Remind yourself that everything - from the smallest irritation to the biggest losses - are from Hashem and "exactly what I need at this moment to remind me to connect to Him."
No one can do this for us. It requires diligent training. But then, the word "emunah" - faith - comes from the word "ee-mun" - training. The root also contains the word "o-man," artisan. So each time we practice, we are creating something of enormous significance and beauty - a relationship with Hashem
This is why G-d gives us a relationship to love, a wife or a husband. So we can practice loving Hashem through loving our relationship.
The Enigmatic Photograph from the Library of Congress: Lag B'Omer & Jewish Children's Parade exactly 100 years Ago
Jewish children's procession -- where, why, when?
Among the thousands of very old and recently digitalized pictures from a Library of Congress collection of photos from Palestine, there is this captivating picture.
All the original Library of Congress caption explained was that the picture was taken between 1910 and 1930 and that it is a " Group of children and adults in procession in street, some holding a banner with a Star of David."
Today, the caption reads: Procession may have taken place on April 30, 1918, on Lag Ba'Omer, when visits were traditionally made to the tomb. British army tents in background, indicate year of 1918. (Source: L. Ben-David, Israel's History - A Picture a Day website, August 19, 2011)
Title devised by Library staff. (Source: L. Ben-David, Israel's History - A Picture a Day website, August 19, 2011)
Who are the hundreds of children? Why are the boys and girls separated? Where are they marching to? Where is this picture taken? And why is there a tent compound on the left horizon?
Photo analysis and comparison to an aerial photograph from 1931 and contemporary pictures indicate that the children are walking south on the Nablus Road ( Derech Shchem) in the direction of the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. Behind them is the road that veers to the right toward Mt. Scopus. The road leads to a neighborhood built around the grave of a High Priest named Shimon the Righteous ( Hatzadik) who lived in the days of the Second Temple.
The boys and girls come from ultra-Orthodox schools, evidenced by the boys' hats and frocks. The girls are wearing ultra-Orthodox fashion: shapeless, modest smocks. But wait, the second batch of girls, those behind the Star of David banner (might they be from a "Zionist" school?) are wearing more stylish dresses and hats.
Enlargement of the army camp. Note the permanent structure surrounded by tents.
The tents belong to a British army camp after they defeated the Turks in 1917 and were deployed along the northern ridges stretching from Nebi Samuel to the Mount of Olives. The compound appears similar to other British army compounds in Library of Congress photographs.
The day started off cool, and the girls have shed their sweaters. It's a warm Spring day, and from the shadows it's probably around 2 PM.
Shimon Hatzadik's tomb today ( Israel
In fact, the day was Tuesday, April 30, 1918. The procession is almost certainly an organized outing of several Jerusalem schools taking place on Lag Ba'Omer, four weeks after Passover. Traditionally, on Lag Ba'Omer Jews flock to the Galilee mountaintop of Meiron to the grave of Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the most famous scholars in the Talmud. But some 100 years ago, travel to Meiron would have taken days. Instead, the children took a hike to Shimon Hatzadik's grave, a known custom 100 years ago in Jerusalem.
The picture was taken just four months after the British forces captured the city of Jerusalem. The city's Jewish residents received the soldiers as their saviors -- saving them from severe hunger and deadly diseases. The children had much to celebrate.
The parade route today (picture taken from the 8th floor of the Olive Hotel) ( IDP)
"Anyone who could travel to Meiron on Lag Ba'Omer would go, and there take place miracles and wonders. But the residents of Jerusalem who couldn't afford to travel to Meiron have as compensation the cave of Shimo Hatzadik located at the edge of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood north of the Old City."
Today, Lag Ba'Omer is a day when Jewish children still go out to parks and forests to celebrate. In Jerusalem, many traditional Jews still visit Shimon's grave.
Comparison of buildings from 1918 and today. Second stories were added to the buildings over the years. ( IDP)
The houses around the tomb where Jews lived 100 years ago were abandoned under threat of Arab pogroms in the 1920s and 1930s. The Hadassah convoy massacre in 1948, in which almost 80 Jews were killed, took place on the road beneath the building with the very prominent arches.
In recent years, however, Jewish families have returned to the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood.
There are three approaches to Yom HaZikaron that are found in the charedi community.
By far the most common is that which I practiced during my years in the charedi community: obliviousness and indifference. For the vast majority of charedim, Yom HaZikaron just doesn't register for them. They don't know anyone in the IDF, and they don't want to be part of the national community that is mourning those who fell in battle. If they happen to be walking in the streets while the siren sounds, then they may well stand still out of good neighborly relations, but otherwise they don't see any reason why this day should be significant.
