28 December 2010

Purging by Fire

21 Tevet 5771

While the rest of the world is being inundated by water in one form or another (or yet another), Eretz Yisrael is having quite a different experience. Since the beginning of 5771, the six-year-old drought has deepened significantly with only one winter storm to date and fire keeps making the headlines.

Tishrei 5771 : Bnei Brak - 11 Sifrei Torahs Burned in Fire at a Vizhnitz Shul
Kislev 5771 : ISRAEL - Carmel fire is finally under control

Tevet 5771 : Train fire leaves 121 injured
What does it mean? We can look to our prophets for clues.

Yechezkel 22---
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: "Son of man! The house of Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are copper and tin and iron and lead in the midst of a furnace; dross of silver have they become. ...As they gather silver, copper, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace to blow fire upon it, to melt it, so shall I gather with My wrath and with My fury, and I shall cast you in and melt you. And I shall gather you, and I shall blow upon you with the fire of My anger, and you will be melted in its midst. As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so will you be melted in its midst, and you shall know that I, the Lord, have poured out My fury upon you."

...Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: "Son of man, say to her: You are a land that is not cleansed; it was not rained upon on the day of fury...."

Zecharia 13:9----
And I will bring the third in fire; and I will refine them as one refines silver, and I will test them as one tests gold.
He shall call in My name, and I will respond to him. I said, "He is My people"; and he shall say, "The Lord is my God."

If so, then, this is only the beginning.

24 December 2010

Parashat Shemot


Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kreuser SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

18 Tevet 5771/24-25 December 2010


"And the child grew and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became a son to her."

If one would have lined up all the important Jews living in Egypt in the time of the exile, all the "Gedolim" - all the members of the "Sanhedrin" - and asked them who would be the redeemer of the Jewish people, who would take us out of Egypt and bring us into the Promised Land, the last one on the list would certainly have been Moshe Rabbenu. Moshe, who not only grew up in the palace of Pharaoh, but at an early age was given the responsibility for running the kingdom, and being that he grew up with the Egyptians - non-Jews, never going to the local Talmud Torah, there certainly were many who questioned his leadership as a Jew, as the redeemer. As we find when he broke up a quarrel between two Jews who said to him, "Who placed you as a leader over us?". And who would have blamed them? He acted and dressed as an Egyptian, but still, he was chosen by Hashem to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt.

David, too, as a youth, was also never consided to be the chosen one. In fact, if you had a daughter you probably would not have let her go out on a date with David. We find that when the prophet Samuel came to the house of Yishai to find the new king of Israel, as instucted by G-d, David was not even considered. In fact, he was so despised by his brothers, that when Samuel came, David was sent out with the flocks. But when all was said and done, it was David who was chosen to lead the Jewish people, as he wrote in the book of Psalms: "The stone which was cast out by the builders became the head of the house."

When King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jewish people to return to their land at the beginning of the Second Temple period, most Jews could not believe that this was G-d's will. How is it possible, they said, that a non-Jew will lead us back to the Holy Land? We are waiting for the son of David to bring us back home. So the great majority did not return. Some years later, Ezra the Scribe went to all the Jewish communities in the exile, encouraging them to return to the Land of Israel. In Djerba, a small island off Tunisia, the Jewish community there told Ezra that it cannot be G-d's will that a non-Jewish king return us to Israel. This, they said, is not the redemption that we have been waiting for. But they were in fact terribly mistaken, and the fact they the Jews did not return to Israel was the cause of us missing our chance to have the Final Redemption.

Some 90 years ago, when Lord Rothschild began to buy up properties in the Land of Israel for Jews to settle, many said that this is not the way of the Redemption; this is not what we have been waiting for. We expect a knock on the door from King David telling us to pack up and to bring us to the Holy Land. The Netziv, who lived at that time, wrote about the people who were complaining of those Jews going to live and redeem the Land, that "who are we to give advice to G-d on how to redeem His people?". They cited the example of how Moshe was raised in the house of Pharaoh - the exact opposite of what one would think the redeemer should be.

Today, too, many raise the concern that the State of Israel is not G-d's will. Certainly, they say, the redemption will not come about through the vote of the U.N. Still, who are we to give advice to the Master of the World on how to redeem His people? When we look at the facts on the ground, we see that the great bulk of Torah learning today is in the Land. Soon, if not already, the majority of the Jewish people will be living here. Only the blind do not see the Redemption unfolding. Jump aboard the Redemption train - it left the station long ago. You don't want not to be on it!


