Views on the News

UK Commander Challenges Goldstone Report

October 21, 2009 12:51 PM

Under discussion at the UN Human Rights Council on Oct. 16 was the report issued by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on human rights abuses in last winter's Gaza War. The report, led by the former South African judge Richard Goldstone, was harshly accusatory of Israel, and most of the speakers on Oct. 16 piled on the vicious condemnation.

Totally unexpected was the speech by Col. Richard Kemp, speaking on behalf of UN Watch:

"Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare… Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets."

I watched the video of the Colonel's full speech, and it got me thinking. The words reverberated in my mind: The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

What inspires one man to stand up and say the truth to a room full of uncaring politicians? Politicians who voted for a resolution so one-sided that even Judge Goldstone condemned it!

Earlier, when discussing the vote with a friend, he expressed surprise that I was so concerned and bewildered. "These countries have always hated us, what is new?" In a sense he is right. A quick search on Google reveals that the "newly reformed" UNHRC has now condemned Israel almost thirty times, more than its combined record on North Korea, Cuba, China and Sudan.

And then I thought about Noah. "Living with the times," as we are directed to do, means finding relevance to current events in the weekly Torah reading. What would Noah – this week's portion's primary protagonist – have to say about the UNHRC and anti-Semitic politicians?

"Noah was a righteous man," the Torah tells us, "a perfect man in his generation." Sounds clear enough? Apparently not...

Some rabbis interpreted this verse in Noah's favor: even in his depraved generation he maintained his righteousness and integrity. Others explain it to Noah's detriment: he was only righteous in comparison with the rest of his generation; in the generation of Abraham, however, he would not have been considered special.

One of the first teachings taught in Ethics of the Fathers instantly comes to mind. What happened to "Judge all men favorably?" Why did some of the Talmudic sages feel the need to take an unambiguous statement and turn it into a criticism of a man who did no bad—especially when a positive alternative is readily available?

While Noah was pretty righteous, to have deemed him as such – in unqualified fashion – would have encouraged emulation of all of his behaviors. There was one area, though, in which Noah was found not worthy of emulation: his estimation of his fellow man. It took Noah one hundred and twenty years to build the ark, a long time no matter the size of a structure. The idea was that Noah was supposed to stimulate the interest of his generation, explain why he was building the ark and encourage them to repent. Yet in over a century Noah did not succeed in convincing one person to return from his evil ways; when the ark was completed, not one individual outside of Noah's immediate family was deemed worthy of being spared.

It would seem to me that Noah had given up on his generation. He saw in them no redeeming qualities. He considered it useless to endeavor to "make a leopard change its spots."

Perhaps in Noah's generation this was indeed the case—as G‑d Himself testified, "Their every thought is for evil." But after the Flood creation was changed. When G‑d promised that He would never again bring a flood upon the world, He was essentially saying that, from that moment on, every individual would have redeeming qualities. He was telling us to never give up on finding the decent, moral core within every human.

Thus some of the sages saw the necessity of teaching us that we must not emulate Noah in this regard—in our times, we must never give up hope.

It may be open season on the Jews at the moment, but if we brush off all the other nations as anti-Semites, we will end up being uncaring, and unable to effect change. While their message may hold no water, we must not allow ourselves to become cynical or give up hope on them.

Col. Kemp apparently understands this idea well.

Beyond Words: When Things Don't Make Sense

October 19, 2009
Three-year-old Alta Shula Swerdlov, A"H, pictured here with her parents, Rabbi Yossi and Hinda Swerdlov, and an older brother.
Three-year-old Alta Shula Swerdlov, A"H, pictured here with her parents, Rabbi Yossi and Hinda Swerdlov, and an older brother.

The other day I watched the most unbelievable video. It was footage from a train platform in Australia. A young mother was fussing with her baby, protecting him from the strong wind. Then, in a split second, as she let go of the stroller to fix her belt, a gust of wind pushes the stroller towards the tracks. The mother and other bystanders rush to catch the moving stroller but can't. It topples over the platform, into the tracks, the very moment a train is passing by. You watch the mother reach over, her arm getting hit by the train, miraculously not falling in herself. Then you see everyone on the platform, their hands covering their mouths, horrified that this young baby was just killed before their eyes.

But he wasn't.

Somehow, unbelievably so, this baby survived. With the exception of a scratch on his forehead.

