Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Miracle of Aliyah

Before I forget I wrote this for Kumah for Pesach and figured I might as well post it here too.

What is the greatest miracle? The Exodus comprised of numerous of the greatest miracles of all time, ultimately culminating with the very Splitting of the Red Sea. Yet we are taught the miracles of the Exodus will pale in comparison to those that will occur at the Final Redemption during "the end of days" (i.e. today!)

The Passover Haggadah opens with a fascinating, but seemingly unimportant story relative to its prominent position following just after the Four Questions. It is about a Seder conducted thousands of years ago in Bnei Brak:

It happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarphon were reclining [at a Seder] in Bnei Brak. They were discussing the Exodus all night, until their students came and told them, "Masters! It is time for the morning prayer Shema!"

The Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez discusses this at length. Now we are starting the Seder. We should remember not to rush through it. We see it is proper to go all night discussing the Exodus. But why is it important to write that their students had to remind them to say Shema? It would be better to just write that they went all night?

In truth the "minor detail" about Shema is perhaps the most important part of the story, or more specifically, the fact that the students had to emphasize that it was the morning Shema. Today we know that both the morning and night Shema are identical. But this wasn't always the case, and there was a long running scholarly dispute as to whether or not the section of Tzitzit [fringes] should be included at night since one is only required to wear Tzitzit when they can be seen by the daylight.

This is precisely what the Haggadah continues to discuss. Rabbi Elazer held the Tzitzit portion - which remembers the Exodus - should indeed also be said at night, but he could not prove it until Ben Zoma pointed out a Biblical exegesis. "That you remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life." The extra word all included the nights. The Rabbis went further. The word days itself already includes "mornings" and "nights." The word all is used to teach that this portion shall still be said during the Messianic Age.

Hear this dispute. Ben Zoma held there will be no obligation to recall the Exodus after Moshiach comes. This claim is backed up with the words of Hashem through his prophet:

Behold days are coming... when they shall no longer say, "The living G-d who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt," but "The living G-d who brought... the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them, so that they dwell in their own land." (Yermiyahu 23:7,8)

In other words mass Aliyah itself is such an awesome miracle that it will actually replace the great miracle of the Exodus from Egypt as what will be used to describe Hashem's glory!

We are taught if we are worthy Moshiach will arrive "on clouds" (i.e. amid open glorious miracles,) and if we do not merit it, he will arrive "on a donkey" (i.e. it will appear to be a natural occurrence.) But if he comes "on a donkey" how can Yermiyahu declare that this will be so great it will eclipse the Exodus and become known as the greatest miracle of all time?

The answer lies in how we open our eyes. HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, ZT"L, emphasizes the following fundamental of Judaism:

Nature itself is a miracle. Should someone protest and say that nature is rooted in a cause, we may very well ask him why that particular cause produces such a particular result. Nature is a miracle - but we have become accustomed to it.

Were we to be told that a man died, was buried, that his body had rotted in the ground and that the grave had opened and he had come forth, we would exclaim, "A miracle, a revival of the dead." Yet, when a seed is planted and grows forth after it has rotted in the ground, is that not, too, a revival of dead? Bury the lobe of a calf's ear deep in fertilizer. If a full-grown cow were to spring up, that's a miracle. When a full-branched tree grows from the planting of a small shoot, is that any more natural? But to one we are accustomed and see it as part of nature; to the other we are not and name it a miracle. (Haggadah Gedoli Tunoas HaMusser, P.104)

Were we to open our eyes we would realize to begin with the great miracle the survival of the Jewish People! We are not a large population in comparison with the rest of the world. In the words of Mark Twain the Jewish People are but "a nebulous dim puff of star-dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way." For thousands of years this "star-dust" has been thinly scattered over the four corners of the earth. To survive after such an extended period under such conditions is itself a miracle. But to be completely gathered up and returned to our Homeland? Who can fathom such a thing? Open your eyes! Mass Aliyah is the greatest miracle ever!

Even the Rabbis that dispute Ben Zoma agree that the Final Redemption will certainly overshadow the Exodus. The Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez quoting from Gemarah Berochot explains the position of the Rabbis:

The prophet does not mean to say that the Exodus will be forgotten completely. He is merely saying that when the Messiah comes, the Exodus will become secondary. Although the miracles of the Exodus were very great, they will be like nothing compared to the miracles of the final redemption when the Messiah comes. Furthermore, after the final redemption, there will no longer be any exile or subjection for the Jews.

May the Jewish People merit opening our eyes and seeing the Miracles that Hashem is performing for us today by giving our generation the opportunity to make Aliyah. May we all return Home without delay. And may we come to thank "the living G-d who brought... the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them, so that they dwell in their own land." Amen!

