25 April 2013

The Erev Rav By Any Other Name...

15 Iyyar 5773
Day 30 of the Omer

There aren't that many people in my circles who know the term "Erev Rav" and even those who have heard of them, don't know the GRA's instructions for how to recognize them. Some people say this is not possible and they naturally shy away from the danger of mislabeling someone. However, the Vilna Gaon himself said, "Whoever is not engaged in actively fighting the Erev Rav becomes an automatic partner to the husk of the Erev Rav, and whoever this may be it would be better for him had he not been created."

It might be easier to just think of them as "wolves in sheep's clothing." Everyone understands this term. It describes someone who has the appearance of one thing, usually good, while inside he is something quite different and usually bad.

The Erev Rav does not [necessarily] have an outwardly secular nature. On the contrary, they can appear quite religious and, for the most part, fulfill the mitzvot incumbent upon a Jew today, at least externally. (Divrei Chaim)

Our Sages said that in the period of "messiah's footsteps" impudence will become great... and the "erev rav will return to be the shepherds of Israel" (Safra ditz'ni`utha)

We read in the introduction to the Holy book Eitz Chayim what the Holy Rabbi Chayim Vital, may his merit shield us, (who was the student of the Holy ARI zt"l) wrote concerning the Erev Rav: All those that do kindness and toil in the Torah, all they do for themselves, and in particular through our many sins, in our times, the Torah has been made into a hammer with which to do their own ends for many ba'alei Torah, who occupy themselves in the Torah in order to receive their reward and other benefits and luxuries, and in order to be in the group of heads of Yeshivot, and judges (dayanim) in their courts, so that their names and fame are spread throughout the land,....

...most of the Rabbanim are from the Erev Rav, and one has to fight against them with a strong war.

See more here. I think the following speaks for itself.

Deri: Perhaps Reduce Yesha IDF Security

Shas co-Chairman Arye Deri told Israel Army Radio, "We still give the Jewish Home a chance of friendship, but only if they oppose draft of Yeshiva students. It can also be said that if there were less towns in Yesha, less IDF security would be necessary, and Yeshiva students could avoid being drafted."

Rabbi Calls for Dialogue between Streams of Judaism

Petach Tikva Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yuval Cherlow spoke at the Orot Yisrael College conference Wednesday, "A positive dialogue between various streams of Judaism can promote national unity and Diaspora integration. Friendly presentation of differing views need not lead to Halakhic capitulation."

24 April 2013

Misreading the Signs

14 Iyyar 5773
Pesach Sheini
Day 29 of the Omer

Although without prophecy it's impossible to know for certain how to interpret the signs and messages that Heaven sends us, if we are knowledgeable in our sources, we can make an educated guess.

The recent post-Pesach rain in Israel has been a favorite topic of conversation and where I work, I hear a lot of conversation.  Almost without exception, people saw it as a very positive thing.  One person said we should be thanking the people who must have continued to pray mashiv haruach umorid hageshem past the appointed time.

I was not so sure and I felt somehow uncomfortable with the talk.  Our sources tell us that rain in the wrong season is not a blessing.  And now we know why...

Israel: Unseasonably Cold Weather Results in Over 20 Million NIS Loss for Farmers

The unseasonably cold wintry weather around Israel in the past week has been most costly for farmers, who report many crops were destroyed. The loss to crops occurred primarily in the center and north of the country. The fund established to assist farmers in such cases reports receiving over 500 claims, primarily due to high winds, hail and heavy rains. The experts feel the figure given, over 20 million NIS is low and in time, that number will increase significantly.

The major loss was from the hail in the north and center, destroying summer fruits including plums, cherries, peaches and nectarines.

We learn that Hashem often uses the weather as a means for communicating with us how we are doing, so to speak. Now, tell me, based on this, how are we doing? Was last week's exceptional weather in Israel a pat on the head or a poch on the cheek? I think it's important that we learn to discern the difference, don't you?

23 April 2013

"Sharing the Burden"

14 Iyyar 5773
Pesach Sheini
Day 29 of the Omer

This phrase - "sharing the burden" - has gained a lot of traction of late, or at least since the campaign leading up to the last elections. Now that the new government has been formed, those who made promises to the portion of the public who traditionally serves in the army that the part who traditionally does not serve in the army will now be forced to do so are eager to get started righting what they consider to be a historic wrong.

The plan to remove a majority of chareidi men from the Beit Midrash to the Basis Tzvai (Military Base) has brought about a lot of controversy and recriminations. But it should not have been so. I consider myself chard"l - chareidi dati leumi. I lean very much to the chareidi side, but it irks even me when I hear some chareidi community representative say that it's up to them to do the Torah learning that protects the nation while the chilonim and dati'im handle the military defense. I wonder who put it to the vote; who decided and who agreed to this division of "labor?"

In an ideal Torah society, which is what we are supposed to be promoting, ALL religious men would be soldiers as well as learners just like Yehoshua Ben Nun and David HaMelech, etc. Did they not live in a real world with real problems of maintaining the mitzvot and setting time to learn while living under less than encouraging conditions?

I think the chareidi rabbis lost a big opportunity when they did not immediately agree and counter that they would agree to share the burden of military service as long as an equal number of chilonim would agree to "share the burden" of Torah learning, which also protects the nation.

I don't think any Jew has the right to tell another that he will be the one to enjoy full-time learning while his brother will risk his life to guard him while he does and him having no say in the matter at all.

"Justice, justice, you shall pursue!"

22 April 2013

"The forces of nature ..."

13 Iyyar 5773
Day 28 of the Omer

It can't be coincidence that one of the first messages I translated from Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi came from the time of Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim and the last one I translated was also from the time period of Parshat Kedoshim. Now, here we are just after Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim again.

