My dear virtual friend from Beer Sheva passed away after a long illness and Kidney failure - Leah Nikia bas Bertha Sara may she rest under the wings of the Shechina. Faige Rivka bas Taube also passed away this last week.
Purim by the Belzer Rebbe in Petach Tikva: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOQJfeOPDDQ
Parsha Ki Sisa
Rabbi Yacov Lustig Shlita commented to me that I have a way of tying in the Parshiyos one to another. Well last week I was exhausted after coming up with two Agates for the stones but limiting it down to one. However I still had no time to check the difference between the green emerald and the plain emerald. I ended up skipping a lot of the Korbanos (sacrifices) but I need this from last week to tie it into this week’s Parsha.
29:38 Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar: two lambs of the first year day by day continually. 39 The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at dusk. 40 And with the one lamb a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour mingled with the fourth part of a hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of a hin of wine for a drink-offering. 41 And the other lamb thou shalt offer at dusk, and shalt do thereto according to the meal-offering of the morning, and according to the drink-offering thereof, for a sweet savor, an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
For in our Siddurim (prayer books) the cleaning of the altar, brass laver and daily sacrifice are tied together and this week deals with the brass laver. Last week we had the Ketores and this week too the incense is mentioned again.
The only question in my mind on all the Parshiyos was if Parsha Mishpatim was given to Moshe at Sinai before he went up the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights or not as it is a very practical Parsha. All the Parshiyos from the start of Beshalach/Yisro until Chukkas are essentially one big unit. They are the initial building of a nation. Everything in these Parshiyos up to Shelach Lecha are laws for a new nation and the dedication of the Mishkan and establishing a military type movement of a nation with civilians and livestock. Finally we are about to get into Eretz Yisrael and the spies fail us along with the rebellion of Korach and plague that follows which leads to the laws of one dying in a tent. I could be wrong but it appears to me like Parsha Chukkas is a 38 year period condensed into one Parsha. After the last of rebellions took place with Korach, Moshe and the people were settling down to learn Torah but they also had to deal with death as for 38 years people would die for the sin of the golden calf and spies. However, the people after 38 more years forget their lessons and Zimri and many members of the tribe of Shimon go after their physical lusting. From the end of Chukkas onwards through all of Devarim is basically the last six months of Moshe’s life and the conquest of the other side of the Yarden River to the Bashan Area of the Golan Heights. Of course we have over 200 plus Mitzvos that were never mentioned previously in writing but were already Oral Torah.
30:11 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 12 When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.
To atone for your souls: [This was written] because [God] hinted to them [the Israelites] here [about] three offerings, because “an offering to the Lord” is written here three times. The first [represents] the offering [of silver] for the sockets [of the Mishkan], for he [Moses] counted them when they commenced with the donations for the Mishkan. Everyone gave a half-shekel, amounting to one hundred talents, as it is said: “And the silver of the community census was one hundred talents” (Exod. 38:25). The sockets were made from this, as it is said: “One hundred talents of the silver was [used to cast the sockets of the Mishkan and the sockets of the dividing curtain]” (Exod. 38:27). The second [offering mentioned here] was also [collected] through counting, for he [Moses] counted them after the Mishkan was erected. This is the counting mentioned in the beginning of the Book of Numbers: “on the first of the second month in the second year” (Num. 1:1). [For this offering] everyone gave a half-shekel, [the total of] which was [earmarked] for the purchase of communal sacrifices for every year. The rich and poor were equal in them [i.e., they gave equally in these two offerings]. Concerning that [second] offering, it is said: “to atone for your souls,” because the sacrifices are brought for the purpose of atonement. The third one [offering] is the offering for the Mishkan, as it is said: “Whoever set aside an offering of silver or copper” (Exod. 35:24). In this [offering] not everyone gave the same amount, but each one [gave] according to what his heart inspired him to give. -[from Shekalim 2b]
One was to count the money so if there are two half shekels = one shekel that would make two people etc.
13 This they shall give, every one that passes among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary--the shekel is twenty gerahs--half a shekel for an offering to the LORD. 14 Every one that passes among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the offering of the LORD.
To prevent any evil by counting the Bnei Yisrael from the Accuser, the Bnei Yisrael only counted the number of half shekels.
15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when they give the offering of the LORD, to make atonement for your souls.
The fare share doctrine does not take effect here. Why shouldn’t the rich pay more than the poor? Rather this comes to teach us that before HASHEM we are equal.
16 And thou shalt take the atonement money from the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for your souls.'
Now the morning Korbanos Prayers use the following to remind us of the washing of the hands of the Cohanim. The brass was taken from the mirrors of the Jewish Woman who beautified themselves for their husbands in order to fight Pharaoh’s decree of not bringing males into the world. The men wanted to refrain from all contact and the women came to preserve Am Yisrael. For that purpose their mirrors were used for the holiest purpose of sanctifying the Cohanim.
