Teach Israel

Rabbis and Christian Leaders Supporting Israel

I Just Want to Shop in Peace

Moshe RothchildComment

Once a week my wife and I go food shopping at the local Rami Levi supermarket. Like most people, we want to be able to feed our family and save a little money by shopping at the largest supermarket in the area—no more and no less. Lately though such a simple act has become complicated with rise in Arab terror throughout the entire land of Israel.

A few days ago my neighbor Yaelle drove with her daughter to the supermarket to do some food shopping. She brought her daughter along so she could be the “lookout” as she packed her groceries in to her car. Such are the days in which we are living. Insane but true.

So Yaelle was in her car driving out of the parking lot when she saw a woman carrying her bundles of groceries. Suddenly she saw an Arab man in a brown coat running towards the woman, raise his hand and plunged a knife in to the woman’s back. Yaelle and her daughter began screaming hysterically. Then Yaelle honked her horn and the terrorist ran. Yaelle quickly got out of her car and ran to help the woman who was on the floor. She told her that it would be ok and the woman tried to get up. Seeing that she was very weak and shaky she held her tightly and Yaelle brought her to her own car and told her to sit. Yaelle had blood all over her hands. The soldiers then came running and shots rang out. Yaelle daughter ran in to the bakery which was right nearby—she was hysterical and quickly she was surrounded by amazing women who just wanted to help. Another one of the neighbors who is a doctor came running to help the woman who was stabbed. At that point Yaelle ran to the bakery to see if her daughter was ok. Yaelle herself was shaking and crying and she too was helped by the women in the bakery who were kind enough to call her husband as well who came running over to the scene.

The Israeli secret service and army questioned Yaelle which according to Yaelle . “I felt like I was in a movie because how could this ever happen to me?” Her daughter was in shock and taken to the hospital along with the woman who was stabbed.

Later Yaelle was able to meet the husband and family of the woman who was stabbed and they asked her to tell them the whole story which she did. They were so thankful for everything that Yaelle had done to help. Thank God the woman who was stabbed is doing well and on the road to recovery.

Here is more of Yaelle’s words: “I remembered that at the scene of the attack one woman kept telling me I am a hero. I don’t feel like one. The real heroes are the people of Israel and the people who fight to defend and protect us.”

Later Yaelle received a call from Nirit (the woman who was stabbed) after the surgery. “A couple of hours ago I received a call from Nirit. She said she was doing well and kept thanking me over and over. What could I say? Your welcome? It doesn’t cut it in this situation. I just kept telling her over and over that I was glad she was ok. All I know is that Hashem (God) puts us exactly where we are supposed to be. This is where I was supposed to be with my daughter…it played out exactly the way it was supposed to. Even though I was scared, traumatized and freaked out my emunah (faith) is as strong as ever. I still love my country and would never change it for anything else. I am feeling so grateful for all my family who came at a moments notice and all the friends that were there and offered to help. Thank you Hashem for all the greatness around me.”

As I write these words I am sitting in NY having come here for some meetings. As I walk the streets here I instinctively look around and make sure that no one is behind me or running towards me. We are living in a very difficult reality in Israel right now and I just don’t think the world gets it or even knows about what is really going on. The streets of Jerusalem, her cafes and holy places are not filled like they usually are. People are afraid and they are staying home. Life cannot go on as usual.

I know that there is disagreement about the situation in Israel. My opinions are strong but I recognize that not everyone agrees with me and that’s fine. However, when it comes to terror there is no “other opinion.” There is only right and wrong. Violence against innocent civilians and terror has no justification. When you equate a terrorist attack with the response, you have demonstrated that you are completely morally bankrupt. When you justify Arab terror by saying things like “Well, they are just so frustrated with Israel” or it is “all about the settlements” you have justified murder and violence. It is really as simple as that.

It is incredibly frustrating to watch politicians, the news media, and countless people somehow justify Arab terror. There is no justification---why is that so hard to get?? In the words of our Prime Minister, “What planet are you living on?” It feels like the world has gone mad and that we are living in some kind of alternate reality. Few people seem to know what is right and what is wrong. I feel like I am in a very lonely space.

So I go one with my life praying to God that the world comes to its senses. We are a nation that dwells alone and are feeling very lonely and abandoned. For those who are standing with us on the side of morality and goodness, we do appreciate you. Hopefully more will join us and recognize that Israel is a bastion of light in a very dark region of the world. Until that day comes, we will just continue to add more and more light to dispel the darkness.

Praying at Graves for Cynics

Moshe Rothchild2 Comments

I am so fed up with cynicism and negativity. It is enormously destructive to be cynical in ways that can only be imagined. Ideally I only want to be around encouraging and positive people---so much could be achieved, dreams realized, hopes actualized and sadness averted if we could remain positive. Even when you look at your situation and it looks bleak, you can still remain positive. If you don’t have your own internal resources to be positive when it looks like there is no reason to be, if you are surrounded by encouraging, positive people they will pick you up when you need it.

In my preparation for Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur (are we ever really prepared?) I must have visited some thirty to forty graves both here in Israel and in the Ukraine. Most of the graves were of famous rabbis. When I tell people that I went to cemeteries to pray at (not to) the graves of some of Judaism’s greatest spiritual giants I get one of two reactions. One, “Cool! Wish I could go!” The other reaction is usually highly cynical, “Oh, are you praying to the graves?” “Can’t you just pray in a synagogue or at home?” “Do you think the dead hear you or know what is going on?” “Do you think they can help you” “It is idolatry!” and so on and so on.

So here is my response and maybe, just maybe, I can turn some of the cynics around. I am not going to focus on the fact that Calev went to pray at the graves of our forefathers and foremothers, nor will I quote the relevant sources such as the Shulchan Aruch or Mishna Berurah who support visiting graves. I am speaking from my personal perspective for what it is worth.

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as part of the tefilla, we say “Adam yisodo mayafar v’sofo liafar” Man’s origins are dust and his end will also be dust. In other words, every human being will be born and every human being will die. This, there is no escaping. Once you are born, you will also die. For that there is no question---the only question that remains is what will you do between those two events. How will you spend the years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds of your life? Birth and death are not in your hands but the time in between is.

If you are reading this it means you are alive. This also means that God still wants you to be alive because there is something that only you can achieve. There has never been anyone exactly like you and there will never be anyone like you again. The interaction between your unique life and the unique moment in time that you find yourself in is truly astounding. You are a constant work in progress, never arriving at any destination. You are meant to spend your years in constant motion, hopefully forward, getting closer to Hashem each day. Each day is a new day of creation and there is a new opportunity to fill the day. You can, if you so choose, waste or kill time. It is always your choice.

Habit is one of the greatest enemies of growth. When you slip into a pattern or a routine it is very easy to lose the freshness and energy needed to be in a mode of constant growth. We become, at best, sustainers trying to hold on to our gains but at the same time not adding anything. So it is critical to find inspiration for growth—it could be from parents, friends, teachers, books or any other myriad of sources. The bottom line though is to not be satisfied with where you are now and to find a way to keep advancing.

When you visit the grave of someone, you are standing in front of someone who has completed his/her mission in the world. They were born, lived their allotted years and then returned to dust.  When that person is someone like the Ba’al Shem Tov, Rav Kook, the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, Rebbe Nachman—how can you not feel inspired by what they achieved? No doubt they had difficulties, challenges, successes and failures just like me, yet they were still able to make their significant contribution to the world. This thought connects me very deeply to the realization that I need to fill my time here on earth and achieve what I am meant to achieve. It is not that I have to be them, for I am not them. But when I see someone who excelled at this earthly life, it inspires me to try to excel as well in a way that only I can.

I also visited the grave of my wife’s grandfather who was a Holocaust survivor. He was born in Poland and saw most of his family exterminated by the Nazi’s (HY”D) yet he managed to build a life after the war in Columbus, Ohio. With his wife, they raised a daughter who would become the mother of my wife and grandmother to my children. He built a small business and for the years I knew him he never forgot the Holocaust but seemed happy. He would tell his grandchildren, “You are my life!” After all he had been through, he knew what was important. Not money, not power, not possessions, not honor but family. He was a proud Jew and loved going to shul, yes, even after all he saw during the war years. So, can you stand in front of his grave and not appreciate the gifts you have in your life? Really??

At the end of the day, it is not about the dead at all, it is really all about us, the living. They are just mirrors that allow us to reflect upon our own lives. When I pray at these gravesites, I do not pray to them; I thank them. I thank them for what they have done for the world and I promise that I too will try to do my part with the skills, talents and gifts that God gave me. 

The Ruin Synagogue

Moshe RothchildComment

When roaming around the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, it is impossible to miss the large, white domed synagogue. This building is called “The Hurva Synagogue” which means the “Ruin Synagogue”---a very strange name indeed. Of course there is a story behind the name and here it is:

In the year 1700, Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid was intent on emigrating from Europe with his followers to Jerusalem in order to hasten the arrival of the Messiah. By building a community of people who were ready to rebuild the Temple and create the facts on the ground, how could God deny them? Unfortunately, just a few days after Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid arrived with 500 of his followers, he passed away and without a leader the community began to dissipate. 

