Song of Peace
When I was in elementary school decades ago in Israel, the class discussion one day in the beginning of the month of April was about the up coming memorial day for the Holocaust. When the class was asked to explain the significance of the day I raised my hand and started talking about "Yom Ha Shoa. I did not get far in my explanation. The teacher, Mrs. Morinski suddenly became very upset. "No!" she said in anger. "There is no such a thing as 'Yom Ha-Shoa!' "
By the beginning of 1943 the Warsaw Ghetto population was very depleted. Most of the Jews had been sent to Auschwitz but under the ghost like empty buildings in underground bunkers a group of young Jews were preparing to do something never heard of before...In the most amazing ways (an incredible story on its own ) they manage to sneak into the Ghetto some pistols, grenades and material to make Molotov cocktails.(essentially, bottles with gasoline and wicks so that when ignite they make a loud breaking noise and produce a little fire.)
On April 19, 1943 a line of German Tanks entered the Ghetto with the intent to raze everything inside to rubble. But the Germans faced the surprise of their lives when an onslaught of exploding Molotovs welcomed them into the camp . Thinking that they were facing a barrage of heavy artillery they turned their tanks around and retreated. The bravery of these young men and women continued for weeks as a house to house combat ensued. The Warsaw revolt became known among the anti German underground group throughout Europe as one of the most amazing acts of defiance. However, after the war it became known that in fact, throughout the war many Jewish Ghettos all over Europe revolted and fought the Germans with the little means they had. In spite of the wide range of Jews rebelling in Ghettos and fighting as partisans in forests all over Europe, Jewish heroism is not well celebrated and understood in the US.
Mrs. Morinski dismayed upon hearing the term "Yom Ha Shoa" ( literally "a day of the Holocaust) is well ingrained on my heart. That day she went on to explain to the class that while we remember the evil, it is even more important to honor the incredible bravery of those who relentlessly fought the evil, having close to nothing with which to fight. As she put it :"one holocaust is enough. We do not need another "day of the holocaust" every year.
Therefore, although this term is extensively used in the United States one does not hear the term "Yom Ha Shoa" in Israel. In the early fifties when the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) declared a special day to remember the Shoa, the official name became known as the "Memorial Day for the Shoa and (Jewish) heroism (Yom Zikaron La Shoah veh la G'vura). While in the early days some people called it Yom Ha Shoa including myself as a child, this term quickly disappeared.
The original suggestion for the date of the memorial day was the 14th of the month of Nissan, Passover eve, to honor the Warsaw revolt which started on that day. However the Knesset felt that such a solemn day should not coincide with the happy holiday of Passover. The decision was therefore to place the memorial day as close as possible to the last day of Passover. The 27th of Nissan was agreed upon and became the official memorial day for the Holocaust and Bravery.
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After I heard the story I looked up the number of students in the school. There were over 1,000.00. Probably not all of them would have seen the symbol on the wall. But even if just a third of the children saw it, only one took action.
His name is Nate, a sixth grader and a student in our Hebrew School preparing for his Bar Mitzvah.
When Nate passed by the quilt hanging on the wall, he knew the swastika shouldn't be there, not in his middle school, not anywhere! He told me that it made him feel bad, of bring hated by the Nazis.
I asked if anyone else mentioned it to him. “Only one,” he said. His friend said to him, “Did you see that?” But that was all that happened. His friend didn’t take action as he did. Nate had no question in his mind. He needed to tell his parents.
When Nate’s parents called us, we all adamantly agreed that they should contact the principal. What was most disturbing is that the hanging quilt had no explanation of why a picture of Hitler and the swastika was there. Nate told me he knew the quilt was about famous people. Jackie Robins was there and so was the Dali Lama.
