Hamizrachi | Rosh Hashana 5782

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‫ַה ִּמ ְז ָר ִחי‬



Worldwide Communities Reflect on a Tumultuous Year New York, Florida, Lod and Paris pray for a brighter future PAGES 24–33


Dedicated in celebration of Ilana and Dan’s wedding Shana Tova — Melanie, Leon and all the Angels


www.mizrachi.org www.mizrachi.tv office@mizrachi.org +972 (0)2 620 9000



Rabbi Doron Perez



Rabbi Elie Mischel editor@mizrachi.org A S S I S TA N T E D I T O R

Esther Shafier A S S O C I AT E E D I TO R

Rabbi Aron White C R E AT I V E D I R E C TO R


M.H. Media Ltd. ms75pr@gmail.com HaMizrachi seeks to spread Torat Eretz Yisrael throughout the world. HaMizrachi also contains articles, opinion pieces and advertisements that represent the diversity of views and interests in our communities. These do not necessarily reflect any official position of Mizrachi or its branches. If you don't want to keep HaMizrachi, you can double-wrap it before disposal, or place it directly into genizah (sheimos).




elcome to a new year at HaMizrachi! My name is Elie Mischel, and it is my great honor to begin serving as editor of this extraordinary magazine.

Since Rabbi Isaac Nissenbaum published the first version of HaMizrachi in Poland in 1918, our goal has remained essentially unchanged: To strengthen the bond between the people of Israel and Jews throughout the Diaspora. We hope to bind our people together in two ways: By bringing Torat Eretz Yisrael in all its depth and beauty to the international Jewish community and by giving a voice to Mizrachi communities all over the globe. The broad array of thought-provoking Torah articles and interviews you will find on these pages reflects the rich variety of views you will find in our worldwide Mizrachi community. At the same time, the inspiring stories and family section are meant to ensure that HaMizrachi speaks to all members of our community.

www.mizrachi.org.uk uk@mizrachi.org 020 8004 1948 PRESIDENT

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

As we work to expand the reach of HaMizrachi, we encourage you to share your thoughts and




Rabbi Andrew Shaw BOARD

Michelle Bauernfreund Matti Fruhman Andrew Harris Grant Kurland Sean Melnick David Morris Alex Pfeffer

To dedicate an issue of HaMizrachi in memory of a loved one or in celebration of a simcha, please email uk@mizrachi.org

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Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon addresses gardening during the Shemitta year on page 10, Rabbanit Sharon Rimon discusses releasing debts on page 16, and Rabbi Hershel Schachter explains the Jubilee year on page 18

feedback with us. With the Religious Zionist community playing an increasingly critical role in broader Israeli society, the future of our movement will in many ways determine the future of our nation. We invite you to join the conversation; tell us what you think! At the very beginning of our return to the Land of Israel, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook implored the Religious Zionist community to “establish newspapers in Hebrew, Yiddish and the languages of the nations, which will glorify our movement in Israel and all over the world…” [Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Chazon Hageulah, 302]. Our fervent hope is that HaMizrachi will play a crucial part in actualizing the great dreams of our nation and the return of Am Yisrael to the land of our fathers. May the year ahead bring only joy and blessing for our people and the entire world!

Elie Mischel Rabbi Elie Mischel Editor

Zionist History

On page 48, tour guide Elli Shashua recalls Operation Michaelberg, which brought Iraqi Jews to British Mandatory Palestine more than 70 years ago

Cover Story

A host of educators provide insights into some of the key prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, starting on page 36

Jewish communities in New York, Florida, Lod and Paris reflect on a year of antisemitism, riots and tragedy

Rav Kook

Food from Israel

Yamim Noraim Tefillot

Turn to page 46 for Rav Kook’s letter to a troubled father, with analysis from Rabbi Chanan Morrison, and read a story for the table on page 50

PAGES 24–33

Celebrity chef Susie Fishbein presents a new dish for the new year on page 52: Roasted Eggplant with Silan Techina

