The Religious Connection of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel By Alex Grobman PhD. and What is the closest country to the US without a land border? Only 2.4 miles away and How Walt Disney's Housekeeper Secretly Died A Multi-Millionaire By Brian Warner and the woman with four legs and two wombs and Succout holiday starting on Monday night next week
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.
Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) guide for the perplexed, 2021 Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought: a US-Israel initiative" Based on ancient Jewish sages, September 16, 2021, https://bit.ly/2XyVsIP
1. Sukkot (September 21-27) Commemorates the Exodus and is named for the first stop during the 40-year-Exodus from Egypt - the town of Sukkot - as documented in Exodus13:20-22 and Numbers 33:3-5. This holiday underscores the gradual transition from the spiritual state-of-mind during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to the mundane of the rest of the year. The construction of the Holy Tabernacle, during the Exodus, was launched on the first day of Sukkot (full moon).
2. is a national Jewish liberation holiday. It is the 3rd Jewish pilgrimage holiday (following Passover and Shavou'ot - Pentecost), which highlights faith and optimism, commemorating
3. The roots of the Hebrew word Sukkot (סוכות) are wholeness and totality (סכ), shelter (סכך) and attentiveness (סכת). The numerical value of סכך (every Hebrew letter has a numerical value) is 100 (ס=60, כ=20, ך=20), representing the totality/unity of the Jewish people, history, roots, education and legacy.
4. The 7days of Sukkot are dedicated to 7 monumental principle-driven leaders, who were compassionate and brave shepherds, representing leadership qualities in the pursuit of ground-breaking initiatives: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. They were endowed with faith, reality-based-optimism, humility, compassion, tenacity in the face of daunting odds, courage and peace-through-strength.
Sukkot expresses gratitude for the 7species of the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates (Deuteronomy 8:8).
Sukkot accentuates the 7weeks between the beginning of the Exodus (Passover) and the receipt of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (Shavou'ot – Pentecost).
5. Sukkot features (Leviticus 23:40) 1 citron (representing King David, the author of Psalms), 1 palm branch (representing Joseph), 3 myrtle branches (representing the three Patriarchs) and 2 willow branches (representing Moses and Aharon), which are bonded together, representing the unity-through-diversity of the Jewish people.
These four species represent the agricultural regions of the Land of Israel: the southern Negev and Arava (palm), the slopes of the northern Golan Heights, Upper Galilee and Mt. Carmel (myrtle), the streams of the central mountains of Judea and Samaria (willow) and the western coastal plain (citron). They also represent four leadership prerequisites: solid backbone (palm branch), humility (willow), compassionate heart (citron) and penetrating eyes (myrtle).
The palm branch, an ancient symbol of victory, was featured in coins from the Maccabees' era (from the 2nd century BC through the 1st century AD) and the Bar Kokhba rebellion (132-135 AD). According to the First Book of Maccabees, chapter 13, Simon the Maccabee celebrated the retaking of the David Citadel in Jerusalem with drums, harps and palm branches.
6. Sukkot emphasizes humility
as demonstrated by the seven-day-relocation from one's permanent residence to the temporary, humble, wooden booth (Sukkah), which sheltered the people of Israel during the Exodus.
7. Sukkot expresses the yearning for universal peace, highlighting the Sukkah of Peace (Sukkat Shalom).
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
The Religious Connection of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel
Though demography was not an exact science, Jews may have numbered several million in the early Roman Empire. For more than a century before the 70 CE destruction of the Second Temple, most Jews preferred living around the Mediterranean basin, instead of their aboriginal homeland. Still, Jews were the majority in the Holy Land, perhaps until the late 6th century CE. Historical and religious sources like the Torah, the Gospels and the Koran affirm the existence of the Jewish People and their historical, demographic, and cultural connection to their ancestral homeland. There are, for example 16th-century Ottoman tax registers listing the names of the Jewish taxpayers. There were always Jews living in the Holy Land, where the total population (also including the Muslims and Christians) had by the 19th century fallen to a level much lower than in Roman times or today. 