For a very small minority of charedim, most of whom live down the street from me, a truly disgusting approach is taken. They will steal Israeli flags from cars and homes, and they will holler and jeer during the siren. The Beit Shemesh municipality even had to ask the police to safeguard the flags in the military portion of the local cemetery, after they were twice ripped down in the last few days. The flag destruction is very, very upsetting to local Zionist residents - it is done mostly by children, but often accompanied by laughing adults - yet unfortunately there does not seem to be any solution.
Another small minority of charedim take the opposite approach - actively commemorating Yom HaZikaron. There is an Anglo-charedi-lite shul in my city which encourages its members to watch Yom HaZikaron ceremonies and visit military cemeteries. And here is an extraordinary video about the amazing Rabbi Menachem Bombach and his chassidic school in Beitar, showing how they meaningfully commemorate Yom HaZikaron: (If you are reading this via email subscription, you will have to visit www.RationalistJudaism.org to watch the video)
I usually do not like predicting the future, except in hindsight. Still, my prediction is that Rabbi Bombach's approach will spread further, due to its obvious ethical value. Yet it will do so very minimally. The reason is that for most charedim, there is too great a fear that by teaching the children about the great sacrifices made by heroic soldiers, there is a risk that the children may want to join the IDF. That is why charedi rabbanim have opposed praying for the welfare of soldiers. There are only a few brave souls who recognize that this fear should not outweigh the importance of showing care and concern for our brothers and sons who place their lives on the line for all of us.
May Hashem comfort all those who have lost relatives and friends in the struggle for Israel's survival.
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Open letter from Yehuda Meshi Zahav to his Uncle former leader of Neturei Karata, Rabbi Amaram Blau
On the occasion of Israel's 70th Independence Day, ZAKA Founder and Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav composes a letter to his uncle and former leader of the Neturei Karta, the late Rabbi Amram Blau z "l, reflecting on the achievements of the State.
To my dear uncle and leader of the Neturei Karta Rabbi Amram Blau z"l,
When I was young, I would join the demonstrations you led against Shabbat desecrations and any other issue. For me, you were the epitome of the general, a leader and a fearless, uncompromising fighter for the principles of Judaism. We grew up with your stories of heroism, like the time you put your head in the Edison Cinema ticket window in Jerusalem to prevent desecration of the Shabbat, and you were beaten with clubs until you lost consciousness.
From you, we heard again and again about the great danger inherent in the Zionist state, to the extent that you would ask to cross the border to the protection of the Kingdom of Jordan. We heard about the decrees of annihilation of the Zionist regime, whose sole purpose was to rid the Jewish people of its religion and faith. We heard your warnings that within a few years there would be no remnant or refugee surviving from the people of Israel. You taught me about the importance of separating ourselves from everything that is part of the Zionist regime, not to take any money from the state, and that anyone who participates in the elections is effectively indulging in idol worship. You said in public forums that the Zionists were to blame for all the troubles of the people of Israel, including the Shoah itself.
As I grew older, motivated by my belief in your path, I too became involved in organizing demonstrations and protests. I was arrested countless times, and my bones were crushed by the beatings of the "Zionist soldiers." But you taught us that every bruise from these blows is another level in the lofty ranks of "self-sacrifice," and therefore we too did not feel the pain.
Today, after 70 years of a Zionist state, I am pleased to inform you, my dear uncle, that your fears were groundless: we have a wonderful, amazing Jewish-Zionist state that serves as a model for the entire world. A state that is blossoming in almost every sphere - education, economy, health, immigrant absorption, and Judaism itself. About 7 million Jews - over fifty percent of the Jewish people - live in the State of Israel, and in Jerusalem alone we are approaching one million residents, which probably was not the case even during Temple times.
Who would have believed that, 73 years after the Shoah, when the people of Israel were almost annihilated and there was hardly any trace of Torah and Hasidism, we would have a Jewish state of our own. A state in which the world of Torah would reach a level unparalleled in the history of the Jewish people. Since King Hezekiah, there has not been as much Torah study in the Land of Israel as it is today, and you will be surprised to hear that the "Zionist regime" is the greatest supporter of Torah education in the world, investing billions of shekels.
It is hard to believe that it was only 75 years ago that a Jew had no place to go. At the end of that terrible war, every refugee returned to his home, but the Jews were the only ones in the world who had nowhere to go, neither home nor country. That is, until the establishment of the State of Israel. Thousands of generations of Jews dreamed of a state, and today, we have merited what so many did not.
