Sunday, 18 February 2018

The "Hidden Jews" of the East

Many of us have heard about the fate of the Spanish Jews who lived under the Inquisition, the Anoosim. Few, however, myself included, have heard about the Mashadi Jews in Iran who had to endure a similar fate.

A few days ago, I met with a descendant of one such family, Kami Izhakov. This is their story.

Their story begins in 1734 when a king by the name of Nadir Shah, a tolerant man, sought to fortify the northeastern border of then Persia. Towards that end, he brought Jews and resettled them in Mashad, in the District of Khorasan. It is the second holiest city to Shiite Muslims and was, therefore, forbidden to Jews.

The city of Mashad is situated on the silk road was renowned for commerce, mainly leather and fur. The King’s decision paid off. Soon after the resettlement of Jews there, prosperity followed. Their business sagacity coupled with their international connection soon helped the Jews turn the city into a vibrant business center. Even the Muslim residents who had treated the Jews contemptuously and had shunned them socially, soon enjoyed their contributions. Relationships between the two communities improved and both enjoyed the wealth and economic growth.

Unfortunately, after the assassination of the king twelve years later, Muslims began to persecute the Jews and make their lives unbearable.

According to some accounts, matters got worse following an incident which occurred in 1838. A Jewish woman who suffered from leprosy, sought the advice of her doctor. The latter suggested that she uses the blood of a dog to treat her ailment. The woman hired a young Muslim boy to kill a dog for her. The two had a scuffle and the young boy announced to the Muslims that Jews killed a dog during the holy fast day for the revered Ali whom the Shi’a Muslims consider the First Imam appointed by Muhammad.

That incident triggered the resurgence of Muslim hatred to Jews. On that day, crowds of Muslims burst into Jewish homes, pillaged, burned houses and the synagogue and murdered 32 Jews. The Jewish community at that time counted 400 people.
From that day on, the Jews of Mashad, endured a similar fate to the Jews of Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition. They became, outwardly, “Jadid Al Islam,” the New Muslims sadly assumed the role of leading a double life, one Jewish, one Muslim. It was reflected in their names, customs and practices.

The clever and pious Jews of Mashad, however, managed to remain loyal to their Judaism by using various means to deceive their Muslim oppressors. They prayed in cellars. They stationed a woman at the entrance to their buildings which stopped the entry of Muslims. They opened their shops on Shabbat but never conducted business. A child would generally be put in charge of the store and instructed to tell the customers that the owner was gone or that the merchandise they wish to purchase was not available.

Keeping Kashrut on Pesach was a more difficult endeavor. Yet, the Jews of Mashad never failed that either. They baked their own Matzah and continued to buy bread which they eventually shared among the poor residents of the city. Throughout their history, the Jews of Mashad postponed the Pesach celebration by about one week due to persecution and intimidation by their Muslim neighbours.

Kosher slaughter, another important tenet of our Jewish culture, as difficult as it was at times, was also adhered to by these Jews. On one occasion, a ritual slaughterer was caught, tortured and eventually killed for performing this important Mitzvah. 

Their double life was also reflected in the way, Mashad Jews attended houses of worship. Prior to entry into the mosque, they would ask forgiveness from G-d. On Friday mornings, they would go to the Mosque and in the evening observe the Shabbat rituals at home, in secrecy of course.

Under pressure applied by their Muslim authorities, many Jews were also forced to perform the custom of the Haj. Those that partook in the pilgrimage to Mecca, were honoured immensely. Funnily enough, they were the leaders of the Jewish community and were the most staunch and devout believers.

One of them was Kami’s grandfather.

Born in 1883 under the Name Rachamim Ben Yitzchak, he adopted the Muslim name Abdul Karim Izhakov. As one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Mashad, Rachamim was very influential. He was a successful businessman who travelled much and was there fore able to maintin valuable contacts with Jewish communities elsewhere. That important fact helped him smuggle a Sefer Torah to Mashad from Russia, a Sefer Torah that is proudly housed in a synagogue in Ramat Hasharon.

Moreover, when Rachamim made the Haj pilgrimage, he stopped in Eretz Yisrael and bought a piece of land in Yerushalayim. He was determined to ensure that he strikes Jewish Zionist roots for his future generatiosn here in Eretz Yisrael.

