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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Tisha bov on Sunday August 11
After the creation of the State of Israel, the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, and the influx of Jewish immigrants from the four corners of the earth, is it possible that Jews continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple as if nothing had happened in the interim?
At the simplest level, the question would seem to be based on a false premise: that we are a sovereign people in our Land. The clearest evidence to the contrary comes from the site of the Temple itself. Though the Temple Mount has ostensibly been under Israeli control since 1967, successive Israeli governments have stood by helplessly while the Muslim Wakf has worked unimpeded to destroy archaeological evidence of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.
The Wakf converted Solomon's stables and the Eastern Hulda Gate passageway into the largest mosque in Israel, capable of accommodating 10,000 worshippers. The Western Hulda Gate passageway was also converted into a mosque.
After receiving permission to build an emergency exit to the larger mosque. the Wakf took advantage to excavate an enormous hole from which thousands of tons of dirt were dumped unceremoniously into the Kidron Valley. A three-foot long stone fragment found among the rubble was, according to one archaeologist, "the most important artifact ever recovered from the Temple Mount…"
The massive building campaign of the Wakf has been conducted in clear contravention of the Antiquities Law, which requires archaeological supervision of all work conducted at ancient sites.
The mourning of Tisha B'Av is not for the loss of political independence but for the destruction of the Temple and the consequent loss of connection to God. Political independence and the possession of the Land are, for Jews, means – albeit vital ones – not ends.
The Jewish nation is the only one to have received its law prior to possessing a land. The law-giver Moses never entered the Land. Prior to our entry into the Land, Moses warned against falling prey to the illusion that our prosperity was a function of our own military prowess or our own cunning.
Judah was sent into exile because it prized land and soil as the bulwark of its freedom and belittled the Torah," writes Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Each time the Jewish people returned to their Land, they were tested anew to see whether they had learned from the experience of exile. Would they, as soon as their feet touched the earth, once again begin "revering as gods... the political independence, the social freedom and the civil rights that this soil provides... committing afresh the old sins that brought upon it the destruction of its state and Temple.
We were granted land and independence in order to become a "holy nation" that would be a light to the nations. Israel's achievements in many areas – medicine, military, high-tech – are nothing short of remarkable for such a small country under constant external threat from the moment of its birth.
Yet not for these did we pray. We prayed for the opportunity to create a society that would reveal to the world the transcendental dimension of life. A holy people striving to model a holy life and live with the awareness of God.
In this regard we have in large part failed.
Israel has one of the widest income gaps in the Western world. Our school system has one of the highest rates of violence. Not surprisingly, Israeli teenagers, according to the World Health Organization, are the unhappiest in the world. Their lives lack a sense of purpose or meaning. Sadly, the list could go on.
Our problem is not that we mourn our current situation too much, but that we – all of us – mourn too little for what we are lacking.
Cry for Millennia
"They shall make for me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8). The verse does not say "in it" – i.e. in the Sanctuary – but rather "in them." Each of us is a microcosm of the Temple.
In the Temple, the Divine Presence was felt by the entire nation. That same Divine Presence dwells, however, in each of us. Just as the nation caused the Divine Presence to go into exile through its sins, so too do we cut ourselves off from that Presence through our individual sins.
And just as God promised the Jewish people that even in exile, He would never allow them to be destroyed completely, so too the spark of His presence is never fully extinguished from our hearts.
Our biblical ancestors cried in the desert on the night of Tisha B'Av. Those tears expressed a feeling of estrangement from God, whom they were convinced by the Spies hated them for their former idolatry and was bringing into them into the Land in order to wipe them out at the hands of far stronger nations. Because they cried needlessly out of a failure to recognize God's love, their descendants were doomed to cry on that same night for millennia.
But if those original tears brought destruction and exile, our tears today are the corrective. When we cry for the Temple, or for our alienation from the inextinguishable point of divinity within us, we rectify the estrangement, both collective and individual.
