Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Jews on the Mount Will Change Everything

By Camie Davis

It couldn’t have been easy for the Orthodox rabbi who suddenly found himself living in the Bible-belt.  He was from Jerusalem.  But due to a rare disease that his daughter had, he was in the southern United States with her as she received special ­medical treatment.  Thankfully, after several months she vastly improved and they were able to return to Israel.  Not before, however, my friends and I, who are Noahides, gleaned from him all we could about Israel and about Torah.    

When we found out he was from Jerusalem one of the first questions we eagerly asked was, “How often do you visit the Temple Mount?”  He simply answered, “I don’t.”

We were stunned.  Our na├»ve bubble had burst.  We wrongly assumed that a Jew, especially a religious Jew, living in Jerusalem would visit the Temple Mount routinely.  I sighed upon hearing his answer.  And over a decade later I’m still sighing over Jewish mentality regarding the Temple Mount.

Last year 10 million people, mostly Jews, visited the Kotel/Western Wall.  How many Jews visited the Temple Mount?  Nine thousand.  What keeps Jews standing with their faces against a wall instead of ascending to the most important spot on earth?  How often does a person get to go to the very place that G-d described as “the place of My feet?”

Which according to many of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, I just answered my own questions.  Because of the holiness of the Temple Mount Jews should not visit it. 

As Jewish desire to visit the Temple Mount increases, the Chief Rabbinate declarations for Jews to keep off the Mount also increases.  They declare that it is halachically forbidden to ascend the Mount.  They warn that it is a spiritual risk for Jews to walk on the Mount in case they tread somewhere impermissible, therefore risking spiritual excommunication.  Even though the Temple buildings occupied only 15% of the original Temple Mount, which size has doubled over the centuries due to construction by different occupying forces; hence, there is ample space for a Jew to safely walk on the Mount.

Although some of the Chief Rabbinate acknowledge that great rabbis throughout history visited the Temple Mount after the Second Temple’s destruction, they still believe that letting the common Jew visit the Mount today would be logistically challenging, i.e. Jews would have to be educated on proper halachic requirements and a Jewish presence would change the political status quo.  Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, said that issuing a blanket permit for Jews to ascend would be “very problematic.” 

Problematic?  Let’s look at a few other situations that might be considered problematic in Israel today:
·      Arab propaganda is becoming the accepted narrative regarding no Jewish historical ties to the Temple Mount.
·      An Arab mosque continues to stand in the place where G-d asked the Jews to build Him a house.
·      Scaffolding used during repairs in the Dome of the Rock was nonchalantly placed on the Even Shtiya, the Foundation Stone of the universe.
·      Arabs play soccer on the Temple Mount (after all they’ve got plenty of room since Jews are discouraged from going up).
·      A Palestinian flag was recently hoisted atop the Mount. 
·      Over 10,000 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza.
·      Jews have been killed on a monthly by terrorists basis despite the “peace process.”
·      Iran is planning to nuke Israel.

The funny thing is that even I, a non-Jew, realize that the answer to every problem mentioned above lies squarely on the Temple Mount.  Because that is the precise spot where the Temple will be rebuilt.  Which will be the seminal event to usher redemption into the entire world.    

The real problem in Israel today is not whether Jews are halachically permitted to ascend the Temple Mount.  Perhaps the problem is that many of the religious leaders in Israel believe that the Temple will fall out of the sky or be built by the Messiah.  Therefore, why risk or bother to go up on the Mount when one can sit back and wait for events to unfold.  As Chief Rabbi Itzhak Nissim said after the liberation of the Temple Mount in 1967, "We have entered the palace, and even reached the table but we are not yet accepted before Him. We have done all that is in our powers to do. All that is left to be done is in the hands of Heaven.”  How ironic to say these words after witnessing Heaven give Jerusalem back to the Jews via the blood, sweat and tears of the IDF and Jewish people.     

I don’t ask lightly, but what if some of the Chief Rabbinate are wrong regarding the Temple Mount?  What if they are as wrong today as the Chief Rabbinate were in 1967? 

In an Arutz Sheva interview, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel bemoaned the fact that it was the Chief Rabbinate in Israel who instructed Moshe Dayan to immediately give control of the Temple Mount back to the Arabs. “He handed over the key [to the Temple Mount], because he was the one who held it, but someone persuaded him to do this," Rabbi Ariel said.  The article goes on to say that Rabbi Ariel learned this from a Bamishpacha magazine article, and then verified the truth of the claim with hareidi former Knesset member Rabbi Menachem Porush, who was quoted in the article.  Rabbi Ariel stated, "According to what he [Porush] said, the greatest hareidi rabbis, led by Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky, went to Dayan and told him to tell Levi Eshkol to give the Arabs the Temple Mount since, 'The People of Israel have no interest in the Temple Mount.' They also said the UN should be notified that we have no interest in the Temple Mount."

Why should the world today think that Israel feels any differently from the sentiments expressed by those rabbis in 1967?  Recently, a Palestinian flag was hoisted atop the Mount.  The Israeli leadership shrugged its shoulders.  Hence, so does the world.  Only 9,000 Jews showed enough interest in the Temple Mount to actually take the time to visit it last year.  So why should Israeli politicians, or politicians around the world for that matter, think that Jewish rights on the Temple Mount are a priority? 

Thankfully, there is a growing outcry among Jews in Israel over discrimination of Jews who do ascend the Temple Mount.  But actions speak louder than words.  If Jews really do care about the Mount, and I believe a great many do, then it is time for them to put feet to their sentiments.  As Moshe Feiglin said in a 2012 Temple Mount Awareness Day interview, “Every Jewish step on the Temple Mount will bring back sovereignty of the Temple Mount to the Jewish people.”

It is time for a grassroots movement among Jews to show Hashem and the world that they actually do care deeply about the Temple Mount.  It is time to upset the status quo.  It is time for Jews to leave the Western Wall, which is a symbol of exile, and ascend the Temple Mount, a symbol of redemption, sovereignty, and freedom. 

Even some members of the Israeli police have expressed that an increased presence of Jews on the Temple Mount would create drastic changes.  At a conference in Jerusalem in 2009 regarding Jewish ties to the Temple Mount authorities said, “If only more Jews would visit the Temple Mount on a regular basis, the entire balance of power would shift. There would be a paradigm shift; the attitude of the government and the police would be different towards the Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount. The Muslim terror would be abated. Many Jewish people visiting the Temple Mount would be the cure to the overall security situation.”

Yet, the fact that very few Jews try to exercise their rights on the Temple Mount makes it convenient for the Israeli police to dismiss the lawful rights of Jews and instead indulge the demands of the Arabs.  The adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” rings true.  The Arabs simply make more noise over the Temple Mount than Jews do. 

The novelist Anthony Trollope once said, “My belief is that in life people will take you at your own reckoning.”  If only Israel would grasp that concept.  When Israel takes its own rights, sovereignty, and destiny seriously the world will follow suit.  

