Friday, May 25, 2012

Sinai was for Everyone

by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

 What makes the giving of the Torah so universally relevant and necessary?

It isn't only Jews who should be celebrating the holiday of Shavuot.

You don't have to be Jewish, nor do you have to be religious, to acknowledge that what happened on Mount Sinai was one of the most important moments in the history of civilization.

Even the reason for the choice of the particular location on which the 10 Commandments were given is meant to emphasize the universality of their message. Why is it, the biblical commentators ask, God chose to transmit his moral code on a mountain in the desert rather than to wait until the Jews would come to the holy land of Israel? Precisely for this reason: Israel is a land for the Jews; the desert is ownerless ― and hence belongs equally to everyone.

God's words weren't intended just for one people. They were meant for the whole world because they represent the key to universal survival.

What makes the message of Sinai so universally relevant and necessary?

Simply put, it is the idea of law, the concept of "do this" and "do not do that." It is the notion that some things are right and some things are wrong. It is the rejection of cultural relativism that sees some good in everything no matter how heinous because "who is to say that what we think is more correct than what they believe."

There's no lack of excuses in the liberal lexicon. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. People steal because they are poor. People murder because they feel deprived as a result of the way life has mistreated them. People do all kinds of bad things and we have to be fair before judging them to determine whether they had enough love as a child, whether the guilt may not be theirs but rather the fault of society.
The lyrics of Gee Officer Krupke in West Side Story brilliantly capture the flavor of this flawed philosophy:
Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!
God has more faith in mankind than those who claim that people have to be forgiven no matter what because they just can't help being evil.

Everyone has a reason for what they do. Hitler found a way to justify genocide as a means to bring about a superior race. Cultural relativism has to admit that it's possible he was right. And for all we know, as some prominent psychologist dared to suggest, his mother's failure to breast-feed him sufficiently may have caused feelings of love deprivation that of course produced self-hatred, which turned outward, resulted in the need to murder 6 million Jews…
Reasons to commit evil are not the same as justifications.
We are expected to abide by God's rules no matter what, for without them society cannot survive.
Poor people don't necessarily have to turn to crime. Just last week, we watched Oprah Winfrey retire after 25 years. She reviewed her career that began in rural Mississippi, in extreme poverty, followed by her rise to become one of the most powerful and influential women in the world. No matter how disadvantaged, we are granted free will and the opportunity to make our choices in life.

And from the mountaintop of Sinai God taught the world that there are absolutes, that there are rules we are expected to abide by no matter what our excuse, because without them society cannot survive.

"Thou shalt not murder" – no matter why you think it doesn't apply to you.

"Thou shalt not commit adultery" – even if your own wife doesn't understand you, the other woman is more beautiful, and besides "who will get hurt, if no one finds out?"

"Thou shalt not steal" – even if with your newfound wealth you become a great philanthropist and have your name plastered on buildings and dedications.

The Decalogue has only 172 words. Not one of them is "except." They are clear and to the point. They are rooted in truth and represent the words of the Creator of the world.

Their power rests in their Divine source. Without them and their moral force, the world would long ago have perished.

The heroine of Shavuot is Ruth. It is her book that we read on this holiday. Why was she chosen for this honor?

Even though she was not born a Jewess, she found her way to the truth of that Torah given in the desert intended for all mankind. And that's why she became the ancestress of King David from whom will stem the Messiah – the one who will bring the whole world at long last to accept the gift meant for all that was given at Sinai.

Isn't that reason enough for everybody to rejoice on this holiday?

Original post is found here at AISH

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who Are the Two Messengers to Jerusalem?

The following commentary was written by HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook zts"l
First Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, revered and famed Torah sage, philosopher, writer, poet, iconic and beloved leader of religious Zionism and the return to Zion (1865-1935).

 The prophet Isaiah used a metaphor of two messengers, the Herald of Zion and the Herald of Jerusalem, who together proclaim the imminent redemption of Israel.

"Herald of Zion, ascend a lofty mountain! Herald of Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, be not afraid!" (Is. 40:9)

Who are these two messengers? Why was one commanded to scale the mountain, while the second messenger was instructed to raise her voice?

