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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
Torah Tidbits Audio
David Wilder was born in New Jersey in the USA in 1954, and graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a BA in History and teacher certification in 1976. He spent 1974-75 in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University and returned to Israel upon graduation.
For over eighteen years David Wilder has worked with the Jewish Community of Hebron. He is the English spokesman for the community, granting newspaper, television and radio interviews internationally. He initiated the Hebron internet project, including email lists of over 15,000 subscribers who receive regular news and commentaries from Hebron in English and Hebrew. David is responsible and continues to update the Hebron web sites, portraying various facets of Hebron, utilizing text, audio, video and pictures. He conducts tours of Hebron's Jewish Community and occasionally travels abroad, speaking at Hebron functions.
David Wilder is married to Ora, a 'Sabra,' for 33 years. They lived in Kiryat Arba for 17 years and have resided at Beit Hadassah in Hebron for the past 14 years. They have seven children and many grandchildren.
Links to sites David recommends:
(others to be added)
Iyar 16, 5773, 4/26/2013
Yesterday I heard a radio program about the upcoming holiday, on Saturday night and Sunday, Lag B’Omer. Part of the traditional celebration includes singing and Torah-talk around large bonfires. A question was posed as to why we light these bonfires.
Again, traditionally, this is supposedly the day that the great Rabbi, Shimon Bar Yochai died, some 2,000 years ago. He is buried in the northern city of Meron, and tens and hundreds of thousands of people flock to that site for this event.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, or Rashbi, as he is known, was the author of the Zohar, the source of what is called ‘Jewish mysticism.’ Actually, the word is misleading. People don’t learn this, wiggle their noses and make people disappear. These teachings deal with the inner workings of Torah, and includes very holy thoughts and ideas. There are those who think that ‘Kabbalah’ as it is called, is very easy and an open subject to study. In reality, it is very deep and very sacred, and also very difficult to comprehend, in an authentic manner.
Rashbi was a very holy man, and the revelations he brought to us, thousands of years ago, are still studied today. On Lag B’Omer, we celebrate Rashbi and his teachings.
However, there are those who say that this day is not when Rashbi died. Rather, the story is more like this.
His primary teacher was perhaps the greatest scholar who lived, that being Rabbi Akiva. He is well-known as a person, who, up to the age of 40 did not know how to read or write. Only after marrying did he leave to study Torah, and after 24 years, was known as a Torah sage par excellence. He lived during the time of the Roman conquest, and was a primary backer of the Bar Kochva revolt, which failed, and left tens of thousands dead. Rabbi Akiva himself was put to death for teaching Torah to the masses.
It’s written that Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 students, all of whom were killed during the revolt. Only five remained. One of them was the renowned Rashbi, who was ordained by Rabbi Akiva. That ordination took place, most likely, on Lag B’Omer. In other words, on this day, we celebrate the continuation of Torah, the flame which the Romans tried to extinguish, but were not able to.
In other words, actually Lag b’Omer is a celebration of light, a celebration of Torah, of renewal, of continuation, of success against all odds, a celebration of sanctity.
This is why, I believe, we light bonfires on this special day, to radiate light.
In a week and a half, Hebron will celebrate another festive event, very much related to all of the above. On Thursday, the 29th day of Iyar (9/5) Rabbi Moshe Levinger will be presented with the Lion of Zion Moskowitz Prize for life achievement.
Rabbi Moshe Levinger fits all of the expressions of celebration just conveyed.
First, and foremost, Rav Levinger is a true Torah scholar. As a principal student of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt”l, Rav Levinger studied and later disseminated the teachings of this teachers’ father, Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook, one of the most profound and important teachers of the past century.
Following the Six-Day War, Rabbi Levinger was sent to undertake a project only dreamt about, that being the renewal of a Jewish community in Hebron. Together with his wife Miriam, who has stood by him as his ‘right-hand man’ for decades, the Levingers arrived in Hebron for Passover in 1968. And they’ve been here ever since.
At the forefront of the ‘settlement movement’ Gush Emunim, bringing Jews back to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and the undisputed leader of the newly established Kiryat Arba, and later in the city of Hebron itself, Rabbi Levinger succeeded against all odds. The 1979 move of women and children into Beit Hadassah was led by the Levingers, and together with other very courageous and holy souls, brought Jews back to the city of Abraham.