Yet, as stated earlier, leading rabbis staunchly disagree with the idea that a Jewish presence, much less a proactive Jewish presence, on the Temple Mount could lead to anything positive.  In 2009, the late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv emphasized that Jews should not visit the Temple Mount because their visits could provoke bloodshed.  "I have declared this in the past, and I repeat once again my statement that beyond the halachic aspect, it is also a kind of provocation of the world's nations that could lead to bloodshed, and this would be one sin leading to another."   

Again, I don’t ask lightly, but what if he and rabbis like him were and are wrong regarding the Temple Mount?  How has “keeping the peace” worked out for Israel so far?  No one truly knows how the fulfillment of the Prophets’ visions of peace will come to pass.  Will there be bloodshed first?  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that the Torah and Tanach are filled with incidents of the Jewish people following the commands of Hashem that led to bloodshed.  Unfortunately, if the enemies of Israel will not relent what rightfully belongs to Israel, including Israel’s right to exist, Biblical history and modern history shows that it has to be taken by bearing arms.  But what if bearing arms could be avoided by Jewish feet ascending the Mount?   

It’s somewhat incredulous that some Jews have fallen into the belief that a Temple Mount left in the hands of the nations will bring peace.  Who was chosen?  Ishmael or Isaac?  Then why do the descendents of Isaac continue to let the descendents of Ishmael influence and even dictate decisions made regarding the Temple Mount?

The Temple Mount is the portal for redemption to enter the world.  The Jews were chosen to usher in redemption.  They were given back the keys to the portal in 1967, but tragically shunned the privilege. 

However, there is a growing number of Jews who feel the intensity of the Divine Spark within them leading them to action.  They are being drawn to the Temple Mount.  Should the Chief Rabbinate continue to reign in this innate desire within these Jews?  By trying to prohibit Jews from ascending the Mount, they seem to be asking Jews to continue to sit back and take the chance that things will take care of themselves when the Temple falls into Israel’s lap.  Answers rarely fall into one’s lap.  A person has to become the answer. 

The Torah has always called Jews to action - into an active partnership with Hashem.  And rabbis like Rabbi Yisrael Ariel and Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute, along with other Jewish leaders are putting feet to that call.  The Temple Institute is not a corner curio shop for tourists to visit and see how things used to be.  It is a living, breathing call to action for Jews to fulfill their destiny.  And it is the perfect place for Jews to learn how to ascend the Mount according to halachic standards based on years of Temple research.

In summation of events surrounding the liberation of the Temple Mount and the Chief Rabbinate’s reaction to it, Yoel Cohen of Jewish Political Studies Review said, “The capture of the Temple Mount presented two possible scenarios: the reintroduction of Temple worship - bringing the biggest revolution in Jewish religious life for 1900 years - or to seek to ‘incorporate’ the Temple Mount within existing patterns of Jewish religious behavior.” 

Hindsight reveals which scenario the religious establishment chose.  The current state of the world and of Israel begs the question whether they chose correctly.

The world desperately needs the Jews to fulfill their destiny of partnering with Hashem to bring about redemption.  I, along with the nations, can only hope and pray that the Jews will rise to the occasion.  Literally.  Arise and ascend the Temple Mount.  Jewish footsteps on the Temple Mount are equivalent to the footsteps of redemption.     

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Criminals on the Temple Mount

It’s maddening when government organizations which are supposed to protect the public against terrorism and crime, trade logic and proficiency for appeasement and political correctness.  Think TSA officials searching a 95 year-old woman.  Unfortunately, Israeli officials seem to have taken a page out of the TSA handbook on how to humiliate its own citizens while placating its enemy. 

Muslim clerics in Israel are notorious for crying “wolf!” (i.e. “Jew!”) causing the Israeli police to spring into action.  For example, whenever a Jewish holiday approaches, Islamic clerics work their followers into a frenzy over the possibility of Jews visiting the Temple Mount.  Recently, before Jerusalem Day, the day that marks the reunification of Jerusalem and the liberation of the Temple Mount, a leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Yousef Ideis, made such claims.  He warned Arabs to "be alert for possible infiltration of fanatic Jews" onto the Temple Mount.  Instead of ignoring the obviously staged incitement, the Israeli police validated the cleric’s claims.

According to the Israeli police, “fanatical” Jews did “infiltrate” the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day.  Rabbi Yisrael Ariel was one such “fanatical” Jew.  His actions were so fanatical that he has been barred indefinitely from ascending the Temple Mount and is under criminal investigation by the Israeli police.

Rabbi Ariel, who is 78, fought in the 1967 Six Day War.  He was one of the famed Israeli paratroopers who took part in the liberation of Jerusalem.  He was at the Temple Mount when Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur famously declared, “The Temple Mount is in our hands.”  What elation Rabbi Ariel must have felt that day.  The elation was mixed with grief though, as 180 of his fellow comrades fell that fateful day.    

As you can imagine visiting the Temple Mount on any occasion is special for Rabbi Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, but especially on Jerusalem Day.  Marking the 45th anniversary of the liberation of the Temple Mount, Rabbi Ariel along with other Jews, including Knesset members, visited the Mount.  Surprisingly they were left uninhibited by both the Islamic Waqf officials and Israeli police and so they sang and prayed.  The special moment was captured on video and Rabbi Ariel can be heard saying, "I have waited forty-five years to be able to say the Shehechianu (literally, "He who has kept us alive,") here on the Temple Mount."  He then said a memorial prayer for his fallen comrades.

After Jerusalem Day, Rabbi Ariel tried to ascend the Mount again, but to his surprise was prohibited from doing so by the Israeli police.  He was informed that he was barred indefinitely from the Mount and that he was under criminal investigation for actions, “that were not in compliance with the law.”  Which begs the question, which law?  Sharia law? 

The lauded democratic law in Israel assures the freedom of all religions at holy sites.  How pathetic that the Israeli police and government would set aside their own laws, logic, and decency to capitulate to the demands of Muslims. 

