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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Join us the movie The Forgotten Refugees, followed by a discussion with Dr. David Kazzaz, father of congregant Jeff Kazzaz, who was expelled from Iraq in the 1950s.


 

Israel Items of Interest

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

Add your name to the petition by the Jewish Community Relations Council denouncing the demonstration in Charlottesville and hate in all of its manistations- New Yorkers Against Hate- please sign HERE.

Read the words of the congregation president of the Charlottesville, Virginia Beth Israel synagogue, Alan Zimmerman. Towns and communities should not allow these demonstrations, citing first amendment considerations, and instead ban them on grounds of disturbing the peace. Read the article HERE.

Mahmoud Abbas claims the Palestinians are descendents of the Canaanites in order to claim they were in the land before the Israelites. In fact, Arab tribes settling in Israel were of several lineages. Read about it HERE.

Watch a funny video on the Middle East conflict HERE.

Students in Newton, MA were being taught under a curriculum of anti-Jewish rhetoric, funded by Middle-Eastern and Islamic study groups supported by gifts from Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab states. Luckily one child raised the alarm and parents went into action to stop it. But similar curriculums are being inserted into public school systems across the US. Read about it HERE.

Brandeis, America's only non-sectarian Jewish-sponsored college, offers a course on "Islamism," taught by a pro-Islamist bigoted professor. Read about it HERE.

Is the Anti-boycott act, now before Congress, and infringement on free speech? Read this Jerusalem Post article explaining why it is not, HERE.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the Taylor Force Act will eliminates asistance to the Palestinian Authority if they continue to pay salaries to terrorists and their families. The bill will now move to the Senate floor. Contact your senators today and urge them to support his bill, HERE.

What's REALLY behind the debate over Metal Detectors on the Temple Mount? Watch a video and find out, HERE.

Read and excellent New York Times Opinion piece discussing the leaders of the Women's March, hailed by the Democratic Party and lauded by the media as inspiring and tranformative, who actually embrace some alarming, hatemongering and illiberal causes. Read the OpEd HERE.

Radical Islam exists not only in the Middle East and Europe, but it is here in the US as well. Read the words of a California Imam, HERE.

Read a wonderful gem by David Harris of AJC, entitled Stop Infantilizing the Palestinians, HERE. 

Sign a petition defending Israel and Jerusalem from efforts of the UN attacking Israel's sovereignty, HERE.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is calling out Jewish Voice for Peace, a left-wing, pro-BDS group, for their efforts to condemn Israel at every opportunity. Read about it HERE.

Rex Tillerson and the State Department are blaming Israel for the current unrest at the Kotel. Read about it HERE.

A Bar Mitzvah boy chose a Jimmy Kimmel theme. See how that turned out with a video, HERE.

There have been several clashes and many people injured over Temple Mount security efforts to defuse tensions, all initially begun by the brutal stabbing of 2 Israeli policemen by Israeli-Arab terrorists. Read the article from the Times of Israel HERE.

With controversy over Radiohead's upcoming show in Israel, an Arab-Israeli who will be performing with them has written an article in Newsweek urging them not to cancel, HERE.

Sign the petition from Mazon to maintain food programs in danger of being cut by the Trump Administration HERE. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel, which was a great opportunity for public relations, technology and trade. Read about it HERE.

US senators are calling for a reduction in aid to the Palestinian Authority because the PA is violating the Taylor Force Act by providing payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists. Read about it HERE. The PA claims these payments are social welfare– Read why they aren't, HERE.

A review of the new book Kingdom of Olives and Ash, edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, consists of 26 essays which essentially condemn Israel. Read the review HERE.

After Palestinians killed 2 Israeli policemen in the Old City, Israeli officials closed off the area for security reasons. The grand mufti of Jerusalem, citing Israeli "agression" called on Muslims to flood the holy site. Read about it HERE.

Read how UNESCO supports terrorism and rejectionism HERE.

Sign a petition to stand up against Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University HERE.

Nassau Legislator Howard Kopel says that allowing Roger Waters of Pink Floyd to perform at the Nassau Coliseum would violate local law against Israeli discrimination. Watch the video HERE.

