Song of Peace
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. It is considered to be the highpoint of the year energetically and spiritually. This year it begins sundown August 111th and goes to sundown Aug. 12th. 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!
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With the school shooting this week, people are reeling everywhere. How can this be? When will it stop? We are already dealing with the Ukraine, the shortage of baby formula, the effects of Covid. These are our innocent children!
And so of course, people are finding ways to express themselves. There is a facebook post making the rounds which has two sentences written on it: Thoughts and Prayers. Policy and Change.
But “Thoughts and Prayers” are crossed out with a line going through the words. The message (which isn't new) is that thoughts and prayers offered by politicians are not a substitute for action.
While I understand the anguish that has led to this post, by crossing out “Thoughts and Prayers” a message is ALSO being sent to the universe to not help us. It is the way things work in the spiritual realms. We have been given free will which means we can only receive help if we ask.
In this case the message received by the heavenly realms is even stronger - “Don't help us!” And the more that people focus on those crossed out words the stronger it gets. This is the power of the written word. Another way the universe works.
I cannot imagine taking any steps without partnering with G-d. And I can’t imagine not offering my thoughts and prayers to all who are suffering. I know the power of prayer. But I also know that prayer has to be in conjunction with action.
There is a beautiful teaching from "Pirkei Avot," "Sayings of the Fathers" from 2500 hundred years ago that the world rests on three things:
Torah or Teachings, which refers to instructions for living at a higher consciousness
Avodah, which is service of the heart and refers to our prayers
Gimilut Chassidim which are our mitzvot -acts of human kindness to be taken in the physical world
All three are needed. So let us put “Thoughts and Prayers Back In!” which is the pillar of Avodah. May these thoughts and prayers not only help all who are suffering but also bring us Divine Inspiration of how to move forward with physical solutions.
And may the legacy of these children be that in partnership with G-d, we create a safe world for all.
Shalom Peace Prayer
I was just a young kid in the year of 1967. It a year that will be etched forever in Israel’s national memories. What happened in June that year was in the eyes of many, a real miracle performed by G-D. Of course the power, daring and resourcefulness of the Israel Defense Forces stunned the world.
On June 7th, 1967, elite Israeli paratroopers broke into the old city of Jerusalem. Within their midst was a reporter from the Voice of Israel, the national radio station. He was describing the unfolding events as they were happening.
I remember hearing bullet whistles and the sound of automatic weapons as he was running forward with the soldiers breaking into the lions gate which leads into the old city.
What happened in the next hour or so is the experience for which our great great grandparents have prayed for over 2,000 years. We, the people of Israel at the time, were lucky and privileged to witness it.
The reporter, running as fast as he could to avoid being killed, found his way along with many others into the “Kotel”, the wailing wall. As he was running, describing the chaos around him, he suddenly stopped.
A few seconds later his voice started shaking. The entire country with ears glued to the radio (there was no Israeli TV at that time) heard the reporter crying.
As he approached the Kotel he was describing literally through his tears how battle fatigued paratroopers were standing in front of the holy wall, kissing it and crying along with him.
The entire country listening to the broadcast was crying as well. Suddenly, the sound of a shofar pierced the microphone. Rabbi Goren, chief rabbi of the IDF, was blowing it over and over again.
The famous song, “Yerushalayim shel Zahav” Jerusalem of Gold”, which proclaims our deep yearning to return to our beloved old city of Jerusalem was now being sung. Soldiers all around the Kotel were singing it as loudly as they possibly could with their tired, scratchy voices.
And we kept crying. All of us. The entire country was crying.
On May 29th, 2022 the 28th day of Iyyar, it will be 55 years since that once in a two millennia event. But in my heart and in my mind it happened yesterday.
We the Jewish people have always shared Jerusalem with all religions who wish to worship there and have protected their right to do so. For we understand it is a holy city for many.
But for us it is even more than a holy city. Jerusalem IS the Jewish people. It is our city, our soul and will be in our hearts and hands now and forever.
When Kailyn, one of our Bat Mitzvah students, told me the theme was butterflies, I was so excited! “You can give all the guests milkweed seed packets,“ I told her!“ The plants help the monarch butterflies from going extinct!”