Who would have thought that Jews, of all people, would be criminally investigated for praying on the Temple Mount?   But due to “delicate status quo agreements,” (which translates into the asinine belief that appeasing Muslims will somehow lead to peace), Jewish worshippers are sometimes allowed to visit the Temple Mount during certain hours but are not allowed to openly pray.  
Rabbi Ariel is not the first Jew to be under investigation for disrupting the “delicate status quo.”  Another fanatical Jew recently visited the Temple Mount.  Yosef Hacohen, age 76, felt ill while touring the Temple Mount so he needed some water.  Before drinking the water he said a blessing.  Hacohen’s actions made members of the “peaceful and tolerant” religion of Islam angry.  So naturally what did the Israeli police do?  They arrested Hacohen.
The Israeli police have even stopped Knesset Members from praying on the Mount.  MKs Michael Ben Ari and Uri Ariel also joined a pilgrimage to the Mount to commemorate Jerusalem Day.  While on the Mount, Ben Ari and a number of the other members of the group started praying. Police immediately asked Ben Ari to stop.  After a number of the group refused to stop praying, they were arrested.  Itamar Ben Gvir, spokesman for Ben Ari, accused the police of “doing the work of the Waqf."
In recent years, Israeli police have also threatened activist for merely raising awareness of the need for religious freedom on the Mount.  Rabbi Chaim Richman, Director of the International Department of the Temple Institute, who has a radio show on Israel National Radio, encouraged his listeners to write, call, or fax the Israeli government and request religious freedom for all on the Temple Mount. 
Rabbi Richman’s efforts got the attention of many people, including an officer from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.  The Temple Institute was established in 1987.  No US government official has ever expressed interest in their work.  But suddenly, after Rabbi Richman publically decried the fact that Jews were not allowed religious freedom on the Temple Mount, an official from the US Embassy couldn't wait to talk to Rabbi Richman about the "work of the institute."
After Rabbi Richman was visited by the embassy official, he was also visited at night at his house by Israel's National Security Agency, known as the ISA or Shin-Bet.  During the "visit," Rabbi Richman was told to desist from all his efforts to influence the public or the government into taking action on issues regarding the Temple Mount. His actions, he was told, were “damaging the relationship with the United States, placing a stumbling block in the path of the peace process, and inciting Arabs to violence.”  He was then threatened with being arrested. 

Sadly, the treatment of the esteemed Rabbi Ariel, along with other Jews, is an indicator that Israeli officials still believe that appeasement is a viable method of dealing with one’s enemy, while throwing their own law-abiding citizens under the bus.  As Rabbi Richman said, “It is unconscionable that Rabbi Ariel, who served with the paratroopers that liberated the Temple Mount in the 1967 Six Day War, risking his life and burying his comrades for the sake of the Jewish sovereignty of the Temple Mount, should be served with an order distancing him from the Temple Mount indefinitely. His ‘crime’ was giving thanks to God, in that very spot for the return of the site to the Jewish people.  Has it indeed returned to the Jewish people?  Is the Temple Mount ‘in our hands?’ Every day that this situation is allowed to continue is a step backwards for the State of Israel.”

Thankfully, secular and religious members of the public are speaking out against the recent actions of Israeli officials against their fellow-Jews.  A demonstration was organized outside of the Prime Minister’s residence.  Also, it should be noted that some members of the Israeli government are publically coming to the defense of religious freedom for Jews on the Temple Mount.  MKs Uri Ariel, Aryeh Eldad, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, and Moshe Feiglin are among those who have been the most vocal regarding the recent actions of the police.  Hopefully, their voice of passionate reason will be heard and acted upon. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Ultimate Soapbox

I don’t like reading propaganda against Israel. It’s a bit hard to avoid though, as daily a barrage of propaganda makes its way into the media via people or organizations whose favorite sport seems to be Israel bashing. The U.N., Mahmoud Abbas, Jimmy Carter, the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood leader of Egypt Mohamed Morsi, EU's Catherine Ashton, actress Emma Thompson; they, along with countless others, provide a litany of lies about Israel that the media feeds upon and then regurgitates to the masses.

Even more vexing though, is when some of the “best” Israel bashers are Jews. You know the kind I’m talking about. The ones who can’t say Israel without tagging on the phrase “brutal occupiers.” The ones who blame practically every problem in the world on the “radical right-wing settlers.” The ones who can’t speak about terrorism without a tagging a “but” as big as a double-wide onto their sentence. It’s the sick “blame the victim for getting raped” song and dance. “I hate the violence that is perpetrated against Israel, BUT __________.” And then they fill in the blank with an absurd example of moral equivalence.

I joined a dialogue on Facebook recently with one such Jewish basher of Israel. When another Jew boldly defended the sovereign rights of Jews in the Land of Israel, he immediately launched into defending and championing the rights of Arabs who according to him “have lived under the brutal occupation of Israel for 45 years.” After asking him what his favorite flavor of Kool-Aid was that he shared with his drinking buddy Jimmy Carter, I found and read some of his other posts and articles on Facebook. Oy vey! Unfortunately, since he is a writer, his propaganda is prolific.

The more I read of his postings the more my heart rate went up. I found it both peculiar and infuriating that he didn't seem compelled to label terrorists who are killing Jews as “brutal” or as “left-wing radicals.” He didn't seem compelled to address and blame Jordan or the other Arab countries who created the Arab refugee “problem” in the first place via warmongering and have used the "plight" of the Palestinians ever since as pawns in their continued quest to wipe Israel off the map. He wrote with passion and emotion (and probably with Itzhak Perlman playing in the background), as he described standing side-by-side with Arab farmers “as they gaze across the metal barriers to their former land.” (Of course he fails to mention why the metal barriers are needed.) His penchant for solidarity with Arab “victims” made me wonder if he had ever stood side-by-side with Tamar Fogel as she longingly gazed at her family’s gravesite because terrorists got through the metal barriers and brutally killed her parents and siblings.

The pinnacle of his warped view of Israel came when he wrote about the Gaza rocket fire. Part of his sentence read, “Regarding continual rocket fire from Gaza (which thankfully the army and government do not seem to want to escalate . . .)." That was the last straw. I couldn’t read anymore. Do you understand what he was saying? He was basically saying that he was thankful that Israel did not fight back. Which in his warped view wouldn’t even be deemed fighting back. No, if Israel responded to the over 10,000 rockets fired at them from Gaza, it would be an escalation. An offensive affront. Basically, Israel defending itself is a provocation.

Do you understand the ideology the Jewish basher of Israel is really deeming as the only appropriate action for Israel? To do nothing. Or even better, in the basher’s opinion, to surrender. Unfortunately, the Jewish bashers of Israel have joined the world not only in blaming Israel for most of the ills of the Arab world, but also for simply wanting to exist in their own Land. As the character in the Princess Bride was want to say, “Inconceivable!”

In some ways, the Jews have miraculously arisen after the Holocaust. But in many other ways, and who could blame them, they have remained curled in a fetal position hoping that any hatred or violence directed at them will pass. And as tragic and illogical as it sounds, the Jewish bashers of Israel are the ones kicking Israel the hardest. Kicking Israel mercilessly hard, not in hopes of awakening and prodding their brothers to get up and fight. But kicking Israel harder and harder to make them stay down.

The propaganda continuously manufactured against Israel makes me as a writer want to find a bigger and better soapbox to jump upon to defend Israel. But as my heart rate slowed and my anger lessoned after reading the Israel basher’s articles, I realized there is no soapbox big enough for me or any other defender of Israel to get on right now. Except for one. And it’s not even really a soapbox for me, a non-Jew, to get upon, yet. The Jews need to get on it first.

