---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor<email@example.com> Date: Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 4:20 AM Subject: Time stops for Torah To: AAmerican <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The most joyful feeling in the world is the awareness that your Father, your King, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is lovingly giving you the greatest gift possible: life this very moment. What a great consciousness! It's awesome.
Chabadniks at the Ba'al Hatanya Shul have been reciting prayers for the departed for 117 years – uninterrupted
MEMBERS OF the Baal Hatanya shul engage in Mishnayot study.. (photo credit:MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN)
In a small synagogue on a narrow street in the heart of Jerusalem, time has stopped.
The Ba'al Hatanya Shul, named for Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), the founder and first rebbe of Chabad, sits in the middle of a street with the same name. The heavy door opens to wooden benches, the same benches on which Chabad adherents have sat since the synagogue's founding almost 117 years ago.
A plaque of gray stone, blackened and cracking under the weight of more than a century, remains affixed near the entrance, directly across from the Holy Ark.
This is not a regular hassidic minyan, as one might expect in the heart of ultra-Orthodox Mea She'arim. Rather, the men who gather at the Ba'al Hatanya Shul are part of the Hevra Mishnayot of Colel Chabad, and they are on a mission to study in the memory of thousands of souls who have departed this world since 1900. They say they have not missed a yahrzeit (memorial anniversary) since the group's founding.
Colel Chabad was established in 1788 by Chabad emissaries from Liadi (in modern-day Belarus) who were sent to Israel to operate a charitable giving network. The emissaries built up the organization to provide food and other basic necessities to the Holy Land's poorest people. Today, it is the largest charitable organization of its kind in Israel, working with local authorities throughout the state to identify and provide assistance through its network of food pantries and other basic services.
When the Ba'al Hatanya Shul was founded in 1900, the Hevra Mishnayot was created in its current form as a way to thank donors, explained Rabbi Moshe Deutsch, chief financial officer of Colel Chabad. When donors would make a gift, their names (or the names of loved ones in whose honor they were making their donations) would be recorded. Then, members of the daily Mishna class would study a chapter and recite these names as part of concluding prayers.
"Mishnayot are like a breath of life for the soul," explained Rabbi Shmuel Stemberger, who today teaches the Mishna class. "Mishnayot light up the souls of the departed and move them closer to God. We learn for the souls."
While similar programs have begun emulating Hevra Mishnayot in recent years, this is the oldest program of its kind in Israel and likely in the world, according to Deutsch. The group has completed the six orders of the Mishna between 45 and 50 times. The class meets daily, Sunday through Thursday, as it has through wars, famine and any other number of challenges.
"We come in the snow and on fast days," said Stemberger. "People come when they are 98, 99 or even 100 years old, and they give it all their strength."
Deutsch recounted how during World War I, the residents of Jerusalem were starving. His elderly mother still tells how she would go out into the fields and pick a grass-like herb, which she cooked into a "soup."
"One-third of the people died in Jerusalem during World War I. Despite the famine leaving residents without much strength, the members of the Hevra Mishnayot came to learn. That is just what we did," Deutsch said of his late colleagues.
ON A recent, warm Jerusalem evening, Deutsch arrived a few minutes early for afternoon minyan.
His office, a modest space just next door to the synagogue, is undecorated but for the artifacts documenting the history of the Hevra Mishnayot. A sample hand-written yahrzeit certificate from the early years hangs on one wall.
A pencil drawing of Shneur Zalman, dating back almost to the synagogue's founding, is on the other.
Deutsch removed two large black books from a wooden locker and began flipping through them. He pointed to Shlomo Ben-Shmuel from Detroit, recorded 107 years ago in bold, black calligraphy inside the hardcover journal. He then revealed names of donors from Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Massachusetts.
Each name was 100, 105, or 108 years old.
The first volume was arranged by city, with a lengthy 22-page index in the book's first pages.
Roughly 27 cities were recorded on each of these pages, totaling donors from an average of 600 places around the world. Later years included listings from Auschwitz.
Deutsch said most programs commit to pray for donors for up to 60 years; this Hevra Mishnayot never stops reciting prayers on behalf of any of its people.
"We are so careful," said Deutsch, as he reads off the day's names from the yellowed pages of the black book. "We watch it like a hawk. I am afraid of the souls."
Over the years, the Hevra Mishnayot has embraced technology. While originally all names were hand-recorded and then recopied by hand for each of the learners by Deutsch's predecessors, eventually names were typed on a typewriter and photocopied.
In 2016, Deutsch generates computer printouts.
He receives 10 to 20 emails a day containing new names. He adds them to the computer system, yet continues to record the names by hand in the most recent black book.
"It is so cool to see a class going on this consistently for so long," said Rabbi Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering at Colel Chabad.
"Things these days are very disposable. But not this. This is the real deal."