"All those who mourn for Jerusalem," say our Sages, "will one day see her in her rejoicing." May it be soon.
From my friend Ruth Burnell on Yiddish
Yiddish is such a unique language, the original language of Ashkenazi Jews in Central and Eastern Europe. Yiddish is Jüdish in German and became Yiddish about 1000 years ago. Between 1939 - 1945 Yiddish was dealt a near mortal blow with the holocaust. The Russian born Mendele Mocher Sforim - "Mendele the book seller" is considered the "father of Yiddish literature". He wrote his stories, he said, in order to "have pity for Yiddish, that rejected daughter, for it was time to do something for our people." Today Yiddish is spoken by about 2 % of the population in Israel. It even have some words similar in Swedish.
Chutzpah - extreme arrogance Heimish - homey, informal, "make yourself at home" Schlep - to travel with difficulty, to carry heavy things Shmatte - old rag or clothing Schmutz - dirt Meshugena - crazy Mishpocheh - family, or someone who is like family. Naches - pride and joy.Typically refers to joy a child brings to a parent. Nosh -something to nibble on Nudnik - an obnoxious person Schmooze - small talk Zaide - grandfather Mensch - a good and trustworthy person
A mensch, literally means "a human being", usually refers to a male Jewish person, with strong moral character. Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, the world's most famous milkman, was one kind of mensch. He was a good-humored, sweet and loving man. Being a mensch has its root in Jewish values. Being a mensch to our children, a mensch to the people we work with. Those around us see everything, they see our behavior and norms.
Personal example affects behavior more than telling people what to do. In every situation of life, do only what you want those around you to do. That is being a mensch. The world need more mensches. Mensches are happy, content with what they have and well liked. The sum total of everything is personal example. Shabbat Shalom!
"Window Stories," a towering installation made of 550 windows salvaged from across the city, in a variety of shapes and styles from different eras, is open free to the public through September 21 in Jerusalem's Gan HaSus (Horse Garden) on King George Street downtown.
This palace of windows was created by Yoram Amir, Itamar "Faluja" Paloge and Lior "Lili" Peleg in conjunction with the upcoming annual Mekudeshetcultural festival in the capital city.
We've never seen anything quite like it before.
There's a wooden English window alongside an Armenian hatch-window, an Ottoman decoration next to a Christian creation, a frame in the shape of a Star of David attached to an Arabic arch – and much more. There are even windows from the precursor to the Waldorf Astoria hotel and from market stalls.
As night descends, a spectacular set of lights transforms the window tower into a glittering lighthouse.
"On a night of languages, voices and cultures that do not always get along together, [we] will unite to form one house that has more open windows than hidden walls," the creators proclaimed.
The windows were collected and preserved for decades by the late Yoram Amir, described as "an artist, activist, photographer, Don Quixote, prophet, and, more than anything, a lover of people and Jerusalem."
Amir salvaged the windows from abandoned buildings or buildings slated for demolition. Just before his death, he joined forces with Mekudeshet, the Jerusalem Municipality through Eden, the Jerusalem Center Development Company, and the artistic duo of Paloge and Peleg to construct this majestic exhibition unveiled July 7.
Visitors to Window Stories can listen to podcasts in Hebrew, Arabic and English, telling Yoram's story and the story of the window palace to children and adults. Each Wednesday, the site will host artistic and musical activities for the whole family.
On the opening night of Mekudeshet on September 4, Amir's last home — not far from Gan HaSus — will be open to the public and screen a new video by Arik Futterman describing Amir's life and work. The following day, a mini festival in tribute to Amir will happen at the installation site and throughout the city with participating artists who knew him.
Mekudeshet ( formerly called the Sacred Music Festival in English) runs through September 21 and features music, art and unusual cultural events designed to provide a different perspective on Jerusalem.
On Wednesday afternoons there are no lectures at the UK's Manchester University. That was when I often organized guest speakers to come to address the Jewish students, where I served as the official campus rabbi for 25 years.