During WWII when Jewish children, later known as The Teheran Children, made their way out of the inferno in Poland on their way to Eretz Yisrael, it was Rachamim and his fellow Jewish community members that hosted them and helped ease the trauma that those kids had undergone.

With the rise to power of Riza Shah, the father of the late Shah, life became easier for the Jews of Mashahd. About 2000 of them realized their dream to move to Eretz Yisrael.

It is accounts like this one that  make my Jewish essence overflow with pride and awe echoing over and over again the ancient bliss, “Am Yisrael Chai!”

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Beware of Translations Bearing Wrong Meanings

Those who know me, have by now come to realize that for me, translations, or rather mis-translations, of the Tanach from Hebrew to Greek first and then to other languages, are one of the greatest injustices committed against the Jewish people. Translations, more than often fail to reflect one very important underlying factor in its equation, the culture that is endemic to the language which is translated.

That is especially the pattern with the endeavours to translate the Tanach.

Make no mistake, I am all for educating and enriching as many as possible about different cultures, including our own. Not, however, when there seems to be primary agendas and biases woven into it.

I have written, and more than once, about the breaches and their ensuing perversion, unintentional or otherwise, that resulted from such practices. Any translation, by default, is bound to include any underlying personal and cultural fabrics of the translator, two elements that could affect the world views and understanding of a foreign concept.

Last week, I saw yet another example of it which triggered the rebellion of my Jewish pride and sense of justice. It violated a very sacred and entrenched notion in our Hebrew – Jewish culture.

It happened when I saw the translation of רוח הקודש (Ruach Hakodesh) as “The Holy Spirit.”
A brief visit to the Concordance (a publication which cites all words that appear in the Tanach) reveals that the term Ruach Hakodesh, which in Hebrew means “The Spirit of Holiness” never appears in the Hebrew Tanach. What does appear, and more than once, is “Ruach Elohim,” the “Spirit of G-d.”

First, we see it in Genesis 1:2 “וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם” (and the Spirit of G-d hovers above the water).
Later, we see it in Bresheet 14:38 when Pharaoh seeks a person who has the “Spirit of G-d” in them to help solve his dreams. “הֲנִמְצָא כָזֶה--אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים בּוֹ (Bresheet 41:38).

Another instance where we come across the use of the term is in Exodus, וָאֲמַלֵּא אֹתוֹ, רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, בְּחָכְמָה וּבִתְבוּנָה וּבְדַעַת, וּבְכָל-מְלָאכָה
(Shemot 31:3) where G-d is looking for an architect for the Mishkan (dwelling). This person will be filled with the Spirit of G-d, wisdom, understanding and knowledge, wisdom of the heart.

Next we see the notion in the Book of Numbers “ וַתְּהִי עָלָיו, רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים.
(Bamidbar 24:2). Here it is mentioned in connection with Bilaam who was sent to curse Am Yisrael and ended up blessing them once the Spirit of G-d is upon him.

There are many other citations on the concept throughout the Tanach but I trust the reader has gotten the essence of it. In all mentions of the concept, its underlying attribute is the inspiring means of communication between G-d and mankind just as its literal translation connotes, “The Spirit of Holiness” which G-d has kindly bestowed on some human.

In the literature of Chaza”l, our Jewish sages, the term “Ruach Hakodesh” refers only to the gift of prophecy. Moreover, it is considered the lowest level in the hierarchy of prophecy. What follows from their writings is that “Ruach Hakodesh” (The Spirit of Holiness) is inside each one of us.The Talmud goes further to say that  “משמתו נביאים האחרונים חגי זכריה ומלאכי נסתלקה רוח הקדש מישראל” (with the passing away of the last prophets, Hagai, Zechariah and Malachi, so has Ruach Hakodesh, Yoma 9:2).

Unlike the Jewish “Spirit of Holiness,” Christianity mistranslated Ruach Hakoesh as “The Holy Spirit,” one of the components of its trinitarian belief system. It is a concept that is utterly foreign to Judaism and has no relations to it whatsoever.

As I showed above, any interpretation that the “Holy Spirit” equals the “Father and the Son” is based on interpretation of verses in the New Testament and any attempt to argue their case or support them by passages from the Tanach are futile.