As adults looking at a picture of the quilt, we immediately understood that the swastika and picture of Hitler was being used to show what Simon Wiesental, a famous Nazi hunter, was fighting against. That section was even created by a Jewish child. So yes, we applauded this choice of Simon Wiesenthal being displayed. But as Rabbi David said, including the swastika was in poor taste. It still radiates out a message of hate. The child just needed to be appropriately guided.
Nate’s parents had a meeting with the principal the next day. When they walked into the office the quilt was on the conference table. The principal told them he had it taken down immediately. It had no place being on the wall. He even scoured the school and found another sign with Hitler and a paragraph which was immediately taken down. He was extremely apologetic.
We are all so proud of Nate! He had a chance to share his experience with the Hebrew School children which led to a beautiful discussion.
And so now I share his experience with you. May Nate inspire us all to be guided by our hearts and speak up when needed! Only then can we ensure “Never Again!” Only then can we truly create a World of Peace, a World of Love!
This week we read two Torah portions, Vayakhel (“He Assembled”) and Pekudei (“Accountings Of”) Artists chosen by G-D begin building the Mishkan. (Tabernacle) * We learn of Betzalel, the head architect and Oholiav, a master teacher and craftsman who are filled with G-D’s spirit as they begin the construction. With the donations given by the people, there is an open counting of the gold, silver and copper used to build the Mishkan. When all is complete G-D’s presence comes into the Mishkan with a cloud resting on top of it during the day and a fire by night. When the cloud would lift, this would be a signal for the Israelites to journey to their next stop in the desert.
During our soul’s journey, we learn from this portion that we are to be partners with G-D in all that we do. When we live in this state there is transparency among the community such as in the open counting of the donations from the people. We each use the gifts G-D has given us whether it is as a teacher, builder, artist or leader.
Pekudei now closes the Book of Exodus. The next three books of the Torah contain the journeys of the Israelites in the desert and the laws needed to form a new society.
Although I will not be continuing this series I have appreciated sharing the Torah’s wisdom of Genesis and Exodus with you and wish you many blessings as you take your own soul journeys.
* Every week a section of the Torah is read throughout the week. There are always many levels of understanding with each week's portion. The Torah portions also have energies that can be utilized to help us navigate though our daily lives not only during the week the specific portion is read but any time it is needed.
This week’s Torah portion is called Ki-Tisa “You shall Take.” * The Israelites each donate a half-shekel for the sanctification of the priests, the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the holy vessels.
This portion also contains the famous story of the people building and worshiping a golden calf when Moses is on Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah. This goes against the very first commandment which was already announced to them. When Moses comes down from the mountain and sees the scene, he angrily breaks the two stone tablets engraved with the Ten commandments which he is carrying.
When Moses begs G-D to forgive the people, G-D responds with the famous expression “I forgave the people as you asked of me”, a statement which has been adapted in our Yom Kippur service. Moses asks to see G-D but is told he cannot see G-D’s face and live. Moses is told to stand in the cleft of a rock. As the shadow of G-D passes behind him, Moses utters the 13 Divine attributes of compassion. Moses then returns with a second set of tablets. His face is so radiant with Light that he needs to wear a veil when speaking to the people.
There are many messages in this Torah portion that guide us on our soul’s journey in this Torah portion. One I would like to focus on is the Light radiating from the face of Moses after meeting with G-D.
We need to first understand that when the Torah was translated from the Hebrew, the word “Karan” which means “radiating” was mistakenly seen as “Keren” which means horns. There are no vowels in the Torah so it is easy to see the similarities of the two words. The use of the word, “horns” makes no sense in this context. Unfortunately, the notion that Jewish people have horns took hold from this error and even Michaelangelo’s statue of Moses is depicted with horns.
So why did Moses need to wear a veil with so much Light radiating from his face when speaking to the Israelites? The answer is they weren’t ready to absorb so much Light. When we begin a spiritual journey it is just that, a journey. We need to go through the various stages. The Light that comes into our lives shows us anything that is dark or hidden within us that needs to be resolved. Examples may be old grief, unresolved anger, emotional stress from childhood, even trauma in our genes such as the Holocaust.
