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
Below is Shalom Pollock's recollections of his two week tour to his family history. I myself just came back from a two week tour of Central Europe and Poland. I didn't know it was necessary until I went but I know believe every Jew should see Auschwitz and Birkenau Extermination Camp if they are able. I will be sharing my pictures and thoughts from the trip over the next several weeks.
Love Yehuda Lave
AS HEARD FROM RABBI AVIGDOR MILLER Z'TL AHAVAT YISRAEL
"And I shall bless those that bless you" (12:3) From the very beginning Hakadosh Baruch Hu decreed: "va'avarecha mevarachecha" – I will give berachot to all those who bless Am Yisrael.
The Talmud (Hullin 49A) states that this promise extends also to the descendants of Abraham Abinu. Therefore, the first thing for us to understand is how great is our duty to bless the Jewish nation.
When you come to the last beracha in the Amida, you put all you have into it as you pray for Am Yisrael you say, "Establish peace, goodness and blessing, life, grace and kindness, and compassion over us and over all of Israel Your nation." This beracha is so important because it is a mitzvah in the Torah to bless Am Yisrael.
When you walk down a Jewish street and every house has a big mezuzah on the door, say a beracha for the people who live in those houses. Say aloud that everyone in those homes should be well for many happy years. They should all have a comfortable livelihood, pleasure and satisfaction from their children, fine matches for their children, only semahot/happy occasions in their houses, nothing but joy.
And Hashem will say: I'm listening, and I shower my blessings on you. When you gain this attribute of constantly blessing Jews you will: receive blessings from Hashem, and fulfill a mitzvah from the Torah, and emulate Hashem who "Loves His Jewish nation" (Daily Prayers), and you will cause yourself to increase your own love of your Jewish brothers which is another misvah of loving your fellow Jew, Ahavat Yisrael. May we thereby gain the merit to see the rebuilding of The Bet Hamikdash soon. Daily Prayer: "I hereby accept upon myself the Positive Commandment to: "Love my fellow Jew as I love myself." And I hereby Love every one of the Bene Yisrael as I love myself and all I possess." Adapted from "The Beginning" by Rabbi Avigdor Miller ZT'L
Love Yehuda Lave
Shalom is doing a walking tour of the old city next Wednesday (Sept 11) at 10:00 Am
Walking tour with Shalom Pollack
Wednesday, Sept 11
Meet at Jaffa Gate at 10;00 am
four hours walking at a slow pace.
Jaffa Gate area
unbeatable view from atop David's Tower
Mt Zion - David's tomb
Maximum 30 participants
"I AM WRONG" by Roy S. Neuberger
Recently I was driving through a checkpoint at a United States military base. I did not see any guard, so I proceeded slowly forward. Suddenly there was a loud bang on the rear window. A military policeman stepped out of the shadows and started yelling. He wasn't interested in hearing that I hadn't seen him.
My wife commented, there is no such word as "I am sorry" in their language.
That is not the way which the Ruler of the Universe has taught His Nation.
Every weekday we say three times, "S'lach lanu … Forgive us, our Father, for we have erred; pardon us, our King for we have willfully sinned, for You pardon and forgive." (Shemoneh Esreh) In Tachanun we say, "Oh compassionate and gracious One, I have sinned before You. Hashem, Who is full of mercy, have mercy on me and accept my supplications."
And Hashem listens! How do we know? Because Am Yisroel is alive today!
We are not only able to admit we are wrong, but we depend upon this admission for our very existence. A Jew knows that the road to survival passes through the "field of forgiveness."
On Shabbos afternoon, we say, "[Hashem] leads me on paths of righteousness … though I pass through the valley overshadowed by death." (Psalm 23) There is a huge resistance to acceptance of guilt. Our ego tells us not to go that way, because the ego has to die, so to speak. But if we hold Hashem's hand, so to speak, we will get through.
It has always amazed me that that the broken Tablets are among the contents of the Holy Ark in the Temple (see Bava Basra 14a/b). Why are these reminders of our rebellion and national embarrassment in the most holy place, the center of the world, the Place to which we all turn in prayer?
In fact, I believe the answer is clear. The very act of teshuva – trying to fix ourselves so that we may come home to our Father and King – is based on our willingness to acknowledge our errors, our rebellions, our iniquities. The uniqueness of a Jew is that we are willing to accept responsibility and humble ourselves in order to come close to Him.
