Saturday, December 26, 2009
My cousin Emma comes to the Torah this Shabbat for the first time to become a Bat Mitzvah. Bat Mitzvah translates daughter of the commandment. Emma lives in the suburbs of Washington DC. She has gone from New York, and California Emma definitely reminds me of Joseph. Her moving is not the only thing that resembles the hero of Egypt.
Emma is an activist for everything. She cannot read dreams like Joseph, but she definitely is a dreamer! Just like Joseph, she is brave and wise. Whether it is women or animal rights she sticks up for it. I wish my cousin the best of luck this weekend. Just like Joseph, (and Emma) be a hero, follow your dreams.
Friday, December 11, 2009
How does Hanukah relate to American culture and society?(Note I will use some Jewish words that some people may not understand. Advice: Look 'em up!:))
First of all, Hanukah is not a major Jewish holiday. It is probably if not the least important, close. This does not mean Hanukah is bad though.
Hanukah is unfortunately all of Judaism to some American Jews. I do not know what it is, but we tend to forget about the colorful world of Judaism that we live in. From Tu'bshvat to Tefilin there is a lot there. My guess is most people are in the Hanukah mood during December because everyone else is full of pre-winter holidays/post-Thanksgiving cheer. Purim is usually in March and Passover is usually in April. Those are my two favorites, few people could explain them.
Is it the gift giving? When my mom and dad asked, "What do you want for Hanukah?" I orignally replied with absolutley nothing. It is an American tradition to give gifts on Hanukah. People used to only exchange gelt. Believe it or not Christanity represents 76.5% (http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html#religions)of this country. That is a lot of people. That means Christmas is widely celebrated.
According to American Christmas Origins,(http://www.bsu.edu/web/01bkswartz/xmaspub.html), Christmas gift giving dates back to the 1200's! It happened during the time of thirteen colonies too to demonstrate class differences. Then in the 1820's, New Yorkers borrowed the traditions from the Dutch in town and the rest is history.
When I said "Nothing," to my parents, I had another thought later. Why not give gifts on Hanukah? It celebrates one of the greatest miracles a Jew or anyone can have. Religious freedom. For centuries, Jews have been picked on by everyone from Canadaians to Chinese. Even in our country, I see frequently demonstrated. During the time of Hanukah, a little, little army fought the huge kingdom of Greece's army.
Judah Maccabee and his brothers were the leaders. They fought because Greece was destroying every retrospect of Judaism. Jews could not bare to see their temples being trashed and their Torahs destroyed. Judah and the other Maccabees stood up for their religous freedom and won.
So why not dance and sing and celebrate like an American after the revolutionary war? Why not give a tiny gift for a bright path in a dark, dark tunnel of anti-Semitism? That victory keeps me going when anti-Semitism is shoved in my face at school or in other parts of my life. Most people would say. "Seventh graders?"
And I go, "Yes!" I decided if I was given a gift for Hanukah I would accept it in an "American" way.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Jacob meets his uncle Laban. Laban has a farm and two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob fell deeply in love with Rachel. Laban asks Jacob to work on the farm. He says name your price and Jacob only wants to take Rachel, his love to be his wife after seven years of labor. After seven years, the day arrives and instead of Rachel, Laban asks for his other daughter who is older to be wed off. Laban promises after another seven years he can marry Rachel. Jacob waited and labored only because he really loved Rachel. Over the seven years, Jacob's mates conceive Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah,Dan,Nephtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar,Zebulon, Joseph, and Dinah. After hard work of fourteen years total, Laban does not guarantee that Jacob can leave with Rachel! Jacob, Rachel, and Leah leave after this mistreation and take the flocks with them. All that tricky Laban had, Jacob earned.
Back in those days people worked to keep their farms going. They did not have a taxes or insurance, but Jacob worked for true love. Of all the sons and daughter, Jacob had Joseph was the only one Rachel conceived. Parents do not work to work today. Parents do not even work to get payed. They work because they care about the family they support.
If I had to give yesterday a title I would call it, "A Thanksgiving of a Different Kind". Usually, we make the whole shebang. From the turkey and gravy to the name cards and pilgrim hats we do it all. Yesterday we were worked in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon. Instead of working around our kitchen watching the various balloons trot down Broadway, we worked and helped serve Thanksgiving to Hopkinton seniors and those who were hungry. To see a senior smile when she got the first glance at her mashed potatoes and stuffing made me exfoliate with happiness. I guess I worked for my love of my making others happy. I am glad there was no Laban tricks at my work yesterday. Work to love and I guarantee you will like your job that much more. (Even if you can not stand it!)
Friday, November 20, 2009
Were Jacob and Rebekah right? Jacob lied to his own father. Was Isaac right? Jacob was more fit for the position. Lying is not right, but neither is favoritism. I am on Jacob's side. I am a younger sibling and if my father prefer my sister, Rachel supperior to me I would not tolerate it. Like an investigator must go undercover and lie to do the right thing I think Jacob did the same.
It does make us feel bad for Esau. Esau is left without a blessing. Does executive power have to be solitary? I do not see why Jacob and Esau can not share the position of patriarch. In our country, power is shared. There is only one president, but he/she have checks and balances with Congress and the Supreme Court. Executive power does not have to be solitary, but can be shared by numerous amounts of people.
Take an apple tree. An apple tree can not produce the fruit of its labor without air, water, soil, and sunshine. Jacob is the apple tree. Esau is like fertilizer to the soil. Although not necessary, without fertilizer the tree's fruit is only average. Favoritism is like a drought or a cloudy day, it kills the tree. Parents, are your apple tree thriving. Children, do you deserve to be thrived upon.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Last week I went to a Bat Mitzvah for my friend from New Jersey, Aliza. She read Chayei Sarah brilliantly. In her Dvar Torah she told how she is like Sarah which I can see. Sarah is an organizer and Aliza is passionate about organizing a number of causes. They are also both insightful and loyal. Congratulations to Aliza and her family!
