שמע ישראל יי אלהינו יי אחד

צִיּוֹן, בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה; וְשָׁבֶיהָ, בִּצְדָקָה

עוּרִי עוּרִי לִבְשִׁי-עֹז, זְרוֹעַ יְהוָה--עוּרִי כִּימֵי קֶדֶם, דֹּרוֹת עוֹלָמִים

16 September 2009

K'Tivah V'Chatimah Tovah!

To say the last week of Elul is a busy time would be understating it a bit. Running around like a chicken without a head springs to mind, though this year it's been pretty together for me, so far. I have been rearmed with my new tefillin, which I am enjoying immensely.

My honey from Israel arrived on time, so left on the to do list is challah and wine. I found a source for Binyamina wines nearby so no worries about being stuck with Baron Herzog at the last minute.

Speaking of Binyamina wine, I volunteered to read the haftorah for the second day of Rosh Hashanah. It's inspiring to read a prophesy that we can see coming to pass before our very eyes...

.עוֹד תִּטְּעִי כְרָמִים, בְּהָרֵי שֹׁמְרוֹן; נָטְעוּ נֹטְעִים, וְחִלֵּלוּ

Yes, the grapes are growing on the mountains of Shomron. The planters plant, and are indeed making use of them. I love it when a plan comes together. I thank HaShem every day for not making me a goy, but this time of year I find to be the most delicious and sweet to be of Am Yisrael. Oh, to be in Eretz Yisrael to walk among the vineyards, and not just taste the wine.

Next Year!

I really can't speak of the more personal side of this week. I think that what goes on between a Jew and HaShem is best left between the two. But what a joy it is join the relationship anew at this time of year, when the air grows crisp and clearer, when the harvest comes in, and the gates are so wide open.

I can speak on the distance between myself and our land. In physical terms it should be about 6000 miles, but really it's only the distance of one verse from Jeremiah. I will be chanting only 19 verses on the second day, while 20 are read in Israel.

הַצִּיבִי לָךְ צִיֻּנִים, שִׂמִי לָךְ תַּמְרוּרִים--שִׁתִי לִבֵּךְ, לַמְסִלָּה דֶּרֶךְ הלכתי (הָלָכְתְּ); שׁוּבִי בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֻׁבִי אֶל-עָרַיִךְ אֵלֶּה

I find it a little sad we don't read that last verse in Galut, the place in greatest need of markers, the place from which we have the greatest need to set our hearts toward home. I suppose that we have no physical roads out here on which to walk, but my feet are pointed that way. I'll walk home if that's what it takes.

K'Tivah V'Chatimah Tovah!

10 September 2009

Shabbat Nitzavim

My new tefillin arrived today. All my thanks to Rabbi Zalman for his help in getting them to me. But of course the story does not end there. Rearmed and ready to face the challenges of the new year, with Elul drawing to a close, I continue to look back, and look ahead. And we have collective challenges as a people as well.

We read the last of the haftorot of consolation this week, and see that HaShem is restless, on the move, and making ready for our redemption. Yeshayahu speaks of watchmen upon the walls of Jerusalem. We see an image of G-d doing battle with His enemies. The metaphor is of blood staining a raiment, as HaShem has trodden upon his enemies like grapes in the winepress, even as he is ready to redeem us and take us to Him as a groom weds his bride.

In this time, when the voices of our enemies grow louder, as they demand our land, our cities, our capital so too must we stand up. If we are being wed to HaShem, how can we be ready if we are silent? If G-d is going to battle with our enemies, then we are bidden to do so as well, each in their own way. When our destruction is sought, every act we commit that upholds our laws and traditions is a blow to our enemies. Every time we stand up to the voices of propagandists and liars, even those among our own people (unfortunately, there are many), we thwart those who seek to do us harm, and bring the redemption of all of Israel that much closer.

Who are the watchers on the walls? We are. When the government of the United States does not recognize Jerusalem as our capital, and seeks to divide the city as the Jordanian Army did, expelling us totally; when they say that Jews born in Jerusalem cannot denote Israel as their country of birth on an American passport, we must be the guardians. We must be the voice that speaks out. We must be the shofarot that blast the message that we are in our land, we are in our Holy City, and we are not leaving again.

Chazak v'amatz, and Shabbat Shalom

06 September 2009

Watchmen Upon The Walls

Now, as we have seen in the past, when HaShem hardens the hearts of our enemies, it strengthens the resolve of the nation. Though this has not yet translated into action within the Knesset to bring a halt to negotiations with, and talk of giving our land up to our enemies, there is a growing consciousness in Israel, and in Diaspora, that our enemies are once again mounting pressure on Am Yisrael to surrender itself, to compromise itself.