Look at what he said exactly three years ago today (by the secular calendar):

Parshat Acharei Mot - Kedoshim, 10 Iyyar 5770 (22 Apr '10)


What were you thinking, that what’s happening in the world is not from the hand of HKB”H?! Not from the power of G-d?! Is the planet going crazy? A volcano erupts, grounding planes and cancelling flights, is this temporary? Only the hand of G-d is in this thing. Thousands of travelers are unable to move, grounded. Merchandise is grounded, commerce – jammed, causing very great financial damage. Is all this only temporary? Every person understands that the Master of the World did this. It may be that many other places in the world will have volcanoes, floods, mudslides, intense and severe storm winds, and complications between countries and within them.* Hashem has an argument with them. You don’t see the hand of G-d in this thing? What more do you need to understand? That the Master of the World is angry!?

Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi has been consistent in his message that the forces of nature would continue to figure prominently and would grow in scope and strength.

This was a year before the Japanese Tsunami and two and a half years before Superstorm Sandy. And how many other crazy events have been happening in between and even up until today...

Extreme Drought to Extreme Flood: Weather Whiplash Hits the Midwest

It seems like just a few months ago barges were scraping bottom on the Mississippi River, and the Army Corps of Engineers was blowing up rocks on the bottom of the river to allow shipping to continue. Wait, it was just a few months ago--less than four months ago! 

Water levels on the Mississippi River at St. Louis bottomed out at -4.57' on January 1 of 2013, the 9th lowest water level since record keeping began in 1861, and just 1.6' above the all-time low-water record set in 1940 (after the great Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s.) 

But according to National Weather Service, the exceptional April rains and snows over the Upper Mississippi River watershed will drive the river by Tuesday to a height 45 feet higher than on January 1. The latest forecast calls for the river to hit 39.4' on Tuesday, which would be the 8th greatest flood in history at St. Louis, where flood records date back to 1861. 

Damaging major flooding is expected along a 250-mile stretch of the Mississippi ....

Residents along the Mississippi River have experienced a severe case of flood-drought-flood weather whiplash over the past two years. 

The Mississippi reached its highest level on record at New Madrid, Missouri on May 6, 2011, when the river crested at 48.35'. Flooding on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers that year cost an estimated $5 billion. The next year, after the great drought of 2012, the river had fallen by over 53' to an all time record low of -5.32' on August 30, 2012. Damage from the great drought is conservatively estimated at $35 billion.

Next Tuesday, the river is expected to be at flood stage again in New Madrid, 40' higher than the August 2012 record low. Now, that is some serious weather whiplash. Seemingly contradictory predictions from climate models state that the world will see both worse floods and worse droughts due to global warming. Well, we have seen a classic example in the Midwest U.S. over the past two years of just how this kind of weather whiplash is possible.  (H/T Global Disaster Watch)

21 April 2013

Asinine Idea

12 Iyyar 5773
Day 27 of the Omer

There is plenty of stupid to go around. Check this out:

MK Stern Attacked by Eritrean in Southern Tel Aviv

Member of Knesset Elazar Stern was attacked by an infiltrator from Eritrea, Sunday evening, during a tour of southern Tel Aviv.

Following the incident, the former personnel chief of the Israel Defense Forces said, "Phenomena that the state of Israel would not be ready to [see] take place anywhere in the world - take place here in our midst." He added, "If they would scatter them in other neighborhoods in the country things would look different."

How about send them back where they came from!!

Esser Agaroth did a piece on this guy awhile back. It says there "On October 14, 2005, Stern and his family were assaulted in Jerusalem while praying at the Western Wall in protest of his leading role in expelling Jews from the Gaza strip."

Everywhere he goes people want to beat him up. Somewhere it's written that our interactions with people are a reflection of how we are viewed in Heaven. Ya think he'll ever get the message?

The New Dark Ages

11 Iyyar 5773
Day 26 of the Omer

Nothing is as it seems and all the rules that we used to depend on simply no longer exist. We are now in the very depths of the World of Sheker and it is has brought us to a new dark age. Only truth brings light and enlightenment. But no one knows what the truth is any longer.

Our window on the world consists of the mass media which has become the purveyors of the production of one giant propaganda machine. Often, these days, you can hear people say that real life has become like a movie. In reality, I think, the mass media has simply begun producing events just like one would produce a movie and that is the way it is being presented to us.

Gone are the days when one could view various, even opposing, perspectives via principled journalists, editors and reporters who investigated and gathered the facts for themselves. Today, try finding a unique (or opposing) perspective on any breaking story. All you will find is cut and paste copies of the same wire service reports which must be originating in some as-yet-unrecognized central ministry of communications.

Look at the events of last week in Boston, for example.

From the moment the pictures of the "suspects" were released to the media, their guilt was assumed by all. The mass media, acting with a lynch mob mentality, has reported on these events with one unified voice which never once questioned the "official" version.

The entire "case" which is being tried in the media without benefit of counsel or any guarantee of civil rights, rests entirely on hearsay evidence and easily-manipulated video and audio "evidence."

I am not an attorney and this is not the place to try to break these events down into specifics.  I am just a regular person who was fortunate enough to receive a really good Texas public school education while such a thing was still possible  and students were still being taught to be critical thinkers.  It was still believed at that time that this was a trait that was crucial to maintaining America's freedom.

I'm not saying the young men are not guilty, but it's not up to me to decide.  I'm not G-d and I'm not sitting on a jury.  The point is, neither are the hundreds of millions of other people who have already determined guilt in this instance based on media reporting.  But, in every such case, no matter who or what, you have to ask yourself::  Could this person be innocent?  Could there be another explanation for their actions? Might they have been set up?  This is part of the process of arriving at the truth.

