Ian Silverman, Rabbi

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Between Purim and Passover

Rabbi Jason Rubenstein makes an interesting observation that the very beginning of the Megillah presents an anti-Passover message of providence. It appears that Haman rolls the dice in his lottery for the destruction of the Jews on the 12th month, Adar, and the 13th day. But on what day was the fate sealed? –On none other than the day before Pesach, Adar 14, when the Jews, instead, prevailed. And what does Mordecai tell Esther? He tells her, “Help might come from another quarter, but if you don't do something, you and your father's house will be destroyed.” Notice that he doesn’t say God will help us; he says something shall come to the rescue eventually (yavo memakom acher), but we are left wondering what form that help will take. After all, God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther at all. And Esther insists that the Jews fast for three days, but this comes at the time of feasting at the Seders of Passover! Note how despairing they must have been at this moment when they should have been fulfilling the commandment of eating matzah to celebrate God's rescue of the Hebrew Slaves at the time of the Exodus! In the end, religious significance is attached to this miracle rescue of the Jews from Haman, and it is declared a holiday, but the rite of that holiday is reading about human beings risking their lives to turn the tide.

Pesach enters, however, through the back door, in our rabbinic tradition, when it comes to the events of the story of Esther. Do you remember that Achashverosh couldn't sleep and insisted in reading from his chronicles? That occurred too, our sages tell us, on the exact night marking the time of our release in Egypt! (cf. Haggadah: cf. vayehi be chazi Halaila) This teaches that while you might think that all happens is due to luck, happenstance and human endeavor, we realize that Providence is behind this concatenation of events–ultimately God is working behind the scenes.

Passover presents a different theological view. God is a maker of miracles and will impose His will on human history if the experience of his people is dire and if their prayers and tears crack heaven. The explanation of our rescue and release comes from God and no other–a Divine rescue.

And yet, Passover depends, too, on the actions of people. It depends on a leader who evolves from a self doubting 'send someone else' sort, to a leader who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It depends on a people who evolve from insular, to advocates, to a people who begin to believe and inspire Moses. And it depends ultimately on their faith to follow God's directive to slaughter a ram at a time of Egyptian Ram worship, when Aries, the Ram, is considered sacred.

 

In a beautiful passage, God instructs Moses to put blood on the doorpost and the crossbeams of doors on the night of the last lethal first-born plague. But when Moses repeats this directive to the Israelites, he says the opposite, telling them to place the blood on the lintel and then the doorposts. Why the difference, asks the Nachalat Zvi commentary. The first passage shows God's perspective. From His perspective, His miracles are dependent on human actions below the heavens, which are stirred by what we do down here below. From Moses' perspective, miracles come from above, and from how much we turn our hearts and our prayers heavenward.

Naturally this Pesach-Purim divide is a much broader discussion and we see its tension in opinions this very day. There are many who feel that God is the one who makes or breaks circumstances; there is no coincidence and God has everything, always, under control–even if we don’t see it. There are others who say, "heaven helps only those who help themselves," and only pious fools place themselves in harm’s way by saying "God shall provide."

I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle. Certainly, a little help from heaven is always a good thing, and sincere prayer is, therefore, called for and important. On the other hand, even God kept us out of the way of the Philistines until we were ready, as a people, to wage war, providing forty years for training before we were ready to conquer our land. In making peace, prayer alone is insufficient. Human might and resourcefulness is imperative, as is bravery and risk taking, in the road to redemption. In creating a strong and productive society, prayer is helpful but insufficient. We must fight for justice, we must risk for kindness, we must trust, to the extent that we can, in our neighbors, and extend our hands to them–only then can heavenly rewards rain down upon us.

Beth and I wish you and yours a sweet and joyful Pesach.

–Rabbi Ian 

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Israel Items of Interest

Film recommendation: Mekonen, the story of an Ethiopian Jew who makes peace with an emotional past and embraces his future in Israel, becoming a decorated officer in the IDF while remaining true to his African roots and culture.

Did you know that the first victim of 9-11 was an Israeli Special Forces Veteran who rushed the cockpit of American Airlines Flight 11 to stop the hijackers, but was murdered in his attempt to stop these al-Queda terrorists. Watch a quick video, HERE. 

