The Meaning of Helicopter Tradgedy

July 27, 2010

Over a decade ago,  two IAF helicopters collided in Lebanon. 73 soldiers died.  In my Yeshiva, all sorts of expositions on the “reasons” for the crash were heard (some perceptive, some misguided). Ultimately, the Yeshiva conducted a special drash in the Beit Midrash regarding the tragedy.  R. Nachmun Bullman, ztkl, gave the drash.

R. Bullman cried from the pain and the loss. He cries for the soldiers and their parents and loved ones. He cried for the Jewish People. And he cried when he darshaned (explained) out the event as a call to repentance.

That day, I learned that any explanation of the meaning of tragic events must be accompanied by feelings of love, compassion, and empathy for another’s pain.

So what is the tshuva here?

This week’s Torah portion is Parshat Ekev.  The verse reads, “And you will say in your heart, my strength and the power of my hand made me all this wealth (hayil). Then you shall remember that HaShem, your G-d; that it was He Who gave you the strenght to make wealth, in order to establish his covenant. . .(Deut. 8:17-18).

Let’s be honest here.  War is looming between Edom and Paras.  The IAF in Romania are preparing for this war (and extractions of downed pilots in mountainous regions in particular).  In dangerous times like these its imperative that we remember that it is HaShem that gives us the strength to prevail against our enemies.

There is no question that this event is causing ripples of arousal to repentance (tshuva) in those close and near to the soldiers who died. The tshuva done as a consequence of this accident will, G-d willing, be immense and important.

There is precedent for this. R. Shalom Arush (he should live and be well), the author of the Garden of Emuna, for example, was inspired to thoughts of tshuva after his close friends were killed in a military helicopter crash. There is no question in my mind that something similar is happening here, and that the soldiers who were killed were holy, as were Nadav and Avihu.

HaShem should guide, bless, and protect, and provide consolation to the mourners of Zion.


Eliphaz Pushing On Iran

July 26, 2010

Eliphaz of Edom turns up the heat on Paras (Persia) as Russia turns on “irresponsible” Iran and joins in harsher sanctions.

This is no surprise according to the Talmud, which clearly predicts a war between Edom and Paras in the event the Jewish people do not sufficiently repent.

As Ellul approaches, things will likely continue to get more intense.

The Palm Tree of Devorah

It is well known that a core way to get ready for the Days of Awe is to learn the first chapter of the Ramak’s Tomer D’vorah (the Palm Tree of Devorah) during Ellul. This chapter teaches how a person is to apply the 13 Attributes of Mercy in their everday life.

It is a segulah for tshuva (And, I’ve heard from a respectable source, a segulah for the prevention and treatment of cancer).


Did Amalek Win?

July 25, 2010

The day after Tish b’Av, I had a chance to speak to Rabbi A., an elderly and highly respected Rabbi in the States (most readers know who he is, but I have no permission to publicize our conversation).  I asked him, “Do you think Amalek won in WWII, in the sense that the Jewish people doubt that HaShem will save us in our current situation?”

He wisely replied (and confirmed my answer), “The Torah always tells us not to ever forget what Amalek did to us. Yes.

Then, interestingly, he spoke tangentially about his “fear for his children and grandchildren” that America will become a Muslim nation in the next 20 to 30 years.  He explained that sources say the final exile will be the exile of Yishmael, and hence, that Yishmaelic exile will perforce include America.

I suggested that sources indicate a partership between Esav and Ishmael at the End of Days, and that Ishmael is Esav’s spear, and that the Yishmaelic exile is, in fact, already happening with respsect to E”Y.  I suggested that I don’t forsee America or Russia succumbing to Yishmael, but rather remaining true to charachter as Esav.

He replied, “I’m not so sure about that.”

I then asked him, “And so what is your response to this, l’maaser (in practice).  Do you feel Jews should look toward moving to E’Y given your feelings?”

He replied, “Yes.”  We spoke about his parenting in this regard, to both children and grandchildren, and he stated that several live in E”Y. He also he agreed that American Charedi educators and leadership should do much more to inculcate and emphasize that Jewish people strive to live in E”Y.

As I walked home from shul, I reflected on our conversation.  I thought about the growing Islamic outreach phenomena in my mostly black neighborhood.  It started about two years ago with a “Why Islam? A Religion of Diversity” billboard campaign. Now, when I visit the mall, I see many more black women with hijabs.  And I also thought, in the future, could hoards of upset white Russians, Europeans, and Americans decide Islam is their answer?