Something to think about: Boston just experienced the first instance of martial law being imposed on an American city...and they welcomed it!

Something else to think about: If they were set up, they could just as easily have been Jews as Chechens.

19 April 2013

Parashat Acharei - Kedoshim : United We Stand

9 Iyyar 5773
Day 24 of the Omer

Kedoshim(Leviticus 19-20)
United We Stand 

You shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him. (Lev. 19:17)

Dan was on a luxury ocean liner when he heard banging in the cabin next to his. He entered the cabin and saw a man banging on the floor. He asked him, "What in the world are you doing?" The person replied, "I am making a hole in my side of the boat." Dan gasped, "You are what?! He replied, "I am making a hole. I paid for this cabin and I can do what I want over here. It is none of your business." Dan replied, "Listen, we are all on this boat together; if you go down we are all going down! What you do is very pertinent to me!"

When the Torah mentions the commandment to rebuke a fellow Jew it ends with the words, "And do not bear a sin because of him." The Targum translates, "And do not receive a punishment for his sin." The Targum is teaching us that all Jewish people are unified. If a Jew sins and you could have prevented it, then you get punished for it. My actions affect you, and your actions affect me - we are one unit. For a Jew to say, "What I do is my business and doesn't affect anyone else," is categorically false. It is as if I have co-signed on your loan. If you default on your payments, the bank will come after me. I didn't borrow the money - but I am responsible.

The Chofetz Chaim writes that when we die God may say to us "Why didn't you keep Shabbos, learn Torah, and recite blessings?" You're going to reply, "Me?! I observed all those mitzvot?!" But because every Jew is a guarantor for every other Jew, you bear another's sin if you did not try to correct him. Each of us is obligated to reach out to others and bring them closer to the Creator.

17 April 2013

Missiles on Eilat

7 Iyyar 5773
Day 22 of the Omer

Eilat airfield briefly closed as rockets hit town from Sinai

Eilat airfield was closed for a couple of hours Wednesday morning, April 17, after five Grad missiles were launched from Sinai. Three exploded in Israel’s southernmost town; two more near the neighboring Jordanian town of Aqaba.

...Incoming intelligence of Al Qaeda groups in the Sinai Peninsula winding up preparations for a multiple attack on an Israeli location, such as Eilat, and a US military target in the Negev, has put southern Israel and US forces posted there on high terror alert.

...Eilat may be one target but others are thought to be US forces based in the Negev and also the many American officers and men of the MFO peacekeeping force in northern Sinai.

This used to be Britain - soldiers scattered around the world, protecting the interests of the British Empire. As the British and every other empire before it has gone, so will go the American Empire.

16 April 2013

One-Two Punch

6 Iyyar 5773
Day 21 of the Omer

"One-two punch:" A combination of two blows delivered in rapid succession in boxing, especially a left lead followed by a right cross.

I think that's what we saw yesterday in the United States. Hashem delivered a "one-two punch" starting with an economic "lead" followed by a terrorist "cross."

Earlier in the day, the headlines looked like this...


Investors Bail Amid Collapse...


Worst two-day loss since 1983...

DOW skids -266...

And by late afternoon, they looked like this...


'Somebody's leg flew by my head'...

'Like War Zone'...

To every such major event, there is a message for the Jews. And timing is everything. It's part of the message, too. Unfortunately, without prophecy, we can only speculate. But, speculate we must because to do otherwise is to ignore it and I do not suggest ignoring Hashem's repeated attempts to communicate. As we see from the Passover story, He does not stop until He gets what He wants from us and the messages become more dire over time.

Both events are pictures of collapse - one of the economy and the other of civilization - and they both portend worse in the future. Edom/Rome is at its end. It is only hanging on now for the sake of the Jews. Just like Egypt's final collapse came when all the Jews left, so it will be with Edom/Rome.

The sky over America is falling - one or two pieces at a time.


For what it's worth, despite initial reports of a Saudi student being under suspicion for the bombings, my money is on a domestic source.  It was "Tax Day" (April 15th) - the day when all Americans must have paid their income tax tribute to the Federal Government - and it was Patriots Day in the State of Massachusetts (of which Boston is the capital) - the commemoration of two battles which took place there and which marked the opening shots of the American Revolution, a war which was fought over taxation issues.  And let's not forget the significance of the city of Boston to American patriots.  The modern American Tea Party movement takes its name from the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773 which protested an unfair tax on tea.

15 April 2013

Moadim l'Simcha...

6 Iyyar 5773
Day 21 of the Omer

Moadim L’simcha - L’geula Shleima
by Phil Chernofsky, Torah Tidbits Issue No. 1040

Greeting: "Happy holiday" - response: "To the Complete Redemption".

This is the 'official' exchange of greetings for Yom HaAtzmaut, as found in Rinat Yisrael and Koren siddurim. Some say both parts as their greeting. Either way, it makes a very important point.

To those who don't see a positive religious significance in the establishment and existence of the State of Israel, the first part says, 'You are sadly mistaken'. The State - not just Eretz Yisrael - is something great of G-d's making and we should acknowledge Him and thank Him for it.

For those who see the State of Israel as THE realization of the (Zionist) dream, the second half says, 'You are sadly mistaken'. Medinat Yisrael is a major step in the right direction. But there is much more to go.

How can the State of Israel and Yom HaAtzmaut have a positive religious significance when most of the founding fathers of the State were not religious, and some were even anti-religious?

Sadly (there's that word again), this challenge - against viewing the establishment of the State as 'the beginning of the flowering of our redemption' or feeling the appropriateness of applying ZEH HAYOM ASA HASHEM, NAGILA V'NISM'CHA VO to it - is heard far too often. And it is as sad to hear non-religious Jews disparaging the idea of Sanhedrin, Beit HaMikdash, Mashiach and whatever else will be part of the Messianic era.