In the space of a short article, it isn’t possible to enumerate all the trials and tribulations, as well as all the accomplishments of Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Levinger. But what is overtly clear is that their fortitude, their faith, and their actions, have unalterably changed Jewish history. Their unadulterated love for Israel, all facets of Israel: Torah, the people of Israel, and perhaps first and foremost, Eretz Yisrael, can only be described as a beacon, not of light, but of a laser beam, penetrating the hearts and souls of millions around the world, and bringing people back home, to the heartland of our nation, to Hebron.
In recent years Rabbi Levinger’s health hasn’t been great. A stroke left him partially paralyzed. But, the giant that he is, such medical issues do not prevent him from continuing to study and teach Torah. Every day, despite the difficulty, he walks up the long stairs to pray morning prayers at Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
When Rabbi Akiva came home, after 24 years of Torah study, his wife Rachel ran to him and fell at his feet. The Rabbi’s students, seeing an impoverished woman at their master’s feet, tried to move her away. Rabbi Akiva stopped them, saying to them, ‘this is Rachel, my wife. All that is mine and yours, is hers.
So too we can say about Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Levinger: Without their dedication, example, and dauntless endurance, where would we be today?
All that is ours, is theirs.
Iyar 13, 5773, 4/23/2013
Last December I wrote an article about Beit Ezra – the Ezra House – here in Hebron.
“Presently, there is no doubt whatsoever that this is Jewish land, and that there are no real, justifiable, legal Arab claims to this property. However, the State Attorney General’s office has decided that Arabs who lived on this land which they stolen from Jews have ‘protected resident status’ and refuse to allow Hebron’s Jewish community to utilize the property. This, despite a ruling by an Israeli military judicial panel of three judges which concluded that there is a firm legal basis to allow the Hebron Jewish Community to utilize this land.”
A few days ago, one family moved out. Another family sealed off two rooms of their home. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the buildings be emptied by April 24. They did not require the government to fulfill the other half of the original commission’s conclusions: that the buildings be transferred to Hebron’s Jewish community for public use, such as a nursery school or kindergarten.
So, as with other Jewish property in Hebron, these structures remain vacant. They can be added to a long list: Beit HaShalom, Beit HaMachpela, Beit Shapira, ‘the Shuk,’ aka, the Shalhevet neighborhood, to start with.
There are a number of points which must be stressed:
We hope and pray that Beit Ezra will not remain an empty shell for very long, and that soon we will celebrate it redemption, here in Hebron. A few days ago Minister Naftali Bennett, following government approval of the ‘Open Skies’ program, was quoted as saying that the government had ‘passed its first test.’ So perhaps Beit Ezra is its second test?
Iyar 4, 5773, 4/14/2013
Late last week my wonderful wife of almost 34 years attended a mini-high school reunion.
Ora grew up in Givatayim, on the border of Tel Aviv, in a ‘traditional’ Jewish family. Many Jewish customs were followed, but they weren’t religiously observant, or Orthodox. She attended regular public school.
Nisan 20, 5773, 3/31/2013
Passover's Eternal Flame
This time of the year is always special. Spring is arriving, the weather becoming really beautiful, and lots and lots of people in Hebron.
Hebron’s Passover celebration included, this year, well over 50,000 people. Wednesday and Thursday were the ‘big days’ with all of Ma’arat HaMachpela open to Jewish visitors, including the Isaac Hall, open to us only 10 days a year.
Thursday’s music festival didn’t leave any of the tens of thousands disappointed. The shows began at 12:30 in the afternoon and continued until almost 7:30, when Lipa Schmeltzer put on a show never to be forgotten. First he sang and danced a duet with Chaim Yisrael, and then continued by himself. It was a huge amount of fun.
As were the children’s events, tours, and just seeing so many wonderful people walking the streets of Hebron’s Jewish community, following in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah, King David, and multitudes of Jews over the centuries.
That having been said, I must admit that, with all its energy and fun, and as much as I look forward to and enjoy these days, this year, my favorite event didn’t occur in Hebron.