Who was closer to Hashem than Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses)? "Now the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth!" (Numbers 12:3)
Our rabbis state, "Who is destined for a share in the World to Come? One who is modest and humble, who enters bowing and leaves bowing, who learns Torah constantly but doesn't take credit for himself." (Sanhedrin 8b)
My friends, as we sit on the floor on the Ninth Day of the Month of Av, weeping for our lost Bais Hamikdosh (Holy Temple) and our lost innocence, may Hashem accept our tears, have mercy on us and bring us home in unity and love! We are weeping for our lives, our survival. May He return to us our Bais Hamikdosh. May the entire world hear and understand: "Ki mi tzion taitzae Torah … From Tzion the Torah will come forth and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim." (Isaiah 2:3)
Har HaMenuchot (where Avner's Dad is buried), Sanhedria Cemetery where Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is buried and the tomb of Shmuel Hanavi on our Pre-Tisha Bov outing.
With my friends Avner and Margaret and then on the next day joined by my friend Yacov, we visit the Cemeteries of Har HaMenuchot (where Avner's Dad is buried), Sanhedria Cemetery where Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is buried and the tomb of Shmuel Hanavi on our Pre- Tisha Bov outing. This should qualify as mourning even though we had a good time. On this blog I have Shalom Pollock's birthright tour, I did my own birthright tour to Germany earlier this year, but we don't have to leave Israel to see the great Rabbis of our history. Love Yehuda Lave
Needless to say, I was very happy to come home after my two-week pilgrimage to lands that covered so much of our people's history and its blood. It was in a way, a difficult trip with many moments of reflection on the different sides of the Jewish experience, it's past and future. In Belarus and the Baltic countries, about one-third of the Holocaust victims found their grisly deaths. It should be mentioned that the people of Belarus were relatively less eager than the surrounding countries to help the Nazis in their monstrous work. During the post-war Soviet occupation, there were no monuments to Jewish victims of the Nazis and their helpers; just to "Soviet citizens".That is being corrected today as the newly independent countries throw off the hated Soviet yoke and seek the embrace of the West. I was always cognizant of the presence of the ghosts of two evil shadows; the Soviet and the Nazi.Both were horrible to Jews. However, clearly for Jews, one was the lesser of two devils. For those who suffered under the Soviet yoke, the Nazis were seen as liberators when they arrived. Killing the Jews was not a terrible idea to many of them. It was a bonus. Of course, the Nazis did not stick around long enough to implement their plan of permanently enslaving the occupied peoples. During the war, the Nazis were fighting the hated Soviets and killing Jews ( and the locals stole their homes and property). Both were noble efforts. so it all good.When the Soviets returned with a vengeance the locals expected the worse and they got it. So did the Jews, but that is a given.The holocaust museums in the Baltic countries make very little if any mention of their homegrown Nazis.Many of their compatriots who fled Soviet war crimes trial fled to the West At home they were looked upon as great anti-Soviet patriots. In the museums today they do proudly expound on those who were brave enough to save Jews, and they are indeed heroes. I got the feeling that it was for foreign consumption. To be sure, each of the countries now has proper memorials to the Jewish presence that contributed so much and were suddenly no more.I have nothing special to report about the current generation of Balts. They try to survive in economies and societies that are losing their finest young people to better opportunities in Western Europe. They see their governments as corrupt and inept - and irredeemable.For sure, life is much better today than under the Soviet boot and in the post-Soiviet bedlam, but there is stagnation and belief in greener pastures not far away, especially since they are EU members and can travel and work freely in Europe. As an Israeli, I was proud that my little embattled country that rose from the ashes of the ground below my feet, far surpass them in every economic indicator.My Shekel went a long way in these struggling lands. I could not know what the current generation thinks of Jews and Israel. They probably have bigger local concerns. My guide in Vilna was a native Jewish woman who had lived in Israel for a short period.She knew her stuff about the general and Jewish history of her country. I say "her" country because she said she loves living in Vilna and is very involved in local politics.I was surprised and impressed as she stooped to pick up litter from the streets of her beloved and charming city.I asked her, "what then is it that you perhaps do not like about Vilna."She hesitated and then said, "I know that if the Nazis came back, there would be plenty of local helpers once again"Many thoughts crossed my mind. One was, "if that happens, you can always come home" but I did not tell her that. I did not want to ruin the tour or her day.
Letter to a Secular Jewish Nationalist
Written on March 9, 1973
My Dear Friend,
I note that you, as so many others who are good Jewish nationalists and devoted to the Jewish people and the state, have been puzzled and critical of some of my actions and policies. Because I sincerely respect you and want you to understand what I have done and intend to do, I think the time is long overdue for you and your colleagues to understand my thinking and the ideology that led me to do the things that you so approved of in the past as well as those you may not agree with today.