Our holidays, prayers, Jewish traditions and performance of mitzvot are all meant to help us absorb a higher level of Light and release darkness.
By tapping into or aligning with Ki Tisa, we can receive additional help to face and release any hidden darkness in a gentle manner.
This week’s Torah portion is called “Tetzaveh,” command. *The brother of Moses, Aaron, and his sons are appointed as the priests. G-D gives detailed instructions in how to sanctify the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the priests which will take place over seven days as well as how to make the golden altar and priestly clothing.
The breastplate worn by the high priest is used to bring Divine guidance when dealing with the people. Twelve precious gemstones inscribed with the twelve tribes light up in response to questions.
In the journey of our souls, this portion teaches us about the holiness of a command from G-D which we know as a mitzvah. The deeper meaning of the word is “to connect.” When we follow G-D’s will we forge a connection between us and the Divine which brings guidance as we live our lives.
By tapping into or aligning with the energy of Tetzaveh we can receive help to receive and understand Divine guidance.
This week’s Torah portion is called Terumah “Donation.” * G-D tells Moses to have the people bring (donate) gifts in order to build a dwelling place for G-D called a Mishkan, a portable Tabernacle. There are precise instructions on how to build the various furnishings that will be inside of the Mishkan including the ark to hold the Ten Commandments, the golden cherubs to be placed on top of the ark, table, lamp, walls, curtains and altar. With these gifts, G-d specifies that “you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.”
In the inner meaning of this Torah portion, it is actually referring to building the sanctuary of our hearts which is our own individual portable Mishkan.
A related Hebrew verb to Terumah is le-harim which translates as “to raise up.” In the journey of our souls when we allow “our hearts to move us” we are aligned with compassion and giving which helps to raise us up to the higher realms of the Divine where we experience a state of peace and freedom. We understand that giving also brings gifts in return for us. As givers we become the receivers.
By tapping into or aligning with the energy of Terumah, we can receive help to become more compassionate and giving.
This week’s Torah portion is called “Mishpatim” meaning “Laws or Ordinances” given to the Israelites.* They include laws governing lost property, holidays, damages, holidays and indentured servants to name a few. These civil laws enabled the Israelites to learn to live as free people in a just society. All they had known was slavery.
The main purpose of these laws was to bring the spirit of the Ten Commandments into everyday life. How would they be applied in situations that would arise? the basis of many of these laws can be found in our legal system. For example, the person who caused harm, injury or death to the person or property of another, faced a considerable range of consequences depending on whether it was an intentional act or of negligence.
Following these laws was considered to be a contractual agreement between G-D and the nation of Israel. There was always the reminder: “You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep [his laws]” (Deut. 5:15).”
The laws were meant to develop compassion within the people. For example, “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Lev. 19:33-34).”
The Zohar, considered to be the bible of Kabbalistic mysticism, explains these are cosmic laws. In the journey of our souls we understand that in no longer being ruled by Egypt, the place of the ego, we now live in a higher state which requires a different operating system. These laws, so revolutionary for their time, are meant to bring holiness to the mundane, to bring us to the spiritual realm of the Divine in every aspect of our lives.
By tapping into or aligning with the energy of Mishpatim we can receive help to more fully bring the intention of these laws into our daily lives.
This week’s Torah portion is called “Yitro” * which is the name of Moses’ father-in law. Yitro tells Moses he cannot do everything himself and advises him to set up judges to help govern the people.
It is now three months since the Israelites have left Egypt. They gather around Mt. Sinai to receive G-D’s instructions. They learn that if they follow G-D, they will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The people reply they will do all that is asked of them. They prepare now for three days to receive further instructions. Amidst smoke, flames, sounds and shaking from the mountain, the people hear the words of the Ten Commandments.