Look at Pesach. We celebrate Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim and the birth of the Jewish Nation. No problem there. But according to our Tradition, only 20% of the Jews made it out of Egypt. And look at the account of bitter complaining against G-d so soon out of Egypt. But that doesn't 'spoil' the celebration of Pesach.

Look at Shavuot. Matan Torah. Revelation at Sinai. Jewish Unity - like one person with one heart. Great reasons to celebrate. But we were coerced into receiving the Torah, with Har Sinai poised over our heads. And a mere 40 days after that great experience, there was the golden calf and the smashing of the Luchot. Yet that doesn't take away from the celebration of Shavuot.

Look at Sukkot. Divine protection in the form of Heavenly Clouds (and/or actual sukkot) during the 40 year period of wandering in the Midbar - caused by that other major sin - Cheit HaMeraglim. But that doesn't take away from our Z'man Simchateinu.

Look at Purim. Saved from the threat of Haman. Great joy and cause to celebrate. Not diminished by the fact that the Jews mostly remained in Persia and did not answer the call to return to Eretz Yisrael.

Look at Chanuka. Great victory and miracle. Great celebration. The fact that the Chashmona'im usurped the kingship - a sin for which they paid by having their lineage terminated. Some of the later Chashmona'im were found to be idolators. Israel had but a brief period of autonomy but remained under the thumb of Greece and then Rome. And then came the devastating destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash. But we joyously celebrate Chanuka.

None of the good stories of Jewish History end with 'and they (we) lived happily ever after.' Yet we celebrate good things, victories and miracles aided by G-d - sometimes overtly and sometimes behind the scene.

We celebrate and rejoice and thank G-d for the proverbial half-filled cup. We dare not be so ungrateful as to dwell upon the other half that is empty.

The half-emptiness should challenge us to strive to fill the cup all the way. That's why we proclaim and sing L'SHANA HABAA BIRUSHALAYIM HAB'NUYA at the Seder. (And that's what we proclaim it and sing it on Yom HaAtzmaut, as well.)

Pesach needs to be completed by the rest of the DAYEINU song. We say that there is sufficient cause to thank G-d that He took us out of Mitzrayim, but the song points us to the more that we long for. The receiving of the Torah - by all Jews in all times. The coming to Eretz Yisrael - by all Jews. The building of the Beit HaMikdash.

The bracha of Geula at the end of Magid, expresses our hope and prayer for the Geula Sh'leima, even as we thank G-d for the beginning step of Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim.

And that's exactly what our celebration of Hakamat HaMedina should be - plenty to be thankful for, and much more to go.


6 Iyyar 5773
Day 21 of the Omer

After weeks of NKorean fury, calm on key holiday

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Koreans celebrated the birthday of their first leader Monday by dancing in plazas and snacking on peanuts, with little hint of the fiery bombast that has kept the international community fearful that a missile launch may be imminent.

Pyongyang fired off a rocket ahead of the last anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth — the centennial — but this time the day was simply the start of a two-day holiday for Pyongyang residents who spilled into the streets.

Girls in red and pink jackets skipped along streets festooned with celebratory banners and flags and boys on inline skates took a break to slurp up bowls of shaved ice.

There was no sense of panic in the North Korean capital, where very few locals have access to international broadcasts and foreign newspapers speculating about an imminent missile launch and detailing the international diplomacy under way to try to rein Pyongyang in.

Elsewhere in the region, however, the focus remained on the threat of a launch as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a tour to coordinate Washington's response with Beijing, North Korea's most important ally, as well as with Seoul and Tokyo.

Continues here...

12 April 2013

Parashat Tazria-Metzora: Afflictions

2 Iyyar 5773
Day 17 of the Omer

Parashat Tazria-Metzora: Afflictions
by Daniel Pinner

The two parashot Tazria and Metzora are usually combined; only in leap years (and always in leap years) are they read separately.

Parashat Tazria starts by setting forth the rules of ritual uncleanness and subsequent purification for a woman after childbirth (Leviticus 12), then the rest of Tazria and half of Metzora give the laws of “tzara’at”. This is usually translated as “leprosy”,and “metzora” is usually translated as “leper”, but this is totally wrong. Some of the symptoms are superficially similar to leprosy, but that is where the similarity ends. Tzara’at is a spiritual affliction, not a physical one.

The Torah begins with the basic signs of tzara’at: “Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aaron saying: A person who on the skin of his flesh has a ‘se’eit’ or a ‘sappachat’ or a ‘baheret’ which becomes a tzara’at-affliction on the skin of his flesh, is to be brought to Aaron the Kohen or to one of his sons the Kohanim. Then the Kohen will seethe affliction…” (Leviticus 13:1-3). The Kohen who looks at the symptom, and only the Kohen, can declare the afflictee contaminated, after which the purification process can begin.

The Torah uses four expressions:“se’eit”, “sappachat”, “baheret”, and “tzara’at”. Many standard translations render these respectively as “a rising” (the connotation of the Hebrew word, a cognate of “nassa”, “raise up”), “a scab”, “a bright spot”, and “leprosy”, but these are approximations. There are no precise English words for these terms, which is why some translations (such as ArtScroll and Margolin) simply transliterate the words, as we have done here.

Rashi (Commentary to Leviticus13:2) says that “these are names of afflictions, and the one is whiter than the other”.

