Song of Peace
We buried him on 9-11. He had died just two days earlier. It was later that I understood that he was helping the souls who had to pass over that day.
Sean, my neighbor down the street, was only 16 when he died after a heroic battle with cancer. His family belonged to Shirat Shalom which was only a few years old at that time.
I often talked to his mother afterwards of the lessons I learned from Sean. I guess the main one was that when G-d calls I need to listen. When a month before Sean died I was told to form a healing circle with the neighbors, I argued about this. My neighbors were of all different faiths! How was I supposed to do that! Knock on doors? I only knew how to do Jewish healing circles! This was also twenty years ago when people weren’t as open as they are now.
Of course I had no peace until I took action. The opportunity came the next day when a neighbor down the street stopped to talk to me. She was a devout Christian and loved the idea!
So we began our prayer circle at her house which was right across the street from Sean's family. Each night as we would gather the circle became larger. We were of all faiths, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Native American. As his many friends began joining us people just seemed to come out of the woodwork. We all celebrated as Sean began to improve!
But then as that changed I understood the purpose of the circle. It was to help the family and all who loved him accept that this was Sean’s time. Sean already knew. He understood the healing circle was really for all of us.
His funeral was in the afternoon of that fateful day of 9-11. We wondered if everyone would still come but the chapel was overflowing with people spreading into the halls and outside. We were all there for Sean and the family but also for ourselves in response to the news. We didn’t have the full picture of what happened and were in shock still. We weren’t allowed to release the balloons at the internment due to security. This may be seen as another attack!
My father had called me that morning. Turn on the TV! My first reaction was to go and get my daughter from school. Many parents did. My son was already in college. I wanted to bring him home too but talking to him had to suffice.
I would often feel Sean’s presence over the next few years, especially during healing circles. I would watch in amazement how there would be profound shifts in people who were grieving loved ones. And yes, his mother and I understood as we would talk how powerful he really was. We both knew without a doubt that he was there that day of 9-11 and beyond helping souls cross over.
Throughout the years the children have asked why his name is on the Torah cover. I explain this is in memory of Sean. Then I tell them his story, just as I have told you.....
Sean's mother always tells me how the pictures of the children holding the Torah with "Sean" so close to their hearts brings her such comfort and joy! It brings me Joy too!
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An Equal Opportunity Menace by Rabbi David Degani
That dreadful feared virus which has been reeking havoc throughout the world has become a menacing threat with no end in sight. There is no country in the world which has not felt its wrath.
We as a congregation have been affected. Some of our members have have been infected with COVID-19. My own family was not spared from it either. It’s no fun.
Who needs wars? Who needs enemies? Who needs mega natural disasters, tsunamis, earthquakes?
Don’t get me wrong, Mother Nature is not giving us a break. Hurricane Ida punished Louisiana with major flooding and misery as far north as New Jersey and New York.
We are already counting more than 3 million COVID victims who lost their lives worldwide. Here in the US the number is in the hundreds of thousands and keeps rising.
We human beings are considered to be the crown jewel of G-D’s creation. We are smart, sophisticated. We know how to overcome challenges. We make, we research, we invent. It only took us a year or so to manage to develop several vaccines for a complex virus like COVID-19.
We thought we nipped it in the bud. We thought we humans now have the ultimate answer to overcome this dreadful pandemic. We thought we won. Get vaccinated and you are completely safe. Man made or not, this nasty virus was not going to get the best of us, we, the most sophisticated creatures in the known universe!
Well, so far this tiny virus seems to fight back pretty effectively. There is a Famous Yiddish saying: Man plans and G-D laughs.
We produced a vaccine to fight it and Mr. Covid 19 laughed and morphed itself. Enter Mr. Variant.
So... according to the CDC, if you are vaccinated, you are still susceptible to the variant, you can still get sick but hopefully it will be an easier ride, Unless G-D forbid one has some underlying serious medical condition.
Does anyone find this assessment comforting?
