Monthly Archives: July 2017



 JULY 26, 2017 23:06

This Tuesday, we will mark the 9th of Av, when the Temple was destroyed. The Temple represents our unity. When we restore our union, we will not need bricks to prove our place is here in Israel.

THE TEMPLE MOUNT in Jerusalem, the site of a deadly attack last week.

It is no secret that the Arab smear campaign in the media and the organized “popular” protests against the placement of metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount have nothing to do with security measures. From the perspective of the Wakf (the Islamic organization controlling and managing the Temple Mount), and the rest of the Arab world, the resistance to the detectors represents the resistance to Israel’s sovereignty on Temple Mount in particular, in the city of Jerusalem, and in all of Israel. The longer this campaign lasts, the more the Arabs will gain the favor of the world, and Israel will increasingly be seen as the bully in the neighborhood.

By now, hardly anyone remembers that the detectors were placed at the entrances because three terrorists opened fire on Israeli police, killing two officers and wounding a third. All that everyone sees now is that Israel is not letting Muslims pray in their holy site, when in fact, the only people keeping worshippers outside the Temple Mount are the Wakf, who are telling worshippers not to enter in protest of the placement of detectors.

The Temple—the Unity of Israel

Not only the Wakf objects to Israel’s authority on Temple Mount. The resolutions of UNESCO denying the Jewish history on Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron represent the view of the entire world that we do not belong here. If the UN were to vote today on the establishment of a Jewish state, who would vote “Yes”? Probably not even America.

To be a sovereign in the land of Israel, and particularly on Temple Mount, you must understand what the Temple represents and lead your life accordingly. The book Netzah Israel (Chapter 4) writes, “The House was ruined due to unfounded hatred, for their hearts divided and they parted and were unworthy of a Temple, which is the unity of Israel.”

If we honestly reflect on our society, on what we project to the world, it is clear that we are deeply divided and project disunity and discord everywhere. The Maharal of Prague writes in Hidushey Avot (Gittin 55b): “The Temple should be the wholeness of the entire world, not of Israel alone. …Since the Temple is the wholeness of the entire world, the nations included, it was not ruined by the nations, but only by unfounded hatred and division, when Israel divided.”

In other words, the Temple does not belong to any one nation or faith; it represents the unification of the world. Therefore, only those who advocate and execute unity merit being there. The Hebrew word Yehudi (Jew) comes from the word yihudi, meaning united (Yaarot Devash, Part 2, Drush no. 2). When we, Jews, united “as one man with one heart,” it was the first and only time in history when people of different, often rival clans from all over Babylon and the Near East united and forged a nation. Our unity, therefore, was a model for the entire world to follow. As a result, immediately following the establishment of our peoplehood, we were commanded to be “a light unto nations,” to take our method of unity to the rest of humanity.

The book Sefat Emet (Shemot, Yitro) describes what it means to be “a light unto nations”: “The children of Israel are guarantors in that they received the Torah [the light of unity] in order to correct the entire world.” But if we are not united, and therefore do not project unity to the rest of the world, can we truly regard ourselves as the “children of Israel”? And if we are not truly the children of Israel, united like the children of Israel are meant to be, can we claim sovereignty over the land?

The Sedition Conquered the City, and the Romans Conquered the Sedition

Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius lived at the time of the ruin and witnessed many of the events first hand. He wrote very clearly about the causes of the ruin of the Temple and the exile (The Wars of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter 6): “The sedition [among the Jews] conquered the city, and the Romans conquered the sedition.” In the days of the Temple, Flavius details, “The attribute the [Jews] lacked most was mercy. …They transferred their rage from the living to the slain, and from the slain to the living [of their own people]. The terror was so great that the survivors called the dead ‘happy,’ as they were already at rest. … These men trampled upon all the laws of men [love of others], and ridiculed the words of the prophets. Yet, these prophets foretell … that the city should be taken and the sanctuary burnt by war when a sedition invades the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the Temple. Now these zealots … made themselves the instruments of the fulfillment [of the prophecies].”

When you think of the current hatred between the two sides of the political map in Israel, or between the two sides of the political map among US Jews, the similarities to the enmity among our ancestors are too striking to ignore. “At the end of the period of the Second Temple,” writes the book A Letter from Elijah (Part 3), “strife and hatred intensified in Israel, and pride was the root of the desire for absolute dominance. This brought them into hatred of their fellow person until they could not stand the very existence of the other. From that root of pride also emerged the audacity to sin shamelessly, for they did not perceive the contradiction between their actions and their views, and their conscience did not cause them to conceal their actions. And if they do not care about the conflict between their views and their actions, then they are regarded as ‘all sin.’ These are the things that caused the ruin of the House.”

A Land without a Sovereign

Today, we have a state, and we seemingly have sovereignty. But the name, “The State of Israel,” is still devoid of content. Our intolerance toward each other, our disdain toward our own people is skyrocketing. If we do not realize that we are repeating the same crime of unfounded hatred we committed two millennia ago, we will be banished from this land again until we are ready to unite above our differences as did our forefathers in the desert.

This Monday evening, we will mark the ninth of Av, the date when the Temple was destroyed. But it was destroyed in our hearts long before the bricks were set ablaze. With these compelling words, The Hida describes this inner ruin (Devarim Achadim, Tractate no. 6): “What can we say when we regret all day the ruin of the House and the [absence of] redemption? …It was all ruined because of unfounded hatred, and if we are disunited now and there is unfounded hatred, how can the House be built, since the cause of our ruin has not ceased from us? How can we say that we await Your salvation all the day while there is still unfounded hatred in our midst? Woe, how can man do good deeds as long as his impurity of baseless hatred is still in him?”

To be the landlords in the land of Israel, we must become once more the people of Israel, yehudim [Jews] from the word, yihudi [united]. Unless we reconstruct our unity and reassume our commitment to be a beacon of unity unto nations, the world will not support our being here and we will be expelled once more.

Sovereignty in the land of Israel is unlike the sovereignty in any other land—acquired by military might. This land has no sovereign; its dwellers are people who are willing to connect, to unite above their hatred, just like our forefathers. If we can learn the lesson from the horrors of our ancestors and transcend our selfish egos, we will merit staying here, and the entire world will be behind us. But if we opt once more for enmity, then we will suffer the hostility of the entire world, but not before we scuffle with each other once again.

As taken from, on July 30, 2017.

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Posted by on July 30, 2017 in Uncategorized


Bendición para los hijos – Guía paso a paso

Bendición para los hijos – Guía paso a paso

Un momento de conexión, eterno y mágico, para padres e hijos.

Bendecir a tus hijos cada noche de viernes es una bella costumbre. Es un momento lleno de amor y significado, en especial cuando entiendes el origen de esta tradición.

La bendición a los hijos

Yaakov, uno de los patriarcas del pueblo judío, tuvo 12 hijos que crecieron para convertirse en los líderes de las 12 tribus de Israel. El penúltimo hijo fue Yosef, quien tuvo dos hijos: Efraim y Menashé.

Justo antes de morir, Yaakov llamó a todos sus hijos para darles una bendición final. Como recompensa especial para Yosef, quien continuó siendo recto durante todo su duro exilio, él llamó primero a los hijos de Yosef, Efraim y Menashé, y les dio una bendición especial y dos porciones de la Tierra de Israel:

En ese día Yaakov los bendijo: “En el futuro, Israel (el pueblo judío) los utilizará como una bendición. Ellos dirán, ‘Que Dios te haga como Efraim y Menashé’” (Génesis 48:20).

La bendición de Yaakov fue que ellos serían una bendición, un ejemplo para el pueblo judío a lo largo de la historia. Desde ese día en adelante, se convertirían en un modelo para los niños judíos de todas partes, porque representaban cualidades dignas de emular eternamente.

¿Cuáles eran esas cualidades?

Efraim y Menashé fueron los primeros hermanos de entre nuestros antepasados que vivieron sin rivalidad. Antes de ellos estuvieron Isaac e Ishmael, Yaakov y Esav, y por supuesto, los hermanos de Yosef, que lo vendieron como esclavo. Todas las relaciones estuvieron cargadas de conflicto y competencia.

Efraim y Menashé fueron hermanos que vivieron en armonía, ya que el centro de sus vidas fue el más elevado ejemplo de trabajo por el bien de su comunidad y su pueblo. Las decisiones no estaban basadas en: ¿Qué es mejor para mí? sino en: ¿Qué es mejor para el pueblo judío? Los intereses del ego fueron dejados de lado en favor de algo más grandioso. Resuenan las palabras del rey David: “Qué bueno y placentero es para los hermanos sentarse juntos en paz”(Salmos 133:1). Esta es la esperanza que Dios tiene para todo el pueblo judío.

Además, ellos dos fueron los únicos de los 12 hijos y sus familias que crecieron hasta la madurez fuera de la Tierra de Israel. Y a pesar de esta desigualdad, se mantuvieron firmes en su compromiso con el judaísmo. No siempre podemos garantizar que nuestros hijos no estarán expuestos a un entorno negativo. Por consiguiente, les damos la bendición para que sean como aquellos que no fueron tentados por sus entornos inmorales y mantuvieron su comportamiento ético y recto.

Así, las cualidades exhibidas por Efraim y Menashé, de estar unidos por el bien de todos y de poseer el coraje para mantener los valores judíos en un ambiente no judío, se convirtieron en el punto de referencia para la crianza de niños judíos, incluso milenios después.