The Mishnah (Nega’im 1:1-2, 7:2) defines the colours of these afflictions, which the Rambam collates as halachah: “Tzara’at is when a specific place on the skin of the flesh becomes whiter than the rest of the skin… Tzara’at has four visible signs: the brightest white, when the skin looks like snow, is ‘baheret’. A slightly darker white, which looks like the clean wool of a day-old lamb, is called ‘se’eit’. White which is slightly darker than the ‘se’eit’ and which looks like the plaster of the Holy Temple is a derivative of the ‘baheret’ and is called ‘sappachat’. And white which is slightly darker than the plaster of the Holy Temple and which is like the membrane of an egg is a derivative of the ‘se’eit’, and it too is called ‘sappachat’” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Tzara’at-Uncleanness 1:1-2).

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 15:9)sees these four symptoms of tzara’at affliction (‘se’eit’, ‘sappachat’,‘baheret’, and ‘tzara’at’) as allusions to the four mighty empires which oppressed Israel:

“The ‘se’eit’ represents Babylon, following ‘Raise up [nassata] this parable against the king of Babylon and say: How has the oppressor ceased! How has the arrogant one ceased! (Isaiah14:4)… The ‘sappachat’ represents Media from which arose the evil Haman who incited [shaph] like a snake, following [God’s curse to the snake,] ‘On your belly you will crawl’ (Genesis 3:14). The ‘baheret’ represents Greece which was distinguished [me-baheret] byits decrees against Israel, telling them: Write on the horn of the ox that you have no share in the God of Israel. And ‘the affliction of tzara’at’ represents Edom which sprouted from the strength of the old man”.

The Matnat Kehunah (commentary on the Midrash by Rabbi Yissachar Ber Katz, Poland and Israel, 16th century) explains this last enigmatic statement. Edom was the descendant of Esau, who flourished because of the blessing that Isaac conferred upon him: “By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it will be that when you will have a legitimate complaint, you shall overthrow his yoke from off your neck” (Genesis 27:40).

The Targum Onkelos, TargumYonatan, Targum Yerushalmi, and Rashi all interpret this to mean that Israel legitimately rules over his older twin Esau only as long as he (Israel) obeys Torah. But as soon as the Jews stop keeping the mitzvot, they lose all legitimate claim to rule over Esau, who is then justified in throwing off the yoke of Israel.

And the S’forno (Rabbi Ovadyah S’forno, Italy, c.1470-1550) adds: “‘…you shall overthrow his yoke from off your neck’, because you will indeed be skilled in warfare and capable of greatness”.

Therefore – concludes the Matnat Kehunah – “he [Edom] is the hardest of all exiles, like the affliction of tzara’at”.

The Midrash sees other allusions to these four oppressors scattered throughout the Torah. The first is the Creation narrative: “The earth was unformed and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep…” (Genesis 1:2).

The Midrash expounds: “‘The earth was unformed…’ alludes to the Babylonian exile, as it says ‘I saw the earth and behold it was unformed’ (Jeremiah 4:23). ‘…And void…’ alludes to Median exile, as it says ‘they hastened [va-yav’hilu, similar to u-vohu “and void”] to bring Haman’ (Esther 6:14). ‘…And darkness…’ alludes to the Greek exile which darkened the eyes of Israel with their decrees, telling them: Write on the horn of the ox that you have no share in the God of Israel.‘…On the face of the deep’ alludes to the exile of the most evil of kingdoms, which like the deep cannot be fathomed” (Bereishit Rabbah 2:4; Yalkut Shimoni,Bereishit 4).

The second allusion to these four oppressors is in the river which flowed forth from Eden to water the Garden, splitting into four headwaters – Pishon, Gihon, Hiddekel (Tigris), and the Euphrates (Genesis 2:10-14).

“The Pishon represents Babylon, following ‘Their horsemen spread [pashu] themselves forth’ (Habakkuk 1:8)… The Gihon represents Media… Hiddekel represents Greece which was swift [kala] and sharp [hadda] in their decrees, telling them: Write on the horn of the ox that you have no share in the God of Israel…The Euphrates represents Edom, because it persecuted [hephira] and distressed His children; also because it was fruitful [pharat] and multiplied by the blessing of the old man [Isaac]”(Bereishit Rabbah 16:4).

Three allusions to the four oppressors of Israel.

The ‘se’eit’, the primordial unformed earth, and the Pishon river all represent Babylon. The ‘se’eit’ is the first sign that tzara’at might be present, though as yet unformed and unconfirmed. According to the Zohar (Volume 1, Chayyei Sarah 125a), Rashi, and S’adiah Gaon, the Pishon river is the Nile, the river which irrigates Egypt – the country of our primordial exile, the country to which Israel descended when they were as yet unformed, the country where they evolved from an amorphously defined family to a recognised nation.

The ‘sappachat’, the void,and the Gihon river represent Media. The ‘sappachat’, as we have seen,“looks like the plaster of the Holy Temple”. Media, which morphed into Persia, was the empire which both oppressed Israel and allowed them to return to their homeland. Persia was the empire which both hindered and allowed the Jews to rebuild the Holy Temple. So it is appropriate that the ‘sappachat’, representing Media, resembles the plaster of the Holy Temple.

Media was the empire which conquered and defeated Babylon, which had destroyed the first Holy Temple. So it is intriguing that the Gihon river took over from the Pishon in welcoming Israel to the shores of the Red Sea: “Egypt chased after them and caught up with them when they were encamped by the Red Sea, gathering pearls and precious stones which the Pishon river swept from the Garden of Eden into the Gihon, and the Gihon took them to the Red Sea, and the Red Sea cast them to the shore” (Targum Yonatan, Exodus 14:9).

The ‘baheret’, the primordial darkness, and the Hiddekel represent Greece. The word ‘baheret’ is the feminine noun form of the adjective ‘bahir’ (bright). Greece appeared to be the epitome of enlightenment with its philosophy, art, architecture, erudition, love of learning, music, legal system, and so forth; yet their rejection of holiness and their attempts at forcing to Israel to declare that they “have no share in the God of Israel” made them the epitome of darkness.

