Thursday, February 13, 2020

Czech President T.G. Masaryk and his role in the fight against antisemitism and the Ten Commandments are read this Shabbat and they are still relevant today

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

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

Love Yehuda Lave

5 Mindfulness Methods That Will Improve Your Wellbeing

Most of us tend to go through our daily routines in a similar manner every day. We are so used to this daily rhythm, to the point where our actions can become automatic – we can go through a whole day in that robotic fashion, following the same fixed orders our brain sends us. But shouldn't you be the one in control of your mind rather than vice versa?


What is Mindfulness?

A good way to regain that control is by practicing mindfulness.

This list contains 5 moments in life in which mindfulness can be helpful, with practical tips on how to implement it

1. Mindful Morning Routine – Set a Goal for the Day

When we get out of bed mindlessly in the morning, without a guiding thought or a specific goal for the day, we give our minds "permission" to operate through the subconscious. When that happens, our decision-making process is aimless and can feel random or meaningless. You can overcome that feeling by creating a mindful morning routine. Instead of checking your phone and your e-mails first thing in the morning, try to do the following:

1. When You Wake Up, Sit Up in Bed For a Few Moments – Close your eyes, and feel the sensation in your body when you're sitting up. Feel the weight of your body and the softness of your bed. Make sure you are sitting up straight. In Jewish Practice we say morning blessings. Use this opportunity to practice mindfulness.

2. Take 3 Deep Breaths – Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. After that, let your breath take its natural course and listen to it. Pay attention to the movements happening in your body when you breathe – how your chest and abdomen rise and fall.

3. Ask Yourself 'What Are My Intentions Today?' – Think of the people you're about to see today and the activities and tasks you will do. What are your intentions? Maybe leaving others with a positive impression of you? Or feeling more at ease in your interactions?

4. Set a Goal For the Rest of the Day – For example, "today I will be kind to myself, joyful and patient with those around me".

5. Check on Yourself During the Day – Stop what you're doing from time to time, take a breath and remind yourself of the goal you set in the morning.

Practicing these steps over time can lead to an overall improvement in your mood, and in your relationships.

Ten commandments which are read this Shabbat are still relevant today

The impact of the Ten Commandments has manifested itself in the contemporary lives of the World, especially in the legal system formation.

The Ten Commandments are a summary of human responsibilities. Man is capable of adopting moral codes, which are applied as laws and are used to define what is acceptable and what is not.

The society takes the breaking of the laws as being punishable. If they are based on a religious foundation, they are regarded as a sin. If they are based on society law they are considered a crime.

Historically, the Ten Commandments have been integrated into the civil law. For example in America,  the first commandment has been included in the Virginia colony (1610), Massachusetts legal code (1641) and Connecticut law code (1642). On the command against idolatry, civil laws include the New Hampshire (1680).

The third commandment on honoring Gods name, the civil law required to combat blasphemy apparent in Virginia law (1610), Connecticut law (1639, 1642), Massachusetts (1641), New Hampshire (1680), South Carolina (1695) and Pennsylvania (1682, 1700 & 1741).

For the Sabbath, the American civil law segregated Sunday for worship e.g. in New York (1830), Pennsylvania (1682, 1705), Vermont (1787), Connecticut (1796), New Jersey, New Hampshire laws (1680), New Jersey (1798) and Virginia laws (1610). Sabbath laws are still in place in contemporary American society

The fifth commandment on honoring the parents, the legal system incorporated it in Connecticut law (1642), State codes, Louisiana appeals (1934) among others. In the criminal law, the sixth command, which forbids killing has dictated the criminal justice system in the U.S apparent in Connecticut laws (1642) and New Hampshire laws

The murder laws have been traced to the Ten Commandments and have existed in American society even to date. The seventh commandment, which forbid on committing adultery was included in Massachusetts law (1641), Connecticut (1642), Washington Supreme Court (1955), Pennsylvania (1705), among others.