My uncle, if you were able to open your eyes today, you would see that in the "Zionist state of destruction", 73% light Chanukah candles, 78% fast on Yom Kippur, and over 200,000 people take part in Selichot prayers at the Western Wall. How hard you had to fight so that every road in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods would be closed on Shabbat. On the 70th anniversary of the Zionist state, there are seven cities led by Haredi representatives, where the roads are closed on Shabbat and holiday, as well as in other cities with large Haredi.
According to the Neturei Karta anthem which we would sing at demonstrations, "We follow the path of Torah to sanctify the divine name." We were sure that our place in Heaven was guaranteed. Yet here, in the Zionist state, the degree of "devotion" reaches the highest level, the level of the very symbol of self-sacrifice, Rabbi Akiva. Nearly 24,000 IDF soldiers have been killed sanctifying God's name while defending the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
If only you knew just how wonderful the youth is here. Several times a year, thousands of youngsters born and raised in the Zionist state gather near the remnant of our Temple, swearing their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the sanctification of God's name in defending the homeland and the people of Israel. How many tears did I shed during this sacred ceremony when I saw two of my own sons enlist and take that oath, one in Golani and the other in the Paratroopers. No one forced it on them. They did so of their own free will.
My dear uncle, this "state of Sodom and Gomorrah," as you called it, is today the state with the largest number of charitable organizations – and many of them were founded by Haredim such as Yad Sarah, Ezer Mizion, ZAKA and United Hatzolah. Israel is the first to offer help and assistance to others in mass disasters around the world, and takes unimaginable risks in operations such as Entebbe to rescue its people. We have a state that is the very embodiment of the concept of mutual responsibility.
Rest in peace, my dear uncle Rabbi Amram. There is no need to fight anymore. Although your generation may have feared the Zionist state, 70 years later it has been proven that the State of Israel, with God's help, is the savior and protector of the people of Israel, and this is indeed the safest and best place to live as a Torah observant Jew.
Yehuda Meshi-Zahav is the founder and chairman of ZAKA Search and Rescue, a UN -recognized international humanitarian volunteer organization with nearly 4,000 volunteers in Israel and around the world. Meshi-Zahav was chosen to light a beacon in the 2003 Independence Day celebrations.
As far as east is from west, that is how far God has removed our sins from us (Psalms 103:12).
The usual interpretation is that when one does complete teshuvah, one's sins are removed. According to this interpretation, east and west are understood as extremely remote from each other. Another interpretation is based on the exact opposite; namely, that east and west are not far from each other at all. If we face east and make a 180-degree turn, we are now facing west, even though we remain in the very same place. Applying this concept to teshuvah, we do not have to travel to great lengths to achieve teshuvah and to have our sins removed. All we need to do is turn around and face another direction.
The word teshuvah, which means "to turn back," contains this very principle. If we travel on the highway and discover that we have been heading in the wrong direction, progress begins the very moment we turn the car around and head in the right direction. That there may be a delay in reaching the destination should be of little concern, because in the journey of life, the Judge awards merits according to effort rather than according to reaching any one fixed endpoint.
More than one person has made the mistake of making a left turn where a right turn was called for, and only obstinate, opinionated, "I am never wrong" people will refuse to stop at the first opportunity available to inquire and make sure that they are headed in the right direction.
We are all fallible. We may inadvertently make wrong turns in life. How are we to know if we are heading in the right direction unless we stop and ask?
Today I shall ... try to avail myself of a competent spiritual mentor to help me in following the correct path in life.
Evolution and the Bible
Darwin seems to be well-accepted scientific fact. But given the Creation account in the Bible, is it reasonable to assume that Moses missed evolution?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
The Bible is well aware of evolution, although it is not very interested in the details of the process. All of animal evolution gets a mere seven sentences (Genesis 1:20-26). Genesis tells us that simple aquatic animals were followed by land animals, mammals, and finally humans.
That is also what the fossil record tells us, albeit with much more detail than these few biblical verses provide. The Bible makes no claims as to what drove the development of life, and science has yet to provide the answer.
In paleontology's record of evolution, first came the discovery that life appeared on Earth almost 4 billion years ago, immediately after the molten globe had cooled sufficiently for liquid water to form. This contradicted totally the theory of gradual evolution over billions of years in some nutrient-rich pool. The rapid origin of life remains a mystery.