21 December 2010

2010: The Weather Year That Was

15 Tevet 5771
2010's world gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards
This was the year the Earth struck back.

Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 — the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined.

"It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves," said Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. It handled a record number of disasters in 2010.

"The term '100-year event' really lost its meaning this year."
(Continue reading here...)

And it ain't over yet!

CA: Heavy Rainfall Causes Flooding and Evacuations

Snow deepens Europe's Christmas travel misery

20 December 2010

What else have they lied to you about?

14 Tevet 5771
When you are a child, you'll believe pretty much anything the adults in your life tell you. That's natural. But, then the day comes when you find out that they lied to you. Oh, not maliciously! They were just preserving a tradition which they inherited from their own parents. It brings them good memories and they simply want you to share in the joy of that ritual, too.

But, it should be a lesson to us all that not everything should be accepted at face value just because it's what we have always done or it's all that we have ever known. Like one man I heard on the radio years ago said about the followers of a false religion: "Could millions of people be wrong?"

Uh, yeah!
There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and every one of them believes in error. The vast majority will never be convinced of that, however.

What about the 1 billion Hindus?

Or the 330 million Buddhists?
Or dare we ask? What about the 2.1 billion Christians???
The Hebrew Israelite prophet Jeremiah wrote (16:19): "The Gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, 'Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things.' "
Despite the best attempts of the most evil people throughout history, the prophet's descendants still live. They number approximately 12 million in a world of almost 7 billion people. I can't show you a picture of their G-D since He has no image and they are forbidden from trying to make one. The world that He created cannot contain Him or express His true essence.

Despite the odds against them and the best efforts of those who would persuade them to abandon their religion for one of the predominant false ones, they have prevailed and faithfully maintained the Truth which He revealed to them through their prophets.

Those who have inherited a pretty package with nothing of substance inside...
...can trade it in at any time for the real deal.

"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

17 December 2010


10 Tevet 5771

Today is a fast day. It grieves my heart to walk down the streets of Jerusalem and see the sidewalk cafes full with people eating, drinking and enjoying themselves. How much more must it grieve Hashem's heart, k'viyechol.

It's a bit late in the day, but those in chu"l can still get some use out of this and then there is always next time, sad to say.

Some timely quotes from The Book of Our Heritage by Eliyahu Kitov:

"Rambam writes the following in Hilchos Ta'anis 5: The fast of the tenth of Teves is like the other fasts which were established as means of mourning the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash and Israel's exile. However, the primary purpose of fasting is not grief and mourning, for the distress felt at the time when these events transpired is sufficient. Rather, the primary purpose of the fasts is to inspire people to repent, to bring us to recall the evil deeds of our ancestors as well as our own---deeds which brought them and bring us great travail. By remembering these events we will repent and act properly, as the verse (Vayikra 26.49) states: 'And they shall confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors for the evil that they have done to me.'

Our Sages (Talmud Yerushalmi, Yoma 1) taught: 'Any generation in which the Beit HaMikdash is not rebuilt, is considered as if they had destroyed it.' Every generation has the ability to awaken Divine mercy, to bring Israel salvation from her enemies, to gather the exiles from the places of their dispersion, and to rebuild the Beit haMikdash. How can this be accomplished? By complete repentance and by rectifying the sins of the previous generations. As long as salvation fails to arrive, it is a sign that we have not yet repented for our sins and that we are therefore suffering because of our own trangressions as well as those of our ancestors. It is therefore as if we were delaying the final redemption, and as if we ourselves had caused the destruction.

...The aim of fasting...is to subjugate our evil inclination by restriction of pleasure; to open our hearts and to stir us to repentance and good deeds, through which the gates of Divine mercy might be opened for us....

We read in Chayei Adam (133): 'Therefore, those people who fast, but who spend the day traveling or wasting their time, grasp what is of secondary importance, fasting, and forsake that which is essential, repenting. Nonetheless, repentance alone---without fasting---is insufficient, for it is a positive commandment, declared by the Prophets, to fast on these days.'"

May all your fasts result in complete and sincere repentance. Shabbat shalom.

16 December 2010

AMEN to that!

9 Tevet 5771

Jewish Monetary Law Should be Israeli Law
If Israel wants to call itself a Jewish state, it has to be about more than just physically housing Jews,” says Rabbi Dr. Ratzon Arusi, the Chief Rabbi of Israel's Yemenit Jewish community and head of an organization that promotes the case for Jewish civil law in the Jewish state. “There has to be Jewish content in the daily life of the state. Otherwise, we have no answer to those who call us racists, giving rights to one group of people over another.”