Too often we have seen what happens when the powers that be compromise and corrupt themselves. We also know the consequences of fighting amongst ourselves. We have seen it throughout our ancient history, and into the modern era. More and more Am Yisrael is realizing the crossroads at which we stand. And though the quarreling among us has even escalated into violence, as we see have seen played out over the last several months...over a parking lot...where Jews feel justified in profaning the Sabbath in order to defend it (seriously...is this Chelm or Eretz Yisrael?). But our national existence, the preservation of our homeland is at stake and there is a consciousness that is awakening within us, in Eretz Yisrael, and in Galut.

You can see it in an illustrative story about a girl who has come of age, and used the occasion to collect gifts for members of the IDF. You can see it in Israeli polls, when support for Yesha is growing, as is the opposition to a construction freeze; the direct result of what happened in Gush Katif. You can see it in the rapidly growing number of Haredim in enlisting in the IDF. You can see it in a slow, but steady increase in the numbers of us making aliyah...to the point that we are fast approaching the tipping point when there will be more Jews living in our homeland than in exile.

Hostile forces are gathering around us, from all corners of the earth, but rather than be silent, Am Yisrael is speaking out. Whether it is in Yesha communities like Binyamin or Ma'aleh Adumim, the message is clear that Am Yisrael is in the land, and we are not leaving. Voices of resistance and protest are gathering in Diaspora as well. We are not silent. If anything, our voices must get louder. Is this not what Yeshayahu has been channelling to us over the weeks since Tisha b'Av, and does again this week?

לְמַעַן צִיּוֹן לֹא אֶחֱשֶׁה, וּלְמַעַן יְרוּשָׁלִַם לֹא אֶשְׁקוֹט, עַד-יֵצֵא כַנֹּגַהּ צִדְקָהּ, וִישׁוּעָתָהּ כְּלַפִּיד יִבְעָר

The stones of Yerushalyim are silent. We cannot afford to be silent.

עַל-חוֹמֹתַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִַם, הִפְקַדְתִּי שֹׁמְרִים--כָּל-הַיּוֹם וְכָל-הַלַּיְלָה תָּמִיד, לֹא יֶחֱשׁוּ; הַמַּזְכִּרִים, אֶת-יְהוָה--אַל-דֳּמִי, לָכֶם

Yesha guards the walls. We have seen one chorban. We shouldn't see another.

05 September 2009

Melech Ohev Tzedakah u'Mishpat

Last night I gathered with fellow Jews at the Chabad house for Shabbat dinner. Most of these folks are young college and post graduate students. When it came time for the l'chaims a young woman, a third year law student, stood up and spoke about the bombing in Buenos Aires at the AIMA Jewish Community Center. Coming two years after the bombing of Israel's Buenos Aires embassy in which 29 were killed, and 250 were injured, the AIMA bombing took the lives of 87, with over 100 wounded. No justice has been achieved in either case. The Jewish community there continues to speak out, continues to shame the authorities, continues to demand justice in the face of an incident that Argentinian authorities seem content to leave unsolved.

She spoke of a people who, though small in number, have risen up and fought for justice in the past, and must do so again. She raised a glass and asked us to toast that this coming year would be one in which we fought for justice, that though we are not as large as the other nations of the world, that when we speak with one voice we make ourselves heard.

I couldn't agree more.

In her last post before Shabbat, Lemon writes of a young boy who was killed, and another wounded by a pickaxe wielding Arab. Shalom Nativ was 13; the age when Jews accept the yoke of mitzvah, and take their place among the people. Instead Shalom takes his place on the long list of children who have been murdered in cold blood in their own land.

Who in the world is going to demand justice for Shalom Nativ? Will it be Marack, who demands that Jews not even build in their own capital, and considers Jews building homes in their communities the great impediment to peace? Will it be Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak, or Bibi Netanyahu? They seem more interested in committing acts of injustice against Jews in their homeland that fighting for justice. Will it be the world community that is busy funneling money into the pockets of the terrorists who are trying to kill us? As far as the world seems to be concerned, we are the problem...Shalom Nativ brought his death by pickaxe on himself because, after all, he's a living, breathing Jew in his homeland.

If the world sees us, our homes, and our homeland as the problem, then it is up to us, as this young woman in America, some 6000 miles from the place where Shalom Nativ died has suggested, to pursue and achieve justice; for the Buenos Aires bombing, for the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, for the death of Shalom Nativ, and for every other child murdered by the racists of the world that they world ignores with its perpetual silence.

When we daven the Amidah we refer to Hashem as Melech ohev tzeddakah u'mishpat, our King who loves righteousness and justice. On Rosh Hashanah we replace those words with HaMelech, HaMishpat: The King, the Justice.

When the world is silent, we must speak out. As we fast approach the Yomim Nora'im and ask for justice and mercy from Hashem, we are also bidden to seek justice. How can we ask the King of Justice for anything if we are unwilling to act ourselves?

When our blood is being shed, silence is not an option.

Shavuah Tov