After 3 years of praying for the diabetic under the name Asher ben Malka, I was just informed that his name is Asher ben Esther Malka so please update your prayer list.
Every year I wish to remind diabetics, cancer patients, certain heart patients and others with dangerous diseases to contact their Rabbis and doctors if it is permissible to fast. Those who take medications MUST TAKE YOUR MEDICATIONS but with less than the Revies of fluid or a Kezayis of food unless prescribed otherwise. People lacking iron outside of Cancer and other vitamins should wait until after sundown before taking the supplement and should take it the day before prior to sundown.
51st of the 54 Sedras; 8th of 11 in Devarim Written on 72 lines in a Sefer Torah (ranks: 53) 30 Psukim; ranks 54 (11th in Devarim) 553 words; ranks 53, 2123 letters; ranks 53 (10th in Devarim) Zos HaBracha is the only shorter Sedra Never read on Shabbat outside of Israel. Usually not read on Shabbat in Israel 512 words and 1969 letters - ranks 54th source OU.org Torah Tidbits
Our Parsha starts out just hours or less before Moshe’s Passing. We see here that he is 120 years old on Adar 7, 2447. He is about to hand over the reins to Yehoshua in this Parsha. In the next Parsha teach Am Yisrael the song Hazinu and in Zos HaBracha give the blessings to the tribes and go up to his burial place.
31:1 And Moses went and spoke these words unto all Israel. 2 And he said unto them: 'I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in; and the LORD hath said unto me: Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
My time as your king is over and one kingdom does not overlap the other kingdom even by a hairbreadth – Meseches Shabbos (on the death of David HaMelech).
3 The LORD thy God, He will go over before thee; He will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt dispossess them; and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the LORD hath spoken.
Two points here – first there is nothing to fear for HASHEM is before and with you, second that Yehoshua is going to be your leader and he will deliver to you the promised land.
4 And the LORD will do unto them as He did to Sihon and to Og, the kings of the Amorites, and unto their land; whom He destroyed.
Past promises of HASHEM have been kept so too in the future HE will keep them.
5 And the LORD will deliver them up before you, and ye shall do unto them according unto all the commandment which I have commanded you.
Essentially, the 7 Nations are going to be given over unto you as one serves a meal as easy as that. (it will take time but you shall not fail and always you will have the upper hand – the exception was the sin of Achan which caused the only battle defeat.)
6 Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be affrighted at them; for the LORD thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.'
These words are for Am Yisrael. These words are used in chapter one of Sefer Yehoshua and it is the need to fortify the leadership as taking over from the sun with the power of the moon is much harder.
7 And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel: 'Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt go with this people into the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
Be strong etc. is now directed straight to Yehoshua. Yehoshua is getting Semicha to become king.
8 And the LORD, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be dismayed.'
In principle this is a repetition of what was said a few sentences back and the reason why is that Moshe does not want the hearts of the people to melt away as the spies made it happen therefore again HASHEM is with you and HE will not fail you.
9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, that bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel.
Moshe completed writing the Sefer Torah. There is a dispute if he wrote the last 8 lines or Yehoshua did or Moshe write them in a sleep like state and then forgot what he wrote. The case for Yehoshua finishing the Torah is quite practical and logical.
10 And Moses commanded them, saying: 'At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, 11 when all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law; 13 and that their children, who have not known, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it.'
This is done after a Shmita Year and all of Sefer Devarim is read so that the people hear these 200 Mitzvos among much pomp.
14 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Behold, thy days approach that thou must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may give him a charge.' And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tent of meeting.
Now HASHEM is meeting with both leaders and turning over the reins to Yehoshua.
15 And the LORD appeared in the Tent in a pillar of cloud; and the pillar of cloud stood over the door of the Tent. 16 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Behold, thou art about to sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go astray after the foreign gods of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake Me, and break My covenant which I have made with them.
This notification is doubly sad for Moshe and for Yehoshua the parting of the leader from his people and taking upon Yehoshua as a burden is the first sad news. The news that the people will abandon the 613 Mitzvos in one form or another is the second sad thing.
17 Then My anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall come upon them; so that they will say in that day: Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us? 18 And I will surely hide My face in that day for all the evil which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods. 19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel.
Next week’s Parsha is the warning song of Hazinu (listen).
