by Rabbi Shraga Simmons Guidelines for the joyous Jewish outdoor festival.
Following on the heels of the High Holidays is Sukkot, a seven-day festival (8 days in the Diaspora) characterized by the outdoor Sukkah-huts that we sit in, and the “Four Species” of plants waved together each day.
Sukkot is a holiday of immense joy, where we express our complete trust in God, and celebrate our confidence in having received a “good judgment” for the coming year.
Throughout the week of Sukkot, we eat, sleep and socialize in a Sukkah, reminding us that:
The Israelites lived in huts during the 40 years of wandering in the desert. God is our ultimate protection ― just as He protected the Israelites in the desert with the Clouds of Glory (Exodus 13:21). The Four Species
On Sukkot, we are commanded to wave the Four Species, each noted for its special beauty:
Esrog – the citron, a fragrant fruit with a thick, white rind. It is often picked from the tree while green, and then ripens to a bright yellow. Lulav – the palm branch, which is defined in beauty by having a straight shape and leaves tightly bound. Hadas – the myrtle branch, which has a beautiful plated pattern of three leaves coming out from the same point in the branch. Arava – the willow branch, which should have oblong leaves with a smooth edge. We bind all the branches together ― two willows on the left, one palm branch in the center, and three myrtles on the right. We then lift them together with the Esrog and shake it in all directions, as a symbol of God’s mastery over all Creation.
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By Ryan Jones
It was only a matter of time before activists involved in the “Occupy Wall Street” economic demonstrations began to blame “the Jews” for America’s financial woes.
A YouTube video making the rounds over the weekend showed one such activist holding up a sign that read “Hitler’s Bankers – Wall St” and shouting, “The Jews control Wall Street!”
The few who dared to heckle the man were told to “go to Israel.”
When a liberal blogger in the crowd questioned if the man was planted by the hated right-wing Fox News, the man replied forcefully, “A f*cking Jew made that up,” before resuming his chant of “Freedom of speech, freedom of speech.”
While the man was mocked by several passersby, Jewish blogger JoshuaPundit noted that the majority neither said nor did anything to put an end to the anti-Jewish hate speech.
Meanwhile, Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi, who has led an effort to co-opt the Occupy Wall Street movement as part of the Democratic presidential campaign, had this to say of the demonstrators: “God bless them.”
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By JOANNA PARASZCZUK
Universities, colleges “may be liable for massive damages” if they fail to prevent anti-Semitism on campus, Israel Law Center warns.
Hundreds of US college and university presidents were set to receive warning letters on Thursday morning, instructing them of their legal obligations to prevent anti-Semitism on campus.
The letters also remind universities it is their legal duty to prevent university funds from being diverted to unlawful activities directed against the State of Israel.
Civil rights group the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) is carrying out the legal campaign in response to “an alarming number of incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Jewish and Israeli students on US college campuses.”
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by Rabbi Shraga Simmons The last month of the Jewish calendar is actually the most important – serving as preparation for the High Holidays.
If you had an important court date scheduled ― one that would determine your financial future, or even your very life ― you’d be sure to prepare for weeks beforehand.
On Rosh Hashana, each individual is judged on the merit of his deeds. Whether he will live out the year or not. Whether he will have financial success or ruin. Whether he will be healthy or ill. All of these are determined on Rosh Hashana.
Elul ― the month preceding Rosh Hashana ― begins a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life’s goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for realizing purpose in life ― rather than perfunctorily going through the motions of living by amassing money and seeking gratification. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly, as Jews have from time immemorial, with the intention of improving.
The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four words Ani l’dodi v’dodi lee ― “I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me” (Song of Songs 6:3). These words sum up the relationship between God and His people.
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by Rabbi Benjamin Blech Judaism is a religion of life.
The year was 1956. I had just been ordained and felt I needed a vacation after completing years of rigorous study. Together with two other newly minted rabbis, we decided on a trip that in those days was considered rather exotic. We chose pre-Castro Cuba as our destination – not too far away, not too costly, beautiful and totally different from our New York City environment.
One day as we drove through Havana and its outskirts, our combination taxi driver/guide pointed out a magnificent estate and told us that this was the residence of the writer, Ernest Hemingway. “Stop the car,” we told him. “We want to go in.” He shook his head and vehemently told us, “No, no, that is impossible. No one can just come in to visit. Only very important people who have an appointment.”
With the chutzpah of the young, I insisted that we would be able to get in and approached the guard with these words: “Would you please call Mr. Hemingway and tell him that three rabbis from New York are here to see him.”
How could Hemingway not be intrigued? Surely he would wonder what in the world three rabbis wanted to talk to him about. We held our breaths, and the guard himself could not believe it when the message came back from the house that Mr. Hemingway would see us.
We were ushered into Hemingway’s presence as he sat with his wife Mary in their spacious den. What followed, we subsequently learnt, was a verbal volley meant to establish whether it was worthwhile for him to spend any time talking to us. He questioned us about our backgrounds, threw some literary allusions at us to see if we would understand their meaning, asked what we thought was the symbolic meaning of some passages in his A Farewell To Arms – and then after about 15 minutes totally changed his demeanor and spoke to us with a great deal of warmth and friendship.