In the deeper meaning of our soul’s journey, the ten commandments guide us in how to manifest our inner G-dliness into the physical world. In the 1st through 5th commandments we further develop our relationship with G-D which is one of unity. In the 6th through 10th commandments, we come to realize that any harm done to another is harm to ourselves as this unity also extends to others.
I AM Adonai, who brought you out of Egypt (the restricted places) This relates to the state of beingness, of sacred unity, oneness.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. This relates to finding the Divine within ourselves rather than worshiping outside of ourselves.
Thou shalt not take the name of G-D in vain. This relates to how our words are used as they have the power of creation. Are they words aligned with the higher parts of ourselves or from the lower?
Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. This is reminding us to honor ourselves and G-D by taking time to restore our spirit.
Honor thy father and mother . This is having a balance of the divine feminine and masculine parts of ourselves.
Thou shalt not kill. This refers to the parts of ourselves we want to disregard instead of forgiving and accepting ourselves in order to evolve.
Thou shalt not commit adultery This is being faithful to our higher spiritual guidance.
Thou shalt not steal. This is about having respect for our inner selves that we are complete.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. This is accepting the truth of our divine nature.
Thou shalt not covet (be jealous of) anything your neighbor has. This is knowing we can create what we desire when it is for the highest good.
By tapping into or aligning with the energy of Yitro we can receive help to bring the Ten Commandments more fully into our daily lives.
This week’s Torah portion is called “Beshallach” (Leave) where we follow the Israelites as they leave Egypt and cross the sea into freedom. * An Angel leads them with a fire at night and a cloud during the day to reach the Sea of Reeds. G-D tells Moses that Pharaoh will chase after them but G-D will be victorious. However, as the soldiers approach, the people are frightened and cry out that it was better to be a slave than to be slaughtered in the desert by Pharaoh's army. G-D says, “Why are you crying to me?” He instructs Moses to tell the people to begin moving and then hold up his rod to split the sea.
The angel moves behind the Israelites. The cloud keeps the Egyptians from coming closer. Throughout the night the winds blow creating a wall of water on each side of a dry path. In the morning they cross the sea with the Egyptians chasing them. However, the Egyptians panic when their chariots get stuck in the mud, unable to move and begin to pile on top of each other. When the Israelites get to the other side Moses lifts up his rod again. The wall of water collapses and the pharaoh's army drowns.
With the deeper meaning of this portion, we learn that as partners with G-D we have been given the power to create miracles. It is just a matter of moving forward and “lifting our rods.”
This week’s Torah portion* of Jan. 23, 2023 is called “Bo” (Come to Pharaoh) and talks about the last three of the ten plagues inflicted on Egypt of locusts, darkness and the death of the first born. Pharaoh tries to negotiate with Moses offering to let the men only go free but this is rejected. Later he offers to let everyone go including the children but not the sheep and cattle which is again rejected. After Pharaoh loses his first born son, he tells Moses to leave with everyone and also to bless him. The Israelites leave in great haste.
With the inner meaning of this portion, we continue to see the journey of the ego represented by Pharaoh and spirit/soul represented by the Israelites. With the final plague, Pharaoh realizes he cannot rule over G-d and the higher consciousness.
The title “Bo” is often translated as “Go” or “Go to Pharaoh” but the Hebrew is actually “Come to Pharaoh” indicating that G-d is beckoning to us through the ego. By journeying through the lower densities we reach G-d where the Divine Aspect of us is in charge and guides our lives, bringing us true freedom.
By aligning with or tapping into the energy of Bo, we can receive guidance as we progress through our spiritual journeys.
This portion of Bo is what we will be focusing on during the first day of our upcoming workshop this weekend as we delve much deeper into the portion to utilize our own personal Moses, Pharaoh, Egypt and Burning Bush to spiritually heal and bring all aspects of ourselves in the higher states of freedom.
Please join us - you will gain a totally new understanding of the Torah and Exodus story with yours truly!
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