This past week, the Netzach Yisrael organization, under Rabbi Arusi's leadership, held its 20th Annual World Conference on Monetary Law, discussing and promoting various aspects of Jewish (Halakhic) law on monetary issues. But the conference is more than about just halakhic minutiae, as Rabbi Arusi told Israel National News; it's about promoting Jewish monetary law to be the law of the land.

15 December 2010

"That's Despicable"

8 Tevet 5771

Chalk it up to my wayward childhood, but I can still hear Daffy Duck saying, "That's despicable!!" with the spit flying, of course. That's the first word that came to mind when I read the publication of the RCA's position on Rav Eliyahu's letter calling for a ban on sales/rental of Jewish homes to non-Jews.

It's one of those pitiful Diaspora-mentality attempts to please all of the people all of the time; something which is not only despicable in its own right, but which makes Jews despicable in the eyes of non-Jews.
I might add that the habit of straddling the fence can result in damage to that part of the anatomy that enables a man to stand up for what is right and true regardless of whether it is palatable to "modern and democratic" (read "Western") sensibilities. Time to come down off that fence before the damage becomes permanent.

12 December 2010

Heaven is very unhappy with us

6 Tevet 5771

And I'm sure that's an understatement. We didn't do teshuva over the drought, so Hashem sought to get our attention with the fire. Instead of teshuva, everyone started pointing fingers in every direction.

This is the third time this season that I have watched gray clouds pass over without a drop of moisture falling. This is the second day that we are suffering from a dust storm in Jerusalem. Tree limbs are falling, garbage is flying around the streets and the air smells and tastes nasty. According to the weather radar, rain is falling in the North and is on its way here, but the wind is doing a lot of damage all around the country.

A tourist was swept off a rock by a wave and a ship sunk in the Mediterranean. In both Yafo and Caesarea ports, damage was done to piers and breakers. Electricity is out in many places and trees are being uprooted.

These are not rains of blessing. If we don't get our act together soon, I fear for what is coming next. It appears that Hashem's patience has worn out.

10 December 2010

More Connections

3 Tevet 5771

1) Rabbi Eliyahu makes the connection between the Carmel fire and events brought in the Tanakh.

2) Although not mentioning the fire per se, Rabbi Sitorsky makes the connection in his weekly parsha shiur between Hanukah and Eliyahu Hanavi at Har Carmel using the Targum Yonatan. He also brings the pasuk from Midrash Shir Hashirim that Rabbi Brody wrote about.

3) Rav Yehuda, who oversees our blog, called to comment on the previous post and brings yet another event from Tanakh. Citing Melachim 2, chapter 2, he brings the story of Elisha who inherited Eliyahu's prophetic office. He says that the 42 youths who died after mocking the prophet parallel the 42 who perished in the fire (and additionally the 42-letter Name of God). And that the two bears who killed them parallel the two who set the fire. The story tells us that Elisha went immediately to the Carmel.

4) The latest message on the fire from the autistics includes a reference to the Carmel being destroyed by fire in Yirmiyahu, chapter 2, verse 26. According to someone who submitted a question regarding this, Rabbi Chaim Vital wrote that this prophecy would be fulfilled in the last generation.

Thank you to everyone who commented. I was however a bit surprised at the emphasis some put on the aspect of idolatry; however, that was not what was uppermost in my mind when I wrote my post and I don't think I even used the word. In the sense that anything which we put ahead of Hashem in our lives could be described as a form of idolatry, I guess that works, but what I wanted to communicate foremost is what the autistics also say in their message about the fire.

"There are many matters about which it is possible to say because of this the fire occurred, but the biggest message and the clearest is that it is 'Mi l'Hashem alai!' This is the main message."

Hashem must come first in our minds, in our hearts and in our lives and we must be holy and pure in our worship of Him and remain entirely true and faithful to His Torah. This is the choice we are all urged by Heaven to make at this time---to choose Hashem above anything else!

Shabbat shalom.

08 December 2010

Another take on the Carmel fire

2 Tevet 5771

It's a week since the Carmel fire broke out on the first day of Hanukah. We are right to look for the message in such events because our tradition tells us that nothing happens in the world except to bring a message to Am Yisrael. How much more so when it occurs in conjunction with a holiday and in the Land of Israel.

