were not descendents of Abraham but had joined the community according to Maimonides. When they all reached Sinai they were all accepted by God and by the people. Our religion teaches us that anyone that comes to join the community of God must be accepted. It is God’s community, not ours, and He gets to decide who can join and who cannot, we don’t get to decide. He decided which people we can accept and which people we can’t accept (Amon, Moab, etc.), and we have no right to change His rules.
God commands us to love the convert, more times than he commands us to do anything else. We are commanded and required by God to protect the convert, respect the convert, and invite the convert into our communities and into our homes. This is a direct order from God and cannot be ignored. It is true that sometimes, as soldiers, we must ignore a direct order from a superior when we believe that there are extenuating circumstances. However, when ignoring an order from a superior, all the more so from our Creator, God himself, we must be extremely certain we know what we are doing. We must make every effort to investigate and research every aspect of the order and of the reasons we feel necessary to ignore the order. Are we very sure that the way we are ignoring the order is the only option? Could there be a better way to do it? Is our current way as successful as we think it is? Have we done the research and investigations to prove without doubt that there is no other option at all other than to completely ignore God’s order? If we don’t have real statistics and demographics and a real sincere research team looking into it and re-evaluating it on a constant basis, then do we really have the right to simply ignore a direct order from our Superior, Superior of all Superiors, just based on anecdotal evidence and hearsay that this is the best way to do something. Can we simply appease ourselves by saying that this choice to ignore the command of God was chosen 80 years ago and should continue to be followed without reassessment. It is imperative that we stop everything we are doing and we immediately demand investigation into the matter, because every day we go to synagogue and pray to restore the Temple, and to remove sinat hinam from our people, while at the same time we have a policy in the synagogue that directly orders us to violate God’s order, we better be sure when we ask Him our requests, that we have a really, really good answer for him on why we are not fulfilling his request. It is true that there are times, that the situation is so dire that we must violate the Torah in order to protect it. Sometimes the verse “et la’asot La’Hashem, Heferu Toratecha” is used to explain the concept. This verse is interpreted to show that in order to protect the religion there are times that we must violate the Torah. It may be that after extensive research it is found that the best way to protect the community and to protect out cherished traditions is to have a policy in place that restricts the acceptance of converts. There are several communities around the world that at one point did feel that violating this Order from God was the only option. However, policies like these should be re-evaluated on a regular basis and we must make sure that this is not only the best way to protect the religion but the only way to do so. We must make sure that our policy of violating an Order fro God is effective in accomplishing our goal so that when we do have to explain ourselves to Him we can be very confident. When he asks us what due diligence we did and what research we conducted and what alternatives we attempted, we better be sure we have a good answer. Simply saying that it what not your choice, the rest of the community did it, or simply saying that it seems to have worked and that other people say it worked should not be acceptable answers. We must be as machmir as we can on the laws of the Torah. We should not be lenient and mekel to simply brush off a law because we rationalize to ourselves that we have a better way of doing things in our modern society and that the Law is outdated and must be changed.
We are taught that if we protect His people (convert, Levi, widow, orphan, pauper, etc.) then He will protect ours (wife, son, daughter, etc.). If we are not protecting His people that He ordered us to, we should make sure at the very least that we have a document in hand that proves that we had no other choice, but to ignore his law. If we ran a business and were contemplating a policy change we would set up an entire committee to spend at least 6 months evaluating the program and then re-evaluating it at every opportunity to make sure our policies are ultimately in the best interest in the company and that this is the best most efficient way to run the business. Don’t we owe at least the same level of commitment to God and our religion, as we would do for our business? In business, would we ever simply continue a program that was implemented 2 generations ago without a full research into it? Every year we should commit to research and investigate how we all treat converts in every community around the world and if we are truly fulfilling the command of God properly, and if we are not, do we have ample justification for rejecting God’s law. If we were called into a meeting with God and he asked us why we are not implementing his policies, do we have enough in hand to explain ourselves, do we have a complete report to provide, or are we simply violating His law because we are just going along with the flow and assuming it is the best way. Today on National Convert Awareness Day (NCAD) it is time to look at ourselves and our policies and commit to God and His policies. Talk to your rabbis, your synagogue leaders, your friends and community members and lets at the very least raise awareness for this great Mitzvah on NCAD. Have your holiday barbeque, celebrate with family and friends and hold your head up high knowing that you did what you can to protect God’s people.
There are many customs that have developed over the generations on Shavuot. Many families continue the traditions they remember as a child, and continue those traditions with their children that they remember practicing with their fathers.
1) It is Permissible to say Arbit before night, and it is not necessary to wait until after the stars come out. For those who prefer to wait till the stars come out to say Kiddush. This year it is around 9:00pm. However, if this would detract from the festive meal (i.e. the children will be too tired) it may be recited at anytime, even before sunset.
2) It is our custom to stay up all night learning Torah. One reason given is based on a midrash that at Mount Sinai, the night before Hashem gave the Torah, the Jews were asleep all night and Hashem had to wake them up with thunder and lightning. So to make up for it, we stay up all night learning Torah. Another reason is simply because it is the night we received the Torah, so we study it all night to show our devotion to it.
3) Some have the custom to stand up for the reading of the Ten Commandments, but others do not. It appears that the custom is now discouraged by many because we don’t want people to think that the Ten Commandments have a special significance above the rest of the laws and that only the Ten Commandments were given by Hashem from Har Sinai.
4) It is the custom of many to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. There are many, many, many reasons for this custom. One of the reasons is that after Hashem gave the Torah to Bnei Yisrael, they realized they don’t have any kosher meat, and it would take too long to get kosher meat (Glatt Mart didn’t exist in those days), so they only ate dairy products. However there is still the requirement of eating beef and wine since it is a holiday. Therefore some have the custom of making some meals meat and some dairy. Others have the custom of eating dairy appetizers and then rinsing out ones mouth with some water and eating a piece of bread before starting the meat portion of the meal. The important point is to enjoy the holiday with one’s family.
5) We have a custom to read Megilat Ruth and the Azharot (the Laws of the entire written in poetic style). Many do this on the afternoon of Shavuot while sitting with their families enjoying customary foods. This is a beautiful and important custom that many are losing and forgetting each year. It is time we reverse that trend and refocus on the important things this Holiday: Family, Festivity, Tradition, and Torah. Hag Same’ah!