Similarly, though the word ‘baheret’denotes brightness and the ‘baheret’ is indeed the whitest of the signs of tzara’at, it is nevertheless the harbinger of spiritual uncleanness. Like Greece, the dazzling pure whiteness is deceptive.

The affliction of ‘tzara’at’, the face of the deep, and the River Euphrates represent Rome. Though the River Euphrates is the last of the four rivers to be mentioned, it has a special status: twice the Torah calls it “the great river” (Genesis 15:18 and Deuteronomy 1:7), and both times Rashi comments: “Because it is attached to the Land of Israel it is called‘great’, even though it is the last-mentioned of the four rivers which go forth from Eden”. By delineating the border of Israel it acquires its special status.

This follows the Midrash (Sifrei,Devarim 6): “‘Until the great river, the Euphrates River’ – this teaches that its greatness and its strength correspond to the Land of Israel”.

(Incidentally, this explains why the Torah calls the Mediterranean Sea “the Great Sea” in Numbers 34:6: the Mediterranean Sea also defines Israel’s border.)

And then the Midrash continues (as does Rashi): “A common aphorism says, the servant of a king is a king. Cling to distinguished people and you will be considered distinguished”.

The Roman Empire and its successors indeed achieved greatness; as the S’forno (cited above) put it, “skilled in warfare and capable of greatness”. True – but sadly, Esau chose to make his greatness in evil, in opposition to Israel. Hence the Talmudic dictum: “If someone will tell you that Caesarea and Jerusalem are both in ruins – do not believe it; or that they are both populated – do not believe it. But if he tells you that Caesarea is in ruins and Jerusalem is populated, or that Jerusalem is in ruins and Caesarea is populated – believe it!” (Megillah 6a).

As much as Jerusalem symbolises Israel and Jewish independence, so Caesarea symbolises Edom and Roman domination. The one is bounded by the other. Like opposite ends of a see-saw, as the one ascends the other inevitably descends. Just as the River Euphrates defines the physical limit of Israel, so Edom defines the spiritual limit of Israel.

That is Edom’s greatness.

Edom is symbolised by tzara’at. And tzara’at has two diametrically opposing characteristics: it is both a curse and a blessing.

Tzara’at can afflict both the body and the house, and a house afflicted by tzara’at has to be dismantled. This seems like a curse – but it can also eventually turn out to be a blessing. The Talmud (Horayot 10a) and the Midrash (Sifra, Metzora 5; Vayikra Rabbah 17:6) record that when the Canaanites heard that the Israelites were approaching the Land of Israel, they concealed their wealth in the walls of their houses to deprive the Jews of it. When a house afflicted by tzara’at would be dismantled, the owner would then discover the concealed treasures.

There is yet another allusion to these four oppressors (Babylon, Media,Greece and Rome) in last week’s parashah, Sh’mini. The Torah defines kosher animals as those which chew the cud and have cloven hoofs, and then lists four animals which fulfill one criterion but not the other. The camel, the hyrax, and the hare all regurgitate food but do not have cloven hoofs; the pig has cloven hoofs but does not regurgitate food, so all are unclean (Leviticus 11:4-7).

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 13:5) tells us that the camel represents Babylon, the hyrax represents Media, the hare represents Greece, and the pig represents Rome.

Why is Rome represented by the pig? – For two reasons. First, when the pig lies down, it stretches forth its fore-legs, as if to show everyone its cloven hoofs – its outward sign of cleanness. The uncleanness is internal – it doesn’t chew the cud. Likewise Rome displayed to all its culture, art, philosophy, judiciary – “the grandeur that was Rome” –while internally it committed unspeakable perversions and murder.

But the other reason is more optimistic. Esau can one day repent. He came from the holiest of parents, and though he became utterly evil in his lifetime, the civilisation he founded has the capacity to return to those holy roots. This is symbolised by the pig, the‘chazir’, connoting ‘chazar’, return or repent.

This is the end of tzara’at: after the affliction comes the purification. The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 15:9) concludes its exposition on Parashat Tazria: “In this world the Kohen sees the afflictions; but in the World to Come – says God – I will purify you. Thus it is written, ‘And I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed’ (Ezekiel 36:25)”.


2 Iyyar 5773
Day 17 of the Omer

Lawmaker drops bombshell: North Korea may have nuclear missiles

The results of a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report indicate that “North Korea now has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.” That was the bombshell out of a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.

US raises nuclear alert to DEFCON 3. China mobilizes, masses troops on North Korean border

Friday, April 12, the US raised its nuclear alert status to DEFCON 3, Condition Yellow (out of 5 levels), stating “There are currently no imminent nuclear threats against the United States at this time, however the situation is considered fluid and can change rapidly.” Many believe that North Korea will launch their test missile on or about April 15. Japan has instructed its armed forces to shoot down any North Korean missile that heads toward its territory.

Contrary to comments from the White House Thursday, the Pentagon reported that “North Korea probably has nuclear weapons that can be mounted on ballistic missiles.” This is a very significant admission by the United States and a dangerous change to the Korean situation.

...According to some sources in Washington, the Chinese military mobilization is not directed at deterring Pyongyang but as support for North Korea’s steps.

11 April 2013

A Conversation Around the Dinner Table

2 Iyyar 5773
17 Days of the Omer

Ten year old Yosef is swinging one foot aimlessly as he munches on his mother’s beet salad. He looks from one end of the table to the other, first at his father who is studiously parceling out portions of fish to each family member and then at his mother who is leaning back in her chair with a soft smile, clearly enjoying the sight that meets her eyes.