I watched this video over and over again. I couldn't believe the blatant miracle. It gave me such hope and encouragement. How could someone watch this video and doubt whether we have a Creator that runs this world?

Today I again saw the hand of the Creator, as He directs the world in His unfathomable way. But this time with the opposite result.

The worst kind.

The kind that we react to by pronouncing, Baruch dayan ha'emet, "Blessed is the true Judge."

This morning I found out that a little three-year-old girl was killed in Jerusalem as she got off her school van. This girl was the daughter of a friend I had when I lived there. This woman already knew tragedy, having lost her own mother as a young girl. Her baby girl was named after her beloved mother.

I am writing this as I try to process this loss. As I try to understand how and why these things happen. They do not make sense. But who says they are supposed to?

When I watched the video of the miracle baby, I remember saying to my husband that this kid better grow up to be something unbelievably special. After all, with your life saved like that, you better make something of it. I even showed it to my children so they could watch a true miracle before their eyes.

Now I sit with tears streaming down my face and think about my friend. I think about the loss of her baby girl, her only daughter. I look at the picture of the medics working on her with the slightest view of a pink backpack in the corner. And I wonder why I thought that a messy room was really so terrible that it was worth screaming at my kids over. Now I sit here waiting for them to get home from school so that I can tell them how much I love them.

And I just pray that in those few hours between now and when they come home, that I don't forget how I feel right now.

I don't think in terms of if they come home, but when they come home. And I get it. We have to think like that to make it through the day. But even with that naïve certainty of when they come home, how will I respond? They will have homework to do, dinner to eat, baths to take. And somewhere along the way I will most likely get annoyed, overwhelmed and very possibly lose my cool. The spilled soup will seem like the greatest of tragedies along with the misplaced homework which has actually caused me in the past to scream aloud, "Why me???"


I am not saying anything new. Every tragedy that comes close to our lives shakes us up. It is that wake-up call to appreciate what we have.

But it is not enough when it is temporary.

Why do I wonder what will come of this miracle baby and not focus on what will be of my life?

Why do I make plans for the future without really contemplating that every moment I breathe is a true miracle? Why do I not live consciously with the true recognition that I have no certainty or security of what will be?

All I have is right now. All I can truly know is right now. But do I live right now?

I am usually too busy regretting the past or worrying about the future. The fact that I have a present is truly a present. And I better make sure I use it well.

The mother of the miracle baby will no doubt live her life with a constant awareness of what could have been and gratefulness for the blessing she was given. My friend will unfortunately mourn the loss of her baby girl for the rest of her life, an awareness that will always be present. And me? I hope to work on myself so that every minute can count, for we only count our minutes when we realize they are limited. And I pray that the Judge of all judges takes us out of this darkness and brings us true clarity with the ultimate gift of Moshiach.

Dedicated to the aliyat haneshamah, the ascent of the soul, of little Alta Shula bat Yosef Yitzchak and Hinda.

Nobel Prize or Noble Intentions?

October 14, 2009 12:00 PM

Surprise! The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. Everyone was surprised, including Obama. After all, Obama had been in office less than two weeks at the time of the February 1st Nobel nomination deadline. That is not much of a chance to do anything, prize-worthy or not. The Nobel Committee explained that Obama was chosen for having "created a new climate in international politics." In effect, Obama was awarded the prize for his intentions, for announcing that he would do things differently.

Would Alfred Nobel approve of this hope-ridden method of choosing prize winners? This question – along with the question whether Obama's policies are indeed conducive for global peace – is the subject of considerable controversy.

But this all got me thinking. Does Judaism, a results-oriented way of life, allow for celebrating good intentions? The answer was not long in coming...

Just one day after Obama woke up to the news that he was a Peace Prize recipient, we observed Simchat Torah. On Simchat Torah, we celebrate two things: we celebrate that we have completed the annual cycle of the Torah reading, but we also celebrate that we are about to begin another cycle—and that it will be on an entirely different and higher level than last year's. It is not only our past accomplishments, safely locked as they are in the unchangeable past, that we can take joy from. We also fearlessly rejoice over the new path we intend to take in the future.

Foolhardy? Jumping the gun? From whence our seemingly premature confidence? Well, our Sages tell us that G‑d has confidence in our intentions too.