Going for

Spiritual Gold Rabbi Andrew Shaw


very four years, we get to see the most talented athletes in the world compete against each other. This year, though it was five years since the last Olympics, was no different. Although I didn’t have the chance to watch the competitions live, I saw plenty of the highlights and interviews with the winners. By and large, the athletes shared the same message: how the hours, days, weeks and months of training paid off, and how a strict regimen of diet, exercise and training honed their body to achieve peak performance. However, no matter how much effort an athlete invests in preparation, and a certain point, there is a limit to what can be done. Eventually, age creeps up and regardless of the training one puts in, it will not be enough. Sir Steve Redgrave achieved the incredible feat of winning five successive gold medals between the ages of 22 to 38. When interviewed after his fourth gold in 1996, he famously said, “If anyone sees me go near a boat, you’ve got my permission to shoot me.” He knew the tremendous sacrifice and pain he would have to go through at age 34 to

be able to compete four years later. In the end, he put himself through the brutal regimen and came out a gold medallist for the fifth and final time. We hear the starting gun and watch a race for a few minutes, curious as to who will win. We don’t think about the years of grueling preparation beforehand, without which nobody can succeed. Each year, we run our own spiritual Olympics race from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. We pass before Hashem, together with the whole human race, to be judged not by how fast we can run or throw but by how kind we are, how devoted we are to the Torah and how we spiritually perform. We speak about Ellul as the start of our “training” and Yom Kippur as the “finish line.” But in truth, we must dedicate ourselves to spiritual training all year round. Ellul is simply an annual ‘wake-up call’ which has the power to arouse even the most spiritually distant to begin the teshuvah process. Ellul is also the start of the new Yeshiva and Seminary year, when hundreds of young men and women begin

their full-time Torah learning journey in Israel. For me, one of the highlights of those times, all those years ago, was the opportunity to be in the presence of individuals who were dedicated to striving for spiritual perfection. Some of my most powerful moments were observing these people davening, teaching or just simply learning. They understood, just as our Olympians do, that to succeed in any meaningful endeavor, and particularly spiritual growth, requires years and years of devotion, immersion and application. We may never find ourselves at that level, but that is not an excuse for us to not involve ourselves in the same discipline – bettering ourselves spiritually, connecting ourselves to Hashem and becoming more aware of our Divine soul. Ellul and the Yamim Noraim are part of the training regimen that we should all commit ourselves to become worthy competitors in the race of life, whose prize is not a gold medal but rather a deeply meaningful life dedicated to the Divine. Rabbi Andrew Shaw is the Chief Executive of Mizrachi UK.

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MUTATING VIRUSES The Delta Variant and Demonization of Israel – Part 1 Rabbi Doron Perez


arallel to the different variants of the coronavirus that have spread havoc, illness and death all over the world, we have also witnessed the mutation and dissemination of another destructive global virus, spreading hatred and demonization in new and unimaginable ways – antisemitism in its mutated form of anti-Zionism and delegitimization of Israel. In the wake of Operation Guardian of the Walls, the systematic delegitimization of Israel reared its ugly head again. Remarkably, global social influencers, media personalities and celebrities with tens of millions of followers came out in public defense of an internationally recognized terror organization. Hamas’ charter unequivocally denies Jewish sovereign rights in any part of Israel and is totally committed to its destruction by any available means. The cynical reign of terror over its own citizens and the unprovoked terrorizing of Israeli civilians, Jew and non-Jew alike, with indiscriminate firing of rockets, was not only overlooked but justified. The never-ending demonization has continually eroded Israel’s very legitimacy, penetrating the moral immune system of the uninformed masses. Violent attacks on Jews and vandalism of Jewish community centers around the world soon followed.

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Antisemitism as a virus One of the first people to compare antisemitism to a virus – systematically and brilliantly – was Rabbi Jonathan Sacks zt”l. Already in 2002, in the wake of the outrageous attacks on Israel at the UN Durban Conference against Racism, he began to speak vocally about the dangers of a new strain of antisemitism. Although having never personally experienced any type of antisemitism, he wrote: “So when I began, in 2002, to alert our community and the British public to the phenomenon of the return of antisemitism, it was against inclination and experience. Yet it was real, dangerous and consequential. Evidence was too blatant to be ignored. The emergence of a virulent new strain of antisemitism, after 60 years of Holocaust education, interfaith dialogue and anti-racist legislation, is a major historical event...” “The best way of understanding antisemitism is to see it as a virus. Viruses attack the human body, but the body itself has an immensely sophisticated defense system, the human immune system. How, then, do viruses survive and flourish? By mutating. Antisemitism mutates, and in so doing defeats the immune systems set up by cultures to protect themselves against hatred.”1 There are many properties of biological viruses that assist us in better

understanding and confronting the dynamics and dangers of antisemitism. In this article I will highlight two: its ability to change form and mutate, and its highly contagious nature – its tendency to spread fast and furiously.2

