Sunday, February 27, 2005

Some powerful stories from Friday's terrorist attack

A group of friends from life and army service planned to gather at a nightclub Friday night to have a surprise celebration in honor of another friend's 30th birthday. Unfortunately, the surprise was on them, for all four of the people murdered were connected to the party. Read a moving account of the events and their aftermath on Ha'aretz (thank you Allison).

Lisa writes a very moving piece about living amidst terror and pain, balancing feeling all the pain with going numb.

Read, even if it is difficult, for we are all one people.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Radio from Israel

Often I listen to music while I type. Usually I play a mix of music stored in iTunes. However, this morning I am listening to live streaming of All for Peace Radio, an Israeli radio station which broadcasts in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

All for Peace Radio works for coexistence and understanding. Amongst the insipring words on their (English language) about page (you can also read it in Hebrew and Arabic) they write, The Palestinian organization Biladi - The Jerusalem Times and the Israeli organization The Jewish-Arab Centre for Peace, Givat Haviva, which are partners in the youth magazine Crossing Borders and maintain a long-standing, good and egalitarian working relationship, propose to create a joint radio station broadcasting in Hebrew, Arabic and English, which aimed at a wide audience amongst both people and provides messages of peace, cooperation, mutual understanding, coexistence and hope.

Listen, be entertained and support this effort towards peace and understanding!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Flying Kites for Peace

I learned today (thanks World Changing) who got it from Gily that there is an effort to fly kites along both sides of the security barrier on April 27, 2005. Here is what World Changing posted,

Ally Gil Friend points us at 10,000 Kites, an activist art initiative to fly 10,000 kites along both sides the 500 kilometer long security barrier dividing Israel and the West Bank on April 27, 2005. Even if the people on either side of the wall can't see each other, they--and the world--will see them flying kites for peace, dreaming together of a bright future.

Above and beyond the current conflict, where the wall separating Israel from the West Bank stretches ominously over more than 500 kilometers of territorial strife, is 500 kilometers of limitless sky, where 10,000 kites will fly in Spring 2005, spreading messages of peace.

Go to the 10,000 Kites for all the details.

May the skies soar with beauty, peace and hope on that day!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Weekly Torah Commentary - Ki Tisa

Hello. This week's Torah portion is Ki Tisa, a text which includes the infamous story of the golden calf followed chapters later by the second giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Much has been written about this text in modern day and throughout the ancient and mideival commentaries. Rather than posting one commentary this week, I am going to link to a website with nine differnt articles, My Jewish Learning commetaries and text discussions for Ki Tisa. The list of online articles includes:

Go Down, Moses! by Rabbi Andrea Lerner

The Idol Of Complacency by Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger

Up And Down The Mountain Of Life by Jennifer Werby

Tzedakah And Jewish Education by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

Negotiating A Relationship With God by Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Transformative Power by Ismar Schorsch

Veiling And Unveiling by Rabbi Aaron Mehlman

Our Golden Calf: When Tzedakah Is Not Righteous by Rabbi Dan Bronstein

Positive Communal Action by Laura Safran

Go and Learn!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cabinet vote results

Pullout from Gaza was a vote of 17-5 for pullout. You can read all details on YNet.

The vote for the re-routing of the fence was 20-1 as reported by YNet in ENGLISH, yes YNet has launced its English site - hooray! (Hat tip to Allison.)

May these be steps toward real peace and security.

Good News Morning from Israel

Boker tov (good morning or a good day at whatever time you read this.)

This morning began (as all do) with a quick read of the news over the internet. I am filled with (slightly cautious) hope this morning reading Ha'aretz, one of Israel's dailies. Peace seems to again be building:

Home demolitions for Palestinians is no longer government policy. [For more information on why home demolitions are problematic, see this FAQ on Home Demolitions by RHR.] Gideon Levy has an editorial piece on the home demolitions in Ha'aretz.

The disengagement plan from Gaza is being voted on today by the Israeli cabinet. The Knesset has already passed the disengagent plan, and cabinet approval is another key step for the July pullout.

Israel is also rerouting the security fence as directed by the Israeli Court. Israel's court months ago determined that part of the route of the fence was problematic and mandated change. If only the government of the United States could be self-relfective and willing to make difficult changes or even admit when it is wrong. Somehow, I don't think that Bush ever thinks that he or his policies are wrong.

Ha'aretz article on pullout and fence re-route. An analysis article in Ha'aretz can be found here.

Jordan is returning its ambassador to Tel Aviv, and Egypt is expected to soon do the same.

Israeli Arab women are opening more businesses and building brighter futures for themselves, their families and communities. Much of this effort is being spearheaded by The Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development.

While there is this good news, here are a few more serious items:
Please put former President Ezer Weitzman in your prayers, as he is in the hospital.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Weekly Torah Commentary - Tetzaveh

This week's parashah is Tetzaveh and opens with the instruction to create an ever-burning light in the Tent of Meeting. This becomes the ner tamid, the eternal light.

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson of the University of Judaism has written a powerful commentary on this symbol and its connection to Torah and Judaism in our lives. Amongst his words is the citation of a midrash, a commentary on the text.

The Midrash continues: "Just see how the words of the Torah give forth light to those who study them.... Those who study Torah give forth light wherever they may be. It is like standing in the dark with a lamp in hand; when you see a stone, you don't stumble, nor do you fall into a gutter because you have a lamp in hand.... God said, 'Let My lamp be in your hand and your lamp in My hand.' What is the lamp of God? The Torah.

In our day, then, the lamp of God is the rich teachings of the Torah. God shines that light into the world, illumining the pitfalls and stumbling-blocks along the way. Through the guidance and discipline of the mitzvot, God offers us a path of sanity, profundity, and morality.