I didn’t make the connection of the butterflies to Eva though, until the Friday eve dinner. Eva was a child with whom Kailyn was not only sharing her Bat Mitzvah, but she was also making a commitment to always remember her.
You see, Eva never had a chance to come of age. She perished during the Holocaust in Auschwitz at the age of eight.
As we all sat around the table talking of Kailyn’s absolute love and obsession with butterflies and of Eva, Rabbi David added that butterflies have become the symbol of the Holocaust." It represents freedom,” he told the family. “It became a a symbol due to the famous poem, 'I Never Saw Another Butterfly,' written by Pavel Friedman, a young Czech poet while in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.
The Butterfly (English translation)The last, the very last,So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.Perhaps if the sun's tears would singagainst a white stone. . . .Such, such a yellowIs carried lightly 'way up high.It went away I'm sure because it wished tokiss the world good-bye.For seven weeks I've lived in here,Penned up inside this ghetto.But I have found what I love here.The dandelions call to meAnd the white chestnut branches in the court.Only I never saw another butterfly.That butterfly was the last one.Butterflies don't live in here,in the ghetto.
The day of the service, butterflies were everywhere. On Kailyn’s dress, her jewelry, the challah cover, her tallit, the decorations.
As Eva's spirit entered the room, we were all so heart touched by her presence! I silently told her to please bring the butterflies to all the children who had died with her.
The next morning I decided to write about this experience and began thinking about what I would write. As I walked outside there was a monarch butterfly on the grass. “Is it hurt?” I asked Rabbi David.
As we looked closer we could see two butterflies were there. He gently scooped his hand underneath them so they could fly. They did so for a few seconds but then came back to the grass. And so we watched for them for awhile.
Rabbi David again scooped his hand underneath them and this time they flew off with one butterfly holding the other. As they continued to fly I said, “It wasn’t the last butterfly. The children can see butterflies again.”
Later on I learned that the two butterflies were mating. But I knew why they really came. And I could feel Eva smiling….
Here is the brochure Kailyn designed about Eva:
Here is Kailyn:
When G-D created the universe he wanted holiness, Godliness, to be a part of his creation. The first thing he did was create Light.
The rabbis ask why did G-D have to actually say “Yehi Or “ Let there be Light?” He could have created the Light of Holiness just by simply thinking about it.
But G-d decided to use Hebrew words for creating the Divine Light which was then used to create everything else. Imagine how powerful these words are. They were used to create our universe!
This is why our Torah is written in Hebrew and why our blessings and prayers when done in Hebrew are so powerful.
In order to adapt Lashon Kodesh, our holy language, as a spoken language, it could only flourish in a holy place in G-D’s chosen land. Therefore it was only spoken in ancient Judea and Israel. Outside the land of Israel, Jewish people would speak the language of the host country and only use Hebrew for prayer as well as Jewish related poetry and religious commentary.
Over the many centuries, spoken Hebrew outside of the Biblical context became extremely limited and very unsuited as a spoken language especially in a world becoming modernized over the centuries.
When I recently read Jewish related text from the early 19th century I had to chuckle with how the author tried to adapt Biblical Hebrew to non religious topics.
Things changed with the return of the Jewish people to our homeland. The awakening of Jewish national feelings among young Zionists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries breathed new life to the old forgotten Hebrew. A few young men who were fanatics to the cause began to rehabilitate Hebrew by adding the necessary modern words and expressions to this Biblical language.
Among them was Eliezer Ben Yehuda who is considered to be the father of modern Hebrew, and who created the first modern Hebrew dictionary by literally inventing thousands of new modern words while always trying to stay as true as possible to Biblical sources. His lifetime project was carried on by Israel’s national poets, such as Chaim Nachman Bialik and others who in order to enrich their Hebrew poems, created thousands of new words as well.
As the land of Israel began to awaken through the hard work and the dedication of the young Jewish pioneers of the early 20th century the Hebrew language reshaped itself back to the way it was thousands of years ago- a holy language which was used as a day to day national language.
This process was not easy. Hebrew was still a limited language and only by the fanaticism and sheer determination of the early pioneers it began to be spoken by more and more European pioneers.
