Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
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May the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart find favor before You (Psalms 19:15).
Why must we verbalize prayer? Since God knows our innermost thoughts, why don't we just meditate? Furthermore, why should we pray at all? Since God knows what is best for us, we should just trust that He will provide that which we need.
Let us consider the second question first. We do not pray in order to inform God of anything, for indeed He knows our needs better than we do. We pray in order to make ourselves aware of our dependence upon God. We are always at risk of deluding ourselves that we have control of our destinies. We may think that what we do and what transpires are indeed cause and effect. We therefore need to be reminded frequently that except where the principle of moral free choice applies, our destinies are controlled by God.
Why verbalize prayer? Speech alone characterizes us as humans and distinguishes us from lower forms of life. Animals undoubtedly think and feel, but only humans can speak. As we stand before God, we need to remember that we are human, and that as humans our goals and behavior should have the dignity of humanity. If we only pray for our physical needs and welfare, we have not advanced beyond the animal stage, and we are then what science calls Homo sapiens - intellectual animals, but animals nevertheless. We need to remember that we are much more than Homo sapiens, for we can aspire to spiritual achievements and goals.
Today I shall ... ... think about the meaning of prayer and realize that I am a being who is capable of spirituality, and that while my physical life is dependent upon God, I am responsible for my spiritual development.
ISRAEL, U.S. SLATED TO LEAVE UNESCO TODAY TO PROTEST ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS
Both countries announced their withdrawal plan in 2017 and have not indicated any intention to shift that decision in advance of the December 31st deadline.BY TOVAH LAZAROFF DECEMBER 31, 2018
Israel and the United States are slated to leave the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific organization today over its anti-Israel bias.
Israel's Foreign Ministry is expected to make an announcement on the matter later today.
Israel has been a member state of UNESCO since 1949. In the last 17 years, the global cultural body has registered nine sites within the country on its World Heritage List.
But it's pro-Palestinian stances has created increasing friction with both countries.
In 2011, both countries halted payment of their annual fees after UNESCO became the first UN body to recognize Palestine as a state in 2011. Israel now owes UNESCO $8.5 million.
Both countries lost voting rights in the organization in 2013 over their failure to pay dues, but maintained all other participation rights.
The situation intensified in 2016 after the Palestinian Authority and the Arab states pushed forward resolutions at the United Nations Executive Board that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, describing the most holy sites in Judaism solely by their Muslim names of al-Haram al-Sharif and the Buraq Plaza. They also passed texts disavowing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Already in October, however, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was fairly blunt in starting that the annex compromise did not go far enough, because it still allowed for problematic language to move forward.
In June of this year UNESCO launched its first policy guide for educators on antisemitism. It also held a forum on antisemitism on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's opening session in New York.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, boycotted the session, which was attended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other heads of state.
At the time Netanyahu said,"Since 2009, UNESCO has passed 71 resolutions condemning Israel and only two resolutions condemning all other countries combined. This is simply outrageous.
"The mark of antisemitism was once singling out the Jewish people for slander and condemnation. The mark of antisemitism today is singling out the Jewish state for slander and condemnation," Netanyahu said.
"No matter what UNESCO says, the Western Wall is not occupied Palestinian territory, and the Cave of the Patriarchs – the burial site of Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah – is not a Palestinian Heritage Site.
"In withdrawing from UNESCO in 2017, Israel and the United States made a clear moral statement that UNESCO's antisemitism will no longer be tolerated. If and when UNESCO ends its bias against Israel, stops denying history and starts standing up for the truth, Israel will be honored to rejoin. Until then, Israel will fight antisemitism at UNESCO and everywhere else," he said.
In the past I have frequently criticized the appalling misuse of rabbinic authority in the chareidi world. In fact, this was one of the reasons for my leaving it. Over a decade ago, I joined the dati-leumi (religious Zionist) community, in which I have been very happy.
It is therefore with great distress that I am writing about a deeply upsetting misuse of rabbinic authority in the dati-leumi world. There is still an enormous difference between the two worlds - this particular wrongdoing is being loudly and publicly discussed by many people in the dati-leumi world, including in the dati-leumi media, which would never happen in the charedi world. But it is nevertheless a stain.
Several years ago, the charismatic and brilliant teacher Rabbi Motti Elon was accused of inappropriate behavior with students. Takana - a religious organization that deals with abuse in the dati-leumi community, under the guidance of Rav Aharon Lichtensteinztz"l - investigated and decided that he was guilty. The police also launched an investigation and Elon was convicted of two counts of sexual molestation.
