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Monday, May 24, 2004

Aish Zarah—A Strange Fire”

Musings #51
May 23, 2004

Aish Zarah—A Strange Fire”

“Vayamat Nadav v’Avihu lifneh Adoshem b’hakrivam aish zarah lifneh Adoshem…” “And Nadav and Avihu died before The Lord when they offered a ‘strange fire’ before The Lord.” Bamidbar, Numbers III, 4

Rabbis and men and women, much more learned than myself, have been discussing/debating what that “strange fire” was. This past Shabbat, while reading the week’s parsha (Torah portion), less than a year after my neighbor, Avihu Keinan, HaYa”D, was killed in action, it had a different meaning. After Avihu’s death, this father, Moshe, began a campaign to change army policy.

The Israeli Army considers itself a “moral” army. It carefully plans operations in ways not to endanger “innocent Arab civilians.” I consider that term an oxymoron, but even if it isn’t, there isn’t an army in the world that worries more about “enemy civilians” than its soldiers and citizens. Avihu had to march into a building known to house terrorists, instead of our destroying the building with the terrorists inside. After Avihu’s death, Moshe began protesting against this false, perverse morality that endangers our soldiers, instead of letting them fight the enemy as soldiers should.

Suddenly I understood. The “strange fire” that caused the deaths of the Biblical Avihu and Nadav was the perverse morality touted by many Israelis as the epitome of righteousness.

“With mere good intentions, hell is proverbially paved.”
William James (1842 - 1910)

The well-meaning, well-intending philosophers, politicians, journalists, whoevers who created the miss-guided and inevitably fatal philosophy/morality that we are suffering from and dying from today could never have had envisioned the results. There is no other country or People in this world or the entire world’s history that has ever conducted themselves according to such morality. It has made us the laughingstock not only of the Middle East but of the entire world. It is literally killing us and our children and our children to be.

And now for the continuation of the pasook, sentence, quoted in the beginning of my “musing.” “…ubanim lo hayu lahem…” “…and children they didn’t have…”

Avihu Keinan is survived by his father, mother, two grandmothers and four sisters.

Our task is to extinguish the aish zarah before we, too, are, G-d forbid, consumed by it.

Batya, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://www.shilo.org.il

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Shavuot

Musings #50
May 18, 2004

Shavuot

I had no idea that there was a Jewish Holiday called Shavuot when I was growing up in New York. I always new about Chanukah and Pesach, the “High Holidays,” a vague memory of hamantaschen on what must have had been Purim, but Shavuot? Never heard of it. Even after becoming religious in high school, it was hard to grasp.

Shavuot is the epitome of a spiritual, religious holiday. The name has two meanings. One is weeks, for the seven weeks between the beginning of Pesach and Shavuot. Shavu’a, week, comes from the same root as sheva, seven, the seven days in the week. Every night, from the second night of Pesach until Shavuot, we count up, not down; we count both the days and the weeks. Tonight after the blessing I counted: “HaYom shlosha v'arbayim yom, shehem shisha shavuot v'yom echad ba'Omer. Today is three and forty days, which are six weeks and one day of the Omer.” Everyday the count goes higher until we’re ready for the next meaning of Shavuot.

Shavuot also means “oaths.” It commemorates the day that we, the Jewish People accepted the Law from G-d. “Na’aseh v’nishma,” “We will do, and we will listen.” That was the oath we swore as a People to G-d. We will do whatever You command, and we will listen. That means, that we are buying the package, even though we have no idea what it contains.

This is the holiday during which we are required to read Megilat Ruth. Ruth’s vow is the model for conversion to Judaism to this day. She told her mother-in-law, Naomi: “Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live, your People will be my People, your G-d, my G-d. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried; G-d will do it for me..” (Ruth I, 16-7) (my translation) Ruth pledges to follow Naomi to wherever she takes her and do whatever she commands.

Both these pledges bring us back to the instructions from G-d to Abram (original name of Abraham) in “Lech Lechah,” “Go, For Your Own Sake, Go! …to The Land I will show you…and I will make you a Great Nation.” (Bereishit, Genesis XII, 1-2) We must listen to G-d and follow his instructions, live where and how he commands, even if we don’t understand, even if we don’t fully understand what He wants.

In today’s difficult times we must be confident, have faith, that it is going to be all right in the end. According to HaRav Elchanan Bin Nun, the Chief Rabbi of Shiloh, we are now in the “setter madreiga,” the hidden part of the stairs. When we look at the past we see a dangerous precipice, and when we look forward we see a steep wall, too difficult to climb. There seems to be no where to go, neither up nor down. But if we persevere, have faith and keep going up, we will be rewarded with something very, very great.

“Na’aseh v’nishma,”

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://www.shilo.org.il

“Follow The Leader”

Musings #49
May 12, 2004

“Follow The Leader”

“Follow The Leader” was a game we played as kids, in the middle of the last century—boy does that make me sound old! But seriously, we did play the game, and generally the “leader” did ridiculous things to make following as difficult or funny as possible. Of course, it was just a game.