There really is a great deal of misunderstanding – I might add basic and almost total in some cases – of the REAL, things that the Jewish defense League has done and more important WHY – at least for me – they were done. Most people join a movement not so much out of ideology, but out of community of interest they think exists between them and the movement. Thus, when the Jewish Defense League protected Jewish teachers in New York City from anti-Semites, it was both praised and joined by many Jewish teachers. The latter did this, not because they agreed with the JDL in its entirety or even in most of its views – INDEED THEY HAD NOT THE SLIGHTEST KNOWLEDGE THAT THERE WAS AN IDEOLOGY. They did not care about ideology or anything else except their own narrow interests, and the result was not only that they thus misunderstood the movement, but as soon as the crisis for THEM was over they simply dropped out, not caring that other Jews – not teachers – still suffered and had to be helped.
These teachers were not interested in the fact that JDL was an organization with a philosophy of Ahavat Yisroel, the need to both love and to aid Jews in distress wherever they might be. (And that only because of this philosophy did JDL – many non-teachers – take up the fight for them.) These Jewish teachers were as disinclined to suffer for Soviet Jews or Jews of Arab lands as non-teachers were. The ONLY thing that drove them to join and be active in the movement was their OWN suffering. The moment their problem was relieved, there existed for them – as for most other Jews – no other problems. And what I say about teachers can, of course, be written about all the others who came into the JDL because of personal interests; because THEIR neighborhood needed protection of THEIR child's school was plagued by crime. Self-interest, not Ahavat Yisroel, was the hallmark of most members, and the self-evident truth of this basically selfish motive is seen in the question asked me in every city which has not JDL chapter: "But why do we need a JDL chapter here, WE have no problems."
You, as a sincere Jewish nationalist who does not fall into this category, can therefore understand what I write about and why we could find among even some of the JDL leadership those who, when we began the struggle for Soviet Jewry, said: "But our first interest is the protection of American Jews." You can understand how these kind of people failed to grasp the JDL essential that Ahavat Yisroel means looking upon ALL JEWS as one people, as brothers, and that there is no difference between Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Damascus and Riga.
And so, you in Israel sang our praises and defended us when we acted violently against the Soviets and broke the law in defense of Jews who suffered at the hands of anti-Semites. For you understood the philosophical and ideological basis of our movement and you did not make the mistake of self-interested teacher, merchant or housewife. But even you do not understand, really.
We come to Israel and puzzled, you ask: What you did in the Exile for Soviet Jews and for poor Jews in troubled neighborhoods was magnificent and no one can fault you for that. But what need is there for a Jewish DEFENSE league in Israel? After all, we have an army and a police here! And why do you waste your time on unimportant issues such as fighting the missionaries and placing a mezuzah on the Sha'ar Shchem (Damascus Gate)? And why do you plan a yeshiva and a school for Jewish education here when there are others who do this? Your contribution is in the Exile where you can defend Jews, and the Meir Kahane whom we knew of there is no longer the same Meir Kahane, today.
I hear the words and the criticism and realize that just as the simple Jewish teacher backed the Jewish Defense League while not having the slightest idea what it was all about, so do you, my much more knowledgeable Jewish nationalist friend, fail to grasp the essentials of the JDL and why I, at least, helped to bring it into being.
You see, my secular nationalist friend, unlike you, I see nothing at all very special or logical about nationalism, per se. I see nothing very rational about setting up boundaries and a barrier separate governments, armies, parliaments, economics, exchange rates and languages. If anything, nationalism is a barrier to world brotherhood and one of the major fomenters of conflict and war. If I were a secular nationalist I would be hard put to explain why Jews should remain separate and not assimilate and I would struggle for a rational explanation of Jewish behavior – stubborn and obstinate – over two millennia of exile as they suffered every conceivable manner of persecution and yet, refused to disappear.
There is only one reason why Jews should be different, and that is the very special difference, the uniqueness that makes them separate and different from all other peoples. ONLY the election of Israel, only the concept of a Chosen people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; only the "Ata b'chartanu, You have chosen us from all the nations": only the "hamavdil beyn kodesh l'chol, He who differentiates between and separates between holy and profane, between Israel and the nations"; only the need to be different, apart and separate NOT BECAUSE OF SOME VAGUE LANGUAGE OR HISTORICAL DIFFERNCE but because of the distinct uniqueness of Torah and the commandments as a DIVINE decree – only this gives any validity to the Jew remaining alive as a distinct entity.