Does the End Justify the Mean?
On Shavuot we received a list of laws we should follow. Sometimes we do things we know we shouldn’t be doing, however we have good intentions, and there seems to be no other way to accomplish our noble cause. The Gemara discusses this topic and explains that there are those who transgress commandments of the Torah, but for a good purpose, and those who fulfill the commandments properly but for the wrong purpose.
The second Mishna in the fourth perek of Nazir relates a case of a woman who vowed to be a nazir. In the Torah (Bemidbar 6) we are taught that when a person vows to be a nazir to God, he is forbidden to drink any grape derivative, to cut his hair, or to contaminate himself from a corpse or cemetery. The punishment for breaking the vow is lashes. Elsewhere (Bemidbar 30) we are taught that whenever a married woman makes a vow, upon hearing that his wife made a vow her husband, has the option to nullify her vow, even if he is not in her presence at the time of her vow. In such a case the woman’s vow would be annulled and she may not know it. The woman being discussed in the Mishna took on a vow to be a Nazir and her husband nullified the vow without her knowing. She purposely drank wine (or committed any of the other prohibitions) while believing that she was still obligated by her vow. The law is that she does not receive lashes because she did not actually sin, since her vow was nullified, even though her intention was to sin. Rabbi Yehuda adds that even though she did not transgress any biblical commandment, she should receive rabbinic imposed lashes (somehow different than the lashes one would receive for transgressing a biblical commandment) for having bad intentions.
The Gemara (Nazir 23a) has a discussion based on this case from the Mishna. The verse (Bemidbar 30:13) relating to a husband who nullifies his wife’s vow states “If her husband does annul them on the day he finds out, then nothing that has crossed her lips shall stand, whether vows or self-imposed obligations. Her husband has annulled them, and God will forgive her.” The end of the verse states that her husband annulled her vow and God will forgive her. The obvious question that arises is: why does she need to be forgiven if her husband had annulled her vow? Rabbi Akiva used to weep every time he read this verse. This is because the verse implies that even though she did not actually sin, since she had bad intentions she still requires forgiveness and atonement for her action. Rabbi Akiva draws an analogy to someone who was intending to eat a piece of pig, and it turned out to be cow meat. Since his intentions were bad he requires atonement despite the fact that he did not actually sin. So, Rabbi Akiva laments, if such a person who did not even sin requires atonement, all the more so a person who intended to eat pig and actually ate pig requires atonement.
The Gemara brings an opposite case: If a man intended on eating kosher cow and it turned out to be non-kosher pig accidentally, he requires atonement based on the verse (Vayikra 5:17) “When a person, without knowing it, sins in regard to any of God’s commandments about things not to be done, and then realizes his guilt, he shall bear the burden of his sin.” This verse teaches that he must bring a certain type of sacrifice and beg Hashem to forgive him even if he is unsure whether he sinned or not. This refers to the case of someone who intended on doing the right thing but accidentally sinned. He too, must bear the responsibility for his incorrect actions. How much more so, someone who intended on sinning requires atonement. In summary the Gemara first brings two cases one who intended on sinning but in actuality didn’t and one who did not intend to sin and in actuality did sin. Both these people require atonement for their actions.
The final verse of the book on the prophecy of Hosea (14:10) is “He who is wise will consider these words; he who is prudent will take note of them. For the paths of God are smooth; the righteous can walk on them, while sinners stumble on them.” R’ Yohanan comments on the last part of this verse. The same path that God gives us can be a road that benefits us, or it can be a road that one can stumble upon. The verse does not say that transgressing the commandment will cause you to stumble, but that a sinner can stumble even by following the path of God. R’ Yohanan explains how that is possible. One example is two people who both fulfill the commandment to sacrifice a paschal lamb; one performs the sacrifice and eats the meat with the intention of fulfilling God’s commandment. The other sacrifices and eats with the intention of stuffing himself with food. The first person is following the path of God and it is a smooth road for him to walk on. The second person while following every detail of the law as well as the first person, is technically following the path of God, but for him it will be a road that sinners stumble on. This passage is a support for those that say it is very important for us to try and learn the reasons for the commandments, because we may follow all the commandments of God, but without knowing their purpose we may not be fulfilling his Will.
Resh Lakish agrees that the person who fulfilled the Mitzva with the wrong intentions did not fulfill the Mitzva in the best form however he also does not want to categorize that person as a sinner. Therefore he brings a different example to illustrate for this verse. Lot and his two daughters were all alone after the destruction of Sedom. We are taught by the Midrash that his daughters each slept with him during his drunkenness because they believed they were the last three people alive and wanted to protect the survival of humanity. Resh Lakish believed that Lot on the other hand just wanted to have physical pleasure from them (the verses seem to indicate that he had no idea what happened but the midrash explains differently). Here is an example of two people who performed the same act but one had good intentions (the daughters) and are therefore praised and the other (Lot) bad intentions (at least according to the midrashs interpretation) and is admonished for the same act. Even within the sisters who both did the same thing, one is admonished for calling attention to the act but naming her son Moab (literally – from my father) and the other is rewarded for being discreet and calling her son Ben-Ami (Also meaning son of my father but more discreetly). We are later commanded to never make peace with Moab, while we are told not to incite war against Amon (descendents of Ben-Ami) because of the different attitudes taken regarding the same act.
We are all fmailisr with the concet to rush to perform a mitzvah. What not many are familiar with is the example brought by the Gemara to illustrate this concept. The example of rughing to do a mitzvah is lot’s daughters committing incest in order to repopulate the world. Since their intentions were pure the Gemara even calls their acts mitzvot and teaches us that one should always rush to do a mitzva and uses this story as a case example. Since the older daughter had relations with her father one night prior to the younger daughter, she was rewarded with a Jewish king descendent generations before the younger daughter’s descendents. King David was a descendent of Ruth the Moabite (from the older daughter of Lot), and it wasn’t till David’s son married an Ammonite (a descendent of the younger daughter of Lot) that they had a child who later became king.
The Gemara continues with another example from the Bible of people who did similar acts but with different intentions. They compare Tamar to Zimri. Tamar was not given her rightful husband by her father-in-law Yehuda. She still wanted to fulfill her role as having a child for her late husband’s name. She dressed like a harlot and seduced Yehuda, and had a child from that union. Her intentions were good and therefore her descendents became kings (The Davidic dynasty – we read of this genealogy in Megilat Ruth). Zimri (Bemidbar 25) on the other hand had relations with a woman also, but he did it with bad intentions, to challenge Moses and God, and thousands of Jews died in a plague relating to that incident.