20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I swore unto their fathers, flowing with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten their fill, and waxen fat; and turned unto other gods, and served them, and despised Me, and broken My covenant;
People will think that they are all rich and obtained it by their own hands and not from HASHEM. Then they will abuse their riches instead of learning Torah and supporting Kollelim they will run after their stomachs and other worldly pleasures until they have tried everything even drugs. Then they will feel over-secure and over-confident and abuse their wealth. Eventually their wealth will disappear from their children and their children’s children can be starving and beggars.
21 then it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are come upon them, that this song shall testify before them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed; for I know their imagination how they do even now, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.' 22 So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel. 23 And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said: 'Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore unto them; and I will be with thee.'
Yehoshua was a military leader and a servant of Moshe, now he is going to become the leader and number one public servant of the nation. It was great following orders of the commander-in-chief but now he was going to take on this yoke. (When people have elderly parents who are weak or becoming demented and they have to take over, it is a horrible feeling – it is so sad that one cannot imagine. One is filled with a sense of awe at taking over the running of the family all the more so the nation.)
24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, that bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26 'Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.
He gave the Leviim who were not landlocked to go from town to town, area to area to teach the Torah to the future generations which will be busy in farming, commerce and trade.
27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck; behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death? 28 Assemble unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death ye will in any wise deal corruptly, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the end of days; because ye will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him through the work of your hands.' 30 And Moses spoke in the ears of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were finished:
He gathered the Leviim with a warning and then all the tribes singing line by line over and over until they had learned the song by heart and then four or more times to engrain in them for all generations. When my son Chaim was in school, his Rabbis made him learn this coming Parsha by heart.
Shaking in my boots over my sins
Rav Yerachmiel Boyer Shlita said in the name of Rabbi Soleveichik the following parable. Being Judged on Rosh Hashanah to the writing on Yom Kippur and the sealing on Hoshana Rabbah is like trying to smuggle people over the border to safety. As the people travel through the country planning their escape they contact a smuggler who knows the routes. As they get closer the people are worried but the smuggler calm as they get very close to the border and the smuggler moves cautiously with the horses edging closer and closer even the smuggler gets a boost of adrenaline in his system. Who is calm? The horses are calm as they are going about pulling their load as they normally do. The same with us: As Rosh Hashanah approaches the Rabbis start worrying and towards Yom Kippur more and more Jews. When Yom Kippur comes all but the most apathetic Jews are worrying about the writing in the book of life or worst not. Only the complete happy go lucky boorish people are not worried.
Yom Kippur the Beis Din Shel Maalah and Life after Life
I have written a number of times on this subject but with perhaps more than a hundred new readers and one quoting a Reform Rabbi on the subject, I felt that it was time to mention again what happens as Yom Kippur approaches. The theme here is based on two books written by a Medical Doctor Years ago and written about in detail in Meseches Moed Katan in the last chapter. The incidents describe in the book “Life after Life” by Dr. Raymond Moody Jr. and “More of Life after Life”(probably has become Reflections of Life after Life) match most of the reported incidents in Israel and what is written in the Talmud. I will go according to the Talmud. I have written in the past the story of The Two Butchers as told by Rabbi Yehuda Yosefi Shlita.
When a person dies or has a near death experience he experiences one or more of the following things: He feels his soul departing and his spirit can hover over the body or stand next to body. The spirit is drawn to the Cave of the Machpelah in Chevron (Ch. is the guttural letter Chet most English speakers can only say Hevron but it is like the German Ach or Auch.) This is in the chamber of Yitzchak and the Arabs call it the well of souls where all soul fly through to the Beis Din Shel Maalah.
Now not all the time the souls move that way. Sometimes they have came and told Rabbis in dreams of their watching the funeral and negative spiritual entities trying to take over them when defending Mitzva Angels come and escort them to Beis Din. Some tell of darkness and sadness while others of great light and spiritual jewels and happiness. Souls pass by their ancestors and if their forefathers and mothers are smiling that is a portent of good but if crying then they are in trouble. Their life is shown to them from their birth to their death with every word and deed remembered and remembered by the spirit where good or bad.
The souls then individually are called before the Beis Din. Usually some Rabbi like the Ben Ish Chai, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu or other more recent Dayan will Judge them. One could claim that how can Abaye and Rava understand the desire to watch television, see the Olympics from the comfort of ones living room rather than going to the Daf Yomi or saying Tehillim. A more modern Rav could understand the peer pressure.