The biggest and only soapbox, if I dare even call it that, is the Temple Mount. It’s time for the Jews to rise up from the defensive fetal position and to ascend. Ascend the Temple Mount. And as loud, direct, and compelling of a message that would be to the world, the real message would be to Someone else. Jews ascending the Temple Mount en masse would be the boldest and loudest message to the world, counteracting the world-wide bashing of Israel. Yet at the same time, it would be the most intimate and personal message to the G-d of Israel.

A Jew ascending the Temple Mount, is a Jew who is changing the world, changing reality. Or perhaps better said, pulling back the veil and illusions of this world and saying, “Psst, this is what life is really supposed to be like.” Because a Jew ascending the Temple Mount is acknowledging that, “This is where reality began and can begin again. This is the foundation stone; the portal between Heaven and Earth. This is where my Beloved left, where everything went wrong. This is the place to make it right again. This is where I will wait for my Beloved to return and while I wait, I’ll make ready our Home.” 

Sadly, the Jewish Korach’s and the goyim Balak’s, i.e. the modern bashers of Israel, are literally fighting tooth and nail to keep the Jews out of the Land. Because if the Jews are out of the Land, the House on the Hill will never be built. And if that House is never built, everything can continue as is, which serves the powers of this world quite well. If the Jews are out of the Land then the ultimate unification between the Jews and Hashem, which will bring unification to the world, will never happen.

But alas, the plans of this world will not and are not standing. Miraculously, Jews are in the Land. So it is to those Jews whom I appeal to. Please get up. Go. Run. Ascend the Mount. Get on the most powerful soapbox in the world. Send a message to me. To the world. To Your G-d. Tell us, tell Him, that you are ready for everything to change. Tell Him that you are ready to be to your Beloved as He is to you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Challenge to Christians

Christians, how can I put this delicately? Okay, I can’t. So I’ll just say it. “It’s not all about you.” When the Bible speaks about Israel, it’s not talking about you. The End Times that you seem to get a bit overly excited about, are not all about you. And when the Bible speaks about a Temple, it’s literal, i.e. its about a building, it’s not waxing poetic about a figurative you.

Okay, I’ll be nice now. Because if you are a Christian I really do want you to keep reading. So let me start over with a little story. My sister and her husband just returned from a business trip to China. As their tour guide showed them Tiananmen Square she said, "I heard that there might have been some demonstrations here several years ago. But I've never been able to find out if that is true or not. Is it true?"

That is one of the saddest commentaries on life that I've heard in a long time. Suppression of information. Disinformation. People are kept from truth in so many areas, be it religion, health, governments, the economy, etc. Being a card-carrying Temple fanatic though, my thoughts quickly jumped to one particular subject in which people are sadly, and even pathetically uniformed or misinformed. The subject being Christians' beliefs about the Temple.

For those of you who don’t know, the Christian Bible consists of the Chistian books attached to the Tanach. It’s great on one hand that Christians can so conveniently read the Tanach. What’s not so great though, is a nasty little theological habit Christians have. They write-off whole books of the Tanach in favor of a belief they have based on one or two New Testament scriptures. This is partially how the Holy, awe-inspiring, haven of peace, dwelling place of God, desire of God, command of God became reduced to a temple for the malevolent boogeyman known as the anti-Christ. Christians read the lines in 2 Thessalonians 2:3&4 and snub everything the holy Prophets of Israel had to say about the importance of the Temple, not only in the past, but in the future as well.

So I’ll just stop right here and commence to begging. Please. Please. If you are a Christian who associates God’s Holy Temple as the temple of the anti-Christ, don’t do that. Ever again. Take a break from reading fictional books about the End Times. Take a break from reading theological guesses about the End Times. Instead read Books like Isaiah (especially chapter 2 & chapter 60). Read Ezekiel (especially from chapter 40 to the end of the Book.) Read educational material based on Jewish thought and theology. Come on, I dare you. And read these things without the ignorance or arrogance of “it’s all about me.” It’s not about you. It’s about Israel. Yes, Israel meaning the Jews. Still God’s chosen people; i.e. still the chosen representatives of God, still the Light to the nations.

I’m not interested in challenging all of Christian theology. But I know so many Christians who love and support Israel, yet remain clueless about the Temple. To them the Temple is just another game-piece in events they think must happen in the End Times.

When I read the following quote from the novel The Sweetness of Tears, I thought it was an apt, sad summation of most Christians’ mind-set about the Temple, “When I see your friends on television, going around rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of Armageddon, it makes me cringe. All this talk of End Times! It’s like they’re playing some kind of board game with the Bible. Like the war and death they see happening in the world is just another move forward, roll the dice, and full steam ahead. Yippee! Jesus is coming! And we’re all going to win!”

If you are going to get excited about the so called End Times then get excited about how an original Jewish source, Isaiah, said it would end. The affluence of the West will be turned over to Israel. Kings and leaders from the nations will lick the dust at the feet of the Jews. A Body of Justice will be established in Jerusalem that the entire world will look to for decisions. No more suppression of information or disinformation as the Torah will be taught to all and will be accepted as the supreme Truth. The Jews will live in peace and security in the Land of Israel. People from around the world will come to Jerusalem, to the Holy Temple, each Sabbath and New Moon to worship the God of Israel.  And the Jewish leader and figure-head known as the Messiah will partake in the Divine Service and offerings at the rebuilt Holy Temple.

Not exactly the scenerio you are expecting? That’s okay. It will happen whether you believe it or not. But do you know what else could happen? You could let go of man-made traditions and theology and jump on board to God’s way of thinking. You could ask God to show you what to believe about the Temple and perhaps for the first time open your heart and mind to the beauty, the holiness, and the need for the Temple. Come on, I dare you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Passover for the Non-Jew

Life wasn’t easy for the ultra-Orthodox rabbi who suddenly found himself living right smack in the Bible-belt. He was an anomaly, to say the least. He was from Jerusalem. But due to a rare disease that his daughter had, he was instructed to bring her to a hospital in the States to receive special medical treatment. Thankfully, after several months, the daughter vastly improved and they were able to return to Israel. Not before, however, my friends and I who are Noahides invaded every spare moment he had.

That’s another anomaly; a Noahide in the Bible-belt. The rabbi was just as curious about us as we were about him. We were like scientists who had heard of a particular species, but had never actually had the opportunity to observe it. Observe we did. Whenever he wasn’t attending his daughter’s needs, the rabbi would teach us about his life in Israel. He also eventually, and trepidly, started teaching us the parts of Torah that were relevant to us.

The rabbi had never met non-Jews who were interested in learning the Torah. He was a bit suspicious and rightfully so. After all, non-Jews have a long history of either trying to usurp the Torah for their own religious purposes or trying to destroy the Torah all together. So we couldn’t blame him for questioning whether it was kosher for him to teach us Torah and kosher for us to learn it. His reservations weren’t unwarranted even in our small community. Besides the small number of Noahides who were interested in learning Torah, there was a group of Messianic Christians who were interested too. However, they were interested in reshaping the Torah to fit into their own religion. But we finally convinced the Rabbi that we were interested in the Torah reshaping our lives. So although his reservations never quite left, he did agree to teach us. And in return, we would answer all the questions he had about us.

