26 August 2016

Parashath Ekev: Use It or Lose It!

22 Menahem Av 5776

This post is in honor of my husband's 69th Hebrew birthday, which occurs tomorrow, Shabbat Ekev. He was also born on Shabbat! Happy birthday, ahuv sheli!

"For if you shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your G-d, to walk all in His ways, and to hold fast to Him, then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and you shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves. Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours: From the wilderness to the Levanon, from the river, the river P'rat, to the uttermost sea shall be your border. There shall no man be able to stand against you: for the LORD your G-d shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that you shall tread upon, as He has spoken to you. -D'varim  11:22-25, my husband's birth parashah, aliyath mashlim (7th aliyah, which completes the parashah).

The lime-green overlay is everything HaShem promised Am Yisrael in the future. From Ahavat Eretz Israel


Use it or lose it

BS”D Parashat Aikev 5776
Rabbi Nachman Kahana

An orthopedist will tell you “use it or lose it” – exercise or the limb will eventually undergo necrosis (death of the cells).

So the title of this week’s message is “Use it or Lose it”.

The great traumatic crisis that faces Am Yisrael today is the mass departure, retreat, and abandonment, of millions of US Jews from their religious-historical-national ties to Judaism via intermarriage and related avenues leading to the golden gate of assimilation.
Why is this happening just now when the Jewish people are free to serve HaShem and fulfill our religious responsibilities as in no previous time in the past 2000 years?

I submit:

Friday of last week, we commemorated the festive day of the 15th of Menachem Av, which as stated in the Mishna (Ta’anit) as one of the two happiest days in the Jewish calendar year, the other being Yom Kippur.

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Ta’anit states that the 15th of Av is a joyous day for several positive things that occurred on it, one of them being the edict proclaimed by King Hoshea ben Elah of the ten northern tribes. The Gemara explains that on this day King Hoshea ben Elah rescinded a decree prohibiting the Jews of the northern tribes to go up to Yerushalayim.

In order to fully appreciate what this meant we have to return 300 years prior to the time of Hoshea ben Elah. The arch-rasha (evil-doer), Yeravam ben Nevat incited the people of the northern tribes to secede from the union which was under the monarchy of Rechav’am son of King Shlomo. In order to complete the secession, Yeravam began interpreting the Torah in his own way, but the formal act of secession was accomplished by closing the roads to Yerushalayim and creating two substitute spiritual centers, one in Bet El and the other at Dan in the north.

Yeravam knew that as long as the connection to Yerushalayim existed his break away nation would not endure. Yeravam imposed a harsh prohibition on going to Yerushalayim and in order to maintain this rule he placed police and soldiers along the entire border. This situation continued for over 300 years, during which time the Jews of the north were severed from Yerushalayim and the Bet Hamikdash.

Hoshea ben Elah ascended the throne and withdrew the border guards opening the way to Yerushalayim; this occurred on the 15th of Av. Indeed, a day to parallel Yom Kippur for now the Jews would be able to offer korbanot in the Mikdash and achieve kappara for their sins.

After this explanation in the Talmud, a rabbi whose name was Rav Kahana asked that if Hoshea ben Elah was such a great man, why then in his time did HaShem permit Shalmanesser King of Assyria to invade the northern tribes and exile all the Jews?

To this the Talmud answers that Hoshea ben Elah indeed opened the way to Yerushalayim – BUT NO ONE CAME. And the king was held personally responsible, although he opened the way, because he did not use his authority to coerce his citizens to renew their connection with the holy city.

The Gemara explains that in the 300 years when pilgrimage to the holy city was prohibited by the evil kings, the heavenly bet din (court) could not accuse the northerners of neglecting their responsibilities to Yerushalayim. But now that the government permitted the free movement of people to the holy city there was no longer an excuse for not going. It was as if HaShem was saying, “You did not come to my house, so I will eject you from your houses”, or “Use it or Lose it” – and exiled the Jews to the far fling lands to the east.

Seventy years ago the gates to Eretz Yisrael were thrown open to all Jews. The call was sounded to return home and receive immediate citizenship under the “The Law of Return”.  Very few came home from the Western countries; in fact, the year that we came on aliya in 1962, a mere 677 people came from the millions of Jew in the US.

2500 years ago, HaShem exiled the Jews from Eretz Yisrael for not going up to Yerushalayim. And although this dire sin is being repeated daily by the Jews in Western countries, HaShem cannot use the same punishment today as he did with the ten tribes. And this for the simple reason that they are already in exile.

So the question is: Anything short of a repeat Shoah, what is a fitting punishment for a people already in exile?

