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News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
Baruch Gordon founded the Arutz Sheva-IsraelNationalNews.com website in 1995 and directed its English Media Department for 14 years. Baruch studied and taught at the Bet El Yeshiva Center, later serving as Dean of its Program for Overseas Students and Program for IDF Veterans.
Baruch is certified by the Dor v'Dor Institute to counsel married couples and prepare hatanim for marriage.
After decades of attending Torah classes, it's rare that I get a real head rush of inspiration from a rabbi's shiur (lecture). Don't get me wrong - the Torah is an ever-uplifting ladder of spirituality, which infuses my everyday with meaning and fulfillment. But it's simply not a daily occurrence that I walk out of a Torah learning session blown away from what I had heard.
Last week I was blown away.
I attended a debate between an orthodox Rabbi and Christian Minister entitled "Is Jesus the Promised Messiah?"
The Christian Pastor, Paul Humber, opened the debate with impressive quotes from all over the tanach (Jewish bible) supporting his Jesus narrative to the point that I actually felt uncomfortable. As he continued his 10-minute round of analysis, I felt deep concern that if a Jew on the street were to hear this well-trained missionary, he would be shaken to the core and left helpless - unable to defend his religion against the compelling proofs that JC is the Jewish Messiah. Equally disheartening was the realization that I couldn't defend it well, either.
The pastor continued to fire away from his extensive arsenal of bible verses. A creepy feeling of kfirah (blasphemy) crawled into my system. My rock-solid Judaism was being challenged, and it hurt. I felt that even when the rabbi makes his counterpoints, still some doubt may linger.
I was wrong.
Rabbi Tovia Singer of OutreachJudaism.org pounded back with a slam-dunk, decisive victory. His comebacks were so clever and convincing that I began to feel embarrassed for the pastor who was being ground to mince meat.
Several times throughout the debate, when Rabbi Tovia revealed the utter stupidity of the church's warped understandings of the Jewish bible, he turned to the pastor saying, "Don't take this personally, it's not against you, it's what the whole church believes." My emotions switched from concern for my religion to concern for the pastor who was an invited guest at a Jewish center and being made to look like a buffoon.
Within the rigid time limits of the debate, Rabbi Tovia systematically reviewed each source, explaining it in its original biblical context and showing how it had no connection to JC. It was so convincing that it became humorous, and the crowd burst out in laughter numerous times at the rabbi's delivery.
For example, the pastor explained that according to a verse in Isaiah Chapter 7, a child will be born from a virgin and this, he said, is a prophecy of the immaculate conception and birth of Jesus. Besides showing that "virgin" is a mis-translation, Rabbi Tovia said that anyone who reads the entire chapter and not just the verse sees that the child must have been born some 650 years before Jesus' time. Otherwise, the whole chapter doesn't make sense!
I walked out with a feeling of Jewish pride and smug assurance that when one digs deep in the tanach, Christian theology collapses like a house of cards. Yes, I knew this before the debate, but now this knowledge was a living part of me, filling me with inspiration and confidence.
The punch line is that while Rabbi Tovia told me that he thought Pastor Humber was good, Tovia said that he himself could have done a better job arguing for Christianity.
One of the greatest dangers facing our nation today is the multi-billion dollar (!) missionary offensive to convert Jews. Rabbi Tovia Singer is the vaccination that fights this disease. He told me that when he was a teen, he first heard a Christian missionary preaching to some Jews on a Brooklyn street corner. Since that time, he has dedicated his life to this topic.
Any adult or youth who attends one of his many entertaining appearances is likely to emerge unscathed from a future missionary confrontation. "If Rabbi Tovia were here," he will tell himself, "he would score a slam dunk and complete, decisive victory against this offensive." That's an important memory to evoke, and I hereby encourage every Jewish organization to rush to plant it in the minds of its members.
Rabbi Tovia Singer can be contacted via his website: OutreachJudaism.org If you are looking to learn more about this topic, Rabbi Tovia has posted over 20 hours of free, downloadable, audio classes on his website.
[Hattip to Clifford Bargar of Newton, Mass for his input on this post]
Though the Hebrew calendar date of Israel Independence Day was decided upon by the Israeli government a year after the establishment of the State, their choice of day – the 5th of the Hebrew month of Iyar – received a divine stamp of approval in that this very day filled the missing link in a Rabbinic puzzle of centuries.