I remember a story my mother told me when she was a little girl coming from the US to Israel in the early 30’s. On the first day of school when asked for her name she replied “Annette”. The teacher was visibly upset. She called my grandmother to school and told her in Yiddish (at that time my grandmother still did not understand Hebrew) in a less than polite way, that “here we speak only Hebrew and her name is Chanah, absolutely not Annette”.
So, are we diluting Hebrew from its divinity by using it as a national spoken language?
To begin with, Hebrew is who we are. It is part of our identity. We were referred to as “Hebrews” for many centuries. One can not deny our national identity as Jews if Jews all over the world share the same language.
The Hebrew language is like wearing a kippah. Even in a mundane, day to day life it constantly reminds us of our spiritual obligation to G-D, our obligation to be a Light unto the Nations.
Part of our obligation of being a Light unto the Nations is to keep learning and why Torah Study which encompasses all of our teachings is so paramount to our spiritual growth.
During our upcoming workshop this Sunday, we will be delving into the power of the Hebrew letter, Shin, which brings protection, healing and inner/outer Peace not only for us but for others when we learn to harness its Light. We are all familiar with Shin as it is on every mezuzzah.
I hope you will join us this Sunday May 1st, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Register Here
When Jacob’s family, 75 members strong left for Egypt to the fertile land of Goshen, they went to meet their beloved Joseph, now a powerful leader only second in command to the Pharaoh, in order to ride out the famine in Canaan. They could have returned back to their home land once the famine was over they did not. After all, their brother was the ruler of the land.
The members of the family could have returned to Canaan once Joseph died some 40 years or so. There was no reason to stay any more. They still did not. We know the rest of the story of course.
From a bird’s eye view it seems that the reason for staying was a Divine Will to create a yearning and struggle for freedom among the Hebrew slaves a few centuries later. But whose struggle was it?
When Moses first returned to Egypt and announced that he will free the slaves the Hebrews ridiculed him as a strange dreamer. Yet they cried out to G-D to save them from their suffering. A great struggle for freedom ensued.
But was it really a human struggle for freedom? Was it one nation’s war against tyranny and enslavement? Remember that the Israelites were totally passive in their bid for freedom as if it wasn’t their fight. In fact, as the Torah demonstrates several times later on in the desert, some of them were quite content remaining slaves.
This is in fact a story of a Divine fight for human freedom but not a human struggle.
So let me understand this. The Old Mighty makes the Hebrews stay in Egypt after the death of Joseph with no good reason, then causes them to become slaves and then fights the pharaoh to free them. What a strange sequence of events!
When G-D created humans he got directly involved in the act. He did not command it to happen like he did for all other animals. Rather, he himself physically made a human shape from the dirt of the earth and breathed life into it. The human being is so close to Godliness that the Holy One, G-D felt the need to make Adam with his “Bare hands”
The idea that the Passover freedom struggle is a Divine war against oppression for the sake of mankind is the same as the idea of human creation. When Moses finally yanked the Israelites out of Pharaoh’s grip, the message to mankind through the Hebrews and us, their descendants was profound, that human freedom is our fundamental right. G-d implanted this within us through the ancient struggle with a tyrant Pharaoh. No one can take it away from us. It is basic to our existence.
Passover is the time when we remember that the Light of Freedom and Decency was put in the Jewish heart and soul some 3,300 years ago to watch over and keep alive in a world that would despise freedom for many centuries to come.
We are still carrying it in our hearts. Our children inherit it from us to keep it safe in their hearts until such time that peace and freedom will no longer be in our prayers but in our world.
May it be so this Passover!
“A New King Arose Who Knew Not of Joseph."
After officiating a Bar Mitzvah service last week, Cantor Lee and I were invited for the festive meal. The proud grandfather was seated next to me.
With some hesitation he turned to me and said, “Rabbi, can I ask you a question that has been bothering me for weeks? You see,” he said, “it's about Ukraine. My entire family is originally from the city of Odessa. Almost all perished in the Holocaust by the Nazis with the enthusiastic help of the Ukrainians.