Of those who remained, they built about 40 homes/apartments and a small synagogue. Eventually, they were interested in building a much larger and attractive synagogue but this proved well beyond the means of this small community. To make it happen, they borrowed money from the local Arab population. The synagogue was built but the debt to the Arabs was never paid. Finally, in 1720 the Arabs lost patience waiting for the loan to be repaid and simply destroyed the synagogue. The synagogue was left in ruins and it became known as the Hurva shel Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid (The Ruin of Rabbi Judah the Pious).

It remained as such for about 100 years when finally in 1819, the Jewish community of Jerusalem received a firman (royal decree) from the ruling Ottoman Empire cancelling the debt. It was not though, until the 1850’s that the synagogue reconstruction began. The Baron Alphonse de Rothschild laid the cornerstone and finally in 1864 the building was complete and dedicated. The synagogue was name Beit Yaacov (House of Jacob) in memory of Jacob Meyer Rothschild who son Edmond was critical in the development of so many new settlements in what was then Palestine.

The synagogue was designed by Assad Effendi who was the architect to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The structure was enormous and contained a beautiful dome with 12 windows around the base of the dome. This landmark building could be seen for miles. From 1864-1948 it was considered the most beautiful and important synagogue in the land of Israel. It was the site where they installed the Chief Rabbis of both Palestine and Jerusalem. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first chief rabbi of Palestine was appointed in the synagogue in 1921.

Despite its official name being the Beit Yaacov synagogue, it was referred to by all as The Hurva (the ruin). In 1948, during the War of Independence the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem fell to the Jordanians. The Hurva Synagogue, along with 57 other synagogues were systematically destroyed by the Jordanians. Jerusalem would remain a divided city for 19 years.

In 1967, during the Six Day War, Jerusalem was once again reunited as the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. There was much debate about what to do with the destroyed synagogue and finally in 1977 they erected a memorial arch to the grand building that once stood there.

In the year 2000, the government of Israel approved of a plan to rebuild the Hurva Synagogue. It took ten years to solve all the issues involved in reconstruction, but finally on March 15, 2010 the synagogue was completed and dedicated.

The story of the Hurva is in many ways a microcosm of the story of the Jewish people. It is about a longing to return to the land, it is about Messianic hopes and it is also about those hopes being dashed. It also represents the tenacity of the Jewish people to forge forward when destruction occurs. Throughout the centuries, the Jewish people held on to the hope that there will once again be an opportunity to rebuild our homeland. The Hurva was destroyed twice and rebuilt twice; the Jewish people were exiled from the land of Israel twice and we have returned twice. We are a people of great hope and we have learned that it is forbidden to ever give up. Hope is the fuel that drives the engine of Jewish history.

Israel’s Help in Nepal: A sick reaction by cynics

Blog, Weekly Message, TeachIsraelMoshe RothchildComment
We accept anybody’s help but Israel’s
— Iran after their 2003 earthquake

As of today, no country in the world has sent more people to help in Nepal than Israel. Period. Numbers can sometimes lie, but these numbers don’t. Fortunately (or unfortunately) due to her real experience over the past 67 years since becoming a State, Israel is uniquely equipped to deal with mass casualty events. This expertise is graciously offered to any place on the planet that may need it, including Israel’s enemies. Help was offered to Iran when they suffered from an earthquake a number of years ago. The help was refused. People died because of Iran’s refusal. They hate Israel more than they value life.

As an Israeli, I am very proud of my country’s actions. We are driven by deep moral principles that are drawn from the Bible and our ancient Jewish traditions. In The book of Deuteronomy we are told that if you see the donkey of your enemy buckling under its heavy load you are to go out of your way to help. No matter that they owner is your enemy. There are circumstances that demand that we put differences aside and work for the common good, be it to prevent the suffering of an animal and certainly when it means saving human lives.

While of course the Bible tells us to live with mercy and kindness to others, this should be true even for those who do not believe the Bible as the word of God. In other words, everyone should be helping Nepal in whatever way they possibly can.

My blood boils when I read the words of the haters of Israel when they write things like, “Israel is exploiting the situation in Nepal for their own good” and other such insane statements. They claim that Israel is only helping in Nepal in order to look good in the eyes of the world. Such sentiment can only come from a deeply cynical and highly disturbed person. They are not capable of putting aside differences for even a moment to help others. They lack a kind soul to say the least.

In fact, they are the very ones politicizing and exploiting Israel’s actions and not the other way around. Israel is helping Nepal which they claim is “exploitive” behavior. What would they say if Israel did not help? They would say that Israel is a cold, callous country only interested in themselves and not being a part of the community of nations blah blah blah. They will damn Israel no matter if she takes action to help or would refrain from such action! So I ask you, honestly, who really is exploiting this situation?

Kenneth Roth of Humans Rights Watch is so ridiculously predictable and infuriating all at the same time. In response to Israel sending help to Nepal, he tweeted “Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel's making in Gaza. End the blockade!” He probably thought he was so clever when he wrote that line. Little did he realize how much his words would reveal about his own twisted and perverse way of thinking.

First of all, there is no humanitarian disaster in Israel. This is a lie that Israel’s enemies literally trip over each other spreading. Valdimir Lenin one said, “A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.” The real disaster in Gaza is a lack of a stable, ethical, democratically elected government. The disaster in Gaza is the fact that Hamas, a violent, bloodthirsty terrorist group controls Gaza.

Second, Israel’s blockade of Gaza is only partial—humanitarian aid is allowed in. The blockade is a response to the terrorists who are controlling Gaza and continue to call for the destruction of Israel. Egypt also has a blockade on Gaza for the very same reason but their blockade does not seem to bother Roth. In the real world, victims are allowed to defend themselves. In the fantasy world created by the enemies of Israel, Israel is never permitted to respond to terror---they must simply absorb the blows.

The bottom line is that Roth and all the other cynics cannot accept that Israel’s help of Nepal is purely motivated. You know what I think? The hundreds of people being treated in the field hospital set up by Israel and those who were saved by Israeli search and rescue teams could care less. I just wish Roth would stop playing politics and exploiting Israel’s good work and just say thank you and be on his way.

 

Israel’s Memorial Day

Blog, Weekly MessageMoshe Rothchild3 Comments

Today is Yom Hazikaron which is Israel’s Memorial Day. It is not a beach day, a day for fun and barbecues, nor do the women start wearing their white shoes. It is solemn, serious and in many ways a very sad day. The TV and radio broadcast select stories of our heroic soldiers who lost their lives in defense of the State of Israel. Israel is a very small country and everyone knows someone who fell in battle. As Yom Hazikaron ends tonight, the solemnness will transform in to joy and partying as we celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

The contrasting feelings of these two days was generated intentionally and with great insight. No one should ever take for granted what they have been given. Memory is not a stand-alone concept. We remember in order to learn the lessons of the past and to appreciate what it took to arrive at the present. The very ground that we walk on is steeped in rich history and in self-sacrifice.

When the State of Israel was declared in 1948, David Ben Gurion who would later become the first Prime Minister knew that we were going to have to defend the new State immediately. He knew the Arab countries were not bluffing when they threatened to attack collectively if a new State was declared. Nevertheless, when the moment presented itself the new State was declared for Ben-Gurion did not know if another opportunity would arise.

When Golda Meir visited the U.S. a few months before the State was declared, here is what she said: “A Jewish State will exist in Palestine. We shall fight for its birth. That is natural. We shall pay for it with our blood. That is normal. The best among us will fall, that is certain. But what is equally certain is that our morale will not waver no matter how numerous our invaders may be.”

They knew what it would take to restore the Jewish people to their ancient homeland and were willing to pay the price. Why? Because they were deeply aware of the historical road that the Jewish people had traveled on since the destruction of the Temple by the Romans nearly 2000 years prior. They knew that the exile, the Diaspora overall, had not been kind to their ancestors. Whether they were motivated by religious reasons or the thought that a State would end Anti-Semitism, it doesn’t really matter. They all understood the awesome opportunity that history had given them. They were not fighting on their own—they were being pushed by the past and pulled by the future.

“The State will not be given to you on a silver platter.” These words were spoken on December of 1947 by Chaim Weizman who would serve as Israel’s first President. In reaction to this statement, a poem was written by Natan Alterman and published in an Israeli paper. I am sharing only part of it here. Please read it carefully, it is very moving.

Dressed in battle gear, dirty, Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly

To change garb, to wipe their brow 
They have not yet found time. Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field 

Full of endless fatigue and unrested, 
Yet the dew of their youth. Is still seen on their head

Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death  

Then a nation in tears and amazement 
will ask: "Who are you?"

And they will answer quietly, "We Are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given."

Thus they will say and fall back in shadows 
And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel

Today we remember the “silver platter” upon which we received the State of Israel. We bring the fallen soldiers out of the shadows of the past and bring their stories to light.

The underlying theme of memory is gratitude. When the day ends hopefully we will be a little less selfish and a bit more grateful to the soldiers and all who have given their life for the State of Israel and for those who fight for freedom everywhere in the world. 