Wish to understand the Tanach and what it stands for? Learn Hebrew and avoid falling prey to erroneous mis-translations, innocuous or dis-translations cushioned with some underlying theological agendas.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Torah and Haftarah linked through the Wisdom of our Sages

Anyone who is slightly familiar with Torah (The first 5 books of Moses) knows that it is divided into 52 weekly portions. These portions are read on Shabbat at the synagogue.

However, it is not the only part that is read from the Tanach on Shabbat. Jews also read a section from the other part of the Tanach, namely, the prophets, after the weekly reading of the Torah portion. It is called Haftarah. Haftarah is also read on certain holidays. We should add that only selected passages from the Prophets make it into the Haftarah.

The word, ,הפטרה Haftarah, comes from the Hebrew root פטר, meaning “take leave,” “conclude.” The practice of reading the Haftarah probably started by 100 C.E. although the Talmud mentions that a Haftarah was read in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus. Hyrcanus lived in 70 C.E.

The Haftarah section was selected because it relates to the Torah portion of that week. In many cases, the connection is obvious. In others, it is hinted and is contingent on a word or two. It is also important to note that, unlike the Torah, which is read from a handwritten scroll, the Haftarah is read from a printed book.

What were the origins of the practice of reading the Haftarah?

There are a few explanations to it. The most common one, however, is the one suggested by Chabad and other scholars.

According to them, it started around 168 B.C.E. when the Jews were under the rule of the infamous king Antiochus IV (the one we know from the Channukah story). Antiochus decreed that Jews were not allowed to observe Shabbat, perform Brit Milah (circumcision) and study the Torah which, as stated above, includes only the five Books of Moses. No such decree was issued against reading the other parts of the Tanach.

Jewish brilliance and an unrelenting urge for survival by our Sages instituted that a section of the prophets be read instead, a section that included an idea which was related to the Torah portion of that week.

The practice, evidently, resumed even after it became safe again to read from the Torah.

 In his article dwelling on this subject, Rabbi Peretz Rodman teaches us that “The Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 29b) suggests that a Haftarah should “resemble” the Torah reading of the day. The Haftarah is, in fact, usually linked to a theme or genre from the Torah reading. For example, on the week when the Torah reading features the song sung by the Yisraelites when they witnessed the parting of the Red Sea at the exodus (Exodus 15), the Haftarah includes the Song of Deborah sung in response to the military victory of the Chieftain Deborah and her commanding general, Barak (Judges 5).” Rabbi Rodman brings other examples as support to his claim.

What such a practice boils down to is that Torah is more than the words on parchment.  Torah means “instruction”. And in their wisdom, our Sages, made an addition, the Haftarah, to illuminate, the “instruction”, so that we would better understand the lessons.

While our Sages at one point in history, seeing Jews scattered and being concerned about the consequences of dispersion, allowed the translation of the Torah, they made it very clear that the only authentic version was the Hebrew language one.  That tradition was extended to the writings of the Prophets and the rest of the core library of Jewish tradition.  They understood how translation under the influence of cultural environments could lead to misinterpretation, dilution and distortions of meaning.  The role of the Haftorah, then, became more important as a tool to reinforce the lessons of Torah, to guide our people to seek and grasp the original meaning, important for Jewish cultural survival.

Today, we appreciate the validity of the somewhat prophetic concern of our sages.  We see other religions taking our Jewish literature, translating it, losing up to 30% of meaning, interpreting it in terms of their own cultural outlooks and beliefs, distorting it in doing so. They attach their own source from THEIR gospel to “compliment” the Torah and its related Haftarah, as one can clearly see here,, even though their citation has nothing to do with the original sources.

Furthermore, and that is the real issue, we see Jews accepting these non-Hebraic and non-Jewish interpretations as if they are authentic, in some faulty almost desperate effort to find commonality, to see and define Judaism and Jewish culture in terms of currently fashionable cultural trends. Zionism, for instance, becomes, 20th Century Jewish national liberation and no longer a 3400-year yearning for what is uniquely Jewish while Judaism itself becomes just another belief, another “church of the land” sharing some ill-defined universal values, rather than a special, unique, humane, ethic culture. 