La bendición a las hijas

Sara, Rivka, Rajel y Lea… las matriarcas del pueblo judío. Cada una poseía cualidades únicas, que jugaron papeles esenciales en la fortaleza y el futuro de la nación. Pero hubo algo que todas compartían, algo que las mujeres judías de todos los tiempos lucharían para emular.

Cada una vivió con el reconocimiento de que el mayor logro es permitirle a los demás materializar su potencial como individuos y como miembros del pueblo judío. La Torá está llena de relatos sobre estas mujeres, registrando su agudeza, su naturaleza generosa y su sensibilidad, liderazgo y habilidad especial para inspirar a otros. Más allá de esto, todas las matriarcas fueron mujeres excepcionales y rectas, que venían de casas de personas malvadas, lo que hoy llamamos “un ambiente nocivo”.

Un ejemplo de esto es la historia de las hermanas Rajel y Lea. Un día, Yaakov entró en sus vidas, destinado a ser uno de los patriarcas del pueblo judío. Yaakov se enamoró de Rajel y le pidió su mano a Labán, el padre de ella. Labán se la prometió, pero sin embargo, en el último minuto, les dijo a sus hijas que Lea se casaría con Yaakov en lugar de Rajel.

Rajel podría haber reaccionado con resentimiento y celos, pero en cambio ayudó a Lea a casarse con Yaakov, porque reconoció que su hermana necesitaba hacer esto para cumplir con el propósito de su vida y convertirse en una de las matriarcas del pueblo judío.

Este acto de generosidad desinteresada, en donde las necesidades de otra persona (que pueden ser tan importantes como las propias) toman prioridad, es la cualidad que Rajel y las otras matriarcas del pueblo judío ejemplificaron fielmente.

Pero no era todo auto-sacrificio, porque Rajel sabía que hacer lo correcto, permitiéndole a Lea tomar su lugar, era la materialización de su propio potencial. Porque cuando damos a otros y los ayudamos a materializar su potencial, satisfacemos nuestras propias necesidades y nuestro deseo de crecer.

También vemos esto en nuestras relaciones hoy en día, tanto con amigos, familia, e incluso en el lugar de trabajo. Cuando las necesidades de los demás son nuestra prioridad, nuestra percepción de nosotros mismos se eleva inmensurablemente, y nuestras relaciones se convierten en mundos de generosidad, donde florecen el amor y la autoestima.

Estas mujeres compartían una relación especial con Dios, y utilizaron los regalos que Él les dio para el bien de otros y para el pueblo judío. Cuando bendecimos a nuestras hijas el viernes a la noche, le estamos pidiendo a Dios que les provea las cualidades de sus matriarcas, y nos recordamos a nosotros mismos qué significa verdaderamente “dar”.

Guía paso a paso

  1. En diferentes hogares hay diferentes costumbres. Algunas personas se paran y van hasta donde están sus hijos, otras hacen que los niños vengan hacia ellos. En algunos hogares el padre le da la bendición a cada hijo, en otros lo hacen ambos padres.
  2. En todos los casos, se pone una mano sobre la cabeza del niño y se recita la bendición apropiada, ya sea para un niño o una niña.
  3. Luego, es agradable susurrarle al niño algo personal al oído, alabando algún logro suyo de la semana, como una buena nota en un examen o jugar amablemente con su hermano menor. Es tu momento especial con tu hijo, utilízalo para generar una conexión personal.

Bendición para un niño

 Escuchar esta bendición

 Imprimir el texto de esta bendición

Bendición para una niña

 Escuchar esta bendición

 Imprimir el texto de esta bendición


Por muchos años fui diligente en darle la bendición de Shabat a cada una de mis hijas, rogándole a Dios que las hiciera como las matriarcas, Sara, Rivka, Rajel y Lea.

Después de que nuestras hijas fueron a la universidad, me enfrenté a un dilema. ¿Cómo les daría la bendición? Entonces se me ocurrió, ¿Por qué no por telefono? Eso fue lo que hicimos, y la costumbre ha continuado hasta hoy. El viernes a la mañana llamamos a nuestra hija menor (que ahora está estudiando en Jerusalem), y le damos su bendición. Más tarde, hacemos lo mismo con nuestra hija mayor en Manhattan.

Independiente de dónde estén, le doy amorosamente una bendición de Shabat a cada una. Honestamente, no sé quién disfruta más, si yo al darla, o ellas al recibirla. Pero no importa. No nos lo perderíamos por nada en el mundo. Es el lazo que nos une como familia, y que une a nuestra familia a su legado judío.

* * *

No crié a mis hijos en un ambiente familiar tradicional, por lo que me sorprendí bastante al ver que han crecido observantes.

A mi esposo y a mí nos encanta pasar los viernes a la noche en sus casas, con toda la familia reunida, todos vestidos con su mejor ropa, la mesa brillando con plata y cristal… Pero mi parte favorita es cuando mis nietos se acercan a sus padres para recibir su bendición.

¡Es tan conmovedor, y tan saludable! No importa qué conflicto hubo durante la semana, en ese momento el niño no puede evitar sentirse muy especial y muy amado.

Sin dudas crecerán con tiernos recuerdos de esas bendiciones de viernes a la noche, que realmente son los pilares de su autoestima.

* * *

Mi padre nos ha dado una bendición a mi esposa y a mí cada viernes a la noche desde hace mucho tiempo, y sin embargo cuando mi hijo nació, no lo hice con él. Creo que me sentía incómodo haciéndolo delante de todos.

Hace unos meses empecé a bendecirlo en secreto cuando todos se levantaban para lavarse las manos antes de comer. La primera vez que lo hice me sentí estupendo. Entonces comencé a fortalecerme poco a poco, hasta que por fin lo hice con todos en la mesa. Ahora es un honor hacerlo, y mi hijo de un año se queda sentado cuando le coloco la mano sobre su cabeza y le doy su bendición. Es increíble lo bien que me hace sentir.

Según tomado de,  el jueves, 27 de julio de 2017.

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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Uncategorized


The Subterranean Temple

I am asleep, but my heart is awake. (Song of Songs 5:2)

Our sages tell us that “when King Solomon built the Holy Temple, knowing that it was destined to be destroyed, he built a place in which to hide the Ark, [at the end of] hidden, deep, winding passageways.”1

It was there that King Josiah placed the Ark twenty-two years before the Temple’s destruction, as related in the Book of Chronicles.2

The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was built by King Solomon in the year 2928 from creation (833 BCE), and was destroyed 410 years later, on the ninth day of the month of Av, by the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar. Seventy years later it was rebuilt; the second Temple stood for 420 years, until its destruction by the Romans, also on the ninth of Av, in 3829 (69 CE). Ever since, 9 Av has been a day of fasting and repentance—a day on which we mourn the destruction, and pray for the coming of Moshiach, when the third and final Temple will be restored to its place as the divine epicenter of the universe.

The Holy Temple was G‑d’s home, the place in which He chose to manifest His all-pervading truth. How, then, could it have been destroyed by human hands? Only because the very structure of the Temple allowed for this possibility. This is the deeper significance of the fact that King Solomon built the Holy Temple “knowing that it was destined to be destroyed” and incorporated into it a hiding place for the Ark for that eventuality. Had the Temple not been initially constructed with the knowledge of, and the provision for, what was to happen on the ninth of Av, no mortal could have moved a single stone from its place.

The Places of the Ark

The fact that the Ark’s hiding place was built into the Holy Temple from the very beginning also carries another implication: it means that the first, second and third Temples are not three different structures, but the continuum of a single edifice.

The Ark contained the two tablets of stone, inscribed with the Ten Commandments by the hand of G‑d, which Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. It was the holiest object in the Temple, and the sole object in the Temple’s innermost chamber, the Holy of Holies. Indeed, our sages define the primary function of the Holy Temple as the housing of the Ark, for the Ark constituted “the resting place of the Shechinah (divine presence).”3

Thus, the underground chamber built by Solomon is much more than another “part” of the Holy Temple. The fact that it was constructed for the express purpose of containing the Ark means that it is of a piece with the Holy of Holies—the very heart of the Temple and its raison d’être.4

This is further underscored by the fact that the Ark has remained in this chamber from the time that it was placed there by Josiah, twenty-two years before the destruction of the First Temple, to this very day. This means that for the 420 years of the Second Temple, the Ark was not in the Holy of Holies, but in its underground chamber. But if the most fundamental function of the Temple is to house the Ark, how can there be a Holy Temple without an Ark? Also, at the time that Josiah hid the Ark, there was not yet any threat to the Holy Temple or to the Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem, only the prophetic knowledge that the Temple was destined to be destroyed. If the essence of the Holy Temple would have been negated by the removal of the Ark below ground, this would certainly not have been done until there was actual danger that the Ark might fall into enemy hands. Obviously, then, the underground hiding place of the Ark is no less part of the Holy Temple, and no less valid a place for the Ark, than the (aboveground) Holy of Holies.

In other words, the Holy Temple was initially designed and built to exist in two states: a revealed state and a concealed state. Accordingly, there were two designated places for the Ark in the Holy Temple—the aboveground portion of the Holy of Holies, and the chamber hidden at the end of “deep, winding passageways.” In its revealed state, the Holy Temple was a beacon of divine light, a place where man openly perceived and experienced the divine presence.5 In its concealed state, the divine revelation in the Holy Temple is muted, or almost completely obscured. But as long as the Temple houses the Ark, it continues to serve as the dwelling of G‑d.