Ten Inspiring Ideas for your Seder

Blog, TeachIsrael, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe RothchildComment

ten ideas seder banner  

So here they are--ten short thoughts that will hopefully make your Seder more meaningful. They are meant to be conversation starters. I would suggest reading them out loud at different intervals at your Seder and discuss them with everyone present. Expand upon them and add your own thoughts. The Seder is supposed to be an experiential journey, not one where you sit on the sidelines. So get involved and have a fun and inspirational experience.

  1. The four cups of wine we drink at the Seder represent the four expressions of redemption found in the Bible (Exodus 6:6-7). There are four expressions of redemption as opposed to one because the redemption happened in stages. When you need personal redemption to get out of a particular situation or change a habit or addiction, it is not simple and does not happen all at once.  It can require enormous effort and small steps. As you move from one stage to the next, one day you will look back and find that you have left your personal Egypt behind and made it to the Promised Land. With persistence and perseverance it can be done. The key is to not give up.
  2. Towards the beginning of the Seder we wash our hands. When you want to improve your spiritual life, it is a good idea to begin by washing and cleaning first and then adding positive things to your spiritual life. “Turn from evil and do good” (Psalms 34:15) Leaving behind our sins, negative habits, bad character traits is the first step. Then you will have a foundation that can support all the amazing things you want to achieve in your relationship with God and people.
  3. At the Seder we eat a green vegetable. One of the ideas is that it reminds us of the spring which is a Biblical reference for the holiday of Passover which occurred in the spring (Deuteronomy 16:1). This reminds us that after a long dark winter, spring is upon us and new growth abounds. In the dark moments of life when we are suffering, we must remember that spring follows winter and once again all will be green and light. Confront your challenges with faith and know that your faith will bring you to great joy.
  4. At the Seder we break one of the matzahs (called Yachatz in Hebrew) and traditionally it is hidden away somewhere in order to keep the children interested and awake until the end. Later the children will try to find the broken piece of the matzah and return it when just in time to be eaten towards the end of the Seder. When you look at the world it seems very broken. So much evil and wickedness can be found around the globe. It can be depressing. The world seems so broken like the matzah. Who will restore it? It is the children that will return the broken piece. It is the children that have such optimism and can restore the world to God’s kingdom.
  5. We tell over the story of the Exodus in question and answer form. We ask four questions at the beginning which results in a long answer explaining the significance of Passover. Curiosity and the seeking of answers is what leads to spiritual growth. When Moses saw the burning bush he wondered why it was not consumed. Wonder is the beginning of our relationship with God. We marvel at his amazing world and ask ourselves “…Who created these?” (Isaiah 40:26) The answer of course is God. Questions lead to deeper thinking. We should not be afraid to question. We should be afraid when we think we already know all the answers.
  6. The matzah is simultaneously known as the bread of affliction and the bread of freedom. Well, which is it? It is both. Matzah is what the Egyptians fed the Israelites when they were enslaved and also was what the Israelites took with them when they were leaving Egypt because the dough did not have time to rise. In life, sometimes our greatest setbacks can lead to our greatest comebacks. Failure is not failure—it is just a step towards success. Redemption is often found within the very struggle itself.
  7. We eat a bitter herb to remember the bitterness of our enslavement in Egypt. When faced with a difficulty in life, even a tragedy, it is critical to “experience” the pain and not to avoid it. Ignoring the pain will only make it worse in the end and nothing will be learned. It will lead to more suffering. The quality of your mourning will, in large measure, determine the quality of your life post mourning. You need to go through the suffering and not around it. With the help and love of others we can embrace life’s challenges and emerge from them stronger and more sensitive people.
  8. At the Seder we recline as free people when we drink the four cups of wine and eat the matzah. It is important in life to celebrate our achievements and accomplishments. It is quite easy to get caught up in the challenges of life and forget to take time out to acknowledge what we have achieved. We must thank all the people that support and help us and we certainly must also thank God. At the end of the day, all comes from Him.
  9. Children play a key role at the Seder. History does not mean only focusing on the past. It also means building a future, creating history. No one lives forever but the values and spiritual gifts we give our children will exist way beyond our physical lifetimes. It is an investment in our eternity so put as much in to it as you can. It will pay great dividends! It will allow you to live forever! “You who cling to the LORD your God, are all alive today” (Deuteronomy 4:4)
  10. We try to finish the Seder by midnight. It is important to realize that some things in life have a beginning and an end. Many people do not know how to say “good enough” and get caught up in pursuing perfection. They cannot stop and let go. You have to know when to go to sleep, when to put aside what you are doing and move on. Spending endless hours at work and precious few minutes with the ones we love is a plague of this generation. The Seder comes to an end. We too must learn when enough is enough. Not easy, but worthwhile. 

Are Israelis Stupid?

Blog, TeachIsrael, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild7 Comments

netanyahu election banner It has finally happened. Something that has never occurred in the history of the world as far as I know it. We have been accused by our enemies and anti-Semites of many things. We have been called cheap, we have been accused of controlling the banks, Hollywood, world economies, politics and have been called dirty, vermin, Christ killers, despised etc. Never have we been called stupid, that is, until now.

I have been traveling in the U.S. for 2 weeks now and experienced the Israel elections while here. After Netanyahu’s unexpected large margin of victory, I tuned in to the various media outlets to hear how it was being reported by the mainstream media. It actually got to the point yesterday (Thursday) that I was so disgusted with the mainstream media that I had to turn off the radio while I was driving. My blood was boiling over the unfair and complete lack of understanding of the Israeli election cycle. In truth it is even more than that. Way more. It is not just a lack of understanding and intelligent insight in to the election outcome, it is a misreading of the entire Middle East.

A common theme on the news here is that Israelis have somehow been intimidated and hoodwinked by Netanyahu in to believing his fear mongering visa vis Iran. Israelis are too stupid to realize that Netanyahu is using the Iran nuclear issue as a smokescreen in order to get himself elected. Netanyahu fooled all those pathetic Jews in to believing him and falling for his ruse.

What they are really saying if you read between the lines is even more arrogant than it appears on the surface. Essentially they are saying the following: What a shame the Israeli’s believed Netanyahu that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Don't those stupid Israelis realize that Iran will be turning in to Switzerland soon? All we need is to sign an agreement with them which they will surely honor! Those stupid Israelis missed another opportunity to hand over their security to President Obama who “has their back.”

The other issue that they keep rehashing in the media is the fact that Netanyahu on Election Day tried to rally his base to vote by saying that the Arabs are voting en masse. The media has spun this and are reporting it as if Netanyahu is a racist! Really? The united Arab parties are the third largest party in Israel after this last election. Netanyahu was simply trying to rally his base to vote for him as the person who can best lead the country! Should he sit by and do nothing on Election Day? Isn’t this what everyone does on Election Day? The Democrats warn their base that the Republicans are coming out in large numbers to vote and vice versa. They Arabs are a voting block and if Netanyahu’s base did not come out and vote the country will be controlled by someone else. Is that racist to want to win? Did he try to prevent the Arabs from voting?? There is an enormous leap between rallying your base and preventing others from voting. Israel is a democracy. Policies are decided by voters unlike all the pretend Arab democracies that surround us that are controlled by dictators who are never elected. When did Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq last hold truly free and open elections? Mahoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinians, is in the 11th year of his 4 year term! Please tell me which of the above mentioned countries allow Jews to vote??

Despite what the main stream media would have you believe, Israelis are smart and knew exactly who they were voting for in Netanyahu. They understand his complicated relationship with Obama, they understand the issue with Iran and they certainly understand the issue of Israel’s security and the Palestinians. We live with Arab terror in our back yard without oceans separating us from the Jihadis. We live in a world of real politics that decisions made today affect us today. Lives are at stake and our children serve in the military. Not voluntarily but mandatory military service for both boys and girls. We know what peace means and there is no one that wants it more than us. I do not want my children to have to go to war. When we vote our number one issue is security. Other issues are secondary. Until the reality of Islamic Jihadi terror comes to an end, Israeli’s who live with this daily reality will continue to vote for the person who represents the best option for protecting our children. That option is Netanyahu and until the left wing media realizes this, they will never understand Israelis. When you live with Canada and Mexico as your neighbors and two oceans on either side it is easy to pontificate and criticize.

Thank God I personally met hundreds of Americans who get it and are standing with Israel. We are grateful to the millions of Christians who are standing with us. We must continue to get the truth out and not weaken our resolve no matter how challenging it may be. 

Blog, TeachIsrael, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild7 Comments

purim herzl header  

In celebration of the holiday of Purim, we go to the synagogue in the evening and in the morning for a public reading of the book of Esther.

One thing that always bothered me about the book of Esther was why didn’t Mordechai just bow down to Haman? It sure would have saved a lot of aggravation!

Let’s back up first, just in case you need a little reminder of what I am referring to. Haman, who was an advisor to King Ahasuerus, would walk the streets of the capital of Persia, the ancient city of Shushan (current day Iran) and everyone would bow down to him and boy did he love it! Bowing to Haman was in fact commanded by King Ahasuerus. Mordechai, however would not bow at all, ever. This really ticked off Haman. In fact, other people noticed and asked Mordechai why he violates the law of the king (Esther 3:3). Day after day people kept telling Mordechai to bow to Haman but he consistently refused.

