Mayor withdraws resignation after condolences to shooters' familiesand Researchers discover new spider species in Israel and 22 Facts About the Land of Israel Every Jew Should Know By Menachem Posner and the Public part of the Sabbath by Rabbi Berel Wein and trove of Newly Digitized Jewish Texts Reveal Untold Historical Treasures
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.
Mayor withdraws resignation after condolences to shooters' families
Mayor Samir Mahamed had announced resignation after publishing condolences to families of terrorists who murdered 2 in Hadera this week.
Umm al-Fahm Mayor Dr. Samir Sobhi Mahamed withdrew his resignation after publishing a letter of condolence to the families of the terrorists who committed the deadly shooting attack in Hadera on Sunday.
Mahamed had announced his resignation in a live interview Thursday evening, only to announce he would remain in office a few hours later.
The words of condolence to the families of the terrorists were published on the official Facebook account of the Municipality of Umm al-Fahm, and were written on his behalf of all municipal employees and residents of the city.
"On my behalf and on behalf of the members and employees of the Umm al - Fahm Municipality and the people of the city, we send our sincere condolences and heartfelt condolences to our brothers in the Bashir family, on the deaths of the deceased: Ayman Ahmad Bashir Agbaria and Ibrahim Hassan Bashir Agbaria," the municipality's Facebook page said.
"May God have mercy on them and forgive them and provide comfort to their families," it was written. "We belong to Allah and we will return to him."
Speaking to Kan News Thursday evening, Mahamed said: "I came from the field of education to serve the residents of the city. I was able to do a lot for their well-being and also failed in some places. I came to a place foreign to the values I follow. I was educated for tolerance, action and partnership and so I did and will continue to do. From the first moment I uttered my condemnation of this attack, it was not ambiguous - because that is my truth."
Trove of Newly Digitized Jewish Texts Reveal Untold Historical Treasures
Thousands of manuscripts at Chabad-Lubavitch Library now readily available to the public
"The Chabad Library holds one of the richest collections of Judaica in the world, including many thousands of rare books and manuscripts," says Elly Moseson, visiting professor in Eastern European Jewish Studies at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and an expert on the history and literature of the Chassidic movement, explaining the significance of this moment.
It's another step for the library that had already gone above and beyond in their efforts to make the collection accessible, Moseson tells Chabad.org. "The library had already revolutionized Jewish learning and scholarship with its digitization and online publication [in partnership with Hebrew Books] of thousands of rare titles from its collection of printed books," says Moseson.
"This collection contains almost 3,000 volumes of manuscripts," says RabbiShalomDovber Levine, the library's director. Levine says this digitized collection will allow students to look back to the source manuscripts of the works they are studying, to resolve questions in the text and correct printing errors.
Some precious artifacts in the new collection have broad appeal, such as the siddur ("prayerbook") of the saintly Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, known simply as the Baal Shem Tov or "Master of the Good Name." "Even non-specialists will be interested in perusing such precious items as the siddur used by the Baal Shem Tov," says Moseson.
The Baal Shem Tov's siddur is stained with his tears and blood. (Credit: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad)
A Vast Archive Precious Books, Photographs and Documents
Located adjacent to the iconic tri-peaked facade that occupies 770 Eastern Parkway, Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad has long been a haven for researchers, bibliophiles and history enthusiasts. Housing one of the largest Judaica collections in the world, the library always made its extensive print collection available to the public, whether in its reading room or by using their website to browse through some of their 300,000 books or vast archives of photographs and other documents.
It's not common for a private library to give such unfettered public access to their troves, acknowledges Michelle Margolis, librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia University Libraries and vice president of the Association of Jewish Libraries. "I'm excited. The digitization of a private library is the exception rather than the rule," she says. "Putting it all online in a clear way will allow more people to engage with the materials; it's a really important step."
For Moseson, one item that stands out has been hidden from the public eye for centuries, with few ever laying eyes upon it: the siddur("prayer book") of the saintly Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov. This priceless manuscript, believed to have been written by the Baal Shem Tov's brother-in-law, Rabbi Gershon of Kuty (Kitov), has been treasured for generations for its holiness.
