Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Muder...Senseless Murder...

Again the terrorists have stuck. This time twice within moments. At the time of posting, 16 dead with 100 injured. Where? Be'er Sheva in central Israel. Why here? Perhaps because it is a 30-minute drive from Hebron, origin of the attacks and there is no security barrier bewteen Hebron and Be'er Sheva.

Read about what happened from Ha'aretz and Ma'ariv. A blogger named Benjamin Kerstein lives not far from the site and describes the scene. (Hat tip to Kesher Talk)

May God be with all affected.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

A Gold medal for Israel

Windsurfer Gal Fridman won Israel's first gold medel EVER today in the men's Mistral Windsurfing competition! It is their second medel ever, with the first in Barcelona, but the first gold. Fridman's first name, Gal, means "wave" in Hebrew - how fitting. You can find coverage and many other details at articles in:

Jerusalem Post (you have to sign in)
Jewish Telegraph Agency
Ma'ariv International

Hazak, hazak v'nithazek - be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened!

UDATE - Gal Fridman dedicated his medal in memory of the athletes murdered in Munich in 1972. (I learned this from Kesher Talk.)

Sunday, August 22, 2004

5 Elul - Preparations for the Holy Days

Shavuah Tov. I hope that you and yours had a wonderful Shabbat. As you likely know, we are now almost through the first week of the month of Elul. This month is one of preparation, reflection, thought and repentance as we approach the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim). There are many things which we can do during this time - self reflection, taking a personal inventory, asking forgiveness from those whom we've wronged and thinking about how we want to make our lives different in the coming year.

Rabbi Judith Abrams, scholar and teacher at Maqom: A School for Adult Talmud Study has posted a wonderful series of daily reflections to guide us through Elul, Countdown to Rosh Hashanah.

As has been pointed out by other bloggers (like the excellent post by Velveteen Rabbi with wonderful links), another custom of daily preparation for the Yamim Noraim is daily recitation of Psalm 27.

May your daily journey to the Yamim Noraim be filled with growth, joy and comfort.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Israel's first medal in 2004 games

Arik Ze'evi won Israel's first medal in the Athens games today with his Bronze medal for Judo. See the full report, including picutres at this Jerusalem Post article.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Genocide Crisis in Sudan

A crisis of enormous proportion is going on in Sudan. Here (from the Religious Action Center) is just a bit of what is happening:

A humanitarian crisis is gripping Sudan, where tens of thousands of innocent lives have died and hundreds of thousands others are being displaced from their homes in the Darfur region by government-backed militias fanning the flames of ethnic and religious warfare. The world has thus far remained shamefully inactive in the face of these atrocities. It is now time not only for moral voices to be heard, but for the world to act before more innocent people perish.

"Is silence the answer? It never was." - Elie Wiesel

According to the United Nations, of an estimated population of 6.5 million in Sudan's Darfur region, more than 2 million people are being affected by an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing carried out by the Sudanese government and its proxies against the region's black African population.

The government-supported Arab militias-collectively known as "Janjaweed"-have attacked the civilian populations of the Fur, Masaalit, and Zaghawa ethnic communities, bombed and scorched entire villages and towns, destroyed water sources and food stores, and systematically targeted black African civilians for mass killings, rape, and slave raids.

In the past year, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 civilians have lost their lives; more than one million civilians have been internally displaced and forced to live in one of 129 refugee camps; and more than 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad, according to U.N. figures. Refugee camps in Chad endure persistent assaults from the Janjaweed militia.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that the humanitarian crisis could claim 350,000 additional lives within the next nine months, mainly from starvation and disease. Already scores of thousands suffer from malnutrition and diseases such as malaria or cholera. A combination of the approaching rainy season and restricted humanitarian access threaten to cut off food and medical relief.

What can you do? Stay informed, write officials (local and national government, White House, United Nations...), raise relief funds, build interfaith coalitions working to end the genocide, pray, protest an be involved.

Here are some websites to help you do that:
Religious Action Center Geonide in Sudan information page
Save Darfur!
Committee on Conscience - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Never Again is NOW!!
Save Darfur Day of Conscience - August 25th
Prayers for all faith groups
Jewish Coalition on Diaster Relief (A cross-denominational response.)
American Jewish World Service on Darfur crisis
Donate to the URJ Diaster Relief Fund for Darfur (100% of money goes to Darfur. Other funds being used for administrative costs.)

We must act, we must be the change in the world we want to see. (Ghandi)
We are not required to complete the work, neither may we desist from it. (Ethics of the Sages)

Torah's daily connection to our lives

Today I was struck again by the timeliness of Torah. So many times when I ponder an event in the news, my life or a friend's life, a verse of Torah comes to mind. Issues of the day (like the horrific situation in the Sudan - see post after this one) have resonance, responses or reference in the texts of Jewish life and living.

The philosopher, scholar and sage Bachiya Ibn Pakudah once wrote "Days are scrolls, write on them what you want to be remembered." Every day I try to fill my scroll with productivity, positivity, G-d, Torah and Israel. Some days I succeed more than others.

On a larger scale, the sefer Torah (scroll onto which the first 5 books of the bible are handwritten in the same manner as has been done for about 2,300 years) is a personal history, ethics, theology and psychology scroll for each of us. We "turn it and turn it for everything is in it" (ala Rabbi Ben Bag Bag) and in it we find our lives.

All of this is my rambling way of saying that I hope you are able to find connections between our sacred literature and your life.

May we find inspiration, hope and comfort in our personal and communal scrolls!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Olympic Athletes

Good luck to the Israeli athletes headed to the Athens olympics. Israel is sending 36 olympians to Athens, with a farewell ceremony today for many of them at Ben Gurion airport. Read an article about it at the Jerusalem Post. Thanks to Mike for the link.

Good luck to the Israelis and all who go to the olympics in the spirit of competition, peace and friendship.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Weekly Torah Portion - Ekev

One of the components in this week's Torah portion gives us the mitzvah of reciting birkat ha-mazon after we eat. Rabbi David J. Meyer comments on the nature of the grace after meals in his drash, "Thanksgiving and Dedication."

Here is an excerpt:
The same can be said, of course, in regard to a prayer recited before partaking in a meal. In reciting the proper beracha for the food about to be eaten, we sense God's blessing in our lives and in the world around us. Again, it is not we who are blessing the food. Instead, we acknowledge that God has already blessed the food, and that by enabling us to partake in the food, we also partake in the blessing.

Go and Study!