So Haman wants to take Mordechai to task over his refusal to bow but it would not be sufficient to hold Mordechai accountable. Better yet, Haman decides to exterminate all the Jews in King Ahasuerus’ kingdom no matter where they may be (Esther 3:6).

It would seem to me that Mordechai’s refusal to bow was a bit selfish. A bow here and there would have avoided the Jewish people being marked for genocide. Couldn’t he be a little more accommodating?

Oddly enough, the answer is found in the actions of Theodore Herzl. Herzl, was not the first to call for a Jewish return to Israel but nonetheless is considered the father of modern Zionism. After witnessing anti-Semitism first hand in Europe, he went home to Budapest and penned a book called “The Jewish State.” In it he outlines his solution to the problem of anti-Semitism, namely the founding of a Jewish state. It would be a place of Jewish self-determination and creativity. To that end, Herzl organized in Basle, Switzerland in 1897 the first World Zionist Congress. At the congress, Herzl declared, “Today I have founded the Jewish State. It will take thirty, forty but no more than fifty years until you see it.” He was close--it took 51 years. Herzl though died in 1904 and though he never saw the State of Israel he holds a place of honor as the father of modern Zionism.

In his pursuit of support for a renewal of the Jewish State, Herzl traveled widely seeking audiences with heads of State. He would speak with anyone who would listen. In his travels, Herzl had a meeting with the Pope. Before he went in to the meeting, Herzl was instructed that the proper etiquette when meeting the Pope is to kneel and kiss his hand. Herzl records in his diary that he did not kneel nor kiss the Pope’s hand. Here is what he says: “I believe that this spoiled my chances with him, for everyone who visits him kneels and at least kisses his hand.”

Herzl refused to kneel to the Pope because Herzl was not meeting with the Pope as a regular citizen. He was representing the entire Jewish people in their quest for a renewal of the days of old. It was time for the Jewish people to come home and the return would not be based on having to bow to the Catholic Church or to anyone else for that matter. Herzl wasn’t merely a person meeting with the Pope, he was everyone, he embodied the spirit of the entire Jewish people.

When Mordechai refused to bow to Haman it was because he was a leader of the Jewish people whom everyone looked to for guidance. Mordechai had come to Persia after being exiled from Jerusalem following the destruction of the First Temple. In Persia, the mindset of the Jewish people was precarious and had Mordechai bowed, had a leader who represented the people done so, it would have decimated the Jewish people’s optimism and hope to return to the land of Israel. Mordechai and Herzl both needed to keep their heads up, to be strong, proud Jews. All eyes were upon them as leaders.

As I write these words, our Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just finished delivering his message to Congress. "The days that the Jewish people remain passive in the face of a genocidal enemy, those days are over." He is right. Mordechai got it. Herzl got it and now Netanyahu gets it. The Jewish people have come home and we will not bow to anyone. We are living in our God given homeland thriving and striving to be a beacon of moral clarity in a world that often can be very dark.

 

Why Netanyahu Must Be Heard

Blog, TeachIsrael, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild8 Comments

netanyahu banner For years, next to my bed I kept my high school American history textbook. I enjoyed reading it as I found it to be a straightforward, simple overview of the founding and growth of one of the most powerful, influential and moral countries in history.

Deciding to leave the U.S. and make aliyah (Hebrew for moving to Israel) was not simple for me. Having grown up in the U.S and being a loyal, patriotic American, saying good bye to everything I had known was very complicated and left me with very mixed feelings. Many Jews who moved to Israel over the last 150 years or so were running away from their home countries. I, on the other hand, was not running away from anything. I was running to something, namely the eternal homeland of the Jewish people that was promised by God to Abraham and his descendants in perpetuity. It was this promise that I was running towards. I had no reason to leave the U.S.---I had a meaningful job as a community rabbi, car, home and we took family vacations once a year. It was a nice, comfortable life. We left all that behind to pursue something that generations of Jews never had an opportunity to do—to live on our own land as free people creating our own destiny. My familial ancestors could only have dreamed of such an opportunity, never imagining that it could become a reality.

It was that reality that left us with a difficult choice. In certain ways life is much simpler without choices, perhaps less rich but simpler. So after much thought and deliberation my wife and I decided to move our family from Florida to Israel, specifically to the area the world calls the West Bank which is Biblically known as Judaea. I now live in the Bible belt! The real Bible Belt where so many of the Biblical stories took place.

When we arrived in Israel nearly six years ago along with a plane load of new immigrants from the U.S, we were greeted with great fanfare at the airport. A large crowd was there, many of them were family members of the new arrivals. Signs with the words “Welcome Home” were in abundance and it gave me the chills to see them. Soldiers lined the tarmac waving small Israeli flags with music blaring in the background. We walked between the soldiers as we headed toward the main terminal building. It was impossible not to feel emotional.

In the terminal building we were met with refreshments and more music. After a short while we were bidden to take our seats for the official arrival ceremony. There were quite a few speeches of which I remember very little of the content. I was exhausted and exhilarated all at once. The one thing I do remember is Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein telling us that each group of people that moves to Israel brings with them the culture of their home countries. He told us that it is his hope and prayer that we bring with us from the U.S good, clean government with democratic principles.

That government that he was speaking of was the same one that I read about countless times in my American history textbook saved from my high school days. An essential feature of U.S. governance is the concept of checks and balances. The world is filled with regimes that force their will upon the civilians without any opportunity for real representation, nor is there any limits places on the regime. Look at countries like Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Iran and most of the countries in the Middle East. In the U.S there are three branches of government—the Executive, the Legislative and Judicial. The intention of building three branches of government was to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful and for each branch to be restrained by the other two. Each branch has rights and responsibilities.

When Prime Minister Netanyahu was invited by the speaker of the House John Boehner to address the Congress, he was well within his rights to extend such an invitation. While the three branches of government are meant to work together, the Legislative branch must remain independent with the power to make its own decisions in order to preserve the intention of checks and balances. The Speaker of the House determined that in his judgment it is essential for Congress to hear the opinion of the Prime Minister of Israel who has a critical voice in the world debate on Iran.

The possibility of a nuclear Iran is unfathomable and intolerable. It represents not only an existential threat to Israel but it is a serious danger to the entire world. A nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran means a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists. Instead of buildings being targeted, entire cities will be--whether it is NY, Jerusalem or L.A.

While President Obama is perfectly within his rights to lead the negotiations with Iran as he sees fit, the Congress is within their rights to gather information regarding Iran and to formulate an opinion independent of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government. If the Congress is just a lapdog of the President then they are not fulfilling the role that they were elected to do by the people of the U.S. Their job is to lead the country in a way that best represents and protects the people—by the people, for the people. If Congress would capitulate to the demands of the President to cancel Netanyahu’s speech, they would be no better than any dictatorial government. Their job is to oppose the President whenever they deem necessary. This is U.S. government 101 that every high school kid should be familiar with. Introducing the notion that the President was “insulted” or “offended” by not being consulted is sheer nonsense and should not be the concern of the Speaker of the House. (Besides, the fact is that we now know from a NY Times retraction that the White House was informed in advance of the invitation extended to Netanyahu.)

Here are the words of famous Harvard lawyer, Alan Dershowitz: “Whether one agrees or disagrees with Speaker John Boehner ’s decision to invite Mr. Netanyahu or Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to accept, no legal scholar can dispute that Congress has the power to act independently of the president in matters of foreign policy.” 

It is not only within the rights of Congress, it is the absolute responsibility of Congress to hear what Netanyahu has to say. Israel has more experience fighting terrorism than any country in the world. Doesn’t it make sense to give Netanyahu a forum to speak? Anything less would simply be un-American.

Blog, TeachIsrael, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe RothchildComment

Jetershortstop banner "I have achieved almost every personal and professional goal I have set. I have gotten the very most out of my life playing baseball, and I have absolutely no regrets." 

The above words were said by Derek Jeter who retired from the NY Yankees at the end of this past baseball season, twenty years after he began his career. It is truly an amazing statement! How many of us could say the same about our lives? Have we “achieved almost every personal and professional goal?” Do we even know what our goals are?

The most difficult thing about writing a book or an essay is not coming up with an idea, it is writing the very first sentence. There is a well-known Jewish book called the Path of the Just written back in the 18th century by a man named Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato. The book is all about the development of character and it follows a step by step approach. But how does the book begin? What is the very first sentence?

I want you to pause for a moment and think about how you would begin a book that is all about spiritual character development. Not to so easy. So here is how he begins. “The foundation of all foundations is knowing what your goals and aspirations in this world are.” In other words, it is impossible to know what path of development you should take, what character traits should be developed without knowing where you are going. Reminds me of the joke about the guy who is hopelessly lost and turns to his friend and says, “I have no idea where we are but we are making good time.” You can’t go anywhere, you can’t achieve anything without first knowing what the goal is. Once you know where you are going, then you know how to plan.