We first met the rabbi in the spring when Passover was approaching. One of the first questions that he asked me was, “You are not Jewish. Why are you and your family observing Passover?” I naively shrugged my shoulders and answered back with the question, “Why wouldn’t I observe it?”

(Please note, I use the word “observe” very loosely. Perhaps it would be better to say that my family and I commemorate Passover. Since we are not Jewish, we realize that this holiday is not about us, per say. There’s a t-shirt that says, “It’s all about me.” Usually I roll my eyes at such arrogant sayings. But in my opinion, that is the perfect saying for a Jew. I look at the world a little bit differently than most of society does. I see the Jews and their relationship with Hashem as the center of everything. World history, current events, spiritual blessings, physical blessings; it all revolves around the Jews and their relationship with Hashem. It literally is, “All about the Jews,” and how they spread Hashem’s Light to the rest of the world.)

Continuing my answer to the rabbi, I said, “My children learn history; Texas history, American history, world history. So why shouldn’t they learn the most important history of all? Biblical history.” He didn’t have an argument for that.

That’s one of the reasons that my family gathers with other Noahides to “observe” Passover. My kids are growing up in the information age. Besides learning at school, they are constantly bombarded with information from the technology that surrounds them. Yet, the sedar competes with modern technology. The sedar is good ole’ fashion story telling. The children listen, they experience, and they remember. But it’s more than a story that I want them to remember. I want them to remember the kind of God that the story reveals.

The story of Passover is a story of Divine intervention and deliverance. It is a reminder that the God Who performed miracles so long ago, is the same God today, with the same capabilities. I want my children to know first and foremost, that there is only one God, the God of Israel. Second, I want them to know that God is not only watching over Israel today, but that He watches over them as well.

Passover isn’t just a history lesson. It points to the future. Israel is in dire need of deliverance again. She is surrounded by enemies bent on her destruction. Passover instills faith. Though it seemed to be long in coming, the Children of Israel were finally liberated from Egypt. Sometimes I get discouraged as I watch from afar what my friends in Israel are going through, and how the nation as a whole bears the brunt of so much hatred from around the world. But just as the redemption from Egypt happened, we can rest assure the final redemption for Israel, that will spillover into the rest of the world, will happen. "Just as a lion roars over its prey, so shall Hashem, Master of Legions, descend to do battle upon Mount Zion and upon its hill. Like flying birds, so will Hashem Master of Legions protect Jerusalem, protecting and rescuing, passing over and delivering," Isaiah 31.

May this Passover remind us how powerful God is. And even though He is the God of the universe, we should remember and take advantage of the fact that He takes the time to meet us in our individual lives, on our level, to bring about personal redemption in areas that we are living in bondage.

On Passover, as a non-Jew, I will do my best to remember and I will teach my children to remember. I will also ask Hashem to remember. “Remember me, Hashem, when You show Your people favor; recall me with Your salvation; to see the good of Your chosen ones; to rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, to glory with Your inheritance,” Psalm 106:4,5.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Psycho-Drama of the Temple Offerings

adapted from Rabbi Richman on Temple Talk March 27, 2012

"The Temple offerings are symbolic on a cosmic level. They symbolize man identifying with various aspects of his own personality and life force and rectifying that. There is a tremendous amount of symbolism in the Temple offerings, but the main thing regarding the offerings is that Hashem takes pleasure when man does what He said to do.

"The Temple service is a 'psycho-drama.' It is a drama that has a profound effect on the mentality of the people involved in it. You can try and smooth talk your way out of the need for offerings today. You can try to be genteel and delicate about the Divine Service and just talk about the incense offerings. But the fact of the matter is that there are animals being offered on the alter of the Holy Temple.

"There is blood. There is slaughtering. Hashem said to do it in this way so that man can go through a deeper understanding of his own life force. And so that he can understand where he has gone astray and how he can make sure his Divine image is once again elevated. The experience of the Temple offerings draws a person closer to Hashem, hence the meaning of 'korban,' to draw close.

"The fact is today that we are not so close to Hashem. But the korban will draw us back. And again, without apologizing, the Temple offerings are a 'psycho-drama.' It is extremely tramatic. It is extremely jarring and unnerving. And that's okay, because it is real.

"We are spoiled rotten in our generation. We don't know what it means to realign ourselves; to receive a 'kick in the head' as it were, figuratively. We don't know what it means to see with a certain kind of bold clarity that our lives are sands running quickly through the hour-glass of time. The Temple service is an opportunity when Hashem says, 'I'm going to shake you up and make you realize that life is precious. Stop being an animal! Start living the life of a man.' That's what happens in the Divine Service.

"Do you have a problem with that kind of Divine Service? Do you have a problem with the One G-d of Heaven and earth running the show? If you've got a problem with that, look at the universe and where you fit into it. Because it's about you fitting into His universe, not about Him fitting into your little universe that you carry around."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rebuilding the Temple Will Ruin Everything

Rebuilding the Holy Temple will ruin everything. Well, almost everything.

The Temple will ruin the plans of terrorists to destroy Israel.

The Temple will ruin the plans of terrorists period.

The Temple will ruin the domination of regimes, dictators, and so-called democratic governments who care more about power than the people under their power.

The Temple will ruin the lies and idolatry of religion.

The Temple will ruin the business of human trafficking.

The Temple will ruin the grips of famine.

The Temple will ruin the inflated ego of mankind.

The Temple will ruin the lies of the media.

The Temple will ruin the mental apathy and slumber that has gripped mankind.

The Temple will ruin the business of war.

The Temple will ruin almost everything. Not because it's a magical building. But because of Who it will house. There is not enough room in this world for both the Divine Presence and all that is listed above. Ezekiel saw the remedy for the world. He saw the Divine Presence return. But there is only one place this will happen. In the rebuilt Temple. Man has shown what he can do. Isn't it time to give the Divine Presence a chance?

Become an advocate for the only lasting change in the world. Join the efforts of the Temple Institute's 3rd Annual Temple Mount Awareness day:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Esther Factor

As so many others do, I feel such sadness over the children and Rabbi who were murdered in Toulouse. After the murder of the Fogel family, perhaps I naively thought that nothing could match the magnitude of that tragedy. I was wrong. But beyond sadness, I feel anger too.

Of course it's no surprise that the world would express a moral equivalence between seeking out Jewish children to murder in cold-blood versus Palestinian children getting killed in the crossfire of Israel defending itself, just as the EU's Baroness Ashton was so quick to do. But what bothers me even more so is Jewish leaders' reaction to the tragedy.