I am sure you know how cruel the Ukrainians were to us over many centuries and the atrocities they committed against us during many bloody pogroms, killing us, burning our synagogues, our villages. Now they want Israel to help them with weapons and take in as many refugees as possible.”
“Rabbi”, he continued. “I understand that these are refugees and the importance of helping them but it is hard for me not to feel torn between the bitter memories and our Jewish obligation to help anyone who is in dire need”.
It seems that the man’s question caught the attention of the other guests around the table. Suddenly the eager expectation for the wonderful food which was about to be served faded a little as many were listening intently to the conversation which was about to emerge.
I immediately realized how significant this issue is for so many of us. It feels like scratching an old Jewish scar to expose a deep and painful wound.
For a minute I was quiet. I myself have been trying to sort out my feelings about all this ever since the horrific pictures of brave Ukrainians being shelled indiscriminately by the Russians which, as we all know, caused a massive amount of refugees and so much destruction.
The painful memories of suffering at the hands of the Ukrainians will always be with us as they should. As I was trying to formulate the appropriate answer, the Biblical Exodus story came to mind.
For the Egyptians, it only took a few generations to turn from love and admiration for Joseph to an Egyptian generation with the exact opposite feelings about him and his people, the Hebrews.
The Torah indicates this by simply saying: ”A new king arose who knew not of Joseph.” I am sure there were hieroglyphic documents which spoke about the glorious days of Egypt during Joseph’s time. Egyptian kings were always good at documenting their achievements.
It was just that this new king, along with his subjects and the slave drivers had entirely different feelings about Joseph and his people.
With that in mind I turned to the grandfather and said, “It is our obligation to honor all these horrible Jewish memories at the hands of the Ukrainians, not only their enthusiastic participation in the Holocaust.”
I then reminded him about the pharaoh story. “This story teaches us an important Biblical lesson,” I told him. “Each generation has its own feelings and its own attitude towards important issues and events. Despite bitter Jewish memories in Ukraine of many centuries we can look at the situation as opposite yet similar to the Egyptian story.
In the modern Ukraine case it is a turn from a generation who knew no limits to their cruelty to the Jews to a generation who is very much pro-Israel and who admires and loves their Jewish leader, Mr. Zelenskyy, (the modern day Joseph?) and has no problem with its Jewish population.”
The grandfather did not seem comforted by the answer. “Yes”, he replied, “but shouldn’t we as Jews be very cautious when it comes to Gentiles with such a bloody history against us?”
I thought for a minute about it and said: “There’s a fine line between Jewish caution and paranoia. This generation of Ukrainians are good and brave people. They are certainly good to us, the Jews, and the State of Israel. They admire their Jewish president.
It is true that the State of Israel is afraid to supply Ukraine with arms because they depend on Russia not interfering with the Israeli Air Force activities in Syria. Yet its humanitarian help to Ukraine is extensive. Not only did Israel take in thousands of Ukrainians refugees, she also sent a modern, large, fully equipped field hospital manned by many doctors and nurses, along with large quantities of food and medicine supplies. And as you know” I continued, “many Jewish organizations are helping with very large sums of relief money”.
I was still not sure if this was a satisfactory answer. But then I realized that I should ask myself the same question. I guess if an Egyptian generation could ignore the wonderful deeds of Joseph the Hebrew who had lived only a few generations previously and turn into a generation of hate and bigotry, then we as modern Jews can do the opposite. Overcome the bitter memories of the past and welcome the good relations we now have with the modern Ukrainians.
And in doing so may the pain from past horrific deeds perpetrated against us be healed as we altogether create a new world. One where war does not exist. One where “Shirat Shalom” a “Song of Peace” is sung by all.
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The 18th Booster of Shushan
Here is Rabbi David's own version of the megillah (a long story that tells the story of Queen Esther.) Of course as usual he makes fun of everything which is the whole idea of a Purim Shpiel! No political messages - just laugh and enjoy!
From Rabbi David: An interesting archaeological find in the Judean desert dating to the fourth century BCE, sheds new light on the Purim Saga.
