Friday, March 2, 2012

Perashat Zakhor

Tomorrow, the Shabbat that precedes Purim, is called shabbat Zakhor (remember). Two Torah scrolls are taken out, one for the regular Parasha and one for a special Maftir from Debarim 25: 'Remember what Amaleq did to you when you were leaving Egypt... he attacked all those defenseless...and did would not fear God".

This text describes our obligation to never forget what Amaleq did to us during our departure from Egypt. Amaleq attacked the Jews without a reason or a motive.

Amaleq and his ideological descendants, which are called "Zekher Amaleq" can be identified by the following key factors:

1. Amaleq's hatred toward the Jews is not motivated by greed, territorial claims or revenge. It is pure disinterested hatred. The excuses will always change. Greed, territorial claims, revenge, are often used as the cynical justifications, to disguise Amaleq's true's intention, which is to destroy the Jewish people.

2. Amaleq will attack defenseless Jews, civilians, women and children.

3. Amaleq is driven by a blind irrational subhuman hatred. He will even preach martyrdom, as a means to destroy the Jews.  Because Amaleq's hatred for the Jews will even supersede the love for his own people. 

4. Amaleq might hate other people temporarily, but his relentless obsession is against the Jews.

5. It is not possible to negotiate with Amaleq. Amaleq will not be satisfied if we surrender or even if we change our religion. Amaleq just wants us to disappear.

6. Amaleq, unfortunately, won't go away.

It is very difficult for non-Jews--and for many Jews not familiar with Jewish history--to understand, admit and acknowledge the true nature of Amaleq's intention. Because Amaleq's behavior is beyond rationality, so intelligent but naive people will always think: something must be motivating them? And they will blame it on the Jews...

The Torah urges us not to forget --also in the sense of forgiving-- Amaleq because our survival depends on keeping alert. If we forget the 'nature' of Amaleq's war against us, we put ourselves at the risk of extinction.

Our Chakhamim prescribed the public reading of the Mitzva of remembering Amaleq once every year, on the Shabbat which precedes Purim, when Haman, a faithfull descendant of Amaleq sought the destruction of Israel.

This Parasha, Zakhor, has the special status of being the only Biblical text which reading is a direct Torah commandment. Women are also obligated to attend Synagogue and listen to Parashat Zakhor.

Candle Lighting in NYC: 5:30 PM
Shabbat Ends in NYC at: 6:39 PM

Shabbat Shalom!!!

CLICK here to WATCH: THE BEST EXPLANATION OF THE CONFLICT OF THE MIDDLE EAST (it has to do with Amaleq's behavior...)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Story of Purim

Approximately 2450 years ago, the Persian Empire was ruled by King Achashverosh. It extended from India to Ethiopia, one of the largest empires in ancient history. Roughly one million Jews lived in the empire, including 40,000 in the land of Israel, trying to rebuild the Bet haMiqdash, under the leadership of Ezra and Nechemia.

In the capital of the empire, Shushan haBira, King Achashverosh appointed a very tough prime minister: Haman, and gave him full authority to do as he pleased over the entire empire. Haman not only demanded respect but he also expected people to revere him as a god: everyone had to bow-down (down to the floor!) upon seeing Haman.

Mordekhai was a leader among the Jews in Shushan. His niece, Esther, was taken to the palace and recently designated as the new Queen. Mordekhai respected the King and even thwarted a plot against the King's life, but he refused to bow-down to Haman because he considered it an act of idol-worshiping. Haman, the ultimate example of megalomania, was furious and decided to take revenge from Mordekhai. He thought that just killing Mordekhai will not do justice to such 'great' personal offense.

He decided then to exterminate all of Mordekhai's people. All the Jews living in the Persian Empire, who were indeed all the Jews in the world.

But how did Haman intend to kill a million people, spread all over a huge empire? Haman had a perfect genius evil plan. He tricked the King and made him to sign an edict, which was immediately sent all over the empire, announcing that at the 13th of the month of Adar (few months from the issuing of the edict) every citizen of the Empire will have the lawful right to kill a Jewand take possession of his properties and assets.... By the laws of the empire, the Jews will not be allowed to defend themselves! That was Haman's master plan: motivating every person in the Empire to kill his Jewish neighbors by taking all their assets, legally!!! . A perfect evil plan. 

Had Haman succeeded, it would have been the end of the Jewish people....

To continue reading click here  

Very recommended for Hebrew speakers. A class on Megilat Esther by Rabbi Chayim Sabato, 
from Yeshibat Bircat Moshe (Ma'ale Adumim, Israel).   Click here (if the link does not work in your computer, please visit ).

