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      The Eye of the Storm
      by Batya Medad
      A Unique Perspective by Batya Medad of Shiloh
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      Batya Medad made aliya from New York to Israel in 1970 and has been living in Shiloh since 1981. Recently she began organizing women's visits to Tel Shiloh for Psalms and prayers. (For more information, please email her.)  Batya is a newspaper and magazine columnist, a veteran jblogger and recently stopped EFL teaching.  She's also a wife, mother, grandmother, photographer and HolyLand hitchhiker, always seeing things from her own very unique perspective. For more of Batya's writings and photos, check out:

      Shiloh Musings



      Iyar 13, 5769, 5/7/2009

      "Light Unto The Nations"

      People love to rationalize that we must adhere to all sorts of "moral standards," because they claim that we're supposed to be a "Light Unto The Nations."

      If so, do it properly. Be a "sun" and not a "moon." Israeli politicians like Israel's President and veteran politician Shimon Peres haven't a clue as to what the true Jewish Light is. You can see/hear it in his fawning attitude towards the United States. He's speaking like a moon, not a sun with its own light source.

      If we acted like a sun, following Judaism, rather than fad of the day philosophies and the world's public opinion, we'd be a genuine light to the nations.

      "Light" in this context is leadership, and leadership means that we use our needs and sources to make decisions. We shouldn't look for anybody's approval but G-d's.

      Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, ZaTzaL, used light as his main image in Orot Hakodesh, Holy Lights.

      If you desire, human being, look at the light of God's Presence in everything.
      Look at the Eden of spiritual life, at how it blazes into each corner and crevice of life, spiritual and of this world, right before your eyes of flesh and your eyes of soul.
      Gaze at the wonders of creation, at their divine life-not like some dim phenomenon that is placed before your eyes from afar.But know the reality in which you live.
      Know yourself and your world.Know the thoughts of your heart, and of all who speak and think.
      Find the source of life inside you, higher than you, around you. [Find] the beautiful ones alive in this generation in whose midst you are immersed.
      The love within you: lift it up to its mighty root, to its beauty of Eden.
      Send it spreading out to the entire flood of the soul of the Life of worlds, Whose light is reduced only by incapable human expression.
      Gaze at the lights, at what they contain.
      Do not let the Names, phrases and letters swallow up your soul.
      They have been given over to you.
      You have not been given over to them.Rise up.
      Rise up, for you have the power.
      You have wings of the spirit, wings of powerful eagles.
      Do not deny them, or they will deny you.
      Seek them, and you will find them instantly.
      Orot Hakodesh I, pp. 83-84
      The "light" of Judaism, as described by HaRav Kook is not the light the world is seeing from us today.

      Iyar 11, 5769, 5/5/2009

      Playing With Fire

      For many years, Israeli politicians have been trying verbal acrobatics and contortions, teasing the world with promises to work for a Pseudistinian State, claiming that:

      "No problem. The Arabs will never agree to our conditions."

      "Remember when Ehud Barak was Prime Minister, he offered the Arabs over 90%, and they said no."

      "Don't worry."

      "Trust us."

      Sorry, but I disagree. I consider it playing with fire.

      It reminds of me of the old joke, variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw or Winston Churchill and Lady Astor.

      “My Dear,” said the gentleman to the lady, “would you go to bed with me for a million dollars?”

      “Well, yes, I suppose I would,” she replied.

      “Here’s $100. Let’s go then.”

      “How dare you! What kind of person do you think I am?”

      “My Dear, we have already established that. Now we are merely haggling over the price!”

      And another dangerous game Israel is playing is having a Deputy Foreign Minister, Daniel "Danny" Ayalon, who is married to  an Evangelical Christian.  I wish I was kidding.  Read all about it!

      Iyar 9, 5769, 5/3/2009

      The גר, Gair, Convert or Foreigner/Stranger?

      This has been cross-posted on Shiloh Musings, where there are a number of comments. If you'd like, you can comment on both blogs. And just to remind you, I post much more frequently there.