A Jewish mother is busy from sunrise to well after sunset with only a rare moment for contemplation. Dinnertime, after everyone is served, is one such moment. For a few precious minutes, she can gaze upon her many blessings and rejoice in all the good her Creator has done for her.

Dinner conversation flows around the table along with the meat and wine. When Yosef judged that the time was right, he cleared his throat and broached a subject that was as dear to his heart as it was unwelcome at his father’s table.

“Abba, my friend David says they are almost ready to go on aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. Please, Abba, can’t we go, too?” A shadow passed over his father’s eyes and his mouth tightened ever so slightly as Yosef looked pleadingly to him. The boy was like a broken record. Ever since his best friend’s family had begun preparing to make aliyah, it seemed to occupy his every waking thought. He’d finally had to be stern with the boy and really set his foot down, reminding him of the fate of the tens of thousands of the tribe of Ephraim who had tried to leave Mitzrayim ahead of time. He thought he’d gotten through to him, but here he was again, marring the pleasure of his evening meal with his talk of aliyah.

“Son, that is not an appropriate subject for the dinner table. Let’s save that discussion for another time.”

“But, Abba…,” Yosef began again, His father impatiently cut him off and said with only partially restrained passion and heat.

“Son, do you know what is awaiting them in Eretz Yisrael? It is a place filled with impurity from the evil and wicked deeds that are done by the people who live there. And the ungodly regime that rules there is not one that shares our values.”

Yosef, stunned to silence, listened with eyes wide while his agile little mind was thinking to itself, “It doesn’t sound so very different from where we are living now.”

As his father seemed to struggle for another good reason why they should not mimic the actions of David’s family, his mother made a valiant attempt to boost his father’s argument.

“Yossi, look how many other friends you have right here in our own neighborhood and none of their families are making any plans to leave. Your father has made a good life for us here. It's not trouble-free, but we get along and we know what to expect. What would he do in Eretz Yisrael? How would we manage and who would look after Sabba and Savta if we moved so far away from them?”

Yosef’s seventeen year old sister chipped in, “I’ve heard people talking about how hard the life will be there." She gave a little shiver for effect and continued, “It’s truly scary.”

As if on cue, an ominous sound from outside broke into their conversation. It seemed to grow and spread from every direction. Everyone looked at everyone else and in a split second they were all rushing for the door, Abba in the lead. Neighbors were pouring from their homes into the streets to see the cause of the ruckus.

Suddenly, they saw it coming and what they saw left them rooted to their places, speechless and terrified. It was Adar of the year 2448 and what they were hearing was Mitzrayim succumbing to the plague of darkness.

09 April 2013

The Latest on the Korea Crisis

30 Nisan 5773
15 Days of the Omer
Rosh Chodesh

UPDATE: North Korea to 'launch missile TOMORROW' after warning foreigners to evacuate South

29 Nisan 5773
14 Days of the Omer

Last week, North Korea advised foreign embassies in its capital to have an evacuation plan in place and said that it could not guarantee their safety after 10 April.  That's tomorrow.  Today, they have issued a new warning that all foreign nationals should begin evacuating South Korea:

...The warning to foreigners, reported by the KCNA news agency said once war broke out "it will be an all-out war, a merciless, sacred, retaliatory war to be waged by (North Korea).

"The committee informs all foreign institutions and enterprises and foreigners, including tourists...that they are requested to take measures for shelter and evacuation in advance for their safety."

According to reports, the warnings are being ignored by all.

A government source in Seoul said a North Korean medium-range missile, reported to have been shunted to the east coast, had been tracked and was believed to be ready for launch.

"Technically, they can launch it as early as tomorrow," the source said.

But a U.S. embassy official in Seoul said a directive issued last week saying there was no imminent threat to Americans in South Korea remained valid. "Our workers are in all our offices today," he said. "We have not evacuated anyone."

A Philippine foreign ministry spokesman quoted diplomats at its Seoul embassy as saying the situation "remains normal and calm".

However, while it might appear to be business as usual in South Korea, according to some accounts, the same cannot be said of some levels of government inside the Unites States. From a contract worker at Barksdale Air Force Base:

“They are gearing up for something big.”

“They are bringing in serious junk.”

“Moving in warheads…I was working in an area where cruise missles are brought in, put together, armed, and shipped out.”

Those who suspect an EMP attack is on the way have pointed out that the satellite in question will be passing over "the geographic heart" of the continental United States tomorrow.  (And again on April 15th.)

The window of  greatest danger appears to open tomorrow - Rosh Chodesh Iyyar. Hashem yerachem!

08 April 2013

"Sinkhole Nation"

28 Nisan 5773
13 Days of the Omer
Yom HaShoah

Well, we knew it was coming.  The US is hellbent on establishing the Juden-rein Arab State of Palestine in the very heart of Eretz Yisrael.

Kerry May Have Offered Abbas Incentives at Israel's Expense

...sources said that Kerry offered to release all PA tax funds and to ensure Israel does not withhold the PA’s tax revenue in the future.

Washington's top diplomat also reportedly offered to extend the Palestinian Authority's jurisdiction, particularly in Area C, the area of Judea and Samaria which is under full Israeli control, according to Ma’an.

Kerry also proposed allowing PA Arabs to build more freely in Area C,....

While they are busy trying to take the land right out from under us and give it to our mortal enemies, Hashem is trying to remind them that it is not theirs to give. Their own land is very literally falling right out from under them.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It's a two-sided message: 1) They should stop bargaining with land which does not belong to them or they wil lose their own; 2) We should take heart and not be discouraged. Hashem sees and knows and will surely act. All of His promises for good to us will certainly be fulfilled.