On one such Wednesday in 1986, my guest speaker arrived very early in the morning. I had the unparalleled privilege of spending the entire day with Peter Malkin. He was the leader of the team of Israeli agents who tracked down and captured Adolf Eichmann.
SS Obersturmfuhrer Eichmann was one of the main architects of the Holocaust. He was captured by American forces but escaped and eventually fled to Argentina under the name Ricardo Klement.
Peter Malkin told me that under interrogation by his team, he repeatedly denied his real identity. Eventually, one of Malkin's men screamed at him, "Your name is Adolf Eichmann and your SS number is 45526."
Eichmann's German sensibilities were offended at this. The Israeli had gotten his number wrong by one digit and he shouted back, "My SS number is 45326!"
How many Jews did he believe himself responsible for killing? To a close friend he confided he was responsible for at least five million Jewish deaths.
Sickeningly and bizarrely, Eichmann insisted to the end that he wasn't in the slightest anti-Semitic. He told Malkin, "Ich war den Juden immer zugeneicht" – I have always been fond of Jews. He insisted that his conscience was clear. He had carried out the duties imposed on him, simply because he was a "Good German."
In 1986 it was hard for me to fathom how anyone could rationalize such a massive contradiction between what he believed about himself and his actions that proved the opposite.
Today, evidence of precisely this kind of denial of anti-Semitism is to be found everywhere.
Two weeks ago, a famous BBC TV program called "Panorama" conjured a Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein moment they had been preparing for months.
The degree to which Britain's Labour Party has been infected by virulent anti-Semitism is already well known. Jeremy Corbyn and his closest advisors insist that they were appalled and doing everything in their power to stamp out the cancer. It was a mantra they repeated countless times. The BBC exposed their lie and provided irrefutable evidence that far from purging anti-Semites and anti-Semitism from their ranks, they had been actively protecting and supporting Jew haters all along.
The same kinds of sinister and clandestine figures that protected and concealed Nazis like Eichmann protected leftist anti-Semites within the Labour Party, across the UK.
In interview after interview, when confronted by their guilt, like Eichmann, they protested with passion and sincerity that they didn't have an anti-Semitic bone in their body.
And do you know, I believe them! Or at least I believe that they believe themselves, precisely the way that Eichmann did.
Another thing Peter Malkin told me Eichmann said was: "Sie lieben kinder" – I love children. Malkin replied, "You mean you love some children." Eichmann looked hurt, "Nein, ich leibe alle kinder!" – No! I love all children.
Eichmann's love for all children did not stop him from sending one million of them to the gas chambers. It's the actions of people that show who and what they really are.
Two years after I heard Peter Malkin's first-hand account of coming face to face with one of the most evil human beings in history, I read in Simon Wiesenthal's book, Justice, Not Vengeance:
"The world now understands the concept of 'desk murderer.' We know that one doesn't need to be fanatical, sadistic, or mentally ill to murder millions; it is enough to be a loyal follower eager to do one's duty."
Coming home from the office every day, with no blood on their hands or clothes, it's easy for such people to detach themselves from the inevitable outcome of their actions.
Today on campuses across the United States and in the newsrooms of some of the country's most famous newspapers and TV stations, "Eichmann Delusion Syndrome" is alive and well.
Jews are dutifully attacked and marginalized. The NY Times recently printed a raw anti-Semitic cartoon. Ask almost any of the perpetrators and supporters of this new oppression and be prepared to be told with conviction and passion, "Me – anti-Semitic?"
Of course, the same assurances that "I have always been fond of Jews and my conscience is clear" is easily identifiable in America's body politic too.
Ilhan Omar and her supporters passionately deny she's anti-Semitic. Rashida Tlaib and her supporters passionately deny that she's anti-Semitic.
In May, after being banned by Facebook, Louis Farrakhan gave a speech denying he is anti-Semitic! He explained that he knows "the truth" and "separates the good Jews from the Satanic Jews."