Read about a small guitar workshop in Jaffa, creating the finest instruments, HERE.

A PhD student at Hebrew University has won an award for developing a test to detect Parkinson's Disease. Read about it HERE.

Three years after publishing an anti-Israel letter in the medical journal, The Lancet, the editor admits he has deep regrets and has dedicated the latest issue to highlighting health care in Israel. Read about it HERE.

Read an article by Chris Coons and Marco Rubio from the Wall Street Journal, "Every Senator Agrees the UN Must Change," HERE.

Israel's medical clowns- they cheer up sick kids, reduce anxiety, decrease pain, and alleviate depression. They are Jews, Christian Arabs, and others. Watch a YouTube video about them HERE.

Learn about the connection of Jews with Israel, the decades-long quest of Israel for peace with it's neighbors, the failure of Palestinian leadership to turn conflict into coexistence, and the contrast between the fate of Palestinian and Jewish refugees from the Arab-Israel conflict, HERE. 

Women of the IDF video

 

Rabbi Silverman's Suggested Sites to See

An ad campaign proposed by Palestinians for London's underground subway stations depicting the peaceful Arab population before and bereavement after the establishment of Israel in 1948 has been rejected by the city of London. Read about it HERE.

According to experts, Israel and Saudi Arabia are praising Trump's new policy towards Iran, a sign that their shared concern is "nudging" Israel and much of the Arab world closer together. Read about it HERE.

November 2nd commemorates the history of the Balfour Declaration, when Lord Balfour announced the support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people in what was then the Ottoman region of Palestine. Read the history HERE.

According to an ex-AP reporter, Journalists covering Israel have created a reality that doesn't match what's really happening. Read the explanation that came out of the Christian Media Summit HERE.

Read excerpts from the US Congressional Record of 1922, demonstrating the powerful sense of members of Congress for reestablising a Jewish national home in Palestine, HERE.

Read the Las Vegas shooting statement from the Rabbinical Assembly, HERE.

The American Jewish Historical Society, founded to study and preserve Jewish history, is now made up of anti-Israel activists due to its partnership with the JVP, Jewish Voice for Peace, and anti-Israel BDS hate group that defends anti-Semitism. Read about it HERE.
UCLA Professor David Myers, appointed CEO of the center this past summer says he loves Israel and denies that he is for the BDS movement. Read his defense HERE.

 

End the practice by the Palestinian Authority to provide cash to terrorists for injuring and killing Israelis and foreigners by supporting the Taylor Force Act, named after a US serviceman murdered in Tel Aviv, whose assasin's family benefits from PA terror payments. Urge Congress to end these payments HERE.

Watch a video showcasing the StandWithUs Center in Jerusalem HERE.

Although Canadian hate speech laws are more restrictive than those of the US, the courts in Canada did not cite an imam for his prayers to "destroy the accursed Jews." This comes despite Jewish communal support of Muslims after six worshippers were killed in a mosque. Read about it HERE.

Chelsea soccer star Alvaro Morata is tellling fans to stop chanting a song in his honor that contains anti-Semitic language- a principled stand that sets the right tone for all sport, HERE. 

Jews exiled from Iraq in the 1950s were forced to leave behind treasured items that were recovered by US troops in 2003 in a flooded Iraqi basement. The State Department is planning to return them to Iraq, but Senator Chuck Schumer is among a group of US lawmakers that have joined Jewish groups in lobbying to keep the archive in a location accessible to Iraqi Jews and their descendants- none of whom now live in Iraq. Read about it HERE.

A disturbing assessment of the present state of feminism by one of its pioneers, Phyllis Chesler, HERE.

The Rabbinical Assembly has issued a statement on the Las Vegas incident– HERE , as well as a statement on sensible gun control – HERE

Israel's Yad Vashem was redesigned and reconstructed in 1993, but the collusion between the the Germans and Arabs in their hatred of the Jews has been significantly downplayed from its emphasis in the former museum. Read about it HERE.

Jewish college kids confront aggressive and professional anti-Semitic efforts to transform campuses into Israel-hostile environments. Most Jewish students manage to remain unaffected by moving to the "sidelines" of the debate and "proceeding with life as students normally would." But this is a win for the anti-Israel campaign. Read why HERE.