Chag Kasher V'Samayach!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A New Low For Ha'aretz: Hell

Rest assured, despite popular belief The New York Times will not be the official periodical of purgatory. That's because there's already a victor in the bid to secure the exclusive netherworld newspaper rights. See, this cherished honor is reserved for the true G-d haters: Ha'aretz. That's right. When it comes to hating G-d and his Chosen People there isn't a Nazi in the world that could contend with the Jews. The very Fuhrer himself would not be able to invoke the same venomous disdain for those that believe the Almighty runs the world. The poison that spews forth from this "holder for dog droppings" accomplishes little for bridging the religious-secular divide in Israel today. Instead of encouraging, and even inciting pure hate, Haaretz ought to preach respect and tolerance. Including respect for those that know well in their hearts, the Jewish People would not exist after 3300 years filled with ups and all too many downs if the Creator of the Universe Himself wasn't holding our hand all along that bumpy journey.

(But would the dog even want to "go" on this? )

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Aliyah Quote #25: Don't Wait Any Longer!

Rav Zeira says: 'A land which Moshe and Aharon did not merit to enter - who knows if I wait any longer that I will have the privilege of entering it!' (Kesuvos 112a)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dear Medina Shel Chesed, Thanks! We Have to Go Home Now.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Aliyah Quote #24: My Eyes and Heart Will Always Be There

R. Chiya and R. Shimon Bar Rebbi were sitting. One said, "One who Davens must look down - 'My eyes and heart will always be there' [in Eretz Yisrael]." The other said, "his eyes should face up - 'We will lift our hearts to our hands.'"

R. Yishmael Bar R. Yosi remarked "My father said, his eyes should be down, and his heart up, to fulfill both verses." (Yevamos 105b)

Monday, April 11, 2005

An Atmosphere of Civil War

As reported by Drudge today:

Bush: 'Israel should remove unauthorized outposts'...
Sharon: 'I will fulfill my commitment to you, Mr. President, to remove unauthorized outposts'...
Bush: 'There's a lack of confidence in the region'...
Sharon: 'There is an atmosphere of civil war'...

Any Suggestions for Ha'aretz?

Ha'aretz asks some tough questions:

Temple Mount groups ratchet up pullout opposition
By Nadav Shragai

The disengagement plan and the Oslo accords can be abolished only by "smashing" the walls of the Temple Mount, Prof. Hillel Weiss, chairman of the Shoharei Hamikdash (Friends of the Temple) organization, said over the weekend. Weiss, a veteran Temple Mount activist who wishes to renew the activities of the ancient Sanhedrin and Jewish rituals on the mount, called for "focused spiritual opposition" at the site itself.

Weiss is not alone in his perception of the role of the Temple Mount these days. At a rabbinical convention held recently at the Western Wall Yeshiva, a number of rabbis bemoaned "the sin of neglecting the mount." Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, for example, said that the pullout from Gush Katif and the northern West Bank was divine punishment imposed on the people of Israel.

"When the landlord, the Creator of the universe, has nowhere for his presence to dwell there, why should we have rest? When years pass by, and what has to be done isn't done, this is the result," Ariel said.

With the disengagement approaching, and the political and protest actions bearing no fruit, the Temple Mount movements are intensifying their calls for action on and around the site, in the hope of putting the brakes on the pullout. No one is going as far as speaking about a terror attack on the mount or against one of the mosques there, but the publicized plans, such as of mass demonstrations, are causing sleepless nights for the security forces.

During the period of the evacuation of Sinai and Yamit, too, there were those who pinned their hopes on the Temple Mount. But then the Jewish Underground appeared, and Yehoshua Ben Shushan came up with a plan to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque. Ben Shushan believed that "removing the abomination from which the Palestinians draw their strength and the source of their vitality" would weaken them and put an end to the withdrawal process.

When the Sinai agreements were being drawn up, in the mid-1970s, Yoel Lerner devised a similar plan, also in the hope that the withdrawal from Sinai could be stopped by means of a terror attack on the Temple Mount.

Security elements believe that today, too, there are extremists who wish to carry out an attack on the Temple Mount as a way of undermining the disengagement.

But not all the Temple Mount movements are enamored with the idea of using the site as a tool to sabotage the pullout - even by means of protest actions there alone. Yehuda Etzion, for example, the leader of the Chai Vekayam (literally, Alive and Well) movement, believes that the mount, a sacred entity unto itself, should not be used as a tool.

"This is profanation of the sacred," explained Etzion, a former member of the Jewish Underground.

Etzion, Weiss, Ariel and many others come from among ever-widening circles of individuals who wish to exercise the right to visit the site, not to mention the right to hold prayers there. Since 1967, there has been a ban on Jewish prayer or ritual on the mount, but visits are permitted. Some 35 years ago, however, an absolute majority of rabbis ruled that visits by Jews to the site were forbidden by Jewish law.

This majority has dwindled in recent years, and many Jews visit the Temple Mount today; the change in attitude poses a tough challenge to the police. [Bold mine.]How does one uphold freedom of access to holy sites (in this case, for Jews), and also prevent unrest and disorder on the part of Muslims on the Temple Mount?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Aliyah Quote #23: The Land of the Deer

Eretz Yisrael is called "the land of the deer," - just as a deer's skin cannot cover the flesh once it has been flayed, Eretz Yisrael is expansive when Yisrael dwells on it, and shrivels when we are not on it. (Gittin 57a)