Inscribed in the siddur are names of the Baal
Shem Tov's disciples and their family members requesting that he pray on
their behalf. (Credit: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad)
The siddur offers us a glimpse into the Baal Shem Tov's prayer experience, with lofty kabbalistic intentions inscribed within its pages, and his blood and tears staining the Rosh Hashanah prayers.
One of its most striking features are the many names that the Baal Shem Tov's disciples and their family members wrote in the prayerbook's margins, with requests that the Baal Shem Tov beseech G‑d on their behalf during his prayers. Names of men and women are inscribed for a variety of blessings, ranging from spiritual needs to blessings for healthy children, and for one woman, "so that she doesn't miscarry." "Pray for Chaim the son of Devorah and his wife Chana the daughter of Kreina to be blessed with children," reads one supplication. Another student asks that his teacher pray for him "to be taken out of the diaspora and to ascend to the Holy Land imminently." A note written on behalf of the famed Chassidic master Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov asks the Baal Shem Tov to "remember" him, and his wife and daughter, in prayer, "that G‑d strengthen his heart to serve Him, and may his children live."
The story of the siddur's travails are cloaked in mystery, but what is known is that the Baal Shem Tov's grandson, Rabbi Yisrael "the Silent," inherited the siddur from his father, Rabbi Tzvi, the Baal Shem Tov's only son. During one of Rabbi Yisrael the Silent's journeys, he stopped in the village of Yarivitch (Yurovichi, Belarus), where he suddenly fell ill. The Baal Shem Tov's grandson knew his death was imminent and summoned the village's community leaders, telling them about the precious siddur he had with him. He then requested that they pass the holy artifact to Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl (1770-1837). Rabbi Yisrael the Silent passed away, and after burying him, the community representatives traveled to Chernobyl. "We have the Baal Shem Tov's siddur," they informed the tzadik, saying they'd give it to him only on the condition he spent a Shabbat with them in Yarivitch. Rabbi Mordechai acquiesced, and the siddur was his.
Somehow, the siddur came into the possession of a wealthy man, Rabbi Yitzchak Lipson, possibly by inheritance. He had it for years, but sometime in the 1920s sold it to the Sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef YitzchakSchneersohn, of righteous memory, who was also a descendant of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl. The Sixth Rebbe brought this priceless possession with him to New York after escaping Nazi-occupied Europe and it was kept in his library. Though portions of it have been reproduced in the past, the siddur's digitization as part of the Chabad Library's project marks the first time it is available to be viewed in its entirety.
The Chabad Library manuscripts by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, the famed kabbalist. Pictured here is his work Ohr Yakar. (Credit: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad)
A Treasurehouse of Kabbalistic Insights
Other rare, handwritten manuscripts that were digitized include the kabbalistic textOhr Yakar by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (1482-1570), known by his initials as the "Ramak." The Ramak was the greatest kabbalist of his day and studied under the famous Rabbi Yosef Caro, who codified Jewish law into the Shulchan Aruch. He studied Kabbalah under his brother-in-law, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, author of the Lechah Dodi prayer chanted every Friday night. The Ramak authored many deep, mainly kabbalistic works, and his lengthiest is Ohr Yakar, a commentary on the Zohar.
The Chabad Library houses the original manuscript of the Ramak's commentary on the first section of the Zohar, three volumes of writing that total almost 400 folios.
After the Ramak's passing, his colleague, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572), headed the circle of kabbalists in the holy city of Safed, Israel. Known by his initials as the "Ari," or after his passing as the "Arizal," he taught what became the pre-eminent school of kabbalistic thought. The transcripts of his leading student, Rabbi Chaim Vital (1543-1620) were accepted as the authoritative teachings of the Arizal. These manuscripts were arranged by his son, Rabbi Shmuel Vital in the latter's handwriting, and became known as Kitvei haArizal, "Writings of the Arizal." Of the eight manuscripts, six are housed in the Chabad Library.
The handwritten volume of the kabbalistic work Pri Eitz Chaim, by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria. (Credit: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad)
Another manuscript of note is the Mishnah Berurah, the classic 19th-century commentary on everyday parts of Jewish law by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838-1933). His rulings and explanations on Jewish law are widely studied today in many Jewish communities. The Chabad library houses 13 chapters of his handwritten manuscript containing some of the most widely studied sections of the laws of Shabbat.