R’ Nahman bar Yitzhak has a surprising concept. He states, that it is even better to commit a sin, if done for good intentions, rather than perform a mitzva for the wrong reason. The Gemara amends his statement to read that they are equal (The one who performs a sin with good intentions and the one who performs a mitzva with wrong intentions). This is because there is a saying that promotes mitzvot with wrong intentions ‘One should fulfill the commandments even not for the right purpose because hopefully it will lead to fulfilling them for the right purpose’ (Tosafot bring another statement from the gemara Berachot 17a that states if one learns Torah for the wrong purpose i.e. to put down others, then it is better that this person was never born). The example brought here is the comparison of Yael to the matriarchs. Yael seduced Sisra the enemy general in order to weaken him and kill him. The Midrash teaches based on the words in the verse that she had relations with him 7 times in order to weaken him sufficiently, so that she could assassinate him safely. The verse then praises her: “Most blessed of women be Yael, wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of women in tents” (Judges 5:24). The Gemara remarks that the women in the bible that are described as being in tents are the matriarchs. Each one of them has a verse connecting them to a tent. They were all great women; however three of them, Sara, Rachel, and Leah, performed a good act with bad intentions. They each gave their handmaiden to their husbands so that he can have children with them; however their intentions were not pure. Each of them did this out of jealousy (Sara was jealous of Hagar, Rachel was jealous of Leah, and Leah was jealous of Rachel’s handmaiden Bilha). The praise in Judges compares Yael who committed a sin by having relations with Sisra, but for good intentions to the matriarchs who performed a good deed but for the wrong reasons.
Finally, one last case is brought in this section, regarding this topic. The evil Balak intended on destroying the Jewish people in the desert. He sacrificed 42 animals with the intention of cursing the people. However, through the wonders of God instead of cursing them he caused them to be blessed. In reward for his performing a good deed even with bad intentions, his descendent was the greatest king ever and promised the eternal dynasty – King David (who descended from Ruth, who was a descendent of Balak the Moabite King).
On Shavuot, we are reminded that Hashem gave Moshe the most valuable possession we have – the Torah. We are also taught to follow all the laws and commandments that God gave us. As presented here, there are several ways to understand what our intentions should be when fulfilling the Mitzvot. We must study the Torah and the works of our rabbis in depth so that we can each come to our own conclusions. It is important to remember that the Mitzvot were given for us to follow, but we should be mindful not only to what we do, but how and why we do it. Hopefully through our proper intentions in fulfilling our God given laws we will correctly fulfill the ideal that God taught Moses over 3000 years ago.
by Abraham Rabinovich
A reporter’s firsthand account of the unintended conquest.
Abraham Rabinovich is author of The Battle for Jerusalem: An Unintended Conquest, a recently published eBook. He arrived in Israel five days before the Six Day War as an American reporter and covered the battle. He subsequently interviewed 300 persons for the print edition of the book, published by the Jewish Publication Society.
If Israel had its way when the Six Day War broke out 46 years ago, Jordanian soldiers might still be walking the ramparts of Jerusalem’s Old City.
With the bulk of its army deployed opposite Egypt in the weeks leading up to the war, Israel sought to avoid another front with Jordan. Hours before his appointment as Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan came up to Jerusalem to make this clear to General Uzi Narkiss, commander of the Jordanian front. The coming war, he said, must be focussed entirely on Egypt. Narkiss was to avoid initiating or escalating a confrontation that would necessitate diversion of forces from the Egyptian front.
The civilian sector, meanwhile, was making its own calculations. Only 19 years before, in the War of Independence, the Israeli half of divided Jerusalem had been subject to a months-long siege by Arab forces that cut it off from the coastal plain. The traumatic memory of severe rationing and heavy shelling compelled the civil authorities in1967 to prepare for the worst.
In Jordanian Jerusalem, euphoria prevailed in anticipation of a swift victory. There was virtually no preparation of the civilian sector for war – neither blood donations, or readying hospitals for mass casualties, or expanding food stocks.
On the Israeli side, thousands of people donated blood during the waiting period. So many showed up for first-aid courses at Magen David Adom that they were shortened from 16 hours to eight. High school boys and girls wearing post office caps and carrying mail sacks could be seen studying house numbers along routes they had taken over.
With virtually all able-bodied men mobilized, 2,000 volunteers turned out each day to dig trenches in areas where there were no shelters. Hundreds were yeshiva students. Residents of the Musrara quarter were startled one Shabbat to see a group of yeshiva students being led to a digging site by two bearded rabbis who took off their jackets and joined the students in the trenches with shovels. Rabbinical authorities had declared the crisis to be one of pikuach nefesh, a matter of life and death when Sabbath labor is permitted. The Tnuva dairy plant received permission from the rabbinate to remain open one Shabbat to lay in a store of hard cheese and milk powder. An elderly rabbi appeared on that day and in a symbolic gesture helped push a milk cart. In a mortar unit, religious squad leaders, including one in hassidic dress, rode unhesitatingly in their platoon leader’s car on the Sabbath to learn their firing positions in case war suddenly broke out.
The woman who normally gave advice on etiquette on Israel Radio’s program for housewives treated the security crisis as sensibly as she handled other social complications. She advised mothers to let their school-age children play where they usually did and to explain to them that if the siren sounded they should go to the nearest shelter where an “auntie” would look after them. The listeners would, of course, be “aunties” to any child that came into their shelters. Small children, she advised, had best be kept in sight.
War began on Monday morning, June 5, with a devastating air force attack on Egyptian air bases at 7:45 a.m. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to Jordan’s King Hussein through the UN saying that Israel would not attack Jordan if Jordan held its fire. The king, however, fearing that his own people would rise up if he stayed out of the war, had entered into a military pact with Cairo and turned over command of his front to an Egyptian general. About 10 a.m., a sputtering of rifle and machine gun fire in Jerusalem was followed by the thump of artillery. Jordan had joined the war.