Let’s put it in real terms. If a person believes that his goal in life is to make it to the finish line (i.e. death) with the most money then he will prepare himself accordingly. The decisions he makes, the friendships he cultivates and the education he chooses will all be reflected through his desire to make money. If a person believes that his goal is to bring Godliness and goodliness in to this world, he will make very different types of decisions. Until you know what your goals are, you are just shooting in the dark and you very well may end up in a place that you don’t want to be. Unfortunately, many people go through life this way, it is tragic but very common.

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5) While it sounds like the Bible is offering financial advice here, it is only a metaphor for what we have been saying all along. Set goals and it will lead you to where you want to be, running forward without a plan is recipe for disaster.

The world we live in is a world based on results. Society tells you that goal setting is nice, but if you don’t achieve your goals you won’t amount to much. A doctor whose goal is to cure his patients, yet they all seem to remain sick will not remain in the profession for long. A financial planner who sets financial goals but loses everyone’s money, likewise will be out of a job.

However, in the world of the Bible this is not so. If you set a goal and work to achieve that goal you are already a success. It is not about achieving goals it is all about setting goals and working at them. There is a beautiful rabbinic teaching that says as follows: “It is not upon you to complete the work, however you are not free from the effort.” While you may not achieve and complete every spiritual goal, paradoxically, when you put in the effort you are already there. Quite different than the material world we live in, where results matter but effort plays a very small role.

Look again at the verse from Proverbs and you will notice something interesting. It says the PLANS lead to abundance. It does not say success leads to abundance. The Bible is clear that if you set a goal, work at it, success is already at hand. Hopefully the words of Derek Jeter will resonate in our lives, not because we necessarily have achieved all of our goals, but it will inspire us to set goals and put our heart and soul in to achieving them.

 

The Blessing of Rain

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild6 Comments

rain banner Rain can really ruin your day. Growing up in the U.S. I viewed rain as an enemy. Many beach days, little league baseball games, camp trips were ruined because of rain.

Here in Israel we have a very different attitude towards rain. When I was 18 and just out of high school I spent a year studying in Israel before starting university back in the U.S. Sometime around November of that year Israel experienced her first rainfall. The Israeli students went outside without raincoats and were dancing, singing and just having a great time in the rain. It all seemed really weird to me yet it began to change my attitude and understanding of rain.

Other than terrorism, dealing with the issue of water shortages in Israel is possibly the most important and challenging issue. Approximately between the months of April and November Israel receives no rain at all. It is the dry season. From November through April is when we can expect it to rain though many years have been less than stellar in the amount of precipitation. When the rainfall during the rainy season is below average and when this happens for more than one year consecutively, it creates a very serious issue here.

This year November passed with practically no rain at all. For this reason, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel urged the public to begin saying a special prayer daily to ask God to bless us with abundant and bountiful rain. All over Israel, communities and individuals are reciting this prayer.

It is important to remember that Mother Nature also has a Father. We don’t see a lack of rainfall as merely a scientific event divorced from God’s control. Take a look at these three verses and you will see something special about rain in Israel.

“For the land to which you come, to possess it—it is not like the land of Egypt which you left, where you plant seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden.  But the land to which you cross over to possess it is a land of hills and valleys; from the rain of heaven will it drink water. A land that the Lord your God seeks out; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” (Deuteronomy 11: 10-12)

The verses are contrasting the land of Egypt with the land of Israel. What does it mean when it says that in Egypt you planted and watered with your foot? This is a reference to the method of irrigation that was used in ancient Egypt. The Nile River was a year round source of water. Irrigation channels were dug which were closed off by small doors. The farmer decided which areas of the field needed water and he would use his foot to kick open these small doors which would allow a flood of water to enter the irrigation channels. Water was plentiful and simple to access.

The land of Israel had no major water source like Egypt. It was completely dependent on the rains from the heavens. Water would no longer be easily available as it was in Egypt—it would now become an expression of our relationship with God.

This is the context of the last verse---it is the land that the eyes of God are always upon it. God answers our prayers and provides rain as a blessing and it is His way of showing that he is connected to the land and cares deeply.

As I write these words we are experiencing our first rains of the season. The forecast is for three straight days of heavy rain. We are truly saturated with blessings!!

Eight Bright Ideas

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild6 Comments

eight bright ideas banner We celebrate Chanukah by lighting candles for eight nights, adding one candle each night. Here are eight Chanukah ideas that will hopefully brighten the holiday and inspire you. I purposely made them short so they are easily readable! Enjoy! Feedback is most welcome.

1. A small amount of light has the power to dispel lots of darkness. When we light the chanukiah (candelabra) on the first night of Chanukah we will light just one candle. One shining soul can brighten a dark world and fill it with warmth, love and spirituality. Don’t underestimate what you can accomplish all by yourself.

2. One flame can light another without being diminished whatsoever. When you share, teach or inspire others you light their soul on fire. Not only are you not diminished by it, you are empowered.

3. Do the best you can and then leave the rest up to God. After the Jews defeated the Greeks they found only enough pure oil to burn in the Temple for one day. Nevertheless they lit it and a miracle occurred and it burned for eight days. Do the maximum and then give space for God to work.

4. Always look up. No matter what direction you hold a candle, the flame always burns up. We each have a soul and no matter what challenges we face in life we have a lifeline connecting us to God. The soul is the flame burning inside of you that is always reaching up to God.

5. Go beyond what you think are your limits. The potential contained within the jug of oil to light was limited. Yet, that little jug of oil went beyond its limitations and kept burning. Don’t limit yourself—you can achieve far more than you think is possible if you would only believe in yourself. Limitations are usually an illusion.

6. It all begins with family. The battle against the Greeks was initiated and led by one family, the Hasmoneans. On Chanukah we recall the resolve of one family willing to stand up for what is right and to fight for those ideals. It all begins and ends in the home. We need to strengthen family life the world over.

7. Know what you are dedicated to. The word Chanukah means dedication. The Temple when it was found desecrated needed much more than simple repairs. It needed to be rededicated. They knew what they were fighting for---it was a God centered world view vs. the Greek man centered world view. They were dedicated to the cause. To what are you dedicated enough that you are willing to fight for it?

8. The majority is not always right. Much of the known world was under Greek/Hellenistic influence at the time. The Hellenists believed that man was equal or superior to the gods. The human body was the Temple and its perfection was to be worshipped. While this is what most people believed, at the end of the day it was a small group of Jews that not only defeated the Greeks militarily but dispelled the darkness of this ideology. Following the right path may not always be easy or popular but we must—even if it means going against the tide.

 

I hope these “bright” ideas will illuminate your life.

Chanukah for Everyone

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild2 Comments

chanukah banner As a child growing up in America, it always seemed that Chanukah got the shorter end of the stick when compared to the bright light of Christmas. Lighting those tiny flames couldn’t hold a candle to the houses draped in Christmas lights and adorned with glowing Santa’s and reindeers on the front lawn. Let’s not even talk about a decorated tree! As I got older and understood what those little Chanukah lights were all about and the commercialization of Christmas, I was proud to be celebrating Chanukah.

I know those who try to defend and define Christmas and for that matter Chanukah, as the holidays of giving. After all, who can argue with that? Giving definitely increases in December (though it is likely a function of end of year tax planning) with all the holiday cheer. I think though that this idea is a mistake and in a way even counterproductive. In Judaism (and I believe Christianity) there is no season of giving. Giving is an all year round event. It applies every single day, week, month and year of our lives. A spiritual person, a Godly person must be a giver. You cannot have a relationship with God while ignoring the needs of those living around you. Defining Chanukah (or Christmas) as a time of giving runs the risk of diminishing the rest of the year as a time of giving as well. I think this idea was developed to justify the gift giving element of the holidays.

So what is Chanukah really about? About 2300 years ago the Greeks were ruling the land of Israel. Over the course of the following century they tried to impose their Hellenistic culture upon the Jewish people. Hellenism was the Greek ideology that included the pursuit of knowledge and the arts, architecture, engineering, science and most importantly the perfection of the human form.

The Greeks were an advanced society and very much respected learning and advancement. What was it that ultimately led the Jews to rebel against the Greeks in the 2nd century BCE?

The Greeks believed that man was equal to if not superior than the gods. They saw the world as a man centered affair in which the gods ultimately had to respond to and accommodate man. Judaism says the exact opposite. The world is meant to be a God centered world where the will of man is bent to the will of God. Life is to be lived in service of God and in the pursuit of goodness and the perfection of the world. When I say perfection of the world I mean that we are supposed to bring Godliness in to everything that we do.

Ultimately, the severely outnumbered Jews defeated the world’s greatest super power with the help of a miracle from God. After redeeming Jerusalem from the Greeks, the Jews went to rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem that had been defiled by the Greeks. In the process they found only one jug of pure olive oil with which to light the menorah (the seven branched candelabra lit daily in the Temple). The oil they found though was only enough to light for one day. Nevertheless, they lit the menorah and it remained burning for eight days enough time to prepare new oil.

On Chanukah, we celebrate the miracle of the military victory over the Greeks and the of the oil by lighting candles (or olive oil) for eight nights. We begin with one candle and add one each night. It is beautiful to see here in Israel the flames dancing as they are displayed for all to see in windows or even outside.