So what are the Jewish ideas of afterlife? There are none! Every Jew has their own idea of afterlife. God lives in the heavens above. In the Torah, it only mentions life. Unlike Greece or Egypt, Ancient Hebrews celebrated life rather than concern their afterlives. Celebrate life to the fullest.
Sarah and Aliza were and always will be positive. It is admirable to see energy brought into our world so vividly. In middle school mornings are tough. We wake up at 6 in the morning and are immediately pressed with a load of decisions. What clothes should I wear? What time do I have to be at the door? By the time a student gets to school they can be very grumpy. We all have those kinds of mornings and I think there is only one cure, joy. I come in with a smile bigger than the world and say good morning to anyone who I see and I know.
My idea of death is focused around the day I die. I think that the minute we die we go into judgement. God decides if we are a good person or a bad person. The good people go to live in heaven watching over Earth seeing more good be done. The bad people, do not. The Torah is a Tree of Life, death is in it so that we can celebrate more life. Yes, the Jewish idea of death is life.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Veterans Day is a slightly Jewish holiday. Israel has had to defend themselves in many conflicts. On the other hand the United States has gotten itself into many conflicts. From the time our country was started it was fighting.
Israel laps Veterans Day and Memorial Day together. The holiday is called Yom Hazikaron. Just like our Veterans Day it is quickly neglected as a "Minor Holiday". In the United States, I believe Veterans Day is reemerging to be a holiday of more importance. One reason may be that we are currently in a war. It has done a good job staying up there with the "Hallmark Holidays". However, Yom Hazikaron is the day before Israel's Independence Day. Although they go together Independence Day out shines honoring the Armed Forces.
People may think "What is the Jewish outlook on war?". We sing songs like "Shalom Rav" which is when we pray for peace, but Israel has not been in peace since 1948. Jews do not want war. We believe in peace. It is just impossible when all the countries around our native land believe in one mutual thing, the destruction of Israel.
I agree with Andy Rooney who said on Sunday that no matter what time it is war is still uncivilized. No matter if it is throwing rocks in the early ages of man to the weapons of mass destruction that were alleged to be in the Middle East war is brutal in any form.
On this Veteran's Day I ask you to remember those who served. No matter if its the United States, Israel or even Kazakhstan wars are fought for freedom. The Iraq War was originally fought for the freedom of Iraq from their dictator Saddam Hussein. The Gaza War is for Palestinians and Jews to have freedom to their homeland. "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." -Abraham Lincoln
Friday, November 06, 2009
I think of Abraham as the patriarch of 3 faiths. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Sarah bore Issac, father of the Hebrews. Christianity is a form of "evolved Judaism." Jesus was a Jewish man. Finally, Ishmael is considered father of the Arabs. Is God true when the Torah states, "All of the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants." (Genesis 22:18)?
Below is a world religion map. It is hard to see, so I posted the link to see it more clear.(http://www.wadsworth.com/religion_d/special_features/popups/maps/matthews_world/images/w001.jpg) Most of the modern world is Jewish, Christian, or Islamic. However, parts of it are not. India's major religion is Hinduism. (magenta colored countries) is In China, it is Buddhism. (orange colored countries) It makes some sense that these parts of the world are not where there are the "3 Abraham Faiths". Abraham left Mesopotamia to go west to Canaan. Ancient Persia was not visited by the Jews until about the time of Esther. Ancient China was never visited by the Jews. It makes us wonder what the world would be like had Abraham gone east.
“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
―Linus Van Pelt in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
Although written as a comedic statement this is very true. People generally are opposed to differences. Why? They should not be. I enjoy to learn about different cultures, and religions. Spanish has been a very amusing language to discover. We are brought up to follow the values of our ancestors. But just as trees do in nature, we must learn to intertwine our roots.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Canaan was not just a vast empty land. Many nations of kings lived there. Abram decided to split the land in half with Lot. Abram got the west and Lot got the eastern Jordan valley. A few days later war and oppression among the kinged nations breaks out in the Jordan Valley.
Lot was selfish to choose the Jordan Valley. It was the valued land for anyone with its rivers and fertile soil. Other nations would love this land. Abram and Sarai were alone in the east. No war. The only thing the patriarch wishes for is an offspring, but Sarai was much too old.
Sarai brings her maid to be the "mother of their offspring". Abram and the maid have the child Ishmael who was a fine man, but not Abram's heir. Just then, God makes the second of the two major covenant in the Torah. This one may be larger than the first. God promises, "You shall be father of a multitude of nations." (Genesis 17:4) God changes his name from Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah to show they are the people of God and promises them an offspring. Even though Sarah was quite old, Issac was born 9 months following the covenant. As for the father of a multitude of nations, Abraham is the patriarch of the Jewish faith, which means he is also patriarch of the Christian faith, and some people do not know this, but Abraham is also the patriarch in the Islamic faith.
From this parshat, I thought of the theme of believing in oneself. If we do not believe in God or ourselves all is lost. God believe and protected Abraham. Abraham trusted God. Living in the nation of the Red Sox, being a Yankee fan can cause great oppression come October. People turn on you as the Yankees win the pennant. I call it "Anti-Yankeeism". If I were to stop wearing the hats, and the jerseys. I would stop believing. Stop watching to all hours of the nights, but I do believe. As God and Abraham's belief in each other is mutual, the win in game 2 made me believe in the Yankees 27th World Series title.