AT AFTERNOON prayers, the synagogue fills with the daily learners. Colel Chabad pays 12 learners a small stipend to ensure they come every day. Stemberger has been teaching the Mishna class for seven years. His predecessor, Leibish Deutsch – Moshe Deutsch's cousin – taught the class for 25 years before Stemberger.
Stemberger tries not to miss a day, even for a family occasion. He learned this from Deutsch, who was in his 80s and suffered from diabetes.
"He came even when he felt sick, or if he had a grandkid, or a grandkid was getting married," Stemberger said.
"Of course, if someone cannot make it, we always have a replacement – 117 years and there has not been one day that we have not had a minyan."
Deutsch was so dedicated to the class that when he was hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center for diabetes-related complications, he fought to be released. Stemberger recalled visiting him in the hospital and learning that his teacher was so ill they would have to amputate part of his leg.
Three days later, Deutsch was back at the Ba'al Hatanya Shul giving the class – both legs intact.
"I looked at him in shock. He told me, 'I am sure that in the merit of learning Mishnayot I will not need my leg taken off.' And sure enough, each day he would show me that his leg was getting better. It was a miracle," Stemberger said.
Ultimately, Leibish Deutsch died of a heart attack on the front steps of the Baal Hatanya Shul.
"We have been doing it for so long because we have faith that is what we are supposed to be doing," said Stemberger. "You have to have faith."
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Metal detectors and are commonplace at most prominent mosques in the Middle East, and more than 5,000 surveillance cameras (and 100,000 security guards) monitor pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj.
While the Palestinian terrorist was being treated for his wounds in an Israeli hospital, the Palestinian Authority celebrated his actions and set in motion the mechanism according to which he will receive a salary of more than $3,000 per month for his attempt to become a "martyr" through murdering Jews.
It is time for the international community to stop enabling radicals to use the Palestinian people as pawns in their greater agenda, transparent to everyone, including all Muslims: to obliterate Israel through delegitimization.
After massive pressure from the Muslim world and international community, Israel removed all metal detectors and surveillance-camera infrastructure from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the location of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Possibly to obfuscate the reason that the metal detectors were installed in the first place -- a terrorist attack on July 14, in which three Israeli Arab citizens killed two Israeli Druze police officers with weapons they had hidden inside the mosque -- the Palestinian Authority (PA) called on Muslims to boycott the site and launch " days of rage" against the Jewish state.
Palestinians, claiming that the metal detectors were a "desecration" of the mosque -- which is actually located on the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam - entered into violent clashes with Israeli security forces. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israel and called on Muslims to "protect" Jerusalem.
Palestinians near Jerusalem's Old City protest Israel's installation of metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount, although the metal detectors had already been removed days before, on July 28, 2017. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
A Palestinian teenager posted on Facebook his intention to become a "martyr," before entering the home of a Jewish family in the West Bank and slaughtering three of its members. While this terrorist was being treated for his wounds in an Israeli hospital, the Palestinian Authority celebrated his actions and set in motion the mechanism according to which he will receive a salary of more than $3,000 per month for his attempt to become a "martyr" through murdering Jews.
Then, on July 23, a terrorist in Jordan -- the country that has religious custodianship over the Temple Mount through the Islamic Waqf -- attacked an Israeli security officer at the Israeli embassy compound in Amman. In self-defense, the officer shot and killed him, catching another Jordanian in the crossfire. In an deal between Israel and the Jordanian authorities, the guard and other embassy staff were released, apparently in exchange for a promise that the metal detectors would be removed from the entrance to the Temple Mount.
The metal detectors, however, had nothing to do with the real reason for the inflamed atmosphere -- stoked by PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and the terrorist organization Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip -- in spite of the fact that the attack that spurred their installation was committed by Israeli Muslims against Israeli Druze. In reality, the security measures were taken by Israel to protect all people entering the site -- where only Muslims are allowed to pray, while Christians and Jews may visit only under strict surveillance.
Proof that the violence was not provoked by measures that were actually aimed at preventing terrorists from infiltrating deadly weapons onto the Temple Mount lies in the fact that metal detectors and are commonplace at most prominent mosques in the Middle East, and more than 5,000 surveillance cameras (and 100,000 security guards) monitor pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj. Furthermore, everyone visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem, another Jewish holy site, is required to pass through metal detectors before entering the plaza -- a protection taken for granted.
The ongoing incitement against Israelis -- this time using metal detectors as the excuse to claim that the Jewish state is attempting to change the " status quo" on the Temple Mount -- not only disgraces Islam; it hurts the Palestinians whom the world claims to want to defend.
It is time for the international community to recognize this and stop enabling radicals to use the Palestinian people as pawns in their greater agenda, transparent to everyone, including all Muslims: to obliterate Israel through delegitimization.
Khadija Khan is a Pakistani journalist and commentator, currently based in Germany.
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