The late Gerson D. Cohen, a professor of Talmud at Columbia University and a former Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, added that "the Rabbis could no more conceive of Judaism without the land of Israel then they could have without the people of Israel." In Maimonides's renowned legal code, the Mishneh Torah, one third of the book is devoted to the land of Israel. It had to be this way since "all of Jewish law is inextricably connected with the land of Israel." There is "an unbreakable covenant between G-d and the Torah on the one hand with the people of Israel and the land of Israel on the other." 
The Land was Reserved for the Jews
The land was reserved for the Jews at creation not only because of it being the most striking and bountiful of lands, but because of its spiritual character. A unique sanctity permeates the land making living there intrinsically of the uppermost importance, overshadowing all the other Biblical commandments.  The centrality of the land of Israel to the Jewish religion stems from the Torah's formulating Jewish law and ritual conditional to the Jewish people possessing the land. The agricultural laws found in the Torah are expressly connected with cultivating the earth of the Holy land. Animal sacrifices were confined to the Temple in Jerusalem. Cities of refuge for those guilty of manslaughter could not be built anywhere but in the land of Israel. Leaving the country became a religious transgression laden with remorse. Those living outside of the Holy Land were considered unwilling accomplices in idolatry. 
The rabbis were so concerned about the national welfare and the continuation of Jewish rule of the land, they refused to accept any foreign occupation as valid. Although they had to acquiesce to their rule, they viewed the Romans, for example, as intruders and their representatives as robbers. G-d had promised the Land to Abraham and his descendants, and no one could change this right. The Jews did not accept their authority reflecting the humiliations and degradation they faced at the hands of these oppressors.
After the Roman Army Destroyed the Temple
When the Roman Army destroyed the Temple in 70 C.E., the rabbis decided to establish ceremonies to commemorate the destruction and maintain the belief that the Temple will be rebuilt "speedily in our days." The success of these ceremonies, known as Zekher le-Hurban (Remembrance of the destruction), are practiced to this day by observant Jews. The period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the first and second Temples begins on the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz and ends on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, the day of the destruction, called the fast of Tisha B'Av. On this day Jews sit on the floor lamenting their past and entreat G-d to fulfill the messianic promise of return to their land to rebuild the Temple.
In anticipation of the return, the rabbis in the second century codified the areas of Jewish law that in time would become invaluable with the restoration of the Temple including: the intricacies of Temple worship and architecture, responsibilities of the high priest, the king, and the Sanhedrin (highest judicial and ecclesiastical council). From this ardent religious link to the Temple, over centuries an individualized form of prayer developed, which became formalized with a fixed order. The liturgy is replete with prayers entreating a swift return to Zion and the restoration of the Temple service. 
Three times a day Jews are obligated to pray wherever they might be in the world, but they must face the East, the direction of the Temple: "Sound the great shofar for our freedom; raise the standard to gather our exiles and assemble us from the four corners of the earth…. Restore our judges as of old… And to Jerusalem your city return in mercy and dwell therein as you have said; and speedily establish therein the throne of David." 
Each year at the Passover Seder, Jews recite a prayer thanking G-d for redeeming them from Egypt. The holiday has become the symbol of their hope for the future. They ask G-d to bring them to "other festivals and holy days that come to us, in peace, happy in the building of your city, and joyous in your (Temple) service." 
David Ben-Gurion observed that more than 3,000 years before the Mayflower left England for the New World, Jews fled from Egypt. Jews who are even slightly aware of their Jewish heritage know that every spring Jews commemorate and remember the liberation from slavery and the Exodus from Egypt to the Land of Israel at their Seder.  The Seder concludes with the words, "L'shana haba'ah b'Yerushalayim ha'binuya"—Next Year in Rebuilt Jerusalem.
Center of Spiritual Yearning for the Jews and Continual Aliyot
The land of Israel functioned not only as a center of spiritual yearning for the Jews, but also of continual aliyot (immigration to the land of Israel) from the diaspora throughout the world. Thousands of Jews settled in Palestine during the six centuries preceding the advent of political Zionism—in order to hasten the Messiah through human initiative—mainly by going on aliyah. They viewed the changing world around them as the conditions the sages described would herald the Messianic Era. 
