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The Week In News

APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home

APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News

Let’s make a KABBALAH for





The Week In News

APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home




Dear Readers, We all have our complaints about the mainstream media and its obsession with negative stories, creating a feeling that that is all that is going on around us. However, the question is which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is the media creating an atmosphere in which we enjoy and look for the next person who falters or is the media sharing stories people are looking for? The reality is that we’ll find what we look for. If we believe that humans are ultimately selfish and self-centered then that’s what we’ll see. If, however, we acknowledge that indeed we were created that way but we can and do rise above it, then that’s what we’ll come across. The choice is up to us. The menuchas hanefesh this brings us and our families is the cherry on the top. Instead of seeing every story in negative light, we’ll look a little deeper and see the good within. Lag Ba’omer is the perfect time to try this out; let’s be uninterested in gossip and negative news bites and instead be on the lookout for random acts of goodness and kindness happening all around us. We may just discover a whole different reality! May the z’chus of Rebi Shimon Bar Yochai help protect all Yidden and indeed all nations of the world, ushering us into a time when the occupation of all will be to know our Creator. Wishing you a joyous Lag Ba’omer and a wonderful Shabbos,


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The WeekCorner In News Sarah's

APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home

From Head to Heart Sarah Pachter

“The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.” Andrew Bennett While jogging with my son one morning I asked him if he thought I should accept a lecture opportunity I’d been offered. My dilemma? Time. My children (nursing baby included) and prior commitments required so much from me that I didn’t know if I could take on even one more task. I was surprised by the maturity of his response. “Mom, you are always doing for everyone else. You haven’t accepted a speech in ages. Do something for yourself now. I’ll help you. Tell me your shiur.” Even though we usually try to tell each other at least one “deep idea” or Torah story during our jogs, I was taken aback and touched by his willingness to help and discuss Torah for longer. And so, we began. We are currently counting the Omer and I’d like to propose a question. What was the purpose of the Jewish nation’s exodus from Egypt? Was it simply to escape slavery? The true reason for leaving Egypt was to receive the Torah (The Book of Our Heritage, p. 680). If the whole purpose of the Pesach experience is to reach Shavuot and receive the Torah, then the procession of the holidays is strange. Shouldn’t Pesach be immediately followed by Shavuot? Instead, between Pesach and Shavuot, we “count the Omer.” “Omer’’ refers to the korban omer, a particular sacrifice brought onto the mizbe’ach on the second day of Pesach. If the sacrifice was brought on one day, why does “counting the Omer” take 49 days? Life Lessons Famous commentaries tell us that Egypt

and the exodus are compared to the three stages of life: Egypt, slavery, is compared to pregnancy, with the splitting of the sea being its culmination, the birth of the Jews. Our years in the desert are compared to our childhood. Receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai is when we reached adulthood. In Egypt, we were slaves to Paroh. He worked us day and night with backbreaking labor. We were whipped for the slightest error. We were sleep deprived, working early in the morning until late at night. And this slavery lasted so many years that we never thought it would come to an end… Some readers might ask, Isn’t pregnancy a wonderful time of life where everything is perfect? I’m sure it is for some people, but from first-hand experience I can tell you that pregnant women experience backbreaking labor, often feel like a punching bag, and are sleep deprived. And just like the Jews never thought their condition would end, I am telling you there was a time during the ninth month where I literally did not think the baby would ever arrive! Not everyone has such a difficult pregnancy, but you can begin to see why the commentaries make that analogy. At the end of pregnancy comes birth. So too, Hashem split the sea suddenly and led the Jews from a place of water into a dry land. We then spent years in the desert. The desert was this magical place where every need, whim, and desire of the Jewish people was fulfilled. Every morning the Jews in the desert would wake up bright and early, opening our front door to discover a fabulous breakfast buffet called mann right on our doorstep. Mann was white (similar to the milk fed to a baby) and found under the morning dew. It would taste like anything our heart desired. And

unlike food which, after our body processes the nutrients, ends up eventually as waste, the mann had no excess. The Jews didn’t produce ANY bodily waste the entire time they were in the desert! We didn’t have to worry about making a living, buying or cooking food, paying rent, or buying or laundering clothing… Hashem took care of this all. We had NO responsibilities...just like children. Eventually, though, every child must grow up and become an adult. At Mt. Sinai we received and accepted Torah. It was a huge honor but also a huge responsibility. Adulthood After receiving everything from G-d, now the Jewish people had to keep mitzvot. A huge responsibility rested on our shoulders. Human beings can’t go from being a newborn to adulthood in one second. As we matured, we began to realize that Hashem did all that feeding and cleaning and housing for use in the desert for us! We said, “You did all this for me? Now what can I do for You?” The Omer period helps us develop those feelings of appreciation and responsibility. Where is the first place in the Torah that the word “Omer” is mentioned? It’s when God first introduces the mann. This is the thing that the Lord has commanded, Gather of it each one according to his eating capacity, an omer for each person, according to the number of persons, each one for those in his tent you shall take. (Shemot 16:16) He gave us an omer worth of manna, a specific measure of it.