Well then, how long are we protected by the vaccine? No one really knows. Three months? Six months? A Year?
So, now we have booster shots for the rescue. They are good for how long? Maybe once a year. No big deal, like a flu shot. One little booster shot and you are good. They are already doing this in Israel where the COVID infection was a major problem.
But will that be enough? Will we eventually develop natural individual immunity or maybe, as the terms goes, herd immunity?
Who said ignorance is bliss?!!
As a dear friend who is a doctor and one of our Shirat Shalom members told me, when scientists and researchers are looking for answers they sometimes miscalculate and misinterpret data. As hypotheses and conclusions are adjusted and reassessed, recommendations to the public changes as research continues.
This is just the nature of science trying to grapple with a new disease.
Unfortunately, in the last year and a half we have experienced bitter disagreements, even ping pong accusations among scientists and politicians on the right course of action and policies, pulling all of us in so many directions.
And this only makes finding solutions that much harder.
No doubt, the vaccine with all its unknowns has saved thousands of lives. So, should we respect peoples’ refusal to vaccinate?
Should we make people vaccinate against their will for the safety of the community? And what about face masks?
Solving these issues becomes more complex than first meets the eye. Is it a serious public safety issue pinned against the sacred American principle of individual freedom?
The delta variant as it is called is very contagious. While most young and reasonably healthy people recover relatively fast, for people with more serious health issues COVID-19 can be life threatening.
Do we know for sure how to prevent COVID’s transmission? Are we sure about the efficiency of a piece of cloth which covers our mouth to prevent spreading of the virus? Especially when the eyes are not covered?
All we hear are scientists and doctors in disagreement about the exact way this virus behaves. All this pulls us in different directions instead of uniting us in this fight.
But what is the meaning of all this? Why do people have to suffer from such a pandemic? And why now?
We Jewish people are always looking for reasons for things. We try to understand our universe, make sense of it. Living in an uncertain world, it helps us understand the world around us a little better.
Maybe this pandemic with all of the suffering is a mirror of sorts. It is a mirror which allows us to look at ourselves through this chaos.
Mirror mirror on the wall, do we have the courage and the honesty to look at ourselves and examine the way we are reacting under such a serious virus threat? To see how fragmented we are in our own country?
These debates turn into animosity between opposing opinions. It's a ping pong of claims and counterclaims turning disagreements into discontent. It drives a wedge between people.
How did the virus start? Who is responsible for it? Who should be punished? Why support such sensitive virus research in a foe like China? Is the vaccine an adequate answer? Is it effective? Should we wear masks? Should children wear masks? Should they wear them in school? And on and on and on and on….
These arguments only serve to move us away from the target, from finding a real solution. For everyone’s sake we need to find ways to compromise. Fighting together is much better than being pulled into all sorts of ideological directions. We need to look beyond our differences. A unified front is the best front.
This is the only way we will win against this dreadful menace.
We are all in the same boat. The Corona Virus does not care about our political affiliation, our gender or race, rich or not so rich. This is an equal opportunity menace.
Maybe the lesson here is that we human beings are more vulnerable than we thought. Under pressure and challenges we seem to have difficulties overcoming mistrust and cooperating with each other for the common good.
There is a certain level of maturity to be true to ourselves yet flexible enough to listen and consider other possibilities. We all need to get there.
COVID-19 reminds us that we are all human inhabitants of the same wonderful planet. We all have the same aspirations and challenges as we interact with each other. We all share a common density in ways we did not realize before.
And finally we have learned that in our future world, medical challenges, working together is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. And maybe this seed of realization has been planted within us in the last year and a half. I will pray that it is so.
May this year of Tav Shin Pay Bet, 5782, be a better, sweeter, healthier and happier year than the last one.
May it be so.
Cantor Lee begins: When Gabriel finished his story I kept on saying, “But he was just a boy! A Baby! Only eleven years old when he left Romania to go to Palestine all by himself! He had no mother, no father, no one to take of him!
