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ב"ה

Musings and Schmoozings

Running

"They run and we run. We run towards the World of Eternity and they run towards the endless abyss" -- Liturgy, Siyum Ceremony

Never have I been more proud of being Jewish, never have I felt closer to my fellow Jews, and never have I been more hopeful about the future of our great people.

The above quotation expresses our gratitude to G-d for endowing us with the Torah's gift of Purpose. In moments of darkness like today -- I can deeply understand how unique we truly are, and how grateful we must be, for a Torah enlightened identity. 

Consider this: A Holocaust denying people have the Chutzpa to accuse us of perpetrating a Holocaust!

Hamas, an offshoot of the fanatical Islamic Brotherhood, which was itself inspired by perhaps Hilter's (ym"sh) greatest fan, calls US "worse than Hitler"--MADNESS! Even more maddening is for the most part -- the world is silent. 

But in this there is hope. We look around us, and we see what makes us unique. The sharp contrast between US and THEM--is clear to us. 

Today we may feel lonely and frustrated that NO ONE UNDERSTANDS. Yet, we are empowered with the knowledge that we are a special people.

This Tuesday we celebrate Tisha B'av. The Talmud states that on the day of Tisha B'av--the darkest day in Jewish History--the [hope of the] Messiah was born. On the darkest of days, humanity's hope was born. 

Looking around, it sure is dark. Let us pray that this year, the salvation will be fully realized.

AM YISRAEL CHAI!

Gaza, Truth & The Red Apple

An older fellow was driving on the freeway when his phone rings. He picks up the phone, it’s his wife on the phone with a warning.  “I heard on the radio that a Meshugane is driving in the wrong direction on the Freeway -- please be careful!”

“ONE car going the wrong way?!” the husband replies. “There are HUNDREDS!”

What do you do when you KNOW something to be the TRUTH, and yet everyone around you insists otherwise? 

Do you change your tune? Do you second guess the veracity of your position?

If everyone else is traveling in an opposing direction on the freeway – does this necessarily mean that it is YOU are driving the wrong way?

Rabbi Baruch Hilsenrath, my Elementary School Principal, had a poster in his office. Depicted on it was an arrangement of 11 green apples and only one red one. The poster read, “Dare to be Different”.

Reuters, AP, CNN, SKY, Al-Jazeera, all spout lies and hatred. Skewed news and outright lies. Journalistic objectivity becomes license for hatred and Anti-Semitism. Even moderate [respectable] press establishments feel the need to sprinkle in a sense of balance with their reporting – as if reporting truth is somehow wrong.

The world is upside down, and it seems like it is all on our heads.

Prime Minister Yiztchak Rabin z’l, recalled an audience that he had with the Lubavitcher Rebbe while serving as Israeli Ambassador to the US. The Rebbe was addressing the isolation of Israel in the eyes of the world; her morality and noble nature ignored by everyone.  He quoted the Prophecy Biliam, who said “[Israel is] A nation who will dwell in isolation, who will not be reckoned amongst the nations” Am Lvadad Yishkon Uvagoyim Lo Yitchashav. (Bamidbar 23:9)

The Rebbe’s question for Rabin, which he went on to answer, was whether this isolation is by force or by our choice.

The Rebbe explained that both are true. We choose to be unique; we are steadfast to our traditions by our choice. Throughout our history, we’ve strongly CHOSEN to be unique, despite being in foreign cultures and environments.

Yet, sadly, at times outside factors present themselves, evil is imposed upon us. At such times, we are then forced to unite and embrace the unique ‘isolated’ status. As a people, we are then forced to strengthen ourselves as an isolated, yet strong national entity and faith.

More than just citizens of the world – we are strong and proud Jews. Our legacy is one of compassion, morality, and sense of Justice inherent to our spiritual DNA. In moments like these – we don’t engage in self-doubt or self-criticism – we forge a sense of deep allegiance and connection to our faith and our way of truth.  

In closing, I’d like to relate a conversation at a Bar Mitzva Kiddush in our Shul two weeks ago. The Israeli father of the Bar Mitzva boy, whose brother was tragically killed in Lebanon in 1981, asked me, “Have you ever been in Israel during a war?” I replied that I hadn’t.

His response: You should know that Israel during wartime is a special place. Everyone gets along, there is a special atmosphere. You wouldn’t recognize it as the same place.   

Hashem, we turn to you in Prayer: See how your children are unflinching in the face of isolation and world condemnation. See the acts of love, sacrifice, and courage. See how the opinion of the masses does not change their commitment to what they know is true.

Hashem, please answer the prayers of your children, with the coming of Mashiach Tzikeinu, an era of peace and harmony, in which Truth will be recognized without sacrifice.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yisroel Hecht

In Golda Meir's Words

On a day like today, when the brave men and women of the IDF are courageously risking their lives, battling against terrorists –any words I write will ring hollow.

I therefore lift from the words of Golda Meir, the famous Prime Minister of Israel, as told by statesman, Yehuda Avner.

During the Yom Kippur War, Yehuda Avner was the head of the Prime Minister Golda Meir’s Foreign Press Bureau. When the war started, he was appointed to deal with the huge throng of international press that had converged on Israel to cover the war.

On the 5th day of the war, Golda Meir decided to see the northern battlefield with her own eyes. At the start of the war, the Syrians had overrun to the north of Israel, and miraculously, the IDF soldiers with great courage and significant sacrifice, succeeded in pushing the Syrian forces back and pursued them to Beirut.

Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir, press entourage in tow, landed above the so called, “Emek Habacha”  (the Valley of Tears)— scene of a horrific tank battle which turned the tide of the war. It was a horrific scene of devastation and loss of life.

Golda approached the soldiers and thanked them for their service, and talked to them for a short while. When she was finished she turned to the soldiers and asked, “Do you have any questions for me?”

A soldier covered with soot and dust, raised his hand and asked a painful question.

The solder began, “I lost my father in the 1948 War of Independence. I lost my uncle in the 1967 Six-Day War. I lost my best friend in this war”.

“ Golda— what’s the point if we can’t win the peace?”

Yehuda Avner recalls that a deep sadness swept over the Prime Minister as she began her reply.

 “You know, you might well be right. If it is only for ourselves [that we are fighting]— you might well be right. But [since] it is for the sake of the entire Jewish People —any sacrifice is worthwhile.”

And then Golda elaborated on her answer by telling a personal and well known story.

In 1948 Golda Meir was appointed as the first ambassador to Stalinist Russia. The first Shabbat in Moscow,  the secular future Prime Minister went to Synagogue to attend Friday Evening Services.  It was virtually empty.

The second Shabbat, a historic event unfolded. Tens of Thousands of Jews gathered at the synagogue, yelling out “A Gut Shabbos Golda-le!” “Sholom Aleichem Goldale!” “A brocha oif dir Golda-le.”

Word had somehow spread that Golda Meir was going to attend synagogue and the glowing embers of Jewish Pride burst forth into a flame of love and desire to connect with their Judaism outside of the Iron Curtain, and to connect with Golda Meir despite the risks in Stalinist Russia.

Golda Meir’s response:  “Ich Dank Eich, Vos Ir Hot Geblibin Yiddin” – Thank you for remaining Jewish.  

Golda then turned to the soldier,  as she recalled the Moscow scene where she had witnessed the sacrifices of Soviet Jewry, the interconnected and unified nature of the Jewish People, and the optimistic tenacity with which Jews maintained their Jewish root despite the risks.

“I now realize that for the sake of the Jewish People —any of our sacrifices are worthwhile."

May Hashem Protect and Bless the Soldiers of the IDF.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabi Yisroel Hecht 

News-Worthy

I admit it – I am somewhat of a news junkie.

If something is going on somewhere in the world, I have an insatiable and perhaps [what my wife will call a] compulsive desire to learn about it.

Can I control or affect what is going on? Does my knowledge of what ‘talking heads’ think about events on the other side of the globe matter? Not really.

But this is different.

When our brothers and sisters are under fire in our homeland, there is a justifiable [I say] need to know. I’ve been following live blogs over the past few days, identifying with the fear of Acheinu Bnei Yisrael, our Israeli Brethren.

I’ve felt consumed with the round the clock hell of a life dictated by the uncertainty borne of our enemies hatred of us – and in fact themselves.

I find myself trying to come to grips with the complicated dilemmas of life under rocket attack: Will there be enough time to have a bath, or use the restroom before the next Code Red? Will there be enough time for me to grab my child from the crib and the toddler from the yard and still make it into the shelter? Will elderly parents living alone make it to the shelter safely? Is one’s bed or the bomb shelter a wiser place to sleep for the night?

My Uncle Moshe, a resident in quiet and serene Rehovot, told me about his horrible experience of having to rush to their local bomb shelter only to find it locked.

Unreal.

And then, this morning, when I – of course—rushed to the computer to find out what occurred overnight in Israel, I was confronted with the following headline: Kiev - 19 Ukraine Servicemen Killed In Rocket Attack.

A Grad missile attack – yes, one of the missiles of choice of murderous Hamas, killed 19 Ukrainian soldiers, fired from 15 kilometers away. A terrible tragedy and one that could push that conflagration closer to war, G-d forbid.

I was floored.

For the past four days, barrage after barrage of missiles have reigned on Israel. Over 1000 missiles have been fired, with the ingenious Iron Dome stopping 90% of them. This still leaves 100 lethal rockets which did land. They have caused considerable damage, but very few injuries. Baruch Hashem, with G-d’s bountiful mercy, there has been no direct fatalities – may G-d continue to protect us.

Consider, on the other hand, that one rocket volley in the Ukraine snuffed out 19 lives. If this is not miraculous, I don’t know what is.

Israel is called the Land which “the eyes of G-d A-mighty are upon, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” [Deut. 11:12]

   "ארץ אשר עיני ה' אלוקך בה מראשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה"

May Hashem continue to shower our people with protection and blessings.

May there be true peace in Israel – a peace that can only be achieved by strength and determination. We pray for the safety of the IDF who are putting their lives on the line to protect the 6 Million Jewish lives and all the citizens of other faiths who benefit from the only true democracy in the Middle East.

May Hashem bless the leaders of Israel with the wisdom to protect its citizens, and may we recognize the clear miracles that G-d is bestowing upon us.

And here’s the bottom line. While my watching the news is probably a complete waste of quality time and has no impact, there is no question that every Mitzva that we do in honor of Israel—certainly makes a world of difference.

With the valiant efforts and self-sacrifice of the IDF, coupled with G-d’s continued blessings, in addition to the Mitzvot done is Israel’s honor -- we will certainly be reading good news – whether I check the latest headlines or not.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yisroel Hecht

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