The story begins in the 14th century, when Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher, better known as the "Baal HaTurim," revealed a code for determining what day of the week various Jewish holidays would fall upon, based on the days of Pesach (Passover).
In Siman 428 (OH) of his classic work "Arbaa HaTurim," he writes that if you take the first 6 letters of the Hebrew alphabet (ascending) and line them up with the last 6 letters of the alphabet (descending – in essence this is use of the "atbash" juxtaposition of letters as appears below in the chart), an amazing parallel between the days of Pesach and 6 Jewish holidays emerges:
|Days of Pesach||א||ב||ג||ד||ה||ו||ז|
|Corresponding holiday||ת |
The Baal HaTurim writes that whatever day of the week the first day of Pesach falls on, so too Tisha B'av will fall on the same day of the week. For example, this year, 5771 (2011), the first day of Pesach came out on a Tuesday. Look ahead in your Hebrew calendar and you will see that Tisha B'av will also fall on a Tuesday this year.
Whatever day the second day of Pesach falls on, so, too, the holiday of Shavuot will fall on the same day of the week.
As per the chart of the Baal HaTurim, we see that:
3rd day of Pesach falls on same day of the week as Rosh HaShana
4th day of Pesach falls on same day of the week as Kriat HaTorah (which is Simchat Torah)
5th day of Pesach falls on same day of the week as Tzom (Yom) Kippur
6th day of Pesach falls on same day of the week as the previous Purim
The above code is beautiful and works like a charm every single year on the Jewish calendar, but it is missing a holiday which is parallel to the last (7th) day of Pesach. The Baal HaTurim couldn't find a Jewish holiday that starts with the Hebrew letter ayin and which always falls on the same day of the week as the last day of Pesach.
This same code appears in the book "Avudraham" by Rabbi David Avudraham who lived in the same period as the Baal HaTurim. He too came up empty handed and left the last day of Pesach blank with no corresponding Jewish holiday to fit into the chart.
For centuries, this puzzle – the lack of a holiday to parallel the last day of Pesach – remained unsolved.
In 1949, the government of the fledgling State of Israel with the approval of the Chief Rabbis established the 5th of the Hebrew month of Iyar as Independence Day of the modern Jewish State. Call it what you may - a freak coincidence or the Divine Hand of Hashem – but the Hebrew name "Atzmaut" Independence Day starts with the Hebrew letter ayin and always falls on the same day of the week as does the 7th day of Pesach. The missing link of the code formulated by the great Gedolei Yisrael and passed down for generations was completed with the establishment of the modern State of Israel and the affixing of Iyar 5 as Independence Day. [Quoted in the book Goel Yisrael in the name of Rafael Feltner]
In 1948, we achieved an independent state, but the struggle for true independence continues to this day. The Western imperialist powers have tried for the last 38 years to deprive the Jewish people of portions of our ancient homeland. At the urging of the United States State Department, the European Union, and the United Nations, the superpowers of the world have persisted in their attempts to suppress the inalienable rights of the Jewish People to live with freedom and dignity on the entirety of our ancient and holy soil.
But just as our people resisted Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, we, the indigenous Jewish natives of this land, will continue the struggle for Jewish freedom in our land with all of our faculties and powers.
I join my brothers here in Israel as we call upon you – young and old Jews– to resist the Western oppression. Answer the cry for justice for our people by taking action: visit Israel, study in Israel, purchase apartments here, and move to Israel to guarantee freedom and dignity for our people in our ancient and historic homeland.
May we all join in celebrating this divine Jewish holiday and express our thanks to the G-d of Israel for the miracles He performed for us in our time with the establishment of the State of Israel.
To understand how the establishment of the Jewish State is the fulfillment of one of the 613 positive Torah-ordained commandments, and to understand a Kabbalistic twist from the writings of the Arizal on the above code, contact me below and invite me to speak to your group or synagogue.
Happy Israel Independence Day,
Director of Development
Bet El Institutions
Bet El, Israel
I am a heavy computer user and a light coffee drinker. Here's a story about how the two do not mix well:
I invited my friend and Israel tour guide Gershon Portnoy, who is now working part time with Bet El Tours, for a meeting in my office in Bet El. We were discussing some intensive, off-the-beaten-track tours of Israel for tourists who seek something beyond the regular bus tour of Israel.
I made us a both a cup of coffee and in the enthusiastic discourse which followed, I spun my laptop computer around to show him a document, and bumped into his coffee. The cup did not tilt over, but approximately one gulp of the black fluid spilt onto the 6 upper left keys of my laptop keyboard. A minute later, the computer blinked out.