So, as our Sages knew, perhaps it is time to go back to the lessons, to the instruction, to the Torah and the Haftarah, reinforcing one another,  teaching us, in the original language, what we are, what we need to be, to be the “light unto the nations”  in a world that seems to be losing all moral standards.

This article was written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind

Saturday, 20 January 2018

That Land, That Place, That World

There is a Hebrew poem by a well-known Jewish poet, Shaul Tschernichovsky. It is called אומרים ישנה ארץ"” (They say there is a Land). In it, Tschernichovsky describes a Land bathed in sunshine, A Land where all that each hoped and wished for will come true (“ארץ אשר בה יתקיים כל אשר איש קיווה”). Though, he never mentions that Land by name and only hints at it, some of us, Jews, know which Land it is. That Land is Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Yisrael.

This poem which I read last weekend prompted the recollection of two very popular English songs. The first, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The second, “What a wonderful world.”

It is no secret that the first song, written in 1939 by two Jews, Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen has long been associated with Eretz Yisrael. According to Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg, “In writing it, the two men reached deep into their immigrant Jewish consciousness – framed by the pogroms of the past and the Holocaust about to happen – and wrote an unforgettable melody set to near prophetic words. Read the lyrics in their Jewish context and suddenly the words are no longer about wizards and Oz, Jewish survival.

Somewhere over the rainbow/Way up high/ There’s a land that I heart of/ Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow/ Skies are blue/And the dreams that you dare to dream/Really do come through
Someday I’ll wish upon a star/ And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops/ Away above the chimney tops/ That’s where you’ll find me.”

As a person who, like Harburg and Arlen, was reared and brought up in the Yiddish language and culture, I heard and sang several Yiddish lullabies about the yearning to That Place, Eretz Yisrael, the Land where my ancestors ached to live in for a very long time.  Harburg echoes similar sentiments to those of Tshernichovsky when he describes that Place where, “Skies are blue [and] the dreams that you dare to dream Really do come through.”

Walking the streets of my city, Herzliya, here in Eretz Yisrael, has brought about the reminiscence of a third, more recent and well-known song, “What a wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

Similarly to Armstrong, when I look around me here in Eretz Yisrael, “I see trees of green, red roses too,” in a place that once, not too long ago, was barren and deserted. As I raise my eyes I see the same “blue skies” that Armstrong is talking about.

Like him, I look at the faces “of people passing by, I see friends shaking hands singing ‘How do you do?’” Those who live here know that in a place like Yisrael, where people are bound by the same faith, same fate and same history, where people share a great love for the Land and similar experiences, one almost always comes across familiar faces of family members, friends or mere acquaintances.

Then, of course, there are “the babies,” the ones I hear “cry,” laugh or see smile, the precious future of our People, each a miracle on their own. “I watch them grow,” knowing that “They’ll learn much more than we’ll know.” I feel blessed living in That World.

True, This Land, This Place, This World, Eretz Yisrael, is far from perfect. For me and for many of my fellow Jews, however, it is as close as a Jew can get to it.

And in the words of Yip Harburg, “That is where you’ll find me!”

Saturday, 13 January 2018

My Kind of Hero

There is a Hebrew saying that reads:
"איזהו גבור? -  הכובש את יצרו"
 (who is a hero? One who controls his urge)

Avi Dorfman is a survivor of a terror attack carried out by Hamas. 
Survivors of terror attacks are all special people who lived to tell their horrific story. 

Avi, however, is unlike many of them. Avi was dealt the blow because he was trying to SAVE a friend, Tal Kain, and he did. Avi overcame a selfish urge to run for cover, an inherent human urge to avoid getting hurt. Instead, he chose to ensure that a friend is removed from harm’s way and himself ended with serious injuries.

You will rarely hear Avi tell his great story of survival. He is a modest young man who has never turned his victimhood into a means of survival let alone promote himself as a hero. In the words of my dear friend Roger Froikin: “today, people who are victims, who merely survive, are being called heroes – and they are not.”

Here is Avi’s story of miraculous survival, a story that has inspired many including my students who heard him speak and many more. Special thanks go to Yael Pedhatzur and to Michal Dar-El for their inspirational comments.