The eighth commandment that forbids stealing has seen laws regarding theft to be drafted e.g. supreme appeals Court in West Virginia (1904) and Court of California (1940). On the command of bearing false witness laws such as Connecticut law (1642), Massachusetts in 1641, the Supreme Court of Mississippi (1988) were drafted.

The last command, which forbids coveting, laws that have included the command are the California Supreme Court (1895- against defamation), Court of Appeals in West Virginia (1904-on election fraud), Oregon Supreme Court (1951-regarding cattle rustling)

Religion has to come into play In a Judeo-Christian society such as the United States. The Ten Commandments are used as the bases to discern what is acceptable and what is unacceptable and therefore, what to be deterred out of the society.

The legal base has however aided in appreciation of what is right or wrong and that which punishment should be imposed. This has dictated the behavior in society and reflects the founding father's allegiance for the supreme deity.

In this Judeo-Christian way of life, behaviors are guided by instincts, religious mores as well as civil law, while the source is religion. Moral behavior in the United States is, therefore, dependent on the Ten Commandments since they have participated greatly in the civil law formation, even if one has chosen to live a nonreligious lifestyle.


The ten commandments have been termed by the founding fathers of the society as such as George Washington, President John Quincy Adams, President Harry S. Truman "laws of God, Ordinances of God, Statutes of God, Divine law, Revealed Law, Holy law, Book of Laws, External laws, Laws given to Moses on the Mount, His just and Holy laws, the Decalogue, Foundation of our holy religion.

Immutable laws of good and evil, Government of God among others"  these statements in reference to the ten commandments were made religiously, ethically, principally and morally in the American society. Erasing the Decalogue therefore would be like erasing a vital historical moment in the American history.

Therefore, moral conduct moves been defined by the Decalogue to constitute a just society and acts as the cornerstone of people's behaviors either directly or indirectly.

. The Ten Commandments have a realistic portrayal of love and to live harmoniously with people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds.

. This is because the Ten Commandments are so imbedded in the society civil law and therefore dictates the lifestyle of the Western People.

God gave the Ten Commandments to us, and the reason is that he wants us to live good lives — lives that are peaceful and happy and productive. God isn't a harsh, angry judge just waiting for us to get out of line so he can punish us. He is our loving heavenly Father, who knows what is best for us.

Which would you throw out? Would you abandon the commandments against murder, or stealing, or lying, or unfaithfulness? Would you toss out the command to take care of our health and our environment by allowing for sufficient rest? Would you omit the commands against greed or the neglect of the elderly (especially our parents)? I seriously doubt if you'd abandon any of them because the alternative is chaos.


T.G. Masaryk and the Jewish Question

On February 10, 2020 my Czech wife and I  went to the Czech House Jerusalem for a unique book presentation of the former Czech Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Milos Pojar, "T. G. Masaryk and the Jewish question".


The book and it's English translation were presented by the former Czech Ambassador to Israel Mr. Tomáš Pojar (his son).


 Additionally, guests from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Professor Shlomo Avineri and Professor Alexander Yakobson  joined Mr. Tomáš Pojar for the presentation and following discussion in the Jerusalem Cinematheque.


The book traces the history of the first Czech President TG Masaryk and his connections with the Jewish Czech citizens and his fights against Antisemitism in the period before WW II.


The Czech Republic is viewed by many people as a country with a very long and friendly relationship with Israel.

 The Czech lands gave the world many notable supporters of Israel and the Zionist movement. Three of these supporters, in particular, are considered to be the most important for the positive development of relations with Israel and they deserve our attention. The first one is the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk; The book traces Masaryk's story.

The second is his son Jan Masaryk; and last, but not least, is Václav Havel, the first democratic president after 1989. All of them played an immensely important role in Czech history, and they were all friends of the Jewish nation. Thanks to these three figures, the history of freedom and democracy in Czech lands is also a history of good relations with Jews and Israel.

In the first half of the 20th century, the first Czechoslovak President Tomáš G. Masaryk was well known for his sympathy toward Zionism. Moreover, long before he became president, he had fought anti-Semitism in the Hilsner Affair in the early 1900s, when Leopold Hilsner, a Jewish vagrant, was falsely accused of murdering a non-Jewish woman for ritual purposes. He was also a staunch sympathizer of the Zionist movement and pleaded for the creation of a Jewish state.