Read the entire piece.

Go and Learn!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

B'nai Mitzvah Students

One of the things which I enjoy about the rabbinate is the opportunity to teach people at all ages and at various levels of knowledge.

This past shabbat a young person who I have been teaching (as rabbi of the congregation and sometimes his classroom teacher as well) since he was 6 years old became a bar mitzvah. What a joy it is to be part of a youngster's life (in an appropriate way), contributing to their sense of Judaism and their Jewish identity.

Today, I worked with 4 other b'nai mitzvah students (including a dad who is learning to lein (chant torah) along with his son!). Encouraging them to continue studying Torah, to persevere through the challenging elements is one of the aspects of teaching/tutoring which comes up almost constantly. I hope that the hours I spend with them adds to their learning, their sense of self, their pride in being Jewish and their later life as Jewish adults. B'eztrat Hashem (G-d willing).

May our teaching increase learning and love of Judaism.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Weekly Torah Commentary - Terumah

This week's Torah portion is Termuah. One of the elements of Termuah is a detailing of the instructions for the construction of the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle in the desert. Of course, one of the elements of construction is the need for materials and supplies.

To get these supplies/materials/tools G-d says in Exodus 25:2, "Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him."

A key clause is "whose heart so moves him" (and her). Giving to the community holy place is voluntary, regardless of one's capacity, capability and willingness to give.

Rav Kook writes about the mitzvah of tzedakah (righteousness - the closest word in Hebrew to "charity"). In the midst of this drash is the following,

There are two objectives to the mitzvah of tzedaka. The first concerns the one receiving. Through this mitzvah, we assist the poor and help provide what they are lacking. The second aim concerns the one giving. By donating our time and money, we express in the world of action our inner qualities of chesed and kindness. The act of tzedaka actualizes our feelings of generosity, and contributes towards our own spiritual growth.

Read the rest of the drash here.

Go and Learn and Give!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

More on the Sharm-El-Sheik Peace Conference

Many in the blog world, especially the Israeli blog world have written about the peace talks and the hopeful caution that we feel. I guess the caution comes from having high hopes dashed before by violence and hate.

Here are some posts by other bloggers:
Renatina writes about Tikva v'safek (hope and doubt).
Andrew Jaffe writes on his thoughts at Israpundit.
Gilly compares the feelings at this peace talk with how many of us felt in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo accords.
Imshin shares her thoughts.
Mike writes about hope and skepticism.

Adrian reflects on the decision by Jordan and Egypt to return ambassadors to Israel.

Sadly, because Abbas is making overtures towards peace, some are worried about a threat to his life (JPost, free registration needed).

Ha'aretz newspaper has many stories on the peacetalks, including a page of pictures from the summit.

May G-d spread peace over all.

UPDATE - Richard at Tikun Olam also has an informative post on the peace talks. (Sorry, Richard and thanks for the comment to let me know.)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Hope for Peace

Today's meeting between Abbas and Sharon in Sharm-el-Sheik gives me hope that the beginnings of peace may again be on the horizon.

May G-d help all leaders focus on peace and justice rather than on personal agenda, ego and money.

May peace spread throughout the land.

(If you are looking for some information on today's meeting, try the New York Times (free registration needed).)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Bush's Envoy Honors Man Who Accusses Jews of Inflating the Holocaust

Shavuah tov. Sadly, we are starting the news week with a disturbing item of political news. Last week President Bush sent Myron Kuropas to fly to Ukraine with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell as part of the American delegation to the Ukrainian Presidental Inauguration. Mr. Kuropas is a holocaust deniar, who wrote that the Jews drive the Holocaust industry. Specifically, he said, "Big money drives the Holocaust industry. To survive, the Holocaust industry is always searching for its next mark. Ukraine's turn is just around the corner."

According the NJDC, He has argued elsewhere that Jews played a driving role behind Soviet leader Josef Stalin's murderous policies in Ukraine and Mr. Kuropas' has demonstrated his hostility towards Jews for some time; Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, explained to the Chicago Tribune, "This is not new stuff. ...If you go back over the decades, he's taken these kinds of positions highly antagonistic to the Jewish people and Jewish interests and causes."

Mr. Kuropas has not only been honored by Bush, but is a frequent contributor to House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Want to read Mr. Kuropas' words? Here is a link to his own words titled "Faces & Places: Holocaust Exploitation".

You can find out more about this from the NJDC, including suggested language for contacting Hastert and Bush.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Israeli Technology & the Super Bowl

Allison Kaplan Sommer has posted about the Israeli technology which is making possible the broadcast of this year's Super Bowl. Israel 21c details the communication technology developed by MobileAccess Networks which is the provider of communication tech for Alltel Stadium. Whoever wins, (I don't have a particular preference), Israel is winning too! Hooray.

Weekly Torah Portion - Parashat Mishpatim

This week's Torah portion is Mishpatim, a continuation of the statement of laws for the Jewish community. Can we be inspired by these laws? Even by the first letter of the first word? Read this commentary by Rabbi Ben Hollander.

Let’s look at that first letter, the “vav”—usually translated as the conjunction “and”. I remember an elementary school teacher who sternly forbade us to begin a sentence with “and”. Well, she would have liked the new-JPS translation of our verse: it leaves out the conjunction and translates simply, “These are the rules…!” (Similarly, Ex. l:l.) Besides the linguistic reasons, this fits how modern Biblical scholars regard the collection of laws in Mishpatim: a discrete “book”, the “Sefer Ha-Brit” (Book of the Covenant) of 24:7 whose ratification is described at the parashah’s end....

Click here to read the rest of this wonderful drash.

Go and Learn!