This expectation was focused on specific dates having mystical significance—a dawn of a new age. From the year 5000 on the Jewish calendar (1240 C.E.), the beginning of each new century heralded the prospect of redemption. This resulted in a considerable transformation in the connection between the people of Israel and the land of Israel. Jews and gentiles interested in the Ottoman Empire and the land of Israel became even more aware of the strengthening of the relationship between the Jews and their historic homeland. 
This recurrent movement was not limited to the "lower" elements of society, but from every segment of society. Some of the leading Jewish personalities of their era led the way. Although the number of Jews who settled in Palestine never represented more than a small portion of world Jewry, these messianic aliyot had enduring importance, because of the prominence of those involved, their regularity over centuries, and the diversity of diaspora communities participating. 
Among the foremost groups to reach Palestine were the disciples of the Ga'on Rabbi Elijah of Vilna (the Vilna Ga'on). By 1813 there 511 of individuals who had come in a number of organized groups. This was considered a vast number at the time. The Vilna Ga'on was one of the most dominant Jewish leaders of his time. His followers wanted to fulfill the commandment to live in the land of Israel, restore the classic rabbinic ordination and build Jerusalem. By going on aliyah, the Vilna Ga'on believed they would "stimulate redemption form on high." Though he began his own journey on aliyah, no one knows what caused him to abandon it and return home. 
To reduce obstacles and hazards along the way, the groups left in the spring with the hope of arriving by the end of the summer. The leaders from Vilna were given funds to distribute to members if the kolel (an institute of advanced study of the Talmud and rabbinic texts). 
Hasidic groups in Bohemia and Galicia also arrived as did Jews from Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Tripoli, Tunis and elsewhere. The success of the aliyah movement brought so many Jews that leaders from Vilna were alarmed about the effect this might have on the welfare existing Jewish community. They informed those who planned to live in Jerusalem not to rely entirely on subsidies provided by the Vilna community. 
As long conditions remained fairly secure and without natural calamities such as epidemics and the devastating earthquake on January 1, 1837, in Safed and Tiberias where approximately one fourth of the Jewish population perished, the stream of aliyah continued. Jewish immigrates flocked to Jerusalem, creating a housing shortage after the earthquake. Political instability and the arbitrary nature in which the local officials and the public treated the Jews, especially between 1819 and 1831, negatively influenced the growth of the Jewish community. Yet austere and severe living conditions did not stop the steady flow of Jews. Between 1808 and 1840, the number of Jews increased by 5,000 people, a clear demonstration of the formidable motivation they had to return to their ancient homeland. 
A Final Thought
The messianic yearning which generated these waves of immigration, and the belief in the centrality of the land of Israel were an integral part of Jewish tradition. The history of aliya from the 13th thirteenth to the 19th centuries demonstrates the intensity of the Jewish people's connection to its ancestral homeland, a link that continued into the late 19th and 20th centuries, when modern Zionism emerged. 
 Dore Gold, "The Myth of Israel as a Colonialist Entity: An Instrument of Political Warfare to Delegitimize the Jewish State," Jewish Political Studies Review (November 2011), Volume 23 Issue 3/4, 86.); Salo W. Baron, Social and Religious History ofthe Jews. Ancient Times to the Beginning of the Christian Era: The First Five Centuries Volume II revised and enlarged (New York; Columbia University Press, 1966), 122-126); Salo W. Baron, Social and Religious History of the Jews. Ancient Times to the Beginning of the Christian Era Volume I (New York; Columbia University Press, 1966), 250-258.
 Gerson D. Cohen "Zion in Rabbinic Literature," in Abraham S. Halkin, Ed., Zion in Jewish Literature (New York: Herzl Press, 1961)39-40.
 Eliezer Schweid, The Land of Israel: National Home or Land of Destiny (New York: Herzl Press, 1985), 39.
 Abraham S. Halkin, op.cit. 39-40.
 Ibid. 54.
 Ibid. 55.
 Ibid. 55-56.
 Ibid. 58.
 The Jewish Case Before The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine (Jerusalem: The Jewish Agency For Palestine, 1947), 63, 65.