That will be a comfort to all those many members of the Democratic Black Caucus, who lined up to have their picture taken with a man who knows the difference between Jews who have horns and those of us who don't.
They too don't have the teeniest drop of anti-Semitic blood flowing through their veins, nor do those supporting BDS including its Jewish supporters.
After his trial and execution in 1962, Eichmann's body was cremated. His ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean. There would be no grave, his evil presence purged. In 2019, sickeningly, it turns out Eichmann's legacy and his Delusion Syndrome have not been purged after all.
How Donald Trump Became The First Jewish President By Bruce Abramson
On July 16, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives disgraced itself, and Donald Trump became America's first "Jewish president."
Both occurred when every Democrat in the House voted to declare the president a racist – with zero cause. Their flimsy excuse was a series of tweets Trump had addressed to Progressive Democrat congresswomen – hardly a racial descriptor – who had defamed American enforcement agents, spread Holocaust denial, and proudly marketed in vile anti-Semitic tropes.
The specific offense was supposedly the suggestion that these congresswomen "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came" and then "come back and show us how it is done." Entirely lost in the faux outrage was that all of the congresswomen in question represent relatively poor, high crime districts.
The Democrats simply presumed that as members of ethnic minorities, these congresswomen qualify – not as "Americans" – but as "others," ripe to be stripped of their citizenship and sent back to some other country. That Democrat presumption, however, represents little more than projection.
Trump has a long history of sparring with individuals of all races whose words or actions – as individuals – offended his sensibilities. Anyone possessing even a cursory understanding of racism knows that racists blame all members of a group for attributes they associate with that group. Blaming individuals for their behavior is not racist – no matter who those individuals might be.
Far from tweeting anything racist, the President called out four racist progressive House Democrats:
* Ilhan Omar has repeatedly raised the specter of Jewish dual loyalty, Jewish control, and the corrupting influence of Jewish money – explicit attempts to hold the Jewish collective culpable for these defamatory stereotypes.
* Rashida Tlaib has positioned herself as America's foremost, and most powerful, advocate for BDS – a movement that nearly every Jewish organization across the political spectrum regards as anti-Semitic.
* Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has engaged in Holocaust denial and embraced the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn – the man who turned Britain's Labour Party into the most anti-Semitic major Western European political party since WWII.
* Ayanna Pressley gave a speech insisting that all "black," "brown," and "Muslim," people must agree with her views; those who don't are inauthentic, and should remain silent.
The House Democrats, however, voted to declare these four racists into victims and the colorblind president who took them to task into a racist.
This outrageous vote evokes memories of an earlier chilling defamation: the UN General Assembly vote to equate Zionism with racism. On that occasion, UN Representative Daniel Patrick Moynihan, rose to declare: "This is a lie. But it is a lie which the United Nations has now declared to be a truth – and so the actual truth must be restated…. Whatever else Zionism may be, it is not and cannot be 'a form of racism.'"
The same is true here. Whatever else Trump's tweets may have been, they were not racist.
Moynihan's deeper point is also worth reiterating. A body that votes a lie to be truth discredits itself. The U.S. House of Representatives' choice to defame the president was merely the latest in the stream of lies it has generated to protect the four hatemongering newcomers now known as "The Squad." It may be years before the stench wears off the House – or at least its Democrats.
President Trump now shares a status with the State of Israel and every Zionist – Jewish or otherwise. He has been voted a racist without exhibiting racism. Donald Trump became America's "first Jewish president" by receiving treatment and judgment that the world typically reserves for the Jews.
The unique constant of Jewish history – and identity – is a commitment to a difficult moral code in the face of near-universal opprobrium. Zionism is the least racist nationalist movement ever launched; the UN therefore voted it uniquely racist. The IDF risks its own soldiers to save enemy civilians; the global media therefore vilifies it for every casualty.
Similarly, as HUD Secretary Ben Carson noted in response to the Democrat defamation, President Trump's policies have made truly remarkable improvements to the welfare of America's minority communities. So Trump is deemed a racist.