17 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 18 'Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and the base thereof of brass, whereat to wash; and thou shalt put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
A washstand: Like a sort of large caldron, which has faucets allowing water to pour out through their openings. and its base: Heb. וְכַנּוֹ, as the Targum [Onkelos] renders: וּבְסִיסֵיהּ, a seat prepared for the washstand. for washing: This refers back to the washstand. between… the altar: [This refers to] the altar for burnt offerings, about which it is written that it was in front of the entrance of the Mishkan of the Tent of Meeting. The washstand was drawn away slightly [from the entrance] and stood opposite the space between the altar and the Mishkan, but it did not intervene at all [between them], because it is said: “And he placed the altar for burnt offerings at the entrance of the Mishkan of the Tent of Meeting” (Exod. 40:29), implying that the altar was in front of the Tent of Meeting, but the washstand was not in front of the Tent of Meeting. How is that so? It [the washstand] was drawn away slightly to the south. So it is taught in Zev. (59a).
19 And Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat;
Their hands and feet: He [the Kohen] would wash his hands and feet simultaneously. So we learned in Zev. (19b): How was the washing of the hands and the feet [performed]? [The Kohen] would lay his right hand on his right foot and his left hand on his left foot and wash [in this manner].
This was to remove any Tuma that they might have had contact with so their hands and feet would be spiritually pure for their tasks on the Mizbayach.
20 when they go into the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to cause an offering made by fire to smoke unto the LORD;
When they enter the Tent of Meeting: to bring the incense up in smoke in the morning and in the afternoon, or to sprinkle some of the blood of the bull of the anointed Kohen [Gadol, who erred in his Halachic decision and practiced according to that erroneous decision,] (Lev. 4:3-12) and the blood of the kids for [sin offerings for having engaged in] idolatry (Num. 15:22-26). so that they will not die: This implies that if they do not wash, they will die. For in the Torah [there] are stated implications, and from the negative implication you [can] understand the positive. the altar: [I.e.,] the outer [altar], in which no entry to the Tent of Meeting is involved, only [entry] into the courtyard.
By not taking care in their purity they could die from the Tuma and its negative influence.
21 so they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not; and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.'
Although we don’t eat in ritual purity today, we continue to wash our hands before bread or eating wet fruits and vegetables like the radish/celery/parsley/potato on the night of the Seder which is dipped in water and water adds to the Tuma if the Temple existed.
22 … This section deals with the oil of anointing and how it is compounded. The exact proportion was special only to the Mishkan or Mikdash and also the Cohanim but a stranger (non-Cohain) could not be anointed with it.
30 And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto Me in the priest's office. 31 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying: This shall be holy anointing oil unto Me throughout your generations. 32 Upon the flesh of man shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any like it, according to the composition thereof; it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. 33 Whosoever compounds any like it, or whosoever puts any of it upon a stranger, he shall be cut off from his people.'
One of the spiritual cutting off of the people from the next world.
34 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; sweet spices with pure frankincense; of each shall there be a like weight. 35 And thou shalt make of it incense, a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. 36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with thee; it shall be unto you most holy. 37 And the incense which thou shalt make, according to the composition thereof ye shall not make for yourselves; it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD. 38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereof, he shall be cut off from his people.
So the next time you see somebody who wants to burn incense or sell you some run for this another cutting off from the next world.
31:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 'See, I have called by name Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 3 and I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 to devise skillful works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of workmanship. 6 And I, behold, I have appointed with him Oholiav, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the ark-cover that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the Tent; 8 and the table and its vessels, and the pure candlestick with all its vessels, and the altar of incense; 9 and the altar of burnt-offering with all its vessels, and the laver and its base; 10 and the plaited garments, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, to minister in the priest's office; 11 and the anointing oil, and the incense of sweet spices for the holy place; according to all that I have commanded thee shall they do.'
Moshe saw what was supposed to be done for the building of the Mishkan but could not put it into word or deeds. However, Moshe spoke and Betzalel and Oholiav were able to picture what to do in their mind’s eye and build it with the materials of the Mishkan
12 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 13 'Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying: Verily ye shall keep My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the LORD who sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you; every one that profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Earlier we have spiritual cutting off of the violator from Am Yisrael in the next world but Shabbos goes further it entitles also the death penalty. It grieves me very much when I see Jews on the internet living in certain areas where it is beginning Shabbos or Shabbos has not gone out and they are actively on line with posts. I cannot stress enough how important and Holy Shabbos is!
15 Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.'
We are commanded to rest lest we incur the death penalty if not from the Sanhedrin from Heaven and if not due to merits in this life then in the next. Shabbos is out thing our covenant as a nation. No other nation has this. It is a day on which even a day that HASHEM enjoys. Since HASHEM is omnipresent and omnipotent, I cannot really imagine what is rest or pleasure of Shabbos by him.
18 And He gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
Right after the covenant of HASHEM with Yisrael on Shabbos, Moshe receives the two Luchos HaBris. This high spiritual level of 40 days and 40 nights in heaven is followed by the depravity of the golden calf and I have copy and pasted an article below about the story or an Indian Princess.