I wonder what game our politicians are playing. I don’t see any leaders out there, just politicians playing games, dangerous games. Since Arik Sharon announced that he’s withdrawing from Gush Katif and uprooting and destroying the Jewish communities, schools, business, homes, lives… whether Likud members support him or not, over a dozen Israelis have been murdered there.

The Israeli Prime Minister and his faithful follower, the Minister of Defense, have caused the terrorists to celebrate in the way the love the most—murdering more Jews. And like sharks, who have tasted human blood, they are uninhibited in their obvious delight. They proudly display their battle trophies on newscasts, the body parts of our soldiers.

The rest of the world finds this terrorism acceptable, just like they did sixty years ago, when the Nazis systematically murdered six million Jews and millions of others. Ok, I have no problem recognizing the fact that most of the world is anti-Semitic. As they say in Hebrew: “Uvdah!” It’s a fact. What I find totally unacceptable is that The State of Israel, the one Jewish country in the entire world, is doing nothing against it.

We have no leadership. Making decisions is not leadership. Getting elected is not leadership; it’s politics, deals, marketing. A true leader has vision, chazon. It’s a dream that’s always on the horizon, something to strive for.

The politicians in power, the media and the “left” are taking their lines from the “Judenrat,” the establishment Jews in Germany at the time of the Naxis. The Judenrat worked with the Nazis, choosing the Jews to be “sent” and explaining to the remaining Jews that it was really “better” if they all moved to the ghetto. Every time I hear that Israel is “too big” with Yesha, and we’d be better off without all (or even some) of it, I feel transported back in time.

These politicians and “opinion-makers” keep reminding us that we must keep the Americans, Europeans and UN happy. To be honest—who cares? They have no authority over us, and our safety and future are not important to them. Why should I try to please them? If these politicians and the media consider it so important to do what some foreigners want, then they are followers!

A country’s leaders, any country’s leaders, have one responsibility and that’s to make their country self-sufficient and independent. A country missing those two characteristics is dying. True national leaders consider the needs of their country first and build for the future, so the future will be better, meaning more self-sufficient and independent.

This is not just simple common sense. The parsha shavua of this Shabbat includes a very frightening section from Vayikra, Leviticus XXVI. It is a continuation of what G-d said to Moshe. First it reminds us that we shouldn’t worship idols, in any form or way. Then we are told that if we follow G-d’s commandments, we will have sufficient rains and prosperity and live in peace, not fear, and we will be successful. But if we don’t… G-d will send terror and famine…

It is clear what we must do. We should stop looking for others to follow. We will lead.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://www.shilo.org.il

And The Winner Is….

Musings #48
May 2, 2004

And The Winner Is….

Israeli democracy tried something new today.
Prime Minister Sharon, of the Likud Party, declared a policy that contradicted his party’s and his electoral campaign’s ideology. Very confident in himself, he pledged to ask his party, the simple dues paying members, if they support him in his plan to destroy Jewish communities in Gush Katif and northern Shomron. Originally he promised to follow the voice of the people, but as the polls began to change from support to opposition, he in turn backtracked on his promise to comply with the results.

For many years already, Israel has been starved for true leadership. Recent elections have been very difficult, because, whether on the right or the left, citizens are dissatisfied with their politicians. There has been a steady decline in the percentage of citizens exercising their right to vote, as frustration evolved into apathy and cynicism.

There is one aspect of this recent crisis that has made me very happy. We are now able to eliminate more “false leaders,” from our list. Everyone of those ministers and “leading politicians” who pledged their support to Sharon’s plan to reward terror by uprooting Jewish families, homes, farms and businesses can no longer be considered trustworthy. Especially since most of them basically admitted that they think the plan is dangerous, but they don’t want to lose their powerful and prestigious jobs in the government. They swallowed their principles and self-respect and crossed themselves off the list.

A few politicians like Ruby Rivlin, who traveled the country reminding everyone that this was a vote on Eretz Yisrael, deserve our thanks and support. Thousands of high school students signed petitions to Limor Livnat, criticizing her support of Sharon’s plan, and even her father publicly chastised her for abandoning the principles on which she was raised.

Plain ordinary citizens from Yesha and the rest of the country went day and night, knocking on doors of Likud members all over the country, explaining the danger Sharon’s plan will have on the entire country. Even I, who live in Shiloh, got at least a half a dozen phone calls reminding me to “vote NO.”

Rabbis suggested the saying of additional t’hillim, psalms, and composed special prayers to be said. There was something for everyone to do.

Now the votes are being counted. On TV they have been predicting an overwhelming majority against Sharon’s plan and Sharon, himself.

I was in Jerusalem today, in the area of Binyanei Ha’uma, where the voting took place, and it was inspiring. Dozens, if not hundreds, of young people were button-holing anyone who could possibly be a voter to explain to them why they should vote: NO.

One of the reasons some of the politicians who are in favor of withdrawing from Yesha give is that “the people” are tired of war and no longer willing to accept the burden of defending such “far off” places like Gush Katif, or dangerous places like the Shomron. They are projecting their feelings onto the whole country. That’s a mistake. There’s great strength, determination and patriotism in Israel today. You just had to have seen the youth, their enthusiasm and energy.

