Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vendyl Jones - We'll Sorely Miss You

A dear friend of the Jews has passed away. Vendyl Jones sought truth and found it in Torah tradition. His archeological foundation bore truth in its logo. He became a Noahide, and then a teacher and leader among them. I learned of his passing here. Here's a 13 min. video of his life and works. One could not help but love this Texan. We offer sincere condolences to his dear wife Anita, may she live and be well.

UPDATE (2/15/15): A Biography Video "Lecture" here. (Vendyl was the real "star" of the movie, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, the real "Indiana Jones".)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rashi's Protracted Explanation of "That" Donkey

"Moshe took his wife and sons, mounted them on that donkey, and returned toward Egypt, taking in his hand G-d's staff."
(Ex. 4, 20)

Rashi comments on the words, "that donkey", saying: "That donkey Abraham saddled up to take Isaac to be offered up as a sacrifice; The same animal upon which King Moshiach will reveal himself, as it says, 'A pauper that rides the donkey.'"

At first glance, Rashi seems to explain why scripture invokes the demonstrative adjective in "that donkey", instead of just "a donkey"; To reveal to us it wasn't just any donkey, but, in fact, a miraculous donkey with a significant history.

But if this were Rashi's intent, he could have just said, "That donkey used by Abraham", and nothing more. Yet Rashi goes on to elaborate the purpose of Abraham's mission, and then provides additional information about Moshiach's use of the animal. It therefore implies Rashi has more to tell us than just explain the word "that".

To understand Rashi's real intent, we must step back and put into context a previous scriptural episode. When Hashem appeared to Moshe in the burning bush, asking him to lead the Jews out of Egyptian exile, Moshe resisted. Only after 7 days did he finally submit to Hashem's "anger", but we still have no idea how Hashem answered Moshe - who asked, "Why can't my older brother, Aaron, a prophet, go instead of me?"; And his next question, "Why not send the same leader who will one day lead the Jews into the Messianic era?"

So why did Rashi tell us the donkey was used to take Isaac to be sacrificed? To hint to us what Hashem answered Moshe on his first question. When asked to sacrifice his son, Abraham saddled his donkey unquestioningly, first thing next morning. Well, if Abraham could fulfill a request to sacrifice his son unhesitatingly, what big sacrifice faced Moshe in comparison, even if his older brother would take offense at his younger brother's assuming a leader's role? Moshe thus had to lay aside his first suggestion.

As for couldn't King Moshiach himself bring the ultimate salvation to the Jewish nation right now, instead of him being their 1st leader, Hashem explained that the Egyptian exile served as a vital prelude without which a final exile could not happen. All exiles were actually one process - all connected with the first. That is to say, the future redemption by King Moshiach cannot be actualized without the actualized essence of Moshe. This because Moshe and Moshiach are not two distinct entities; Moshiach will inherit the powers cultivated and finessed by Moshe. Hearing this Moshe finally capitulated.

Had Rashi not elaborated, we'd never have a clue what dialogue took place to persuade Moshe to finally accept his leadership assignment.

(Who else if not one with the powers of Moshe himself could decipher the intent of Rashi's extra verbosity to explain the conversation Hashem had with Moshe regarding Moshiach. Rashi, the leader of his generation, inherited these powers and hinted to them. The Rebbe, the Moses of our generation, inherited them, understood Rashi's intent and divulged them.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ariel Zilber Jettisoned from Rock Band's Show

A man who lives by worthy principles.

He sang this song (below) to forestall the horrible uprooting of families from the Gaza Strip, some there 3 generations, by the weak Israeli administration that wanted to appease Jewish haters by handing this cherished strip of holy land to their own worst enemies.

The song is about a sardine eager to garner acknowledgment from the shark; It promises the predator its fins, eyes and tail - "anything!"; Hearing this, the shark agrees to say "Hello." Later the shark proceeds to swallow the sardine whole. The fish analogy was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to skirt a government crackdown on vocal opponents to the expulsion plan.
Singer Ariel Zilber Boycotted by Israeli Band
Arutz-7 News Article

A famous Israeli rock band announced on Sunday it would cancel an appearance by Israeli singer Ariel Zilber at its upcoming show, simply because of his political views.

Tislam, which was active in the late 1970s and early 1980s and is currently on a reunion tour marking 30 years since the release of its first album, said it was uninviting Zilber from making a guest appearance in their show. The reason cited for the cancellation is Zilber’s support of a letter by rabbis disallowing the sale of lands to Arabs. [Below, Zilber tells the real reason.]
“We respect and appreciate Ariel Zilber as a singer and songwriter and we have no problem with his political views, even if we do not agree with them,” the band said in a statement. “We do, however, have a problem with his statements that do not reflect the values of our band.”