32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, …
This is the section dealing with the golden calf and the plea in heaven to save the people and Moshe’s fight in this world against it.
26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said: 'Whoso is on the LORD'S side, let him come unto me.' And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. 27 And he said unto them: 'Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Put ye every man his sword upon his thigh, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.' 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. …
Since some first born participated in the misbehavior of the golden calf, only the Leviim were left to administer unto G-D.
8 And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the Tent, that all the people rose up, and stood, every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the Tent. 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered into the Tent, the pillar of cloud descended, and stood at the door of the Tent; and [the LORD] spoke with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud stand at the door of the Tent, all the people rose up and worshipped, every man at his tent door. 11 And the LORD spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend. And he would return into the camp; but his minister Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the Tent. …
From here we learn that a student should always stick closely to his Rabbi or in some cases a number of Rabbis.
34:1 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first; and I will write upon the tables the words that were on the first tables, which thou didst break. 2 And be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to Me on the top of the mount. 3 And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.' …
This was a punishment for breaking the Divine Luchos and now both the pieces of the Divine and whole Luchos of Moshe would be placed in the Aharon. …
35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses that the skin of Moses' face sent forth beams; and Moses put the veil back upon his face, until he went in to speak with Him.
Rambam Laws of Kings and their wars Chapter 6 http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188350/jewish/Chapter-6.htm
War, neither a Milchemes hareshut or a Milchemes mitzvah, should not be waged against anyone until they are offered the opportunity of peace as Deuteronomy 20:10 states: 'When you approach a city to wage war against it, you should propose a peaceful settlement.'
If the enemy accepts the offer of peace and commits itself to the fulfillment of the seven Mitzvos that were commanded to Noah's descendants, none of them should be killed. Rather, they should be subjugated as ibid.:11 states: 'They shall be your subjects and serve you.'
If they agree to tribute, but do not accept subjugation or if they accept subjugation, but do not agree to tribute, their offer should not be heeded. They must accept both.
The subjugation they must accept consists of being on a lower level, scorned and humble. They must never raise their heads against Israel, but must remain subjugated under their rule. They may never be appointed over a Jew in any matter whatsoever.
The tribute they must accept consists of being prepared to support the king's service with their money and with their persons; for example, the building of walls, strengthening the fortresses, building the king's palace, and the like as I Kings 9:15-22) relates: "This is the tribute which Solomon raised to build the House of God, his own palace, the Milo, the wall of Jerusalem,... and all the store-cities which Solomon had... All the people that remained from the Amorites... upon them did Solomon lay a tribute of bondservice until this day."
In contrast, Solomon did not make bondsmen out of the children of Israel. They were men of war, his personal servants, his princes, his captains, the officers of his chariots, and his horsemen.
In the settlement he offers, the king may propose that he is entitled to take half their financial resources. Or he may propose to take all their landed property and leave them their movable property; or to take all their movable property and leave their land.
It is forbidden to lie when making such a covenant or to be untruthful to them after they have made peace and accepted the seven Mitzvos.
If they do not agree to a peaceful settlement, or if they agree to a peaceful settlement, but refuse to accept the seven Mitzvos, war should be waged against them.
All males past majority should be killed. Their money and their children should be taken as spoil, but neither women or children should be killed, as Deuteronomy 20:14 states: 'But the women and the children... take as spoil." 'The children' refer to males below the age of majority.
The above applies to a Milchemes hareshut fought with other nations. However, if either the seven nations or Amalek refuse to accept a peaceful settlement, not one soul of them may be left alive as ibid. 20:15-16 states: 'Do this to all the cities that ... are not the cities of these nations. However, from the cities of these nations,... do not leave a soul alive.' Similarly, in regard to Amalek, Deuteronomy 25:19 states: 'Obliterate the memory of Amalek.'
How do we know that these commands are only referring to those who did not accept a peaceful settlement? Joshua 11:19-20 states: 'There was no city which accepted a peaceful settlement with the children of Israel except the Chivites who lived in Gibeon. All the rest, they conquered in battle. This was inspired by God, Who strengthened their hearts to engage in battle against Israel so that they would be destroyed.' From these statements, we can infer that a peaceful settlement was offered, but they did not accept it.
Joshua sent three letters to the Canaanites before entering the promised land: At first, he sent them: 'Whoever desires to flee, should flee.'
Afterwards, he sent a second message: 'Whoever desires to accept a peaceful settlement, should make peace.'
Then, he sent again: 'Whoever desires war, should do battle.'
If so, why did the inhabitants of Gibeon employ a ruse? Because originally, when he sent the message to them as part of all the Canaanite nations, they did not accept. They were not aware of the laws of Israel and thought that they would never be offered a peaceful settlement again.
Why was the matter difficult for the princes of Israel to accept to the point that they desired to slay the Gibeonites by the sword were it not for the oath they had taken? Because they made a covenant with them and Deuteronomy 7:2 states 'Do not make a covenant with them.' Rather, the laws governing their status would have prescribed that they be subjugated as servants.