Yes, Jews across the world were quick to express outrage and sadness at the tragic events. But then what? The status on PM Netanyahu's official facebook page today was in regards to the cost of cable TV in Israel. Really? That in itself made me want to go sit in a corner and cry all day. Jewish children are gunned down by a wild beast masquerading as a man, and the Israeli government seems to be back in a "business as usual" mode.

"We must now wage war against these fundamentalist political and religious groups that are killing our children, that are killing Christian children, Christian young men, young Muslim men and Jewish children." How I wished these were the words of the Israeli government ready to wage a real war against every enemy of the Jews, no matter where they exist. Instead they are the words of French politician Ms. Marine Le Pen. Jewish leaders in France were quick to distance themselves from Le Pen's viewpoint. Joining in the appeasement and political correctness charade they pointed out that the gunman was a lone extremist.

How can Jewish leaders, who I assume just recently read the Book of Esther, forget how the story ended? Did it end with Esther believing and stating that Haman was a lone extremist? Esther asked for the blood of ALL those who were against the Jews. And she got what she asked for - the deaths of over 75,000 anti-Semites. She understood the words of her ancestor King Solomon. She understood that there is a time to kill.

I have pondered for a few weeks a quote in one of the Temple Institute's articles about Esther. It is a bold, audacious quote that stands out in this day and age of appeasement. Deriving from the actions of Esther the article states, "Torah teaches us that violence must be met with violence. Passivity and victimhood do not bring peace. Strength and victory bring peace."

Esther seemed to have understood that principle. When will the Jewish leadership understand it again?

It is hard to hear of the deaths of children. It is even worse knowing details. It is said that the animal masquerading as a man chased down 8 year-old Miriam Monsonego, pulled her by the hair, and put a gun to her head. The gun jammed though. So the animal switched guns and then shot her in the head. The switching of the gun only took a second. But it is agonizing to think of the fear running through little Miriam's mind during that split second.

Miriam Monsonego is Klal Yisrael. She was corned by an animal and killed. It seems as if Israel is in that same corner. When will Israel decide to fight back? And how do we maintain hope that Israel will decide to fight back when Hashem says, "For a day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redemption has come. I looked, but there was not helper, I was astounded that there was no supporter." I suppose in writing that I have just answered my own question. Ultimately, there is no one to put our hope in other than Hashem.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

May You Be Like Esther

May you be like Esther fulfilling your appointed role, never missing your cues, continually doing the Creator’s bidding clothed in dignity and strength.
As Esther, may you remain patient in your “hidden” times, trusting that Hashem’s perfect timing coordinates your affairs.
May you be confident yet humble when it is your time “to shine,” acting with conviction, courage, and bravery; a catalyst to turn the tide towards good, and thwart the efforts of evil on every scale - in yourself, in your home, in your community, in the world.
May you be like Esther, a messenger of timely, direct words. May you boldly approach Hashem and people around you with words that change the course of events. May your words bring relief, healing, and encouragement to those around you.
May you be like Esther, shedding any masks no longer needed. May any negative emotions or negative perceptions of yourself drop and dissolve, leaving you not your old self, but a person perhaps you have yet to be.
As Esther may you be blessed with comrades to support you in your designated role. May “Mordechais” offer you advice, protection, and belief in who you are.
May lessons learned long ago by a queen in Persia, learned by Sages who have clinged and continue to cling to Torah, learned by brave men and women who have fought and continue to fight the evils of Haman, guide you and bring you courage as you go on grocery shopping trips, when you sit down to dysfunctional family dinners, when you are cut off in traffic, when you hug and soothe a hurting child, when you feel like the child who needs to be hugged and soothed, when your beliefs and choices are misunderstood, when you watch loved ones suffer, and when you wonder if you are adequate enough to maintain the tasks at hand, day in and day out.
May you be blessed to be you. The real you, conceptualized so long ago, brought into the physical realm not too long ago, and destined to spend a particularly long time in the World to Come. May you one day enter the World to Come with the satisfaction that Esther must have felt, knowing that she had done all that she could do, that she had done what she was meant to do, and that she chose to believe in herself, and more importantly, had full faith in the One who made her.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who Is That Masked Man?

Jews around the world will soon celebrate Purim. One celebratory tradition is to wear masks and costumes. There are a number of reasons for dressing in disguises on Purim, but on a simple level it is to remember how G-d saved the Jews while staying "anonymous." G-d worked behind the scene but His works remained masked or disguised as naturally occurring events. Hence wearing masks is a major theme of Purim.

I want to delve a bit deeper and suggest that wearing a mask on Purim is like a wink to Hashem as we say to Him, "We are willing to play your Own game as we realize life is nothing as it seems." What do I mean by that? Many Jews, and non-Jews like me, proclaim on a daily basis the Oneness of Hashem. His Oneness is the core of our faith. The more we understand the Oneness of Hashem, the more we as individuals, or perhaps I should say the illusion of our individual self melts away. Hashem is the only reality. Our individuality and our separateness is an illusion. We live, move, and have "our" total existence in Hashem.

You've most likely heard the story of the four sages who were allowed to enter Paradise. Of the four, only one, Rabbi Akiva, processed and reacted correctly to the Truth he was shown and therefore he left in peace. Rabbi Nachman's teaching on this story helps us understand the "correct" vs "incorrect" way to process and try to understand G-d's Oneness while living a life of "separateness." Rabbi Nachman teaches that the concealment of G-d's Oneness and Allness was necessary so that man could exercise free will and receive G-d's Lovingkindness. Rabbi Akiva accepted the fact that Hashem designed a system, i.e. a world of "separateness," in which His Unity could be fully appreciated. He was able to accept and appreciate the value of living in a world of illusion and separateness because ultimately and ironically this is the place in which G-d's Oneness can be discovered the most. Rabbi Akiva went behind the "curtain of separateness" so to speak, but had the wisdom not to question why Hashem had set up this illusion. Instead he nodded to His Master. A nod that said, "As any man, I will never fully understand You, but I accept Your Ways, and I will play by Your rules."

Esther and Mordechai had this same kind of faith. Even though they must have felt completely isolated and separated not just from their fellow Jews, but even from Hashem at times (read Psalm 22 as the sages teach that Esther prayed this to Hashem) they ultimately displayed the kind of faith that attested to the fact that their feelings of separateness were but a mere illusion. They appeared to stand alone as "individuals" but the reality is and was that they did not exist outside of Hashem's Oneness.

Donning a mask on Purim is a way of declaring the same kind of faith that Esther and Mordechai had and the same kind of understanding that Rabbi Akiva had. Deep down our spirits know that Hashem is the only reality. I, like many others, who daily proclaim the Shema, close my eyes when saying, "The L-rd He is One," because I realize His Oneness cannot be perceived by my senses; I cannot "see" His Oneness with my physical eyes. But my spirit can "see" His Oneness. Our spirit is aware of being perpetually attached to His Oneness. Our highest level of spirituality knows no separateness. But our physical eyes and our mind tells us different. We see our individual self. We see other people around us. We feel things that no one else feels. We experience things that no one else experiences. But our spirit knows that this is a mere illusion designed by Hashem in order that we might ultimately find ourselves in His Oneness.