Zion and Jerusalem
We must first analyze the difference between the names Zion and Jerusalem.

Zion represents our national aspirations for autonomy and independence, while Jerusalem symbolizes our lofty visions for holiness and spiritual greatness.

The Herald of Zion is none other than the Zionist movement, demanding the restoration of independence and sovereignty for the Jewish people in their own land. This call is heard clearly around the world; there is no need to further raise its voice.

However, secular Zionism is only concerned with our legitimate rights to self-rule. Its aspirations are the same as those of every other nation.

The Herald of Jerusalem, on the other hand, speaks of our return to holiness, so that we may fulfill our national destiny as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). This messenger of redemption calls for the restoration of Jerusalem, our holy city, and the holy Temple.

Unlike the Herald of Zion, she stands on "a high mountain" - her vision comes from a high and lofty standpoint. But her voice is faint and her demand is not heard clearly.
The Herald of Jerusalem seems to fear raising her voice too loudly.

The prophet found fault with both messengers.

He reproved the Herald of Zion: Why are you standing down below, together with all the other nations? Why do you only speak of the commonplace goals of the gentile nations?

"Ascend a lofty mountain!" Speak in the Name of God, in the name of Israel's holy mission, in the name of the prophetic visions of redemption for the Jewish people and all of humanity.

The prophet then turned to the Herald of Jerusalem: You who call for the return to the city of holiness, you are speaking from the right place, demanding our lofty ideals. But your voice is not heard. You need to learn from the Herald of Zion and "Lift up your voice in strength, be not afraid!"

(From Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe'iyah, pp. 482-483)
Sent to Arutz Sheva by Rabbi Chanan Morrison of Mitzpeh Yericho, author of "Gold From the Land of Israel" and the above. His website,, is dedicated to presenting the Torah commentary of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jerusalem Day 5772

Today all Jerusalem is teaming with celebrations of sheer joy! Thousands descending on the Holy City to rejoice in the miracle of a united city. United. Never to be divided again. Many thanks and appreciation to all those men who made it possible. Men of Destiny.

I am home (I'm not one for LARGE crowds). There is a park down the hill from us that we can see. Today we can hear the school children as they have a 'field day' to commemorate Jerusalem Day. It is a blessing to hear the older folk songs of the 60's being played as the children play. I wonder how much the children actually understand or is it just a good day because they are not in their school desks.

An identity takes a lifetime to nurture and grow. In their measure these little ones have had planted into them the seed of being part of something greater than themselves~ part of Clal Yisrael. They, who have been born here, are growing up not knowing what it is to be afraid or shameful to be Jewish. They have a confidence that comes from drinking in the spirit and spice of this Land. It is being nurtured in them the beauty of Torah, the faithfulness of G-d to His promises and a sense of Destiny that can not be found anywhere else.

My grandchildren are in that park. Their roots spread back to the United States and further beyond to the Ukraine. They draw from those roots but are also growing new and deeper ones here. Here where they are a part of the continuum of Biblical miracles. Here where they will fulfill their true Destiny. I look forward to see what their Destiny will prove to be and how they will be a part of building this Land.

Here is the story of a great man~ General Uzi Narkis~ commander of the liberating forces. A man of Destiny.

Friday, May 18, 2012

G-d's 'Invisible' Qualities

Today's sharing has NOTHING to do with Israel but EVERYTHING to do with the Creator!  A friend sent this to us and it is SOOOOOOOOO amazing that we feel that we just HAVE to share it with all our blog friends. 

" For since the creation of the world G-d's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse"

Shabbat Shalom

Monday, May 14, 2012

From Where Does My Help Come?

So often, life is overwhelming. The dark things wash over us blocking out all Light and Hope. Our arms hang without strength, we fall to our knees in total weakness. Alone. Lost. Wondering. Confused Completely empty. Looking inward, we see only a void. Nothing. Tears making a river that flows endlessly. Who will help when we cannot help ourselves? Who will carry us when we see no one with the ability or desire to lift our burden?

At the complete end of all our resources, down below the depths~ we look up. From where does our help come? Only from the Maker of heaven and earth. From this place of despair, He becomes our All-in-All. Our total sufficiency. His Mercy is new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.