At its core, Chanukah is the celebration of those who believe that the world should be God centered against those who believe that the world is man centered. This battle is still being waged today as many in society place athletes and entertainers above heroes of the spirit. The stadium has replaced the house of worship and money its idol. God has been removed from public life and science has the answers to everything. Please do not misunderstand me. I enjoy sports and entertainment. Science is critical and absolutely should be studied and used to help humanity. However when sports, entertainment and science are revered more than God we are no different than the Greeks.

“And God said: Let there be light!” This Biblical imperative is more than just part of the creation story. It is a description of what we are all doing here. Every day we must battle the forces of darkness by adding more and more light to the world. Chanukah reminds us that this is a battle we must face every day.

Raising Good Kids

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe RothchildComment

Good kids banner

 We all want our children and grandchildren to be committed to a spiritual life. It is rare to find a family that is happy and satisfied when their child chooses a totally secular  lifestyle without God playing a role. What can we do? How do we keep our children and grandchildren connected? While there is no one answer, perhaps what follows is an important piece of the puzzle.

“These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man…” These are the words that begin the Torah portion this week. The Torah begins with the phrase “These are the generations of Noah” which you would naturally assume would immediately be followed by a listing of Noah’s descendants beginning first with his children. Instead it is followed by a description of his character.  In fact it is the second verse tells us that Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japeth. Why the gap between this first phrase and the listing of Noah’s sons?

The Bible is teaching us that the true first product of any human being is themselves. Children are second. Let’s take a closer look at the first verse and reinterpret it according to this premise. “These are the generations of Noah”-the descendants of Noah begin with Noah himself and who was Noah? “Noah was a man who was righteous and complete in his generations-Noah walked with Hashem.” A beautiful description of Noah-one that we would all crave.

When we focus more sharply we see three words assigned to Noah: man (ish), righteous (tzadik) and complete (tamim). What do these three descriptions imply?

Noah was first and foremost an ish, a man, or perhaps to use a better word that is very common amongst Jews, he was a mensch. Before you can be righteous and complete you must first be a mensch. A mensch is someone who behaves appropriately and treats others with respect.

Noach was also called a tzadik (righteous) which means that all of his actions were righteous and good.

Finally he is described as tamim (pure) which means that not only were his actions righteous but his inner world, his character was also refined. It is possible to be a tzadik and not a tamim-one can act in a proper manner but still have a flawed character.

With this beautiful introductory description of Noah the Torah then tells us that he had three sons. First Noah had to work on his own spiritual life before there was any chance of affecting the lives of his children.

This profound lesson unlocks one of the doors to successful parenting. If you want your kids to be passionate about spirituality, you must be passionate about spirituality first. If you want your children to value Torah then you must value Torah first. If you want your children to be kind and charitable then you must be kind and charitable. Religion cannot be lived by proxy through your children. The expectations that we have of our children and grandchildren begin with the realization that we are the first of our generation. It begins with me, with my commitment. By honestly trying to become a mensch, a tzadik and a tamim it will go a long way to creating future generations that will follow in our footsteps.

 

 

5 Things We Can Learn from the Conflict in Syria

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe RothchildComment

syria banner About two years ago a popular uprising began in Syria against the dictatorial government of Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the Syrian government has killed over 100,000 of its own citizens in order to retain power and control of the country. Lately, the world’s attention has been more focused on Syria because Assad launched a chemical weapons attack against his own people killing hundreds. Will the U.S. respond? Will the world respond? As of this writing there has been no action. I would like to offer you five things that we can learn from what has been transpiring in Syria.

1. Israel is often made the scapegoat of Arab problems. Assad, president of Syria announced this week that if he is attacked in response to the gas attack that he inflicted on his own people, he will retaliate by attacking Israel. Really?

 

In 1991, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. led a coalition of nations in an effort to oust Iraq from Kuwait. The deadline for Iraq’s retreat was January 15 after which the coalition forces threatened to take military action. Iraq did not budge and on January 17 the coalition began its offensive against the Iraqi’s ultimately forcing them out of Kuwait.

 

What was Iraq’s response to the coalition forces? Attack Israel of course! Thirty nine SCUD missiles were launched at Israel over the course of the war. Israel chose not to respond and allowed the coalition to battle Iraq. The feeling of the U.S was that if Israel entered the war it would rally the Arab states behind Saddam and the Iraqi’s. So Israel sat on her hands as she received blow after blow.

 

Two years ago, sharks were attacking swimmers in Egyptian waters. Israel was blamed. Really, she was! Egypt claimed that is was some sinister Zionist plot.

 

The corollary to all of this is lesson two.

 2. Progress and growth only comes from taking personal responsibility for your own life. While it may be a lot easier to blame your parents, your boss, or your circumstances, in the long run this will get you absolutely nowhere. Even if you are right and it really is someone else’s fault, you will not achieve what you want in life by focusing on the guilty parties.

 

As long as the Arab countries continue to blame Israel for their problems, there will never be progress in the Middle East. End of story.

3. Killing your own people is okay, as long as you use conventional methods. No one seemed to care much that Assad murdered over 100,000 of his countrymen over the last two years until he started using unconventional weapons. The lesson that can be drawn from here is that had he continued to use only conventional weapons, he could have done so unfettered by pesky countries trying to ruin the party. Obviously I mean this tongue in cheek but seriously, why did no one care that he was killing people until now? Suddenly everyone is up in arms!

4. There is a moral obligation to fight evil. The question we all need to ask ourselves is: What kind of a world do we want to live in? It is a lot simpler to put on blinders and ignore the injustices and suffering when you are not suffering. So we can live selfishly and ignore what is going on in Syria and other parts of the world, or we can choose to do the right thing. It is not always simple to know what the right thing is, so we need to pray to God to give us clarity. However, the option of choosing to live in my own world is not moral. In Judaism we have an expression that is loosely translated as “a righteous person in a fur coat.” Meaning he thinks he is righteous but only worries about keeping himself warm.

 5. Weakness emboldens evil. Countries like Iran and North Korea are looking on. How the world reacts will either encourage or discourage them from proceeding on their evil paths. Above we discussed the moral obligation to fight evil. Lesson five is the ramifications of that decision. The world needs good, ethical leadership because if we don’t have it, the vacuum created will be filled. It is kind of like parenting. Your kids watch your reaction to their behavior. If they can get away with eating junk food before dinner, they will. If you react they will learn that they can’t just raid the pantry when they want. Not that kids are evil, but you get the point.

 While Israel and the world waits to see how the events in Syria will unfold, we must remember that at the end of the day, we must pray. It is not about the guns, tanks and planes---these are all just tools. We must ask God for clarity and pray for the safety of all good, peace loving people wherever they may be. People here in Israel are preparing for the worst case scenario by getting gas masks and sealing a room in their homes. Knowing that this is the land that the Bible says that the eyes of the Lord is on it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year (Deuteronomy 11:12), brings us great comfort and confidence.

                        

What I Learned on Vacation

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild3 Comments

vacation banner  

“Are we almost there yet?” This is by far the most common phrase that has been asked in every single language, in every time period, on every single vacation. Second place would definitely be “I have to go to the bathroom.”

We just returned from an amazing family vacation to northern Israel. We laughed a lot, relaxed and rejuvenated. There are a lot of things you can learn though from a vacation and I want to share with you some of my thoughts in no particular order.

  1. People like to know where they are going and how long it will take to get there. This simple universal truth makes us appreciate what Abraham did when God tells him to leave his land, birthplace and fathers home and go to a place “that I will show you.” Abraham did not know where he was going nor did he know how long it was going to take. We can only imagine the nagging he must have endured from his household that was traveling with him! Are we almost there yet?

 

  1. If there is an opportunity to go to the bathroom, take it. While it is rare that you truly have a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” it is critical to evaluate opportunities that come your way. Don’t let cynicism and sarcasm get in the way. Be open minded and willing to jump on board when you think it may benefit you. Too often in life people procrastinate and live life with regrets. Down the road sometimes we wish we have gone to the bathroom when we had the chance. Don’t let life pass you by. Take advantage of every moment of your life because time is our most precious commodity.  The Jewish Sages put it this way. “If not now, when?”

 

  1. People who sit in the back often get nauseous. There are countless situations which require leadership. Most people though would prefer to take a backseat and let someone else lead from the front even if it makes them nauseous. Followers tend to criticize leaders but never truly want to lead themselves despite their willingness to criticize. Though sitting in the back comes with a price, sitting in the front has many rewards and advantages. You get to see what is coming at you better, you can feel the air conditioning and you get to choose the station on the radio. Our communities, schools, institutions and even families need more leadership. Sit in the front. The rewards far outweigh the challenges.

 

  1. On vacation there is no room for excess baggage. When packing up the car, you need to manage to fit everything in while leaving room for everyone to sit. You need to prioritize when you pack and think about what is truly necessary and important for the trip. It is a good idea in life to take stock often of our priorities and rid our lives of what we don’t need. Ask yourself, what fits in on your journey in life and what must be discarded? If you are flying you pay a steep price for excess baggage. In life that price is all too often our health, our relationships and our self-image. We carry baggage from childhood that deeply limits us and it needs to be discarded. When we streamline our lives the result is that we create space for other people thereby enriching ourselves and others. The Jewish Sages put it this way. “Many possessions. Many worries.”