“My story is short & simple (and horrible in the middle). I had a perfect kind of childhood: no bullies, no fears, and I excelled in studying at the toughest levels both in school (math, computer science, pre-med, physics, and more) and by myself. I taught myself photography from the 8th grade (I took the annual yearbook's photos, guitar playing, computerized music (I started and manned the Audio-Visual control board for my school in ceremonies and events!), and computer science at least at a Master's degree level by the time I was 14. I knew all about Israel (biblical & modern history), it's neighbours, and it's technological prowess. I had simply excelled and was technically one rank below Valedictorian (one girl had a higher GPA but lacked these other fields of expertise). I was also aware of terrorism - two buses had exploded, and Prime Minister Rabin was shot right next to my house. I was destined to go to an elite IDF unit.
September 11, 2007 (...Twin Towers, different year...) was our last night at the IDF basic training base in the south. 1:30am. Tzeva Adom (red alert). Rocket alarms sounded. The Islamic Jihad launched a rocket to our area. We were in the 15 second impact range. We all woke and ran for cover. I noticed that a long-time friend of mine, Tal, who did basic training with me, was still sleeping. I nudged him and waited for him outside our tent, looking at the nearby empty tent. I suddenly saw a very quick white flash and heard the words "NOT YET!" ("od lo!"). Then, I had what *seemed to be* 20 seconds of seeing a soup of colors - just red, yellow, orange, black, and white, swirling around.
It was a Qassam rocket. These are the lighter artillery rockets of Hamas, and they are packed with shrapnel to maximize Israeli casualties and deaths (just look at Sderot). 68 soldiers were hit, 9 of whom were injured badly (e.g. lost a leg), and I was the worst: critical injury due to shrapnel. One piece went into the neck (2 millimeters away from killing me), one cut my index finger, and one went through the eye and into the brain. I had seen the previously mentioned colors for 20 seconds before I heard the rocket explode - from a meter away. My brain had managed to squeeze 20 seemingly seconds before the sound had reached me from only a meter away. I blacked out. I was technically awake, but I "woke up" as in regained consciousness while I was standing and telling a word salad to the base doctor (not a word salad as in confusion of words, but literally a salad - panicly saying onions, tomatoes, lemons, and the like). I again blacked out and woke up an estimated 5 weeks later. Keep in mind that I was awake through the entire time - but I was blacked out and cannot and could not know or remember a single thing (e.g. if you asked me "how are you?" then I would answer that I am fine - regardless of the tons of blood flowing out from my head). Both brain hemispheres were hit and my brain's linguistics section was the worst area damaged as far as they could see. The rocket had also removed my sense of smell and made it extremely difficult to cry (I only shed tears twice from that date). I was immediately evacuated (the first one out) to Barzilai Hospital and flown (love 669 (S&R) helicopters!) to Tel HaShomer Hospital - I owe these two places my life, as well as Ichilov Hospital for returning my forehead bones (they were removed so the brain would have the needed space to expand from the injury).
Light brain injuries (e.g. concussions) take 2 months of hospital & rehabilitation stay to officially pass. My injury was critical. I was, at the best-case scenario, supposed to take a whole year to recover and only then start my rehabilitation stay. But, this is assuming the worst-case scenario did not happen and the best case did - there was also a 30% chance that I would die within 10 days.

I thank God for what had happened since the rocket impact. Literally. I now know there is a God - no more assumptions, but facts. I had moments of consciousness, but it was a "different" consciousness - I had experienced actual death (no past memories, no senses, no thoughts, simply seeing black). But, then I woke up one morning around the fifth week (four weeks of hospital stay were done - this was the first week at rehabilitation!). I saw a hospital staying room, with the IDF casualties officer (for that woman!) smiling at me, and my parents sitting nearby. I did not know at the time how I was hit, but my memory and abilities had remarkably stayed (and so I can tell you this), and I actually had perfect control but slightly worse hand-eye coordination because of losing an eye (a white piece of plastic was there so I did not notice anything wrong - despite the fact it did not have an iris or cornea), and I did not notice that my forehead was boneless (because the skin was still there - although I could see the brain's patterns on it). I did not notice that I could not smell (until I came home and immediately made and omelet - I judged their readiness by their smell). I also had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my leg, essentially blocked blood flow in an artery, and that had resulted in me being in a wheelchair for a while. I also slept for almost 16 hours every day. I had various other considered-permanent disabilities (e.g. single colored blindness - I saw green instead of a bright brown shade), but they had passed extremely quickly (miracles!!!). I was given various experimental medications (love Factor Seven enhancement!), and I recovered almost completely within a total of 7 weeks. I was home then, after 7 weeks, walking and talking and seemingly able. Much faster than light brain injuries! I was EXTREMELY happy (especially when I learned of how I was injured). I did not notice it until then, but my long-term memory was intact - but the very short-term memory (e.g. my parents are sitting behind me) was not. I then volunteered to return to the IDF of my own accord and to my commander's encouragement and the Medical Corp's massive suggestions. I got amazing gifts (gold medal, statuette, #1 medical miracle ever gotten by the IDF Medical Corp), and I had an incredible service in the IDF. LOVE!” 