At this point ones sins are put on a spiritual scale vs. the Mitzvos. If one tips the scale too much in one way it is hard to reverse to the other way. Certain sins if repeated add up. Example a person whom I shall call Christina was a married woman. She was a bored or not satisfied house wife. She then carried on affairs with Tom Dewey, Dick Nixon and Harry Truman. The Beis Din views this woman as given the chance cheated on her husband with every Tom, Dick and Harry. The was a Divik who came during the days of the Chofetz Chaim (a spirit that attaches itself to a live human as a spiritual parasite). It was that of a woman who had committed 100 times adultery and was assigned to Kaf Keller for 100 years chopping wood Amah by Amah. This was to go on every day for 100 years except Shabbosos and Yomim Tovim.
Other sins if desisted from become erased eventually. Mitzvos if repeated or extra-ordinary add up. The tape I wrote about this year of the man who visited the cemetery and cleaned dirt and leaves on graves. For that the dead came and testified on his behalf and he was allowed to live and to repent. There literally is an Angelic fight between the crew belonging to the Satan aka Samael vs. angels built by our Mitzvos and Michael’s crew.
(An aside note on Angels sometimes they have two functions) Michael is the Arch Angel and defender of Am Yisrael. Gavriel is a close second sometimes he defends Am Yisrael sometimes he works as a destroyer of wicked weeds among us. He is the Angel of Yishmael but if there is a conflict of interest he comes over to help Am Yisrael.) After Angels, people, bed sheets, walls of one’s house, other inanimate objects testify to ones Mitzvos or Sins; more people are assigned to Gehennom ranging anywhere from a short time such as a day, week, month to eleven months but the wicked can get twelve months. During this time, the sins are purged from a person.
Other sins are worst and require Kaf Keller such as Adultery, Idol Worship, Shabbos violations, violations of family purity and the repeated eating of forbidden foods like milk and meat mixtures etc. (Goyim and Bnei Noach do not get punished for Shabbos, Kashrus, Family Purity but they also are punished for eating part of a living animal, idol worship, thievery, adultery, incest, etc.) Worse than Kaf Keller people are mass murderers, cult leaders, etc. and they sit neither in Gehennom, Kaf Keller or Gan Eden but in a state of suspension awaiting judgement. These people see over the centuries people who had hundreds of years in Kaf Keller enter Gan Eden or reincarnate to get another chance and they cannot get that chance. They see people go to the spiritual washing machine of Gehennom and enter Gan Eden. They see the few and far between Tzaddikim enter Gan Eden and attend Shiurim with lecturers such as Rabbi Akiva, Kabala with Rabbi Shimon and How I concluded coding of Mitzvos and Halacha with the Rambam.
The Rambam asked us in Hilchos Teshuva to look upon ourselves and our part of Am Yisrael as upon a balance scale. If one of us a Jew does one more Mitzva, we tip the scales in the favor of life and if one of us hee-hee, haw-haw or hee-haws in the director of sin we tip the Gezaira towards death. It us up to us on Yom Kippur both before and after for the book is only sealed on Hoshana Rabbah.
Lashon HaRa kills
This is a true story of a Vietnam Veteran. I shall call him Gunner. Gunner married at 16 and joined the Marines at 17 plus. He left behind a wife and child. By the time his helicopter was shot down on the Mekong River and he had swallowed a mixture of fuel and water into his lungs he was not going to be in the 1972 Olympics anymore. When he got home both his wife and he were not the same teens that had been infatuated with one another and they eventually got divorce. The wounded Sgt. Went on to become an officer but somewhere his father, a policeman, chased a car and during the pursuit got into a terrible accident. He left being a career Marine to take care of his father.
He eventually married wife number two and had a number of children with her. He just did not like supplying her with drugs and alcohol. She eventually left him but in the process gave away all his information for drugs to posers and hunters. For years the man until this day has been fighting these identify thieves. During this time two of his boys made the ultimate sacrifice in the Marine Corp. one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan. The ex-wife eventually said that she was sorry for what she had done to him but could not even begin to make up of what she did to him. She committed suicide. With that the woman had her life ruined, one of the poser/hunters was caught by the FBI and the man had his life ruined. So when our Rabbis say Lashon HaRa kills they mean it to the sayer, the listener and the one it is about. Repent and desist from evil talk!
There are false groups on Facebook attacking Jews other Jewish groups etc. claiming to be in a name of a Charedi Beis Din that bans internet don’t believe it. The Charedim in Borough Park at least in part know me and a few hundred read my Rabbipauli.blogspot.com They claim that I am a Missionary but I published before them last week a commentary or Devarim (Deut.) 30:17 which is clear where I stand. Miriam Metzinger, who writes for living Jewish was also singled out as a Christian Missionary so we both have been honored by this Lashon HaRa along with other friends.