Israeli troops along the line separating the two halves of the city were ordered to return fire only in kind – rifle fire for rifle fire, machine gun for machine gun – and not to escalate. It was hoped that Jordan’s gunfire “salute” would be sufficient to satisfy its honor. But the fire did not abate. Eshkol told his Cabinet that if Israel was forced to counterattack on the ground, it could not keep any territory it captured. Following the 1956 Sinai Campaign Israel had been forced by the superpowers to pull out from Sinai completely and it was assumed that would happen after this war too. “We are going forward,” said Eshkol, “in the knowledge that we will be obliged to pull out from (Jordanian) Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
The decision to counterattack came only after Jordanian troops crossed into Israeli Jerusalem in one sector and Radio Cairo announced the capture of Mount Scopus, an enclave a mile behind Jordanian lines. In an anomaly left over from the War of Independence, Scopus was still secured by a 120-man Israeli garrison, rotated regularly through Jordanian territory in UN-protected convoys. The hill had not in fact been attacked but the radio announcement was seen as a clear statement of intent.
A paratroop brigade commanded by Col. Motta Gur was dispatched to Jerusalem with orders to fight its way through the heart of the Jordanian defenses at Ammunition Hill and link up with Scopus.
Atop the Histadrut Building overlooking northeastern Jerusalem, Dennis Silk, a member of a searchlight team, prepared to go into action as darkness set in. A dreamy, English-born poet, Silk worked as a proofreader at the Jerusalem Post. He recalled a story he had once handled describing a raid on a Syrian position. The Syrians had thrown on a projector that was eliminated by Israeli fire in 20 seconds. Silk saw tracers and explosions lacing every part of the city and knew that once his light went on it would be the most visible target in Jerusalem. An officer on the roof shouted “light” and ducked behind a parapet. Like a man pulling the switch of an electric chair in which he himself was sitting, Silk reached up and yanked the projector handle.
The light’s beam moved slowly across Ammunition Hill and its surroundings as an artillery officer called down precise fire. The commander of the reserve paratroop battalion that would attack there, Lt. Col. Yossi Yaffe, a farmer from the center of the country, told his officers that they would have to cross a minefield before reaching the enemy trenches. They would cross in single file. It was hoped that the artillery barrage had detonated the mines. But if anyone set off a mine, the man behind would step on the fallen man and continue forward. No one would stop to tend the wounded until the bunkers overlooking no-man’s-land had been taken.
No one stepped on a mine but the savage face-to-face battle on Ammunition Hill would last for hours.
Gen. Narkiss, in briefing Col. Gur before the attack, told him to send some of his troops towards the Old City to be in a position to attack it. The government had issued no directive regarding the Old City. In fact, most of the ministers opposed attacking it, particularly the religious ministers. The world, they said, particularly the Vatican, would not permit Jewish custody of the Christian holy places. Interior Minister Moshe Haim Shapira, head of the National Religious Party, was the most outspoken opponent. If the walled city had to be captured for tactical reasons, he said, the best solution was internationalization. “To Jordan we will not return it,” he said. “To the world, yes.” [i]
However, as the troops began to surround the walled city, its reunification came to be seen by the ministers as an historical dictate a Jewish state could not avoid embracing.
By the second night of the war, the Old City was the last Arab position in Jerusalem still holding out. There were 500 soldiers inside the walls as well as numerous armed civilians. Firing had stopped by midnight but loudspeakers mounted on Israeli jeeps could be heard calling on those inside the walls to raise white flags. At 3 a.m., Brigadier Ali Ata, the Jordanian commander, entered the office of Jerusalem Governor Anwar al- Khatib’s next to the Temple Mount. There was no electricity and the two men sat in darkness that was relieved only by the light from falling flares. Ata Ali’s report was blunt. “The battle for Jerusalem is lost,” he said. A relief column from Jericho had been mauled by the Israeli air force. Jordanian brigades in Ramallah and Hebron, to the north and south of Jerusalem, had been ordered to retreat. All but two of his officers had deserted. The troops were demoralized and exhausted and could not be controlled without their officers. He had no more communication with Amman.
In these circumstances, said the brigadier, he had no option but to retreat. “Jerusalem will definitely be assaulted by dawn and my troops are in no condition to resist.” Shortly before dawn he led his men out of Dung Gate, the one gate the Israelis did not control, and trekked through the Judean Desert to Jericho where they crossed the Jordan River. Had Ali Ata chosen to fight in the alleys of the Old City, he may well have been able to delay an Israeli conquest until the UN called for a cease-fire in place later that day.
At 9 a.m., the Israeli Cabinet formally approved the conquest of the Old City. An hour later, a halftrack with Col. Gur aboard crashed through the thick wooden doors of Lion’s Gate and raced onto the Temple Mount. Anticipating a fierce fight, the brigade fanned out through the alleys but met only faint resistance from a few dozen Jordanian soldiers who had remained behind. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in this final skirmish.
But even as the final shots were being fired, the focus of history had shifted to the narrow alley facing the Western Wall where hundreds of troops, soon to be joined by the leaders of the nation, were reclaiming their national heritage.
[i] Jordan in the 1967 War by Samir A. Mutawi, p. 124
Tue, 07 May 2013 at sundown, Jerusalem Day (Hebrew: יום ירושלים, Yom Yerushalayim) is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in June 1967. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Jerusalem Day a minor religious holiday to thank God for victory in the Six-Day War and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem”.
The day is marked by state ceremonies, memorial services for soldiers who died in the battle for Jerusalem, parades through downtown Jerusalem, reciting the Hallel prayer with blessings in synagogues, and saying the Pesukei Dezimra (psalms) of Sabbath and High Holidays. There are also lectures on Jerusalem-related topics, singing and dancing, and special television programming. Schoolchildren throughout the country learn about the significance of Jerusalem, and schools in Jerusalem hold festive assemblies. The day is also marked in Jewish schools around the world.
On the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, RAJEon remembers the special significance of the Holy City, and why it is the capital of the Jewish nation.