Friday, October 23, 2009
If God promises not to, why does God do it in the first place? Noah was a very special man on the face of the Earth at this time. In my opinion, there is one thing that can stop wickedness:listening. The difference between Noah and the rest of the wicked world was listening. Ignorance is the source of wickedness. Ignorance is merely not listening. Compassion is the opposite of wickedness. To be compassionate you must listen.
In B'reshit, God proves that the first world formed was ignorant. Adam and Eve were told not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. A snake sent by God tempted them. Noah does not even question God when God demands him to build an ark.
Listening abilities show up again in the story. Noah and his family have to work together to build this massive ark. Problems between countries in the modern world happen for many reasons, but all roots of ammunition being used in warfare is a result of not accepting what others have to say.
I personally had an inconvenient experience this week. I got hit in my right ear like a crack of a whip. High pitched ringing lasted for 15 minutes. I felt what it felt like to lose that ability. Not to the worst extent, but it was pretty horrible. I felt ashamed to have say what all the time and a little stupid. I did not choose not to listen, but most people do. If we were born not to listen, why do we have ears?
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Torah begins with a story we all know. My Torah portion is Parshat B'reishit which means, " in the beginning". This parsha is the story of creation. It begins with God saying, "Let there be light!" and there was light. A first day. Then, God says "Let one water divide from the next!" and there was water and sky. A second day. The sky's only function is to hold the water in the air from coming down to Earth. After that, God collects the water in one place until there is dry soil. God says, "Let there be vegetation, and seed-bearing plants!" and there was land and plants. A third day. Fourth but not last, God says, "Let there be two great lights in the sky!" and there was a sun and a moon. A fourth day. There were three more days, but I only have four aliyot.
When thinking about this portion, I had to keep in mind it was not a science textbook I was looking at. You cannot look at this portion and say, "Oh God did not create the world in six days, that's impossible, the Torah is useless fiction." The creation story was included in the Torah to show that God does everything for a reason. The first three days are the foundation for the next three. God creates light, water and sky, and vegetation on the first three days. Then God creates the sun and moon – to light the sky on the fourth day, fish and birds- to fill the sea and sky on the fifth day, and land animals –to fill the land on the sixth day. God also does the same thing every day of creation. He speaks, divides, sees that everything is alright, and calls things by their names.
We can all learn something from this portion. God never does things without thinking. God does not tolerate the world to look incorrect for humans. In fact, the setup of the world, according to Genesis, shows it was created for humans. How do we say thank you? God thinks we say thank you by celebrating the seventh day of creation, Shabbat. The Earth would be a better place if we all took one day of the week to put aside work and celebrate the creation of this world we all live in. We take one day out of the week and remove all other work so that people can pray. We can also thank God by doing something with our world. God spoke to create the world. We have to think and speak in our world, it's the only way to make a difference. Every time we speak, we create something. I am creating a thought in our minds right now. The Torah teaches us to think before we speak, because you just might be creating a world.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Then, Moses blesses the whole land of Israel. He says, "O happy Israel! Who is like you, A people delivered by the Lord, Your protecting Shield, your Sword triumphant! Your enemies shall come cringing before you, and you shall tread on their backs." (Deuteronomy 33:29). To me this means Moses ordered us to protect the land. Israel is the world's third strongest military. Does Moses keep that going?
To me Israel's strength is the drive. For a small country it is filled with nationalism. To fight for the holy land is something most would consider a great honor.
Did God choose Israel's location on purpose? In my mind, God knows all that has happened and all that will happen. When God was bringing the Israel's people accross the desert I think the future was in mind. To me, God would know that Israel would eventually be surrounded by all prodomately Arab countries. The only thing I think God cannot control is free-will.
We have fufilled the task that Moses gave us. Moses says "Your protecting shield" before Your sword triumphant". This means that peace should always come before the sword. Sword came first and failed to do anything. Israel was attacked almost immediately after it gained independence. Now, the protecting shield of the strong zionist military saved Israel and the smart, progressive leaders pushed Israel into a more peaceful future. I feel that is why Iran has been very hesitent. Is it not amazing what a small country can do with the power and covenent of God?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
It starts with something that some of us may think is obvious. "Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!" (Deuteronomy 32:1). Although we find this obvious, listening is a skill that most people have lost greatly in the past 30 years. The reasoning being that most people have developed their own opinions and nobody wants to listen to another opinion. Even in ancient times, everybody just wanted to get up and leave for the Promised Land. We can learn from their mistakes. It never hurts to listen.
Now I just want to focus on one verse. "Destruction is not His; it is His children's defect you crooked and twisted generation" (Deuteronomy 32:5). This quote tells us that your job in life is not for you to succeed, but to raise your successers right. That means parent must bring up a successful generation. We are reminded that even though Moses's generation had successful getting out of bondage they brought up a generation of Israelites who had to be punished, wandering in the desert for fourty years.
Let us take a glance at the past two generations. That would be my parents and grandparents. I would say they were pretty successful. Revolusionizing industry and technology. The film, sports, scientific and medical success of the 20th Century is astounding. Jonas Salk, the Jewish man who found a vaccine for polio can not take all credit for his discovery in 1955. His parents are responsible for bringing him up the right way. Any success you here about, you must remember the parents.
This may get you thinking, what are we in for in 20 years. Since 1969, Americans have been involoved in 10 wars. Many of which were started by American government. Honestly, I am worried for my generation. I am concerned because the ideas of the Torah are becoming irrelevent. The television and interenet are turning into bigger influences everyday. Many families like my own are very well bonded, but the world is always on the run and the American family is torn apart trying to catch it.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The coincidental thing is this Shabbat falls on the eighth anniversary of 9/11. Where 2,993 (numbers from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks) almost all innocent people moved from our world to the next. 6,291 or even more had been injured Fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. Our neighbors, our friends. 2,993 is just a large enough number that almost anybody knows someone in the accident. I thank God every year that my father and mother did not work in the Twin Towers that day. I am sorry to all those who did lose someone close. In my opinion, the attack is the most horrific thing that has happened since the Holocaust.