At the time, Rav Chaim Drukman - one of the most prestigious rabbinic figures in the dati-leumi world, and a recipient of the Israel Prize for his contributions to society and education - believed that Alon had been wrongly accused. He stated so publicly and challenged the legitimacy of Takana, which became (along with Rav Lichtenstein) the subject of slurs and threats. Significantly, Rav Drukman also supported Elon to continue teaching. There was a lot of anger against Rav Drukman, especially in light of the fact that in handling the case of another abuser, many years earlier, he had likewise acted incorrectly. But Rav Drukman clearly sincerely believed that Elon was innocent, and it was hard to absolutely conclusively prove otherwise.
A few weeks ago, yet another person came forward with an account about Elon. This time, he had recordings of Elon's behavior. He went to Rav Drukman, Rav Shmuel Eliyahu and Rav Yaakov Ariel, and they summoned Elon. Faced with the recordings, Elon had to confess.
Now, at this point, it was obviously clear that all the accusations against Elon had been true all along. Rav Drukman had made a terrible, terrible mistake. And as a result, there had been further victims. And good people had been baselessly slandered.
What would be the appropriate course of action for Rav Drukman? At the very least, a public and profound apology for all the harm that had been caused as a result of his mistake. And yet he has made no public statement at all!
This has caused immense distress for countless people in the dati-leumi world, aside from being an enormous chillul Hashem. And with Bayit Yehudi shamelessly promoting Rav Drukman as the rabbinic head of the party, it's no wonder that many dati-leumi voters are jumping ship along with Bennet and Shaked.
By now, it's already probably too late to apologize. Yes, Rav Drukman is an amazing person, with incredible accomplishments - but that just makes it all the more painful that he caused so much harm and has not reacted appropriately. The only way to repair at least some of the harm would be for Rav Drukman to take personal responsibility, and step down from public leadership.
As a wise uncle once said, with great power comes great responsibility. And with great responsibility comes great accountability.
Rationalist Judaism: The Holy Land, the Holy City and the Holy Temple
The Land of Israel is known as the Holy Land, Jerusalem is the Holy City, and the Temple Mount is the holiest place of all. But what does that actually mean?
Do these places possess an intrinsic, metaphysical sanctity, embedded in them since Creation? That is the mystical view presented by R. Yehudah HaLevi in the Kuzari (V:23). It is the view taken as a given by countless rabbinic authorities over the ages, and popularly assumed today to be the only conceivable approach.
Rambam, on the other hand, was of the view that the sanctity of these places is not a metaphysical quality. Rather, it is a status that stems from their historical role. When Rambam stresses that the site of the altar must never be moved, the reason that he gives is not that it possesses inherent metaphysical significance. Rather, it is because of the history of the site, in terms of the events that took place there—the placement of the altar there by David and Solomon, the usage of that site by Avraham, and so on (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 2:1-2).
And the original selection of these sites could have been for relatively mundane reasons. Rambam's explanation for the selection of the Temple Mount will no doubt come as a shock to many: "It is known that idolaters sought to build their temples and to set up their idols in the highest places they could find there, on the highest mountains. Therefore Avraham Avinu selected Mount Moriah, because of its being the highest mountain there, and proclaimed on it the unity of God." (Guide for the Perplexed 3:45) Within Mount Moriah, Avraham decided that any divine worship would take place facing the west, and the the Temple itself was eventually situated there. The reason for this was again not connected to any special metaphysical properties of the westernmost part, but for a different reason entirely: "Avraham designated the western part of it, that the Holy of Holies would be in the west… And it appears to me that the reason for this was that the popular view in the world at that time was to worship the sun as a god, and so people undoubtedly turned in prayer to the east. Therefore, Avraham Avinu turned to the west on Har HaMoriah—that is to say, in the Sanctuary—in order to have his back to the sun." (ibid.) The consequence of Rambam's view, that the sanctity of the Land is a function of its usage rather than due to any intrinsic metaphysical qualities, is that this sanctity can disappear: "All territories held by those who came up from Egypt, and consecrated with the first consecration, subsequently lost their sanctity when the people were exiled from there, since it was consecrated at the time due to the conquest alone and was not consecrated for all time. When the exiles returned and seized part of the land, they consecrated it a second time with a permanent consecration, both for that time and the future. " (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Terumot 1:5) This view on the nature of the sanctity of the Land of Israel is not unique to Rambam, nor to the medieval philosophers. The same view is to be found in the writings of Rav Soloveitchik: "With all my respect to the [views of certain] Rishonim, I must disagree that kedusha is an objective metaphysical quality inherent in the land. Kedusha… is man-made; more accurately, it is a historical category. Soil is sanctified by historical deeds performed by a sacred people, never by a primordial superiority. Kedushat Ha'aretz denotes the consequence of a human act." (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Emergence of Ethical Man, p. 150) It is crucial to stress that this does not mean that according to the rationalist approach, the Land of Israel or Jerusalem or the Temple Mount are any less holy than according to the mystical approach. Rather, it is simply a different perspective on what the nature of holiness is all about.