Friday, 5 January 2018

The Missing Link

For a long time many of us, especially those who are involved in Jewish education in Yisrael and elsewhere, have been perplexed and frustrated as we try to understand where we went wrong in that realm, because we have. Many young Jews, nowadays, seem to have lost the compass and the road map which connects between our ancient inevitability and its path towards a fulfilling future. They feel lost. They are easily influenced by foreign creeds and quickly fall prey to manipulations and disinformation that are abundantly funneled by elements that wish to bring both a Spiritual and Physical destruction to our Jewish existence.

I recently read an article (in Hebrew) by Uri Heitner entitled “The dwindling of the Spirit in Yisrael.” In it, Heitner sheds light on some of the conditions and circumstances that might have speeded up and contributed to that process which has been going on for sometimes now.

Heitner claims, and justifiably so, that since the 70’s there has been a substantial devaluation of the Tanach in the Yisraeli culture. He continues to surmise that this sad reality stems from our desertion of the Oral Law and two thousand years of Jewish existence and cultural survival in the Diaspora.

As a teacher in Eretz Yisrael, I can attest to that. Secular Zionism (for Zionism, the several thousands of years old concept, has many facets), whose staunch supporter was David Ben-Gurion, claims that the return to Eretz Yisrael requires reconnecting only to our Tanach roots and disengaging from the Diaspora legacy and Post Tanach era. Ben Gurion suggested that in order to create a new modern Jewish identity, a leap in Jewish history and culture was vital, thus wiping out two millennia of a fruitful tradition that assisted and strengthened the spreading of Jewish roots in a fertile ground called Judaism.

That was a grave mistake.

It was a mistake since that essential link is what is missing from today’s Jewish education. It is the cause for ignorance about the concept of Zionism and other important concepts and land marks in our evolution as a nation, as a culture and as a civilization. Its absence has opened up the doors to wrong interpretations of our heritage, by foreigners who likewise, are, and not surprisingly so, uneducated about this great important link in our history as a Jewish nation.

 Judaism and its related concepts, like all cultures, are built on layers, each one supported by the layer underneath it. Trying to jump from “Tanach to Palmach”, as Heitner describes it, is like “trying to build a ceiling over a floor without having the support of pillars and columns between the two.” Disengaging from the wealth of the abundant and remarkable Jewish cultural layers that were conceived between the Tanach era and the current Yisraeli identity, was a great injustice. Any real effort to connect to the Tanach while ignoring the compelling culture and history that developed during the Diaspora era, in post Tanach times is doomed to failure. It has resulted in a culturally handicapped modern day Yisraeli and Jewish generations. Not only do they have difficulty understanding the Tanach, they face similar hurdles understand the poetry of National Poets like Bialik who was reared in that culture and whose poetry is saturated with that great heritage. Such a leap has culturally paralyzed our modern day Yisraeli culture to such an extent that Bialik needed to be translated into “Yisraeli Hebrew. “

By now many of you know my sentiments that any efforts to translate our Hebrew/Jewish culture into any language will result in a tragedy. In fact, it was Bialik himself who suggested that reading poetry in translation is akin to “kissing through a handkerchief.” He must be turning in his grave, as I am certain many of our great minds and cultural giants, such as Yehudah Halevi, Tschernichovsky and many others who kept our great Jewish Spirit going through all the years of separation from Eretz Yisrael, the Cradle of Our Civilization, must be.