The most obvious connection, as many bloggers pointed out days ago, is to the classic Tanach tale of the showdown between Eliyahu HaNavi and the prophets of Ba'al. (Melachim 1, Perek 18) Then, as now, the land was suffering from a drought because of our many sins. Just last week, at the behest of the chief rabbis, we fasted and sought Hashem's face to relieve the drought and send us rain. Just when the drought was uppermost in our minds, comes the fire.

Regardless of the agent employed, the fire breaking out on Har Carmel was the hand of G-d. The faithful recognize that and understand that teshuva is required, but for what specific sin? Many opinions were offered in the immediate aftermath. But, to know definitively, I think we have to stay true to the story of Eliyahu HaNavi---the prophet who will usher in the messianic age.

"And Eliyahu drew near to all the people and said, 'Until when are you hopping between two ideas? If the Lord is God, go after Him, and if the Baal, go after him.' And the people did not answer him a word."

It was not until the people saw the phenomenal miracle displayed before their very eyes that they were finally moved to say: "Hashem, hu ha'elokim! Hashem, He is G-d!" Shortly thereafter, the rains came and the drought was ended.

In addition to drought, the Carmel and fire, there is the aspect of Hanukah since the fire broke out on the very first night of the holiday. This was not a coincidence. It was by Divine design. With what cry by the High Priest Mattityahu was the war against the Greeks launched---the war which was to preserve Judaism's unique character? "Mi l'Hashem alai! Whoever is for Hashem, come with me!"

In both cases, the people have mixed foreign elements into its worship of the Almighty and are then urged to purge out those foreign elements and remain faithful to Hashem alone. Mattityahu's cry is reminiscent of another. In the wake of the Golden Calf affair (Shemot, Perek 32), we see Moshe Rabeinu saying these same words, "Mi l'Hashem alai! Whoever is for Hashem, come with me!" Again, the call is for separation from foreign elements which have been erroneously introduced into the Torah-pure worship of G-d Almighty.

The list of sins, especially those of individuals, which we could lay at the root of this tragedy is sadly long, but I believe the evidence points to a national sin for which we all share some guilt and that is the unholy mixing of Torah and Western values. Although certainly not restricted to the political arena, this can be seen very clearly in the idea of Israel being "both a Jewish and a democratic state."

We have a prime example in today's headlines. Fifty rabbis have come out publicly with a psak halacha that Jews may not sell or rent homes to non-Jews in the Land of Israel.

"Racism originated in the Torah," said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. "The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended and that is what the [sage] Rashi interpreted."

He added that he did not see the move as racist so much as segregationist. "The world is so big and the State of Israel is small, that God intended it for the people of Israel and the whole world covets it. That is the injustice."

Here are some expected reactions:

1) Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi said during the discussion, "I am certain that the number of rabbis will rise. Since the Arabs are a Semitic people – this is anti-Semitism. These rabbis are skinheads acting against the Arabs."

2) President Shimon Peres slammed the rabbis who recently issued a ban on selling or renting apartments to Arabs. "The rabbis' ruling creates an ethical and fundamental crisis in Israel related to Israel's essence as a Jewish and democratic country," the president said.

And after this one, can anyone still question why Haifa was threatened?

3) Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav termed the ruling the "real desecration of God's name. It is bringing hatred against those with whom we have chosen to live our lives."
The ongoing drought, the Carmel fire and the holiday of Hanukah come to remind us that we have a choice to make. Either the ba'alim or Hashem and His Torah; either the Golden Calf or Hashem and His Torah; either Hellenism or Judaism; either democracy or a Jewish state. Unholy mixtures are forbidden to us.

To do teshuva on a personal level, begin to purge your mind, your heart and your soul of foreign influences, ideas and practices (i.e., "foreign" to the Torah). The autistics call this Olam HaSheker. On a national level, I call on all my brothers and sisters living in Eretz Yisrael to do everything in their power to support the rabbis who take a public stand for Hashem and His Torah, His people and the Land of Israel.

In their ruling, the rabbis called on the religious community to voice support for Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who could face trial for incitement against Arabs for initiating the move against renting to gentiles."

How entirely appropriate it is that it was Rabbi Eliyahu who initiated this action.
In the prefatory prayer said before Hanukah candlelighting, we say...
"...Purify our hearts to Your service, distance us from evil traits and foreign thoughts, may our eyes see Your return to Zion with mercy...."