(Adapted from my forthcoming book Rationalism vs. Mysticism: Schisms in Traditional Rabbinic Thought. For extensive discussion, see Menachem Kellner's important work, Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism, pp. 107-115. He also references numerous other studies on this topic.)
Israel's Brain-Gain; No Brain-Drain
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative" Straight from the Jerusalem Boardroom #234, https://bit.ly/2VfFw89 December 28, 2018, previous Boardroom issues: https://bit.ly/2NB51fk 1. According to Adam Reuter, Chairman of "Financial Immunities" and author of the 2018 Israel - Island of Success (Globes Business Daily, Dec. 19, 2018): Israel is not afflicted by brain-drain, but benefits from brain-gain.
While Israel's establishment documents net-migration of higher-education Israelis, it fails to document the massive influx of higher-education Olim (Jewish immigrants). About 2/3 of the Olim - 18-years-old and older - have gone through higher education. For instance, in 2015, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics reported a brain-drain of 1,360 higher-education Israelis, ignoring the 14,870 higher-education Olim, who arrived in 2015, 48% of whom possessed graduate degrees and PhDs.
While the ratio of higher-education Israelis (compared to the entire population) ranks third in the world, following Japan and Canada, the ratio of higher-education Olim is significantly higher than the rest of Israel's population. Over 25% of the Olim are experienced in the critical areas of hightech, engineering, computer science, medicine and health.
From 1980-2010, 30,000 higher-education Israelis emigrated (the total of exiting, minus returning Israelis), while 290,000 higher-education Olim arrived from the USSR, France, the USA, etc.. Considering the 25,000 higher-education Olim who emigrated, there was a net brain-gain of 235,000 from 1980-2010.
From 2010-2018, some 105,000 higher-education Olim arrived (out of a total of about 198,000 Olim), while 22,000 higher-education Israelis emigrated - a net brain-gain of 83,000; an annual net brain-grain of 9,000.
From 1980-2018, there has been a net brain-gain of 315,000 higher-education people!
Moreover, from 2010-2016, 4,000 PhD Israelis returned to Israel with enhanced experience and networking, providing tailwind to economic growth.
2. Israel's 2018 economic indicators according to Bank of Israel: Israel's public debt to GDP ratio: 60.4% in 2017, 66.1% - 2014, 71.1% - 2010 [225% - 1985], compared with the European Union – 81%, Britain – 85% and the USA – 105%. GDP growth – 3.7%, GDP per capita - $39,600, unemployment rate – 4.1%, inflation rate – 1.2% [445% - 1985].
3. Israel's ultra-orthodox Jewish population has been increasingly integrated into Israel's economy, as documented by Eli Paley, the founder and Chairman of the Jerusalem-based Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Institute for Public Affairs. The Haredi Institute – in cooperation with top (secular) Israeli hightech entrepreneurs - is dedicated to the enhancement of the Haredi integration into Israel's hightech sector. The latter is the major driving force behind Israel's economic growth, but is threatened by a growing shortage of skilled developers.
The goal of the Institute is to increase the number of Haredi persons in the hightech sector, while moving them from low-tech to high-tier positions.
The Haredi community has expanded from 4% of Israel's population in 1980 to 11% in 2018, while accounting for approximately 20% of the younger-than-nine population.
While 18% of the working Haredi women possessed academic degrees in 2006 (compared to 7% of the Haredi men), the volume grew to 24% in 2016 (compared to 11% of the Haredi men).
A recent study, by the Institute, on The Quality of Life among Israel's Population Groups, documents a rise in the employment rate among Haredi men from 40% in 2008 to 52% in 2018, while the employment rate among Haredi women surged from 57% to 75% over the past decade. However, despite the rise in employment, the majority of Haredi Israelis remain employed in lower-level positions.
According to tests and evaluations conducted by the Haredi Institute, the graduates of Haredi seminaries - in the computer science track - demonstrate talent, strong work ethics and ambition equal to the secular population.
The Beatles - Something
Music video by The Beatles performing Something. (C) 2015 Calderstone Productions Limited (a division of Universal Music Group) / Apple Films Ltd.
The Untold Story of Zipporah, Wife of Moses By Levi Avtzon
In the Book of Exodus, we are introduced to Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, wife of Moses and mother of their two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.