Rabbi David continues: Gabriel, one of our Israeli congregants, called and asked if he could meet to talk about his close friend who passed away a year and a half ago. We met a few days later...
The amazing story I heard is the story of a lone young child from Romania who started a new life in Israel and rose to become one of the most admired names among the Israeli air force pilots.
It is the story of the state of Israel, a country which in a few short decades rose to become a world powerhouse economically, militarily and scientifically from the crematoria of Europe and from the suffering and humiliation of the Jews in the Middle East.
It is the story of Jewish People as they survived against all evil odds.
It is a story of the unbroken Jewish spirit....
Levy Zur was born and raised in Romania. His mother died when he was just a few years old. In 1947 when the war was over, Levy, now 11 years old was forced to leave his home and fend for himself in the chaos of post war Europe.
Somehow he managed to contact the Jewish agency representative in Romania who was looking for Jewish war orphans in order to bring them to pre-Israel Palestine.
Levy managed to join a group of orphans who were put on a dingy small cattle boat with hardly any human accommodations and very limited food and water. The boat was caught by a British frigate and the passengers who were mostly Holocaust survivors, were taken to a prisoner camp in Cypress. In 1947 shortly before the British left Palestine they released all the prisoners, including young Levy. Arriving in Palestine all by himself as an unattended child, he was sent to a kibbutz.
At first, life was challenging for the young boy with no family in a strange new world and a strange language he didn’t understand. Slowly, in the following few years, he adjusted and began to thrive. At 18 years old he was drafted into the Israeli Defense Force and was accepted into the most challenging training in the IDF, a pilot training school.
Levy was no stranger to challenges. He knew what it would take to successfully finish this extremely strict and uncompromising training. Being in the country for five years only he had to compete with native Israelis. But his hard work paid off. He finished number one in his class and was sent to be trained on the most advanced fighter planes Israel had in the early 50’s. Soon he became known as an excellent fighter pilot and was sent on the most dangerous flying missions.
As he was climbing in rank, he became the commander of some of the most prestigious fighter squadrons. The lone child from Romania, a stranger to Israeli life and language became an important protector of the state of Israel.
Levy flew missions in the 1956 war with Egypt and was one of the architects of the 1967 total destruction of the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian air forces by the Israeli air force.
Lieutenant General Levy Zur served in key positions in the Israeli air force including commanding the now world renown Israeli military pilot training school as well as the Israeli air force attache in South America.
Upon retiring from active duty Levy started a highly successful business importing medical devices to Israel. He eventually moved to the US and ran his business from Boca Raton.
Levy passed away at the age of 81 after a heroic battle with lung cancer.
I am truly honored to share the story of Levy Zur. Especially now as we enter the High Holy Days still continuing to face uncertainty in our world, may Levy’s memory be an inspiration and blessing for all of us.
The complexity of the human body is mind boggling. In addition to the countless chemical reactions that are constantly taking place and the amazing amount of neuron activities throughout the body is beyond imagination. Our brain is an organ whose true capabilities we are only beginning to explore.
Judaism of course recognizes the uniqueness and capabilities of each human being. In the Amidah’s “Gevurot “ prayer we bless G-D for not only creating life on our planet but also our ability to perpetuate it as long as our basic needs are met. We also bless G-D for giving our body the ability to repair itself or in extreme cases, making its utmost effort to do so.
I have always looked with amazement at the reaction of our Hebrew School and B’nai Mitzvah students when Cantor Lee and I train them to read blindfolded for the purpose of not only making Hebrew reading easier but to increase their intuition, their connection to their Divine Light which G-D has put inside each one of us.
Most of the students do not think there is anything special about what they were doing. They literally take their seemingly unbelievable ability for granted as if this is just normal.
This led me to believe that our brain has some unexplored, unused innate capabilities which are naturally understood and accepted by our children. Perhaps these capabilities while still existing have faded with evolution.