Mutations and contagions Just as viruses are able to change their biological properties and mutate, so too – continues Rabbi Sacks – has antisemitism mutated into different variations over the last two millennia. From Christian Judeophobia and anti-Judaism to secular racial antisemitism culminating in the Holocaust, and most recently to a mutation of radical Islamic hatred of Israel and anti-Zionism. In short, either hatred of Judaism, the Jewish people or the Jewish State. In the last HaMizrachi, I quoted the ingenious insight of the Vilna Gaon, who traced these very same three mutations to Biblical times, to Israel’s three archenemies: Moav, Edom and the Plishtim. The latter, incredibly defined by the Gaon as denying the Jewish people “any sovereign presence or form of governance in the Land” is parallel to Palestinian denialism and their demonizing of Israel today. It is a single-minded opposition to Jewish

sovereignty and statehood in the Land

of Israel in any size, shape or form.3

Flu and Covid viruses spread quickly and are transmitted even through breathing. The ability for airborne transmission without any physical contact makes it particularly prone to spreading in pandemic proportions. So too the spread of ideas today. The great transformation of global information technology, particularly the internet, created an unparalleled medium of connectivity for carriers of cultural change. Unfiltered information can now spread further and faster than ever before. Prejudicial views can spread contagiously in ways unimaginable even a generation ago. Responsible checks and balances and global mechanisms and institutions are yet to be created to curb this global dissemination of hatred.

Twenty years of pandemics in the making Since the turn of the century, I have noticed some parallels between the spread and mutations of biological viruses and that of the virus of antisemitism and Israel demonization. Indeed, the threat of a global pandemic has been lurking for almost 20 years. The Covid-19 virus is officially known as the SARS-COV2 virus and is actually a mutation of the SARS1 virus, which began to spread in 2002. SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. SARS1 spread rapidly between 2002–2004. In 2005, there was a significant spread of the Avian or Bird Flu. Between 2013–2016, the world experienced the deadly spread of the Ebola virus, and beginning in late 2019, SARS-COV2, Covid-19, the most hazardous of all. Coupled with the reality of global air travel today, the pandemic is a menace to overcome. Israel is a prime example, having had as few as two cases a day in February and at the time of writing, up to 7,000 a day mainly due to the opening of the skies and the intrusion of the Delta variant. Incredibly, a parallel phenomenon occurred with the antisemitism virus, as its new mutation into Israel demonization began to threaten as a potential pandemic in 2001 at the UN

Conference in Durban. This conference, which was supposed to tackle racism, turned into a hate fest of prejudice and racism against Israel. Every international human rights issue was trivialized while democratic Israel was accused of the greatest crimes against humanity. Israel-stigmatization dominated the whole conference. As Bernard-Henri Levy, one of France’s leading public intellectuals noted: “Some 6,000 NGO representatives invited to the event slid easily from rabid anti-Zionism to good old-fashioned antisemitism... It was Act 1 of neo-antisemitism. Never had we witnessed its full expression on such a scale and with such a dark force.”4 The virus had not only successfully mutated but now had ‘carriers’ from countries throughout the world. The mechanism for an immoral contagion was in place. What made the discriminatory conclusion of the Durban Conference so abhorrent was that it came only a year after the most generous peace offer the Palestinians had ever received at the Camp David Summit. The Palestinians were offered the opportunity to establish their own State, free of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in East Jerusalem. Incredibly, and to the dismay of President Clinton, Arafat rejected the offer. How could absolute Palestinian denialism of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State be rewarded by a UN conference criticizing Israel of the most horrific human rights violations, while fully absolving the other side? The virus was clearly infecting its hosts.