There's a biblical mitzvah to fast and pray when we are, G‑d forbid, in a time of peril. For example, in ancient Israel they would institute public fasts in the event of a drought. What, however, was to be done if the nature of the perilous situation precluded the possibility of fasting? Say if an enemy was poised to attack, and fasting would weaken the strength of the city's defenders? The Talmud says that in such an event, the people would pledge to fast and pray at a later date, and their intention to do so would be sufficient to evoke G‑d's mercy.

In a similar vein, the Rebbe would often quote the saying that "charity hastens the redemption." Invoking the Talmudic ruling regarding fasting, the Rebbe said on many an occasion that we need not wait to actually give the charity in order for G‑d to bring the redemption—for as soon as we resolve to do so, we are already worthy of the reward.

Okay, we already celebrated the new path we resolved to embark upon. We got the prize. Now it's time to justify the celebration, justify our confidence, justify G‑d's confidence.

A Celestial Impact

Ice on the Moon?

October 13, 2009 4:35 PM

On Friday, October 9, 2009, NASA scientists intentionally crashed a 2.2 ton rocket into the moon to determine whether water exists on our closest celestial neighbor. The rocket's impact – it came in at 5,600 mph, twice the speed of a bullet – threw up 772,000 pounds of lunar debris, creating a 6.2 mile high spray.

Trailing closely behind the rocket was the sophisticated L-CROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) which flew right though the debris and transmitted back to NASA images that scientists are scouring for evidence of ice. Flying so closely behind, the satellite also took the fatal plunge, plowing into the moon only four minutes behind the rocket.

Though trumpeted by NASA as a low-cost satellite, the L-Cross – according to Northrop Grumman, the company contracted by NASA to build it – cost seventy-nine million dollars. The dimensions of this endeavor boggle the mind. We send a multi-million-dollar satellite into space, crash it into the moon, and throw up a six-mile plume of debris; all to uncover perhaps a single crystal of ice.

As of this writing, the satellite has been destroyed and we do not yet know whether any water has been found. But as I thought about this tremendous expenditure in the name of finding a tiny bit of water, a few parallels came to mind about our lives as Jews.

The satellite, with its capacity to transmit information from distant places to us mortals below, can serve as a metaphor for the soul, which likewise transmits conviction and inspiration from On High to our conscious minds here below. And the moon can represent our physical existence.

The encounter of soul and body is hardly a smooth one. In fact, in many ways it's a head-on collision.

Yet G‑d directs the soul – invaluable as it is – to make the long journey from its home in heaven to the body here on earth. Upon impact, the body comes to life and throws up a huge cloud of earthly debris: material needs, emotional desires, psychological cravings. Life on earth is filled with the distractions of work, family, social obligations, and isolated moments of pleasure. It is driven by egocentric needs for recognition, pride, and fame. This is the cloud of debris that we call life.

Lost in this cloud is the soul, which can no longer muster the spiritual ecstacy and the sublime radiance it experienced prior to its "impact" with the brute physicality of the body. Here on earth, the soul no longer serves G‑d the way it was able to serve in heaven. Yet, to the soul and to its director, namely G‑d, the journey is worthwhile because somewhere in this cloud of debris there are drops of water to be uncovered.

Life-giving, nourishing water is a metaphor for Torah (Talmud, Bava Kama 17a), and the Torah's commandments can only be observed here on earth. For all its spiritual powers, the soul on high is unable to observe the Divine commandments. Like a satellite moored in a hangar at NASA, the soul in heaven is filled with potential, but unable to fulfill its true purpose. It is only upon impact here below that the soul can perform its task. It vivifies the body and throws up a huge shower of debris; but when the dust settles and the particles of debris are filtered through, there are holy crystals to be found—i.e., beautiful acts of kindness and holy mitzvah deeds.

Giving up the "satellite" is a great sacrifice, but finding the crystals makes the journey worthwhile. It is the purpose of life, and the purpose of creation.

This essay was inspired by a conversation with my dear colleague, Rabbi Avraham Keivman, from Liverpool, England.