I loved the analogy that Rabbi Chaim Richman recently used in describing how Hashem garbs Himself in nature so that we can "see" Him. Just as the character Griffin in the H.G. Wells novel The Invisible Man had to wrap himself in gauze, an overcoat and hat to be seen, so too does Hashem wrap Himself in nature and events to be "seen." Stay with me here. The deeper we delve into understanding G-d's Oneness, the more the illusion of our individuality falls away. We as individuals start to disappear, so to speak. We become more and more invisible. Yet on Purim we don garb, like the character Griffen did, so that we as individuals can be seen and used by Hashem.

So even though on Purim it is a physical hand that reaches up to put a mask on a physical face, deep down it is our spirit giving a wink and a nod to our Master as we say, "We are willing to play your game. We are willing to appear as individuals and do what each of us needs to do. Just as Esther and Mordechiai played their roles, we are willing to play our roles. But we know it is just a show. We know we really only exist in Your Oneness." If we truly believe this, then we can have faith like Esther and Mordechai had.

It is a great irony and mystery that Hashem is hidden in us. His Oneness is hidden in the illusion of our individuality. Our comfort comes in knowing that He "separated" us from Himself for a reason and that if we let Him, He will use us as "individuals" solely for His purposes and that ultimately we will find our true selves in Him and Him alone.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Perfect Wilderness

I know you know this. But just in case you've temporarily forgotten, let me remind you of a few things. 1. Hashem always has your best interest in mind. 2. Everything He does is for good. 3. He knows you better than you know yourself, therefore, He knows better what you need.

In this week's parsha, we read about Hashem taking His people out of Egypt. As they are leaving we are privy to Hashem's musings about His escape route for His people. He said, "'Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war, and they will return to Egypt.' So God turned the people toward the way of the Wilderness."

The Jews were leaving slavery; both physical and mental. They had led a very hard life in Egypt, to say the least, and their deliverance had finally come. Yet, God being God, knew something about the human psyche that still holds true today. No matter how bad a situation was or is that we are leaving behind, at some point or another we forget how bad it really was, and even though it defies logic we ponder returning, and sometimes, God forbid, we do return to the very same horrible situation we couldn't wait to get out of.

God had a plan for His people to prevent such a return. It was called, "the Wilderness." We've all been in our own personal wildernesses. A place that seems void of life, of direction, of purpose. We cry out to God from the wilderness and ask, "Why did you bring me here?" And perhaps we even think at times that we were better off in the slavery from whence we came.

But hold on! Hold on, even if you are in the wilderness right now. It is all part of God's plan for you. Remember that He knows you better than you know yourself, and He knows just the right path for you. Even if it includes "the Wilderness." Your Promised-Land is coming. You will get to where you need to be. But remember too, that on the way to get where you need to be, you are also just where you need to be.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Return

"Hashem said to Moses, 'Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart and the heart of his servants stubborn so that I can put these signs of Mine in his midst; and so that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son's son that I made a mockery of Egypt and My signs that I placed among them - that you may know that I am Hashem,'" Exodus 10:1,2.

In our sophisticated world of daily expanding knowledge, sometimes we forget the simple basics and truths of life. The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt was a seminal event in world history. Besides the obvious of the Jews escape from slavery and the beginnings of their nationhood, the Exodus was a message to the world. The Exodus was a reminder that their is One and only One Being in control of everything, including nature. And that Being is who Moses and Aaron told Pharoah they were coming in behalf of - the God of the Jews.

Perhaps in 2012 we need a fresh perspective. A reminder that the God of the Universe, Who controls everything, is controlling world events with one main goal in mind. Psalms 105 reminds us of what that goal is. After giving a synopsis of all the events Hashem orchestrated through Joseph and Moses, He reminds us that He did everything so that He could give the Jews the Land of Israel where "they will safeguard and observe His teachings."

A theme runs throughout the Torah and the Prophets; a return. Hashem states repeatedly that the Jews will return to Him via returning to the Land of Israel and returning to the Torah. This return is literally what the world still revolves around.

Hashem is orchestrating every world event around His desire and "end game," so to speak, of the return of His people to Israel and to the Torah. When is the last time you viewed the world this way? Every world leader is in place to prod His people to return. Every weather pattern is in place to prod His people to return. Every economic upswing or downturn is in place to cause His people to return. Every election result is to cause His people to return. Everything is funneling His people to Him. And every person is their own Pharoah. Every person has a choice to aid and abet the return, or to resist and inhibit the return.

Everything is predestined, except for the fear of heaven (Tractate Berachos in the Gemara). Yes, every person has a free will. But the Great Mind of the Universe orchestrates every choice every person makes within His plans. He is the only reality. We live, and move, and have our being within the "confines" of Him. We exist in Him. We have no control, power, or existence outside of Him. We live in the illusion that we do. And those who believe that the illusion is reality literally are living a grand illusion.

World leaders who believe they are controlling the destiny of nations are living within the grand illusion. Business men who believe their decisions control the economy are living within the grand illusion. Groups or individuals who believe they can destroy the nation of Israel are living within the grand illusion. Even when you or I, God forbid, forget for a moment Who the world exists within, then we are living within the grand illusion.

Aaron and Moses had a clear message in Exodus 10 - even the most powerful leader and nation on earth was but a pawn in Hashem's hand. Hashem made a mockery of and brought down a kingdom so that the Jews could have a story to tell their children and grandchildren. And that story is "Psst, remember. Remember that everything I do is so that you will know that I am your God. And one day when your children forget that I am their God, the stage will be set for a return to Me."

If you are a Jew living outside of Israel and outside of the pages of Torah, the question is, "When will you return?" And as a non-Jew, the question is, "Are you aiding and abetting the return, or God forbid living as Pharaoh and trying to inhibit the return."

"He took us out of Egypt in order to bring us, to give us the Land that He swore to our forefathers. And He commanded us to perform all His decrees, to fear Hashem, our God, for the good, all the days, to give us life," Deuteronomy 6:23,24.

"And they will return from the enemy's land. There is hope for your future, the word of Hashem, and your children will return to their border," Jeremiah 31:15,16.

"Remember this and take it to heart, O evildoers: recall the early events of ancient times, see that I am God and there is no other, I am God and there is none like Me. From the beginning I foretell the outcome; and from earlier times, what has not yet been; but I say and My plan will stand, and I will carry out My every desire," Isaiah 46:8-10.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Have You Met the Torah Today With Fresh, Child-Like Wonder

After I recently posted a blog, a reader felt inclined to promptly inform me that I knew nothing about Torah. I'm as vulnerable as the next person, and can get defensive when criticized. This time though, I shrugged my shoulders and thought, "He's right."