Disengagement, denialism and demonization The plague of Israel demonization would continue to spread. In 2005, Israel implemented the Gaza Disengagement, uprooting all 9,000 civilians who had settled in the Gush Katif area. However, instead of responding in kind, choosing peace, reconciliation and freedom, Gazans chose Hamas in their last democratic election to date, in 2007. With full control of Gaza, Hamas chose a path of death, denialism and destruction.5

As mentioned, instead of supporting Israel for its moral and defensive stance against a breach of its sovereignty and ongoing rocket fire, many around the world sided with Hamas. Despite uprooting its own citizens from Gaza, relinquishing land and doing its utmost not to harm Palestinian civilians, Israel was increasingly and disgracefully smeared for its actions. The virus was clearly spreading in pandemic proportions. Needless to say, since the virus is rooted in classic Jew hatred, each operation was followed by acts of violence against Jews around the world. It can no longer be argued that Israel’s policies in the ‘territories’ is the issue, but rather Israel’s very right to exist as a Jewish State. Attacks on Israel are no longer about politics but about prejudice, and criticisms of the Jewish State are no longer policy but moral perversion. Thankfully, viruses can be conquered. Not all can be eradicated but they can be overcome by living alongside them without surrendering to them. May 5782 be a year of great healing and discovering better ways to protect ourselves from the viral variants, both biological and moral, and a year of inoculations of moral and spiritual truth, justice and fairness in combating the world’s oldest hatred.  Part 2 will appear in the upcoming Sukkot edition of HaMizrachi. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Future Tense, pp. 91–92.


In the next edition of HaMizrachi, I will focus on another two: its parasitic nature, i.e., it cannot reproduce without finding a host organism, and how it corrupts the host. 2

See HaMizrachi Vol. 4 No. 3, p. 3, Tisha B’Av edition (mizrachi.org/hamizrachi/archive). The Gaon’s explanation sees Moav as the root of spiritual antisemitism, Edom as wishing to physically destroy the Jewish people and the Philistinesּ as opposing any Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael (Aderet Eliyahu, Chavakuk 3:14). 3


The Jerusalem Post, Friday, August 13, 2021, p. 19.

Over the last 14 years, Hamas has forced Israel to defend itself in five different operations: 2008, Hot Winter; 2008/2009, Cast Lead; 2012, Pillars of Defense, 2014, Protective Edge and 2021, Guardians of The Walls. 5

Rabbi Doron Perez is the Executive Chairman of World Mizrachi.


EDITOR Arms exports facts IN HIS ARTICLE “Israel and Arms Exports” (HaMizrachi Vol 4 No 1), Rav Yuval Cherlow writes, “...the arms export environment is always accompanied by moral decay. Because these transactions are often done “in the dark” because tremendous amounts of money are involved...” I have been working in the Israeli defense industry for nearly 30 years. Here are some publically available facts: In the late 1990s, Israel wanted to export advanced missiles and Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft to China. The US became aware of the deal and forced Israel to cancel it, causing an international incident with China. To prevent this from recurring, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) created the Defence Export Control Agency, DECA, or, in Hebrew, API – ‫אפ“י‬. DECA is responsible for the marketing and export licenses required to export weapons. DECA rules with an iron hand. As one who regularly deals with this sort of thing, DECA makes exporting weapon systems extremely difficult and often nearly impossible. Marketing and export licenses are required for even the most trivial transactions. I have found myself on the wrong side of DECA on numerous occasions because I interpreted the licensing rules more leniently than they did. I do not know one person in Israeli Defense Business Development who has not had a similar experience.

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My point is that there are no “dark rooms” with “former senior officers.” All transactions are performed in clear daylight under the watchful eye of DECA. When an Israeli company tried bypassing DECA only a few months ago, officials caught them and the people involved were arrested. This is not to say that there are no halachic issues with arms export. As a frum Jew, I have studied these issues at length. I have gone so far as to refuse positions that I felt would be halachically problematic. But I suggest that halachah cannot be adjudicated until fact is separated from fiction.

Send us your comments editor@mizrachi.org

Soldier’s First-Hand Account of Operation Guardian of the Walls” (HaMizrachi Vol 4 No 3) to be particularly moving. The IDF fought the most recent war with Hamas primarily through the air, responding to Hamas’ attacks with targeted missile strikes. Given the constant barrage of rocket attacks on our towns and cities, it was easy to forget that many of our soldiers were dangerously exposed to these attacks near the Gaza border, often without secure bomb shelters nearby.

A powerful description

The young author honestly and powerfully described the fear he experienced as the rockets fell around him. As a mother, I am shaken by the dangers our children must endure to protect our country, but also deeply proud of the incredible young people who put their lives on the line to protect all of us. May Hashem protect all of our brave young soldiers and give them the strength and fortitude to carry on, b’simcha.