Since the oath was given to them under false pretenses, it would have been just to slay them for misleading them, were it not for the dishonor to God's name which would have been caused.
No offer of a peaceful settlement should be made to Ammon and Moav, as Deuteronomy 23:7 states: 'Do not seek their peace and welfare for all your days.' Our Sages declared: Although it is written: 'Offer a peaceful settlement,' does this apply to Ammon and Moab? The Torah states: 'Do not seek their peace and welfare.'
Although it is written Deuteronomy 23:17: 'He must be allowed to live alongside you in you midst,' does this apply to Ammon and Moav? No, the Torah also forbids 'their welfare.'
Even though we should not offer them a peaceful settlement, if they sue for peace themselves, we may accept their offer.
When a siege is placed around a city to conquer it, it should not be surrounded on all four sides, only on three. A place should be left for the inhabitants to flee and for all those who desire, to escape with their lives, as it is written Numbers 31:7: 'And they besieged Midian as God commanded Moses.' According to tradition, He commanded them to array the siege as described.
We should not cut down fruit trees outside a city nor prevent an irrigation ditch from bringing water to them so that they dry up, as Deuteronomy 20:19 states: 'Do not destroy its trees.' Anyone who cuts down such a tree should be lashed.
This does not apply only in a siege, but in all situations. Anyone who cuts down a fruit tree with a destructive intent, should be lashed.
Nevertheless, a fruit tree may be cut down if it causes damage to other trees or to fields belonging to others, or if a high price could be received for its wood. The Torah only prohibited cutting down a tree with a destructive intent.
It is permissible to cut down any non-fruit bearing tree, even if one has no need for it. Similarly, one may cut down a fruit bearing tree that has become old and produces only a slight yield which does not warrant the effort required to care for it.
What is the yield that an olive tree must produce to warrant that it should not be cut down? A quarter of a kav of olives. Similarly, a date palm which yields a kav of dates should not be cut down.
This prohibition does not apply to trees alone. Rather, anyone who breaks utensils, tears garments, destroys buildings, stops up a spring, or ruins food with a destructive intent transgresses the command 'Do not destroy.' However, he is not lashed. Instead, he receives stripes for rebellious conductas instituted by the Sages.
We should lay siege to the gentiles' cities at least three days before the Sabbath. We may engage in battle with them every day, even on the Sabbath, as Deuteronomy 20:20 states: 'against the city waging war with you until you subjugate it.' Our Sages explain: this implies 'even on the Sabbath.' This applies to both a milchemet mitzvah and a milchemet hareshut.
The army may camp anywhere.
A person killed in the war should be buried where he falls. He acquires that place in the same manner as a meit mitzvah acquires his.
13. Four leniencies are permitted in an army camp:
a) Demai may be eaten.
b) There is no requirement to wash one's hands before eating bread.
c) Wood may be gathered from anywhere. Even if one finds wood that has been cut down and dried, there is no objection to taking it for an army camp.
d) There is no obligation to make an eruv chatzeirot for an army camp. Rather, one may carry from tent to tent and from booth to booth.
The latter is only permitted when the entire camp is surrounded by a barrier at least ten handbreadths high, for as explained in Hilchot Shabbat, a barrier must be at least ten handbreadths high.
Just as these leniencies apply when the army goes out to war, they apply when it returns.
It is forbidden to defecate in an army camp or in an open field anywhere. Rather, it is a positive commandment to establish comfort facilities for the soldiers to defecate as Deuteronomy 23:13 commands: 'Designate a place outside the camp to use as a lavatory.'
Similarly, it is a positive commandment for every single soldier to have a spike hanging together with his weapons. When he goes out and uses those comfort facilities, he should dig with it, relieve himself, and cover his excrement as ibid.:14 states 'You must keep a spike among your weapons.'
They must follow these practices at all times, whether the ark accompanies them or not, as ibid.:15 states: 'God walks among your camp,... therefore, your camp shall be holy.'
The Sephardim do but the name (fictitious) “witzski” sounds Ashkenazi. The Sephardim clean the cups well and that is enough although some wait 24 hours.
For Ashkenazim the koshering is done only if it is sort of an emergency solution. (Example a new set of cups for Pessach cost $10 or $20 and the family has been unemployed for some time and needs rather the money for Matzos) If it is an exceptional case then we act as follows. The glass has to be thoroughly cleaned wait 24 hours and put in a clean never used water contain such as a big kosher le Pessach pickle glass jar for 72 hours changing the water every 24 hours and then the glass is kosher for use. It could also be placed in a plastic bowl or a plastic pail that is only used for watering the garden or washing the "naigel wasser" in the morning. Something that the cup or cups will be submerged in during the periods mentioned above.
You be the judge of your own money and remember Styrofoam or paper cups can be used at times too. My daughter used fancy throw away plastic plates once when she hosted 12 people for the Seder and it looked like real fancy stuff. I leave the decision up to you and your husband and I have given you all the options that you could want from buying another set to koshering or going to throw away.