Join RAJE as we welcome Yishai Fleisher for an on-the-ground perspective and frank discussion of competing dreams and realities, as well as occupations and liberations, in the holy and historic city of Jerusalem.Yishai will discuss what the term ‘East Jerusalem’ actually refers to. Can Arabs and Jews live together? Is the only solution to create physical barriers that segregate ethnic groups?The ancient and the modern live side by side in Jerusalem. Yishai lives on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem which is an area that was liberated in 1967. This area has not yet been fully incorporated into the Jewish life of Jerusalem and it remains a relatively dangerous place for Jews. The next stage of that liberation is currently taking place as Jewish communities are being formed in the Old City Basin region. The 40,000 tombs that were destroyed under Jordanian occupation are now being renovated. Yishai’s son was born on the Mount of Olives – perhaps part of the resurrection of the dead as this place that was lost to the Jewish people is being re-born.Jews of all backgrounds and languages are coming together like a big cholent pot, and growing to learn to love each other on a day to day basis. Yishai shares his feelings about being in the packed market in Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon as Jews prepare to bring in Shabbat. His stories of both the joy and difficulties of living on the Mt. of Olives give us an insight into the heart of the flourishing of a new Jewish community in an ancient home.
WHEN: Wednesday, May 8th 7-8pm
WHERE: RAJE Center – 2915 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn NY 11235Dinner and wine will be servedEvent chairs:
Rebecca Buaynovksy, Denis Kay, Lyubov Rudoy, Vlad Girshman
Join our FACEBOOK GROUP https://www.facebook.com/events/631605416869628/
STEVE EISENBERG JOB ASSISTANCE (zhut of Walter Eisenberg z’l )
|** JICNY ** – New jobs posted almost daily as a free service to the community||http://jicny.wordpress.com|
|Affinity Executive Search||http://www.affinitysearch.com|
|Career Services Network ** - Sephardic community jobs||http://www.csnetworks.org/|
|Careerealism - Excellent resource, new content daily from career experts, site has received very positive national media coverage||http://www.careerealism.com/|
|College Recruiter - Internships and entry level jobs||http://www.collegerecruiter.
|Connect To Care ** - UJA initiative providing services for the unemployed||http://www.ujafedny.org/
|Department of Labor - Career website||http://careeronestop.org/|
|FEGS Parnossah Works ** - Gateway for job seekers and employers||www.parnossahworksfegs.org|
|Foundation Center - Classes, networking events supporting the nonprofit community (many free) sign up for a weekly email of job postings.||http://foundationcenter.org/
|Hizdamnuyot ** - Sign up required, predominantly opportunities at Jewish communal organizations||http://groups.google.com/
|JCC Jobs ** - All North American JCC job openings||http://jccworks.com/|
|Jewish Federation ** All Federation job openings||http://www.jewishfederations.
|Jewish Jobs ** - Jobs in the Jewish Community||www.jewishjobs.com/|
|Jewish Jobster ** - Jobs in the Jewish Community||http://www.jewishjobster.com/|
|jInternship ** Jewish internships & learning experiences||http://jinternship.com/|
|Job Central - National Employment Network||http://www.jobcentral.com/|
|Job Express - Dept. of Labor job openings in NY State||http://www.labor.ny.gov/jobs/
|Met Council **||www.metcouncil.org|
|Navon Partners - Wall Street jobs||http://navonpartners.com/
|Nefesh B’Nefesh - Jobs in Israel **||https://www.facebook.com/
|Project Ezrah ** - Nonprofit that posts jobs||https://ezrah.org/new/jobs/|
|Quintessential Careers - Job board, career tools & advice||http://www.quintcareers.com/|
|Quintessential Careers - Links to 50 job search sites||http://www.quintcareers.com/
|SIBL (Science, Industry and Business Library) - Various free classes, events and programs to support small businesses and job seekers.||http://www.nypl.org/locations/
|SUNY Levin Institute - Training for entrepreneurs and career transition, application required, classes are free upon acceptance to the program.||http://levin.suny.edu/|
|SY – Help a Friend Find A Job Network ** - Facebook group||https://www.facebook.com/
|The Angel Fund ** - Facebook group||https://www.facebook.com/
|The Angel Fund ** - Job board and business advice||http://www.angelfundnetwork.
|The Ladders - Jobs 100K+||http://www.theladders.com/|
|The Orthodox Union (OU) ** - Job board||www.oujobs.org|
|United Staffing Solutions ** - Places full-time and consulting positions, mainly in Information Technology, Accounting and Finance. Primarily in the tri-state area. Contact Robert Airley, rairley@utdsolutions.
|Wall Street Jobs - Majority of jobs are in NYC||http://www.wallstjobs.com/
|Young Israel ** - Yahoo group||http://www.youngisrael.org/
|Zindigo - Earn cash online||https://marketing.zindigo.com/ https://www.facebook.com/
|**Affordable editing for resumes/cover letters/other written assistance, biz cards & logo email@example.com|
|** Jewish organizations assisting job seekers and Jewish community jobs|
Join Jewish women, from all over the world, for the journey of a lifetime to reawaken the passion and commitment that have been the legacy of the Jewish people for the last 4,000 years.
The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) was established in 2008 with the purpose to empower Jewish women to change the world. Our mission is to create a Jewish women’s movement that inspires a renaissance of positive values that transforms ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Our flagship program, T.A.G. (Transform and Grow) Missions to Israel, offers women a special gift: a highly subsidized 9 day action packed trip to Israel. Women travel as a group, grow as a group and continue their journey back to their communities as sisters, having shared an incredible experience together. They share a common vision of self growth and personal development to reach their potential as Jewish women, wives and mothers. To date JWRP has brought close to 2,000 women from 40 cities and 7 different countries. In 2012 we plan to bring 1,000 more from around the world. Please note that this trip is primarily designed for women who have children at home under the age of 18.