As children we received the mann in the desert. Then, we as adults gave back an amount of barley of the same measure as a sacrifice on the mizbe’ach each year on the second day of Pesach. Pesach is a time in which it’s relatively easy to see that G-d runs the world due to the plagues and the miracles at the Sea. Sure, we planted the grain, tended it, and harvested it, but we know the barley in the Omer offering really belongs to G-d. At least, we know it intellectually. However, the heart may take a bit longer to catch up--49 times longer. And at the end of that process, we’ll have a “lev tov,” a “good heart.” Incidentally, “lev tov” has the gematria of 49. I try to keep this in mind when raising my children because the time it takes for them to link their actions with life’s natural consequences seem to take forever. But then, when you see moments of supreme maturity in your child like my sons on our jog, your heart swells and you realize how the message of life has reached their heart. Of course it is not just children who take time turning inspiration to dedication. Our inner child struggles as well. We often know and desire to do the right thing, but developing the ability to concretize that desire takes time and patience. As we count the Omer this year, let’s use it to turn our hearts in the directions that our minds know we should go--towards G-d and His Torah.



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By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home

Recipe for Happiness

Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman

Last week, someone wrote me an email asking how we can be happy in such unsettled times. How can we be expected to smile as we live in a country where the administration seems set on destroying the country? How can we be happy when Jews are getting beat up in Eretz Yisroel? How can we be happy when there are agunos and singles and so many tzaros? How can we be happy when there is acrimony and hatred? This is my answer. Sort of, anyway. This week’s parsha introduces us to the mitzvah of counting 49 days from Pesach until Shavuos. The posuk (23:10) states the obligation, on the second day of Pesach, to bring to the kohein “omer reishis ketzirchem,” an omer amount of the first barley of the season. The posuk (23:15) states the mitzvah of counting seven weeks from the day of the omer offering and then commands us to bring a minchas bikkurim of wheat at the culmination of the count. After discussing the other korbanos that are brought along with the shtei halechem, the Torah (23:22) says that the day that korban is brought is mikra kodesh, a holiday, during which it is prohibited to do labor. The Maharal in Tiferes Yisroel (25) discusses why the initial offering is of barley and the one that marks the culmination of the count is of wheat. Interestingly, the Torah does not give a name to the korban that is brought on the second day of Pesach. It also does not refer to the counting period as Sefiras Ha’omer. And there is no name given for the Yom Tov that is celebrated at the end of the count. The Tur (Orach Chaim 493) compares the seven weeks of counting we refer to as Sefiras Ha’omer to the seven years of counting of Shmittah and Yovel. He cites an ancient custom to refrain from work in the evenings between Pesach and Shavu-

os based on this comparison. Just as it is forbidden to work the land during Shmittah, so would people refrain from work at the time the counting is supposed to take place. The comparison to the counting of Shmittah and Yovel bears a deeper understanding. Based on the Maharal (ibid.), we can explain that at the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim, we had just been freed. Krias Yam Suf was an essential component of the founding of our nation. The revelation of Hashem’s glory elevated and sanctified us. Thus, we bring a korban of barley, which is animal feed, to signify that when we began the journey one day after leaving Mitzrayim, we were at a very low spiritual

hein a korban of wheat, which is human food, because we have fulfilled the destiny for which man was created and earned the Torah. When you look at a cake recipe, you see a list of ingredients, but from reading the list, you cannot figure out how to bake the cake. You have to read the amounts that are required of each ingredient and the instructions of how to mix them. Usually, a recipe also tells you how long the process takes. There are no shortcuts. If you leave something out, or mix ingredients in the wrong order, or rush the baking process, your cake will be a flop. If you want a cake that you will be able to enjoy, you have to put in the extra effort to follow instructions and properly execute

How can we be happy? How can we not be happy? level. Gilui Shechinah and Mattan Torah created people, elevating human beings to their highest form. We count 49 days, and on each day we raise ourselves one more level from where we were during the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim. By the time we reach the culmination of the count, we are expected to have achieved the level necessary for accepting the Torah, which was given to our people on the day the seven-week count ends. Hence the name of that day. We refer to it as “Shavuos,” meaning weeks, because we counted for seven weeks, and each day we perfected another of the attributes necessary for acquiring Torah. Thus, at the end of the seven weeks, we offer the ko-