More than a century before the Mishnah Berurah's publication in 1884, a ground-breaking code of Jewish law was written by the Alter Rebbe—Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1813)—at the behest of his teacher,Rabbi Dovber of Mezritch, the Baal Shem Tov's successor. It was known as Shulchan Aruch Harav, or the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch. For years, scholars had thought that all of his extant rulings had been published. Large parts of his code were burnt in a fire that ripped through the village of Liadi in the early 1800s, but of the surviving manuscripts, all were thought to have been published in the Zhitomir edition of 1856.
That changed when the digitized archive was released this month. Scholars, researchers, manuscript experts and laypeople spontaneously teamed up on an online forum to discuss, catalog and study these newly released texts.
"Democratization of knowledge is a hallmark of the current era. The library making these manuscripts available to the public is an expression of this, and the crowdsourced discovery and cataloging of information is its actualization," says Shmuel Super, a Jewish-studies researcher who took part in the grassroots effort to study and catalog the works.
Super himself made a remarkable discovery: an unpublished manuscript of a responsum from the third Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek—Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866).
For Super, it's his first deep dive into the world of manuscripts. But others who have joined the crowdsourcing effort have years of expertise with Jewish manuscripts, including some of those who edited and published many of these works.
Rabbi Avraham Alashvili discovered unpublished paragraphs of the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch. (Credit: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad)
One such expert is Rabbi Avraham Alashvili of Lod, Israel. "Until this week, we thought we had published all extant parts of the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch," says Alashvili, who served on the editorial board of the 2001 newly re-typeset and annotated edition of the Shulchan Aruch that replaced the 1904 Vilna edition in use until then. "We didn't think we'd find more in manuscript form."
But browsing through various collections of handwritten manuscripts on vastly different topics, Alashvili stumbled across what appeared to be a manuscript of never-seen paragraphs of the Shulchan Aruch. Careful examination and collaboration with others on the discussion forum revealed that these paragraphs were previously unknown. "We didn't have this manuscript in the library when we published the new edition of the Shulchan Aruch," he explains, noting that even if it would have been in the library then, nobody would have thought to look for it among pages of other material. In fact, a copy of this manuscript, part of the Schocken Institute's collection, was only given to the Chabad Library ten years ago.
The new paragraphs include a directive to "be familiar with the writings of the Prophets and their guidance, and all 24 books (of the Tanach) to fill the heart with fear of Heaven," as well as an admonition not to hate your fellow, even in your heart.
"These two ideas that were revealed comprise the two most central objectives for Jews in today's age: Love your fellow Jew and study Torah," says Alashvili. "I feel the Alter Rebbe is sending regards from Heaven, telling us to strengthen the study of his compendium."
The Chabad Library houses 13 chapters of the
Mishnah Berurah. Pictured is chapter 318, dealing with the laws of
cooking on Shabbat. (Credit: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad)
Jewish-studies researcher Shmuel Super came across an unpublished responsum of the Tzemach Tzedek.
Though it isn't in his script and the signature page is missing, the
lines here point to the author's identity as a grandson of the Alter
Rebbe. (Credit: Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad)
The black spider, named Sahastata aravaensis because of its habitat, belongs to the Sahastata genus of the Filistatinae family.
A new spider species, Sahastata aravaensis, was found in southern Israel. Credit: Shlomi Aharon/Hebrew University of Jerusalem
(February 22, 2022 / JNS) Israeli researchers discovered a new species of spiders in the Arava region of southern Israel.
Researchers from the Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University found the spider during a five-year stint monitoring the oil-spill effects on spiders, reported Ynet. The study looked at an area of desert where two oil spills occurred in 1975 and 2014.
The spider's life expectancy is about four years, most of which is spent in its silk-webbed nest.
The black spider was named Sahastata aravaensis because of its habitat. It belongs to the Sahastata genus of the Filistatinae family.
During experiments, the researchers found that when spiders were given a choice between clean and contaminated soil, most chose clean soil.