It is also worth mentioning that in 1927 he was one of the first state officials to visit the then-British mandate of Palestine. This event was undoubtedly a great moment for the Zionist cause, even though his visit was unofficial. Thus, the roots of Czech strong pro-Zionist, or pro-Israel, sentiment lie in the thoughts and policies of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who influenced the way of thinking of future generations of democratic politicians in the Czech Republic.

Here is some history on Masaryk for those unfamiliar with him.


Tomáš Masaryk, in full Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, (born March 7, 1850, near Göding, Moravia, Austrian Empire [now Hodonín, Czech Republic]—died Sept. 14, 1937, Lány, Czech.), chief founder and first president (1918–35) of Czechoslovakia.


Masaryk was born to a poor, working-class family in the predominantly Catholic city of Hodonín, Moravia, in Moravian Slovakia (in the present-day Czech Republic, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The nearby Slovak village of Kopčany, the home of his father Josef, also claims to be his birthplace. Masaryk grew up in the village of Čejkovice, in South Moravia, before moving to Brno to study.

His father, Jozef Masárik, was born in Kopčany (then in the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary). Jozef Masárik was a carter and, later, the steward and coachman at the imperial estate in nearby town Hodonín. Tomáš's mother, Teresie Masaryková (née Kropáčková), was a Moravian of Slavic origin who received a German education. A cook at the estate, she met Masárik and they married on 15 August 1849.

During the war, Masaryk's intelligence network of Czech revolutionaries provided critical intelligence to the allies.

Masaryk formed a good connection with supreme commanders Russian army, Mikhail Alekseyev, Aleksei Brusilov, Nikolay Dukhonin and Mikhail Diterikhs, in Mogilev, from May 1917.

Masaryk traveled to the United States in 1918, where he convinced President Woodrow Wilson of the righteousness of his cause. On 5 May 1918, over 150,000 Chicagoans filled the streets to welcome him; Chicago was the center of Czechoslovak immigration to the United States,

He also had strong links to the United States, with his marriage to an American citizen and his friendship with Chicago industrialist Charles R. Crane, who had Masaryk invited to the University of Chicago and introduced to the highest political circles (including Wilson).

On Chicago meeting in 8 October 1918 Chicago industrialist Samuel Insull introduced him as the president of future Czechoslovak Republik de facto and mentioned his legions.

 In 18 October 1918 he submitted to president Thomas Woodrow Wilson "Washington Declaration" (Czechoslovak declaration of independence) created with the help of Masaryk American friends (Louis Brandeis, Ira Bennett, Gutzon Borglum, Franklin K. Lane, Edward House, Herbert Adolphus Miller, Charles W. Nichols, Robert M. Calfee, Frank E. J. Warrick, George W. Stearn and Czech Jaroslav Císař) as the basic document for the foundation of a new independent Czechoslovak state.

Speaking on 26 October 1918 as head of the Mid-European Union in Philadelphia, Masaryk called for the independence of Czechoslovaks and the other oppressed peoples of central Europe.

During this entire Period, he stood up for Jewish rights in Czechoslovakia

Even though the geographical distance between the two countries is more than 2,600 km,  no European county is closer in relations with Israel than the Czech Republic.

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Don't Cry To Me, Go Forward!"

Kahane on the Parsha

Rabbi Binyamin Kahane

When the Gulf War broke out and scud missiles started landing in Israel – the week of Parsaht Beshlach – it became quite popular to quote the verse "The L-rd will fight for you and you shall remain silent" (Exodus 14:14). Many religious Jews found this verse symbolic of the Gulf War.  After all, here were Israeli cities getting bombarded by Iraqi missiles and the official government policy was one of "self- restraint," or "havlaga."  "Everything will be okay," people proclaimed, "G-d will fight for us."  (That is, America and its president, George Bush, will take out those Scud launchers and all will be fine.)