The biggest difference is the people of 9/11 died for no reason and Moses could not live to go into the Promised Land for two reasons. 1. He committed murder as an Egyptian abused a slave. 2. He smashed the Ten Commandments into a mountain side. One thing I liked about this particular portion is the role Joshua plays.
The scene depicts the seniority of Levites in the Tent of Meeting blessing Joshua as the Lord appears to them in the form of a cloud. Moses is getting ready to leave the world and gives the advice of his past to Joshua. L'Dor V'Dor! Although they are not son and father, this reminds me of when my parents will advise me as I become a man in the Jewish community on October 17th.
Moses will definitely be missed by the people of Israel as Deuteronomy finishes, but they must remember Moses. One thing I insist you remember from this blog post is that one someone passes the greatest honor you can give them is to remember them. Whether its Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, or even a friend or family member, remember them. If you miss Ted Kennedy, remember him. We remember the Twin Towers every year on this day that shows another year further away from that tragic day. Today in school, we dignified the event by having a schoolwide moment of silence at 9:00 a.m. That is when the planes approximately hit.
The lights that go up tonight reminds me of the scene in the Tent of Meeting. As the holy event happens, the Lord shoots light into the sky and the Israelites remember. (Note, he did not actually do this in the parsha. This is my imagination.) Whether you shoot light above one of the biggest skylines in the world or crossing the Jordan River, remember the dead.
Friday, August 28, 2009
I look at the Kennedy's and I am amazed. They are the American version of the Royal Family. You are born a Kennedy and you are famous overnight. I would like to talk about a few Kennedy's and what they have done in this legendary American family.
It all goes back to Joseph P. Kennedy who never did much in politics. Joe was just a very rich man, but as a patriarch he had very good intentions for his family. Joe is responsible for making the Kennedy name. The ambitions he had for his family remind me of my papa. Ambitions for the next Graubart rabbi (probably me) and as the Kennedy's succeeded and pleased Joe, I hope to succeed and please, ,my papa, Daniel Graubart.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Robert Francis Kennedy were the young hopes. There are parts of the family that never got to do what they planned to. Always had good intentions, but could never finish because of a gun. JFK made it to office, but his presidency was cut short. Like his older brother Robert's career was brief. Other than the assassination, my sister and I remind me of Robert and John. Still fresh in the world, have not made their mark yet.
Then, there is Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She was not much in the political side of the Kennedy family, but made a difference in the world. Eunice founded the Special Olympics. She reminds me of my mom who do anything that is caring and nice.
Finally, Ted Kennedy was a fighting man in the Senate. He always stood up for what he believed in and now is cherished for it. Not even brain cancer could stop the drive this man had. Two people resemble Ted for me. My nana and my dad both fight for what they believe in and would do anything for the people they care about.
One generation of Kennedy's is almost gone. Time moves on though. Joe did not consider himself for greatness. He thought of Joe Jr., John, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert, Jean, and Ted as his greatness. Just as Daniel and Annette Graubart are proud of Dina, Glen, Beth, Ron, Adam, Rachel, Emma, Ben, and Ruby. How does this all go back to Ki Teitzei? L'Dor V'Dor. From generation to generation.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Once God explains the Jewish Judicial System, He says that the Promised Land will have a king chosen by the Lord. Modern Jews and the modern American world do not even think twice about having a king. Was the author who wrote this a Medieval man? Was it changed by someone from the Dark Ages? The world will never know who wrote each Torah parsha and how it has changed from generation.
Traditionally, we think of three Israeli kings. Saul, David, and Solomon. (Ahasuerus near Purim time, but he was not Israeli). Well to quote the children, "first is the worst, second is the best, third is one with the treasure chest". Saul was blessed by the Lord as long as he obeyed Him. Saul's time of royalty was out shined by David one of Israel's great generals. Jealously loomed Saul to try kill to David. The jig was up and David was king. David led Israel's armies with pride and started the book of Psalms. Solomon had the treasure chest of knowledge, wisest of the kings, and built the First Great Temple of Jerusalem. There were many other kings, but these are the names we remember.
Getting back to the parsha, God wanted his people to have a king. God does everything for a purpose. Maybe God wanted the people to discover democracy. My theory is God just wanted the Temple of Jerusalem built and could not force his people into slavery to build it. The purpose of Saul was to appoint David general, the purpose of David was to have Solomon as a son in Israel's golden age, the purpose of wise Solomon was to build the Temple. God does everything for a reason.
Friday, August 07, 2009
"The graven images of their gods you will burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is upon them and take it for yourself, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord, your God." (Deuteronomy 7:25)
I feel you can take this two ways. The direct approach where a Jew should never covet or worship another god. Another view is that this is a metaphor. My belief is it is a metaphor. I think it used to be a law, but you if you live in the United States you are not surrounded by the Romans, the Greeks, and the Egyptians worshiping idols.
I will take this verse piece by piece. The first part where, "The graven images of their gods will you burn with fire". That could mean that you can not go against your good judgement. Your common sense is extinguishes that fire within you, but if you go and do something stupid that fire burns everything within you. This is just a silly coincidence, but if you smoke your lungs burn and look like charcoal. My other example is how stupid Anakin was in Star Wars. When he became Darth Vader, he literally burned up in fire.
The second part, "You shall not covet the silver or gold that is upon them and take it for yourself" is telling no matter how fun or daring it looks do not covet the bad boy. We should not sigh when we see our neighbors drive up in their porches. If we complimented instead of envied or tried to what we envy for ourselves the world would be a better place. Some of the cruelest people in our history were simply greedy from their envy. Bernie Madoff probably grew up seeing the wealthy and envied them enough to scam the innocent.