Therein lies the Jewish experience in a nutshell. The man who came to town championing all Americans, who has never differentiated among Americans, and who works overtime to improve the lot of disadvantaged Americans, is the man whom the House – in violation of its own rules –chose to vote into racist status. Why? Because he was willing to call out anti-Semites and racists as the hatemongers they are.
President Trump is indeed our first "Jewish president." It's a title he should wear with great pride – and with more than a touch of sadness.
Matot: The Stakes in Choosing Where We Live By Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein
At the end of Parshat Balak, Moabite women seduced Jewish men to worship their idol, incurring a plague on the Jewish people. Commentators to Matot continue the conversation in a way which might lead us to check our own answers as to how to relate to those who see the world much differently from us.
Relations with Moabite Women
At Hashem's command, Moshe sent soldiers to punish the Midianites (Rashi offers two reasons the Moabites were spared, a separate discussion) for the damage they caused. The victorious soldiers brought back captives, angering Moshe. As part of his rebuke, he says, Bamidbar 31;16, "these were the women who slept with Jewish men!" The Hebrew doubles the identification for emphasis, heinheina, these very women.
Rashi says Moshe pointed to specific women, whom all recognized and knew to have been partners of specific Jewish men. Possibly, Rashi thought everyone had paid close attention in a brief window, kept good notes on who slept with whom. I think it simpler and more likely Rashi thought the Jews developed relationships of enough duration for everyone to know who dated or lived with whom (and, if I may read contemporary reality into the Torah, for most of the nation to applaud it, to be happy the couples found happiness).
We should not miss the shocking implication Moshe Rabbenu (and his supporters) could not stop some or much of the population from effectively intermarrying. The portrayal suggests intermarriage is more endemic than we choose to realize, rears its head wherever Jews find welcoming non-Jews. Considering it also often leads to taking on the worship of the non-Jewish partner, it reminds us of the care we need to take when choosing where and among whom to live.
Gad and Reuven on Choosing Residence
The last incident in the parsha draws our attention again to the consequences of our choice of place of residence. The tribes of Gad and Reuven ask Moshe's permission to take their portion of the land of Israel on the east side of the Jordan, to better tend their flocks.
Ramban points out the Torah lists Reuven first only the first time it refers to the pairing, in his view because the idea came from the tribe of Gad. They, the more physically powerful tribe, could convincingly argue their preference had nothing to do with fear of the Canaanite nations. In Ramban's picture, Moshe worried they were repeating the error of the previous generation, they assured him they were not, and a deal was struck.
Midrash Tanchuma Matot 5 sees a more lingering problem to their request, which both Da'at Zekenim mi-Ba'alei ha-Tosafot and Rabbenu Bechaye chose to include in their commentaries. As part of a larger piece, Tanchuma objects to how their monetary interest affected Gad and Reuven's choice, and says it led to their eventually going into exile before the rest of the nation.
(Tanchuma knew this from reading I Divrei HaYamim 5;26, which says Tilgat Pilnesser exiled the two and a half tribes on the east of the Jordan. The king who exiles the Northern Kingdom, in the ninth year of Hoshe'a b. Elah's rule, is Shalmanesser, where TilgatPilnesser took cities away from Hoshe'a b. Elah's predecessor, Pekach b. Remalyahu. Even were we to assume Tilgat Pilnesserexiled the tribes from the east of the Jordan on a different occasion, there is still some time before the rest of the Northern Kingdom is exiled, since a different Assyrian king does it).
The Wheels of Justice
Tanchuma assumes a longer arc to the natural consequences of our actions than we might realize. The Midrash thinks the tribes should have considered their separation from the rest of the nation when they chose to trade their share of the land west of the Jordan for the land on the east with the only named downside being exile ten to twenty years early.
A choice whose only tangible downside came centuries later still strikes the Midrash as too tainted by pecuniary concerns. Had they had their value system in better order, they would have chosen differently and their history would have gone better as well.