I thought to myself, “Rabbi A. has a point.”

Then, later in the day, because of a payroll check mailing screw up, one of my managers had to come to my office to pick up her check.  My manager is black, and her 21 year old daughter was with her. This daughter is a very nice girl, and attends college.  I have met her before, and was impressed.

It was a very hot day and she wore a strapless dress.  I noticed a tattoo on her arm, in red Arabic letters.

I’ve thought about the Islamization of American blacks before, but brushed it off as relatively insignificant.  But given the synchronicity of events that day, HaShem was definitely trying to send me a message.

This trend is not insignificant.

Tragically, these new black converts to Islam have no idea what they are really signing up for.  Faced with no religious alternative save the “white man’s” Christianity, they think that they are joining an upright religion of diversity and peace.

But really they are willing victims of Yishmael’s cynical campaign to build an army of second-class Muslim slaves.  I can only imagine what the racist Arabs say behind closed doors after they do an “instant Shahadah (conversion)”.

Here is a video clip of a young African American explaining why he converted to Islam. Its gives good insight into what goes on in black convert’s minds and the tremendous naivete involved.  And, at the end of the video, note who he thanks for helping him find this path!!


Some Great News – Jews Being “Modeh”

July 23, 2010

According to a Thursday report in Yediot Aharonot, Slonimer Hassidim attending an assembly at the recently reunified Beit Ya’acov school last week apologized to the Sefardi parents and said they’d had no intention of saying the latter were insufficiently observant, which they had implied during the heated affair surrounding the school that recently reached a resolution.

The resolution was accomplished by a simple face-to-face meeting between R. Ovadia Yosef and the Slonimer Rebbe.   My guess is that during the meeting the Slonimer Rebbe was made fully aware of the true circumstances of the situation, including, importantly, the hurt, pain, and disgrace the non-Chassidisha-track Sefardi parents felt, many of whom are baalei-tshuva fully observant according to Sefardi halachic traditions and haskofas.

Notably, the resolution was exactly that proffered by the Sefardi side of the argument – that the students attend school without barriers for the remainder of the school year.  The Slonimer Rebbe would not have accepted this resolution if he believed it would hurt the students.

Rather, I believe, his intention was to stress to his Chassidim that the mitzvah of Jewish unity (the foundation of which is compassion and empathy for our fellow) trumps minhag and idiosyncratic hashkofa.  This intention of emphasis is clear in that the resolution called for the girls to be given a series of classes from Sefardic and Chassidish teachers about the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael.

Ultimately, the Chassidim were “modeh” and apologized to the Sefardi parents.  Whether they apologized because they believed they were wrong or because they wanted to make peace and stop the fight does not matter. The important thing is that they were “modeh” and stopped arguing – as explained in a previous post, this is the key to redemption.

Baruch HaShem, our Sages have sent a great message, and the students have listened.  The resolution of the “Immanuel Incident” should be a great merit for the Jewish people.


First US Grocery Boycott of Israel

July 20, 2010

Appropriately announced for Tish b’Av, the Olympia Food Co-Op in Washington State announced a US first boycott on Israeli products.

Sure, this store is a small blip on the radar, but it represents a “first breach” and is therefore spiritually significant.

Imagine if you shopped there regularly for your health food needs and woke up to this.  Is there a message here?

HaShem should bless, protect, and arouse us to a healing tshuva.


The Destructive Drive To Win

July 18, 2010

The Holy Abir Yakov Abuchatzeira states that the Second Temple was destroyed because of a blemish in the spiritual attribute of hod (admit/submit/accept).  In essence, hod is the ability to be “modeh”, to admit/accept that somebody else is right, or to stop arguing for the sake of peace.

In parsha Devarim, Moshe’s woefully laments, “(Eichah) How alone can I carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels?”

Rashi comments that this verse is referring litigants would bring additional claims, witnesses, or judges in an effort to win their court case.  In essence, he was lamenting the fact that the Jews had to prove they were right.  They had to get the final word in and could not bear to lose an argument.

This destructive drive to win is a result of this blemish in hod.  Because hod is blemished, it cannot receive light from its opposite, male attribute, netzach (victory).  Thus, the energy of netzach gets dispersed to the sitrah acher (other side). This imbalance manifests in human behavior as the destructive drive to win an argument at all costs.