Zilber, who took part in last week’s memorial for the late Rabbi Binyamin Ze’ev Kahane and his wife Talya, said during his appearance there that he supports the rabbis’ ruling regarding selling land to Arabs.

The singer has been criticized for the past several years, ever since he began to identify with the residents of Yesha (Judea, Samaria, and Gaza). In 2005, he moved to the Gush Katif community of Elei Sinai in order to express solidarity with the Jewish residents there prior to their expulsion from their homes by the Israeli government.

Zilber himself was by unfazed by Tislam’s move and told Arutz Sheva’s daily journal on Monday that the band’s actions are nothing short of a publicity stunt. “Tislam is probably not selling tickets so they’re doing some advertising on my back,” he said. “After all, they knew my opinions before they invited me and now they’re saying I hurt them.”

He also rejected the suggested notion he is racist. “Anyone can be a Jew,” he said. “This is not a question of racism, but today anyone who talks about love for Israel becomes an outcast and this hurts me because people fought and were killed for this country.”

According to Zilber, the Arab integration into social life in Israel leads many to carefully choose their words towards Arabs. “When I was young and living in a kibbutz, one girl married an Arab and wanted to live on the kibbutz, but the kibbutz did not allow it. Looking for a reason not to accept it they said that they would no longer be able to say the phrase ‘what is this, Arab labor?’ It is just an excuse. They did not accept it because the land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. We need to love the people of Israel. If G-d loves the people of Israel why should we not love the people of Israel?”

He referred to the self confidence exhibited by leftist artists, be it whether they boycott him or the theater in Ariel. Zilber said this happens because these artists “know who is financing them, so they express themselves this way. After all, for each performance they get a lot of money. Much of that money comes from international organizations like the EU and others so they know they can speak the way they do. Rightists, on the other hand, do not get paid for performances. They tell me: ‘there’s a demonstration, come and play,’ and when I ask how much they pay, they tell me: ‘we do not have money to pay,’ yet I still come and play.”

Meanwhile, the Shomron Regional Council called on Monday on all Israelis who love Zilber’s music to come out to his performances.

“In recognition of the singer who is not ashamed to express his views even if they are inconsistent with those of the rest of the leading Israeli artists, the Shomron Regional Council has decided to devote a special page on its website to advertise Ariel Zilber’s performances,” the council said in a statement. “We call on all Israelis who love Zilber’s songs and who dislike the phenomenon of boycotts to check the website for the dates of his appearances and come out. This is the best answer to the band Tislam who is attempting to sell a few more tickets while presenting the issue as a disagreement over ‘values’.”

The council added: “We praise Tislam for its loyalty to its ‘values’ and for joining other bands in the world that are boycotting Israel. We prefer the values of Ariel Zilber that express loyalty to Israel and to the heritage of our people, and not those values that encourage the establishment of an Iranian-funded terrorist entity in the interior of our land.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Chilean Miners - Spiritually Revisited

The Cave, the Real World & the Legacy of the Elders
By Tzvi Freeman

Let's allow ourselves a little imagination. Let's imagine that instead of miners in Chile, a father and mother with small children found themselves trapped within the earth's bowels. Maybe two such families. Let's say that the people above managed to lower to these two families food, light and energy, but without any communication. And let's say this remained the status quo for 100 or so years, until technology advanced to the point that they could be rescued.

Now let's imagine what might be happening down in that almost-forsaken cavern all those years. Children are growing up with no memory of the world above. The parents take it upon themselves to educate them. The class goes something like this:

"Child, you must know that this is not the real world. The real world is up there. See, where that light comes from, where the rope lowers down food and energy for us down here."

"What's up there, Mommy? What's up there, Daddy?"

"Up there, there are people. They walk upon the soil, upon which grows grass and trees. Up there, there is a big sky, all blue, with a bright sun shining over it."

"What is a sun?"

"A sun is a bright ball of fire that shines in the sky, lighting up all the world!"

"What holds it there?"

"It is just there, burning in the sky."

"You saw it?"

"We saw it every day."

"Wow! Can we go? Can we go?"

"Yes, my child, if we keep digging. We dig and those up there who send us the food also dig, and one day we will meet. Then you will also see the real world. In the meantime, remember always, this is not the real world."