Answer: It is exile not only from the Jewish homeland – it is absolute banishment from the Jewish nation through assimilation.

The unaffiliated and “liberal” streams of Judaism are left to inter-marry as their punishment, and they will forever be lost to the Jewish nation.

For the religious Jew who does not come on aliya, there is a similar punishment. He is provided for with religious leaders who fortify and uphold the rejection, prohibition, alienation and exclusion of their adherents from the Holy Land which they blindly base on so-called halachic reasons; like “wait for the Mashiach” or “there is chillul shabbat in Israel.” Thereby insuring that their adherents will remain in the galut until their children, grandchildren or great grandchildren will eventually inter-marry and disappear.

Use it or lose it

The Olympic games are over. The winners proudly display their medals around their necks, gold, silver and bronze and wait for the big company sponsors competing for their endorsements. Because when such illustrious people who can run so fast and jump so high endorse a product how can the teeming millions of “plain” people not put their hands in the pockets to purchase the product!

The payments to the lucky winners are in the millions of dollars, just for saying that he prefers a particular pair of sneakers or shaves with a certain razor blade.
Adidas would pay many many millions for the president of the US to endorse their running shoes, and tens of millions to the Pope for his endorsement.

How much would they theoretically pay for the Creator of heaven and earth to endorse an earthly product?

We find in the Tanach (24 books of the Bible) an endorsement of Eretz Yisrael which is called “ha’eretz ha’tova” – the good land, repeated 7 times: once by HaShem (Devarim 1,35); four times by Moshe (Devarim 3,25; 4,21; 4,22; 9,6); and Yehoshua in his book (23,15) and in Chronicles 1 (28,8).

The term “eretz tova” – a good land, stated by HaShem in Shmot 3,8 and by Moshe in Devarim 8,7.

Birkat hamazon (grace after meals of bread) and the closing blessing over cake, wine and those fruits which are indigenous to the holy land (al hamichya) are replete with praises for Eretz Yisrael.

We in Eretz Yisrael are spectators in the “Theatre of the Absurd”. For despite all the above and more, when I speak to most American yeshiva students visiting or learning here all I get is negativism and criticism of HaShem’s holy land and holy people. I get the feeling that something in their Jewish souls has died or was extinguished by their spiritual leaders, as my mentors attempted to do to me, before I escaped.

Tradition states that at some future time the Twelve Tribes will return to Eretz Yisrael.

I have the feeling that we shall see their return a lot sooner than the return of the American orthodox Jew.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5776/2016 Nachman Kahana


23 August 2016

On the Front Lines...

19 Menahem Av 5776

With light editing. H/T: Barbara Ginsberg, by email. She has known the Federmans since 1978. She says: "They are special people, very special and we need to help them. It is a mitzva to help the Federmans who fight every obstacle to keep our land."

From Wikipedia: Hevron in 1839, after a drawing by David Roberts

 From Elisheva Federman:


Dear friends,
December 4th, 2014 was a day like all others. Noam drove the children to their 'Gan' (kindergarten) in Hebron. It was a day like all others when Arab terrorists threw stones on Jewish cars in an attempt to kill and injure. But it wasn't a day like all others the moment Noam decided to stop the stoned car, get out of it and pursue his attackers.
Needless to say, that since that day, not even one stone was thrown at a Jewish vehicle from this same corner where Arabs used to stand, in the middle of the day, and stone Jewish cars.
As it appears, this incident was staged and "Betselem" cameras were set, before the stoning to catch any Jewish response. It wasn't long before all the news headlines said:" Settlers vandalize property as revenge for stone throwing". It took only a few days for the police to show up at our home and arrest Noam, and our son Oved – which was a few days before his recruitment to the Israeli Army. They were investigated and released with a bill of indictment. 
It is over a year now, that Noam and our son Oved, an IDF paratrooper, stand trial for "vandalizing property."
During the trial, the prosecution had to reveal the army's footage of the incident. it was shocking to see Arab teenagers standing in that specific junction on the road from Hebron to Kiryat Arba, and for more than 30 minutes they are throwing stones in broad day light on Jewish cars and on military cars, and no one is stopping them. The Army jeeps, which were captured on camera, decide to do nothing. They flee the scene and let the young terrorists continue their attacks on innocent passersby. It was even more shocking to discover that the offenders were not caught, and were not even investigated for their deeds, although their faces appear clearly in the footage.
A few weeks after this incident, the police came knocking on our door, warning us that they have intel indicating that Noam, the car, and our house is targeted by hostiles. And we should use measures of precaution. Both Noam and I applied for permits to carry hand guns. Both our requests were denied. We decided to appeal against this decision not to allow us protect our children and our home.
And the last straw: after the despicable murder of Hallel Ariel, Military Intel points that these days the Arab terrorists aspire to intrude isolated homes such as ours. We were approached by the security officer of Kiryat Arba advising us to put bars on our windows, due to the fact that our house is isolated and we have nothing in our hands for self-defense. Because of the fact that our home is on "illegal territory" we won't get any help funding it.