The Anatomy of an Encounter

The Rebbe and Benjamin Netanyahu

October 8, 2009 8:12 PM

On September 23, 2009, the United Nations seemed to be sliding back to its bleak past. The U.N. General Assembly was exposed to 96 minutes of delirious verbiage by Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, followed by a hate message spewed forth by Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The following day, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benyamin Netanyahu, took the podium. In front of a full house, the Israeli leader unexpectedly pulled out the original construction plans for the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp signed by Hitler's deputy, Heinrich Himmler. "Is this too a lie?" he said, waving them to the assembled delegates.

"Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your country. . . . But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

"A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place, and who pledges to wipe out the Jewish state? . . . What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!"

The speech made headlines and was hailed by many as "Churchillian oratory."

Following the address, an energized Netanyahu faced the Israeli press. Deviating from press protocol of responding with just short diplomatic responses, Netanyahu shared a personal story.

He told of a 40 minute meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Simchat Torah of 1984. "Remember," the Rebbe told me, "you are going to the U.N., an assembly hall that has falsehood and utter darkness.

"Remember that in a hall of perfect darkness, totally dark, if you light one small candle, its light will be seen from afar. Your mission is to light a candle for truth and the Jewish people."

"That is what I did today in the United Nations," Netanyahu concluded.

(Click here for more details on this story.)

Later that evening at the 92nd Street Y, Netanyahu skillfully elaborated to a packed audience of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the events that led up to his meeting the Rebbe on that fateful night.

Netanyahu recalls sitting in Israel's U.N. office in 1984 when there was a knock on the door. "There is this young gentleman who wants to see you," he was told. "He says he knows you."

Netanyahu recalls: "In he comes, this strapping chassid, with a beard and peyot [side-locks]. 'Do I know you?' I said."

"'You don't know me?! Bibi, this is Shmarya."'

"It may not say anything to you, but Shmarya was a member of a Mapam Kibbutz of the Shomer Hatzair. He'd been a very fine soldier of mine, in the unit I served in the army, and I was his commander. I hadn't seen him for a few years.

"He said, 'well, as you can see I've become a Lubavitcher...'"

It was together with Shmarya that Netanyahu went to see the Rebbe on that fateful Simchat Torah eve.

Here is Shmarya's story:

Shmarya was born in the ultra-Left Kibbutz of Mapam, Hebrew acronym for Mifleget HaPoalim HaMeuchedet – The United Workers' Party, an Israeli Zionist-Socialist party founded in 1948. The Kibbutz was known for its notorious anti-religious stance.

It was quite natural that Shmarya did not practice and quite frankly was uninterested in Judaism. In fact he had never been to a synagogue or Shabbat table.

An intelligent, muscularly built, handsome young man, he was a perfect candidate for Israel's elite unit, the Sayeret Matkal, modeled after the British SAS. Shmarya's diligence and unwavering service earned him respect. It was there that he got to know Bibi Netanyahu, his unit captain. It was on reconnaissance missions that their friendship took shape.

After his army service he headed off to the Northeast United States. Naturally, with his background, he served in military related positions. He worked on security for the Israeli consulate in Boston as well as for Israel's El Al airlines.

But then he wanted to move on. So in 1976, when his classic good looks landed him jobs in the modeling industry, he readily accepted. However, his employment status had become an issue, and he needed a student visa to remain in the United States, so he decided to enroll into Boston's Hebrew college.

It was just months earlier that Rabbi Chaim Prus and his wife Nechama arrived to the "Capital of New England" to serve Boston's large and long-standing Jewish community.

While doing the rounds, introducing themselves to the community leaders, they met with the Hebrew College's dean, Dr. Eli Grad.

Founded in 1921, Hebrew College committed itself to Jewish scholarship in an interdenominational academic environment. Dr. Grad, who had a warm spot for Chabad after being assisted earlier by Chabad in Detroit, and receiving a much needed blessing from the Rebbe, gladly offered his assistance to the Chabad couple.

He was caught by surprise when Rabbi Prus asked him to set up an accredited course on Tanya at the college. He had imagined that the rabbi would only ask to be introduced to the community's wealthy patrons, but he agreed nonetheless.

By the fall of the new school year, the course was ready. The overviews, the outlines and objective for a Jewish Chassidic philosophy course were all in place. Although the course was an elective, it turned out to be a smashing success. Nearly a quarter of the entire student body signed up. The university was caught by surprise, but the students enjoyed it immensely, to the extent that they rallied for a second semester sequel.