Professor Knowit All from Shushan State University recently presented his findings in a conference, revealing an amazing archeological treasure. Professor All introduced a surgical mask with the phrase: “Esther the Queen” embroidered on it from that time period. A scroll titled “The True, Uncensored Story of Purim” was found near the mask, written and sealed by an anonymous writer believed to be Mr. Mordecai. D. Joo.
Since uncensored material is invaluable nowadays, it is considered to be the find of the century.
Once opened, the story revealed the true sequence of events in Shushan, the flag city of our beloved King Achashverosh, peace be with him, according to the gospel of Haman’s son, Vizata the First.
The story was corroborated by the world renowned historian Moyshe Goldberg who was also the deputy assistant to all wild party matters in the court of Achashverosh, King of Persia, and who lived in Shushan at the time.
So according to Vizata’s gospel, the story actually begins with the famous Shushan Pandemic of the fourth century BCE. Dr. Anthony Zaratushtra, the head of the Shushan’s CDC and ATV, declared that anyone who walks in the street without wearing a surgical mask will be hung by his/her toenails. Since no one wanted to be hung by their toenails, everyone wore a blue velvet and a mask.
In one of the king’s infamous parties on his yacht named, “Where Is The Liquor?” his queen, Zelda Vashti, was seen not wearing her government issued face mask. Oy.
What a chutzpah! The king, totally embarrassed in front of all the dignitaries from our beloved China and Russia and in front of his majestic wonderfulship, P. Andrew, had to stop the nice respectable party on the yacht and declare Queen Zelda Vashti a socially canceled, racist, person. The poor thing was banned from Twitter, Facebook, Shushan Gazet and all other social platforms.
She was forbidden from studying the Talmud and Jewish mysticism. She had to surrender her throne and all the money she made through inside trading and outside “favors” she granted to all the big boys of the technical giants.
The king in his (poor) State of the Union address declared that Queen Zelda Vashti is solely responsible for the running inflation in Shushan and therefore he is now on the hunt for a replacement.
Many young ladies competed for the job which also included a multi million dollar package deal and a movie contract.
Esther, a nice Jewish girl, while being very pretty, had no intention to compete. All she wanted is to become a respected reporter, see no evil, say no wrong, on network TV, but Mordechai, her cousin, explained to her that a Jewish queen during the pandemic of which, of course, the Jews are to blame, will be a very good thing for the Jews.
Besides, he told her, the money is good. She can write books about cooking or about early childhood gender education in Shushan Kindergartens and sell millions of copies on Shushanzon and (Ugly) face-book.
So Esther decided it couldn’t hoit and threw her shoe to the ring (she did not like hats…)
Wouldn't you know, she won. After much PR and with the help of a good Jewish attorney /manager to handle her campaign, she became the now very famous Queen Esther.
It would’ve been nice if this was the end of the story wouldn’t it?
No such luck. In the gospel according to Vizata, Haman, the deputy king for foreign affairs and UFO’s, was a racist, misogynist and a no-goodnik.
Now cousin Mordecai, a respected Jewish representative of the Jewish people in the Shushan senate diametrically opposed Haman’s social, economical, educational, bacteriological and ice cream agendas.
Naturally Haman did not like Mordechai and by extension, the rest of the tribe. One day he went to the press and declared that the Jews refuse to wear their state issued face masks and do not keep their 535 feet social distance.
In fact, he claimed, many of them did not take the 18th booster vaccine. Unlike the rest of the minorities in the kingdom who believe in all those beautiful Idols, the Jews only worship their one and only G-D.
One G-D?! What a bizarre concept! That constitutes total insubordination!
In a closed door, secret conference with King Achashverosh, Haman proposed getting rid of the Jews by activating the army reserve and the hooded Bolsheviks who would do the dirty work.
In a sealed contract with the king, Haman made a grave tactical mistake. He added a clause which indicated the elimination of “all them Jews”.
Not letting a qualified Shushan attorney review the contract was a bad mistake. Since “all them Jews” means all of the Jewish people - no exception, Queen Esther was in danger as well.
Since Queen Esther was not fond of the idea that the Jewish people would be genocided, and since she herself did not like dying too much, she hosted a zoom meeting with the king in which she invited him and Haman to an intimate candlelit dinner with plenty of vodka and Bloody Mary on hand (do they even go together?)