"But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew" (Exodus 1:12).

Hebron is our birthright. This is where our forefathers set roots for our great nation, and this is where we feel privileged and obligated to raise the next generations to come. We are here to stay. No matter what the obstacles we face, we stand strong and live here as proud Jews. But we need your help, to fight this unjust trial, to appeal against these unjust decisions preventing us from protecting our home. This is not our private struggle; this has to concern each and every Jew. Please don't let us deal with it alone. Help us fund a lawyer for our son Oved, who spends his nights and days protecting this country. Noam represents himself, but they won't let him represent Oved. Help us fund the appeals for letting us carry handguns for our protection. Help us provide security to our children.
We are looking at a sum of $12,300 US. If you want to help us, please donate in any of the 3 ways below:

Long into your Pay Pal Account
Hit Pay For Goods or Services
Write Elishfed@gmail.com
Write Amount and Send

Write check payable to Noam Federman
P.O.Box 89
Kiryat Arba 901000

Bank Hadoar 001
Account no. 24431524
Noam Federman
Mobile phone: 0528693868
Many thanks in advance.

11 August 2016

Yearning for the Land

7 Menahem Av 5776

Yearning for the Land
from Beyond Words: Selected Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane
1960-1990, Volume 7

The klipa, the callus, that slowly and imperceptibly covers the burgeoning adult, immutably desensitizes us and forever loses for us the emotion and value that is the heart and nucleus of the mitzvah cell or ritual.  And so, as if suddenly – but really as part of the slow and ongoing process – there is created a human being, a community, almost a people that elevates the ritual to the heights reserved for the concept, and we become practitioners of Jewish ritual, rather than emotional and living embracers of the concept.

So it is with Tisha B’Av and the three weeks that precede it.  Not a few can emote all the laws and customs emanating from them.  Not an Orthodox Jew will violate the rituals that make up the three weeks and certainly not the nine days.  And yet, as with too many Jewish concepts that were meant to be living, thriving, real things that grip the heart and soul – ha’ikar  chaser min hasefer.  [Editor's note: A Hebrew idiom, literally meaning, “the principle is lacking from the book,” referring to the fact that the main concept has been forgotten.]

For I put it to all honest people that, of all who practice the rituals of the three weeks and Tisha B’Av, few – all too few – mourn for Jerusalem and the Land.  I put it that most find the three weeks an excruciating thing that prevents them from enjoying the summer; that most look forward to its passing as quickly as possible so that vacation and enjoyment can continue in the Catskills and all the other places that make up the Galut enjoyment; that few, all too few, feel the stab of pain in their heart for the Temple that is not there; for the Moslem jackals who walk and control the Mount; for the lack of holiness and sanctity that Jerusalem and the Temple mean. 

What happens because of this is a shallow and terrible corrosion of Judaism and a slow and terrible corruption of the Jewish soul.  Mitzvot become things to be done with and finished; the soul becomes a hard and callous thing feeling nothing, and, worse, mitzvot become meaningless and fraudulent as we weep for a land we could be living in – if we wish to; as we speak of a return to a land of which we do not wish, as we grab ourselves in emotions we do not feel.

We do not wish to leave America; we do not feel any pain in an “exile” that the ritual has us mouthing as a thing of tragedy and pain.  We enjoy the luxury of Galut and mouth quickly the kinot, the lamentations, most of whose words we do not understand anyhow.  We sit on the floor in the Ninth of Av and look forward to the 10th.  And enjoyment.

That is the death of Judaism, no matter how many synagogues and shtiblech have grown.  This is the destruction of Torah as a real and vibrant “thing,” no matter how many yeshivas have sprung up.  For all of them will produce scholars of callous soul unable to feel the pain and joy and honesty of a mitzvah as it was meant when given by G-d at Sinai. 

Of course, this applies to all the nations of galut/golus, not just America.

Here are a few videos that I hope will point the way forward:

 R' David Bar-Hayim: To Fast or Not to Fast on Tish"a b'Av

Zimmerman Farm: Experimenting with hydroponics, part 1

Zimmerman Farm: Experimenting with hydroponics, part 2

R' Ephraim Sprecher: T"U b'Av: A Tikun for Tish"a b'Av

Temple Institute: Tish"a b'Av: A Time to Build