 

  1. There is no vacation from God. When on vacation we do not leave our spiritual routines behind. If we pray and study regularly we must do so while on vacation as well. In fact, if you want to really test your sincerity in your relationship with God, there is no better place to do so when you are on vacation and no one else is around. The sincerity of your relationship is reflected by your willingness to take God with you on your vacation and allow Him to be part of your life even when you are outside of your daily routine.

 

These are just some of my reflections from our recent vacation. Life always gives us opportunities to learn even when we are not in a normal, learning mode like a classroom. Perhaps there is no greater teacher in life than the experiences we have. If you open your mind and heart you will be amazed at what you can learn from simple things. These are all Divine messages. We just need to pay attention.

The Cost of Peace

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe RothchildComment

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In 1987 a terrorist threw a firebomb at the car my family was traveling in. He murdered my mother and my brother Tal, and injured my father, my brother, his friend and myself. It is a story you know. But me, you do not really know. I was eight years old when this happened.

While my father was rolling me in the sand to extinguish my burning body, I looked in the direction of our car and watched as my mother burned in front of my eyes.

This story did not end that day in 1987. This story is the difficult life I have led since then. I am still eight years old, hospitalized in critical condition. Screaming from pain. Bandaged from head to toe. And my head is not the same. No longer full of golden long hair. The head is burnt. The face, back, the legs and arms, burnt. I am surrounded by family members, but my mother is not with me. Not hugging and caressing. She is not the one changing my bandages.

In the room next door, my brother Tal is screaming in pain. I call out to him to count sheep with me so he can fall asleep. Three months later, little Tal dies of his wounds. I am seated, all bandaged up, on a chair in the cemetery and I watch as my little brother is buried.

For many months I am forbidden to be out in the sun because of the burns, so I wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to school. In July and August as well. And under the clothes I wear a pressure suit meant to [prevent hypertrophic] scarring. It is painful and hot and itchy.

Here I am at twelve years old, undergoing another operation to correct a scar that limited movement in my leg. And then I am celebrating my bat mitzvah. And my mother is not at the celebration. So I cry quietly at night and write to her.

 I grow older. I don’t like that people in the street stare at me, don’t like it when the cashier at the supermarket asks, “Oh, child, what happened to you?” I don’t like it that every such look and every such question make me run and cry.

I reach the age of fourteen and still live in Alfei Menashe. I have a father, an older brother and friends, I am a good pupil. But I also have unbearable scars. I do not have a mother. So I lay in the road and say to myself that if a car comes, whatever happens, happens. But it doesn’t happen. So I pick myself up and return home. All those years of adolescence, my friends’ preferred activity is to go to the beach. But I don’t go because I have scars. Because I am burnt. And I am ashamed.

Then I am eighteen and want to enlist but I am not drafted. The army refuses to take responsibility for my scars. So I volunteer in the military and serve for a year and a half.

At college I meet new people who, of course, ask me what happened to me. I respond “terror attack.” And they always answer “wow, really? I thought hot water spilled on you when you were little.”

Today I am thirty-four years old, exactly my mother’s age at the time of the attack. From now on she will forever be younger than me. And still, at least four times a week I answer questions about what happened to me.

 I am thirty-four years old but the last few days I have returned to being that eight-year-old facing that burning car and waiting for her mother to come out of it. Yitzhak Rabin, who was minister of defense at the time of the attack, promised my dad they would catch the terrorist. And they did. And they sentenced him. To two life sentences and another seventy-two years in prison. And you Cabinet ministers? With the wave of a hand you decided to free him – he who caused all of this story.

 And you will not convince me that you understand my pain because you don’t. And no explanations that claim to be rational will help. You are heartless beings and abstruse. With your decision to release the murderer you spit on the graves of my mother and my brother Tal. You erase this story from the pages of the history of the state of Israel. And in return for what?

 I beg you to remove him from the list of those to be released. Leave him in jail. [Let him] rot as he should rot. Don’t light again the fire that he lit. Don’t destroy those who are left in this family. Save us. Because if he is released my father, brother and I will no longer be able to live. The terrorist responsible for the attack on the Moses family, Daoud Adal Hassan Mahmad, is among the pre-Oslo prisoners reportedly to be released as a concession to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

God's Wakeup Call

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild1 Comment

shofar banner On the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul (this past Wednesday),  Jews around the world began blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah which will be celebrated in one month. What is the source of this custom?

Jewish tradition tells us that when Moses climbed Mt. Sinai for a second time after the sin of the Golden Calf, he was accompanied by the sounding of the shofar. Moses ascended to beg for forgiveness for the Jewish people and to receive the second set of tablets. All of this happened on the first day of Elul hence we mark the beginning of God’s forgiveness of the Jewish people by blowing the shofar. We will do so every day until Rosh Hashana.

For the Jewish people this forty day period beginning today and extending to Yom Kippur is a time that has been designated for forgiveness. We do our best to repair our relationship with God and with people. We cannot ask God to forgive us for offenses committed against other people---we must reconcile directly with them.

How did the shofar come to be such a powerful symbol?

Abraham is instructed by God to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. In perhaps the most dramatic moment in human history God tells Abraham to stop just as he is about to plunge the knife in to the neck of Isaac. God teaches us that we are to live for Him and not give up our lives to honor Him. Abraham looks up and caught in the thicket is a ram. Abraham takes the ram and offers him to God as a replacement for Isaac. Abraham has passed the test and demonstrated the depth of his commitment and loyalty to God and at the same time is taught a powerful lesson about life.

The ram’s horn recalls this incredible act of Abraham reminding us of his faith in order to inspire us to higher levels of faith and commitment. We sound the shofar and we are brought back to the great moment where Abraham, the great knight of faith, instructs us.

Another imagery that we find in Jewish literature is the shofar as a kind of spiritual alarm clock. When a person is physically asleep and needs to be up to go to school or work, they set an alarm clock. When a person is spiritually asleep he listens to the sound of the shofar. It is a wakeup call that reminds us not to sleep away our lives in a spiritual slumber. We must arouse ourselves and awaken our souls to God.

Others suggest that the sounds that emanate from the shofar represent the deepest cry of the human being. Crying transcends words. Words can only reach so far but a cry from the soul can open all doors of heaven. Sometimes we simply do not have the words to express ourselves so we cry to God to express the inner emotions and thoughts of our hearts in a way that can never be achieved through the spoken word. This is what the shofar is. Its sounds reach down in to the soul of man and reach up to the highest places in heaven.

The shofar reminds us of Abraham, it is a wakeup call and it is a cry from the depths of our soul.

Finally, the shofar is mentioned everyday three times a day in Jewish prayer. “Sound the great shofar for our freedom…and gather us in from the four corners of the world.” The shofar is the instrument that will announce the redemption.  It will begin an era where the whole world will recognize God and live in peace. Let us pray that we are blessed to hear the sounding of the great shofar!

This Land is Our Land

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe Rothchild4 Comments

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Yesterday I got a frantic call from a friend in a panic. She had been leading a group of American tourists all over Israel and took them to a restaurant for their farewell dinner before heading to the airport and back to the States. The restaurant that they were eating in was in an area that the world calls “the West Bank.” This is the area that the Bible calls Judaea and Samaria. Many in the world claim that Israel is occupying the “West Bank” and hence the tourists in the group were upset that they were eating in an area that is “occupied” by Israel. I live in this very area so my friend needed a response immediately, hence the reason for the phone call to me.

To fully understand the situation properly, we need to understand a little bit of history, the Bible and to use some plain old common sense. The news will feed you with sound bites never fully explicating what the truth really is and thereby creating this myth of “Israeli occupation” and aggression. If you continue reading to the end, I believe you will find a very different reality than what is portrayed in the media and the real truth is actually quite compelling. Imagine that.

For those who believe in the Bible this is actually quite simple. The land was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as an eternal inheritance. Eternal, just in case it needs clarification, means forever. Not a thousand or two thousand years but forever. Considering that God does not lie, forever means that even today the promise God made is just as valid. End of story. If you would like to claim that God didn’t mean it or you have some other fancy reading of the Bible then the burden of proof is upon you to prove that the Biblical promise is not exactly what it says it is. Good luck with that.

But what about the people who do not believe in the Bible? The promises made in the Bible hold no validity to them, hence how can Israel possibly be justified in “occupying” the West Bank? How can this be explained to them?

One critical sentence can explain it, but without sitting tight for the explanation it is like smelling chocolate without tasting it! Here goes: The Jewish people NEVER willingly relinquished their rights to their homeland. Please read that sentence again. Here comes the explanation.

Picture the following scenario. You are sitting in the home that you own free and clear eating breakfast when suddenly there is a knock on the door. You open the front door and you see a policemen standing there with a total stranger. The policemen is holding a document which he shows you is a court order demanding that you leave your home in 48 hours because the man standing next to him is the true owner of the house. You cannot believe it so you take a good look at the document and that is exactly what it says. You are in shock because you know you bought the house and spent the last twenty five years paying off the mortgage!