The entrance to Biblical Tel (Be'er) Sheva, replete with walls, gate—and a deep well outside the gate so visitors and animals could easily obtain water: signs of both security and hospitality. (Credit: Seth Aronstam)
1. The Land of Israel Was Given to Abraham and His Children
In more than one place in the book of Genesis,1 G‑d promises the Land of Israel (then known as the Land of Canaan) to Abraham and his children. This promise is reiterated to his son Isaac,2 and grandson Jacob,3 the progenitor of the Jewish people. It remains in effect until this very day,4 and Israel remains the eternal inheritance of the Nation of Israel.
In Hebrew the Land of Israel is Eretz Yisrael. It is also referred to as Eretz Hakodesh, "the Holy Land," or Artzeinu Hakedoshah, "our Holy Land." This is because the very space is sacred, designated so by G‑d.
Shortly after Abraham and Sarah came to Canaan, a famine forced them to leave to Egypt. Scripture5 describes this trip as a "descent." The sages note that Israel is (metaphorically) higher than all other lands,6 making travel to Israel an ascent and leaving it a descent. Those who returned to Israel in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah are referred to as the olei Bavel ("ascenders [from] Babylon"), and in modern parlance moving to Israel is referred to as aliyah ("ascent").
A 19th-century depiction of the Four Holy Cities of Israel. (Photo: Wikimedia)
All of Israel is holy, yet four cities—Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias—can have the words ir hakodesh ("the holy city") appended to their names.
Each one of these is considered unique and holy for different reasons, but the term "four holy cities of Israel" was coined in the 16th century, when these cities banded together for charitable purposes under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe Alshich, together with Rabbi Yosef Caro, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria and Rabbi David ibn Zimra (Radbaz).
For generations the Kotel, the supporting wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, has been the spiritual center of the Jewish nation. (Painting by Gustav Bauernfeind)
In the book of Deuteronomy,7Moses speaks of a place in the Land of Israel where G‑d will cause His glory to rest. In a dramatic turn of events in the final chapter of the book of Samuel8 it becomes clear that this place is a mountain abutting the city of Jerusalem. Ever since the Holy Temple was built on that mountain, known as Mount Moriah or the Temple Mount, Jerusalem has become the eternal capital of the Jewish people.
After 210 years of suffering in Egypt followed by 40 years of wandering through the desert, Abraham's descendants returned to settle the land promised to their ancestors. The land was divided by lottery, with separate portions given to each of the 12 tribes. The only tribe not to receive a portion was Levi, who had been assigned to serve as ministers to G‑d, and were supported by various tithes and "gifts" members of the other tribes would give them. They lived in cities scattered throughout the land.
7. For Many Years It Was Divided Into Israel and Judah
Saul was the first king to rule the Land of Israel, followed by David and Solomon. After Solomon's passing, his descendants ruled over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, in what became known as the Kingdom of Judah (or Judea). The other 10 tribes were ruled by the kings of Israel in the north. This continued until the northern kingdom fell to the mighty Assyrians in the year 3205 (556 BCE), leaving just the kingdom of Judah. Since then, the surviving people of Israel have become collectively known as Jews ("of Judah"), regardless of their tribal ancestry.
The Talmud records a debate whether Acco is considered part of Israel. (Photo: Seth Aronstam)
The Torah spells out the borders of the Land of Israel,9 which were subsequently expanded by King Solomon. Some of that area, to the east and north, is in modern-day Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Conversely, the southern borders of modern-day Israel may very well extend past the historical boundaries of the Holy Land.
Even as the Jews were exiled from their land, it remained central in their hearts and minds. The thrice-daily prayers and Grace After Meals make numerous mentions of our desire to once again settle there. And even though we may not physically be in the Holy Land, our prayers ascend to heaven through it. Daniel, who lived during the Babylonian exile, faced Jerusalem in prayer: "Daniel . . . went into his house—now, his windows in his upper chamber opened toward Jerusalem—and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed . . ."
Following this tradition, Jews in the Diaspora face Israel (which is often to the east of them) when praying the Amidah.
For hundreds of years there were two centers of Jewish learning, one in Babylon and the other in the Land of Israel (based in the holy city of Tiberias). After the Talmudic sage Rabbi Zeira traveled from Babylon to the Land of Israel, he commented that the very air of the land makes a person wise.10
Volunteers pack up boxes of kosher-for-Passover items as part of Colel Chabad's largest food drive to date, which will be distributed to those in need in time for the holiday. (Photo: Israel Bardugo)
For many hundreds of years, living in the Holy Land was something most Jews could only dream of. However, communities all over the world regularly sent donations to support the needy of the Land, many of whom were impoverished scholars and elderly people. This charity is often known as tzedakah (charity) of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. The oldest such fund, Kollel Chabad, was founded by the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in 1788.
