Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Worldwide Shabbat Observance for protection of Israeli military and civilians

As we anxiously watch the news, worrying about our friends, family and everyone else we don't directly know - we must remember that there is a greater power watching out for every one of us. Sometimes it's hard to remember G-d, since we are used to believing that we hold our fate in our own hands - but we must.

There is a push on Facebook to make this Shabbat, Friday, November 23, 2012, a "Worldwide Shabbat Observance for protection of Israeli military and civilians" - and I think it's a great idea. As the FB page mentions - Shabbat is a source of blessing. We certainly need G-d's blessing now.

Learn about Shabbat at Aish.com and at Chabad.org.

Here's one thing to make sure your thoughts are focused. 

תפילה לשלום חיילי צה"ל 

"מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבותֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקב ואמותינו שרה רבקה רחל ולאה, הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת חַיָּלֵי צְבָא הֲגַנָּה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, הָעומְדִים עַל מִשְׁמַר אַרְצֵנוּ וְעָרֵי אֱלהֵינוּ מִגְּבוּל הַלְּבָנון וְעַד מִדְבַּר מִצְרַיִם וּמִן הַיָּם הַגָּדול עַד לְבוא הָעֲרָבָה בַּיַּבָּשָׁה בָּאֲוִיר וּבַיָּם. יִתֵּן ה` אֶת אויְבֵינוּ הַקָּמִים עָלֵינוּ נִגָּפִים לִפְנֵיהֶם. הַקָּדושׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יִשְׁמר וְיַצִּיל אֶת חַיָלֵינוּ מִכָּל צָרָה וְצוּקָה וּמִכָּל נֶגַע וּמַחְלָה וְיִשְׁלַח בְּרָכָה וְהַצְלָחָה בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם. יַדְבֵּר שׂונְאֵינוּ תַּחְתֵּיהֶם וִיעַטְרֵם בְּכֶתֶר יְשׁוּעָה וּבְעֲטֶרֶת נִצָּחון. וִיקֻיַּם בָּהֶם הַכָּתוּב: כִּי ה` אֱלהֵיכֶם הַהלֵךְ עִמָּכֶם לְהִלָּחֵם לָכֶם עִם איבֵיכֶם לְהושִׁיעַ אֶתְכֶם: וְנאמַר אָמֵן" 

May the One who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, bless the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand watch over our land and the cities of our God, from the Lebanese border to the desert of Egypt and from the great sea to the verge of the wilderness, on land, in the air, and at sea. May Adonai cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One save and spare our soldiers from all forms of woe and distress, of affliction and illness, and invest their every action with blessing and success. May the Holy One lead our enemies under our soldiers' sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: “For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you.” 
And together we say: Amen.

If you are unable to keep the whole of Shabbat yet, I have a few suggestions:
* Give tzedakah (charity) before Shabbat begins on Friday evening.
* Light Shabbat candles.
* Turn off your electronics for a period of time on Shabbat - five minutes or five hours - your cellphone is included :)
* Say the prayer for the IDF and think about the unity of the Jewish People.

May we see real peace in the Land of Israel soon.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Building Jewish Unity Throughout the Year

We're counting the Omer - counting the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot (the 50th day), the day we celebrate the receiving of the Torah, the guidebook to our lives.

People often wonder about this counting - shouldn't we be counting down the days rather than counting day 1... day 2... day 3? If you're looking forward to something you generally find yourself doing just that - counting down, versus counting up.

But I think that this counting is part of something larger - something we started earlier in the year at the holiday of Purim. The holiday of Purim has four big commandments associated with it - the giving of charity to the poor, giving gifts of food to our friends, reading the megillah (generally done in a group setting), and a festive feast to celebrate the holiday. All these mitzvot create the underlying theme of building community unity.

The next holiday we celebrate is Pesach/Passover. Part of the Pesach experience is the seder - the gathering where we get together to discuss the exodus from Egypt - and to celebrate our transition from slavery to freedom. Toward the beginning of the seder we declare - "All who are hungry come and eat! All who are needy come and conduct the Pesach seder." We want every Jew to be a participant in the seder - no matter our societal position nowadays, we were all slaves to the Pharoah in Egypt - we all were poor and hungry. We can see that Pesach is also another brick in building Jewish unity.

We begin counting toward Shavuot (Pentacost), when we received the Torah, on the 2nd night of Pesach.  While on Pesach we celebrate our freedom - we also keep in mind that pure freedom without rules leads only to anarchy and destruction. Shavuot and the receiving of the Torah - those life rules - really bind us as a Nation. While previously we were the family of Jacob - with the Torah, we became the Nation of Israel, with an unbreakable covenant with G-d.

Rashi, a well-known commentator on the Torah, makes an observation on the verse describing the time before the Children of Israel were about the receive the Torah - "Israel camped there, opposite the mountain" (Exodus 19:2). Rashi says, "like one man with one heart". Certainly a moment in history that has not been easy to duplicate.

But it is that moment - when the Jewish People were truly united - that we work toward during this time. All the mitzvot that we find from Purim through Shavuot are meant to help us toward that goal of Jewish unity. The counting toward the receiving of the Torah should be an indicator of going from 'strength to strength', rather than counting down a finite number of days, we are hopefully becoming stronger in our connection to one another - something that certainly shouldn't be finite.

The Torah was given to us as a People, a Nation, not to a bunch of individuals. And as a Nation, we must see every Jew as part of ourselves. As we approach this special spiritual moment in history - Shavuot - we should take the time to recommit ourselves to our Torah and to building our connection with each other. It's time to receive the Torah "like one man with one heart" once again.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Taking Miracles for Granted

It's been a while - again. But I have to thankfully say that life has been busy in a good way. I'm chasing a 14 month old very busy little girl around the apartment, and in the meantime trying to keep house. It's a big joke really :)

My grandfather, a doctor, was once asked if he believed in G-d. He said 'yes'. How did he know? 'Because he delivered babies - and it was clear to him because of that there was a G-d'. He wasn't a religious man in the traditional sense, but to him the miracle of birth was truly a miracle.

Now I understand. It is amazing to be a part of that miracle. It's mind-numbing and awe-inspiring. We take it for granted these days. Babies are born all the time. Every so often we hear about something terrible happening at birth, but thankfully it's not the norm. Since it's not the norm, we assume that all births go well - for both the mother and the child. Going through the experience myself - not only the birth, but also the 9 month preceding it - I could see all those things that could possibly go wrong throughout the process. This is certainly not a miracle to take for granted. My grandfather was absolutely right.

So my little miracle is now learning about the world around her. What to touch, what not to touch. Discovering the taste of new foods and how that new food feels squished in her little fingers. We take these things all for granted. We barely notice the food in our mouths as we chew - we're probably too busy watching television or reading our email. To her all these things are new and exciting.

As adults we're also looking for new and exciting things to do - maybe traveling, maybe bungee jumping, who knows... but we're always looking for new experiences. Perhaps though, we're missing the obvious. Maybe we should take a moment to take those things we take for granted and look at them again with different eyes. Let's think about the taste of the food as we're chewing it. Let's think about how amazing our body is that it can process that intake of food and convert it into energy for our everyday activities. It really is amazing. And that our bodies are capable of getting rid of the waste - imagine if it couldn't - we'd be in real trouble. From the moment we wake up in the morning until the time we drop off to sleep at night - our day is a real miracle. A miracle we take for granted.