every step. After having done so, you will able to remove your finished product from the oven and enjoy it. The korban we bring at the outset of the count has no biblical name. Rather, it is referred to by the measurement of barley it consists of, namely an omer. The period of counting is not given a name, nor is the Yom Tov that celebrates the end of the count, because the entire period is about counting and about measurements, omer and shavuos. It’s about measuring up. It’s a progression. Raw materials that have yet to be defined are mixed and purified to perfection. Ingredients take shape and become a product. In order to acquire the Torah and reach

the level of perfection that Hashem intended for us, we have to be exacting in the counting and measuring. There are no shortcuts. There must be an omer and there must be seven weeks of daily steps. Anything less invalidates the process. We call the seven-week period following Pesach “Sefiras Ha’omer” and we call the Yom Tov at the end of the count “Shavuos,” literally weeks, to signify that we used every day of that time to perfect our middos and measurements and make ourselves worthy of the Torah. Some years back, an aged Russian woman arrived in Israel along with the millions of Jews who took advantage of the opening of the Iron Curtain to make their way to the Promised Land. A brilliant woman and former math professor, as she got acclimated to the new country, she began telling people that she was a granddaughter of the Chofetz Chaim. A minor commotion was created in the media, and upon hearing about her, the religious grandchildren of the Chofetz Chaim began traveling to her to hear her memories of their holy grandfather. The famed rosh yeshiva Rav Hillel Zaks, whose mother was the Chofetz Chaim’s daughter, went to see her and took along Rav Shimshon Pincus, who later recounted the conversation. The secular woman recalled that as a young girl, she had read works of the Maskilim and, like many others of her time, was drawn by them and fell under their spell. Slowly, she gave up religion and told her parents that she was going to study in a university. They begged her to visit her grandfather, the Chofetz Chaim, prior to enrolling, thinking that perhaps it would save her. This is how she repeated their conversation: “Zaide,” she told him, brimming with youthful enthusiasm, coming from the big, modern city of Warsaw, “you have to step out of your dark little shtetel and discover the bright new world. You’ll see that it’s a new era. Technology and science are creating a new reality. Zaide, you have to let go of your old-fashioned ideas and get with the times. Soak in the excitement and learn of the many possibilities that exist in today’s world.” She recounted that the Chofetz Chaim told her, “Tochterel, I want you to know this: With their innovations and inventions, they will one day reach a point where they

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APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home

make a bomb that will kill thousands of people. Ubber mir machen mentchen. Mir machen mentchen. Do you hear? We are making people. We work to improve people. They will destroy people.” Torah makes people, refining and raising humanity. When Shavuos arrives, we achieve our freedom. Ein lecha ben chorin ela mi she’oseik baTorah. The ultimate freedom belongs to those who live according to the Torah. At Mattan Torah, we attained the pinnacle of our existence, having reached the plateau Hashem intended when He created the world, bishvil Yisroel shenikre’u reishis and bishvil haTorah shenikreis reishis, for the sake of the Torah and the sake of Yisroel, who, upon creation, were both referred to as “beginning.” A beginning is a spark that contains potential and hope for the future. The creation of the world and the establishment of Klal Yisroel were just the start of a process. At Har Sinai, the potential was realized, when the children of the avos became the Bnei Yisroel. When we reenact the climb every year during this period, we achieve the level Hashem intended for us. We can now understand the Tur’s comparison of the counting of the seven weeks to the counting of Shmittah and Yovel. That count leads to Yovel, the celebration of freedom, just as this one does. When we think of Sefirah, we think of the simonei aveilus we follow in memory of Rabi Akiva’s 24,000 students who perished during this period. There is no better example of the process that demonstrates that through toil, ameilus and work man can remake himself. Rabi Akiva was the personification of man’s potential and ability to grow through Torah. People can raise themselves, no matter how humble their beginnings, and reach the highest level. Rabi Akiva began his climb as a lowly shepherd. At his apex, he was the shoresh of Torah Shebaal Peh. Rabi Akiva demonstrated that man can begin from the level the Bnei Yisroel were on at Yetzias Mitzrayim. By working on improving himself step by step, Rabi Akiva was able to rise, level by level, until he reached the level of Kabbolas HaTorah. If we understand the connection between Shmittah and these seven weeks, perhaps we would better appreciate our avodah during this period. We are taught that the punishment for failing to count the years of Shmittah and abstaining from working the fields during the years of Shmittah and Yovel is to be separated from the land. The Sefer Hachinuch (mitzvah 84) writes that the purpose of Shmittah is to remember that Hashem created the land and causes it to grow and give forth fruit.