In the twenty-eight centuries since it was first built, the Holy Temple has never ceased to fulfill its fundamental function as the seat of the divine presence in the world. There were times in which the entire structure stood in all its glory atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, times in which it existed in a diminished form (as in the Second Temple era), and times in which it was almost entirely destroyed. But a certain part of the Holy Temple has never been disturbed, and there its heart has never ceased to beat. When the “Third” Temple will be built, speedily in our days, and the Ark restored to its aboveground chamber, it will not be a new edifice, or even a “rebuilding,” but a revelation and reasserting of what has been present all along.

Deep and Winding

“Because we have sinned before You . . . our city was destroyed, our Sanctuary laid waste; our grandeur was banished, and the glory departed from our House of Life; no longer are we able to fulfill our duties in Your chosen home, in the great and holy house upon which Your name is proclaimed . . .”6

As these lines express, the Temple’s susceptibility to destruction is, on the most basic level, a negative thing. Because G‑d knew that we might prove unworthy of His manifest presence in our lives, He instructed that the Holy Temple be built in such a way as to allow for periods of diminution and concealment.

But our vulnerability to sin is but G‑d’s “awesome plot on the sons of man.”7G‑d created us with the capacity to do wrong only to enable us to uncover “the greater light that comes from darkness”8—to enable us to exploit the momentum of our lowest descents to drive our highest achievements. There is much to be achieved through the virtuous development of our positive potential; but nothing compares with the fervor of the repentant sinner, with the passion of one who has confronted his darkest self to recoil in search of light. No man can pursue life with the intensity of one who is fleeing death.

For centuries the Holy Temple has lain desolate, its essence contracted in a subterranean chamber deep beneath its ruined glory. But this terrible descent is, in truth, but the impetus for even higher ascent, even greater good, even more universal perfection, than what shone forth from the Temple in its first and second incarnations.

The paths to this chamber are hidden, deep and winding. This is not the straight and true path of the righteous, but the furtive, convoluted path of the “returnee” (baal teshuvah)—a path that plunges to the depths of his soul to unleash the most potent forces buried therein.9

1. Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Holy Temple 4:1, from Talmud, Yoma 53b.
2. II Chronicles 35:3; Mishneh Torah, loc. cit.
3. Nachmanides’ commentary on Torah, introduction to Exodus 25. See Likkutei Sichot, vol. 4, p. 1346, note 24.
4. Thus the Talmud says that “the Ark was concealed in its place” (Yoma, ibid.).
5. See Exodus 23:17 (as interpreted by the Talmud, Chagigah 2a), 25:8 and 40:34–35; I Kings ch. 8; Ethics of the Fathers 5:5; et al.
6. From the Mussaf prayer for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh.
7. Psalms 66:5.
8. Ecclesiastes 2:13 (as interpreted by chassidic teaching).
9. Based on an address by the Rebbe, Shabbat Chazon 5741/1981 (Likkutei Sichot, vol. 21, pp. 156–163).
As taken from,  on July 25, 2017
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Uncategorized


What Makes the Temple Mount So Holy? A Brief History

What Makes the Temple Mount So Holy? A Brief History
No one disputes the site’s importance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It’s only because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that either side insists to claim the Mount as its own
by, David B. Green
In an essay he wrote for the scholarly anthology “Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem’s Sacred Esplanade,” the Muslim Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh makes the point that it couldn’t have been the Prophet Mohammed’s night journey to al-Haram al-Sharif – what the Jews call the Temple Mount – that bestowed holiness on that spot: “rather, Muhammad’s visit must have been made because of the spot’s already-existing sanctity.”
One needn’t be a nonbeliever to acknowledge that Jerusalem in general, and the Sacred Esplanade – to use the neutral terminology employed by the ecumenical team of editors and writers of “Where Heaven and Earth Meet” (principal editors Oleg Grabar and Benjamin Z. Kedar) – in particular, is of central symbolic significance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And it’s hardly a coincidence, considering that first Christianity and then Islam built upon the traditions of their predecessors and claimed to supersede them. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the stories all three of these monotheistic faiths tell about the Mount.
It is only because of the never-ending conflict between Israelis and Palestinians – a political struggle that is taking on an increasingly religious character – that either side feels compelled to insist that its claim to the Mount is an exclusive one, and insists on denying its rivals’ connection to it.
No one can say what the significance of the hill known as Zion and as Moriah was to the Canaanites who inhabited Jerusalem before the Israelites conquered it in roughly 1000 B.C.E. We’re told in 2 Samuel 24 that the conqueror, King David, insisted on paying for the threshing floor he received from the Jebusite king Araunah. It was there that God instructed him to establish an altar and make an offering, thus bringing to an end a calamitous plague that had killed 70,000 of his people.
Later, it was David’s son Solomon who built the Temple on the site of that same altar. These Biblical accounts are not contemporary records of events. Rather, the narrative of Solomon that appears in 1 Kings 6, like the books of Joshua, Judges and Samuel, was probably written hundreds of years later, at about the turn of the 7th century B.C.E. It may well be that the reports of David’s altar and his city and of Solomon’s Temple being built on the location of the Jebusite town were written that way in order to clearly establish how the Israelites’ monotheism superseded the pagan religion of the Canaanite Jebusites.
The later a Hebrew text was written, it seems, the further back the Israelitic claim to Jerusalem seems to go. Genesis 22, for example, places the Binding of Isaac in the Land of Moriah, but it is only in 2 Chronicles that the connection is made between “Moriah” and Jerusalem. There we read how, “Solomon began to build the House of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where [the Lord] appeared unto David his father; for which provision had been made in the Place of David, in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chronicles 3:1). That text, say Bible scholars, was likely written several hundred years later still.
Finally, the Talmud, compiled even later, claims that “the world was created from Zion” (Yoma 54b), and in it and later midrashic texts we find references to Adam, Cain and Noah having made sacrifices to God in Jerusalem. (It is actually a Christian tradition that places “Mount Zion” in the spot just outside the southwest corner of the Old City, presumably because of the belief that this is the location of David’s tomb, and David is the progenitor of Jesus. Locating Mount Zion there also reflected “the [Christian] wish to annul the Temple Mount’s sanctity,” according to scholar Rachel Elior.)
Christianity is meant to be a universal faith based on spiritual beliefs, not acts of sacrifice. Nonetheless, its seminal texts establish Jesus’ bona fides, so to speak, by having some of the major events of his life take place in Jerusalem, beginning with the tradition, in the Gospel of Luke, that Jesus’ parents brought him to the Temple after his birth for service and only returned to take him back when he was 12. Later, all of the gospels describe Jesus coming to the Temple and turning out in disgust the animal traders and money-changers from its courtyard. In John 4, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman whom he meets at Mount Gerizim that “the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.” The sacrifices and the Temple where they are offered become unnecessary after Jesus himself is sacrificed in Jerusalem by way of his crucifixion. The Koran, Islam’s primary scripture, does not mention Jerusalem by name. It is only in the hadiths, the supplementary texts that report on the words and acts of the Prophet Mohammed, that the connection is made between al-Masjid al-Aqsa, the “Farthest Mosque,” mentioned in sura 17 of the Koran, and Jerusalem.
According to the Koran, Mohammed made “a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our Signs.” According to Muslim scholar Mustafa Abu Sway, “the hadith scholars, Qur’an commentators, and all of Islamic tradition take this particular verse seriously and consider the Sacred Mosque to be in Mecca and the Farthest Mosque to be in Jerusalem. No Muslim scholar challenged this position throughout Islamic intellectual history” (from his essay “The Holy Land, Jerusalem, and the Aqsa Mosque in the Islamic Sources” in “Where Heaven and Earth Meet”). These later texts also make the connection between Aqsa (Farthest) Mosque and “Bayt al-Maqdis” – House of the Holy, or “Beit Hamikdash,” the Hebrew term for the Temple. As noted, for details of Mohammed’s night journey, in which his horse Buraq carried him from Mecca to Jerusalem (a trip called the “Isra”), where he prayed and then ascended to Heaven (the “Mi’raj”) to converse with God before returning to earth – all of this in the course of a single night – one has to turn to the hadith texts.
What the account does do, however, is establish the Muslim link to Jerusalem. In fact, Jerusalem quickly became universally considered the third-holiest site for Muslims, after Mecca and Medina. Mohammed died in 632 C.E. and was succeeded as caliph first by Abu Bakr and then by Umar (although this succession was disputed by the group that became the Shi’a). It is the latter who conquered Jerusalem in 635-638 and established the Dome of the Rock (sometimes mistaken called the Mosque of Umar) and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the site of the ruins of the Herodian Second Temple.
The reign of Umar in Jerusalem was known for its relative tolerance. The next millennium and a half, of course, was characterized by successive conquests of the city, with the fortunes of the different faiths in it rising and sinking depending on who was sovereign there.
The turn of the Jews came only in 1967, with the Six-Day War and the unification of the divided city under Israeli rule. In general, Israel’s policy has been one of religious tolerance and openness. When Israeli authorities closed the Temple Mount to Muslim worshippers for two days after the July 14 killing of two Border Policemen there, it was the first time they had done so since 1969. But the question of who’s in charge has been a sensitive one – an extreme understatement – since the day in June 1967 that an Israel Defense Forces soldier raised an Israeli flag over Al-Aqsa Mosque, only to have Defense Minister Moshe Dayan order it removed minutes later. In such a situation, it is not surprising that there is little room for magnanimity, with each side on constant alert for any change in the status quo and any sign that the other side is gradually encroaching on its position. Any backing down is interpreted by both publics as a sign of weakness. Infinitesimally small actions can set off a conflict whose stakes will be unthinkably high.
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Posted by on July 23, 2017 in Uncategorized


The Problem And Future of True Halacha

Part 1 of 4 – The Problem

Nathan Lopes Cardozo

 By Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

It is time to start thinking big about Halacha. Great opportunities are awaiting us and too much is at stake to let them pass by. For too long, Halacha has been jailed in compartmentalized and awkward boxes. It is time to liberate it.