Zipporah literally means "bird," and just as the blood of a bird purifies a home that is covered in leprosy, Zipporah cleansed her father's home from idols.1 Alternatively, just as a bird is admired for its beauty, so was Zipporah admired for her loveliness.2
How Moses Met Zipporah
Scripture describes how, after Moses protected Jethro's daughters from shepherds who did not allow them to access the local well, Jethro "gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses."3
The Midrash provides a fascinating backstory of how this union came to be. When Moses showed up in Midian and admitted to Jethro that he was fleeing from Pharaoh, Jethro—who was an advisor to Pharaoh at the time—threw him into a pit and left him there to die of starvation.
Zipporah had compassion on Moses and brought him bread and water. After 10 years, she turned to her father and said: "This Hebrew who has been jailed in the pit for the past 10 years, nobody has come around asking for him. [Hence, it is no longer dangerous to have him in our home.] If it is good in your eyes, Father, let us send for him and see if he is alive or dead!"
Jethro hadn't known of his daughter's kindness to Moses, so he was quite shocked: "Is it possible for a man to be locked up for 10 years and survive without food?"
His daughter replied: "Father, haven't you heard that the G‑d of the Hebrews is great and awesome, and does miracles for them all the time? He saved Abraham from the fire, Isaac from the sword and Jacob from the angel who fought him. And how about this very Moses who was saved from the Nile and from the sword of Pharaoh? I'm sure that G‑d could have saved him now as well."
Indeed, they went to the pit and found Moses alive, standing and praying to the G‑d of his fathers. He was taken out, cleaned, given a haircut and brought to the family table for a meal.
It was then that Moses asked for Zipporah's hand in marriage. She had kept him alive and shown him great kindness.4
Another Midrash shares that when Moses first showed up in Jethro's home, Zipporah felt a deep love for him. She asked her father to allow her to marry him, which he did.5
Zipporah's Courageous Act
After Moses was informed by G‑d that he would be the redeemer of the Jewish people, Moses, together with his wife and children, left the comfort of Midian to travel down to Egypt where the Jews were enslaved. This was a risky journey, which Zipporah courageously joined.
One night, while they were staying in an inn, an angel of G‑d came to kill Moses. Zipporah realized that he was being punished for not circumcising their newborn son. (Moses had delayed the brit milah due to the rigors of travel.) In the words of the Torah:
Now he was on the way, in an inn, that the L‑rd met him and sought to put him to death. So, Zipporah took a sharp stone and severed her son's foreskin and cast it to his feet…6
Thus, with quick thinking, Zipporah saved her husband's life by giving their son a brit milah. The leader and redeemer of the Jewish people was twice saved by this holy woman!
Staying Behind in Midian
As Moses neared Egypt, he was greeted by his older brother, Aaron, who reprimanded him for bringing his family along to Egypt: "We are pained by those already here, and you bring more people to this terrible situation?"7 Zipporah and their two sons Gershom and Eliezer traveled back to her father's home in Midian. She would not see her husband and the Jewish nation for more than a year, until after the exodus and the splitting of the sea (and according to some opinions, the giving of the Torah at Sinai as well).
The next time we hear of Zipporah is when the Torah tells us that Jethro came to join the people of Israel.8 Together with him came his daughter and grandsons, Moses' wife and children. The last time they saw their husband and father, he was an unknown and private man. Now, he was the leader of the Jewish people, "Moses, our Teacher." This would demand tremendous sacrifice, as we find later in the Torah . . .
The Ultimate Sacrifice
In the Book of Numbers, we read: "Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses regarding the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman."9
According to tradition, the woman in question was none other than Zipporah.10
What were they saying about her? The Torah continues to say that they were actually not talking about her, but rather about their brother Moses: "They said, 'Has the L‑rd spoken only to Moses? Hasn't He spoken to us too? [So why did he separate from his spouse, whereas we haven't!]'"
What were they speaking about? Rashi tells us that Moses had divorced his wife:
How did she [Miriam] know that Moses had separated from his wife? R. Nathan says: Miriam was beside Zipporah when Moses was told that Eldad and Medad [newly appointed prophets] were prophesying in the camp. When Zipporah heard this, she said, "Woe to their wives if they are required to prophesy, for they will separate from their wives just as my husband separated from me."
From this, Miriam knew [about it] and told Aaron.11
In truth, however, it was only Moses who was required to separate from his wife in order to be constantly "on call," ready to speak to G‑d at any moment. Other prophets remained married and led normal family lives.
In the end, Zipporah made the ultimate sacrifice. Unlike every other prophet, her husband had to be in constant communication with G‑d, which did not leave room for anything else in his life. It was thanks to her kindness, courage and sacrifice that the Jewish people were gifted with the eternal leadership and influence of our greatest teacher: Moses.