OF ALL THE Tisha B’Av edition articles, I found “On the Front Line: A

Tamar Nector Modiin

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Yom Kippur as Purification Rabbi Reuven Taragin Day of purification


hough we generally associate Yom Kippur with atonement, its central thematic verse presents tahara (purification) as its goal: “For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall you be clean before Hashem” (Vayikra 16:30). On Yom Kippur, Hashem atones for our sins to purify us. This explains the request we make of Hashem in each of our Shabbat and Yom Tov prayers: ‫וְ ַט ֵהר‬ ‫ל ֵ ּבנ ּו ְל ָע ְב ְ ּד ָך ֶ ּב ֱא ֶמת‬,ִ “purify our hearts to serve You in truth.” Yom Kippur purifies both the Beit HaMikdash and the Jewish people. This is why the Yom Kippur Torah readings from Parashat Acharei Mot are about the Beit HaMikdash in the morning (chapter 16) and the Jewish people after Mincha (chapter 181).2

The damage of sin We are, of course, familiar with tahara as ritual purity. What does it mean in the personal spiritual context?

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Understanding spiritual purity hinges on recognizing that sin defiles us. Sin is not just wrong and punishable, it also impacts who we are. Mitzvah fulfillment sanctifies; transgression defiles. Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (Nefesh Hachayim 2:8) compares sin to the consumption of unhealthy foods. Just as the former damages physical health, so the latter damages spiritual health. In addition to the spiritual plane, the Gemara in Yoma (39a) depicts how sin damages even one’s intellectual capacity.3

The goal A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau

“Create for me a pure heart, O G-d; and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Tehillim 51:12).

mizrachi.org/ speakers

David Hamelech taught that the heart, spirit, and soul must be purified.

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Shaarei Teshuva (1:9) and Mesilat Yesharim (Chapter 17, Midat Hatahara) explain that tahara is about motivation. It is not just about what we do, but why we do it. Tahor people are motivated by fear of G-d and wisdom as opposed to personal desire.

only achieve tahara by connecting (which means committing) ourselves fully to Hashem. Even a small chatzizah (separation) renders the ‘immersion’ completely meaningless.

This helps us understand why the Rambam (Teshuva 7:3) believes that teshuva is not only necessary to address only sin, but also improper character traits. Purification is not just about correcting particular actions, but more broadly about personal improvement.

On a deeper level, the purification process is actually a return to our true and natural selves. Man is created by Hashem ‘breathing’ a pure holy soul into him.8 We need look no further than inside ourselves to find Hashem’s holiness. When we do so, we return to Him and facilitate the regeneration of our natural holy soul.9 As we recite each morning: “My G-d, the soul You gave me is pure… You blew it into me and You preserve it within me…”

How we purify The conclusion of the Yom Kippur verse – ‘titharu’ – commands us to purify ourselves.4 The Kohen Gadol makes a point of reminding us of this responsibility at the height of the Yom Kippur atonement service. When the people prostrated themselves in response to his utterance of G-d’s sacred name in his viduyim (confessions), he directs the word ‘titaharu’ to them. He tells them that it is not enough to observe the Kohen’s purification service. We need to purify ourselves. When we do so, Hashem completes the process for us. Purifying ourselves is easier said than done. How do we do it? The Mishnah at the end of Masechet Yoma gives us direction by describing G-d Himself as the proverbial mikveh through which we are meant to purify ourselves.5 Hashem is totally disconnected from all sin and defilement. By reconnecting with Him, we return to a state of purity. Like the Kohen Gadol who immerses himself 10 times over the course of Yom Kippur and then enters the cloud of Hashem (created by the ketoret) within the holiest part of Hashem’s sanctuary, we also are meant to immerse ourselves in our connection with Hashem.6 After elaborating on this notion, the Maharal7 emphasizes that, just like immersion in an actual mikveh, we

The return to ourselves

Yom Kippur is the time when this self-purification is most possible and powerful. Let’s do our best to take full advantage of the opportunity. Chapter 18 describes sexual sins as defiling us (verses 20, 23, and 24). The next verses (25–30) describe how these sins defile the Land as well. See also Bamidbar 35 which depicts murder as defiling the Land. 1

This explains the centrality of purity to Yom Kippur ritual which can be seen in the need for tevila (10 times by the Kohen Gadol and customarily performed by all males before Yom Kippur) and the custom to wear white. 2

See also Or HaChayim (Vayikra 11:43).