Finally, "Lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord, your God." God is not going to accept you after you burned in the fires of envy. You do not want the burnt steak. You want the rare steak. Just like people want the "rare people" who do the right thing, but why do good-doers have to be rare? Anyone can do just as much good as bad.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Deuteronomy really did review this week. The ten commandments were right in the middle of this parsha. What I liked here is that God did not mention what happened in the desert. He did not mention how the fathers and grandfathers of the people before Him had betrayed God, but God mentions the Ten Commandments and all of the sudden the V'ahavta comes up.
The V'ahavta is a prayer that begins with the Sh'ma and ode to how there is only one God in the heavens and the Earth. Is it just a coincidence the prayer is right after God talks about the Ten Commandments. If you remember the Israelites made a fake idol because they were bored of having no Moses when he was getting the Ten Commandments.
As for Moses resigning, it makes me think of baseball. We all do bad things, but not all of us deceive our people. David Ortiz said in February any person that took steroids should be abolished from baseball. Yesterday, a report was released that David Ortiz took steroids himself. Should the A-Rods, the Manny's and the Papi's of the world get to go into the Hall of Fame? Is the Hall of Fame, the chance of being remember for eternity, their Promised Land?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Since they do not trust God, they send in a few men to inspect the Promised Land. Obviously, if it was promised it will not be too shabby. God gets very upset at his people. He gives them the freedom and they do not trust him. Sometimes as we experience the hardships of life like the Israelites we lose our sense of trust too.
Only a few of the grown Israelites made it into Israel. The innocent children also make it.
When bad things happen to us, we lose our faith. I have a story. One of the days after my sister's bat mitzvah I asked God a favor. I asked him to keep all four of my grandparents healthy for my bar mitzvah three years later. At times things have been shaky, but God-willing they can all come in good health. What I do when I lose trust with God which does happen when I am upset, is simply say I am sorry. If we all just trusted everyone around us including God, we would feel better. If we all were honesty to everyone around us including God, we would trust each other more. Honesty and trust go hand in hand.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Matot-This parsha focused on one thing, how valuble honesty is. It says if a woman breaks her vow while in her father's household and her father has no objection, the father continues to trust the woman. If her father has objection no promises will be trusted again. Does how honest we are depend on our parents? According to the Torah, Honest Abe's dad is the guy that had an objection and Bernie Madoff's dad is the one that let it go.
With honesty comes loyalty. People wonder why God made the Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years. Loyalty. The Israelites did nothing wrong in Egypt, but God felt after being in the desert for a year or two his people had betrayed him. When we leave our mothers and fathers, do we betray them? We have no one telling us rules. Rules our parents were strict about. God, our almighty parent, granted us freedom. Did we betray him? We complained and distrusted God's decisions. We even made a golden idol to replace God. God did not let the same people who crossed the Red Sea into the promised land. He let them wander for 40 years instead. In a way, people who have no respect for their parents after they leave and get involved with drugs or other bad things wander for 40 years too.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Balaam refuses to go to Moab, relying on his faith. God told him not to go. Balaam's faith is so strong that he would not go for a house full of gold and silver riches as Balak promised. I do not think I would go for a house full of gold and silver riches either.
Then, God tells Balaam he may go. Balak orders Balaam to build seven alters and sacrifice seven rams and seven bulls. Each time God blesses the Israelites, he does not curse them at all. Balak tells Balaam to go home and that he will never get the riches which would have been rewarded to him. Balaam replies that he could not accept the riches unless God would let him. Balaam also tells of the destruction of the city of Ir. As usual,God and faith will conquer any sword.
Think back to the Holocaust. Many people ask how God could of let a thing like that happen. I reply he let it end. One reason I think is because of faith. The Jews of Europe celebrated Shabbat and remained Jewish as much as they could. In turn, the Jews were liberated. The Allies conquered Hitler. Faith conquered the Balak.
Friday, June 26, 2009
The first Israelite was Miriam. She was Moses's sister and helped him figure out he was a Jew. She made sure he was safe when they sent him down the river. The people were very sad to see her go. I would compare Farrah to Miriam because they were both not healthy. Farrah was going to die of cancer and Miriam was not the youngest Israelites in the desert. Miriam was the first death and made people quite upset.
I do not know if this is still true about people, but the Israelites were quite cranky after her death. Does the human spirit know how to cope with death? Maybe the passing just opened their eyes because the Israelites realized they are in the desert. They will not live forever. They ordered Moses ands Aaron speed the process up. They did not believe in God.
As a punishment for their loss of faith, God would not allow the brothers to enter the promised land. This got me thinking, do we die from loss of our faith? Faith is always a priority for me.
I would compare Aaron to Michael Jackson because it was a little more spontaneous. Aaron was a bigger name to. Michael Jackson was the king of pop, Aaron spoke for Moses when he faced Pharaoh.
We all deal with death different ways, but however we do it is not the joyous event ever. Whether its an Aaron and a Michael or a Farrah and a Miriam, death is an experience that Judaism or just faith can heal and I think prevent.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Although, there are some things that have changed since these times. Life expectancy was shorter back then. That shouldn't matter as much as it does. The economy may be bad, but I know people who have to work until their seventy just to have a stable retirement. Another change is that ancient Israelites did not have bills. Moses never had an electric bill or an insurance bill. Still, that is not worth twenty years of work. Israelites never paid for college! Aaron never had to think how expensive the ivy league schools were. Inflation also did not exist. There is ONE thing that I find unacceptable about our society.
When the Israelites were in the desert, God did not have celebrities in mind. Actors,athletes, and executives should not be the only ones who could retire by age fifty. God had the teachers in mind. The doctors, the pharmacist, and the single mom!