A recent movie, “SuperHuman: The Invisible Made Visible” shows the experiences of individuals with extra-sensory powers that seem to defy the laws of physics. Although Cantor Lee and I haven’t seen the actual movie, we find it rather humorous that we keep getting asked if our students are in it! It seems there is a segment with children reading blindfolded.
But despite the fact that these “Super Human” abilities are actually innate within all of us and just need to be accessed and developed there is the other side of such gifts endowed by our Creator. Along with our brain’s amazing abilities there are also our human vulnerabilities.
Whenever I talk to families whose loved ones are suffering from a serious life threatening disease or a victim of a serious accident, I am reminded of just how fragile and unpredictable life can be, and how abruptly it can change or even end.
We can’t predict our future. We simply don’t know what is in store for us tomorrow, next week or next month. We can plan but G-D, as the Yiddish proverb goes, has the last laugh!
That is why Judaism encourages us to always be in a state of gratitude for the uniqueness of life on earth in general and as human creatures in particular but also because of the countless spiritual and mental possibilities which we all possess.
This awareness will serve us well as we approach the High Holy Days with hope for a better, healthier and happier New Year not only for the Jewish people but for all inhabitants of our amazing world.
From Cantor Lee
Here's to Tu B'Av, the Holiday of Love! I know, you probably haven’t even heard of this holiday! I certainly didn’t growing up! But yes, we have a Jewish Valentines Day! In Biblical Days the maidens would dress in white and dance in the vineyards of Jerusalem, the idea being to find their soulmate. In modern times we really don’t have rituals to celebrate Tu B’Av so people are creating their own celebrations including community gatherings or just giving loved ones an additional “I love you” during the day.
Love is actually already a huge theme in Judaism. When we follow the prayer book for Shabbat or weekdays, a whole section is devoted to prayers about Love. The prayer, “V’ahavtah,” “You Shall Love,” is inside our mezuzzahs and is traditionally used as a bedtime prayer for children. The Hebrew word for Love, “A-ha-vah” has much power and is used in Kabbalistic Healing. It isn’t an accident that each syllable has an “Ah” sound which is the universal vowel sound for our hearts. What do we do when we see a baby or a puppy? AAhh……… And our hearts open…
In honor of Tu B'Av, I decided I too would create my own personal observance to celebrate the holiday. I asked myself, “How can I connect to the Love energy of the holiday? How can I bring more Love into the world?”
After some thought I decided the focus for my personal observance would be Loving everything that came into my awareness. I already have a mindfulness practice of gratitude and would just add “I Love You.” So for example when walking up steps… I might say, “Thank you feet, I love you. Thank you shoes, I love you, Thank you steps, I love you, Thank you sound of walking, I love you…etc.”
I was quite happy with this idea and called my friend to discuss it. I told her, “Not only will this connect me to the increased energy of Love from the holiday, but it will bring more Love into the world!” (Yes, it really is true that whatever we do personally does energetically affect others.)
My friend wasn’t so sure. “Thank and Love everything? What if you experience someone with road rage or read about something on FB that upsets you” I answered, “If that comes into my awareness on Tu B’Av, I will be very grateful. It just means G-d is asking me to be the instrument to send Love to the situation.”
My friend replied, “That is really a good answer!” I just smiled and thought, “Love is always the answer!”
Happy Tu B’Av! Thank you, I Love you!
From Rabbi David:
The 15th day of the month of Av, Tu B’Av, the Holiday of Love, is a little known yet very significant Jewish holiday. This year it begins sundown Aug. 4th and goes to sundown Aug. 5th. While it does not have any specific religious ceremonies associated with it other than the omission of one particular prayer, it is considered a very festive and happy occasion. It originated during the second temple when Jews returned from their Babylon exile and Judea was just a small province within the Greek empire and later on within the Roman empire.
The holiday is an happy celebration of the first day of the grape harvest as well as a biblical occasion which has to do with celebrating women’s specific biblical marriage rights. It therefore became a happy celebration of love and marriage.