06 April 2013

UPDATE on North Korea

27 Nisan 5773
12 days of the Omer

After moving a second missile to its east coast, North Korea has reportedly armed and hidden them underground.

There is great speculation that next week might see this situation reach its culmination:

1. Authorities in Pyongyang have appealed for diplomats to consider leaving; telling diplomatic missions they could not guarantee their safety after April 10th.

2. Some key anniversaries occur next week - April 11th, a year since Kim Jong-un came to power - and - April 15th, the 101st birthday of the late Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and Kim Jong-un's grandfather.

3. John Kerry will be visiting South Korea next week as part of a nine-day diplomatic trip that started today in Turkey and ends in Tokyo on April 15th..

As NBC news foreign correspondent Richard Engel summed up in a recent report:

"North Korea could have a missile launch during the Kerry visit, but what if the US tries to shoot it down?  And what if we miss?"

04 April 2013

This is the Story to Be Following Right Now

24 Nisan 5773
9 days or 1 week & 2 days of the Omer

"The moment of explosion is approaching fast," the North Korean military said, warning that war could break out "today or tomorrow".

S. Korea: North Korea moved missile to east coast

Rav Nachmani,ztz"l, the famed Israeli kabbalist who reportedly accurately foresaw the Six Days War, the Yom Kippur War and the Gulf War, had something to say about Korea, too.

What really worries me about this is that everywhere I look, people are going blindly about their business, seemingly without a care in the world, totally oblivious to the threat. These things come upon the world to elicit teshuva from us and if we are clueless about what HASHEM is doing in His world, He may let something go "!POP!" just to get our attention!!

03 April 2013

Mida k'Neged Mida

24 Nisan 5773
9 days or 1 week & 2 days of the Omer

It means "measure for measure" and it describes the way G-d very often deals with man.

In this instance, Iran threatens Israel with nukes. Israel prepares to neutralize the threat. The US inserts itself and prevents Israel from acting. Comes North Korea - by the hand of the Almighty - and threatens the US with nukes.

The Americans can't decide whether to be afraid or not. Their analysts say that Kim Jong Un is rational, but on the other hand, he is young and untested and has so far backed up his bellicosity with a move not seen before in the history of North/South relations - he shut down the joint industrial area today sending 50,000 North Korean workers home. According to NBC reporter Richard Engel:  "This is seen as an ominous sign."

So, all eyes are on the threat against the US and it's allies and assets abroad.

Concerned Officials Warn: “North Korea Could Explode a High-Altitude Nuclear Device Over the United States”

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s rhetoric over nuclear weapons and the possibility of war with the United States and its allies makes almost no plausible sense considering that their long range missile capabilities are lacking and their military hardware is reportedly outdated when compared to the militaries of developed western nations. While the communist regime does have millions of soldiers at their disposal, the notion that North Korea will start and win a war against the U.S. seems outlandish.

So, either Kim Jong Un’s recent actions are a part of internal posturing to keep the North Korean populace compliant through propaganda, or the young leader has been empowered by an ace up his sleeve that the North’s enemies do not yet fully understand.

The idea that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea may have a secret weapon of sorts may sound far-fetched, but not everyone considers it an impossibility. With the U.S. deploying naval assets to the region and Chinese troops mobilizing en masse at the border, there is a distinct possibility that a military clash of some type is in the works.

In December of last year, the DPRK launched an orbital satellite, which left many wondering about its payload. Could it be that this ‘space launch vehicle’ is carrying a star wars type nuclear weapons package?Some U.S. officials seem to think so, and they’re sounding the alarm:

Read the rest here.

01 April 2013

The Battle for Jerusalem

22 Nisan 5773
7 days or 1 week of the Omer

The battle for Jerusalem is at the center of everything at the end of days.  Obama pays Abbas and King Abdullah II a visit while in Israel just before Passover and a week later, together they do a little end-run around Netanyahu.  Or do they?  More chillingly, was the PM complicit???

Palestinians kick off Jerusalem bid by ceding Holy Sites Custodianship to Jordan’s king

...Its importance lies in that the Palestinian Authority has taken the historically momentous step of ceding to the Hashemite throne the custodianship - religious, political, legal, and security - of the Muslim shrines on Temple Mount with authority over the Palestinian Waqf. 

It means that henceforth, instead of the Palestinian Authority, Israel will have to engage the Jordanian government in discussions of matters pertaining to Temple Mount, especially hyper-sensitive security arrangements.

...The Hashemite House comes out of the accord with Palestinian recognition for the first time as the Custodian of the Holy Places of Jerusalem, especially the Mosque of al Aqsa, a title which parallels the Saudi king’s traditional title as Guardian of the Holy Places to Islam in Mecca and Medina.

The degree of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s involvement in Jordanian-Palestinian accord is still to be determined and also whether Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians) were privy to its substance.

In actuality, however, this is nothing new - the fact that the Arabs are trying to take control of Jerusalem and the fact that the US is behind them every step of the way.

King Abdullah and Abbas: Jointly Prevent Judaization of Jerusalem

On Sunday, March 31, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the acting leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, signed an agreement to jointly defend Jerusalem “from Israeli Judaization attempts.”

...Jordan’s custodial role over holy sites in Jerusaelm is derived from Article 9 of the 1994 Jordanian Peace Treaty with Israel.

Contrary to the presentation by Abdullah and Abbas, the Peace Treaty, signed by King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, is between Israel and Jordan; the PA does not play a role. The “Washington Agreement,” which set out the understanding for the terms of the Treaty, requires Israel to acknowledge the custodial role of Jordan over “Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem,” it does not require Israel to allow Jordan to prevent “Judaization” of the city. What it does require is for Jordan and Israel “to act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions.”