The mayor of London has taken action to ban the flag of Hezbollah. Watch two videos on this subject: Al Quds Day 2017, HERE; and Kay Wilson Speaks Out Against Al Quds Day, HERE.

Biased US high school textbooks are turning young Americans against Israel, according to research by several Jewish watch groups. Read about it HERE.

Read "Why Won't Abbas Accept 'Two States for Two Peoples'?" by Alan Dershowitz, articulating the core obstacle to the Two State Solution- Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state, HERE. 

Georgetown University in Qatar will install Ahmad S. Dallal as it's dean in September. Dallal, an avowed supporter of Hezbollah, previously served as the chair of the DC campus Islamic Studies Department, know as a cesspool of jihadi sympathizers. Read about it HERE.

Judea Pearl has written of the BDS movement's immorality in the The Jewish Journal, nailing the truth regarding its actual goal to dismantle the State of Israel and deny the Jewish right to self-determination, HERE.

In response to Israeli PM Netanyahu's decision to freeze the Kotel Agreement, Mercaz Olami President and former Rabbinical Assembly President, Rabbi Alan Silverstein, has published a piece in the Times of Israel, HERE.

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters is the de facto spokesman for the BDS campaign, disparaging Israel and including graphic anti-Semetic visuals in his concerts. He is now the subject of a boycott campaign and documentary film by award-winning filmmaker and New York Times author Ian Halpern. Read about it HERE. You can view a trailer of the film HERE.

For College Students: join SSI- Students Supporting Israel and help in their important work. Learn about it HERE.

UNESCO had declared the Tomb of the Jewish Patriarchs, the second holiest site to Jews, a "Palestinian World Heritage site." This is historical revisionism taking place under our noses and given international legitimacy. HERE. See also a well-stated NY Post article HERE.

Read a very worthwhile Times of Israel blog from Daniel Gordis on his perspective of the evolving Israel-Diaspora fault lines, HERE. 

The Palestinian Minister Sabri Saidam, in charge of revamping the Palestinian Authority's education system will be keeping the radical curriculum that teaches students to become martyrs, reject negotiations and embracde a continued war with Israel rather than using this opportunity to prepare PA children for peace. Read about it HERE. Read the executive summary by the Israel Research Review, concluding that PA schoolbooks call for the de-legitimization and demonization of Israel, and a call for violent struggle instead of peace-HERE.

Irish Hypocracy: Ireland separates Catholics and Protestants by over 50 "peace walls", yet the wall that separates Israel from Palestine is termed an "apartheid wall" in Ireland and negatively thought of as racist. Read about it HERE.

Organizers of Chicago's LGBT festival expelled marchers carrying the Star of David. Read about it HERE.

A group of 18 NFL Hall-of-Famers joined New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on a trip to Israel that transformed their opinions of Kraft and of Israel, HERE.

Israel is the world's oldest victim of "false news," HERE.

Cold Spring Harbor's Judy Davis writes about the advantages of having Israel as an American partner in The Times of Israel, HERE.

Watch a video questioning the double standard when it comes to terrorism in Israel HERE.

Read an important article that rebuts the contention that the Holocaust is the reason the State of Israel exists, HERE.

As a Columbia University alumnus, Rabbi Silverman has written a letter to its president, Lee Bollinger, in protest of the "Nakba Project," an initiative of Columbia's Center for Palestine Studies and Adalah, and anti-Israel NGO. The project promotes extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and provides a platform for BDS-ers. Read about it HERE. 

Your tax dollars paid for an event in Congress, sponsored by Congressman Mark Pocan, with speakers that denied Israel's right to exit and called Israel's founding in 1948 a “catastrophe." Please sign your name to a petition that demands our leaders condemn this hate speech and to ensure that a congressional event like this will not happen again, HERE.

An Israeli rabbi settler who praised attacks on Arabs has been indicted for incitement. While it is troubling that rabbis have come to this, credit should be given to the the Israeli judicial system and mainstream Jewish scholars for disowning such thinking and indicting this rabbi. It would be significant if such legal mechanisms were applied to Palestinian society for similar incitement. Read about it 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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