She first thought that the Cheese Factory of Shushan would be a good place for this upcoming historical dinner but after much consideration she chose her palace.
You see, her kitchen was glatt kosher (double sinks, triple refrigerators etc.) Besides, unlike the cheese factory, her kitchen was blessed by the chief rabbi of Shushan, Rabbi Shmuel Feldman, and that was a very important point. Most importantly, in her kitchen she could make sure that all the food served would also be strictly organic.
And so it happened, according to Vizata’s Gospel, that the king, the queen and their guest, Haman the Amalekite, set for Shabbos dinner with wine, Challah and all the trimmings.
Needless to say, the 18th Booster Certificate and triple mask cover were an absolute requirement for all who wanted the privilege to serve the royal family and their guest. Of course, the king, queen and Haman along with all the who’s who of Shushan were exempt from all masks.
Poor Haman thought that the final procedures for the elimination of the Jewish people would be discussed. You can imagine his shock upon realizing that he himself was on the agenda for the night.
In a clear and concise powerpoint presentation, Queen Esther built an iron clad case against Haman and all the media outlets that were so eager to spread his social anti Jewish theory. Relentlessly and by the advice of her Jewish attorney, she zeroed in on the clause “all them Jews” which by definition included her as well. Esther was upset about some media claims that Haman had no problems with the Jews since both the Jews and him had nice white teeth. However, when the king heard that his wife, a nice Jewish social activist queen, would also become a victim of the plot, he lost his cool. I mean totally.
In a quick impeachment trial conducted by the king in front of the queen Haman lost his job with all the goodies that came with it. His book tour promoting his book “the Jews and I - the case for extermination” was canceled immediately, All his scheduled tv appearances and all the consulting contracts with the Persian white hooded clans were terminated as of that night.
Oh, yes, in addition to all his troubles he was also hanged along with his ten sons and the Jews all over the Persian empire were saved. Halleluyah!
In Esther’s diary which was found a few years ago hidden in one of Iran’s ballistic missiles the entry for that night reads: “Mission accomplished! Hooray for me and for Hollywood.”
It is interesting to note that Mordecai wrote a secret note to Esther congratulating her. It reads: Good job, agent E.S. Ter, wait for additional instructions from your handlers.
Rabbi David aka Rabbi Spock...
Above & Beyond Workshop
The biblical story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden does not really end too well. Both are prohibited from entering the garden.
After eating from the Tree of Knowledge a fundamental change occurs in both of them. From being highly spiritual beings in a physical form roaming in the utopian world of the Garden of Eden they become physical beings where spiritual matters are hidden from them.
They are now relegated to living in the harsh reality of the mundane. While the fruit from the Tree Knowledge gave them sophistication along with the ability to analyze and create, it also initiated some undesirable human traits all too familiar to us.
As humans evolved they began to believe in supernatural powers controlling their lives. Man made objects such as idols as well as phenomena from nature, all fueled primitive imaginations.
A lot of water has raged in the Mississippi since then. Judaism of course brought to the world monotheism, the understanding that the universe is overseen by a universal, invisible, moral based G-D who has no physical shape and who cares and has a direct relationship with us. In order to draw closer to G-D and enjoy a state of inner peace and joy we in our modern world practice various meditation techniques which also includes prayer.
While immersed in the world of science during college I tended to think that any phenomenon or human ability that is not science based or could not be logically explained may not be real.
Although I grew up in a religious home where spiritual experiences were the norm, in those days of questioning, I was somewhat skeptical of the hidden gifts and abilities which can be activated through the meditative state prayer brings. Of course, some people have enhanced cognitive abilities. We call them geniuses but these have always been considered high positions within the human brain’s spectrum.
These days I consider myself privileged to have a glimpse of our human hidden abilities and even more privileged to help our students reach some of these capabilities.
When Cantor Lee and I first began working with our students to activate their ability to “see” blindfolded and thus improve in Hebrew, we were amazed to witness that yes, while in the right meditative state they could easily see without their physical eyes. This included recognizing colors as well as reading books effortlessly, even when placed behind them. Some children were able to recognize words shown to them in a different room.