When the Rabbi needs some rest
Many of the Tzaddikim of the past generations did not even leave Yerushalayim, Eretz Yisrael or their vicinity. Many Rabbis go to the Catskills and just absorb the outdoor atmosphere while reading their Gemara or venturing for a few minutes for a cool swim. Today I can be in contact with people all over the world on vacation. Last week for the first time since January, I ventured with my wife to the Dead Sea. Unlike other trips where I worked out in the gym by the sea as well as internet contact with the world this time in was about one to two hours a day just floating in the sea letting my skin absorb the healing salts and taking a daily nap which I haven’t done in years outside of Shabbos or a half hour cat nap.
I was able to clear my head of the day to day life and think about the world from a different prospective. The Dead Sea with the exception of the Ein Gedi area where David confronted a perusing Shaul there is next to no water. Metzada gathered rain runoff water in giant cisterns but otherwise on the Israeli side there are not many springs to supply fresh water. The water that is drilled and pumped in has to be filter and one can use it only to wash oneself or flush the toilet with for the high saline content. The sun and the sea is good for patients of psoriasis and other skin conditions. If one has a scratch on his hand or leg it is like a scientific movie and a short time after being in the salt sea, one has no more scratch.
Israel has this National Treasure but outside of a handful most Israelis or even Jews were not vacationing there now that school had started. There was a Jewish Couple from France, an ex-Israeli living with her Romanian born husband in Vienna here to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and even some American Jews who stopped by on tour for a dip and lunch; but most of the tourists were from Germany and Russia with a handful from other European Countries like Belgium, Italy, Norway and elsewhere in Scandinavia.
Tourism supplies Israel with needed jobs and foreign currency but it is rare that a group of religious Jews get together to visit these hotels and take advantage of our National Treasure. (You can either take my word for it or take my story with a grain of salt!) I reflected on my own deeds too. I have a very large fig tree and produces and produces fruit. I have in the past given away some grapes to my Kollel and lemons to others but the figs are harder to gather and give to others and many end up being too high to reach without a ladder and others I lose as they ripen and like the Dead Sea cannot take advantage to give to my friends and neighbors.
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."
The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."
She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truely recycled.
But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.
But too bad we didn't do the green thing back then.
We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. Actually we did not get a TV until I was 7 plus because we were middle class and did not have so much money for luxuries. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn't have the green thing back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?
Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person.
I want to add that in my day and the days of my children we had no money for pampers and used diapers that were washed over and over again. Eventually biodegradable soap came to being too. We hung out our clothes on clotheslines. My mother had a washboard in our bungalow.
From Valerie via Susanne: http://israel21c.org/health/new-israeli-tactic-makes-deadly-viruses-commit-suicide/
Ed op from Gilad Shalit http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4282055,00.html
A Babylonian god named alla: http://email.wnd.com/HS?a=ENX7Cqgq_y5Y8SA9MKJWGpLnGHxKLq316_cStGb5lw8W0bBhOG5mpqVsje_Hhe-ud1Gb
The article thanks to Chaiya - The following was banned by the Catholic Church along with the Gospel of Yehuda Ish Krayos (around Haifa/Kishon area) it makes Yeshu into a Chavrutha in Kollel with a wife: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?_r=1&smid=fb-share
Mengele’s study saved their lives: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovitz_family
To those of you a bit south of the Oregon Border, the hills of North Carolina, MS, MT and other places where Conversion is far perhaps too far away read about Shavei Yisrael and the stories in this article and click their website or google them. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4282213,00.html I think it is just www.Shavei.org
Car runs out of control injuring Jews and killing a couple. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/160061#.UFnL3VHF-1c
From Joel: http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/07/05/orthodox-rabbi-may-be-first-als-patient-cured-by-israeli-drug/
Arab Spring in the Autumn: http://www.debka.com/article/22356/At-least-4-casualties-in-Al-Qaeda-attack-on-US-led-Sinai-peacekeeping-mission-
Jimmy Carter overthrew the Shah in Iran and Barak Hussein Obama -President of Egypt: http://www.debka.com/article/22358/Post-Arab-Spring-%22moderate”-Muslim-regimes-cornered-by-radicals
A big blow for Assad! http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4281834,00.html
Al Qaeda is getting bolder again http://www.debka.com/article/22360/Al-Qaeda-led-Salafis-hit-three-Egyptian-Sinai-bases-down-Egyptian-chopper-
More than brinkmanship here: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=285287
Iran update: http://www.debka.com/article/22364/Exclusive-Iran-arrests-3-Fordo-sabotage-suspects-who-entered-from-Azerbaijan
Mitt Romney on a 2 State solution: http://www.jpost.com/USPresidentialrace/Article.aspx?id=285410
Preparations in case of a surprise attack: http://www.debka.com/article/22366/Tens-of-thousands-of-Israeli-troops-in-surprise-Golan-drill-Khamenei-No-bending-to-the-West
Why bother telling a pilot anything anyway? http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/160086#.UFtccFHF-1d
Gaza has a strange version of southern hospitality: http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=285593
Islam makes war on the west and people fight back: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4284389,00.html
If you are traveling to India be wary: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4284406,00.html
Syria – it’s a holy war stupid! http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4284331,00.html
Now for M. Wolfberg’s Good Shabbos Story “Shana Tova”
"On Rosh Hashanah it is written; on Yom Kippur it is sealed. Who shall live and who shall die... etc." The gravity of the moment is tremendous.