While teaching Chassidic concepts in the fall semester, Rabbi Prus noticed a young Israeli student at the far end of the classroom who was quite uninterested in what a bearded rabbi had to say.

But then came exam time. The young Israeli knew he'd never pass, but he needed the credits for his student visa—badly.

So he approached the bearded rabbi and told him his predicament, expecting a cold shoulder. He was shocked when instead the rabbi offered him an alternative: that he write a paper on any topic the Tanya discusses.

The Tanya is written in Hebrew, thus Shmarya who spoke Hebrew thought it should not be that difficult. He chose to write on yesurin, pain and suffering, so the rabbi directed him to Tanya's index as a basis for his term paper. Rabbi Prus left him his phone numbers at home as well as at work "just in case you have any questions and need my help."

In the following weeks they spoke several times, to work out some of the issues in Tanya. The talks lead to lengthy encounters and eventually to the slow but steady return of Shmarya to his heritage and faith.

Two years later Shmarya was off to yeshivah.

He applied himself to Torah with the same due diligence he had shown in the military; he received his rabbinical ordination; and became a full fledged Lubavitch rabbi.

It was summer of 1984, Netanyahu was promoted from Deputy Chief of Mission in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and appointed as Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations.

Knowing Shmarya's close relationship to Netanyahu, Rabbi Prus and his brother Yisroel, imparted Shmarya with a task: Make sure that Netanyahu was aware of the long-standing custom of many high-ranking Israeli officials stationed in New York to join the Rebbe for the Simchat Torah celebrations.

Shmarya complied.

Midnight Simchat Torah, Netanyahu arrived at "770." Leaving his security detail behind, Netanyahu met up with Shmarya and Yisroel. 770 was packed, only breathing room was available. Nobody could be extra courteous to the young ambassador. Yisroel and Bibi made their way over tables, along benches, pushing and squeezing between the wall-to-wall overflow of chassidim.

At last, they made it to the front, right next to the Rebbe's podium. It was from this vantage point that Bibi would experience the spiritual elation, the sensation of Simchat Torah with the Rebbe.

At the packed Y, the passionate Prime Minister recalled with emotion his feelings experienced on that Simchat Torah by the Rebbe. The audience members were captivated by what was undoubtedly a profound moment in his life.

"[The Rebbe] turned to the audience and with his hands he started to get the chassidim to sing and dance.

"Then something happened that I'll never forget till the end of my life.

"The Rebbe and his brother-in-law, I think they were both approaching eighty at the time or maybe in their mid seventies, took the Sefer Torah, the Torah scroll, and went into the center of this hall, surrounded by all the chassidim.

"There was a light that shone from the ceiling and bathed them in a pool of light.

"I see these two old bearded Jews dancing in a circle of lights with the Torah, and I felt… the strength of generations…the power of our tradition, our faith, our people."

What Netanyahu witnessed was in essence what Jews of all walks of life witnessed at those elevating moments of being in the presence of the Rebbe on Simchat Torah.

Similar life's experiences are likely to be perceived differently from person to person. What tends to be inspiring for one person may be dull to another. Yet there are awesome encounters when very diverse people sense the same sentiments. Those unique moments when an ultra-religious chassidic Jew in full regalia and a secular Jew donning the cloak of Israeli ambassador experience the same fervor.

That moment: Simchat Torah with the Rebbe.

Netanyahu's Public Display of Jewish Pride

October 5, 2009 10:48 AM

Inside Outside is a fascinating book written by Herman Wouk, in which the American Jewish experience in the early part of twentieth century is described. Judaism was practiced at home and in the synagogue, but at school, work and play Jews took pains to hide their religion. Their reticence was fueled by concern of what their non-Jewish neighbors might think. Would public demonstrations of their pride in their identity, traditions and beliefs fuel anti-Semitic sentiment? Rather than risk a negative result, North American Jews largely opted for a private religious posture.

Identity Erosion

The problem with hiding our faith is that we soon come to sense that something might be wrong with it. The original immigrants, who hid it for what seemed to them at the time as legitimate reasons, maintained a passionate if private relationship with G‑d. Their children, however, who were raised to think and behave like non-Jews on the street and confine their Judaism to the privacy of their homes, , came to identify with and think like the non-Jew and regard their Judaism as a dirty little secret. The views of the emerging generation were formed more by prevailing political atmospheres than their parents' old world opinions. In time they almost completely shed their home bred religious perspectives in favor of the modern and more popular perspectives of their peers.