Similarly, if we wish to grow, develop and thrive, we need to “work the land” during this time to remember that Hashem created us, and the world, for a reason. We need to use these days to improve ourselves and our middos, which are the foundation of Torah. We need to appreciate the gifts Hashem has given us and recognize the purpose for which we were created. That is our specific task during these seven weeks leading up to the day of Kabbolas HaTorah. There are no secrets and no shortcuts. You have to measure up, Mishnah by Mishnah, daf by daf. Rabi Akiva (Pesochim 49b) said about himself that when he was still an ignorant am haaretz, his hatred of a talmid chochom was such that “If I saw a talmid chochom, I wished to bite him like a donkey (which hurts more than a dog’s bite).” Yet, just as water bores a hole in a rock through persistence and consistency, Torah penetrates the soul. Rabi Akiva became the paradigm of Torah study and was the link in transmitting Torah to 24,000 talmidim. Sadly, they were not able to maintain the 48 levels necessary for the acquisition of Torah, and since they failed in their mission, they were taken from this world. We mourn them until today as a reminder to ourselves of the levels man can reach. We celebrate Rabi Akiva and his talmid, Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai, and focus on the need to constantly measure up or, chas veshalom, lose the ability to be sustained in this world, which was created for Klal Yisroel and the Torah. Just as a skilled farmer uses the dirt, the chaff, the sun and the shade to produce delicious fruit and nutritious grains, the Torah takes all of man’s various qualities and elevates them. Man is complex. But life is a process. These weeks, we are given directions to refine ourselves and we are provided with an example: If an unlearned shepherd was able to master the levels of middos, reaching the zenith of creation and experiencing the cheirus of Yovel, then each and every one of us can do so as well. We mourn the tragedy of those who grew in his shadow but could not be lights on their own and fell before the challenge of rising to the next level. In the fires of Lag Ba’omer, we see 24,000 lives consumed and their tremendous potential cut short, but we also see the fuel of rebirth, a bright light showing us the way. With the strains of music playing in the background, we offer our tefillos that we merit counting each day, making each day count, using it as intended, to climb the ladder, rung by rung, to eternity. In Parshas Emor, we are given snapshots of the most glorious days of the year. In it, we hear echoes of the shofar, the awe

of Yom Kippur, and the soft fragrance of the esrog. We are reminded of Pesach, which, though it feels like it was long ago, was only four weeks in the rearview mirror. We experience the joys, relive the holiness with which the special days infuse us, and are reminded once again of our exalted status and potential for greatness. Yomim Tovim grant us joy, infuse us with energy, and enable us to go about the mundane period until the next Yom Tov. My dear friend, Mr. Julius Klugman, would go to Eretz Yisroel every Sukkos. One year, he asked Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach how the Torah can command a person to be b’simcha on Sukkos. “Is there a button we can push to experience joy?” he asked. “I don’t understand the question,” Rav Shach told him. “How can a person say the words ‘Atah vechartanu mikol ho’amim’ and not feel joyous?” Examine the world. Appreciate the infinite genius in the workings of every organ of the human body. Glance at the animal kingdom and all the different animals and

how each was formed to be able to live the life set out for it. Take a look at the world of insects, millions of tiny species, and their distinct lives. Look at the sea and the fishes of all sizes and ponder how they got there. See how each species was formed differently to be able to exist and flourish in its place in the vast sea. Take a leisurely stroll in a botanical garden and ponder the glory and beauty of the hundreds of grasses, trees and flowers and you will quickly conclude that there is no way that any of them came into being by themselves. They were created and placed in this wonder world. They were fashioned in a way that each living thing can complete its life span productively on its level. We, too, were created and placed here by the Creator with everything we need to grow and excel. The Creator gave us the Torah, our guide to living the best life possible, a life that is fulfilling, meaningful and happy. Everything is laid out for us. All we have to do is follow its recipes and instructions. How can we be happy? How can we not be happy?



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THE AGES Tour Guide Ruchama Alter Walks Us Back Through Time in the Holy City BY BAILA ROSENBAUM


most of the year, the sleepy little town of Meron, with less than a thousand residents, sits among the mountains and valleys of the Upper Galilee, figuratively minding its own business. But on the 33rd day of the Omer, its quiet, sun-filled streets are met with an explosion of chassidim, tourists, students, voyeurs, and worshippers. On Lag B’Omer, the town of Meron is the place to be. Har Meron hosts hundreds of thousands, who come to celebrate the waning of the Omer and to recognize the yahrtzeit of the great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. What draws 300,000 to 400,000 people to travel from across the country and around the world to this ancient mountaintop to participate in its famous bonfire? Who was Rabbi Shimon and how did he impact the Jewish world stage, to the extent that his death, almost 2,000 years ago, has become the focus of a renowned pilgrimage? To get some answers, I connected with Ruchama Alter, a former Torontonian who has been working as an Israeli tour guide and ed-