by: Tiffany Monastyrsky
The name of the parsha “Metzora” is really a contraction of two words – “Motzi Ra” – which means “eliminating the bad.” The idea is that when a person breaks out in a rash or a fever, although things look bad, it’s actually a sign that the body is eliminating toxins, and going through a cleansing process. The same way that the Hebrew word for bad is Ra (Raish – Ayin) but when you flip the two letters it spells (Ayin-Raish) in Hebrew, which means to be awake. This shows us that in our perspective things seem bad, but in Hashem’s perspective He is just trying to wake us up. During the times of the Beis Hamikdash when someone would get tzerat(lepracy) it was a clear indication that that person spoke lashon hara(bad speech). On the outside they looked bad, but on the inside they were beginning the first step to teshuva: realizing that they sinned with lashon hara. Hashem made it almost easier for the Jewish nation of that time because the second they make have spoken lashon hara even without realizing it, they broke out and they knew that they said something wrong. Nowadays we don’t realize the impact that lashon hara does because we don’t break out on our skin, but its power is still the same. It’s much more difficult for us to realize the power because there is no clear physical impact on our world when lashon hara is spoken. The only difference between humans and other creatures in the world is our ability to speak. The power of speech is something that we know is G-dly. In the Torah we are taught that Hashem created the world through speech, through ten utterances. Hashem gave us the same power He used to create the entire universe. When we speak, every word that comes out of our mouth creates a reality that impacts our world. Rabbi Akiva’s own students died because of lashon hara. They used the power of G-d, to destroy each other. Many people don’t even realize the words that come out and many times it can embarrass someone. In class Rabbi Shwab taught us that according to the Torah, if we embarrass someone we loose our portion of Olam Haba (The World To Come) but if we murder someone we don’t loose our portion. How is that possible? We would expect the destruction of human life much worse than embarrassing someone. The Chazal (Our Sages) say that when we murder someone physically, we get rid of the ‘animal part’ of them, just their physical form. When we embarrass someone we kill the ‘tzeliem elokiem’ (image of G-d) within them. We have to remember that a person was created in the image of G-d, so when we embarrass someone we’re destroying the part of G-dliness within them. If we remind ourselves to constantly look for the G-dliness in other people, it will prevent us from speaking lashon hara and from embarrassing someone. We need to force ourselves to see the complexity of people, not just the black and white, but the gray.
Wishing you all a shabbat shalom.
Three powerful videos for Yom HaZikaron Israel Memorial Day which is taking place this Monday April 15, 2013.
by Nadav Nachmany and Dror Chafetz
“Gates of Heaven” based on the story of my Rachel Glick, admired author Yuval Glick, the son of Rachel a pilot that accidentally in 1991
Our Memorial Day Project: Animate a special life moments memorial day of the Beit Avi Chai.
“Until next time” from the album “Fragments of Night” Words and Music: Ehud Banai
Chilling prophecy – in memory of the late Nimrod Segev
Movie Title: chilling prophecy – in memory of the late Nimrod Segev
In memory of Nimrod Segev Based on a story by Ehud BanaiAnimation: Maayan Tzuriel, Isca Mayomore movies at: http://musaf.bac.org.il/project/
How Rabbi Herschel Schacter saved the life of a Jewish boy who grew up to be Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.
Excerpted from “Small Miracles from the Holocaust,” by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal
Union, New Jersey, is a drab, grey, blue-collar town, not a place I would ordinarily visit. But a business meeting had been scheduled in this most unlikely place, so I left my usual stomping grounds in Manhattan and hopped a bus from Port Authority. Now the meeting – which had ended badly – was over, and I was brooding about it, deep in thought, standing at a windswept bus stop with two other commuters – a middle aged woman and a stooped elderly man.
“When’s the next bus to Manhattan due?” the woman approached the man.
Perhaps the older gentleman was hard of hearing, or perhaps he was trying to collect his thoughts. At any rate, he didn’t answer immediately. Instead, he gazed at the woman with a blank stare.
She went ballistic. “You idiot! What’s the matter with you?! Don’t you have any common courtesy? What are you, stupid?” She went on and on, hurling a volley of insults, curses and epithets at the bewildered man.
He looked at the yarmulke on my head, and motioned me to his side.
“Do you speak Yiddish?” he whispered in a thick, guttural accent.
I nodded yes.
“Ze’s an achta meshugenah.” (She’s crazy).
I smiled in commiseration.
The bus arrived, and I boarded quickly. I looked forward to my solitude and the opportunity to review the sequence of events that had led to the abysmal conclusion of the meeting. The bus was nearly empty, so I snuggled into a corner and closed my eyes.
“Ah, so good to find a landsman in Union, New Jersey!” a voice sighed into my ear.
The elderly gentleman had settled into the seat next to me, clearly seeking companionship. “Not too many Jews in Union, you know. Where do you live?”
Probably a lonely Holocaust survivor, I thought. It’s a mitzvah to give him a little attention. I would have to reassemble my thoughts some other time.
“I live on the Upper West Side,” I said with a smile.
“Ah, the Upper West Side,” he said, fumbling for a connection. “Do you know Rabbi Schacter? Do you attend his shul?”
“You mean the Jewish Center? I don’t happen to attend that particular synagogue, but certainly I know of Rabbi Schacter. He’s a renowned and highly respected Rabbi. Why do you ask?”
“I knew his father – Rabbi Herschel Schacter,” the man said with obvious pride. “He was the one who liberated me from Buchenwald. I will never forget that day for as long as I live.”
“Can you tell me about it?” I asked eagerly. Holocaust stories have a particular resonance with me.
“Buchenwald was eerily quiet. We were all in our barracks, waiting for roll call. We didn’t see or hear any of the Nazi officers milling around, but we were still too afraid to venture outside to investigate. Then we heard the roar of military vehicles as the front ranks of the American troops stormed Buchenwald.
“Rabbi Herschel Schacter, the Jewish chaplain, was among the first to enter the gates. He immediately made his way to the administrative offices where the PA system was housed, and broadcast this message in Yiddish over the camp’s loudspeakers. I will never forget what he said: “‘Yidden (my fellow Jews, my brothers), it’s over. Yidden, you are free. Yidden, we are the American troops here to liberate you. Yidden, you can come out now.’
“But few of us did. We were frightened. Most of us thought it was a trick. We couldn’t really fathom that the nightmare had truly ended. I was one of the few who came forward, and I trailed behind Rabbi Schacter in wonderment as he began inspecting the camp with the American generals at his side. An American soldier who spoke Yiddish. Amazing!
“The American officers and Rabbi Schacter were clearly devastated by the carnage they saw. They walked around with dazed expressions of disbelief. With stricken eyes, they stared alternately at the mounds of corpses piled neatly in rows and the skeletons strewn haphazardly on the ground. They reeled from the stench, from the furnaces still hot, from the ashes still smoldering in the air. Groans of horror, gasps of shock, continuously issued from their lips. Despite all the reports they had heard in advance, they had never conceived of or been prepared for such depravity, such evil, as they witnessed now.
“At one point, Rabbi Schacter stood paralyzed in front of a mound of corpses, unable to go on. Suddenly, a slight movement caught his eye. He touched the arm of the general accompanying him. ‘I think I saw one of the corpses move,’ he trembled in excitement. ‘I think one of them is still alive!’