In order to prepare for Rosh Hashanah, it is appropriate and fitting that each and every Jew do an accounting of his deeds from the past year. And if, heaven forbid, after doing this accounting, a Jew discovers that he has violated the Torah in any way whatsoever, he must do the following: confess to Hashem his wrongdoings, feel shame and regret for the misdeeds, and accept on himself never to repeat those misdeeds.
A Jews who follows such a formula, is assured that Hashem will forgive him for all but the most serious of violations. As far as violations in our relationships with others, we must seek out those whom we have wronged and ask for their forgiveness
Let us now tell an inspirational true story which recently took place, which will inspire us all to mend our ways before the Big Day.
If only the abbot could see Justo Jorge Calderon now. With curling peyos dangling below his chin and the long black cloak of his small hassidic sect hanging off his broad shoulders, Calderon sure doesn't look like a Benedictine monk anymore. Besides, he goes by Aharon now, and he is the proud father of three little Jewish children. Calderon's story is one of those stranger-than-fiction tales that grows more intriguing the longer it goes on. Fortunately, it's also one he doesn't mind sharing....
It begins in a small town outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Justo Jorge was born into a family of Roman Catholics. "Today I am a very kosher Jew," the 36-year-old says with a smile, "but once I was a very kosher goy."
When Calderon was 12, he says, his parents sent him to a private religious school to get a better education than the public schools provided. Before long he was spending extra time studying with the monks. At 14, he joined the pre-mission seminar. "I was young and idealistic," he explains with a shrug. After high school, with his religious zeal increasing, Calderon went looking for the "ancient, original teachings" of Catholicism.
The local Benedictine monastery offered the oldest, "purest" form of Catholicism life around. Based on a 1,400-year-old order and centered around a largely self-sustaining "holy village," it meant spending most of the day in silence, reflecting on what they thought was the "divine."
Although Calderon's parents weren't happy about his commitment to the monastic life - he's their only son, and they hoped for grandchildren - the young man felt at home in the Benedictine monastery. At home, that is, until he experienced what he calls "my two surprises." The first came in the monastery's library. One of the largest around, it helped make the monastery famous, Calderon says. Of the thousands of volumes it held, though, one particular book would change his life.
"One day," he says, "I chanced upon a Haggada, in Spanish and Hebrew. I was drawn to it, and read it from beginning to end, in amazement." At the end of the Seder service, Calderon read the prayer looking forward to celebrating the Pesach holiday "next year in Jerusalem - Jerusalem rebuilt" and stared at a drawing of the Third Temple.
Calderon sat in silence - not his usual contemplative silence, but a stunned silence. Justo Jorge Calderon. "Catholicism," he explains, "looks at Judaism as something of an archeological concept, not as something that is still alive, relevant and flourishing... Looking at this prayer at the end of the Haggada, I was shocked that modern Jews still nurtured hopes for the future of their religion."
The discovery rocked Calderon, but he was still unsure what to make of it. Shortly thereafter, though, he experienced his second "surprise," which sent his spiritual quest in an entirely unforeseen direction. It came on one of his weekly visits to the abbot of the monastery.
Upon entering the abbot's study, Calderon found him poring over a Hebrew Bible. (The abbot, Calderon learned, had once studied in Jerusalem, and was comparing ancient texts.) "I was fascinated by the language," he recalls. "I wanted to know, what secrets are in those letters?" By that point Calderon had spent several years in the monastery and, although he was well on his way to a permanent stay there, he returned to his home for a planned one- or two-year break.