Startling parallels between ancient Persia and Israel’s predicament today. By Rabbi Shraga Simmons Shlita
Twenty-five hundred years after our confrontation with one genocidal Persian madman, the Jewish people face another – Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mad mullahs of Iran, who have repeatedly declared that "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Tension is thick in Israel these days as 6 million Jews await the course of events to unfold. Will Israel bomb Iran? Will the world support such an attack? And perhaps most important of all: What can we do about it?
Some important parallels are found right here in the Purim story. By examining the ancient text, we can gain guidance on how to proceed in today’s frightening situation.
• Religious fanaticism – Haman fastened an idol to his chest and decreed that everyone must bow down. Mordechai’s refusal caused Haman to become enraged and to formulate his plan of annihilation.
A thousand years after the Purim story, Islam was born. When the Jews refused to acknowledge Muhammad as a prophet, he lashed out:
- "Allah has cursed [the Jews] and transformed them into apes and pigs." (Koran 5:60)
- "The Jews are covered with humiliation and poverty, and the anger of God is cast upon them." (Sura 2:61)
- "Salvation will not come until Muslims kill all the Jews, hiding behind rocks and trees." (Sahih Muslim, 41:6985)
This is no mere rhetoric. In the region of Mecca, Mohammed expelled, plundered and slaughtered the Jews. Today, these Koranic statements encourage Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to declare: "The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and must be cut off.”
• Legalized anti-Semitism – Rather than move forward unilaterally to slaughter the Jews, Haman expended considerable money and effort to get his decree legally enshrined.
Today, too, Iran’s supreme leader has laid out the legal and religious license to attack Jews around the world and destroy the State of Israel – declaring “jurisprudential justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and in that, the Islamic government of Iran must take the helm.”
• Willingness to self-sacrifice – As a descendent of Amalek, the prototype rabid anti-Semite, Haman is driven to hatred of the Jews even at great cost to himself – offering Achashverosh a fortune of his own money for the right of annihilation (Esther 3:9).
Standard logic does not apply to an Iranian regime driven by apocalyptic messianism.
This same illogic operates in Iran today. The standard concept of nuclear weapons kept in check by Mutually Assured Destruction (i.e. no country would dare launch a nuclear strike, given that the other side would retaliate in kind and bring about annihilation of both parties) does not apply to an Iranian regime driven by apocalyptic messianism. In fact, the opposite may be true. Just as Muslim extremists have perpetrated hundreds of suicide bombings, Iran advocates the ultimate suicide bomb: While a nuclear exchange with Israel could cost Iran 15 million people, Iranian leaders have said they regard that as a “small sacrifice” for wiping out Israel’s 6 million Jews.
• Psychological warfare – In an effort to reverse the decree, Esther did not confront Haman directly. Instead, she invited him to two banquets (Esther 5:4, 7) – diffusing his wrath, causing him to let his guard down, and becoming vulnerable to Esther’s plan.
Today, Israel may well be waging a war of misinformation designed to fool the Iranians into thinking that Israel lacks both the military might and the internal cohesion necessary to strike. Does ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan really believe that an Israeli attack on Iran is "the stupidest thing I have ever heard"? Did an advanced Israeli drone airplane – key to any potential operation against Iran – really crash and burn in a recent experimental flight? Do these reflect reality, or, in the Purim spirit, are they intentional decoys?
• Infiltration – In the Purim story, Esther’s selection as queen gave her unprecedented access to the king – enabling her to infiltrate the inner sanctum of Persian power and save the Jewish people.
Today, Israel’s primary weapon against Iran’s nuclear program has been wreaking internal havoc: dozens of Iranian nuclear scientists have been mysteriously assassinated, and the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed 1,000 centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility. The virus contained the code "MYRTUS," a possible reference to the myrtle tree – in Hebrew, Hadassah, the birth name of Queen Esther.
Destined to be Different
One final similarity reveals the deeper root of challenges historically facing the Jewish people. In seeking permission to annihilate the Jews, Haman asserted:
"There is one nation scattered and split apart… whose laws are different from every other people’s” – i.e. they won't eat our food, they keep Shabbat, and they don't marry our daughters. (Esther 3:8)
Haman charged the Jews with being a disloyal, foreign element who could not be trusted. It is a theme repeated throughout history: the medieval Crusaders and Spanish inquisitors slaughtered Jews for not conforming to European religious norms; Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason, falsely portrayed by the French government as representing a Jewish conspiracy; the Russian secret police fabricated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, depicting the Jews as nefariously plotting world domination.
Today as well, the State of Israel is the target of intense demonization – condemned at the U.N., placed under a magnifying glass by the media, and delegitimized with a unique double-standard far out of proportion to its size.
The solution is not for Israel to erase its differences and become a nation like all others. We must pay heed to Balaam’s prophetic description of the Jews:
"Behold, it is a people that dwells alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations." (Numbers 23:9)
The secret to Jewish success is our distinct identity. The Netziv, a great 19th century rabbi, explains that the Jews have a holy mission to bring morality and monotheism to the world. Assimilation draws us away from that mission. As long as we retain our special character, we will assuredly survive. But when we weaken our national identity, we become an endangered species.