Rashi and the Midrash let Parshat Matot remind us—as do many other sources—of the short and long term impact of where we live. The two examples in our parsha went poorly for those involved, we can hope to learn from their errors and be guided by our highest values when we pitch our tents or buy our homes, in a place which will bring us to ever greater heights.
The Power of Words
The Torah portion Matot begins with an unusual opening - Moses speaking to tribe leaders without seemingly getting an instruction to do so.
The familiar introduction is lacking. Usually in such cases we have: "and God spoke to Moshe saying..." i: God's speech is not recorded in the text, rather Moshe speaks. He addresses the tribe leaders ראשי המטות "rashei hamatot".
The word matot, which is also used to describe the staffs (sticks) used by the tribal leaders, often refers to the tribesthemselves:
And Moshe spoke to the chiefs of the tribes of the Children of Israel, saying, "This is the thing which God has commanded." (Bamidbar 30:2)
There is a more common Hebrew word for tribe - שבטSHEVET and שבטים SH'VATIM in plural.
Interestingly enough, both MATEH and SHEVET carry two meanings each:
However, since in the original Hebrew language there are no synonyms, there must be some difference between MATEH and SHEVET.
So, it appears that SHEVET is a ruling/dictating stick/rod, while MATEH is a supporting stick.
The subject of Moshe's speech is vows – the words that compose the vows: man is obligated by the words which he utters.
The words man utters actually create a certain reality. The power of speech is a special virtue mankind received that distinguished it from all other creatures.
And speech is not merely a defining human quality, it is also the manifestation of the Divine breath which resonates within mankind.
It is that special spiritual soul - נשמת חיים NISH'MAT KHAYIM "infused" in us by the Creator that enables us to speak and create by the speech, in a way resembling the Creator, who created the entire universe in ten verses of speech.
The power of words is a major theme in Torah portion Matot.
To address this subject to the tribes of Israel Moses chose a way, which is not dictating, or ruling, but rather that which creates identification with the subject and even leads to a consensus.
This might be the reason for the word MATOT describing the gathering of the tribes of Israel to be chosen for this context, rather than SHVATIM.
The question is: Why should words have such power, power which transcends the realm of mere social contact or obligation?
When God created man, he breathed into him a living soul - described literally as 'Divine breath'.
As a result, man becomes a living being:
And the Almighty God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Bereishit 2:7)
It is interesting to note that the commentator Unkolus, deviates from direct translation of the words nefesh chaya –נפש חיה ("living soul") and translates those as "speaking spirit".
The entire universe was created by Divine speech:
And God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light.(Bereishit 1:3)
When we read that Creator "speaks", we should interpret this as Creator causing sound to be heard.
When man speaks, he should be aware that he is using a tool which God purposely and specifically chose to use in the very act of creation.
And in the same way that Divine speech and action are the same, when man speaks, he should be extremely fastidious in keeping his word, in an attempt to be as "godly" as he can be.
A very known magic incantation Abracadabra, used by the magicians for their tricks.
There are several speculations as to the origin of this incantation.
One of them could be that Abracadabra consistsof two words originating in Hebrew.
EVRAH KA'DABRAH – אברא כדברה which would mean "I will create as I speak".
Several commentators point out that the word "neder" נדר (vow) is related to the word "dira" – דירה (dwelling):
Thus, a person who makes a neder is making a home for the Creator."
By using words, which are themselves a Divine tool, man can bring The Creator into the situation, making him an ally.
Let's explore some modern uses of the word MATEH - מטה.
מטה - headquarters, staff
רמטכ"ל - RAMATKAL - Israel Army Chief od Staff
This is actually an acronym
ראש המטה הכללי
Since we are in the tumult of the coming elections in Israel, let's mention;
מטה המפלגה - MATEH HA'MIFLAGAH - Party Coordinating Office
And relating again to this month of Tamuz let us have good thoughts in our hearts - see the GOOD points in each other, and have GOOD words in our mouth for each other.