See Shaarei Teshuva (2:14, 4:17) who sees this phrase as the basis of the unique obligation to do teshuva on Yom Kippur. 4


Shaarei Teshuva (2:14) summarizes the process.

See Rambam Mikva’ot (11:12) who also uses mikveh immersion as a model for personal purification. Shaarei Teshuva 4:17 speaks also of teshuva as necessary for tahara. Obviously, purification is only possible once we have distanced ourselves from and atoned for our sins. 6

D’rush L’Shabbat Shuva.


Bereishit 2:7 with Rashi and Ramban.



Orot Hateshuvah 15:10.

Rabbi Reuven Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and Dean of the Yeshivat HaKotel Overseas Program.

Ten Days in Tanach

Stubbornness, Suspense and Salvation Rabbanit Shani Taragin


hough there is no explicit mention of the significance of Aseret Yemei Teshuva in Tanach, Rabba bar Avuha expounds: “‘Seek the L-rd while He may be found; call upon Him when He is near’ (Yeshayahu 55:6). During the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Hashem is particularly close and should be sought out by every individual” (Rosh Hashanah 18a). The Gemara further teaches that one may learn about the essence of these ten days from the novel and delayed death of Naval the Carmelite (Samuel I 25), who refused to adequately compensate David and his servants for assisting Naval’s shepherds.

Avigayil, his sensible wife, came to the rescue with lavish provisions and prevented David from slaughtering the house of Naval. After that, the navi described Naval as selfishly feasting without constraint “like the feast of a king; and Naval’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken.” Avigayil wisely waited until morning to speak of the gifts she offered David to save the household. Unexpectedly, upon hearing her words, Naval was deeply shaken, finally understanding the repercussions of his deplorable conduct. “And his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.” “And it came to pass about ten days after, that Hashem smote Naval, and he died” (Samuel I 25:38). Why was there a delay of ten days before Naval died? “Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabba bar Avuha: These are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” (Rosh Hashanah 18a) during which everyone is given one last opportunity to repent for the sins they committed over the course of the previous year. Hashem provided Naval with ten days to complete a process of regret and repair, and understood these days as paralleling the ten days of repentance.

Naval failed to internalize the lesson and opportunity to change his ways; when the initial shock wore off, Naval returned to his stubborn and habitual conduct. For this reason, after ten days, G-d smote him and he died (Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabba 18:10). Another hint to these cathartic ten days in Tanach may be found in the prophetic narrative following the assassination of Gedalya ben Achikam on Rosh Hashanah after the destruction of the First Temple. Yochanan ben Kereach led the remainder of the farmers of Judea to Egypt, seeking asylum from Babylonian vengeance. As they rested near Beit Lechem on their way down to Egypt, they asked Yirmiyahu haNavi to appeal to Hashem on their behalf, convinced that G-d wished them to settle in exile until a future time to return (as he prophesied through Rachel’s cries in chapter 31). “And after ten days, the word of Hashem came to Yirmiyahu” (Yirmiyahu 42:7). The Abarbanel explains that Yirmiyahu appealed to Hashem throughout the ten days from Rosh Hashanah – when Gedalya was murdered – to Yom Kippur. Amidst his prayers and fasting during Aseret Yemei Teshuva, Hashem answered Yirmiyahu’s supplications on behalf of the people with words of consolation: “If you remain in this land, I will build you and not overthrow, I will plant you and not uproot; for I regret the punishment I have brought upon you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you fear; do not be afraid of him… for I [Hashem] am with you to save you and to rescue you from his hands. I will dispose him to be merciful to you: he shall show you mercy and bring you back to your own land.” The last remnant of the Judean settlement was assured that they would not have to seek refuge in Egypt; they would be safe and secure in the Land of Israel. They were given a chance

to start over and rebuild a social and religious infrastructure in preparation for national return. Unfortunately, like Naval, the people did not take advantage of the opportunity to return and rebuild, and instead accused the prophet of falsehood. They continued their descent to Egypt, running towards their doom The ten days between and leaving the Land the first and the tenth of bereft of Jewish Tishrei are not only days settlement.

suffused with sanctity and

The ten days a time of prayer, fasting and between the first atonement; they are gifts and the tenth of from G-d as our individual Tishrei are not only and national futures days suffused with are held in abeyance. sanctity and a time of prayer, fasting and atonement; they are gifts from G-d as our individual and national futures are held in abeyance. These days offer us an auspicious opportunity for repentance, an opportunity to swing the pendulum of our behavior from stubbornness and arrogance to humility and change, from suspense of annihilation to survival and salvation.