The 15th day of Av, is also the time of the full moon which in Jewish tradition brings hope and festive feelings. It therefore became an antidote to the national yearly mourning day of the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, the day the Temple was destroyed which is observed six days earlier.
According to a biblical prophetic description, love and marriage is also a symbol of a national redemption in which Judea will flourish again. “The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the LORD , Jeremiah 33:11” The holiday of the 15th of Av combines both the redemption from the disaster of 9th of Av with the celebration of love and marriage, so much so that it is considered the happiest of all holidays.
In modern day Israel Tu B’Av is known as the Holiday of Love and is an auspicious time for weddings and finding one’s soul mate. In Biblical days unmarried women would wear white dresses and dance together in the vineyards of Jerusalem while young men would choose brides for themselves.
So in that spirit , I am inviting all the single young ladies of our congregation to dress in white on the 15 day of the month of Av and dance. Since we do not have vineyards around us, the streets of Boca Raton will do just fine... According to the tradition it would be a great way to find one's True Love...
May we all be blessed with an abundance of Love!
Whenever I think about it, I am just always in awe that a "Song of Peace" has been leading us all along....
I guess it officially began during the gathering at my sister’s home during the late spring of 1999. Our chavurah (small gathering of friends) had been meeting monthly since October and this particular month there were about 30 of us present. Some of us were members of synagogues and some had no affiliation. The question was raised whether we should have High Holy Day Services together. Everyone enthusiastically said yes!
Well, that meant we would need a name for our chavurah! We had quite a lively discussion but couldn’t come up with one that felt right. We only knew we wanted it to express singing and peace.
Later that week I shared our dilemma with a rabbinic colleague. She excitedly called me back a few days later, “I have the name! Ruach Hakodesh brought it to me!” (Ruach Hakodesh translates from Hebrew as "the Holy Spirit.”)
And so we officially became Shirat Shalom, Song of Peace. We all loved our name!
Three years later it was now my turn to receive a message from Ruach Hakodesh. We certainly had grown by then and had become a flourishing congregation. I guess G-d thought it was time for a tagline.
“It is through our children that a Song of Peace will be sung throughout the world.”
We all loved this as well! After all, our focus was on raising children with the spiritual values of Judaism which we called Judaism of the Heart. These children would be equipped to change the world. And that would include radiating out Peace into the world, one of the sacred responsibilities of the Jewish people.
Approximately seven years ago, Ruach Hakodesh brought another message. Change the wording to the present tense. “It is through our children that a ‘Song of Peace’ is being sung throughout the world.”
I really didn’t understand the deeper meaning of our updated tagline until we incorporated our blindfold work into our education program to help children more easily learn Hebrew. The meditative focusing techniques were doing so much more than improving Hebrew reading. Children were becoming kinder, more compassionate and peaceful. And this was deeply affecting others on the energetic levels. And so the Infinite Child Institute was born.
We have always had a saying in Shirat Shalom that it leads and we follow. We are doing the same with the Infinite Child as we continue to go deeper with our program empowering children of all cultures and religions.
And yes, along the way there are so many amazing things that happen including academic improvement and children utilizing their Inner Light Vision to see and read blindfolded. Even the movie, Super Human, includes a segment on this “super” ability.
But for Rabbi David and me the true Super Human is one who is loving, compassionate and kind, who radiates out Joy and Peace. For this is how we will transform our world.
On the outside it doesn’t seem that there is much progress towards our dream and yours - a world of Peace and Love. But I see things differently.
For I hear the ‘Song of Peace’ that not only our Shirat Shalom children are singing but the children in our Infinite Child program are singing as well. And all the other children that are joining in with their songs as well.
On Aug. 20 - 22, we will be holding a workshop for parents, teachers and interested adults to learn the beginning methods and spiritual techniques to assist children in utilizing their Inner Light Vision and letting it develop into their Infinite Light Vision!
I so hope you will join us and also spread the word!