Your next move is to hire a lawyer because clearly a fraud has been perpetrated. The stranger has created an elaborate fraud of documents that needs untangling. It will cost you an enormous amount of money and years of court battles. Nevertheless you decide it is worth fighting for your home and the battles begin. Your lawyer does this and his responds. His lawyer files motions and yours responds. This goes on for years and years. Slowly you come to the realization that this is not going to end in your lifetime.

What is your next move? You have two choices. Either you give up and concede the house to him or you instruct your children to keep fighting what is rightfully yours. Simple question. When is the house no longer your house? After five years? Ten? A hundred? Five hundred? The answer is none of the above. It is when you stop fighting for it. As long as you keep fighting for what is unquestionably yours you retain the rights to what was stolen from you.

Let me give you an example. My wife’s grandparents survived the Holocaust though most of their family did not having been murdered by the Nazi’s. The family owned a home in Wodiszlaw, Poland on the main road of the town. In fact, it was a very nice home. Today there is a Polish family occupying their home. Are they entitled to go back and claim that home that is being occupied? To me the answer is clear. No. At some point the family gave up on the home. They restarted their life in Ohio and they never planned or wanted to go back to Poland. In Jewish law this is called yeush which essentially means “giving up.” Had the family continuously fought for the home and never gave up on returning then they would be entitled to the home and in fact, many Jewish families are doing just that and trying to reclaim lost real estate.

Fact: The Jewish people were living in the land of Israel from approximately the year 1200 BCE (3200 years ago) continuously until the year 70 CE when the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and the long exile of the Jewish people from Israel began. This is indisputable. It was during those years that Kings Saul, David and Solomon reigned amongst many others, the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah prophesied amongst others. It was when the two thirds of the Bible was written. All of that came to a screeching halt when the Jews were FORCIBLY exiled and began a journey that took them through every country of Europe, many African countries---there is practically not a country in the world today where Jews are not found.

Did the Jews every give up on returning to their home which was forcibly taken? A resounding no. Immediately after the exile began in the year 70 CE laws and customs were enacted so that the Jewish people would not forget our homeland in general and Jerusalem in particular. Every year at the conclusion of Passover and Yom Kippur Jews declare “Next year in Jerusalem!” Each year on the Hebrew date of the ninth of Av, Jews have mourned for Jerusalem, the destroyed Temple and the homeland. We never gave up!!

I repeat my original sentence: The Jewish people never willingly relinquished our rights to the homeland. We were forced out of our home and for the last 2000 years have remembered it and fought to return to it. I apologize to those who have lived in our house over the last 2000 years, but we have come home to redeem what is rightfully ours. We are not occupiers, we are redeemers.

With all of that said we are ready and prepared to share our home. Come and visit Judaea and Samaria and you will see no shortage of space just a shortage of tolerance. The Arabs cannot tolerate a single Jew living in their midst. Again, just take a look at what has happened to the Jewish populations in Arab countries in the last 100 years. Just a few short years ago we (the Israeli government) removed every single Jew from Gaza, all 8000 of them. It is Jew free and yet we still did not get peace. We got rocket fire in exchange. We are ready to live in peace and extend a hand to anyone who will take it. Way before we returned to Judaea and Samaria the Arabs did not want peace. There wasn’t a single Jew in the “West Bank” before 1967 yet there was no peace. There was even no Jewish State before 1948 yet there was a massacre of 167 Jews by the Arabs. The issue is not the “West Bank”, it is not about occupation—it is much simpler yet more sinister. It is about the right of the Jews to have any homeland at all and to exist as a Jewish nation.

The world was silent while six million Jews were being slaughtered. It is high time that the world gets their moral house in order and learn a little history before making absurd claims about Jewish occupation and Palestinian rights. We are home and if you want to live under our roof, this time around it will be done on our terms which means living in peace and civility. 

Will You Join Us?

Blog, Weekly MessageRabbi Moshe RothchildComment

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Teach ISRAEL:

AN OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE

THE WORLD

 

"...those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines."

                                                                                                                   (Obediah 1:18 ESV)

 

 

It had been a wonderful tour.  Ten days of riding, walking, seeing, touching, singing, eating, and learning in The Land.  Hearts were full.  The scriptures were alive with new meaning.  Each day it seemed that emotions could not possibly go higher, still, a new apex was realized.  We had ascended.  Now, this was our final day and we were traveling from Tiberias to Mount Carmel.

 

As we traveled through the foothills, with microphone in hand, our sensational guide and co-leader, Rabbi Moshe Rothchild, made a somber plea, "You've come to Israel....you've been impacted by what you've seen....please, don't let it stop here....go home and share Israel with your world."

 

His words, "share Israel with your world" and our path through the foothills that morning reminded me of something from the Book of Obediah.

 

In his short book, the prophet speaks of the destruction of Edom (Esau--Gen 36:1) for

his bitter mistreatment of G-d's people and of a day in which all nations will be judged and rewarded on the basis of how they have treated Israel.  Then, he concludes his chapter with a few lines regarding the restoration of Israel and the future kingdom of Messiah.

 

However, it was something in the 18th verse that had come alive to me that morning, "those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines." 

 

You see, the word Shephelah, meaning "low," is often translated in the English versions of the Bible as "lowlands," "foothills," or "plains."  The term actually refers to a region in Judea that is approximately 12 miles wide and 27 miles in length.

 

Because of its position between the coastal plain to the west and the Judea Mountains to the east, this narrow straight has always been of great importance.  First, contact between the people of the mountains and the people of the plains would naturally occur in the foothills which lay between the two groups of people.  Secondly, to the ancient world, the valleys of the Shephelah created a natural corridor and served as the only logical trade route through the region.

Whoever controlled the Shephelah dominated the relationship between the two peoples. Thus, this is the geographic setting and significance of most of the Philistine-Israelite conflicts in the Bible.

Therefore, these foothills served as the debating ground between the Philistines that controlled the passage and the Israelites of the mountains.  Notably, it was here that Joshua fought and prayed for the sun to stop its course, David slew the Philistine giant named Goliath, Sampson had his battles with the Philistines, and the good King Asa conquered a million-man army.

More recently, in Israel's War of Independence in 1948, the main road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which passes through this region was constantly under Arab attack.  Here, Israel suffered some of her bloodiest defeats.

As we were passing through this very place, the Shephelah, Moshe's words were burning in our hearts, "don't let it stop here....go home and share Israel with your world." 

 

This was a defining moment.  A defining place.  A response was necessary.

 

As the passengers on the bus considered the plea, there was a sober silence that seemed long.  Then, one-by-one, heart-felt commitments came forth throughout the entire bus, "Count me in...I want to help!"

 

GOD RAISES UP CHAMPIONS

In that the Israelites had not taken possession of the coastal plain as God wanted, they exerted little influence on the rest of the world and the Philistines were persistent in dealing misery to Israel.  In response, God raised up heroes like Jonathan (1 Sam. 14), Samson (Judg. 13-16), and David (1 Sam. 17).

God's victory through these biblical champions established the dominance of His values and preserved His plan for the salvation of the Jewish people and, ultimately, the world.

 

THE  "SHEPHELAH" OF OUR TIMES

Today, both the Jewish and Christian communities can learn valuable lessons from this place of conflict.  First, like the Philistines of biblical times, there are enemies that are aggressively seeking to separate G-d's people from His promises.  In order to garner support and gain strength, they work to banish G-d and His Word from the eye of the secular world.  "Out of sight, out of mind," you might say.

These Philistine-like attacks will continue to be effective and deadly if they go unchallenged!  Hosea 4:6 says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."   

Whether it be an issue of The Land promised to the Jewish people or any other, we are called by G-d to TEACH  His values, laws and precepts....to become the front-line of those who would influence the world.

Secondly, in these last days, G-d is raising up CHAMPIONS for Israel!  As in the biblical times, men and women are sensing the call of G-d to become a part of what G-d is doing.  There is no question but what opposing views will clash.  However, if we avoid the battle and withdraw to the mountains, we have no impact on the world view of either Israel or the G-d we serve.

Thirdly, by acting on the plan of G-d, WE WIN!!!  The words of Obediah are prophetic and ring true.... "those of the Shephelah SHALL possess the land of the Philistines." 

 

Do you what to become a part of what G-d is doing to "influence the world" today?  Do you want to champion the cause of G-d and share in the VICTORY over the enemies of G-d and His people?

Perhaps, you're thinking, "But, I'm no Jonathan, Samson, or David."  HOWEVER, YOU CAN BE!!!  

 

By joining forces with TeachISRAEL, you are taking your place on the front-line of world influence!!!  G-d has raised up TeachISRAEL for such a time as this...and,  He has made this your opportunity to Champion His cause!!! 

 

Thank you for your faith, encouragement, and tremendous generosity.....

 

.....TOGETHER,  VICTORY  IS  CERTAIN  and we  WILL  influence our world!!!