If we fail to promote our unique identity, anti-Semites will forcibly impose it upon us.
It has been said that “if the Jews do not make Kiddush, the non-Jews will make Havdalah.” Either we sanctify our unique identity (Kiddush), or – if we choose to erase those lines and become like all other nations – then anti-Semites will rise up and forcibly impose that distinction upon us (Havdalah).
To wit: When the Jews of the Purim story were invited to Achashverosh’s gala 180-day feast, they chose to join the crowd. It was precisely then that Haman’s slander against Jewish distinctiveness was aroused.
When we Jews falter in our mission to represent Godliness in the world, that’s when other distorted theologies step into the void. This may manifest in the blowing up of buses, flying planes into skyscrapers, or threatening nuclear apocalypse. It is a “measure for measure” consequence of inverse proportion: To the degree that the Jewish people do not fulfill our role as a light unto the nations, that is the degree that others are emboldened to act against us in a very un-Godly way.
Which brings us to a crucial question facing the State of Israel today: What is our global persona? Do we celebrate our secular universalism – rock concerts, Olympic medals and beautiful beaches – or do we emphasize our unique spiritual heritage?
Menachem Begin always kept a kippah in his pocket and, at auspicious times when visiting foreign heads of state, would wear it to recite biblical verses or a blessing. His message: We are a unique and holy nation. Far from incurring the scoffs of world leaders, this display of Jewish pride earned Israel enormous respect.
With the specter of nuclear annihilation now hovering over Israel’s head, what can we – Jews, gentiles, and all people of good will – do about it?
When Esther was informed of the impending genocide, she agreed to approach the king, while urging Mordechai with one request: Have the Jews fast and pray for three days. She knew that in times of peril, we turn our sights toward Heaven and recognize that strength and victory comes only through He Who declared us an eternal nation.
Esther’s message reverberates clearly for us today:
Yes, we must make efforts to influence governments to support Israel’s right to self-defense (at the very least, by signing this petition), while leaving the decision of mounting an attack against Iran's nuclear sites to those who have the full necessary information.
Yes, we must expose the media for its biased downplaying of the existential threat to Israel’s existence.
But above all, we must be worthy of Divine assistance.
A Divine connection is necessary to make our mission successful.
At the end of the Purim story, Esther successfully gained the king’s support for a Jewish battle against Haman's decree. After spending months in military preparations, one day before the outbreak of war – on the 13th of Adar – all the Jewish soldiers observed a fast. Subjecting the troops to physical weakness would seem highly counter-productive. Yet the Jews understood that fasting helps to lower the volume on physicality in order to focus more acutely on the spiritual self, thus forging the Divine connection necessary to make our mission successful.
When the battle was over, the Jewish nation emerged victorious. It was a time of tremendous Jewish unity, a dramatic reversal of the description Haman used to denounce the Jews: "There is one nation scattered and split apart...” (Esther 3:8)
The commentators, reading between the lines, see the words “scattered and split” as a reference to Jewish division and strife. This is precisely what gave Haman the confidence to rise up against us. Esther therefore understood that to merit salvation, her people would need to come together in a spirit of unity. She thus told Mordechai: “Go, assemble all the Jews” (Esther 4:16) – i.e. I can only succeed if the Jews are united.
This, too, is the message for us today. We are all in this together. Everyone must take a role - whether spiritual, activist, military, or combination thereof. And just as Haman did not discriminate amongst us, so too we must respect and appreciate the role that every other Jew plays.
The threat from Iran goes far beyond an isolated targeting of Israel. It's a wake-up call for everyone. Iran has made clear that it would treat any Israeli attack as an American attack and respond accordingly – unleashing terror cells against Jewish and American targets around the world.
This idea of a shared destiny was formalized in the Purim traditions established by Mordechai (Esther 9:22). We send Mishloach Manot, gifts of food one to another, to engrain in us the message: If we are to prevail, we must unite under the banner of Jewish pride – celebrating our unique heritage, our unique message, and our unique ability to bring that inspiration to the world.
Rabbi Weinreb’s Parsha Column, Ki Tisa "The Hindu Princess and the Golden Calf"
She was a Hindu princess. She was one of the brightest students in my graduate school class. We studied psychology, and she went on to return to her country and become a psychotherapist of world renown. For our purposes, I shall refer to her as Streena. We were a class of 12, and except for one lapsed Catholic, she and I were the only ones who had a serious interest in religion. And we were the only ones who actively practiced our faith.
This was back in the days when religion was far from a popular subject in psychology departments. Religion was seen as foolish, at best, and as quite possibly a sign of neurotic pathology. So neither of us were very public about our religious practices.
In the early afternoons, when the time for the Mincha service rolled around, I would usually find an excuse to absent myself from the psychology department library where our group hung out. There was a small synagogue not far from the campus, and I would make my way there and unobtrusively return to the library when Mincha was over. But there were times when it was impossible for me to leave the building. During those times, I would make use of a small side room and pray in private.