Most religious Jews are not aware that Halacha has nearly become passé. They believe it is thriving. After all, Halacha is very “in” and there are more books on this subject than ever before. Despite this, it lacks courage. We have fallen in love with – and become overwhelmed by – an endless supply of all-encompassing but passive halachic information, which does not get processed but only recycled. We have access to a nearly infinite amount of information via the Internet, books, journals and pamphlets, providing us with all the knowledge we could ever dream of. The problem is that this easily accessible information has replaced creative thinking. It has expelled the possibility for big ideas, and we have grown scared of them. We only tolerate and admire bold ideas when they provide us with profit-making inventions – when we feel our empty pockets – but not when they dare challenge our hollow souls. We do not discuss big ideas because they are too abstract and ethereal.

Novelty is always seen as a threat. It carries with it a sense of violation; a kind of sacrilege. It asks us to think, to stretch our brains. This requires too much of an effort and doesn’t suit our most important concern: the need for instant satisfaction. We love the commonplace instead of the visionary, and therefore do not produce people who have the capacity to deliver true innovation.

It is only among some very small, secular elite groups that we see staggering ideas emerging (Hawking and black holes, Aumann and game theory). In the department of Halacha, with only few exceptions, we rarely find anyone who even comes close to suggesting something really new. This is all the more true within Orthodox Judaism. While in ages past, discussions within Halacha could ignite fires of debate, we are now confronted with an increasingly post-idea Halacha. Provoking ideas that would boggle our minds are no longer “in.” If anything, they are condemned as heresy. Since they cannot easily be absorbed into our self-made halachic boxes, and they don’t bring us the complacency we long for, we stick to the mainstream where we can dream our mediocre dreams and leave things as they are.

The Retreat of Creative Thinking

Most of our yeshivot have retreated from creative thinking. We encourage the narrowest specialization rather than push for daring ideas. We are producing a generation that believes its task is to tend potted plants rather than plant forests.

We offer our young people prepared experiences in which we tell them what to think instead of teaching them how to think. We rob them of the capacity to learn what thinking is really all about. The plethora of halachic works, which educate them in the minutiae of the most intricate parts of Jewish law, hardly generate the inspiration for new ideas about these laws. In fact, they stand in the way. There is no time for anyone to process all the information even if they want to. But instead of seeing this as a problem, they and their teachers have turned it into a virtue.

And that is exactly the point. We are faced with two extremes: either our youth walk out on or maintain a lukewarm relationship with Jewish observance, or they become so obsessed by its finest points that they are incapable of seeing the forest for the trees and they consequently turn into rigid religious extremists.

What we fail to realize is that this is the result of our own educational system. In both cases, young people have fallen victim to the disease of information for the sake of information.

Information is not simply to have. It is there to be converted into something much larger than itself; it is there to produce ideas that make sense of all the information gathered in order to move it forward to higher latitudes. Information is not there to be possessed, but to be comprehended.

Jewish education today is, for the most part, producing a generation of religious Jews who know more and more about Jewish observance, but think less and less about what it means. This is even truer of their teachers. Some are even Talmudic scholars, but these very scholars don’t realize that they have drowned in their vast knowledge. The more they know, the less they understand. Just as a young child may think it is an act of kindness to lift a fish out of an aquarium and “save” it, so these Rabbis may be choking their students while thinking they are providing them with spiritual oxygen. Doing so, they rewrite Halachic Judaism in ways that are totally foreign to the very ideas that it truly stands for. They are embalming Halacha while claiming it is alive, because it continues to maintain its external shape.

Fewer and fewer young religious people have proper knowledge of the great halachic arbitrators of the past. They know little of their weltanschauung. And even when they do, the ideas of these great thinkers are presented to them as information, instead of as challenges to their own thinking or as prompts to the development of their own creativity. This is a tragedy. Our current halachic, spiritual and intellectual challenges cannot be answered by simply looking backwards and giving answers that once worked, but are now outdated.

The Quest for Certainty Paralyzes the Search for Meaning

Instead of new theories, hypotheses and great ideas, we get instant answers to questions of the utmost importance, offered via a wide variety of self-help books, the authors of which seem to claim that their halachic information came directly from Sinai. Trivial, simplistic, and often incorrect information replaces significant ideas. The information is reduced to a catchline – thus too brief and unsupported by proper arguments – yet still presented as “the answer.” By delivering “perfect” answers, which fit nicely into the often underdeveloped philosophies of their authors, everything is done to crush the questioning of halachic conclusions. The quest for certainty paralyzes the search for meaning.It is uncertainty that is the very stimulus impelling man to unfold his intellectual capacity. Every idea within Halacha is multifaceted – filled with contradictions, opposing opinions, and unsolvable paradoxes. The greatness of the Talmudic Sages was that they shared with their students their own struggles and doubts and their attempts at solving them, as when Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, Rava and Abaye debated major halachic problems; their fierce disagreements rooted in their outlook on life and how they saw Judaism.(Eruvin 13b.) Students were made privy to their teachers’ inner lives, and that made their discussions exciting. The teachers created tension in their classes, waged war with their own ideas and asked their students to fight them with knives between their teeth. They were not interested in teaching their students final halachic decisions, but instead asked them to take them apart, to deconstruct them so as to rediscover the questions. These teachers realized that not all halachic paradoxes can be solved, because life itself is full of paradoxes. They also realized that an answer is always a form of death, but a question opens the mind and inspires the heart.

It is true that this approach is not without risk, but there is no authentic life choice that is risk free. Nothing is worse than giving in to the indolence and callousness that stifles inquiry and leaves one drifting with the current. Such an approach shrinks the universe of the Halacha to a self-centered and self-satisfying ideological ghetto, robbing it of its most essential component: the constant debate about the religious meaning of life and how to live in God’s presence and move to higher levels.

The Greatest Proof of Judaism’s Decline is the Prodigiously Large Number of Like-Minded Religious Jews

Outreach programs, although well intentioned, have become institutions that, like factories, focus on mass production and believe that the more people they can draw into Jewish observance, the more successful they are. That their methods crush the minds of many newcomers who might have made a major contribution to a new and vigorous Halacha is of no importance to them. The goal is to fit them into the existing system. That their outdated theories make other independent minds abhor Judaism and Halacha is a thought they do not seem to even entertain. To them, only numbers count. How many people did we make observant? Millions of dollars are spent to create more and more of the same type of religious Jew. Like the generation of the Tower of Babel, in which the whole world was “of one language and of one speech,” we are producing a religious Jewish community of artificial conformism in which independent thought and difference of opinion is not only condemned, but its absence is considered to be the ultimate ideal. We have created a generation of yes men. We desperately need to heed what Kierkegaard said about Christianity: “The greatest proof of Christianity’s decay is the prodigiously large number of [like-minded] Christians.” (M.M. Thulstrup, “Kierkegaard’s Dialectic of Imitation,” in A Kierkegaard Critique, ed. H.A. Johnson and N. Thulstrup (New York: Harper, 1962), 277.)

Insight has been replaced with clichés, flexibility with obstinacy, and spontaneity with habit. What was once one of the great pillars of Judaism – the esteemed value of spiritual, intellectual and moral dissent – has become anathema. Instead of teaching the art of audacity, we are now educating a generation of kowtowers.

There is social ostracism of any kind of healthy rebellion against the conventional. The famous Orthodox Rabbi, Eliezer Berkovits, was ignored when he argued that Halacha had become defensive; the master thinker Abraham Joshua Heschel’s understanding of Halacha is completely disregarded by Orthodoxy; Charedi yeshivot pay no attention to Rav Kook.

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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Uncategorized


Kabalat Shabat en el Shul – Guía paso a paso

Kabalat Shabat en el Shul – Guía paso a paso

Kabalat Shabat en el Shul – Guía paso a paso

Un poderoso rezo comunitario puede ponerte en sintonía.

por Lori Palatnik

Cuando te estás preparando para Shabat, los viernes pueden ser un tanto… ¡ajetreados! Todo tiene que estar listo para encender las velas a tiempo. Para muchos, ir a la sinagoga el viernes por la noche marca el comienzo de Shabat. Dejas un plano e ingresas a otro. Ver a tus amigos y a tus vecinos, y desearles un “Shabat Shalom”, te re-conecta con la comunidad y con ser judío.

¿Qué hacer?

  1. Incluso quienes no rezan formalmente durante la semana, a menudo acuden a los rezos en Shabat. El rezo de viernes por la noche contiene tres secciones:

– Minjá (el rezo de la tarde)
– Kabalat Shabat (literalmente, “la Recepción del Shabat”)
– Maariv (el rezo de la noche)

  1. La parte principal de Minjá es la Shmoná Esré (la Amidá silenciosa), que significa literalmente “18”, porque originalmente contenía 18 bendiciones. El rezo de Minjá dura unos 15 minutos.
  1. Kabalat Shabat es un conjunto de alabanzas, elegidas especialmente para crear la atmósfera apropiada y así dar la bienvenida al Shabat. Hace siglos, en el norte de Israel, los místicos judíos acostumbraban salir al campo durante el atardecer, y cantaban la canción “Lejá Dodí” para recibir al Shabat. Esta sección también dura aproximadamente unos 15 minutos.
  1. El rezo de Maariv es especial para Shabat, e incluye el Shemá y la Amidásilenciosa. El Shemá es la oración judía más importante, que comienza con nuestro credo:

Shemá Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ejad, [Escucha, Oh Israel, el Señor es nuestro Dios, el Señor es Uno].