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By Adam Taxin
This past Sunday, August 21, Glenn Beck began the series of programs leading to his main “Restoring Courage” event, in Jerusalem, Israel on Wednesdady. Kicking off “the Countdown to a Global Movement,” the Beck broadcast welcomed the world to the Jewish State.
Sunday’s “Courage To Love” program was broadcast from the Roman occupation-era amphitheater in Caesarea, Israel. 3,000 people filled the amphitheater, hearing a range of speakers which included Beck, David Barton (Aledo, Texas-based historian and minister), John Hagee (San Antonio-based pastor), Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (founding rabbi of the Upper West Side’s Lincoln Square Synagogue and currently chief rabbi of Efrat in Israel’s Judea region) and Dr. Mike Evans (Phoenix-based Christian-Zionist journalist).
In many ways, this first broadcast was geared toward drawing Christians into the meaning and reasoning behind Beck’s pro-Israel agenda. To that end, Beck spoke to his audience as Christians. As the evening continued, Glenn Beck evolved this Christian approach into an all-encompassing approach. By night’s end, it was clear that Beck could reach out to his Jewish viewers and draw them in with a sense of belonging and community.
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by Jonathan Rosenblum After returning to Israel, why continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple?
After the creation of the State of Israel, the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, and the influx of Jewish immigrants from the four corners of the earth, is it possible that Jews continue to mourn the destruction of the Temple as if nothing had happened in the interim?
At the simplest level, the question would seem to be based on a false premise: that we are a sovereign people in our Land. The clearest evidence to the contrary comes from the site of the Temple itself. Though the Temple Mount has ostensibly been under Israeli control since 1967, successive Israeli governments have stood by helplessly while the Muslim Wakf has worked unimpeded to destroy archaeological evidence of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.
The Wakf converted Solomon’s stables and the Eastern Hulda Gate passageway into the largest mosque in Israel, capable of accommodating 10,000 worshippers. The Western Hulda Gate passageway was also converted into a mosque.
Thousands of tons of dirt were unceremoniously dumped. After receiving permission to build an emergency exit to the larger mosque. the Wakf took advantage to excavate an enormous hole from which thousands of tons of dirt were dumped unceremoniously into the Kidron Valley. A three-foot long stone fragment found among the rubble was, according to one archaeologist, “the most important artifact ever recovered from the Temple Mount…”
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by Sara Debbie Gutfreund On Tisha B’Av I can feel the weight of thousands of years of “if onlys.”
For the past few weeks I have been walking around in a daze. The terrible tragedy of Leiby Kletzky’s death feels like a constant loss wherever I turn. Last Shabbos a neighbor’s nine-year-old boy came to pick up his little sister from our house. And he looked exactly like the picture of Leiby. I felt tears spring suddenly to my eyes. Not on Shabbos, I warned myself. Do not cry on Shabbos in front of all of your children while you are serving dessert. But I felt like I was choking, like my heart was in my throat. Like I could feel somehow another mother’s heart shattering across the ocean. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I don’t know why. Usually it takes me a day or two to digest an awful story in the news. Sometimes it only takes me an hour, or just a few minutes. But these past few weeks have been different for some reason. Maybe because I have children that are around Leiby’s age. Maybe because I worry when my children are even a minute late, and I can so readily feel the agony of a mother whose child will never come home.
But what is taking my breath away lately is how the summer sun can still shine in the shadow of such loss. I cannot comprehend it. How can the sky be such a startling shade of blue on a morning like this? How can the branches of the olive tree reach so majestically upwards, cradling tiny, colorful birds who continue to sing as if no one is crying? As if a nation’s heart isn’t broken? As if a child has not just disappeared forever? How could the world just continue this way with its stunning sunsets and dawns full of hope?
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As the various Arab revolutions have increasingly taken on an Islamic flair and become discriminatory against their Christian populations, some Israelis have tried to more closely identify with their fellow Bible-believers.
But an Arab Christian commentator warned in an article republished by The Jerusalem Post that the Middle East Arab Church is as much an enemy of the Jews as the Muslim fundamentalists.
Aymenn Jawad, a student at Oxford University with family in Baghdad, wrote that Arab Christians across the region are blaming the troubles brought on by the so-called “Arab Spring” not on the Muslims hijacking the pro-democracy uprisings, but rather on a “Jewish conspiracy.”
Arab Christians in general view the current regional turmoil as just another chapter in the ongoing Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.
In fact, according to Jawad, Middle East Christians (again, in general) believe that all of the deadly attacks on their own communities over the past decade were perpetrated by “Zionist forces” intent on sowing discord, and not by Muslim fundamentalists, even if all the evidence points to Islamic terror.
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by Chana Ya’ar Jews and Muslims have teamed up in San Francisco to file a petition to block a measure that would ban circumcision (brit mila, in Hebrew) of male children. Both faiths carry out the practice. The lawsuit, filed…
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