Those of you who have read these articles over the years may remember numerous essays about Gush Katif. My favorite place in Gush Katif was, as I described it many times, the Garden of Eden in Gaza, a community called Kfar Darom. My family vacationed there several summers, having befriended a delightful family, who had adopted my oldest daughter, Bat-tzion, when she spent her year of volunteer service there.
Several articles featured the Sudri family, and among others, their oldest daughter, Tamar.
The last time I wrote about her was a few years ago, after her marriage to a wonderful man named Oneg. A couple of years ago they had their first child, a little girl.
Last week, Tamar gave birth to their first boy. Today was his ‘brit’ – circumcision. A few of us from Hebron traveled an hour and a quarter, south, to the festivity.
After the destruction and expulsion from Kfar Darom, the Sudri family was moved to an apartment building in Ashkelon. From a nice house, to an apartment. Not great, but ‘temporary.’
Honestly, I don’t remember how long they were there. Many too many years. The new homes in a new community, as they’d been promised, never materialized. About two years ago they finally received a ‘kara-villa- that is, a so-called fancy mobile home, outside a community called Nir Akiva, east of Gaza, near Netivot and Beer Sheva. The called the new community Shavei Darom, ‘Returning South.’
Speaking to one of the men there this morning, I asked about permanent housing. He pointed in the direction of a big empty area, and said, ‘there.’ “Has anything started, any building?” He shook his head no. “When?” He just shrugged his shoulders.
I get very emotional at Gush Katif – Kfar Darom events. They bring back many many memories. I walked into the small synagogue and immediately noticed the plaque on the wall. I remembered it from the Kfar Darom synagogue. A memorial sign, for those people from the community, killed there by terrorists.
On another wall, letters spelling out ‘Kfar Darom, M’az u’le’tamid’ –‘ Kfar Darom, from then and forever.’ Including, of course, photos of the community sites and people.
The baby’s brit didn’t take too much time. A great grandfather held the infant, who was named Tzvi. Afterwards, we participated in the festive meal, before heading back to Hebron.
Before the meal I asked Tamar’s mother who the baby was named for and she didn’t know. I mentioned, ‘well, Eretz Yisrael is compared to a Tzvi – a deer, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what’s behind the name. That would be fitting of Tamar. Later, when Oneg spoke, he did say that one of the reasons for the name was the idea I’d spoken of.
Actually, as much as I enjoyed seeing my friends, the Sudris, and participating in the celebration, my real focus was on Tamar. I’d known her since she was a little girl and had witnessed her evolvement through the most horrible events that can be imagined. Rocket attacks, terror attacks, culminating in expulsion.
I’ve seen her every once in a while, but this was special, seeing her with her husband and two small children. She glowed, radiating joy.
How? How does one reach such bliss with so many scars?
The answer, I think, is not difficult to fathom. We are in the midst of the Passover holiday, celebrating the exodus from Egypt. Jews had been enslaved for hundreds of years, had almost entirely lost their Jewish identity, having assimilated into the Egyptian culture. Yet they never gave up hope of redemption, and the Divine hand of G-d did redeem them, removing them from foreign bondage with miracles galore.
That is, in brief, the history of the Jewish people, time and time again. Could anyone have imagined that three years after a holocaust, the Jewish people would be able to found a State and victoriously fight a war of independence?
That flow of optimism, being able to see the light, even in the darkest of rooms, keeps us going; that’s what, I believe, keeps Tamar going. We all blessed the family that their next simcha – celebration, should take place back in Kfar Darom, including Tzvi’s Bar Mitzva and wedding.
And it will happen. We will go back to Kfar Darom, and Netzarim, and Neve Dekalim and all the other communities destroyed, they will be rebuilt and repopulated, they will grow and thrive, it will happen. Just as we were redeemed from Egypt – will will go back home to Kfar Darom.
Seeing Tamar, with her husband Oneg and their two small children – this is the eternal flame, this is the result of what happened some 3,300 years ago, that we still celebrate today.
This is what made this year’s Passover special for me.
Nisan 9, 5773, 3/20/2013
Late this morning I made my way from our offices in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to Beit Hadassah, a few minutes away, to speak with a group there. Being a few minutes early, I first went upstairs to my home. Coming downstairs, ten minutes later, a friend asked if I was going to film the ‘balagan’ outside in the street. What balagan (disturbances) I asked. “A march, with Arabs and palestinian flags, right here on the street.”