In reality, what I know about the Torah doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. The Torah is like the universe; infinite. My knowledge of the Torah is like one grain of sand in the universe. But that grain of sand, that I hold so dear, has changed my world. Or as Blake so aptly penned, "To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour."

In the big scheme of things, I really hardly know anything about the Torah. But here is what I do know: The Torah is the blueprint for everything. The DNA of the universe. The revealed knowledge of Ein Sof. A glimpse into the mind and heart of Hashem. Instructions on how to make tikkun. Instructions on how to bring Heaven on earth. The Yud that connects the material to the spiritual. An endless resource. A map guiding us back to our true self. A gift.

The Torah, to say the least, has changed my life. And the real kicker is, I'm not Jewish. It remains a wonder to me that Hashem allowed my path to intersect with the truth of the Torah and in the midst of the Bible-Belt, no less. And as if becoming conscious of the wonders of the Torah wasn't enough, Hashem has put teachers in my life, who live and breathe the Torah and make it palpable to a soul like mine. I often think, "If Hashem drew me to Torah, imagine what can happen to a Jewish soul who needs to return to Torah."

As mentioned above, I live in the Bible-Belt. The town I live in has a very small Jewish population, very few with whom I am acquainted. I had the privilege, though, of meeting a Jewish lady from New York, who headed a charitable Jewish fund, who was visiting my town. I am not a talker. And I am peevishly annoyed by people who talk too much. That's why much too my surprise, when I met her, I couldn't stop talking. I jumped at the chance of having a conversation with a Jew. So I started talking Torah and couldn't stop. I found myself talking about learning to have the will to receive in order to bring Hashem pleasure and to benefit others. "Isn't it odd," I commented, "that we think, 'Of course I have the will to receive. I'm completely open to all that Hashem has for me and for all the right reasons,' but in reality we often close ourselves to what He wants to give us . . . " My voice faded as I saw the look on her face. She didn't say anything as she started shaking her head. Great! I had become the-person-who-doesn't-know-when-to-stop-talking and she couldn't hide her exasperation.

She surprised me, though and said, "My husband needs to meet someone like you. He's an orthodox Jewish non-believer." I gave her a strange look and laughed, and she said, "Exactly. How can such a thing exist? He grew up learning Judaism, but now it doesn't mean much to him. He needs to see someone like you who . . . " She couldn't find the word for it, so I finished her sentence with, "Someone who it is all new to and who can't get enough?"

Do you know why I can't get enough of Torah? Because Hashem brought teachers into my life that keep the Torah in a way that is pleasing unto Him, i.e., they keep it with their whole heart, mind, and soul. They convey that the Torah is a living entity that is relevant to every facet of our lives today. How I pray that Jews who aren't passionately in love with and committed to the Torah will find teachers like I've had and latch on to all the beautiful truths they have to offer.

You've heard of Torah Tots. Non-Jews like me are quick to realize we are like children when it comes to learning Torah. But if Jews, who perhaps study Torah out of obligation or rote, or who don't study it at all, could learn anything from "tots" like me, I hope it would be to come anew to the Torah with a child-like wonder.

For those of you who are parents and own a car, do you remember the first time you turned your child's rear-facing car seat towards the front? I have two children. And both times when I turned their car seats around, they had the same reaction when I started driving. Their mouths opened as wide as their eyes did and they said, "Ooohhhh!" as they looked at everything around them from a fresh vantage point.

I am still very much a child in a car seat when it comes to spiritual learning. I thought I knew something about G-d. Then I discovered the Torah. The Torah has been the vehicle of learning and the wise teachers Hashem placed in my life turned my car seat around and said, "Here. It's time to go forward and see G-d from a much better vantage point."

If you need a fresh vantage point or need a spark helping you return to Torah, I highly encourage you to listen to the teachings of the Universal Torah Network at Your heart will say, "Ooohhhh!" as you see the wonders of the Torah from Rabbi Richman, Rebbetzin Richman, Shmuel "Sam" Peak, and Rabbi Sutton.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So Many Choices

On the Hebrew calender, today is the Tenth of Tevet. It is the day, long ago, that the walls of Jerusalem were breached, which ultimately lead to the destruction of the Holy Temple. As Rabbi Richman has taught, I ask myself, what does the Tenth of Tevet have to do with me? What can I learn from that dark day in history?

There are so many layers of meaning and function to the Holy Temple. One of those layers is that the Holy Temple represents us. At the heart of the Holy Temple is the Holy of Holies. That inner sanctum represents our inner sanctum; our heart.

Relatively speaking, the walls of Jerusalem were a distance away from the Holy of Holies. Yet the breach that began a distance away, led to the eventual defilement of the Holy of Holies.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking there are two categories of choices and/or of mitzvah. Big and small. The Tenth of Tevet reminds me that all choices and all mitzvah are big. Every choice I make has a ripple effect. Every choice I make impacts not only me, but my family, and others around me. And often unbeknownst to me, my choices impact people I don't even know.

On the Tenth of Tevet I ask myself, "Am I allowing any breaches (choices) in my life that will eventually lead to the defilement of my heart?" Do I get lazy with the "small" choices in life? Those "small" choices represent just one stone in the walls of my life. But am I allowing bad or lazy "small" choices to chip away at my wall one stone at a time, until there is a breach?

My choices are the wall that surrounds my life. Those choices either form a protection around all that I hold dear in life, or they, God forbid, lead to destruction. "Through wisdom a house is built, and it is established through understanding; and through knowledge, its chambers are filled with all dear and pleasant treasures."

The Holy of Holies was filled with the ultimate treasure; the Shekinah - the Divine Presence of God. So too in my life, I have the potential to house that very treasure. Every choice I make either invites the Shekinah in my life, or God forbid, drives the Shekinah away.

Ezekiel gives us the sad account of the Shekinah - the Divine Presence leaving the Temple in stages. The Jews did not make one bad choice that lead to the departing of the Shekinah. It was a succession of bad choices that individuals made and that the people made collectively. I can't help but think that early on the Shekinah would have stopped and turned on a dime to stay, if the Jews would have stopped long enough to return to their right frame of mind and repented. If they would have just started with everyday choices, the "small" choices, and done what was right according to the Torah. If they would have just stopped the breach in their own walls which eventually lead to the destruction of their hearts. The physical walls of Jerusalem mirrored the choices the people made. So too did the Holy of Holies mirror their hearts.

The Tenth of Tevet leads me to repentance. The energy of the day beckons me to examine my own life and to fortify my walls by hopefully infusing Torah consciousness into every decision I make. Throughout the Book of Proverbs there is a clear distinction made between the fool and the wise. The Tenth of Tevet reminds me to fortify my resolve to be counted among the wise. "The wise woman, each builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands," Proverbs 14.

May we all resolve to build our own walls wisely and set our sites to being a part of rebuilding the walls of the Holy Temple. "Blessed is the man who thus endeavours daily to give hospitality to the Holy One." The ultimate hospitality will be when we invite God back to His own rebuilt Home.