 Arie Morgenstern, Hastening Redemption: Messianism and the Resettlement of the Land of Israel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.), v-vi, 4, 47-49; Arie Morgenstern "Dispersion and the Longing for Zion, 1240-1840," Azure (Winter 5762 / 2002), no. 12.
 Ibid. 52.
 ibid. 53-56, 80, 88-94.
 Ibid. 61-62.
 Ibid. 57-61, 66-74, 99-103, 132,206.
OK here's one for Americans:
Which country that does NOT have a land boundary with the USA, is closest to the USA?
98 miles. Wrong.
66 miles. Wrong
It's Russia: only 2.4 miles away from the USA
In winter, the strait between the two islands ices over and you could actually walk from the USA to Russia:
EDIT: One comment prompted me to ask myself: What would have happened if Russia had included Big Diomede in the sale of Alaska to the USA?
Well, in terms of "nearest non-adjacent neighboring country" rank, it wouldn't have changed anything since the coast of Chukotka (Russia) is 23 miles from Big Diomede, hence Russia would still remain the nearest non-adjacent neighbor to the USA. Only, you couldn't walk from one country to the other, except during glaciations, which is in fact what happened the last time there has been one.
And what if Russia had kept both Diomede islands out of the sale? Same thing. Little Diomede is 23 miles from the coast of Alaska so Russia would still be the nearest non-adjacent neighbor to the USA.
OK, then let's find a more permanent solution to our problem. Russia and the USA both agree to blow the two islands to rubble with nuclear bombs, so that they will stop quarreling about them.
Too bad that mainland Alaska (USA) is 51 miles away from mainland Chukotka (Russia) so Russia would still be the nearest non-adjacent neighbor to the USA.
I guess the two countries would better start getting over it.
four legs, 2 wombs, Josephine and Mary were supposed to be twins, but they were conjoined from the waist down.
Josephine Myrtle Corbin was the first person born with two private organs and four legs, in Tennessee in 1868.
Josephine and Mary were supposed to be twins, but they were conjoined from the waist down. Her disease is called Dipygus, and she has an uncommon type of conjoined twinning. She was doubled in size from the waist down due to an unusual condition, but normal from the waist up. Her twin's two legs were smaller than her own, but they were bonded to her own, limiting her movement.
Josephine married Clinton Bicknell when she was 19, and they had five children together, one boy and four daughters.Credit: Josephine supposedly had two children from one set of organs and three from the other. Her twin legs were not fully grown, but her two wombs were, and she gave birth easily.
Despite her congenital sickness, Josephine led a happy life until she died on May 6, 1928.Credit: bestshowbiz
How Walt Disney's Housekeeper Secretly Died A Multi-Millionaire
On June 10th 1994, a group of friends and family gathered at a lawyer's office in Santa Monica, California to read the last will and testament of 79 year old Thelma Pearl Howard. Thelma died quietly in a nursing home a few weeks earlier, just 16 days shy of her 80th birthday. From the outside, Thelma Howard lived a very modest life. Her most notable achievement was working as Walt Disney's personal housekeeper for more than thirty years. She cooked all of Walt's meals and helped raise his two young daughters. For this service she was paid a modest annual salary, perhaps slightly more than the average housekeeper because her boss was so wealthy and famous. So, you can imagine the utter shock when Thelma's lawyer announced that she had in fact controlled a multi-million dollar stock portfolio and was leaving half of her impressive net worth to charity. How exactly did a lowly housekeeper end up dying with millions of dollars in the bank? The story is truly heartwarming and inspirational.
Thelma Pearl Howard was born in June of 1915 to a family of very poor farmers in Southwick, Idaho. Thelma was the second of five children. Her childhood was filled with pain starting at the age of six when her mother tragically died during child birth. Two more siblings died unexpectedly before she reached the age of 18. Thelma briefly moved to Spokane, Washington to attend college but was forced to drop out before completing a full year of classes because she couldn't afford the tuition anymore. After Spokane, Thelma moved to Los Angeles where she held down three jobs to make ends meet. She poured drinks at a soda fountain, cleaned houses and worked part time as a secretary.