Then we learned that some 550 million years ago, in what is known as the Cambrian explosion, animals with optically perfect eyes, gills, limbs with joints, mouths and intestines burst upon the fossil scene – with nary a clue in older fossils as to how they evolved. It is no wonder that Darwin, in his "Origin of the Species," repeatedly implored his readers (seven times by my count) to ignore the fossil record if they were to understand his theory.
The overwhelming weight of evidence tells us that something exotic certainly happened to produce life as we know it. Historically one of the most compelling arguments regarding the existence of God comes from the precision design found in nature. Design implies a designer, and Darwin's proposal that evolution could have occurred without a Designer (by means of natural selection through random mutations) changed things.
On the verse, "Consider the days of old, the years of the many generations (Deut. 32:7)," the 13th century scholar Nachmanides explains that "Consider the days of old" refers to the Six Days of Creation and "The years of the many generations" refers to the time from Adam forward." Many leading rabbis who lived centuries before Darwin understood that when Adam appeared on the scene, the universe might have already been much older. Most notably, this is the opinion attributed to Rabbi Nechunia Ben Hakana who lived some 2,000 years ago, which is quoted by many mainstream, medieval commentators such as Rabbenu Bechaya, the Recanti, Tzioni, and the Sefer HaChinuch. Rabbi Yitzhak M'Acco, a student of Nachmanides, suggested based on kabbalistic calculations that the universe is thousands of millions of years old.
With regard to humans arriving on the scene, the Talmud (Chagiga 13b) states clearly that there were 974 generations prior to Adam. The famous Tifferes Yisrael commentary to the Mishnah wrote in 1842 (prior to publication of Darwin's Origin of Species): "In my opinion, the prehistoric men whose remains have been discovered in our time and who lived long before Adam are identical with the 974 pre-Adamite generations referred to in the Talmud, and lived in the epoch immediately before our own."
Of course, the key point where Torah and evolutionists diverge is on the question of "accident versus design." Evolutionists say that life happened by accident; Judaism says that God made it happen.
What is the possibility that life and all the wonders of nature accidentally occurred?
According to Dr. I. Prigogine, recipient of two Nobel prizes in chemistry: "The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident is zero."
Sir Fred Hoyle, the distinguished astronomer, writes: "No matter how large the environment one considers, life cannot have had a random beginning. Troops of monkeys thundering away at random on typewriters could not produce the works of Shakespeare — for the practical reason that the whole observable universe is not large enough to contain the necessary monkey hordes, the necessary typewriters, and certainly the waste paper baskets for the deposition of wrong attempts. The same is true for living material."
Believers in evolution must accept the idea that in thousands of examples throughout nature, two independent lines of mutations occurred in the same random way at each of 500 steps of development. With one million potential choices at each step (and even if only 100 of the 500 choices needed to be the same), the odds against success would be one in 10 to the 600th power. And this is only for one simple transition! For a complicated organ such as a wing or a kidney or an eye, the probability against such an accident would increase by the billions.
Darwin himself wrote in Origin of Species: "...If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications — my theory would absolutely break down..."
Consider the Bombardier Beetle, a little bug equipped with a chamber of hydroginine and a second chamber of hydrogen peroxide. When combined, these two chemicals are explosive. But a mechanism inside the beetle keeps them separate. Yet when provoked by an enemy, the beetle heats the chemicals to the boiling point and squeezes them into a combustion chamber like igniting a rocket engine. The explosive material streams out of the beetle at a rate of 1,000 pulses per second. (Pulses, rather than a continuous stream, give the beetle a chance to cool itself.) The poisonous fuel is expelled through a nozzle which, much like the turret of a tank, can rotate in any direction, under the legs or over the back. The enemy is poisoned, the beetle is saved!
Could this all possibly have evolved by slow, steady, infinitesimally small Darwinian mutations? Which came first: the hydroginine or the hydrogen peroxide? One without the other is useless.
Which came first: the chemicals, or the independent chambers separating them? One without the other is useless.
Which came first: the chemicals, or the shooting mechanism? One without the other is useless.
The human eye is another example of coordinated evolution. In a private letter, Darwin expressed anxiety over what he called "organs of extreme perfection," and admitted that "the eye, to this day, gives me a cold shudder." (Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, London, 1888, Vol. 2, p. 273)
So there are many assumptions made in the name of science. From my perspective, the Torah tradition is the most purely rational approach.
To learn more, read:
• "The Science of God" by Dr. Gerald Schroeder (Free Press)
• "Permission to Believe" by Lawrence Keleman (Feldheim Pub.)