In the Diaspora, the Jewish pilgrimage festivals—Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot (and Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah)—are observed for an extra day. Historically, this was to ensure that even remote communities, who may have made a mistake in their calculations, celebrated on the appropriate day. In Israel, however, there was never any concern, and the only holiday which is expanded into a second day is Rosh Hashanah.
Israel is the holy land, and Jewish law forbids a Jewish person to leave it unless he or she has good reason, which may include: to study Torah, to marry, or for pressing financial reasons. After achieving those objectives, one must return to Israel.11
When G‑d spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He informed him that He would redeem the Israelites and bring them to a "good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . ."12 Honey here (and in some other places in Scripture) is understood to refer to fruit nectar, specifically date honey—not bees' honey.
A cash crop even today, in antiquity date palms provided food, shelter, shade, medicine—and became a symbol of Judea.
In describing the extraordinary beauty and uniqueness of the Land of Israel, Scripture tells us, "For the L‑rd your G‑d is bringing you to a good land, a land with brooks of water . . . a land of wheat and barley, [grape] vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-producing olives and honey [from dates] . . ."13
When eating any of these along with other fruit, we partake of these first. And a special blessing is said after we eat them, in which we thank G‑d for the land He gave us.
Although Israel is a relatively small country, it has an incredibly diverse natural landscape. In just a few hours of travel one can traverse sandy deserts, fertile valleys and woodsy mountains, with great fluctuations of weather. It can be snowing in the hills of Jerusalem and sweltering hot just 20 miles away on the sandy beaches of the Dead Sea, the lowest elevation on earth (1410 feet below sea level).
The Torah describes the Land of Israel as "a land with brooks of water, fountains and depths, that emerge in valleys and mountains."14 Blessed with an abundance of water, it sits east of the Mediterranean Sea. On its northeastern corner lies the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which feeds into the Jordan River, which in turn feeds into the Dead Sea in the southeast. Since the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea are both salty, the freshwater supply is limited, propelling modern Israel to become a leader in the desalination industry.
18. It's Strategically Located Between Asia and Africa
The shortest land route from Eurasia to Africa runs through the Land of Israel, which is one of the reasons the area was the site of so much historic warfare. For example, when the Alexandrian Greeks (headquartered in Alexandria, Egypt, which is in Africa) butted heads with the Syrian Greeks (headquartered in what is now Turkey), Israel saw more than its fair share of Greeks in uniform. This led to the Maccabean rebellion and the miracle of Chanukah.
Upon alighting onto the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport in Israel, it is not uncommon to see passengers kissing the ground. This is an ancient tradition in Judaism. In the words of Maimonides,15 "Great sages would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, kiss its stones and roll in its dust. Similarly, Scripture declares:16 'Behold, Your servants hold her stones dear and cherish her dust.'"
Before his passing in Egypt, Jacob asked his son Joseph to transport his body to be buried in his ancestral burial plot in Hebron. According to the Talmud, being buried in the Land of Israel brings a certain measure of atonement to the deceased. In addition, in the time to come, the dead will come back to life in Israel. The bodies of those who are buried outside of Israel will burrow through the earth until they reach the Land, and then their souls will be reinstated in their bodies. Being buried in the Holy Land precludes the need for this process.
Jews in the Diaspora are long used to making sure that processed food is certified kosher. But raw grains, fruits and veggies are almost always okay, provided that they are bug-free. Things are very different in Israel, where many biblical agricultural laws are still in effect (to a degree). Thus, produce may not be enjoyed until a battery of tithes have been separated; fruit of the seventh year is sacred; and one must ascertain that fruit grew from a tree older than four years.
Scripture describes the Holy Land as "a land the L‑rd, your G‑d, looks after; the eyes of L‑rd your G‑d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."17 The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, often cited this verse as proof that Israel's denizens receive G‑d's special protection, making it "the safest place in the world."