R. Mitchell/Express/Getty Images
In 1951, at the age of 36, Thelma landed a dream job when she was hired as a live-in housekeeper at Walt Disney's sprawling estate in Holmby Hills, California. One can only imagine the culture shock she must have felt coming from such humble beginnings then moving into an 8 bedroom 17 bathroom, 3.6 acre mansion that was listed in October 2012 for $90 million. The Disney mansion's pool house was bigger than her family's entire home back in Idaho. Needless to say, Thelma never dreamed of living in a house that featured a putting green, tennis court, swimming pool, library, gym and much more.
Up until Thelma, Walt Disney could not find a housekeeper that clicked with his family. The previous housekeeper was a fine cook but did not get along with his two young daughters. In fact, tensions were so high that the previous housekeeper actually banned the children from ever setting foot in the kitchen. She also forced the girls to stay in their rooms while she cleaned the house. Thelma was the exact opposite. She adored the two young girls and loved having their company while she prepared amazing three course dinners every night. While Thelma cooked, Diane and Sharon Disney would sit at the kitchen counter and marvel at the meals that were magically being whipped together. In addition to three course feasts, Thelma knew to keep the fridge stocked with Walt's favorite snack, hot dogs, which he apparently scarfed down every night before dinner. In contrast to their previous housekeeper, Thelma was warm and loving and eventually became part of the Disney family. Walt even went so far as to describe Thelma as "the real life Mary Poppins".
Throughout the thirty years that Thelma worked for the Disney family, she was paid a little more than the average housekeeper's salary. She was also given free room and board which made her paycheck go a long way, but would never make her "rich". On the other hand, working for Walt Disney presented Thelma with a very unique perk. Every Christmas and birthday, Walt gave Thelma shares of Disney stock as a bonus. As the Disney empire expanded, the number of shares she received grew. Because Thelma respected Walt so much, she never sold a single share in her entire lifetime and even used some of her own money to buy more on the side.
Over the years, Thelma's stock portfolio slowly ballooned. A few shares became a hundred. A hundred became a thousand. A thousand became ten thousand and so on. When Thelma first began receiving the shares, owning Disney stock wasn't particularly exciting. Then, between 1945 and 1965, the company exploded into the cultural phenomenon the world knows and loves today. Disneyland opened in July 1955 and was an immediate success. Then Disney studios went on a creative tear churning out a series of classic films like "Lady and the Tramp" (1955), "Sleeping Beauty" (1959), "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" (1961) and "Mary Poppins" (1964). Mary Poppins earned $30 million at the box office, more than any other movie in 1964, and with re-releases, would go on to earn the inflation adjusted equivalent of $375 million. As the company grew, so did its stock price. Thanks to those annual gifts and a number of stock splits, by the time Thelma died in 1994 she had amassed an astonishing 193,000 shares of Disney, which at the time were worth $9.5 million!
Thelma retired in 1981 and spent the next decade living a quiet life in a humble two bedroom bungalow until her failing health forced her to move into an equally modest nursing home. After she died, a small group of friends and family were called to hear the reading of her will. Those who were present could not believe their ears when the lawyer explained that not only did Thelma die a multi-millionaire, but she earmarked half of her fortune to establish a charitable foundation. Thelma left the other half to her adult son who was developmentally disabled and living in a full time care facility in Long Beach. Over the next 20 years, the Thelma Pearl Howard Foundation donated millions of dollars to dozens of charities. Her foundation is especially active in supporting charities that focus on disadvantaged children and arts education. Having had a difficult childhood herself, Thelma thought it was especially important that she do her part to help other at risk kids.
And there's one final mystery. If Thelma's original shares were never sold and are still being held in trust today, they would have tripled from 193,000 shares to 579,000 thanks to a 3-1 split that occurred in June 1998. If this scenario is true, at Disney's most recent closing price of $130 Thelma's 579,000 shares would be worth a staggering $75 million today! Not bad for a poor housekeeper from Idaho.
See you Sunday bli neder Shabbat Shalom
Next week will bring the third of the biblical holidays when you are supposed to visit the Temple in Jerusalem called Succout. More about this next week.