ucator for the last twenty years. According to Ruchama, today’s Lag B’Omer celebrations have deep roots that go back to the Bar Kochba rebellion and the resulting events that unfolded with Rome’s conquest of Israel and the Jewish people. More explicitly, she explains, “It’s all because of the Zohar.” The Zohar is attributed by rabbinic scholars to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who wrote it while he hid from the Romans who sought to assassinate him for undermining their oppressive regime. The Roman conquest, and their subsequent rule over Israel, was a bloody and terrifying era in Jewish history. After a period of calm following the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, the Jews started to chafe at the restrictive and vicious rulings of the Roman government. With the famous Bar Kochva in the lead, a guerrilla struggle was launched, and the rebels gained ground. The Jewish army, despite being the weaker power, was able to put up a strong fight and decimated the vast Roman Legions. More support was imported from all the lands

under Emperor Hadrian’s rule, and, as we all know, the Romans ultimately prevailed. There were major losses on both sides with over a half a million people killed. A million Jews were taken into captivity as slaves – historical sources claim that it created such a glut in the Roman slave market that the price of one Jewish slave went for less than the cost of feeding one’s horse for a day. Roman Emperor Hadrian was tired of the lengthy war and followed his victory by imposing harsh and tyrannical laws. He forbade any mention of the name Jerusalem and renamed the city, Aelia Capitolina. Israel became Palestinia. He also forbade Jews from living in Jerusalem and plowed over the Temple Mount. Teaching Torah became a capital offense. How did these events intersect with the life of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai? Rabbi Shimon was one of Rabbi Akiva’s five surviving students who, despite terrible persecutions, endured and labored to make sure that that the Torah would not be forgotten for future generations. He was a

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prominent Talmudic sage whose name and halachic opinions appear frequently throughout the Mishnah and Talmud. The Roman government heard that Rabbi Shimon had criticized the occupying Roman government, and this defiance sealed his fate. He was forced to go into hiding from the authorities who sought to execute him. Together with his son, he hid in a cave in the city of Peki’in for thirteen years. It was during this dangerous time that Rabbi Shimon wrote the Zohar. When Rabbi Shimon emerged from the cave, he witnessed people going about their regular daily activities, planting, sowing, and reaping. The Midrash tells us that he was on so high a spiritual plane that, enraged at the sight of the people around him not involved in Torah-learning, his intense gaze burned them up. He was then instructed from above to return to his cave. When he emerged a year later, he witnessed a man preparing to greet Shabbos with two myrtle branches in his hands, representing the two vital concepts of Shabbos acceptance: shamor

and zachor. He understood that the sowing and reaping of the myrtle branches were acts that elevated the mundane to the spiritual and that, in fact, the regular acts of daily life were essential in serving Hashem. With that epiphany, he was able to move on and function in society. Throughout the ages, the Kabbalah was the property of the elite. Its teachings were transmitted personally and orally from teacher to student. Its study was shrouded in mystery and accessible in private, and only to a very few. Rabbi Shimon’s opus, the Zohar, did not reduce the need for the high spiritual level necessary to understand the Kabbalah, but it provided a text to reference and study. Following their expulsion from Spain in 1492, many Jews returned to Israel and settled in the Galilee. The noted Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (known as “The Ari,” 1534-1572), among other giants in Torah, highlighted the mystical dimension of the Torah found in the Kabbalah and based his teachings on the Zohar. Through the Ari, 16th century Tzfas became the city recog-

nized as the center of Kabbalah. Over a hundred years later, the Baal Shem Tov also based his teachings on the Zohar. His chassidic teachings drew many followers and became the originator of most of the chassiduses that exist today. Though Rabbi Shimon spent his early years in Yavne and Bnei Brak, studying under Rabbi Akiva, he was buried in Meron. Conditions in central Israel were so oppressive after the Roman victory that the Jewish world center moved north to the Galil, to cities like Tzippori, Teveria, Meron, and Tzfas. The Mishna was edited in the Galil, the Yerushalmi Talmud was assembled there, and many famous Taanaim lived, taught, and died in Northern Israel. Rabbi Shimon joined many great men of that era that were interred in the region, including Rav Meir (Baal HaNes), Rabbi Akiva, and Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai who were buried in in Teveria, and Hillel Ha’Zaken who was buried in Meron. Rabbi Shimon died on the 33rd day of the Omer, or Lag B’Omer. It is said that on his deathbed, he shared deep kabbalistic secrets

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 Celebrating Lag B’Omer in Meron, circa 1920s