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lending Money and Tzedaqa

One of the 613 Mitzvot of the Tora is lending money, without interest, to a fellow Jew who needs it (Shemot 22:24). Helping a needy person through a free loan is a form of Tzedaqa. However, harassing a needy person into paying back the loan when one knows he/she lacks the money at the moment, is a very grave transgression which is explicitly forbidden in the Tora.
ILLUSTRATION: David, knowing that Josh's business is in the verge of insolvency, offers to lend him the $10k needed to keep afloat. "You'll pay me when things get better again" said David to Josh. David has just fulfilled a great Mitzva. Not only did David help a fellow Jew financially, but he did this without affecting Josh's dignity. In fact, he prevented Josh from getting to the point that he would need to ask for financial help.

As long as David knows that Josh cannot yet repay the loan, he is forbidden from harassing Josh. The Halakha is that David cannot even "inadvertently" pass by Josh's place in order to remind him of the loan, if David knows that Josh doesn't yet have the money. 

On the other hand, Josh is forbidden from withholding payment longer than necessary. In other words, if Josh does have the money, it is forbidden for him to unduly delay paying back David.

Another thing. "Lending money" without expecting to get the money back is indeed the highest way to perform tzedaqa. A friend of mine borrowed a good amount of money from Mr A. "You pay me whenever you can ", Mr A. said. My friend was very grateful and a couple of years later he collected the money to pay his debt. When he returned the money, Mr. A. said: "I want you to keep this money and find somebody else who needs it. And when he gives you the money back, do as I'm doing now". 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The 13 principles of Jewish faith: # 6: the mission of the Prophets (3 of 3)

Many people think of a prophet as any person who sees the future. While the gift of prophecy certainly includes the ability to see the future, a prophet is far more than just a person with that ability (see here ). A prophet was basically a spokesman for  God. A person chosen by God to speak to people on God's behalf and convey a message or teaching.

Moshe, Yirmiyiahu (Jeremiah) and others, when they were appointed by God Almighty to talk to the people of Israel, were not eager to accept that mission. On the contrary, at the beginning they refused to accept God's mission.  However, as Rabbi Hayim Pereira-Mendes said: "Once the divine message was received, it was irresistible. The inspired Prophet cannot help but speak."

Being a Prophet of Israel was not a very popular position. The difficult task consisted in admonishing the people, the dignitaries and even the King.  The Prophets often became the target of persecution and opposition. The prophet Yirmiyiahu, for example, warned of the imminent destruction of Yerushalaim lest the people keep disobeying the Laws of HaShem. In return for his message Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers,  beaten and put into the stocks by a priest, imprisoned by the King, threatened with death and thrown into a cistern.  Eliyahu haNabi had to flee for his life, and so did Yesha'ayahu, who at the end was killed by the wicked King Menashe. 

Among the ideals of our prophets are: 1. The Fatherhood of God. That is: that God loves us and cares about us like parents love their children.  2. The brotherhood of Man, equality, righteousness, kindness, charity.  3. The Kingdom of God on earth. That God is our King, and as such we should faithfully obey His Laws. 4. The universal ideals: all nations should know and serve the one and only God; the establishment  of righteousness on Earth and universal Peace or arbitration instead of War.   

Monday, February 27, 2012

RELIGIOUS INTEGRITY: Lying to preserve peace

Our Tora is very strict with the prohibition of lying. In Shemot 23:7 the Pasuq says:midebar sheqer tirchaq "Keep yourself away from lying". 

There are exceptional cases, however, in which lying might be justified. The rabbis mentioned the case in which one would lie to promote or keep peace in the family. Provided this lie will only prevent harm, and it won't cause harm to anyone else. 

The Rabbis learned this important principle from the brothers of Yosef. As we know, when Yosef was young he was betrayed by his brothers who kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. After many years, Yosef became the ruler of Egypt and his brothers needed him. Yosef behaved toward them without resentment, but they thought that Yosef still held a grudge  against them, and he behaved positively just to protect his father from more anguish. When Ya'aqob abinu died, the brothers thought that now Yosef will exert his revenge and punish them So they lied to Yosef. Bereshit 50:15-18   When Yosef's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Yosef bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong which we did to him?. They then sent a message to Yosef, saying, "Your father ordered before he died saying: Thus you shall say to Yosef, "Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong. Please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father."

Exceptionally, the rabbis justified the actions of Yosef's brothers because the brothers understood that otherwise the harmony of the family would have been permanently compromised. The Rabbis also observed that this kind of white lies are limited to cases of family peace, and they are permitted only when no harm is caused to another human being, like the case of Yosef and his brothers. 
(To be continued....)
Click here to watch this recent and very important interview with Norman Finkelstein, a famous enemy of the State of Israel. Please, read between the lines to see the clear agenda of those who claim to protect the Palestinian people's interests.