“‘Rabbi, it’s impossible,’ the general gently remonstrated him. ‘Even if the person was still alive when he was thrown into the pit, the weight of all the other bodies on top of him would have suffocated him to death.’
“’No, no no,” Rabbi Schacter insisted. ‘Don’t you see some movement? I see it, I see it even now!’
“’Rabbi,’ the general repeated patiently, ‘I know how much it would mean to you to be able to save even one life, but it’s your imagination, sir. All those people in the pit are dead.’
“But Rabbi Schacter was not easily persuaded. He drew closer to the mound of corpses, and began circling it slowly. It was then that he stumbled upon a small child, wide-eyed with fear, who had been hiding behind the pile of bodies, and whose slight motion Rabbi Schacter’s eagle eye had detected.
“‘I found a child! I found a child!’ he yelled to the officers. ‘A child in Buchewald, alive! It’s a miracle!’ He whooped joyously. Rabbi Schacter knelt down before the child, and embraced him gently. ‘What is your name, sweet child?’ he asked in Yiddish.
“’Lulek,’ the child answered, eyes averted.
‘And how old are you, Lulek?’ Rabbi Schacter asked tenderly.
“’What’s the difference?’ the boy said sadly. ‘What are numbers? Believe me, with what I have seen, and what I have experienced, I am older than you. You can laugh and you can cry, but I can no longer do either.’
“Rabbi Schacter later discovered that the boy – perhaps the youngest known survivor of the concentration camps – was only eight years old. One and a half million innocent children had already been brutally murdered by the Nazis and against all odds, this one child had clung on to life. The Nazis routinely killed all children who entered the camps, and the discovery of this lone child was both a shock and a triumph. A combination of miraculous circumstances and his own steely resolve had kept young Lulek alive.
“Rabbi Schacter insisted that Lulek stay at his side; he didn’t want to let him go. He asked Lulek to accompany him to the prisoners barracks, where the inmates were still hiding, so that he could personally reassure them that it was true: they were liberated, they were free, it was over. He held Lulek’s hand tightly as they walked from one barracks to another, announcing the same message over and over again: ‘Yidden, you are free. Yidden, it is over. Yidden, you are free.
“And do you know who this little child Lulek turned out to be?” the elderly gentleman asked me with a triumphant smile, as our bus rolled into Port Authority.
“Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Israel!”
A few weeks later, I was rushing down the streets of the Upper West Side, trying to get to my shul for the afternoon prayer service of Mincha. When I realized I wouldn’t make it in time, I decided to duck into the nearest functioning synagogue. By chance, it happened to be The Jewish Center, presided over by Rabbi Jacob Schacter, Rabbi Hershel Schacter’s son.
After mincha, we crossed paths, and I told Rabbi Schacter of my encounter on the bus with the Buchenwald survivor. As I recounted the survivor’s tale, Rabbi Schacter began weeping, and he pumped my hand in gratitude. “You know, my father told me this story 30 years ago,” he said, “and of course, I believed him. But it means so much to me to have it corroborated by a witness, and to hear the events that occurred depicted from this man’s perspective. You don’t know what this means to me. You have given me a gift.”
Just a short time after this conversation took place, I traveled to the Catskills for the weekend and stayed at a summer resort called Vacation Village. Every Sabbath, Vacation Village hosts a different distinguished guest, and unbeknownst to myself, the scholar in residence on that particular weekend just happened to be Rabbi Herschel Schacter, liberator of Buchenwald.
After his speech ended, I raised my hand and asked if I might recount a story that I had recently heard about his experiences in Buchenwald. He graciously gave his assent, and I proceeded with my tale. I felt privileged to be able to tell the 400 people in the audience how Rabbi Schacter was responsible for the rescue and well-being of the current Chief Rabbi of Israel.
There was only a short interval that lapsed between this and my final experience with the story. Not many days had passed when I was summoned to a fund-raising dinner I was reluctant to attend. My tentativeness, however, immediately vanished, when I entered the ballroom and saw on the dais none other than Lulek – Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Israel. Sitting next to him was… Rabbi Herschel Schacter.
Rabbi Lau was called to the podium to deliver a speech, but before he launched into his opening remarks, he introduced Rabbi Schacter to the audience. “You see this man over here?” he pointed to the Buchenwald liberator. “He saved my life.”
Rabbi Herschel Schacter recently passed away at the age of 95.
Excerpted from “Small Miracles from the Holocaust,” by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal
Special offer for Raje – reduced regular price tickets
Only $99 instead of $199
1. The Jerusalem Post is holding an annual conference at the Marriott Hotel in Times Square, New York on April 28th, 2013.
2. The conference will relate to Israel Security and to the connection of American Jewry with Israel.
3. Among the guests who are expected to take part in the conference include – Ehud Olmert, Yuval Steinitz, Gabi Ashkenazi, Amos Yadlin, Uzi Arad, Ron Prosor, Alan Dershowitz, Rona Ramon, Caroline Glick, senior editors and journalists from the Jerusalem Post, and others.
4. Approximately one thousand people will attend the conference – almost all of whom are Jewish Americans - influential and involved in their communities.
5. The conference will be branded on the highest level and will be held in one of the most luxurious hotels in New York, where kosher breakfasts and lunches will be served.
6. Below is a link to the website of the conference –
By: Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
This coming Sunday is Yom Hashoah, the day we in the Jewish community observe our Holocaust Remembrance Day. And this year it will coincide with the seventieth anniversary of one of the most remarkable moments of that long dark night: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The Nazis deliberately timed some of their worst programmes of mass murder to take place on Jewish festivals, as a way of killing not only Jews but also Jewish faith. So they planned to liquidate the ghetto and murder all its inhabitants on Passover 1943, to prove on the Jewish festival of freedom that the God of freedom did not exist.
Somehow Jews within the ghetto heard about this in advance, and though they were weakened by starvation and disease, and had only a handful of weapons, they determined on a collective act of defiance. They knew that, surrounded by the German army, they couldn’t win, but they held out for a month, and sporadic fighting continued for another three weeks. It was a turning point in Jewish history.
Great rabbis in the ghetto supported the Uprising. They said: this persecution is different from any other in Jewish history. In the past, Jews were persecuted by people who wanted them to convert. So Jews were willing to go to their deaths as martyrs rather than betray their faith. But the Nazis did not want Jews to convert. They wanted them to die. So, said the rabbis, we must defy them by refusing to die, by fighting for the right to live.