      This week's Parshat Shavua, Torah Portion of the Week, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20) is chock full of G-d given Mitzvot, Commandments. It's interesting that while many of them concern relations between human beings, the phrase "אֲנִי, יְהוָה," "I am the LORD," is repeated very frequently. IMHO, this is to illustrate that we aren't to look for logical, sociological, biological, health or botanical reasons for these Mitzvot. It's forbidden to search for rationales and excuses to ignore them. In Israel and in the Jewish world, unfortunately, there are periodic reports of Torah, Orthodox converts discovering that other Jews will not recognize or even have "cancelled" their conversions.
      The word of the Beit Din, to consider a person Jewish is a contract, and once it's signed, it's forbidden to change the conditions
      Sometimes Jews who converted with totally sincere intentions and under the supervision of fully Torah observant rabbis, relax their observance post-conversion, just like born Jews whose observance fluctuates throughout life. In this week's Parsha, Torah Portion, there's a sentence which could be considered defense the convert:

      לג וְכִי-יָגוּר אִתְּךָ גֵּר, בְּאַרְצְכֶם--לֹא תוֹנוּ, אֹתוֹ. 33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not do him wrong.
      I like to think of it that way, but I'm troubled by the line which follows:
      לד כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם, וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ--כִּי-גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. 34 The stranger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
      Ironically, when I mentally planned writing about this, I had no doubt that I would use verse 33 to 100% defend the convert. But the qualification in verse 34 makes me wonder. We, the Jewish People, didn't live in Egypt to become Egyptians, nor did the Egyptians treat us well after the initial enthusiastic welcome. Maybe we should delve more deeply in this, as in the "contract" between Pharaoh and Joseph, like the "contract" between a convert and the Beit Din, Rabbinic Court which approves/certifies the conversion. The Egyptians broke the contract when they made us slaves. That aspect makes sense, when you read the next two verses:
      לה לֹא-תַעֲשׂוּ עָוֶל, בַּמִּשְׁפָּט, בַּמִּדָּה, בַּמִּשְׁקָל וּבַמְּשׂוּרָה. 35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. לו מֹאזְנֵי צֶדֶק אַבְנֵי-צֶדֶק, אֵיפַת צֶדֶק וְהִין צֶדֶק--יִהְיֶה לָכֶם: אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר-הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. 36 Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
      Yes, that must be it. The word of the Beit Din, to consider a person Jewish is a contract, and once it's signed, it's forbidden to change the conditions.

      Iyar 6, 5769, 4/30/2009

      Finding G-d In Israel's Independence

      As a religious Jew, I see/recognize the Hand of G-d in everything. Most religious people have the same attitude, unless they're just going throught the motions.

      To me there's a fundamental irony, or even hypocrasy in the attitude of Chareidi Jews who refuse to thank G-d and celebrate the fact that Sixty One Years ago, the Zionist leadership dared to declare a Jewish State. You may notice that I put "Jewish" in italics. Because, yes, I recognize that the state is imperfect, far from authentically Jewish. But that's the fault of the religious establishment in 1948 and to this day, both the Mizrachi (NRP) and Agudat Yisrael, because they relegated themselves, ghettoized, restricted their government involvement to their separate school systems and the religious establishment. They should have made efforts to be involved in every aspect of the country's development including, agriculture, military, entertainment and televison when it came to Israel.

      Judaism demands constant striving for improvement, for Tshuva, Repentance. We must never accept status quo as permanent, engraved in stone. And we must never give up our struggles to make our country, better, stronger, more self-reliant and independent. The Declaration signed sixty-one years ago just heralded a new begining, not an end.


      We must thank G-d for it and ask Him for the strength we need to continue and make Israel a more Jewish State.


      Iyar 4, 5769, 4/28/2009

      The Empty Chair, Israel's Memorial Day

      I left a bit late to get to the ceremony at the cemetery this morning. The siren began, and I stood still. I looked around. Everyone stopped whatever they had been doing. People stepped out of their cars. Tractor drivers got down from their tractors, as you can see in the picture.
      The cemetery was full of people sitting and standing during the memorial ceremony. The graves in this picture are mostly of old people who died from "natural causes."
      I never like photographing my neighbors during such events. I try to be discreet.

       We've adopted the custom of reading T'hillim, Psalms, of the letters of the soldiers and terror victims' names at each grave. I stood with the parents of someone buried in a different cemetery. We found ourselves standing around an empty chair. It spooked me. An empty chair, such a simple and direct symbol of their dead son.

      Hashem Yinkom Damom