Our youth has taken classic Zionism to the next stage, up on the hills. Those wonderful hilltop communities are the continuation of the early chalutzim, pioneers. They have an extraordinarily inspiring relationship with the Land. They are the generation born after the Six Day War. Their connection to the land of our forefathers is natural, not one of dreams. As children they went on school trips to Shechem and Chevron. They ran around the same mountains as the Maccabis once did, as they pretended to fight the Greeks. They are not inhibited by visions of borders and fences.

After the Jewish People finally left Egypt, they had to wander forty years until a new generation was capable of settling the Land with Joshua. Our youth is that new generation.

“V’yeish tikvah l’acharetech, n’um Adoshem, v’shavu banim l’gvulam.” “And there is hope for your future, declared G-d, and the children will return to their borders.” (Jeremiah, XXXI, 17)

Batya Medad, Shiloh
http://www.shilo.org.il

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

They Got It All Wrong

Musings #47
April 28, 2004

They Got It All Wrong

I was listening to the news this morning, the morning after Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day 56. One of the top stories was the hundred thousand, or more, visitors to Gush Katif. According to the news editor, they were there to support the “settlers.” They got it all wrong, and I’m not referring to the term “settler.”

This struggle is not a personal one; it’s not about people. Even Moetzet Yesha (The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip) has it wrong. It’s not about the residents, “brothers,” family etc. We’re fighting for our Land, the Land G-d gave us, the Land G-d told Abram he’d show him, the Land Joshua conquered and David unified and ruled.

People are temporary, even if we live to a hundred and twenty, we only have a short, limited role in this world. Our Land is eternal, and our People, the Jewish People are eternal, like the stars in the sky.

The wonderful Jews living in the various communities, now called “Gush Katif,” are following a great tradition. Just like the Zionist pioneers who, under the most difficult conditions, established the early kibbutzim, moshavim and what are today vibrant cities in Israel, the Jews in Gush Katif and the rest of Yesha see all of Eretz Yisrael as our Homeland.

You most probably have heard the saying: “You can’t be just a little bit pregnant.” In this case, once people began to say that some parts of Eretz Yisrael should be “juden rein,” then the principle that we have an eternal, G-d given, right to be here is under attack. The basic legitimacy of the state is questioned, then denied. If one accepts that we have no right to live near Gaza, or in Hebron, the hilltops of the Shomron or Shiloh, then we have no right to live in Haifa, Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv.

It’s inconceivable to us that the same people who idealize those who settled the foundation of the State of Israel condemn the Jews in Gush Katif, Judea and Samaria. And it’s pitiful and dangerous that today there are Israelis who claim “moral” problems with the establishment and existence of our state.

Either we have a right to live in all of Eretz Yisrael, or not an inch of it. Our struggle against Ariel Sharon’s plan to destroy Jewish communities is not about “settlers.” It’s about our G-d-given right to be here in Eretz Yisrael. If the farmers of Gush Katif have no rights to their fields, then the Prime Minister has no right to his Negev farm.

“…u’faratzta yama, v’kedma, tzafona, v’negba…”
“…and you will spread out to the west, and to the east and to the north, and to the south…” Bereishit, (Genesis XXVIII, 14)

Batya Medad, Shiloh
http://www.shilo.org.il

…Strength to the Weary

Musings #46
April 25, 2004

Strength to the Weary

“Baruch Atah Adoshem, Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, Ha Noten L’Ayeif Ko’ach.” “Blessed be You Our G-d, Lord of the Universe, Who Gives Strength to the Weary.”

This morning, instead of my usual quick mumble, I found myself saying each word of the morning prayers out loud. When I heard myself say the words of this blessing, suddenly I was silent. For these words, I had been searching.

In Israel we don’t start our Independence Day celebrations out of the clear blue. The previous day is our Memorial Day for Soldiers and Victims of Arab Terror. The previous week we commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. Television, radio, schools, youth movements and community centers program activities and events reminding us that our Independence does not come easily.

We, the Jewish People, have survived. We survived our ancient enemies, as told in the Bible. We survived the crusaders and the Inquisition. Just sixty years ago, six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their supporters. Less than sixty years ago our survivors were refused refuge by the “civilized” world led by the United States and Great Britain. After undergoing any of the persecutions we have suffered, other peoples would have just faded away, a footnote in history, ashes to be dispersed by the wind.

The survivors of the death camps, witnesses of indescribable horrors, skin, bones and sickly, married, had children and began new lives. Jews trekked by foot from Yemen and other mid-eastern countries to Eretz Yisrael. They braved all dangers to get here, leaving persecution, poverty and even mansions. Conditions were devastatingly poor in the early years of the state. Security, demographics, health, finances; according to all sound reasoning, there was no rational, logical way that the State of Israel could survive those first years. But it did.

G-d gives strength to the weary. “Hazor’im b’dimah, b’rina yiktzoru.”
“Those who sow in tears, will reap in joy.” (Tehillim, Psalms CXXVI, 5)

Chag HaAtzmaut Sameach

Batya Medad, Shiloh
shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://www.shilo.org.il