 The Torah parade on its way to Meron from the Abbo home in 1987

with his students. Today, the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is a time of joyous celebration. It marks the end of a very dark period in Jewish history, one of war and oppression, and of the time that Rabbi Akiva’s many students died, as reflected in the countdown of the Omer. The entire town of Meron on Lag B’Omer is filled with thousands of Jews, singing, dancing, and carrying torches. Bonfires are lit, and people camp out, creating a tent city in what was a quiet, pastoral landscape only days before. The celebration starts in the city of Tzfas in front of an ancient home once owned by a Jew named “Abu.” One-hundred-and-eighty-eight years ago, the whole region surrounding Har Meron was owned by Arabs and inaccessible to Jews. Abu, a rich Jewish government official, purchased Har Meron, and Jews could once again visit the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon. In Abu’s honor, the festivities surrounding Lag B’Omer begin in Tzfas where, carrying a sefer Torah, a procession starts, and convoys of vehicles travel towards Meron. There, three prestigious representatives of the Jewish world, a Chassidic rebbe (customarily the Admor of Boyan), a Sephardi rabbi (two years ago, it was HaRav Amar) and a Mizrachi rabbi (two years ago, it was HaRav Drukman) each light a torch that starts the bonfire. Why bonfires? The fire signifies the light brought into the world through Torah. Rabbi Shimon gave the world spiritual light by writing the Zohar, and bonfires are lit to symbolize the holiness of his teachings.

Ruchama offers another interesting connection relating to bonfires. During the rebellion led by Bar Kochba, guerrilla warfare relied on signals sent by fire to various outposts, and today’s bonfires are reminiscent of that. And we cannot forget how, in the light of the fires of Meron, and amid the tumult and clamor of celebrants, toddler boys are getting

T he celebrat ion st a r t s i n t he c it y of Tzfa s i n f ront of a n a nc ie nt home once ow ned by a Jew na med “Abu.” their first haircuts. According to Ruchama, waiting until the age of three to give a boy his first haircut is an ancient custom. It is rooted in the symbolic concept that, at three years old, when a toddler becomes more aware of the world around him, he can choose to eschew evil, as portrayed by Eisav, the hairy one. Instead, he opts for the good and holy, as portrayed by the smooth-skinned Yaakov. He changes from one disinclined towards Torah learning to one who is.

First haircuts were not always associated with Meron, but in the 16th century, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria brought his son to the grave of Rabbi Shimon for his chaluka, and the custom migrated from its former venue at Shmuel Ha Navi’s gravesite to Rabbi Shimon’s. Last year, the corona pandemic made its mark on Meron, diminishing attendees to mere dozens. But this year, Meron’s distinctive character will be restored. The crowd is expected to be reduced to a mere 200,000 because Lag B’Omer falls on a Friday, which limits travel. In respect for Covid, the government has arranged that the area will be divided into different sections, each one intended to accommodate 10,000 people who will attend in shifts. What will remain the same are the torches, songs, feasting, shorn toddlers, and praises for Rabbi Shimon. Those seeking inspiration, salvation, connection, and joy can still come to the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon to dance and pray, as they have been doing for the last 500 years.

Ruchama Alter is a tour guide, lecturer, and educational consultant on all things Israel. Using her broad knowledge of Israel and its history, Ruchama can customize a live or virtual tour tailored to the needs of her audience. She works with schools, community organizations, synagogues, and private groups to deliver an enriching and memorable Jewish experience. She can be reached at alterbluejay@

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APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home

Miracles From Israel: Biblical Promises Fulfilled By: Cynthia Hannah Reviewed by Sarah Pachter

Miracles From Israel: Biblical Promises Fulfilled by Cynthia Hannah is a must-read. This magnificent book expounds upon Hashem’s blessing and protection over the land of Israel. With its sleek design and large size, you will want it prominently displayed on your coffee table for everyone to peruse. The inside of the book is just as impressive, as it provides an immense amount of information in a compelling manner. Stunning photographs complement Hannah’s writing, making it not only an informative book, but a work of art as well. The book begins with a brief overview of the history of Israel, from Genesis until today. It is laced with direct Torah sources, illustrating remarkable theological proof of Israel’s divinely-given eternal inheritance to the Jewish nation. Two powerful sources worth highlighting is: I will maintain My covenant between Me and you, and your offspring to come, as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, to be G-d to you and your offsprings to come. I assign the Land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of canaan, as an everlasting holding. I will be their G-d.1 “The land that God designated for the Israelite settlement is not a regular piece of land; it is the Land where God chose to establish His name, where His presence on earth would dwell.2 Hannah proceeds to demonstrate how Hashem’s promises are fulfilled through modern day miracles and technological advances from Israeli innovations. One of my favorite sections in the book details Hashem’s continuous protection over Israel. In this section, Hannah lists hundreds of attempted terrorist attacks that were miraculously prevented, many of which are not known to the general public. She then chronologically lists examples and photographic evidence from the


Gen. 17:7-8; Miracles From Israel:

Biblical Promises Fulfilled, Cynthia Hannah, pg. 4


Deut. 16:6; Miracles From Israel:

Biblical Promises Fulfilled, Cynthia Hannah, pg. 9

1300 thwarted terror attacks that were prevented in the year 2018 alone. One memorable page displayed a terrifying picture of a bus aflame with the following description, “Hamas terrorists fired a Kornet anti-tank missile at an unmarked bus carrying IDF soldiers, causing a direct hit and an explosion. Minutes earlier, however, all of the soldiers had departed from the bus, miraculously mitigating what was meant to be a devastating attack.”3 The sheer number of daily miracles listed is both frightening and awe-inspiring. These stories leave the reader with a tremendous sense of gratitude to Israeli Defense Force and Hashem’s divine intervention. The most fascinating part of the book illuminates the innovative medical, humanitarian, and technological advances Israel creates and shares with the world. Each page is more captivating than the last, and will undoubtedly engage all readers. Some notable achievements in one year alone include: Israeli university researchers developing breakthrough medical treatments that include promising therapies in curing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases, alongside discovering biological mechanisms that can reprogram cancer cells into healthy cells, and developing oral insulin pills that will replace painful daily injections for those who suffer with diabetes.4 Israeli innovations that are powering the world of tomorrow, including new technology that drastically reduces disease-carrying mosquitoes responsible for killing a million people worldwide each year, to developing robotic devices that enable wheelchair-bound individuals to stand upright (which was developed by an Israeli who is himself quadriplegic). Israeli humanitarian efforts helping impoverished countries increase their agricultural and food production, to the numerous Israeli medical missions performing life-saving surgeries in rural communities, to Israeli water purification technology helping countries suffering from cholera and water shortages.


Miracles From Israel: Biblical Promises Fulfilled, Cynthia Hannah, pg 72


Miracles From Israel: Biblical Promises Fulfilled, Cynthia Hannah, Pg. 108

with a sense of pride and impressed with Israel’s many diverse accomplishments. It is perhaps from all these accomplishments, which benefit both Israel and other countries, that Israel is ranked one of the happiest countries for the fifth year in a row.6

Israel has the world’s third most educated adult population, the most vegan eaters per capita, and is projected to have the world’s seventh longest life expectancy rate by 20405.

I was thrilled to have had the privilege to read this book. Readers beware: if you don’t already have a deep yearning, this book will compel you to pack your bags and make aliyah immediately. The book concludes with the famous phrase, may we all be blessed with “Leshana Haba B’yerushalayim!”

After reading about these cutting-edge developments, readers will be instilled


Miracles From Israel: Biblical Promises Fulfilled, Cynthia Hannah, Pg. 246


Miracles From Israel: Biblical Promises Fulfilled, Cynthia Hannah, pg. 244



TheAdvertorial Week In News

APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home

How International Students Can Help Solve Israel’s Brain Drain While Israel has built a well-earned reputation as the “start-up nation” for exporting its population’s prowess in technological innovation around the world, many would find it surprising to learn that the Jewish state’s domestic high-tech sector is experiencing a brain drain. Israel’s State Comptroller Matanyahu Engelman recently issued a report which documented 18,500 vacant positions in the Israeli high-tech sector, resulting from a shortage of skilled university graduates with training in the computer software and hardware fields. In the report, 27 percent of Israeli companies stated that they have opened development centers or software testing facilities abroad. “It is vital that Israel prepare to meet the future demand for skilled tech-sector employees,” Engelman warns. The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) is answering the state’s call to action — and the college’s International Program in English offers students from abroad the unique opportunity to enter Israel’s high-

tech sector and help the start-up nation meet its emerging workforce challenges. JCT has produced alumni who have become leaders in Israel’s defense industry and are involved in top-tier defense projects like the Iron Dome and Arrow anti-missile systems, as well as the country’s space program and satellite development efforts. For example, a veteran alumnus of JCT’s Electro-Optics Engineering Department, Dov Oster, is chief technology officer in the Ministry of Defense’s central R&D organization. Notably, the college prides itself on populating Israel’s high-tech sector with much-needed talent by expanding higher education opportunities for students from underserved populations, including the Haredi and Ethiopian immigrant communities. The International Program helps provide the Israeli economy with another newfound source of ingenuity — religious students from overseas. This competitive program offers young men and women

who are not fluent in Hebrew the opportunity to live and study Torah in Israel while pursuing their degree. On par with JCT’s Hebrew-speaking programs, the International Program offers a comprehensive double curriculum that combines high-level academics, enriching Jewish studies, and practical professional training. The program’s degree options include a B.Sc. in Computer Science and B.A. in Business Administration for men, and a B.Sc. in Computer Science for women. At $3,800 per year, the International Program’s tuition is more affordable than comparable higher education options in the U.S. and Israel. “What attracted me to JCT was the religious studies and the fact that I could study computer technology. This is the only English game in town for that,” says Yosef Berger of Edison, N.J. Jonah Hess, who made Aliyah from Los Angeles to Jerusalem at age 7, joined yeshiva at 18 and the army at 20, and then returned to yeshiva, says he set his

sights on JCT’s International Program “largely because the institution provides a religious-friendly environment while its students study technical subjects.” He says that he is “completely enthralled” by his major, computer science, which gives him “the ability to create something from scratch.” “The career options in this field are limitless, and I’m excited to be at the forefront of discovering new ways to make a positive impact in the world,” Hess writes for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. In the years to come, JCT’s International Program promises to continue making this mutually beneficial match — between Israel, whose economy stands to benefit from the arrival of more technology-focused international students, and the students themselves, who will access the unique opportunity of living in the Jewish state while pursuing technology degrees and careers.