El Shemá se dice en nuestros rezos cada mañana y noche, e incluso a los niños pequeños se les enseña a recitarlo antes de ir a dormir.

Si uno no puede hacerlo en la sinagoga, la mayoría de las partes del rezo pueden ser dichas en casa. El Sidur ArtScroll ha presentado con gran detalle el procedimiento y la explicación del rezo y puede ser seguido fácilmente, con o sin una congregación.

Recuerda: Se puede rezar en cualquier idioma, elige el que te haga sentir más cómodo. Sin embargo, haz el esfuerzo y repasa el hebreo, ya que las canciones y los rezos comunitarios pueden ser aún más inspiradores cuando son entonados en conjunto.

¿Qué es rezar?

El rezo. ¿Cómo te relacionas con el rezo? ¿Es algo que sólo los niños hacen antes de ir a dormir? ¿Rezar está reservado para la sinagoga? ¿Por qué rezamos? ¿Deberíamos rezar? ¿Por qué el rezo es considerado uno de los pilares fundamentales del judaísmo?

Muchas preguntas. Vayamos a la Fuente para obtener algunas respuestas.

En Génesis 32, encontramos a Yaakov, uno de los patriarcas del pueblo judío, recibiendo la noticia de que, Esav, su malvado y vengativo hermano, quien ya había amenazado con matarlo, estaba planeando venir con 400 hombres.

Rashi, el erudito de Torá del siglo 11, y también el comentarista principal de la misma, señala que al recibir las noticias, Yaakov tenía tres opciones: apaciguar a Esav con regalos; pelear contra él con una porción de sus hombres; o rezar.

Yaakov eligió utilizar las tres opciones, pero el orden en el que las implementó es significativo. Piensa, ¿cuándo es el mejor momento para rezar? ¿Al principio? ¿O al final, como último recurso?

“Yaakov estaba muy asustado y angustiado. Dividió a las personas que los acompañaban en dos campamentos” (Génesis 32:8).

“Sálvame, te ruego, de la mano de mi hermano” (Génesis 32:12).

“Seleccionó una porción para su hermano Esav de lo que tenía con él” (Génesis 32:14).

Rashi apunta que, claramente, Yaakov eligió primero prepararse dividiendo su gente para la batalla, luego rezar, y finalmente enviar regalos.

Parece sorprendente que Yaakov, nieto de Abraham y uno de los padres del pueblo judío, quien entendía cabalmente el poder del rezo, no haya acudido inmediatamente a Dios por ayuda.

Y en esto encontramos una importante idea sobre la plegaria. Dios nos responde en base a nuestras acciones. Creer en el poder del rezo es también creer en nuestra obligación de esforzarnos al máximo. Las plegarias son significativas y efectivas cuando son precedidas por un intento serio, y en este caso, por una acción concreta.

Rezar es también la confirmación de la visión judía de que tenemos una relación personal con Dios. Relacionarse con Él debe ser una parte diaria de nuestra vida, no debería estar reservado sólo para ocasiones especiales o para situaciones de apremio.

Háblale a Dios. Puede ser en español, hebreo, inglés, chino… o en cualquier lenguaje que te sientas cómodo. Dios entiende cada palabra y quiere oír tus plegarias.

Porque a través de la plegaria, reconocemos a nuestro Creador y nos acercamos a Él. Y estar cerca de Dios es el placer máximo.

Cuando reces, concéntrate en el hecho de que Dios es nuestro Padre, Dador de todo. Pídele cualquier cosa que desees en la vida, lo que sea que necesites. Si esas cosas no están viniendo, pregúntate, “¿Qué me está diciendo Dios? ¿Qué debo aprender de esto?”.

Llena tus rezos con alabanzas y agradece por todo lo que Dios te da, y pídele cosas tanto para tu propia vida como para la de otros.

Pero nunca olvides la lección de Yaakov. Haz un esfuerzo y recuerda que Dios está ahí: protegiéndote, sustentándote y observándote con amor.


Cuando mi esposa enciende las velas de Shabat yo generalmente estoy saliendo, siempre apurado para llegar al Shul a tiempo. Por eso, no tengo el sentimiento de “Ahá, es Shabat” hasta que llego a nuestra pequeña sinagoga, veo a todo el mundo, y comienzo a cantar el rezo del viernes por la noche. Cuando empiezo “Lejá Dodí” (la canción de bienvenida al Shabat), mi cuerpo comienza a relajarse, y siento que las presiones de la semana se escabullen.

Después del rezo, hay un montón de “Shabat Shalom”, apretones de manos y ponerse al día. A mucha de esa gente sólo la veo en Shabat, por lo que verla el viernes a la noche es como mi propio encendido de velas.

* * *

Volver a casa caminando desde el Shul el viernes a la noche es lo mejor, el tráfico está zumbando por todo tu alrededor, pero tú estás en otro mundo. Es Shabat, y todo el ajetreo que te rodea se ha acabado. No más autos, no más teléfonos, no más trabajo.

* * *

Los viernes por la noche en invierno son mis favoritos, porque sé que después de la helada caminata hasta casa desde el Shul, voy a ser recibido por mis hijos, ataviados para Shabat, y por el cálido aroma a sopa de pollo.

* * *

A menos que llueva a cántaros, siempre trato de ir al rezo del viernes por la noche, porque ver a todos arreglados y listos para Shabat me pone en el ánimo correcto. A veces, especialmente si fue un viernes alocado en el trabajo, me siento muy cansado para caminar esas pocas cuadras. Pero si me doy un empujoncito, nunca me arrepiento de ir. Para cuando vuelvo a casa estoy lleno de energía y listo para más.

Adaptado de “Friday Night and Beyond” por Lori Palatnik (Jason Aronson Pub.).

Segun tomado de,–Guia-paso-a-paso.html?s=mm el viernes, 21 de julio de 2017

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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Uncategorized


The Prophetic Voice, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

During the three weeks between 17 Tammuz and Tisha b’Av, as we recall the destruction of the Temples, we read three of the most searing passages in the prophetic literature, the first two from the opening of the book of Jeremiah, the third, next week, from the first chapter of Isaiah.

At perhaps no other time of the year are we so acutely aware of the enduring force of ancient Israel’s great visionaries. The prophets had no power. They were not kings or members of the royal court. They were (usually) not priests or members of the religious establishment. They held no office. They were not elected. Often they were deeply unpopular, none more so than the author of this week’s haftarah, Jeremiah, who was arrested, flogged, abused, put on trial and only narrowly escaped with his life. Only rarely were the prophets heeded in their lifetimes: the one clear exception was Jonah, and he spoke to non-Jews, the citizens of Nineveh. Yet their words were recorded for posterity and became a major feature of Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. They were the world’s first social critics and their message continues through the centuries. As Kierkegaard almost said: when a king dies, his power ends; when a prophet dies his influence begins.[1]

What was distinctive about the prophet was not that he foretold the future. The ancient world was full of such people: soothsayers, oracles, readers of runes, shamans and other diviners, each of whom claimed inside track with the forces that govern fate and “shape our ends, rough-hew them how we will.” Judaism has no time for such people. The Torah bans one “who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead” (Deut. 18:10-11). It disbelieves such practices because it believes in human freedom. The future is not pre-scripted. It depends on us and the choices we make. If a prediction comes true it has succeeded; if a prophecy comes true it has failed. The prophet tells of the future that will happen if we do not heed the danger and mend our ways. He (or she – there were seven biblical prophetesses) does not predict; he or she warns.

Nor was the prophet distinctive in blessing or cursing the people. That was Bilaam’s gift, not Isaiah’s or Jeremiah’s. In Judaism, blessing comes through priests not prophets.

Several things made the prophets unique. The first was his or her sense of history. The prophets were the first people to see God in history. We tend to take our sense of time for granted. Time happens. Time flows. As the saying goes, time is God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once. But actually there are several ways of relating to time and different civilisations have perceived it differently.

There is cyclical time: time as the slow turning of the seasons, or the cycle of birth, growth, decline and death. Cyclical time is time as it occurs in nature. Some trees have long lives; most fruit flies have short ones; but all that lives, dies. The species endures, individual members do not. Kohelet contains the most famous expression of cyclical time in Judaism: “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course … What has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

Then there is linear time: time as an inexorable sequence of cause and effect. The French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace gave this idea its most famous expression in 1814 when he said that if you “know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed,” together with all the laws of physics and chemistry, then “nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present” before your eyes. Karl Marx applied this idea to society and history. It is known as historical inevitability, and when transferred to the affairs of humankind it amounts to a massive denial of personal freedom.

Finally there is time as a mere sequence of events with no underlying plot or theme. This leads to the kind of historical writing pioneered by the scholars of ancient Greece, Herodotus and Thucydides.

Each of these has its place, the first in biology, the second in physics, the third in secular history, but none was time as the prophets understood it. The prophets saw time as the arena in which the great drama between God and humanity was played out, especially in the history of Israel. If Israel was faithful to its mission, its covenant, then it would flourish. If it was unfaithful it would fail. It would suffer defeat and exile. That is what Jeremiah never tired of telling his contemporaries.

The second prophetic insight was the unbreakable connection between monotheism and morality. Somehow the prophets sensed – it is implicit in all their words, though they do not explain it explicitly – that idolatry was not just false. It was also corrupting. It saw the universe as a multiplicity of powers that often clashed. The battle went to the strong. Might defeated right. The fittest survived while the weak perished. Nietzsche believed this, as did the social Darwinists.