The reason that this economy is unstable like it is because we worship celebrities. You do not see six-year old talking about our founding fathers. Teenagers do not go home and turn on PBS. It is not a crime to watch television or play sports, but this is what I mean.
If a twelve year old met Derek Jeter, he would cherish that moment forever and RESPECT the athlete. The same child would be bored with a teacher on his first day of classes. It may not be that extreme, but are the baseball player and educator not both adults? All adults should get the same respect. Right?
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We start in the desert. Israelites are traveling for only the second out of forty years. We now have all the laws written and all at Sinai is the past. God commands Moses to take a census of the sons of Israel, but not the Levites. Levites are the nobles of the Israelites.
Why is it that the under 2000 Levites rule of the 74,000 Judahs. Is that right? Slaves outnumbered the Spartans in ancient Greece. 2% of Ancient Rome was the Roman Elite. We don't call it Levitism. It is Judaism.
One thing I like about Ancient Israel is money does not rule everything. The sign of nobility in Biblical times was to guard the tabernacle. Similar to my beliefs, the Israelites believed that there was nothing more important than being true to God. You could be the sneakiest, dealer on Wall Street, but getting that money leaves out time for family and religion. No Torah or Avodah and the world can not stand. This dealer definitely had to do something in order to get his money and from what I know it is not always fair in the finacial world. Torah, Avodah, and Gemulit Hasadim (Torah, Worship, and Acts of Love and Kindness) is what the world stands on. To conclude, we may be in a cracked economy, but when you lose faith (this includes being with your family) we live in a cracked world. We hold the puzzle pieces.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Behar- In this portion, God finishes his decree of laws. The people are just about in Israel when God says this phrase and I love it. It sums up Judaism.
" You shall not make idols for yourselves, nor shall you set up a statue or a monument for yourselves. And in your land you shall not place a pavement stone on which to prostrate yourselves, for I am the Lord, your God. You shall keep My Sabbaths and fear My Sanctuary. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 261-26:2)
This basically says the Sh'ma which is one of Judaism's most beloved prayers and that said you have one God. This says you can not have other gods. If there is one thing I can say about Judaism it is this. The principal of one God. We may have gotten into trouble (Story of Purim http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645995/jewish/The-Basic-Purim-Story.htm) Basically, we will not bow even to the highest king. A Jew's highest king is God. My follow up is "Why does God put the second commandment as we enter ancient Israel?"
Bechukotai- In this portion, God says the consequences of not following his laws. Throughout, Leviticus each law had its own consequence, but the overall laws have a group of consequences. Now, I do not follow every Jewish law, but as a good Jew I try to follow some. I have never killed, but also I have tried to ease my way into Kosher. Being Kosher are the Jewish food laws. I have given up shrimp because I don't like them. Even though I am on the tip of the iceberg, it feels fantastic to following a law.
I was reading the portion this week, and some consequences seemed familiar. Although, I know what they are I am not going to say them, but anyone can read the parsha here
You can tell me the ways Jews have been punished that are in Leviticus parsha Bechukotai. Leviticus does not end like this though. It ends with these are the laws Moses was given on Mount Sinai. That is where the book of Numbers comes up.
Both-I think these go together because God gives you laws and then gives you the punishments. Cause and effect.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
My parents always tell me never do something I will not put my mind to. Honestly, I give Orthodox Jews a TON of credit because I could never live that life style. I could never put my mind to it to be that strict and somewhere in my strict lifestyle I would stop enjoying Shabbat. I am not trying to say Orthodox Jews are too strict, but too strict for me. My parents also always tell me stick with your comfort level.
I do think it is important to celebrate Shabbat. I know that when you have fun with Shabbat you do it more often. I enjoy Shabbat and take it as a holiday. Let me know your opinion!
Friday, April 24, 2009
This past week I have been sick as a dog and although it was just a cold in ancient Israel I could be kicked out if it went on for weeks and weeks and weeks. Do you think that is fair?]
Friday, April 17, 2009
I have been dying to know what it really means to be kosher! Personally, I know nothing about Leviticus and it hit me like a bus that these are the Kashrut or laws for being Kosher. I never knew they came from sacrifice. Repeating last week's interpretation, why do we keep the Kashrut laws, but never think of sacrifice?
I'm not going to say the Kashrut laws, but at the end of each it says the same thing. "He is unclean unto you". God never says you will be punished for breaking Kashrut. Just that you are unclean. Not being Kosher is not sin just unsanitary. God will punish you if you stay unclean, but not if you become unclean. The Kashrut were all designed with hygiene in mind. I recommend being Kosher because it shows your pride and respect towards God and his laws. My opposing point is today NO RESTAURANT IS KOHSER UNLESS THEY ARE MEANT FOR THE STRICTLY KOSHER. To conclude, do orthodox kids go to a kosher cafeteria in school? Do they have to go to a Jewish school because a cafeteria is not kosher? I can tell you my cafeteria is not Kosher.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Wow 2000! It's a new millennium. I am Zvi and I never really cared about writing stories of my life, but its January 1, 2000 and now that I am turning 77 years old I thought I might as well tell you a little something. Where do I start anyways? I don't want to give you the talk. Whoa there, hold your horses! I guess I'll start on my seventh birthday……………..
The year is 1935. People crowd in Warsaw to greet the New Year. Being almost seven, I was as excited as lion about to catch its prey. The last few menorahs were coming out of the windows. I watch the clock strike twelve and I know that today is my birthday. I'm seven now and no one in the world could change that. As always my family sings happy birthday and we go to sleep. This ritual was my favorite. That is, until those despicable people
When I was eleven, I was naïve. I felt tall and proud to be a man. I was working in my dad's bakery. I got up each morning at 5, ready to bake the fresh breads. During this quiet time in the city, I would enjoy watching beautiful sunrises. There was no hustle, no bustle, and it seemed that all tranquility met in that bakery. One day something peculiar happened, something very peculiar.