They are probably mourning the loss of Jewish continuity, one of the pillars of our strength. They must be shedding their heavenly tears as they witness the misinterpretation, innocent or otherwise, of a few millennia old Jewish tenets such as Zionism, Halacha,  The Oral Law and other strongholds that have sheltered our people against the storms of history.

Recently, I read that Minister of Education, Bennett, boasted about the great changes he has made in our Yisraeli educational system. Not enough, I say. Bring back that badly needed missing link. Teach our young ones the meaning of Jewish pride and in the original language.

I have nothing against translation as a means of bridging between cultures and nations. I am all for it. However, by all means do not try to kiss the original through a “handkerchief.” That “handkerchief,” in many cases, is tainted and infested with germs of misunderstanding, disinformation and someone’s well planned and well-oiled agenda.

May we all have a Meaningful Shabbat and a Peaceful weekend.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Jewish Immunization

It is no secret that I detest missionaries, especially the kind that misrepresent Jewish scriptures in order to lure innocent Jewish souls to join their religious and eschatological plan. It is also no secret that I am not the only one.

Detesting by itself, however, is not enough. Neither is protesting sufficient. In many cases I feel that "The lady doth protest too much” and does too little.

Recognizing that Yisrael has a missionary problem is a first and much needed step. However, it is clear by now that Yisraeli politicians and the current system will do little, if anything, to stop the spread of this virus that nibbles at us slowly with the eventual mission of removing the Jewish essence of Yisrael and replacing it with that of “The New Jerusalem,” as some openly declare. Some who claim to be friends of Yisrael, are familiar as missionaries on the radar of those who are on the lookout for them, at least by their overt (and sometimes by their cunningly and well crafted) covert agenda. They have infiltrated charitable Yisraeli institutions. They are given land to set camp and enter alliances in the Knesset with some MK’s and are supported by Yisraeli and Jewish enablers. They conduct interfaith services with their enablers, leaving many vulnerable to this innocent and so- called noble concept.

Too much money, power and side benefits are involved in the cooperation between all parties, needless to add, at the expense of Jewish identity of the Jewish, the ONLY Jewish Homeland. It is a collaboration that has seeped very deep, too deep to easily root it out, so it seems. Such nefarious alliances, including some of our own Likud members, have been documented, exposed, written about and discussed ad nauseam by many on various forums

What then can and should be done?

As a teacher of Jewish children in Eretz Yisrael, the country and the People I care about first and foremost, I am doing my share, I believe, in helping contain and eradicate this virus.

Education is my way of fighting it. I call it “Jewish immunization.” Knowledge, as we all know, is power. It is the knowledge of our wonderful tradition, our great history starting with the Tanach, which I believe is the best weapon to ward off any efforts by elements who try to steal Jewish souls, sometimes in deceitful ways, misrepresenting verses from the Tanach to try and convince Jews that it is their way which will bring an end to their misery and loss of direction and purpose in life.

Towards that end, I do not only teach them about our celebrated tradition, about our marvelous culture and history, I also educate myself about it. And there is so much to be educated about, so much to absorb. The more I learn and study it, the more I realize how little I know, yet, the more I learn it and delve into it, though, the prouder I am of it.

Imparting and passing on that knowledge, the pride which comes with that knowledge, is the greatest pleasure of being a teacher. When I address my students, and instruct them about it, I feel as if I am under a spell. I am thrilled, I experience the rush of adrenaline flowing rapidly through my essence. I can sense the invisible waves of delight and dignity that emanate from me. I look at their faces, I observe and study them.  The expression in the eyes of some, that shining look that tells me that they are swept by my enthusiasm and share my joy while silently partaking and basking in the art of knowledge. I can almost feel their Jewish roots strike and spread deeper filling the vacant corners of their young core, shaping their fragile universe and providing them with the security and firm Jewish foundations and existence that has kept our People going for a few thousand years. Their expression confirms to me that their Jewish identity is slowly being reinforced and that, hopefully, one day it might be as unshakable as mine.

This is when I know and am comforted by the understanding that they are on their way to fulfilling our destiny, our millennial old destiny.

What more could any Jewish teacher ask for?

Wishing all of you a great year in 2018.