The prophets opposed this with all their force. For them the power of God was secondary; what mattered was the righteousness of God. Precisely because God loved and had redeemed Israel, Israel owed Him loyalty as their sole ultimate sovereign, and if they were unfaithful to God they would also be unfaithful to their fellow humans. They would lie, rob, cheat: Jeremiah doubts whether there was one honest person in the whole of Jerusalem (Jer. 5:1). They would become sexually adulterous and promiscuous: “I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes. They are well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife” (Jer. 5:7-8).

Their third great insight was the primacy of ethics over politics. The prophets have surprisingly little to say about politics. Yes, Samuel was wary of monarchy but we find almost nothing in Isaiah or Jeremiah about the way Israel/Judah should be governed. Instead we hear a constant insistence that the strength of a nation – certainly of Israel/Judah – is not military or demographic but moral and spiritual. If the people keep faith with God and one another, no force on earth can defeat them. If they do not, no force can save them. As Jeremiah says in this week’s haftarah, they will discover too late that their false gods offered false comfort:

They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’ and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’ Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah. (Jer. 2:27-28)

Jeremiah, the most passionate and tormented of all the prophets, has gone down in history as the prophet of doom. Yet this is unfair. He was also supremely a prophet of hope. He is the man who said that the people of Israel will be as eternal as the sun, moon and stars (Jer. 31). He is the man who, while the Babylonians were laying siege to Jerusalem, bought a field as a public gesture of faith that Jews would return from exile: “For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land” (Jer. 32).

Jeremiah’s feelings of doom and hope were not in conflict: there were two sides of the same coin. The God who sentenced His people to exile would be the God who brought them back, for though His people might forsake Him, He would never forsake them. Jeremiah may have lost faith in people; he never lost faith in God.

Prophecy ceased in Israel with Haggai, Zekharia and Malachi in the Second Temple era. But the prophetic truths have not ceased to be true. Only by being faithful to God do people stay faithful to one another. Only by being open to a power greater than themselves do people become greater than themselves. Only by understanding the deep forces that shape history can a people defeat the ravages of history. It took a long time for biblical Israel to learn these truths, and a very long time indeed before they returned to their land, re-entering the arena of history. We must never forget them again.

As taken from, on July 20, 2017

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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Uncategorized


The Meaning of Some Common Jewish Last Names

The Meaning of Some Common Jewish Last Names

Some of these will surprise you.

by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

Last names are a relatively new phenomenon.  In ancient times, many people were known by their first name only.  Jews often added the names of their fathers or their mothers to their names, and still do today in religious situations, being called by their name “ben” (son of) or “bat” (daughter of) their parent’s name.  Jews descended from the priestly groups of Cohens and Levis sometimes note this status in their name; indeed, variations of “Cohen” and “Levi” are the most common Jewish last names today.

Within the Jewish community, widespread adoption of last names was first seen after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, when many Jewish families adopted the names of their family’s hometowns as a surname.  The last name of the famous singer Joan Baez, who is Jewish, for instance refers to the Spanish town of Baza.   Baruch Spinoza evoked the name of Espinosa, a town in Spain from where his ancestors hailed.  Many other Jews gained place-based surnames two hundred years later, when the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Joseph II decreed that his subjects adopt last names; the custom was seen at the time as modern.

Here is a list of some common Jewish last names and their meanings. Some of these might surprise you!

Abrams: from the Biblical patriarch Abraham, who moved from what is today Iraq to Israel

Abramson: a patronymic name (from one’s father) meaning son of Abraham

Becker: Germanic name for baker, refers to an ancestor who was a Jewish baker

Blau: meaning blue, this name reflects the popularity of colors as surnames among German-speaking Jews

Blum: from the Jewish woman’s name Bluma, meaning “flower” in Yiddish

Cantor: one who sings in a synagogue (Chazzan in Hebrew)

Cohen:from the priestly caste who served in the Jewish Temple in ancient times

Cooperman: Cooper is a form of the Yiddish nickname Yankel, meaning Jacob

Diamond: this name reflects the popularity of using beautiful gems as surnames among German-speaking Jews

Ehrlich: a name bestowed in the Austro-Hungarian Empire meaning “honest”

Eisen: meaning “iron”, it was a popular choice for Austrian Jews

Elkayim: this Middle Eastern Jewish name refers to a family profession and means tentmaker

Fingerhut: from the Yiddish word for “thimble”, this name refers to an ancestor who was a tailor

Fishman: this name means fish-seller, and refers to a family’s profession

Gelb: Like Geller, this name means yellow in Yiddish, and was often given to people with light hair

Geller: Yiddish for yellow, this name was often given to people with lighter or reddish hair

Gold: many German-speaking Jews adopted the names of precious metals, like gold, as names

Goldberg: this name refers to the towns of Goldberg in Germany and/or in Poland, both once home to Jewish communities.  The name means “golden town”.

Goldman: a popular choice among Austrian Jews for its beautiful connotation “gold” and “man”

Goldschmidt: this Germanic name refers to an ancestor who worked as a goldsmith

Green: adopting colors as surnames was popular among Austro-Hungarian Jews

Greenberg: referring to the towns of Grunberg in Germany and Poland, both once home to Jewish communities

Hakimi: this Persian surname is derived from the Arabic “Hakim” meaning wise

Horowitz: referring to the town of Horovice in the Czech Republic, once home to a Jewish community

Kaplan: a Germanic form of Cohen, the priestly workers who served in the Temple in Jerusalem

Katz: acronym of “Kohen Tzedek”, or “righteous Cohen”, one who served in the Temple in Jerusalem

Kauffman: a form of the Yiddish nickname Yankel (meaning Jacob) plus the German for man

Koppelman: derived from Koppel, a Yiddish nickname for Jacob, plus the German suffix “man”

Koval: this Slavic name refers to an ancestor who was a blacksmith

Kravitz: this name recalls an ancestor’s occupation, and is a Slavic version of the word tailor

Leib: meaning lion, this name refers to the Jewish name Yehuda, who was compared to a lion (Gen. 49:9)

Levi/Levy: of the Tribe of Levi, descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron; members worked in the Temple

Levin: derived from Levi – members of the Tribe of Levi who served in the Temple in Jerusalem

Lieberman: a nickname adopted by some Jewish families, meaning “dear man”

Maggid: from the Hebrew for teaching, refers to an ancestor who was a scholar and teacher

Margolis: meaning “pearl” in Hebrew, it often reflects a mother’s first name

Maze: an acronym – “M’zera Aharon Hakohen” – from the seed of Aaron the High Priest

Melamed: from the Hebrew for teacher, referring to an ancestor who was a teacher

Mizrahi: meaning “Easterner” in Hebrew, this name refers to families from the Middle East

Nudel: meaning needle, this name reflects an ancestor’s occupation as tailor

Perlman: husband of Perl (a common Jewish woman’s name in Eastern Europe)

Portnoy: this name refers to an occupation – it means “tailor” in Russian

Rabin: from the Hebrew word Rabbi, this name could refer to a rabbinic ancestor

Rabinowitz: a Slavic name meaning “son of Rabbi”

Rivkin: a matronymic (deriving from one’s mother) name, from Rebecca

Rivlin: derived from the name Rebecca, the Jewish matriarch who married Isaac

Roth: meaning red, this name reflects the popularity of colors as surnames among German-speaking Jews

Rothschild: this prominent family’s name pre-dates the forced adoption of surnames, and refers to the “red sign” (the meaning of the name) that graced the family’s home

Sas: an acronym of “sofer stam,” a writer of religious texts

Sasson: a matronymic name (derived from one’s mother) meaning Shoshama, “rose” in Hebrew

Sebag: this name refers to the profession of a long-ago ancestor, it means dyer

Schechter: from the Hebrew for butcher, one who slaughters animals according to Jewish law

Schneider: a Germanic name meaning tailor, reflecting one’s ancestor’s profession as tailor

Schreiber – from the Hebrew “sofer”, a writer of religious texts

Schwartz: this means black – many German speaking Jews adopted colors as surnames

Segal: a common name for members of the tribe of Levi, Segal is an acronym – “Segan Lekehunah”, or “second to the Cohen”, referring to working in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem

Shapiro: referring to the town of Speyer, in Germany, once home to a Jewish community

Singer: referring to an ancestor who sang in a synagogue as a cantor

Shamash: reflecting an ancestor’s occupation, this means one who worked in a synagogue

Shulman: “shul” means synagogue in Yiddish – this name was adopted by some caretakers of synagogues as a surname

Soros: from the Hebrew name Sarah, meaning “princess”

Stern: meaning “star”, many Austrian Jews thought this a beautiful name to choose

Weiss: meaning white, this name reflects the practice of adopting colors as surnames among German-speaking Jews

Weinberg: referring to any of various places in Europe which once were home to thriving Jewish communities, including the region of Mt. Weinberg in Westphalia, Germany, or towns named Weinberg in Germany, the Czech Republic or Poland

Wexler: Germanic form of moneychanger, one of the occupations to which Jews were restricted.

As taken from,  on July 19, 2017.