I thought I was tall until I saw this man. He stood firmly still. He had gigantic black boots and sleek black hair. His uniform was mustard and he never looked down at me. This man stood forward glaring at the dark horizon. Behind him were trucks and tanks. Fully loaded, I'm guessing. Soldier after soldier trudged onto the city streets. My mother pulled me away. In the house, my father was home from the bakery boarding the windows. My mother was rushing hiding prayer books, Haggadahs, and our menorahs. I queried, "Father what's going on?"
"Son, quiet!" he gave me shout and a glare." Looking at my mother with puppy dog eyes he quietly whispered, "They're coming." Glancing back at me he began to shout again, "Now I'm going to tell you to do this and nothing other than this. Whatever they ask you just say you cannot remember or you're not sure. And WHATEVER you do never reveal you are Jewish. Just say you do not know your religion," my father snarled.
"THAT'S ENOUGH!!!" my father screamed to the skies.
They burst down the door without even breaking a sweat and had some weird device. They pushed my father to the ground and measured his nose then the five men disappeared into the pouring rain.
All of us looked confused. At first, we all just sat there taking deep breaths. I didn't though. I looked outside and listened.
It was horrible. Horrible I say! Rain pouring down against the roof. People screaming rang throughout the city. Doors of houses were being charged down. The evening was August 31, 1939; the absolute worst evening of my life.
My father went to work the next morning along with myself and we were shocked. Each and every window was cracked down the middle. Not a single grain of yeast was to be found. Worst of all, no money was left in the locked cash register.
My friends Jim Smith and John Brown were nowhere to be found in the city. Their house was empty of all their belongings. Both of them were quite tall and had blonde hair and blue eyes. It wasn't just them. It was family after family; all who I knew for a fact weren't Jewish.
Nazi planes were always flying around. Sometimes they would fire a missile or two. Many people left. I wanted to get out of there as quick as possible, but my mother could not bear leaving the homeland. On Saturday of that week my father was questioned and as he described it harassed for wearing a tallis.
September was ok, but by October all was lost. My dad could not pay to repair the bakery windows and he had to close down until further notice. I was bummed not to smell the fresh breads, but unfortunately there were laws that our friends could not buy our baked goods.
Warsaw was blocked by a Nazi soldier wall. All with guns pointed at us. My father and I went into town quite surprised. At one point, a boy sold us armbands that had a Star of David on them. He claimed it was a decree. I did not understand this concept, but I afraid of my father being grumpier each day. My dad had to purchase one for my mom too. My brother Avi got a pass since he's only one year old. I did not because I was eleven.
Then, we saw our bank accounts sink down to the lowest valley. All our funds by law were held to 250 zlotys a week which I think is about $74 in US. On top of all this, I think a caught a glance of the Nazis building a wall, but I never saw any progress all winter. Worse was up ahead.
Soon, Nazi soldiers took away my father's bakery along with all the stores next to it. All of the owners were Jewish. Then, a week later they gave them to new owners. My dad really wanted work for we were a starving family, but the government never permitted it.
On December 1, the few Jewish stores that were not bought by Nazis had a Star of David on the window. Law after law was coming out. All of them were ridiculous and all anti-Semitic. We couldn't even take the train anymore. Days of torture went on and our house got messier. My parents were too miserable to cook or clean.
Nobody remembered to sing happy birthday to me this year. This was my favorite ritual.
When March rolled along, some more peculiar acts were presented to the Jews. Just about a month ago, wall construction began again, but this time it was really taking off. Then, people in gangs came along. Everyone in a gang wore the same uniform. They waved a Nazi flag and then out of the blue just started attacking people. One gang member was Braun. Braun moved here a very long time ago from Germany. He had blonde hair and blue eyes much taller than me. We went to pre-school together. We were practically best friends. That is until he killed my mother. Massacres happened in the village just after Purim. Authorities tried to stop it, but they had liar's eyes.
People were getting depressed although I was try to see some light at the end of the tunnel! My dad would just sit home all day crying over my mom. I called ZTOS who helped me through tough times. The Jewish Mutual Care helped families like mine. They gave us soups, breads, and pretty much anything to survive over the summer.
Yom Kippur came quicker than I thought it would. People died for God fasting. They passed out from starvation. Warsaw's Jews no longer had a chief rabbi. The ones who were left standing were told hideous news. Remember the wall I telling you about? That wall was going to replace soldiers by trapping us in this miserable place. The ghetto trapped us by barbed wire in November of 1940.
People started dropping like flies. Friends, congregants, teachers, and relatives were left in the street to die. Laying there stripped of everything they owned. Some died of starvation. Although, some like my father died of broken heart suicides. My brother and I were all alone to take on the world.
As criminal as it may be, I smuggled things into the ghetto. I had to. They only gave us Jews 184 calories a day. I had more than that this morning with eggs and a glass of milk. I needed more. I was thin as a rail, but I didn't care I gave my brother as much as he needed. Avi was the hope of the future.
Judaism by the way was fading quickly in Warsaw. Prayer services were banned and any speck of culture left was underground.
I fell asleep one Tuesday afternoon. I was starving. I woke up the next morning my brother was dead. I thought I might have killed my brother, and eventually I couldn't take it anymore.
I was on the verge of depression. I was going to become my father though. I was motivated to be free. It was midnight.
I dressed in all black and went to the fence like I was going to do my smuggling ritual for food. Instead, this time I just ran. I was free of Nazi oppression for this moment.