Once at home he began attending classes at the Catholic-run university in town and working as a nurse for the Red Cross. But, with his "surprises" spurring him on, Calderon also sought out Jews who would be willing to teach him Hebrew. At the time, conversion was not on his mind. "I just wanted to know how JC prayed," he says.
On Friday nights, Calderon attended services at a local synagogue where the rabbi agreed to let him join the weekly Hebrew class. He also discovered a Messianic Jewish congregation, and prayed there as well. Thus began a period when, Calderon recalls, he would pray to JC while in synagogue on Friday night, and wear a kippa to church on Sunday morning. To Calderon, these interreligious prayer sessions didn't seem like a contradiction.
"It sounds strange," he admits, "but at the time, it made sense to me. Judaism was not 'outside' Catholicism, but part of it... like an ancestor." Soon, however, something in the Shabbos prayers struck Calderon, and shook the foundations of his faith.
It was part of the Shabbos morning kiddush, specifically, the passage from Exodus that says: "And the Children of Israel observed the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath for their generations an eternal covenant. Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever..."
"This expression stuck in my mind," Calderon says, repeating the words. "'It is a sign forever.'" "That meant," he says, "that there is an eternal bond, established by Hashem. And since Hashem does not change, then that bond" - the sign observed by Jews, marking Saturday as the Sabbath - "must still be in effect!"
Why, Calderon asked himself, would the Church move the Sabbath day to Sunday, if it wasn't really a day sanctified by Hashem? The question was more than a little troubling to Calderon. After all, if Sunday was not really the holy Sabbath, and if Hashem's covenant with the Jews had not been abrogated and superseded by Catholicism, then maybe other tenets of the Catholic religion were also not true.
Calderon stopped going to church. "Everything I believed," he says, "just fell apart." He started a conversion class at the local Reform synagogue. When the synagogue closed down due to financial difficulties, Calderon sought out more Jews and discovered the local Chabad rabbi.
Rather than eagerly welcome a new convert, the rabbi at first tried to dissuade Calderon. "He would say, 'Why would you want to be Jewish? We have so many commandments, while non-Jews need only to observe the Noahide laws. Besides, you are already a good person in Hashem's eyes!'"
This, however, only made Calderon's desire to convert even greater. "Until then, I had thought that Judaism was a religion of strictness and law, whereas Catholicism was a religion of love. But suddenly I realized that it was really the opposite." "You see," he explains, "in Catholicism, if you don't believe in JC you can't go to heaven. But in Judaism, there is a place in heaven for everyone; you don't have to be Jewish. So really, Catholicism is the religion of strictness, and Judaism is the religion of love!"
After a period of "trying it out," Calderon knew that he wanted to convert, and that he wanted to move to Israel to do so. There was just one problem: finances. "A ticket to Israel cost $1,200. As a nurse, I was only making $200 a month. How could I ever afford to go to Israel?" he says. The situation was bleak. But then something miraculous happened. There was a raffle in Calderon's town, with a grand prize of a new ambulance; he entered.
Just before Rosh Hashana, Calderon was informed that he had won the grand prize. He sold the ambulance and, suddenly able to afford the airfare, flew to Israel.
At first, Calderon, in his new identity as Aharon, studied at a yeshiva for potential converts. But within a few months the yeshiva had closed. In early 1999, Calderon met Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum and joined the Spanish speakers' ulpan Rabbi Birbuam's wife had just started.
Around Rosh Hashana that year, Calderon underwent a bris mila. Before Succos, he entered a mikva and completed his conversion. Back home in Argentina, there was little celebrating going on. Although Calderon's mother was happy that he would, having given up the monastic life, provide her with grandchildren, several family members told Calderon, "If you're Jewish, don't come back here."
"A few years earlier, I had realized that love, hate and jealousy were separated only by a fine line," Calderon says. "I made a choice to love the Jewish people. Later, I began to see the hatred that some people in my town had for Jews." Calderon currently serves as a gabbai in the Stropkover shul in Jerusalem.
If a non-Jew who was saturated with impurity can turn his life around and purify himself and change his ways so drastically, then surely we too can change in the coming year. Good Shabbos and L'Shana Tovah Everyone. . M. Wolfberg is sponsored by: In memory of R' Yaakov ben Naftoly, of blessed memory Refuah Shleima to Reb Mordechai Menachem Mendel ben Tziporah Yitta Refuah Shleima to Tsviah bas Bracha Leah
Good Shabbos and a good writing and sealing in the book of Life, health, happiness and financial success. Gmar Hatima Tova,