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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Uncategorized


«Francia deportó a miles de niños a los campos de concentración nazis»

La vergüenza oculta del Velódromo de Invierno: «Francia deportó a miles de niños a los campos de concentración nazis»

El 16 y el 17 de julio de 1942, el gobierno de Pétain detuvo a más de 13.000 judíos y trasladó a muchos de ellos hasta París. La mayoría fueron llevados luego hasta Auschwitz

Emmanuel Macron, el presidente de la República Francesa, instó durante el aniversario del triste suceso a sus compatriotas a afrontar su pasado: «Es Francia la que organizó la redada y la deportación»

El historiador Mario Escobar, autor de la popular obra «Los niños de la estrella amarilla», cuenta a ABC cómo fue esta tragedia

Extracto de una portada de ABC (1940) en la que se informaba de la capitulación de Francia. De izquierda a derecha: Mussolini, Pétain y Hitler. Al fondo, Versalles
Extracto de una portada de ABC (1940) en la que se informaba de la capitulación de Francia. De izquierda a derecha: Mussolini, Pétain y Hitler. Al fondo, Versalles – ABC
MANUEL P. VILLATORO – ABC_Historia17/07/2017 23:15h – Actualizado: 19/07/2017 00:55h.Guardado en: Historia

La Historia suele tener una característica: los autores nunca se ponen de acuerdo con las cifras. Esta premisa, sin embargo, no se cumple en el que fue uno de los actos más vergonzosos cometidos por la Francia del mariscal Philippe Pétain: la redada del Velódromo de Invierno sucedida el 16 y el 17 de julio de 1942. En ella, el mismo político que fue condenado tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial por colaborar abiertamente con la Alemania nazi hizo que los gendarmes galos arrestaran exactamente a 12.884 judíosafincados en el país. De ellos, 4.051 eran niños, 5.802 eran mujeres 3.031 eran hombres.

Tras varios días de encierro en el recinto (y de pasar por varios «campos de tránsito» ubicados en las fronteras del país) la mayoría de ellos fueron trasladados hasta Auschwitz.

La redada del Velódromo de Invierno fue la cara más amarga de un país que, desde entonces, ha intentado excusarse ante el mundo exacerbando la imagen de «La Résistance» (el mítico grupo de combatientes que se enfrentó a Adolf Hitler y ayudó a los aliados a reconquistar París tras el Desembarco de Normandía). Por desgracia, aquel deplorable hecho fue el culmen de una extensa lista de políticas antisemitas que, tras la invasión germana, fueron instauradas por el gobierno colaboracionista francés. El cenit de un pueblo que aceptó de buen grado las exigencias de la Alemania nazi y cuyo triste legado ha sido ocultado durante décadas.

Paris (Francia), 1940. Las tropas alemanas desfilan victoriosas por París. Al fondo, el arco del triunfo
Paris (Francia), 1940. Las tropas alemanas desfilan victoriosas por París. Al fondo, el arco del triunfo– ABC

Al menos, hasta este año. Y es que, como ya empezó a hacer el presidente de la República Francesa Jacques Chirac en los años noventa, Emmanuel Macron ha señalado durante el 75 aniversario de este infame suceso la importancia que tiene para su país aceptar su pasado colaboracionista: «Es Francia la que organizó la redada y la deportación y, por tanto, la muerte de las 13.152 personas de confesión judía arrancadas de sus domicilios el 16 y el 17 de julio de 1942. No hubo un solo alemán que ayudase en la redada».

A su vez, el político ha hecho hincapié en la necesidad de admitir la pasividad de algunos ciudadanos ante la deplorable actuación del gobierno colaboracionista de Vichy. El mismo que fue establecido al sur de Francia después de que Adolf Hitler conquistara el país tras un mes de invasión. «Es muy cómodo ver en Vichy una monstruosidad venida de la nada. Nada de aquello nació con Vichy. Pero nada de aquello murió con Vichy», ha confesado estos días.

La Francia antisemita

La triste historia de Francia en la Segunda Guerra Mundial comenzó a mediados de mayo de 1940, cuando los panzer germanos traspasaron la línea Maginot y dieron comienzo a la conquista del país galo. La invasión se extendió en el calendario poco más de un mes. Tiempo tras el cual la nación de la libertad, la igualdad y la fraternidad se vio obligada a capitular frente a la esvástica.

El 25 de junio de 1940, con el ejército local arrodillado ante el apabullante poderío de la Wehrmacht, Hitler dividió «la France» en dos zonas. La primera, al norte, ocupada por las tropas germanas. La segunda, al sur, liderada por un gobierno que colaboraba con el «Führer» bajo el régimen de la ciudad de Vichy (donde se asentó la capital).

«Los alemanes ocuparon el norte, la región más rica y productiva de Francia», explica en declaraciones a ABC el historiador y escritor Mario Escobar (autor de «Los niños de la estrella amarilla», una novela histórica que narra la resistencia de un pequeño pueblo galo ante el nazismo). En palabras de este experto, el poderío alemán hizo que el gobierno de Vichy (y Philippe Pétain, el militar al frente del mismo) se mostrara totalmente dócil durante toda la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Las razones para ello fueron una mezcla de antisemitismo, miedo y ansias de poder. «A Pétain le prometieron que la ocupación iba a ser muy breve, y que tras ella podría recuperar Francia. El mariscal pensó que, cuando acabara la guerra, podría gobernar todo el país sin oposición. Además, el miedo a perder las colonias frente a la España de Francisco Franco hizo que colaborara en todo con los alemanes para que estos le apoyaran», añade.

De esta guisa, y a partir del 17 de junio de 1940 (cuando se le dieron plenos poderes a Pétain), la Francia de Vichy hizo algo que no se había visto en el país desde antes de que la revolucionarios de 1789 ascendieron al poder: imponer una serie de ideas ultraconservadoras que solo sobrevivían en las zonas más rurales del país. A partir de ese momento, en la «France» proliferaron decenas de leyes antisemitas que secundaron la locura nazi.

Así lo afirmó, entre otros, Jorge Kirszenbaum (ex presidente de la Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas) en un discurso pronunciado en 2006 con motivo de un homenaje a los supervivientes de la Holocausto: «Desde octubre de 1940 todos los judíos debían registrarse en dependencias policiales, donde se les agregaba la palabra judío en su documento de identidad». El experto también explicó entonces que, a partir mayo y agosto de ese mismo año, se les obligó también a portar la estrella amarilla, se les confiscaron sus radios, y se les exigió viajar en el último vagón del metro de París.

Esas leyes, de la primera a la última, fueron instauradas por galos. «Toda esa humillación, esa degradación, esa persecución y esa depuración fueron perpetradas por los franceses», añadió Kirszenbaun. Francis Lott, embajador de Francia en Buenos Aires, hizo hincapié en esta idea durante el mismo evento: «La verdad es cruda. El Estado francés secundó la locura nazi, organizando razias y deportaciones. Un cuarto de los judíos de Francia han perecido en los trenes y los campos de concentración».

«Toda esa humillación, esa degradación, esa persecución y esa depuración fueron perpetradas por los franceses»

Escobar va más allá y afirma que -en muchos casos- las leyes francesas fueron más antisemitas que las nazis. Todo ello, debido a que el sentimiento antijudío se había generalizado en el país. «El ascenso de la comunidad judía había provocado muchos recelos en países como el Reino Unido o Francia, además de en Alemania. Hay que tener en cuenta que, en apenas dos generaciones, los judíos franceses habían logrado ascender en el escalafón social y enviar a muchos de sus hijos a la universidad. Habían progresado mucho y, aunque muchos no practicaban la religión o se habían convertido al cristianismo para tratar de pasar desapercibidos, generaban muchos recelos», añade el autor de «Los niños de la estrella amarilla».En este país dominado por los nazis (y en el que había proliferado el antisemitismo) no tardaron en generalizarse las deportaciones masivas a los campos de concentración y exterminio germanos. El método que se empleaba tanto en la Francia de Vichy como en la zona norte solía ser siempre el mismo. En primer lugar, se llevaban a cabo varias redadas mediante las que se detenía a aquellos que, o bien estaban «fichados», o se creía que eran judíos. Posteriormente, los reos eran llevados hasta un centro de internamiento «intermedio» en el que esperaban para ser trasladados a su destino final: Alemania.

El plan

Y así, precisamente, fue como se sucedió la redada del Velódromo de Invierno en la Francia ocupada por los alemanes. Una deportación masiva que fue planeada en el verano de 1942 con la colaboración del gobierno de Vichy y que fue denominada «Operación viento primaveral». Como explica la socióloga Christine Fauré en su obra «Enciclopedia histórica y política de las mujeres: Europa y América», la deportación fue organizada por Darquier de Pellepoix, el comisario general de asuntos judíos del país. Este movilizó, nada menos, que a unos 9.000 gendermes, funcionarios y policías galos de todo tipo para perpetrar la mayor vergüenza de la historia de la «France» colaboracionista.

Estos agentes fueron los encargados, el 16 y el 17 de julio, de arrestar a más de 12.000 personas. La tarea no les resultó difícil pues, como explica el historiador Yehuda Krell en su obra «Páginas de odio. Historia del antisemitismo», «los judíos franceses habían sido registrados con anterioridad, desde 1940, por las autoridades locales».

A partir de las cuatro de la mañana este improvisado ejército francés sacó a hombresmujeres niños de sus casas. «Las órdenes eran que no se dejasen convencer por las súplicas de nadie y que todos fuesen apresados. Los franceses incluso se extralimitaron llevándose a los niños de entre dos y doce años. Algo que los nazis no querían porque les resultaba un estorbo tener que ocuparse de ellos», explica Escobar a ABC. Con todo, Escobar también señala que algunos adultos tuvieron la suerte de ser avisados por la Resistencia de la operación, lo que les permitió escapar de las garras de los nazis.