Infinite Child Training Workshop
Connection to Healing
The war between Israel and the terrorists in Gaza and Lebanon is viewed in the world in two different ways, reality and perception. For decades what has dominated opinions on the Israeli - Arab and Israeli-Terrorist wars has been the perception created by a completely distorted picture of the reality in the Middle East. This picture is an ugly but extremely effective propaganda. For the Arabs this propaganda is fantasy turned perceived reality which sells very well all over the world.
The ability to turn a nation constantly under relentless terror attacks into the bully is no doubt a real talent. Of course, many misinformed sympathetic news outlets around the world are a great help for the cause as well. As the Nazi propaganda master, Joseph Goebbels used to say, even the biggest lies can be accepted by the mass as truths if they are repeated long and often enough. It is called brainwashing.
That is why many around the world believe that Israel is an apartheid state who oppresses the Arab population almost to the point of enslavement. “Them Zionists” are extremely cruel killing Palestinian children, preventing Arabs from having fresh water, locking them in ghettos and violating any human rights laws in the book.”
While we certainly know better, millions around the world don't. The truth of course is the exact opposite of these ugly propaganda claims.
So what really happened two weeks ago that caused the riots in Jerusalem and around the country which was the excuse for the 4,300 Hamas missiles exploded in Israel?
As usual the Arabs claim that the Jews were trying to evict some peace loving Arabs from their legitimate homes in an Arab town called Sheikh Jarrah in which they have been living for generations in order to live there themselves.
This kind of act flies in the face of human rights. It sounds awful and it is. The Jordanians did exactly that when they forced the Jews of the Old City of Jerusalem who had been living there for hundreds of years to leave and then took possession of their homes. This actually happened to the family of our very own teacher, Morah Sima in 1948 when she was just a child. In this case, however, nothing can be further from the truth.
To begin with, the few homes in dispute are not in the Arab village of Sheikh Jarrah but a Jewish village called Shimon Ha-Tzadik (Simon the Righteous) which is situated at the outskirts of Sheikh Jarrah but not in it. The Jewish neighborhood, Simon the Righteous which has been in existence for more than 150 years was briefly captured in 1948 by the Jordanians and the Jewish population was chased away. It was recaptured by the Israelis in 1967 during the Six Day War.
During the Jordanian possession of the neighborhood a few Arab families squatted in the Jewish families’ properties and settled in their homes. They continued to live there while the legal battle over the property continued in courts for over three decades. At one point an agreement was reached and signed in which the properties would be recognized as Jewish properties and the Arab tenants would be allowed to continue staying in the properties as long as they paid rent and maintained the properties.
The Arabs then reneged on their obligation claiming that they did not sign the agreement nor do they recognize the Jewish ownership. They refused to pay rent. At that point the Israeli Supreme Court issued an eviction notice and the trouble began.
So what does all this have to do with 4,300 missiles exploding in Israel courtesy of Hamas? Nothing really.
Officially Hamas declared that they are helping their brethren, the Palestinians, in the struggle to wipe out the State of Israel from the map and starting that “process” by punishing Israel for oppressing the Palestinians by violating their human rights.
But the real story is much different. According to some Israeli generals, Iran, who is Hamas’ master and who tells Hamas exactly when to shoot, needed some valuable information about the true capabilities of the Iron Dome which protects Israel from incoming missiles. They needed to see how the entire Israeli defense system works against a barrage of thousands of missiles exploding in Israel in order to reevaluate their own strategy against Israel.
While Israelis were struggling to survive in bomb shelters for days at a time the Ayatollah and other leaders of Iran were sitting in their palaces enjoying the show, literally taking notes on the Israeli military and civilian reactions to the barrage, figuring out how to inflict more damage and casualties to Israelis in the next round of hostilities.
According to Israeli military analysis, 10% of the 4,300 missiles managed to sneak by the Iron Dome. That means 430 missiles got to their target in Israel. In the next round of hostilities Iran will most likely activate Hezbollah in Lebanon. This is a terror organization which possesses about 150,000 missiles.