The Week In News

the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden wrote. “Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future – toward the world that we wish to build for our children. A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security,” Biden continued. “Let us renew our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. And let us pursue healing and reconciliation for all the people of the world.” Biden fulfilled a key campaign promised in recognizing the Armenian killings as a genocide, having vowed as a candidate to implement the change after becoming president. While on the campaign trial, Biden explicitly called the events a genocide and promised the powerful Armenian lobby to make it official U.S. policy in exchange for their support. “Today, we remember the atrocities faced by the Armenian people in the Metz Yeghern – the Armenian Genocide. If elected, I pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide and will make universal human rights a top priority,” Biden tweeted before the elections. Attempts by the large Armenian diaspora to have the deaths of 800,000 women and children recognized as a genocide have traditionally been foiled by pressure from Turkey. A NATO member and powerful U.S. ally, Turkey vehemently opposes such recognition as something that would stain the legacy of the Ottoman Empire. Despite Turkey only becoming a state years after the massacres occurred, Ankara

has reacted strongly to any attempts by its allies to commemorate the killings. While acknowledging the deaths, Turkey claims that they were a result of internecine strife and not an organized campaign by Ottoman authorities. As such, Biden’s statement on Saturday is likely to inflame tensions with Ankara, one of the strongest U.S. allies.

French Jewish CRIF, the rally was the first time that French Jews have demonstrated against the government in decades, highlighting the frustration felt by the local community over the ruling. The rally began with a speech by French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia demanding that authorities hold another “trial of facts.” Halimi’s surviving relatives said a public Kaddish for Sarah before urging the French government to act to fight the country’s rising anti-Semitism. “The clamor has risen and hope has returned. That hope is all of you here,” said Halimi’s brother William Attal. Also addressing the crowd was Christophe Castsaner, a senior lawmaker from President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party, and renowned comedian Jacques Essebag. “I’ve decided to start using drugs because in France you can do whatever you want, even kill your neighbor if you don’t like her, if you use drugs,” Essebag told the crowd tongue-in-cheek. “What has become of this country?” he added. Meanwhile, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo promised that the city would soon commemorate Halimi’s memory by naming a street after her. Similar demonstrations were held on Sunday outside Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem, and in London. At a noisy rally outside the French embassy in Israel, Jewish Agency leader Isaac Herzog called for Traore to be brought to justice. “On the verdict that released her killer from punishment: we identify with the citizens of France who demand the execution of the killer with the killer,” Herzog said. “I embrace the family of the late Sarah. The just struggle against anti-Semitism must be a common struggle for everyone.”

Recognizing Armenian Genocide

President Joe Biden upended decades of U.S. policy and infuriated Turkey by formally recognizing the Armenian Massacre as a genocide over the weekend. A large Christian minority residing in the Islamic Ottoman Empire, an estimated 800,000 Armenians were rounded up and executed between 1915 and 1916. While dozens of nations have recognized the killings as genocide, Turkey has traditionally opposed such a definition as a distortion of the historical record. But on Saturday, Biden recognized the killings as a genocide for the time. In a groundbreaking statement marking the beginning of the massacre 109 years ago, Biden acknowledged the massacre on behalf of the entire U.S. government and American people. “Each year on this day, we remember

Protesting the Sarah Halimi Verdict

Thousands of people demonstrated in Paris on Sunday to protest a recent ruling by France’s Supreme Court not to prosecute the murderer of Sarah Halimi because he had smoked marijuana before the attack. The April 14th ruling upheld an earlier court’s decision not to try Kobili Traoré for murdering Halimi, an elderly Holocaust survivor, due to his rampant drug use. Pointing out that Traore had been high on marijuana at the time of the killing, the court held that he could not be held responsible for his crime. Held under the title “Justice for Sarah Halimi,” the rally saw thousands of people throng Paris’ Trocadero Square opposite the Eiffel Tower. Organized by the

The Week In News






APRIL 29, 2021 | The Jewish Home


‫יהי ממון חברך חביב עליך כשלך‬

What is a fundamental prerequisite for Limud HaTorah?

‫ משנה יב‬:‫פרק ב‬

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