However, a closer look at this verse reveals that those who interpreted it in the aforementioned manner took it entirely out of context and, by so doing, completely distorted the awesome lesson to be learned from the splitting of the Red Sea.


First, let us see what the Torah says.  Immediately following the verse "The L-rd will fight for you and you shall remain silent," the Torah states, "And the L-rd said unto Moses: Why do you cry unto Me?  Speak to the Children of Israel that they should go forward!"  (ibid.14:15).  Already- without even consulting any of the classic commentators – we see that the Torah's message is not one of passivity. Moses does not say that G-d will fight for the people while they relax and take it easy.  What he says is that the L-rd will fight for them if they prove that they truly believe in His omnipotence. Therefore, instead of crying to G-d, the Jews should simply obey His command and "go forward" into the stormy sea.


The Ibn Ezra writes that "you shall remain silent" corresponds to "and the Children of Israel cried to G-d."  The Be'er Yitzchak explains the Ibn Ezra's words: "'You shall remain silent' does not correspond to 'the L-rd will fight for you,' which would imply that the Jews shouldn't fight, but rather to 'and the Children of Israel cried to G-d.'" In other words, the exact opposite of the oft-repeated, distorted interpretation that "you shall remain silent" means self-restraint and inaction.  The Ibn Ezra teaches us that "you shall remain silent" means "stop crying to G-d."  What should the people do instead?  Act! – with trust in G-d.


This, in essence, is what Rashi writes:  "This teaches us that Moses was standing and praying.  The Holy One Blessed Be He said, 'Now, when Israel is in distress, it is not the time to prolong in prayer.'"  The same message is found in the Talmud as well (Sotah 37a): "Moses was praying at length, so the Holy One Blessed Be He said, 'My beloved ones are drowning in the sea, and you're praying at length?'  Moses said to G-d, 'L-rd of the Universe, what can I do?'  He replied, 'Speak unto the Children of Israel that they should go forward.  And you raise your rod and stretch out your hand . . . '"


The Rabbis tell us that the Children of Israel stood trembling by the shores of the Red Sea until G-d commanded them to "go forward."  They remained paralyzed with fear and did not move.  Only Nachshon did not hesitate to carry out G-d's command.  He sprang forward into the raging waters.  Nothing happened, but Nachshon was not concerned.  He descended deeper into the water – up to his ankles, knees, stomach – and still nothing happened.  Nachshon continued until the water reached his neck, and then cried to G-d "Oh G-d, save me because the water has come unto my soul.  I sink deep in mire where there is no standing . . . " – whereupon the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea occurred (ibid.).


The lesson is crystal clear.  When one's faith is tested, G-d demands, together with prayer, maximal effort through actual deeds.  Was Nachshon's faith put to the test when he recited Psalms on the seashore?  No.  Even jumping into the stormy waters was not sufficient since he could still back out.  Only by fulfilling G-d's will to the point of no return did he prove his faith.  Nachshon understood that saying "I believe" and then waiting for salvation is not authentic faith.  G-d demands that we prove our faith with action, no just words.  Only be being willing to fulfill difficult, even seemingly "dangerous," mitzvoth do we prove that our faith is genuine.


Israel's policy of self-restraint during the Gulf crises was the antithesis of the true meaning of "you shall remain silent."   He who saw the chosen people scurrying like roaches into their sealed-off closets while the modern day Goliath blasphemed G-d and His people for 40 days (with 40-1missiles) and viewed it as a positive thing, self-righteously proclaiming that "G-d will help," does not even begin to grasp the Jewish meaning of faith.


Not only did we lose our dignity and deterrence factor during the Gulf War, but we also demonstrated lack of faith.  It is the same lack of faith that has prevented us from expelling the Arabs and annexing the territories.  And it is only lack of faith that has brought us to the pathetic and desperate situation we find ourselves in today.

Written in Darka shel Torah 1992

See you tomorrow bli neder

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

PO Box 7335, Rehavia Jerusalem 9107202


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