The first sacrifice was religious practice. Feeling that Shabbat and kosher would form a barrier against their acceptance into modern society, these practices were the first to go. But it didn't stop there; slowly they also abandoned their faith. With time their Jewish pride eroded and, soon after, their identity. It reached a point that Jews were afraid to stand up for their fellow Jews. Jews were on the front line of the Vietnam War protests and the first to march in support of civil rights for blacks. But when it came to the plight of their brethren in Europe during the Holocaust, Jewish religious rights in America, or the existential rights of Jews in their own homeland, the silence of American Jews was deafening. This was a silence of fear: fear of rocking the boat. Fear of awakening the ugly specter of anti-Semitism in America.

Standing Tall at the UN

It was a breath of fresh air when Mr. Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, recently spoke from the United Nations rostrum with passion and eloquence in defense of Jewish rights. He spoke with pride in the very room that filled his predecessors with fear. His words were a clarion call for Jews who came away feeling that something that needed saying for a long time had just gotten off their chest.

I, for one, was not surprised when Netanyahu later recounted that his inspiration for the speech was the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory. Twenty five years ago, when he was first appointed Ambassador to the United Nations, Netanyahu called upon the Rebbe. It was the night of Simchat Torah and the Rebbe was surrounded by thousands of Chassidim who awaited the commencement of the celebrations. The Rebbe talked to Netanyahu for forty minutes and communicated many messages. One message that resonated more than others was the need to light the candle of truth.

The Rebbe referred to the United Nations as an assembly room that spews lies and darkness, that propagates lies as if they were truth. When oft repeated, lies take on a veneer of legitimacy that makes one hesitate to counter them. The Rebbe enjoined Netanyahu to remember the nature of darkness: no matter how intense, darkness always recedes before light. Your mission, concluded the Rebbe, is to light a candle of truth at all times; even as you stand at the rostrum of the house of darkness, speak the truth and the lies shall fall away.

Jewish Pride

This advice fit with the Rebbe's general outlook. The Rebbe always counseled public displays of Jewish pride. The purpose of these displays was not merely to score political points or draw attention. It was to affirm our faith in our own minds. To display your faith in public requires absolute belief and commitment. Pushing back against intimidation and standing tall for Jewish pride was the Rebbe's antidote to the malaise that was eroding the integrity, observance and faith of American Jewry.

The Rebbe was determined to stop the bleeding. He took the initiative to bring Judaism to the malls and street corners of American Jewish communities. Finding a Chabadnik on a busy street distributing Jewish paraphernalia and inviting Jews to put on tefillin is no longer an odd scene. Jewish Mitzvah Mobile Homes (or as the Rebbe preferred to call them, "tanks" in the war against assimilation) are now a common spectacle on the wide boulevards of Jewish metropolises. Jews who were not practicing Judaism at home now have their Judaism delivered to them on the street. Finding the fortitude to hear the shofar on the street or wave a lulav (palm frond) on the train strengthens our Jewish core and allows our soul to blossom.

The Outdoor Festival

This approach is the focus of the festival of Sukkot. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days of awe when Jews congregate indoors; the synagogues are full and the streets are empty. But as if to prevent us from thinking that Judaism is the domain of the synagogue and that there is no room for Jewish pride on the street, the Torah instructs us to follow the Days of Awe with Sukkot.

During this festival Jews walk the street with lulav in hand; we carry it with pride, rejoicing in the knowledge that we were granted a good new year. We move into outdoor huts that are erected especially for this occasion. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, Jews would march from the Temple to the Shiloah Pool where water was collected for their festive libations. The drawing of water was a joyous occasion marked with outdoor song, dance and intense merrymaking.

Sukkot is an outdoor holiday: a time to affirm our belief in G‑d and declare that we are not ashamed, that we are comfortable with our faith indoors and out. May this holiday bring great rejoicing. In its wake may we be strengthened in our faith and practice in the coming new year.

What's the latest news? For that information, check your local or national news outlet. In this blog we will discuss the "why?"

Not "why did this event occur?" but "why did I find out about it?" There must be a reason. It must contain a lesson I can use to better myself and my surroundings. Together we will find the lessons...
Related Topics