I thought, "No prob," and hair-dried the wet area, sure that the computer would come back to life. This computer served me for some 5 years and still functioned fine.
Despite all resuscitation attempts, no heartbeat returned to my lifeless laptop. I sent it for a laboratory check, and later that day, psychologists and doctors showed up at my home. They asked me to make a cup of coffee and sit down in a comfortable chair next to my computer. It was then that they informed me that my computer would not return to life – ever.
I was wrecked and devastated. I've been using laptops for 15 years and never has anything like this happened to me – to take the precious life of my own.
I tell you this story for two reasons:
1) Beware dear friends of drinking coffee next to a laptop. It only takes a small amount of liquid to kill it.
And 2) the three institutions which I work for – the Bet El Yeshiva Center, Arutz Sheva, and the Bet El IDF Preparatory Academy - are getting me a new laptop to the tune of $1,400. If there are any fine, upstanding, southern-like ladies and gentlemen out there who want to pitch in to cover the unexpected cost, we'd all be much obliged.
Please send checks of $200 or more made out to: The American Friends of the Bet El Yeshiva Center (US tax deductible).
68-27 Juno St.
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Send an email – baruch@IsraelNationalNews.com - notifying me that you are sending a check so I can confirm receipt, make sure you get a receipt, and express my thanks. I will also be happy to recite psalms on behalf of the donors along with a prayer request at the ancient holy site where Yaakov (Jacob) has his dream in the book of Genesis, right here in Bet El.
If you happen to be a computer company and can donate a laptop, we could actually use a few.
The "Ask the Rabbi" section of the Bet El Yeshiva's Hebrew website has become the premier venue for secular Israelis seeking rabbinic counsel on the internet. In the two recently-submitted questions below, a bride and groom separately turn to the Web Rabbi asking whether or not to cancel the wedding. The two letters were received several hours apart. Read below to find out what happened in the end…
LETTER FROM THE GROOM
My female partner and I are together for three years. We are both traditional Jews.
I keep the Shabbat as much as I can. I don't travel in a car on Shabbat, but I do use the cellular phone and the computer a little bit. I hope to eventually become stronger in my Shabbat observance with G-d's help.
About two weeks ago, my partner and I started talking about getting married and discussed which wedding hall to use.
Over the last few days, I decided that I want to have separate dancing for men and women at the wedding. My younger brother is very knowledgeable in Torah, and he sat down and showed me how severe the transgression of mixed dancing is. Even though I would much prefer mixed dancing, I decided that at my wedding, I want to please Hashem and do His will, and have separate dancing no matter what anyone says including my girlfriend.
My girlfriend is not willing to even entertain the idea of separate dancing. She won't hear about it and is threatening to end our relationship if I don't change my mind.
What should I do?
LETTER FROM THE BRIDE
Dear Honored Rabbi,
This is the question of my life. I have a boyfriend for the past three years and two weeks ago, he proposed to me. We are both secular Jews. We don't keep Shabbat. He doesn't keep kosher, for example, he mixes milk with meat.
It was clear all along that our wedding would be a regular wedding with mixed men and women's dancing. Out of the clear blue, my boyfriend came up with a decision that there would be separate men and women's dancing at the wedding.
I do not like this at all, nor do I agree to it. I have dreamt about the way I want my wedding to be, and have no desire for it to take on this form. I have faith in G-d and respect Judaism, but do not want to accept something so drastic against my will.
What disturbs me most is that he went ahead and made this huge decision, that he himself doesn't really identify with. I decided that if he continues to insist that there be no mixed dancing, I will be forced to end our relationship and call off the wedding.
He is very dear to me and I love him deeply, but I will not get married with separate dancing.
What should I do? Is that OK for him to decide something against his own practice, and against my will? Am I supposed to go ahead and get married despite his decision?
I would appreciate your urgent attention in this matter.
Yeshivat Bet El's Web Rabbi who is in charge of answering internet inquiries from secular Israelis wrote one warm and encouraging letter to both the bride and groom. In the end, they got married with separate dancing, and it turned out to be very successful.
The couple continues to advance in embracing their Jewish identity. They were in touch with the Bet El Yeshiva's Web Rabbi again over problems that arose with their parents. The Rabbi advised them on this issue as well, and today they maintain excellent relations with both sets of parents.
Visit the English pages of Yeshiva.org.il