If the Iron Dome maintains 90% effectiveness (which is not clear at all considering the huge number of missiles it will have to intercept) then at least 15,000 missiles, some with heavy explosive payload, will fall everywhere in Israel. This statistic is now well known to the Iranians who would no doubt try to improve the capabilities of their missiles to penetrate the Israeli Iron Dome courtesy of their terrorist friends in the area.
Let us all understand and remember what the Israelis are facing. Let us not pay attention to ugly Arab propaganda lies. Most importantly, let us all pray for G-D to watch over the state of Israel as He always does, keeping her strong and vibrant. And may G-D bless Israel and the entire Middle East with Peace.
Rabbi and Cantor Messages
There are three major Jewish events during this time of the year which we have observed this past month. They are not biblical or traditional holidays yet they are extremely important, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day for the fallen Israeli soldiers and Israel Independence Day.
For the nations of the world the memory of the Holocaust with all of its unthinkable horrors has tended to fade over the decades. For most of these nations the Holocaust is now nothing more than a terrible historical event that happened a long time ago - pass the salt, please.
The world is now too busy with new villains and new nations fiercely competing for economical hegemony and military control over others.
Not Us. At least not in Israel. This year as Holocaust Remembrance Day was commemorated April 8th, I watched some of the many memorial events throughout Israel that day. I was privileged to see the grandchildren and the great grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, either as proud soldiers, regular citizens or school children standing still for a moment of silence in the streets everywhere, in the busy highways, in army camps. It became very clear to anyone who listened to the speeches and watched the reactions of Israelis throughout the country that the eighty years that have passed since the early 40’s are but a day to the Israelis.
While the horrors of that time are not talked about or even mentioned on a regular basis they are nevertheless embedded deep in the Israeli psyche. If we understand this, we can see how these dark, forever fresh memories guide their determination to survive and prosper, giving them the courage and the fortitude to proudly create and maintain the most amazing country in the world.
As I am writing these words a week later after Holocaust Remembrance and a day after Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for the soldiers, Israel is celebrating Yom Ha-atz-ma-ut, her 73rd year of independence. A free Jewish country that was born from the Jewish ashes of Europe. A country which is fighting for its survival day in and day out. No other country in the world faces the kind of danger that Israel is facing .These existential threats are the worst Israel has ever experienced since its War of Independence in 1948.
With literally hundreds of thousands of missiles pointing at her from Lebanon in the north, Syria in the east, Gaza in the west, the mighty Egyptian army and navy in the South and a powerful Iranian army with a huge arsenal of long range missiles, we are being targeted with a deep hatred.
While the IDF remains strong and is vigorously working on ways to protect itself, these challenges seem insurmountable, an impossible task. Israeli generals are of the opinion that it would still take years of technological improvements and breakthroughs as well as significantly increasing the IDF manpower, equipment as well as adopting new training and war tactics to meet such dangerous threats. And all these while dealing on a regular basis with terrorist attacks from Lebanon and Gaza extensively supported by Iran.
Israel needs us to be aware of this new reality of the Middle East. We need to make sure that the US remains on Israel's side and supports it unequivocally. Our beloved state of Israel will always overcome any existential threats and will always thrive and do amazing things for the betterment of the world.
So in this 73rd year of Israel’s independence as we continue to celebrate Jewish pride and achievements each day, I pray that G-D Almighty keeps Israel and the Jewish people everywhere safe and prosperous as has been promised. We have survived thousands of years. May it continue as G-D gives Israel the wisdom, the strength to overcome its many challenges.
Over the years we have been retelling the story of Passover as a saga of slaves running away from their cruel Egyptian masters, led by a charismatic divine-like leader, Moses. As we all know, Moses was sent by G-D to perform the seemingly impossible task of prying a whole nation of slaves from the clutches of a belligerent Egyptian tyrant ruler. He was to do that without an uprising or any kind of rebellion hostility.