Now imagine those children growing older and bearing children of their own. In the stale air of the cavern, the older generation has already passed on. And now it is up to the children to hold that same conversation with their children:

"Children, you must know that this is not the real world."

"Say what?"

"No, the real world is up there—where the food and energy comes from."

"So what's up there?"

"I've never seen it, but my father and mother told me there are people there, but not in caves. They walk on soil on which grass grows, beneath a sky…"

"What is a sky?"

"It's big and blue, and bright ball of fire called the sun hangs there."

"In the middle of the sky?"

"Yep, but it doesn't burn anything."

"Weird. You sure about this stuff?"

"Like I said, that's what my Mom & Dad told me. I trust them. You should too. And they said that if we keep digging, according to the instructions they gave us, one day we'll connect with that real world."

Keep that imagination going. Fast forward to the next generation:

"Okay, kids, class time."

"More tunnel geography today?"

"No, today is a special class. Something our parents told us that their parents said we must teach you all. It's called real world studies."

"That's okay, we already know how to live in the real world."

"No you don't, because you've never been there. This is not the real world. The real world, they said, is up there, where the food and energy comes from. There are people up there walking around on grass underneath a sky."

"Walking on what? Under…"

"Don't be disrespectful. This is what our parents taught us. And they heard…"

"So who says they got it right. Sounds like another fairy tale to me."

"You have to have more faith in your elders. They said that in the sky is a big ball of fire called a sun."

"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. You can't have a ball of fire just suspended there!"

"Well then how does the food and energy get down here? Who sends it to us?"

"That's a lousy question. It just comes. That's just the way the world works."

Now imagine the rebellion seething, boiling and overflowing as the elders hopelessly attempt to defend a position they never really got straight to begin with.

And then, just as the legacy of the elders seems crushed to the ground, the ceiling bursts open and in crashes a real live person.

"Whoa! Where did you come from?"

"Oh, I'm from up there."

"Up where?"

"You know, up there beneath the sky, where the sun shines."

"You believe in that stuff, too?"

"Believe? Hey, that's where I'm from!"

"Tell us about it."

So this real live person begins to tell. And now even the most jaded among the cynics are sitting up to hear his words.

Now let go of the imagination and enter back into our world—where all this tale has happened and continues to happen again and again.

The tale is told in different forms about Abraham, about the Arizal and about the Baal Shem Tov. Where tradition had failed, these men of vision succeeded—because for them it was not just a story of the past; it was real, more real than the earth they stood upon. In that sense, it could be applied to many of the great tzadikim, each one in his or her own way.

And now, perhaps the event of the Chilean miners for whom we all prayed and cheered will help us apply the tale to yet another tzadik, one for whom we have waited all these years, the one who will be called the Moshiach.

May the ceiling burst open very soon.
More by Tzvi, here.

A Time to Love and a Time to Hate,
a Time of War and a Time of Peace (Eccl. 3, 8)

The Jewish Quarter
(of Jerusalem)
The Reality Quarter
by Gutman Locks
at the Kotel

Here, in the Old City (Jerusalem), we live normal lives. Well, normal for our part of the world. Pictured here is a young man rushing around doing the kind of things we all have to do. He is shopping, with his small daughter on his shoulders. Except for unusual architecture, you might think it is like any other Jewish neighborhood you have seen … lots of young children, noise, not enough time to do everything that needs to be done.

But, if you look carefully, you will notice one big difference. Look what he has tucked into his belt right next to his tzitzis (fringes). Do you see it? It is a loaded, nine-millimeter, 16 shot per clip, automatic pistol. Yeah, it’s real, and because he is carrying this, Jewish children can play in the streets.

Shabbos afternoon at the Kotel, a new oleh (immigrant) from Latin America who is in the army asked me, “What kind of religious thing is this… me being in the army learning to kill people? How does this make G-d happy?”

I told him, “The Torah teaches that when someone rises up to kill us, we are not to turn the other cheek, or run away. We are obligated to rise up and kill him first. We do not want war with these people. We want to live in peace. We would even let them live here as long as they would stop trying to kill us. But they rise up against us time and time again. We have to defend ourselves.

"Even the world’s greatest example of kindness, Avraham, had to fight a war in order to free his captured nephew. And it seems that until the Messiah comes, we too will have to fight. You are doing a tremendous mitzvah by being in the army. If you weren’t there, the Jewish people couldn’t be here.”