Over the past five years we have learned even further what can be experienced when accessing the higher state. For example some students can now multiply three digit numbers without going through the actual calculation process.
These experiences shed a different light on understanding the Bible’s stories.
Last week we read about one of the most profound events in human history. The entire nation of Israel hears the voice of G-D from Mt. Sinai as He recites the Ten Commandments. G-D then reminds them that they all heard his voice; from the old to the young.
Is it possible? And what about all the miracles performed by Moses or Joshua? What about the prophets being able to foretell the future with accuracy?
After the experiences with our students, I have no doubt of our human ability to do amazing things, many which we may not even be aware of yet, once in the higher meditative state.
And who knows, maybe one day science will be able to explain and describe all of these abilities.
But one thing I do know. It gives me hope that these gifts can be used to repair our world, Tikun Olam. And that is not a small thing.
The early morning cashiers in Publix know me very well. I am the one wearing a kippah who refuses to bag my groceries in plastic bags no matter how many items I buy. Of course, I usually have my own bag with me, the one that Publix sells very inexpensively. Sometimes I don’t and I find myself in a funny position having to juggle numerous items in my hands, hoping that nothing will fall by the time I reach my car. I have to ignore the justifiably strange looks I get from others when that happens.
I don’t think Publix existed yet in biblical times. The blessing of plastic, Styrofoam and other man made inventions which can never be decomposed are all modern time conveniences. Therefore, after careful consideration I can safely say that the Torah said nothing about plastic or any other modern man made material and therefore was not aware of the enormous challenge of handling them.
Nevertheless, the Torah’s awareness of Mother Earth’s vulnerability is certainly no less than ours. Enter the holiday of Tu B’Shvat. The celebration which occurs on the 15th day of the month of Shvat (the fifth month of the Jewish year) was not commanded in the Torah as such. It became a holiday centuries later in the spirit of the Torah’s explicit and uncompromised concern for Earth’s welfare.
Originally Tu B’Shvat was dedicated to planting trees. It denotes the beginning of a yearly cycle for determining the age of fruit trees. The age of trees is vital information needed to follow certain biblical agricultural laws. Today, however, the holiday has evolved into a celebration of Mother Earth. In fact, there are many related biblical instructions concerning Mother Earth’s welfare which are significant for us in a modern-day context.
The Torah no doubt should be credited with advocating respect and appreciation for nature at a time that other nations were too busy fighting and killing each other. While The Torah did not know about reducing carbon emissions or plastic or other modern time specific ecological challenges, it clearly laid out clear guidelines regarding man’s attitude towards the preservation of our Earth.
The Torah, especially the Book of Psalms or even the Book of Job often glorifies Earth and all its creatures as G-D unique creations. It contains many ecological laws concerning the land, trees and animals. The oceans, mountains, a variety of animals, and all of nature’s wonders are regarded as G-D’s special handiwork.
It is, therefore of utmost importance for man to carefully preserve it. In fact, in the story of creation G-D explicitly instructed humans to be the loyal custodians of Earth, to watch over Earth and all of its inhabitants. The most famous law is “Bal Tashchit” which translates as do not destroy. While it originally referred to fruit bearing trees (in the Book of Deuteronomy), it has been understood throughout Jewish history as a directive for the careful preservation of Mother Nature.
The Bal Tashchit law takes on a highly significant meaning for us, living in modern times. Of course, the Torah did not know about our modern day need to find ways to properly dispose of or even safely eliminate so many complex manmade materials and chemicals as well as dealing with many kinds of pollutants.
However The Torah makes it very clear that we are expected to do our utmost to find ways to eliminate mountains of garbage which cannot be decomposed all over the world. I strongly believe that If we are sophisticated enough to produce complex materials to make our life easier and safer we can find ways to eliminate them safely beyond the temporary (though workable) solution of recycling.
Tu B'Shvat has experienced an amazing transformation from a holiday which celebrates the importance of replenishing our Earth with trees to a day to honor all aspects of nature. It is a time to think about the real challenges of preserving Earth in our modern times.
Happy Tu B’Shvat!
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