A month in the woods. I carried one thing. That one thing was my brother. I was destined to bury him in America. Have his eyes see the land of the freedom. Where else can a Jew can be a Jew! I lived off of the land eating berries and leaves. I think I had even more food than what they would have given me in the ghetto.
Soon enough, I'd say about one day at noon I reached the coast of Holland. I had heard of horrible tales of being stranded here for financial reasons. I certainly couldn't stay here and I certainly couldn't pay to board that boat. I boarded a cargo ship heading to New York City and when were clearly off shore I introduce myself.
At first, they were a little hostile towards me, but as I told them my story they changed. I told of my first night and of my family and finally I showed my brother. They said they would go right into to Ellis Island. I smiled as we travelled the Atlantic Ocean.
After that, life got better than ever. I went through Ellis Island. I became not Zvi Goldenstein, but Zachary Goldfarb. Times were tough. Stories of death camps floated around, but I was adopted into a loving family. They taught me to speak English and on January 1st, 1942, I was sung "Happy Birthday" to again. I was free, I was free to be a Jew!
Works Cited (Order of Used Most)
- "Warsaw Ghetto." Aktion Reinhard Camps. 9 Mar 2009
- "Life in the Ghettos." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 5 Feb 2009 <http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/lghetto.htm>.
- "The Warsaw Ghetto." Warsaw-Life. 5 Feb 2009 <http://www.warsaw-life.com/poland/warsaw-ghetto>.
- "Introduction." Dignity and Defiance The Confrontation of Life and Death In The Warsaw Ghetto. 5 Feb 2009 <http://motlc.wiesenthal.com/site/pp.aspx?c=ivKVLcMVIsG&b=476119>.
Monday, April 06, 2009
NOTE: This week is Passover so there is no parsha. You can start reading next week's on this website: http://www.chabad.org/parshah/torahreading_cdo/aid/15576
Shemini Verses 9:1-11:47
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.”
If we really did take these literally this is what they'd say and my interpretation
1) You shall have no other gods but the Lord- I think this doesn't even mean acting as person who is polytheistic.
2) You can't make any statues- I think this is good an bad because without statues Michelangelo would be almost nowhere. It says God is a jealous God although God teaches us not to be jealous.
3) Never swear in God's name-In my opinion you should never swear and say Oh My Goodly Goodness( You know what I mean) too much.
4) Keep Shabbat- I think this means you do not truely have to celebrate Shabbat, but know what it is know that it is holy and if you can observe it moderately.
5) Respect Ma and Pa- I try to respect my mom and dad as much as possible and if you are older than me and make fun of your parents you should feel a little guilty.
6)Don't Kill- Soldiers? This one confuses me. Does war count? In my opinion, yes because I HATE WAR!
7)Don't Cheat- Don't Cheat EVER! If you are going to cheat don't get married.
8)Don't Steal- Even if its a joke just don't steal. There are kids in my school who steal from teachers! That's messed up.
9) Don't Betray People?- Let me know if that is accurate.
10)Do not feel envy- Here is a saying I made up- "Envy is green as stepped on grass and later rotting trees (both are not great positions), be as bright as the sun.
P.S. I was tired so gramar may be off.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Oh wait, I do! God shows himself all throughout history. I'll give you the easiest example. Ancient Civilizations! We can learn a lot from them. Mesopotamia was polytheistic and it doesn't exist. Israel- monotheistic, Jews exist. Egypt was polytheistic and its religion doesn't exist today. Israel-monotheistic, Jews exist. Greece was polytheistic and its religion is gone. Israel monotheistic, Jews exist. Rome originally was polytheistic and that religion has faded away. Israel-monotheistic, Jews exist. Notice a pattern. If that is still NOT enough, I have one more trick up my sleeve. In Ancient Egypt, a pharaoh of the name Akhnaten tried to change Egypt's religion to monotheism. To me, that is God trying to reach out to that civilization. To me when something good happens to me I thank God and if something bad happens I know God had that happen for a reason. Some people don't believe in God and I just don't get that.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Welcome and thank you for your continuing participaion. I would like to note for anybody that owns a Tanak or Bible you can intepret the parsha too! I am excited to dive in to Exodus and without further instruction here is my interpetation of just a small chunk of the parsha that really popped out at me.
People say ignorance is bliss. That makes my eyebrow curl up. According to dictionary.com ignorance is the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc. My question to you is how is that bliss? Because of ignorance the Holocaust, because of ignorance the World Trade Center towers went down, because of ignorance the Spanish Inquisition, and because of ignorance Gaza. How is that bliss? Every terror, every genocide, every war, every murder, every shooting…..ignorance. How is that bliss? This relates back into the parsha this week because of ignorance the Egyptian pharaoh Raamses II thought the Israelites would over power the Egyptians and so he threw every Hebrew boy born after his order in the Nile River. (The Hebrew midwives did not follow his original orders of just killing them…go figure?) Because of ignorance. How is this bliss?
Saturday, January 10, 2009
January 10, 2009: Va’yechi 47:28-50:26
This week’s parsha to me says a very special message. This message tells me something about Judaism. To me Judaism means everything. In this part of the Torah to conclude Genesis Jacob unfortunately passes on. His sons aid him on his way out and it is obviously pointed out how important it was for Jacob to be buried in the land of Canaan in the Ephron of the Hittite with Judaism’s fathers Abraham and Isaac. Joseph however is buried in Egypt. I think this is a sign of the times ahead. The first era of Judaism has come to an end and no longer has Joseph passed on a passion like Jacob, Isaac, or Abraham. Due to this lack of passion Judaism and its people do not return to Canaan and are enforced into slavery in the land of Egypt. If I was the fourteenth son of Jacob, I would live in his shoes long after his death, reminding my followers of how great it is to be a Jew.” The thing I ask you about this Torah parsha, are you a fourteenth son of Jacob or a Joseph?