Encuentro entre Hitler y Pétaiin en 1940
Encuentro entre Hitler y Pétaiin en 1940

Fauré, por su parte, es partidario de que el gran número de mujeres y niños capturados se debió al «exceso de confianza» de los judíos hacia el Estado francés: «Cuando el rumor de la redada se precisó, solo habían huído algunos hombres. La comunidad judía estaba convencida de que las mujeres y los niños no corrían ningún riesgo. Pese a las advertencias y los rumores, la mayor parte de los franceses -empezando por los propios judíos- no podían imaginarse el destino increíble que les estaba reservado».

En palabras del historiador español, la mayoría de estos judíos eran extranjeros que habían llegado a Francia a partir de 1933, cuando Hitler ascendió al poder y empezó a poner en práctica sus políticas antisemitas. «Muchos habían tenido niños en Francia que, por tanto, ya tenían la nacionalidad francesa. El gobierno de Vichy les quitó antes de esta redada la nacionalidad para poder arrestarlos y deportarlos sin problemas», completa el autor de «Los niños de la estrella amarilla».

«Las órdenes eran que no se dejasen convencer por las súplicas de nadie y que todos fuesen apresados»

El resultado fue que, el 17 de julio, habían sido arrestados 12.884 judíos. De ellos 4.051 niños, 5.802 mujeres y 3.031 hombres. El día 20 las cifras eran todavía mayores: 13.152 detenidos (4.115 niños, 5.919 mujeres y 4.115 niños). «No fue la primera redada pero sí la más numerosa», completa el experto en declaraciones a ABC. Tampoco fue la última, pues posteriormente estas operaciones se replicaron por todo el país.La frialdad con la que se llevó a cabo la operación queda cristalina viendo el mensaje que, el 16 de julio, fue enviado a las 8 de la mañana por la prefectura de la zona: «La operación contra los judíos comenzó a las 4 horas de esta mañana. […] Muchos hombres abandonaron ayer el domicilio. Se quedaron las mujeres con uno o varios niños pequeños. Otros se niegan a abrir. Es preciso llamar al cerrajero».

En el velódromo

Tras el arresto, el gobierno colaboracionista dividió en dos grupos a los presos. Una parte (principalmente los hombres solteros y sin familia) fueron llevados hasta campos de internamiento como el de Drancy, al norte del país. El resto (mayoritariamente mujeres y niños) fueron trasladados en autobuses hasta el Velódromo de Invierno de París. «Fue algo muy simbólico porque el lugar no era solo un edificio en el que se practicaba ciclismo. Era un emplazamiento muy popular en el que se habían celebrado desde corridas de toros, hasta pases de modelos. Era un sitio de reunión cercano al río Sena. Un edificio muy conocido», añade Escobar.


Aquel lugar de jolgorio se convirtió durante varios días en un auténtico infierno. «Aunque era un edificio público con baños, no estaba preparado para albergar a tanta gente. Las condiciones fueron penosas. Los presos pudieron llevar escasamente una manta y un par de camisas. Apenas recibieron comida o agua y, a su vez, tuvieron que soportar el calor extremo que hacía en julio», completa Escobar. Durante esos días también fueron fusilados todos aquellos que intentaron escapar. Otros se suicidaron. «Francia se saltó todas las leyes de la República para tener esa relación cercana con los nazis», completa.

No le falta razón a Escobar. Así queda corroborado en el informe que una asistente social que accedió al velódromo publicó en 1942 (y que aparece citado en el dossier de la Biblioteca Gerardo Diego «70 años de la Redada del Velódromo de Invierno París, 16/17 de julio de 1942»): «Los contados w-c que hay en el Velódromo (ya sabes qué pocos son) están atascados y no hay nadie que los arregle. Todo el mundo está obligado a hacer sus necesidades a lo largo de los muros. Abajo han colocado a los enfermos. Los barreños que tienen al lado rebosan porque no hay donde vaciarlos. […] La gente no bebe ni se puede lavar. El abastacemiento consiste en un cazo de leche por niño de menos de dos años (y tampoco llega para todos) y dos rebanadas de pan de 2 cm de grosor para todo el día (y no todos la consiguen). De momento se aguanta porque la gente ha traído provisiones de su casa, pero de aquí a pocos días no respondo de lo que pueda pasar».

Hacia Alemania

Finalmente, a partir del 18 de julio los presos empezaron a ser deportados hacia Alemania (en algunos casos) o hacia otros campos intermedios galos. Así lo determina el ensayista Emmanuel Lemieux en su obra «Edgar Morin: vida y obra del pensador inconformista». En la misma, señala este día como el primero en el que comenzaron a viajar trenes cargados de judíos hacia Auschwitz. Muchos de los reos no regresarían jamás a su tierra natal, pues su destino serían las cámaras de gas.

Escobar señala que esta situación fue especialmente cruda para los más pequeños. «Como los alemanes no sabían qué hacer con los niños, el gobierno se los llevó a un campo de internamiento al norte del país. Su situación fue doblemente traumática. Primero, porque tuvieron que despedirse de sus padres cuando estos fueron deportados. Y luego, porque fueron trasladados solos hasta Auschwitz en un convoy. Ese camino lo hicieron sin nadie que les cuidarahambrientos deshidratados. Fue algo terrible», añade.

Interior del velódromo
Interior del velódromo

Los datos de la redada del Velódromo de Invierono fueron traumáticos. En ella, se deportó aproximadamente a un cuarto del total de judíos que saldrían desde Francia en dirección a Alemania. Y lo más preocupante, según Escobar, es que posteriormente este horror trató de esconderse: «Todo fue indiferencia silencio durante generaciones. Un ejemplo es que, en las elecciones francesas, Marine Le Pen llegó a decir que los franceses no habían colaborado con los nazis. Aunque lo de su padre fue peor. Él negó directamente el genocidio». Es precisamente por eso por lo que las palabras de Macron estos días han sido tan importantes.

Según tomado de, el martes, 18 de julio de 2017.


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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Uncategorized




By Rabbi Kalman Packouz

The story is told of a man who came to his rabbi with a request. “Make me a Cohen!” The rabbi was puzzled because a person acquires the designation of Cohen through paternal heredity — only if his father was a Cohen. He replied to the man, “I am sorry; I can’t make you a Cohen.” Before the rabbi could explain, the man insisted, “You have got to make me a Cohen; I’ll give you $10,000!” The rabbi again apologized that he couldn’t help him and started to explain, but the man interrupted again to raise the offer $25,000. In exasperation the rabbi asks, “Why is it so important for you to be a Cohen?” The man replies, “Because my father was a Cohen, his father was a Cohen and my great-grandfather was a Cohen!”

Since not everyone is aware of tribal designations in the Jewish people, I will explain.

What is a CohenLevite and Israel?

When the Torah is read, a Cohen (or Kohen) is called to make the blessings over reading the first portion. Then a Levite is called for the second portion. A Yisroel (Israelite) may then be called for the remaining portions to be read. A Cohen is usually accorded greater honor or precedence before a Levite or an Israel. What do these titles mean and how did they come about?

Jewish history starts with our forefather, Avraham (Abraham). His son Yitzhak (Isaac) continued the traditions and passed them on to his son, Ya’akov (Jacob). Twelve sons were born to Ya’akov: Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Zevulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Yosef (Joseph) and Binyamin. These were the original 12 tribes of Israel. Because of a special blessing from Ya’akov to Yosef, his portion was given to his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe, who were then elevated to equal status with Yosef’s brothers — so there were really 13 tribes!

Until the transgression of the Golden Calf, the firstborn sons were the ones who were designated to do the holy service in the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary, in the Desert. No one from the Tribe of Levi worshiped the Golden Calf and, therefore, the Almighty replaced the firstborn with the Tribe of Levi to serve in the sanctuary (Numbers 3:11-12). Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kehath and Merari. The work of the Sanctuary — erecting, dismantling, carrying, singing, assisting the Cohanim — was divided amongst the three families.

Moshe (Moses) and Aharon (Aaron) were brothers — descended from Amram the son of Kehath. While Moshe was the leader of the Jewish people in the desert, the Almighty designated Aharon as the Cohen Gadol (High Priest). For all time, Aharon and his descendants would be Cohanim (also spelled “Kohanim“). The Cohanim were the priests who performed the actual service in the Mishkan and later in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Throughout the 40 years in the desert, the Jewish people traveled according to their tribe. When we entered into the Land of Israel (1273 BCE), each tribe received a specific territory (except the Tribe of Levi which was given specific cities to live in). After the split of the Kingdom into Israel and Judah following the death of King Solomon, the Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE and exiled the Ten Tribes. Since then the Ten Tribes were not heard from and Jews can now only trace their lineage to the Cohanim and Levites. The rest of us reside under the designation of “Israelites” — not sure from which tribe we descend.

How does one find out if he is a Cohen or a Levite? If you can’t ask your father or your grandfather, then one can look through genealogical records for marriage certificates or official records. If one knows where his paternal forefathers are buried, he can check the tombstones for inscriptions. Sometimes on the tombstones of a Cohen are two hands with fingers spread as a Cohen would form his hands when blessing the Jewish people (Yes, Spock — Leonard Nemoy — as a boy in synagogue saw a Cohen blessing the congregants with the outstretched arms and hands with spread fingers …. and utilized the Cohen‘s “hand'” for the Vulcan “Live Long and Prosper” hand sign.) On the tombstone of a Levite there is sometimes an engraving of a pitcher symbolizing the service of the Levite in washing the Cohen‘s hands before the Cohen would bless the Jewish people.

Then again, one can always wait for Eliyahu (Elijah) the prophet who will precede the Moshiach (Messiah) and who will be able to inform us of our true tribal lineage!

Taken from, on July 17, 2017.

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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Uncategorized