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The “Old” Testament

There’s nothing “old” about The Testament. Calling it "old", implying it's outdated, rejects its divinity; Calling it "old" denigrates its author, creator of the universe.

A more fitting name would be “The Living Testament”. Even more fitting is the translation of its Hebrew name, Torah -– “The Manual [of Life]”.

Torah serves as the framework from which mankind must draw its behavioral guidelines – forever. The book is absolutely perfect. It never underwent revision and never will. The work of an infinite G-d needs no revision. The words in Torah today are the same words G-d dictated to Moses over the course of 40 years in the desert South of Israel, between the years 2448 - 2488 [since creation].

Jewish people today, e.g., Yemenite Jews, who until recently had been separated by millennia and by continents from their brethren in Europe, possess the exact same Torah, down to the last letter.

The entire Jewish literature over millennia in the whole world: all books on code of law, all the writings of the sages, former and latter, all customs and all oral tradition in everyday life, every synagogue prayer book, every book in schools of Torah learning - this huge mountain of Hebrew/Judaic literature (and Jews are prolific writers) stands on one essential premise - that every Hebrew word in Torah, every letter, every punctuation, cantillation and mathematical attribute, the shape of every letter, even the "serifs" of each letter - all of this - depends on this unalterable, singular absolute truth - that Torah and its oral tradition are perfect. Like a vast, upside-down pyramid standing on its tip, the foundational tip that holds it all up, is the single premise - that Torah is perfect, infallible and eternal.

And just to forewarn anyone who gets the bright idea to modify any of it, G-d warns us in His Torah, not to add to it nor subtract from it.

To imply it has built-in obsolescence simply belittles the greatness of The Creator!

More than audacity hides behind the drive to outdate Torah. It maneuvers to undermine the unity, perfection and goodness of G-d, as well as the Jewish religion and its people.

Torah naysayers have no shame to defy G-d, defy His eternity, His perfection and oneness; They defy His people, defy His plan for Israel as the ultimate Jewish homeland, defy the status of Jerusalem, defy the eventual rebuilding of the Temple and defy the Jewish Messiah. Their own agenda supersedes G-d’s agenda.

Just as a producer of complicated machinery offers a user’s manual on how best to use his product, so too G-d gave guidelines to mankind -– all of mankind –- how best to have a good world and a good life. That manual is the Torah. It speaks for Jews and Gentiles alike.

Noah and his family, the progenitors of humanity, after “The Great Flood” in 1657, received 7 laws to live by –- the “Seven Noahide Laws”. On the other hand, Jews received 613 laws from the Torah.

Jews are special in G-d’s eyes because of a mission He gave them. They are meant to be His nation of Priests. They have the obligation to enlighten a world caught up in spiritual darkness. Jews are G-d’s lamplighters, teachers of Torah, an eternal people/nation vested with the responsibility to convey the 7 Noahide laws to the other peoples of the world. To be sure, it was not a glorious task during anti-semitic times. But today, when persecution of Jews has much abated, it again becomes a task to undertake.

Yes, Torah is old; In fact, it’s now 3,323 years old; But it’s as relevant for everyone today as the day it was first given. It is a blueprint for contemporary living.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The ONE to Rely On

This week's Torah portion is named, "At the Conclusion of". ("מקץ" in Hebrew)

Its content speaks of how Joseph, having been a slave, becomes the king's viceroy - the highest office in Egypt next to the king's. What's more, this positions he attains suddenly, by way of a miracle, while in captivity.

Joseph had tried to free himself, relying on his own resources, by seeking favor with the king's wine butler. This is why, our sages tell us, Joseph was punished. This is why his imprisonment had been lengthened by an additional two full years. Thus the verse, "And then, at the conclusion of two years, …."

The lesson this teaches us is - a person's salvation comes only from Hashem; And we should request only Hashem's help and only in Hashem should we put our hopes.

With our own powers, or with the support of people with better connections, we can lighten our travails, but we cannot do so if we completely rely on them and forget that without Hashem's help nothing can be accomplished.

So, how do we achieve redemption and emerge "At the Conclusion of" our troubles? Not by toil or seeking favor even with ties to royalty. Rather, we must hope Hashem will release us from punishment and only then will our problems conclude. Only then would we secure the solace we seek, although the source of which we'd not know wherefrom it comes or in what manner it will arrive.

What's true for the individual holds true for the collective body as well. A salvation "At the Conclusion of" exile will come when sin is forgiven, and not by any other means. And it will come in a most unexpected manner.