They knew that almost all of them would die anyway, but they wanted to make a protest in the name of life, and they did so with immense courage.
After the Holocaust, Jews, and much of the world, vowed, “Never again.” Yet in the last few years antisemitism has returned to Europe, from Greece in the south to Norway in the north, from France in the west to Russia in the east. Nothing like what it was in the past, yet enough to make Jews fear what the future may bring.
Antisemitism matters not because it is an assault on Jews but because it’s an assault on humanity. Jews were hated because they were a minority and because they were different. But we’re all different, and any group may one day find itself a minority. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Hitler.
Which is why we must learn to fight hate together. We owe the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto no less.
CHIEF RABBI’S YOM HASHOAH PRAYER
On Yom HaShoah, we remember the victims of the greatest crime of man against man – the young, the old, the innocent, the million and a half children, starved, shot, given lethal injections, gassed, burned and turned to ash, because they were deemed guilty of the crime of being different. We remember what happens when hate takes hold of the human heart and turns it to stone; what happens when victims cry for help and there is no one listening; what happens when humanity fails to recognise that those who are not in our image are none the less in God’s image. We remember and pay tribute to the survivors, who bore witness to what happened, and to the victims, so that robbed of their lives, they would not be robbed also of their deaths. We remember and give thanks for the righteous of the nations who saved lives, often at risk of their own, teaching us how in the darkest night we can light a candle of hope. Today, on Yom HaShoah, we call on You, Almighty God, to help us hear Your voice that says in every generation: Do not murder. Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbour. Do not oppress the stranger. We know that whilst we do not have the ability to change the past, we can change the future. We know that whilst we cannot bring the dead back to life, we can ensure their memories live on and that their deaths were not in vain. And so, on Yom HaShoah, we commit ourselves to one simple act: Yizkor, Remember. May the souls of the victims be bound in the bond of everlasting life. Amen.
By Dennis Prager
JWR – I offer the single most politically incorrect statement a modern American — indeed a modern Westerner, period — can make: I first look to the Bible for moral guidance and for wisdom.
I say this even though I am not a Christian (I am a Jew, and a non-Orthodox one at that). And I say this even though I attended an Ivy League graduate school (Columbia), where I learned nothing about the Bible there except that it was irrelevant, outdated and frequently immoral.
I say this because there is nothing — not any religious or secular body of work — that comes close to the Bible in forming the moral bases of Western civilization and therefore of nearly all moral progress in the world.
It was this book that guided every one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, including those described as “deists.” It is the book that formed the foundational values of every major American university. It is the book from which every morally great American from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to the Rev. (yes, “the Reverend,” almost always omitted today in favor of his secular credential, “Dr.”) Martin Luther King, Jr., got his values.
It is this book that gave humanity the Ten Commandments, the greatest moral code ever devised. It not only codified the essential moral rules for society, it announced that the Creator of the universe stands behind them, demands them and judges humans’ compliance with them.
It gave humanity the great moral rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
It taught humanity the unprecedented and unparalleled concept that all human beings are created equal because all human beings — of every race, ethnicity, nationality and both male and female — are created in G0D’s image.
It taught people not to trust the human heart, but to be guided by moral law even when the heart pulled in a different direction.
This is the book that taught humanity that human sacrifice is an abomination.
This is the book that de-sexualized G0D — a first in human history.
This is the book that alone launched humanity on the long road to abolishing slavery. It was not only Bible-believers (what we would today call “religious fundamentalists”) who led the only crusade in the world against slavery, it was the Bible itself, thousands of years before, that taught that G0D abhors slavery. it legislated that one cannot return a slave to his owner and banned kidnapping for slaves in the Ten Commandments. Stealing people, kidnapping, was the most widespread source of slavery, and “Thou shall not steal” was first a ban on stealing humans and then on stealing property.
It was this book that taught people the wisdom of Job and of Ecclesiastes, unparalleled masterpieces of world wisdom literature.
Without this book, there would not have been Western civilization, or Western science, or Western human rights, or the abolitionist movement, or the United States of America, the freest, most prosperous, most opportunity-giving society ever formed.
For well over a generation, we have been living on “cut-flower ethics.” We have removed ethics from the Bible-based soil that gave them life and think they can survive removed from that soil. Fools and those possessing an arrogance bordering on self-deification think we will long survive as a decent society without teaching the Bible and without consulting it for moral guidance and wisdom.
If not from the Bible, from where should people get their values and morals? The university? The New York Times editorial page? They have been wrong on virtually every great issue of good and evil in our generation. They mocked Ronald Reagan for calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” More than any other group in the world, Western intellectuals supported Stalin, Mao and other Communist monsters. They are utterly morally confused concerning one of the most morally clear conflicts of our time — the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict. The universities and their media supporters have taught a generation of Americans the idiocy that men and women are basically the same. And they are the institutions that teach that America’s founders were essentially moral reprobates — sexist and racist rich white men.
When the current executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, was appointed to that position she announced that “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion.” The quote spoke volumes about the substitution of elite media for religion and the Bible in shaping contemporary America.
The other modern substitute for the Bible is the heart. We live in the Age of Feelings, and an entire generation of Americans has been raised to consult their heart to determine right and wrong.
If you trust the human heart, you should be delighted with this development. But those of us raised with biblical wisdom do not trust the heart. So when we are told by almost every university, by almost every news source, by almost every entertainment medium that the heart demands what is probably the most radical social transformation since Western civilization began — redefining marriage, society’s most basic institution, in terms of gender — it may be wiser to trust the biblical understanding of marriage rather than the heart’s.
Relying on the heart alone is a terribly flawed guide to social policy. And it is the Bible that has produced all of the world’s most compassionate societies.
This, then, is the great modern battle: the Bible and the heart vs. the heart alone.
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Shabbat is a time to refocus your priorities and reengage with family and friends.
Wishing you and your families a HAPPY PASSOVER!!!!
Download this song at: http://arithemc.bandcamp.com/track/ten-plagues-a-side
Lyrics by Ari Lesser
The Ten Plagues
Because you won’t let My people depart
From the rivers to the lakes to the puddles in the mud
Because you won’t let My people depart
On you and your land shall be unleashed
Because you won’t let My people depart
A hail of fire will fall from the sky
Then eevery firstborn man shall die
By: Ze’ev Maghen