It was during one of those times that I discovered that I was not the only one to use that side room for prayers. Streena was there too. I remember the first time I noticed her there. I had just taken the customary three steps back after concluding my Amida, or Shemona Esrey. She was in the far corner of the room, doing her utmost not to disturb me. She was deep in prayer herself, but what was most striking was that she had small object in her hand.
When it was apparent to me that she too had concluded her prayers, I approached her and inquired about that object. She showed me what looked like a small doll, only she referred to it by a Hindu name that meant that it was her deity, her God. Plainly and simply, it was an idol.
Over our years in graduate school, we had numerous conversations about religion, the nature of prayer, and of course the nature of the divinity. I stressed that when I as a Jew prayed, I did not pray to any image, statue or portrait. I prayed to an invisible and unknowable God. She found that impossible to accept. "When I pray," she insisted, "I must have some concrete visual image before me. I know that this little doll is not the deity. But it is what I call a concretization of the higher power that I worship."
The stark contrast between Streena's mode of prayer and my Jewish conception of the way in which we are to conceive the Almighty is one of the lessons of an exceedingly provocative episode in this week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35). I refer to story of the Golden Calf.
Moses ascends the mountain to receive the holy tablets. He is delayed in his return, and, in their impatience, the Jewish people collect gold, fashion an idol out of it in the shape of a calf, and worship it with sacrifices and an orgiastic feast. Every reader of the Torah has been puzzled by the sudden descent of the people from a state of lofty spiritual anticipation to the degrading scene of dancing worshipfully before a graven image.
One such reader, himself a pagan, was the king of the Khazars, a nation in Central Asia, whose search for religious truth is the theme of one of the most intriguing books of Jewish philosophy, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi's Kuzari. In that king's dialogue with the Jewish sage who is his spiritual mentor, he condemns this behavior and challenges the sage to justify the apparent idolatry of the Jewish people. The sage, who is actually the voice of the author of the Kuzari, responds, in part:
"In those days, every people worshiped images... This is because they would focus their attention upon the image, and profess to the masses that divinity attaches itself to the image... We do something like this today when we treat certain places with special reverence – we will even consider the soil and rocks of these places as sources of blessing... The objective was to have some tangible item that they could focus upon... Their intent was not to deny the God who took them out of Egypt; rather, it was to have something in front of them upon which they could concentrate when recounting God's wonders... We do the same thing when we ascribe divinity to the skies (for example, we call fear of God 'fear of heaven')..."
This is but one explanation of the motivation for what is one of the greatest recorded sins of our people. But it is an especially instructive explanation, for it renders understandable, in our own terms, an act that is otherwise totally mystifying. In our own inner experiences of prayer, we have all struggled with the difficulty of "knowing before Whom we stand". It is frustrating to address an abstract, invisible, and unknowable deity. It is comforting to imagine that we stand before a mortal king, or a flesh and blood father figure, someone physical and real. I think that we can all confess to moments when we have, at least in our visualizations of the Almighty, resorted to the same process of concretization as Streena did.
Ideally, we know that we must resist the temptation to "humanize" God, to anthropomorphize Him. We believe in a deity Who sees but is not seen, hears but is not heard, and who is as far from human ken as heaven is from Earth. In this fundamental belief, we differ from other religions; and indeed not only from Hinduism but from certain forms of Christianity as well. Nevertheless, we can sympathize with Streena's need to pray to her doll, and in the process we can come to grips with what must have been going on in the minds of our ancestors when they stooped to idolatry and committed the sin which the Almighty has never totally forgiven, the worship of the Golden Calf.
Israeli Professor and MD is studying a new blood test to detect cancer. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4191540,00.html
Netanyahu to Obama: We can’t wait much longer, Iran has not one but ten Fordows Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu brought 14,000 pro-Israel lobby cheering delegates to their feet repeatedly when he pledged Monday night, March 5, “Never again would our people have to live in the shadow of annihilation.” debkafile: At the White House earlier, Obama admitted the Fordow underground plant could no longer be destroyed by bombs or missiles, only stifled by blocking its vents. Netanyahu: Iran already has ten Fordows. "We can’t wait much longer" to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear tool of terror. Similar information about Iranian Bomb preparations: http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=260534
Now for M. Wolfbergs “Walk a mile in my Shoes”
Good Shabbos Everyone. The verse in this week's Parsha Tetzaveh states: "Now you shall command the Bnai Yisroel that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil, for illumination, to kindle the lamp continually." (Shemos 27:20) This verse perhaps hints to the concept of the Jews being a "Light unto the nations." Hashem chose us to be "for illumination" to be a shining example for the Nations.