Ultimately, an improperly argumentative person or society soon forgets what they are arguing for.  Arguments take on an energy of their own and become arguments for arguments’ sake.  And when the purpose of the argument no longer exists, but the aggressive argument continues, this is sinat chinam, baseless hatred.

(This blemish was also the cause of the death of the students of Rabbi Akiva, who were unable to learn Torah from one another.  The Tomer Devorah by the Ramak, ztkl, states that to fix the blemish in hod one must learn Torah from all people, e.g., accept that another person’s Torah argument is true and good.  The students stopped dying on Lag b’omer, which is hod sh’b’hod in the Sefirah count.)

In sum, the destruction of the Temple was caused by the failure to be “modeh”. HaShem should give us the wisdom and understanding to push away self and to accept when we are wrong, and to push away self and stop pressing even a good and true  argument when there’s no real point. (Husbands, you know who we are!)

Radio Show On Tamar Yonah

Tamar Yonah of Israeli National Radio has been kind enough to allow me a weekly segment on her wonderful radio show, Sundays at 9:30 am EST.  Thank you Tamar!!

Past Shows


A New Take On Paras/Iran

July 14, 2010

Last week I traveled to NY to visit.  On Shabbat, I stayed with one of my Rabbis, Rabbi S. and his family, in Monsey.

I haven’t really sat down with the Rabbi S. for years. With great joy and seriousness, we engaged in a wide ranging discussion regarding the End of Days.

Paras Gets The Bomb

They way one ascertains whether something is still alive is whether it has a self preservation instinct.  In Rabbi S.’s opinion, Edom no longer has the self preservation instinct, which indicates it is near death.  This is why, Rabbi S. believes, America and Obama ,and Europe and Russia will do nothing to stop Iran from getting the bomb.

Iran, he predicts, will get the bomb, start a war, take over the Sunni Arab countries, and lead the Middle East Islamic world to invade and occupy Israel.  He cites sources in the Talmud for this, including a Chazal where a Tanna states he wants to be buried deeply in the land because at the End of Days the Persians would occupy the land and use graves for feed troughs for their horses.

Rabbi S. is a great nephew of the Chazon Ish, and told me the Chazon Ish was clear that the “zionist secular government” would fall before the Messiah would come, and this fall, he believes, will be facilitated by Paras.

Yishmael Is Paras

So, I asked, “Do you not make a distinction between Yishmael (Arabs) and Paras (Persia)?”  He cited the Maharal who writes that Yishmael is included in Paras, because the attribute of Paras is tyvvah (lusts), as it is with Yishmael.  Thus, Paras is really the power of Yishmael.

Ultimately, Paras will keep pushing to be a superpower and come into conflict with Russia. In the end, Rabbi S. believes, both nations will crumble in an ensuing war between them, which he believes is the Edom vs. Paras war referenced in the Talmud.

So, what about America?  America is falling, but he didn’t see a big anti-Jewish push that warranted feeling compelled to make plans to move to E”Y.  He strongly believes that the prophets were clear that there would be an in gathering of the exiles after the Messiah comes, and that this ingathering would include Jews from America.

Paras/Yishmael Joins With Esav

I believe Rabbi S. had some good points, which actually fit into the End of Days framework presented on this blog.

A good point and very good additional information is that Paras is connected to Yishmael. The Marahal’s view actually strengthens the concept of a powerful Edom/Yishmael alliance at the End of Days.  According to the ancient Medrash Pesikta Rabbatai,  there will first be a conflict between Edom and Paras, followed by an “alliance” between Edom and Yishmael (i.e., Edom and Paras, as Paras is Ishmael, according to the Maharal).

Can you imagine the West, Russia, the Arabs, and the Persians on the same team? This is Gog u’Magog.

A Tzaddik’s View

Rabbi S. and I have relationships with another Rabbi who we both revere and adore, the holy Rabbi IS’BG, he should live and be well.  (Many people in the North American Torah world know of his holiness and greatness in the revealed and hidden Torah).

I have a relationship with Rabbi IS’BG and met with him alone to debrief my life over the past several years, and to get cherished advice and counsel.  It was an amazing gift to spend time with him. He just radiates kindness and truth.

During our discussion I explained to Rabbi IS’BG many of the ideas I’ve written about in this blog concerning the End of Days. I asked him the $1 million question: “Am I wrong in interpreting current events, and the situation in America in particular, in a way that compels me to move my family and assets to E”Y?”

His answer, “You are not wrong.