This is of course a story of a nation that was created. G-D of Israel inflicts punishment on the Egyptians through Moses and his brother Aaron until finally the Pharaoh is forced to acquiesce and free the slaves. Under the leadership of Moses, G-D then leads the slaves through a very rough desert for forty years and in the process gives them the most fundamental human set of laws, which any healthy society needs in order to survive and even flourish. This part of the saga ends with the nation of Israel completely transformed into a well organized people with a strong belief in G-D and the Torah. They enter and conquer the land of Canaan, establishing their independent life there.
From a modern perspective the story is much more profound. It is the emergence of freedom and the ideas of liberty in the human mind. For the first time in history slavery is depicted as evil. Just like the Israelites in Egypt, men of all nations deserve to fulfill their basic human right to be free. While the Jewish people have been celebrating this emerging enlightenment of freedom for millennia, it is interesting to note the reaction of other ancient nations to the Israelites becoming free from slavery. This can be seen in the way other nations reacted to the song that Moses and the people of Israel sang to G-D after crossing the Sea of Reeds into freedom.
The nations’ reaction to this freedom song is similar and revealing. “The people hear, they trembled, Agony gripped the dwellers of Philistia. Now the clan of Edom dismayed. All tribes of Moab-trembling grips them” etc.
There was no appreciation of the amazing freedom gained by the people of Israel. On the contrary, the nations exhibit fear of a G-D who dares to change the nature of things, the way the world should be. After all, there are slaves in the world and they should stay slaves forever. Their suffering is of no consequence.
Passover's story is the bursting of the ideas of liberty and freedom into a belligerent, unwilling to change, primitive world. The Passover story of freedom is the gateway to all the amazing moral and human dignity laws of the Torah of Freedom and Justice.
These ideas were heroically preserved over the millennia by the Jews despite all the suffering we had to go through, only to be picked up thousands of years later as a foundation of the American constitution. Perhaps that is why the founding fathers found it necessary to inscribe in the liberty bell the eternal words from the Book of Leviticus 25:10 “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
As we now begin to emerge from the restraints we have experienced since last year’s Passover, may we have a deeper understanding and appreciation of freedom.
And may we all be together in person at next year's seder!
I always love setting a beautiful table for Shabbat and will often share it on facebook. The last tablescape I shared was the Shabbat after the inauguration. One of my dear friends replied, “the most peaceful Shabbat in four years.”
I know many would agree with these sentiments. But I don’t. And it has absolutely nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the true gift of Shabbat which allows us to transform into an inner state of peace no matter what is happening in the outside world.
Don’t get me wrong. I was truly happy my friend felt so peaceful. I am happy anytime someone feels peaceful as that energy goes out into the world affecting others. This is Judaism 101. It is part of our job as Jewish people and why we are here, to radiate out into the world that Light of Peace. We are to be a “ Light unto the Nations.”
I know that many people do not observe Shabbat. And Rabbi David and I don’t even observe it in the same way as we used to do. But there really is something so magical that happens when I light the candles and usher in Shabbat. There is an actual perceptible shift within. I can also feel the energy in the entire house shifting and as many people who visit us can attest to, our home already radiates a feeling of peace.
So what is it that causes this shift? Part of it is that we are connecting or tapping into what we can call the energy field of Shabbat which has been built up over the centuries of practice. With this connection from our intentions and rituals we are forming a sacred space for Shabbat angels to descend. Or another way to look at it is that we are activating the angelic energies of peace. But either way, yes, they really do join us.
We actually have so many gifts from our tradition, especially the mystical teachings from the Kabbalah, to transform into that uplifted state and live there.
In our upcoming class, “Soar Above and Beyond,” we will be learning how to use some of these gifts, including activating angelic energies on a daily basis.
I so hope you will join me!
May you have a peaceful Shabbat. The most peaceful one ever!
Phone: 561.488.8079 P.O. Box 971142, Boca Raton, FL, 33497-1142