Unfortunately, we know that the Jewish nation is not perfect. Although every Jew strives to be a shining example, some fall short. The misdeeds of Jews are often publicized with great fanfare. The explanation of this phenomenon is the following: Dog bites Man is not news. But Man bites Dog is front page news. That means to say that Jews are a shining example, in contrast to other nations whose track record is not so clean. Thus, when a Jew does something wrong, it is big news. The following uplifting story shows one beautiful example of a Jew being a shining example. For over twenty years, Reb Sholom Mermelstein has been a full-time volunteer for Bikur Cholim, an organization which seeks to make more comfortable the lives of ill people. Indeed, the full scope of the chesed - kindness that Reb Sholom does is known only to Hashem.
What made R' Sholom dedicate his life to helping others? As R' Sholom recounts, the inspiration for his lifelong mission comes from an incident that occurred during World War II. Sholom was born in a small, poor village called Pavlovo, near the city of Munkacz. His father, Yitzchok, owned a small farm with just a few cows, yet this was more than many of the townspeople had. Sholom recalls how his mother would get up at five o'clock every morning and milk the cows, to give the poor mothers of the town some milk to feed their children. Sholom also recalls how his grandfather, R' Bentzion Mermelstein, was always performing chesed for others.
When World War II began, Sholom's comfortable life suddenly went haywire. Sholom was taken away from his family and placed in a work camp, where he struggled to survive.
Several tortured years later, when word filtered in that his hometown had been liberated by the Russians, Sholom decided that it was worth taking the risk to escape and head back home. Sholom's escape was successful. But a long, hazardous journey still lay ahead. Pavlovo was 150 kilometers away, and since he couldn't risk taking a train, he needed to make his way there by foot—in the icy, frozen winter. With rags on his feet and the wind knifing through his thin clothes, Sholom nevertheless managed to walk six kilometers every day, seeking shelter wherever he stopped for the night.
One evening, Sholom staggered into a small town, only to discover that the place was filled with Russian soldiers. There was nowhere for him to lay his weary body down for a few hours' rest. Desperate, he started going from door to door, begging for a warm corner out of the freezing wind. But the answer was always the same: "We have Russian soldiers staying with us, and there is absolutely no room."
Sholom finally reached the last house in the village. The small hut was undoubtedly the home of an unruly peasant who wouldn't be pleased by the interruption. Sholom knew that he was risking his life by disturbing the man's rest. But his choices were few: either take the chance, or risk freezing in the frigid night air. So, he lifted his hand and knocked firmly on the door.
The man who answered looked suspiciously at his unexpected guest. "What do you want?" he growled. "I'm sorry to disturb you," Sholom said politely, "but would you happen to have a place in your home where I can sleep out of the cold?" The man shook his head. "Sorry," he said gruffly. He opened the inner door, where Sholom could see a small room with a bed— and a sheep placidly standing in the corner.
"There's only enough room for one bed and my sheep." Sholom could see that the man really couldn't help him. "I guess I'll have to sleep in the woods," he sighed, as he turned to go.
"Oh, you can't do that!" the man exclaimed. "There are wolves in that forest that would eat you alive!" Sholom shivered in fear.
"Could I at least stay beneath the ledge that overhangs your house?" he asked the peasant. "It will give me a bit of shelter." The man gave his consent and went back inside. Sholom, left outside in the frigid air, breathed a silent prayer to Hashem to keep him from freezing during the long, cold night that lay ahead of him.
A short while later, the door opened. "By the way, what's your name?" the peasant called out. "I am Bentzion Mermelstein's grandson," Sholom heard himself reply. He was momentarily puzzled: why had he said that? The peasant grew visibly excited.
"You're Bentzion Mermelstein's grandson, from Pavlovo?" "That's right," Sholom confirmed. "Why, do you know him?" "Of course I do!" the peasant exclaimed.
"Over forty years ago, there used to be a big market day in Munkacz. Many of us would walk for days with our cows to get to the market, and we needed places to stay along the way. Your grandfather always let me stay in his barn, and in the morning, he would offer me a glass of whiskey to help me get through the day. I'll never forget what he did for me."
Then the man beckoned Sholom into the house. He prepared some potatoes, milked a few ounces of milk from the sheep, and handed the food to Sholom. Then he let Sholom sleep on the bed, while he slept on the floor beneath him.
Sholom awoke in the morning, feeling fresh and invigorated from his comfortable night. He thanked the man for his help—and then thanked Hashem for showing him this kindness which had saved his life, in the merit of the kindness his grandfather had performed for others.
Sholom lived to return home safely. He continued to live by his mother's parting words: "Sholom, be a good boy, and always go in the correct path." (Visions of Greatness V, p. 107 R. Yosef Weiss) Let us all be inspired to be a shining example, to be a "Light unto the Nations." Good Shabbos Everyone. Matis Wolfberg’s stories are sponsored by Refuah Shleima to Reb Mordechai Menachem Mendel ben Tziporah Yitta Refuah Shleima to Tsviah bas Bracha Leah
I delayed mailing this out waiting for this week’s Good Shabbos Story but time to get moving. I want to wish everybody a wonderful warm and peaceful Shabbos and much joy, I have not forgotten to continue Sefer Yehoshua but have had no time to write yet.