There is nothing special about a Jewish tank or jet plane, nothing special about an independent state of your own with a Parliament, Prime Minister, national airline and social-economic-political problems, all nations have them. There is nothing special about a scientific institute, universities and lawyers, physicians and sanitation men; all nations have them. But no nation has Torah except the Jewish people, and that is the difference. The only one.
And so, when I helped to found the JDL and called to people to love Jews so much that they should be prepared to climb barricades for them, fight physically for them, perhaps sit in jail for them, why in the world did I care about some Jew in Leningrad or Damascus more than some Zulu in South Africa? Only because Ahavat Yisroel follows directly from the special quality of the Jewish people – the DIVINE nation – each of whose members partakes of that divine quality and is my brother MORE than other peoples. Without my belief in the Jews as the Chosen People of G-d, there would be not the slightest interest for me in them more than in other people.
And if you wonder why secular Jewish nationalism, that which we call Zionism, has proven to be such a disastrous failure among our youth in Israel; and if it bothers you that the youth questions the basic axioms that, to you are truth incarnate, going so far as to dispute the right of the Jews to Israel and even joining an Arab spy ring; and if you are disturbed at the fact that most Israelis have little ties to world Jewry, and so many would like very much to leave the country and make a great deal of money elsewhere; and if the Jew in Israel looks more and more like any other people and feels nothing special about himself and his state – learn an important lesson.
Secular Jewish nationalism – no more than any other kind – can give no rational reason to a sensitive and intelligent young person to see anything special about his people or his state. The beginning of the moral and spiritual crumbling of secular nationalism is all around us to see – both in the exile and here, in Israel. Your love of Jews stems from nostalgia, the fact that you were raised either in Europe or amidst the revolutionary war against the British. Because of this, you either avoid the contradictions or are incapable of seeing them. The young Israeli or the young assimilated Jew in the exile, however, is not a Jew by habit or nostalgia. He asks the logical questions and gets no logical answers – because you are not capable of giving them to him and NO SECULAR NATIONIST IS.
And so perhaps you can begin to understand why the problem of Christian missionaries is, to me, just as important as that of Soviet Jewry. For to me, they are both the same problem, the question of keeping Jews Jewish. And thus you can see why the problem of Jewish SPIRITUAL DEFENSE in Israel is just as important as PHYSICAL DEFENSE elsewhere. I want to save the Jew physically in order that he, someday, be able to live as a good spiritual Jew. Without that, I would be prepared to put the Jew together with the black, Puerto Rican, Chicano, Zulu, Latin American, Mestizo and all the rest.
I love Jews more than any other people – not because I was born a Jew, but because the Jew, unlike any other peoples, was born for a Chosen destiny. If we believe that, then the Jew is everything; if we do not – he is no better, or worse, no more deserving of our attention, than anyone else.
Holocaust survivor celebrates 104th birthday surrounded by 400 descendants
This is the picture of triumph over evil.
A Holocaust survivor celebrated her 104th birthday last week at the Western Wall in Jerusalem — and for the occasion posed for a photo surrounded by about 400 of her descendants, including her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In the camp, she watched as her mother was ripped from her and handed to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who performed deadly experiments on prisoners, her grandson, Meir Rosenstein, told Israeli reporter Sivan Rahav Meir.
After the Holocaust, Ovitz met the man who would later become her husband, Dov Ovitz, who had lost his wife and four daughters in the genocide.
The couple searched for surviving relatives together and lived in Austria, before eventually settling in Haifa, where they had two daughters and two sons.
For her milestone birthday, Ovitz had one request, for all of her descendants to come together at the holy Jewish site — and her children and grandchildren worked hard to make that happen.
Enlarge ImageShoshana Ovitz celebrated her 104th birthday with some far younger guestsTwitter
"We do not have an exact number, but there are probably 400 grandchildren and descendants," Shoshana's oldest granddaughter, Panini Friedman, told Israeli news site Walla.
"It wasn't a simple thing to organize this rare event," said Friedman, who lives in Belgium.
Even the approximately 400 people at last Wednesday's gathering didn't cover everyone, said Friedman.
"We're missing about 10% of them."
At the celebration, which symbolized a triumph over the Nazis, "everyone was there with tears in their eyes," Friedman said.
Photos from the event show the huge crowd posing in front of the Western Wall, with men on one side and women on the other, adhering to Jewish Orthodox tradition.
Ovitz can be seen in one photo beaming as she sits in a wheelchair, holding a little boy's hand.