Monday, September 25th, was "Hate Israel Day" for the UN Human Rights Council, a regular agenda item that targets the Jewish state. Surprisingly, an ex-Hamas Palestinian took the floor and challenged the Palestinian Authority, citing Israel as a false and convenient scapegoat for the suffering of the Palestinian people and selfish political interests of the PA. Read Mosab Hassan Yousef's words HERE. 

Learn how you can help, where you can drop off needed supplies, or make a donation toward the Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico, click HERE.

Watch an interview of Israel's former Ambassador to the UN, Ron Posor with Alan Dershowitz discussing certain UN agencies. The interview by Israeli television is laced with optimism at the appointment of former PM of Portugal Gutierrez as Secretary General, HERE.

Before three Israeli's could be buried following a Palestinian terrorist attack on September 26, Abbas' Fatah movement celebrated the killings on Facebook, calling the killer a martyr and promising to reward the family in shekels. Read about it HERE.
If you want the world to take real action to stop Palestinian terror join your voice to the 46,000 people who have signed The Israel Project petition HERE.

Support the Isreael Anti-Boycott Act, which protects US companies targeted by international boycotts against Israel and punishes those who comply with them. Read all about it HERE.

The U.S. State Department annual report applauds the Palestinian Authority for curbing violence, recognizing Israel, and pursuing an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means. Read about this fantasy HERE.

According to a Palestinian psychologist, women hijacking planes and murdering Israeli civilians are "wonderful acts of heroism." Unfortunately, these are the societal values of the Palestinian adversary. Learn about it HERE.

A pro-Palestinian Jewish group is urging young Jews to shun Birthright because, while Birthright offers free trips to Israel, Palestinian refugees are barred from returning to their homes. Read about it HERE.

Norway received a refund for a women's center they had funded, after learning that the woman it had been named for had led a terrorist attack in 1978. Does this signal a new beginning in Europe's attitude toward the Palestinian Authority? Find out HERE.

A charity organization called "Islamic Relief" received funding and notariety across the globe, but they have been tied to extreme violent anti-Semitism. Read about it HERE.

Find out what you can send to Houston to aid area Conservative shuls HERE.

Jewish critics accuse the Holocaust Museum of bystanderism for excusing the Obama administration in its response to war crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad in Syria and not taking action to prevent them. Read about it HERE.

The biggest threat to the continued existence of Israel comes from the propaganda campaign that rejects Israel's right to exist. Read the essay by Professor Gerald M. Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, HERE.

Israel's response to Hurricane Harvey is, again, "a light unto nations." Make a donation to the disaster relief through IsraAID HERE

In the run for Illinois governor, Jewish State Senator Daniel Biss dropped his running mate, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who was a supporter of the BDS movement. Read about it HERE.

Esther Meshoe, daugther of South African Parliamentarian Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, defends Israel a video, HERE.

Dealing with anti-Semitism is a larger problem that Charlottesville. Read David Harris's blog HERE.

While the Israeli government is embracing and financially supporting ultra-Orthodox policies, it is paying little attention to Masorti non-Orthodox Jewry. Masorti needs donations to deal with this funding disparity. Please consider a donation HERE.

Read a worthwhile essagy Palestinian Settler-Colonialism, by Dr. Alex Joffe, HERE

Donate to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund through the UJA Federation NY HERE.

Read the blog of Yehuda Kurtzer: Talking Nazis Personally (and Collectively), a well thought-out essay by a contemporary Jewish thinker that looks at Charlottesville from many angles of Jewish memory. This piece pleads that we work together rather than at cross purposes in our response, HERE.

Read Watching Charlottesville from Jerusalem, an excellent reflection by Daniel Gordis HERE.

Watch an animated video about how anti-Semitism has mutated over time, HERE.

Read The Truth Behind Bar Mitzvah Tears, by Wendy Jaffe. A reflection that says it all perfectly, HERE.

Learn the proper protocol to handle Palestinian activists on campuses as exemplified by Georgetown University HERE.

A video about all the wonderful aid Israel provides worldwide, that will bring a tear to your eyes HERE.

 

 

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