Rabbanit Shani Taragin is Educational Director of Mizrachi and the Director of the Mizrachi Matan Lapidot Educators’ Program.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/ speakers

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n order to address the question of gardening during Shemitta, we will examine Shemitta from the sources.

Labors that are forbidden by Torah law “Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the L-rd: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your untrimmed vines; it shall be a year of complete rest for the land” (Vayikra 25:3–5). These verses contain four labors that are forbidden to perform during the Shemitta year: sowing, pruning, reaping and gathering. Sowing is the burying of seeds in the soil so that crops can grow from them. The prohibition against sowing applies even to plants that do not bear fruit. Planting a seedling or a tree is also forbidden, but the Poskim disagree whether this is forbidden by Torah law or only by rabbinic decree.

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Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon Pruning is the removal of branches from a tree to stimulate growth. Some authorities maintain that the Torah prohibition applies only to grapevines, while the pruning of other trees is only forbidden by rabbinic decree. According to this view, the Torah only prohibits pruning that stimulates the growth of the fruit, as is the case with a grapevine. Plowing is forbidden during Shemitta, but there is a disagreement as to whether all plowing is forbidden by Torah law (which is the prevailing opinion) or only plowing that accompanies the planting process. When it comes to harvesting the produce, by Torah law, it is forbidden to gather (picking fruits and other perennial crops) or reap (harvesting vegetables and other annual crops). This prohibition stems from the fact that it is forbidden to demonstrate ownership over the land. It follows that one is permitted to harvest a small, non-commercial quantity of produce that will suffice for one’s family for several days. Even in such a case, however, it is preferable that one harvest in an altered manner (e.g., if produce

is usually harvested with a tool, one should harvest instead by hand). This prohibition of harvesting produce only applies to produce that has Shemitta sanctity. Therefore, it is permissible to pick fruit during the first few months of Shemitta in the ordinary manner (since it does not have Shemitta sanctity). On the other hand, fruit that has Shemitta sanctity must be picked in an altered manner, even during the eighth year, even though planting is already permissible. The Shemitta sanctity of vegetables is determined by the date on which they are picked, and therefore, from the very beginning of the Shemitta year, they may not be picked in the ordinary manner, but only in small quantities (as explained in the preceding paragraph), until the next Rosh Hashanah.

Labors that are forbidden by rabbinic decree In addition to the labors forbidden by Torah law during the Shemitta year, it is prohibited by rabbinic decree to perform any actions that enhance the growth of a plant.

Therefore, it is forbidden to water, to remove weeds (with their roots), to cut weeds (without removing their roots), to fertilize, to remove stones (to prepare the land for planting), and to perform any other such activities. One may perform labors generally forbidden by rabbinic decree during Shemitta only when failure to do so will cause the plants to die. In other words, labors forbidden by rabbinic decree are permitted during the Shemitta year when performed to preserve that which already exists, so that it does not die, but not when performed to strengthen and develop that which is growing in the field.

Must I neglect my garden? A Jew once told me: “I do not touch my garden at all in the year of the Shemitta. The garden is wild, weeds are growing everywhere, the grass is being destroyed, and I am happy. My garden is resting during Shemitta!” A different Jew once told me: “I try not to perform even permitted labors in the garden during Shemitta.” When I asked him why, the man explained: “My neighbors are not observant of Torah and mitzvot. If they observe me

taking care of the garden, they may get confused and think that it is permissible to perform forbidden labors as well.” To both of these well meaning Jews, I responded: If the halachah permits certain labors in the garden, there is no point in not doing them, thereby causing the garden to look neglected. On the contrary, such an approach shows that halachah does not align with reality. Such an approach indicates that halachah requires a reality of neglect, an existence of destruction and loss. But this is not the case! Indeed, the laws of Shemitta are not simple, and without question, some things are prohibited during Shemitta. However, halachah does not forbid maintaining what exists, halachah does not declare that during Shemitta, we must destroy our gardens! The fear of “lest my neighbor think that it is permissible to perform forbidden agricultural labors” is marginal compared to the statement that “halachah contradicts reality!” We must observe the laws of Shemitta, including both the Torah law and rabbinic prohibitions of Shemitta. But at the same time, we must also show our

neighbors that observing Shemitta does not require us to destroy our gardens! That even during a year in which “the land rests” (Vayikra 25:2), the land of Israel continues to live and exist. Shemitta does not cause destruction of the land, but rather the opposite; Shemitta leads to the sanctity of the land! Shemitta brings a year in which we neither create nor renew, but preserve the existing and resting land and enjoy its flourishing holiness!

Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon serves as Head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council. He was recently appointed as the first Rabbi of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/ speakers

| 11

Light after Darkness F R O M T H E K I K AY O N T O C O V I D


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

s the world attempts to come to terms with the countless challenges presented by the Coronavirus pandemic, the word ‘resilience’ has gained new popularity in the global lexicon. Yet, the term is inadequate as a response to adversity. ‘Resilience’ comes from the Latin, meaning to recoil or rebound. It implies that, over time, we can return to where we started. But, as any Shoah survivor will attest, real adversity cannot merely be shrugged off. It remains a part of you for the rest of your life.

‘Resilience’ comes from the Latin, meaning to recoil or rebound. It implies that, over time, we can return to where we started. But, as any Shoah survivor will attest, real adversity cannot merely be shrugged off. It remains a part of you for the rest of your life.

The Israeli psychologist and Nobel Laureate, Professor Daniel Kahneman, points out that negative experiences loom larger and feel more intense than positive experiences. However, he maintains that it is possible to train ourselves to take better control of how our minds process these happenings. We can derive inspiration from the Torah account of creation: “And there was evening and there was morning” (Bereishit 1:5). Morning always follows evening; darkness always gives way to light. Recognition of the fact that adversity will always be followed by

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deliverance helps us withstand hardship and see that, just as there is a certainty about night and day, adversity can be an unavoidable and necessary part of what it is to be human. Our Yamim Noraim Torah readings reflect this outlook. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we read the dramatic account of how Hagar and Yishmael, cast into a barren wilderness, drank their last drops of water and feared the worst. Hagar placed her child behind a bush, not wishing to see him die. But, at that moment of profound personal anguish, an Angel of Hashem appeared to her and said, “Do not be afraid, Hashem has heard the boy crying” (Bereishit 21:17). Hashem then opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. Similarly, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we read how Avraham Avinu was about to do the unthinkable, to sacrifice his child in service of Hashem. Yet again, at the most critical moment, an Angel called out to Avraham, “Do not reach out your hand against the boy” (Bereishit 22:12). On Yom Kippur, we read that when the kikayon plant, under which Yonah had been sheltering from the desert sun, was destroyed, his suffering was so great that he begged for death. From here Hashem taught Yonah a lesson – if he could grieve so profoundly over a plant, how much more precious were the lives of the inhabitants of Nineveh! All of these examples have something striking in common – their cause and effect. Hagar and Yishmael were cast away because Hashem instructed Avraham to heed the concerns of Sarah. Yet, Hashem then promised that “a great nation” would be descended from Yishmael.

The Akeida was a direct commandment from Hashem. Yet, He then made His timeless covenant with Avraham, saying, “I will greatly bless you and greatly multiply your descendants” (Bereishit 22:17). Hashem destroyed the kikayon. But He then used Yonah’s experience to teach us one of the most fundamental principles of Judaism – that all life is sacred. While our tradition, therefore, justifiably encourages positivity amid adversity, the Rambam goes one step further. He observes that “the transition from trouble to ease gives more pleasure than continual ease” (Moreh Nevuchim 3:24). This is a challenging concept, particularly for those who have experienced great pain and suffering. Yet, the Rambam goes on to point out that “the Israelites would not have been able to conquer the land and prevail over its inhabitants if they had not previously undergone the vicissitudes of their travails in the wilderness.” Often, quite remarkably, it is in encountering significant challenges that people reach the most extraordinary levels of human achievement. Hashem has taught us repeatedly throughout our history, and reinforces very powerfully for us over the Yamim Noraim, that adversity is temporary. Eventually, the darkness will give way to the light and when it does so, we can emerge strengthened by the trust that we have placed in Him.

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and serves as President of Mizrachi UK.




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Unforgiving Age Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks ‫זצ״ל‬


n 2015, Sir Tim Hunt, a British Nobel Prize-winning scientist, visited South Korea. While speaking there, he made a bad joke about women in laboratories that fell flat. It was a silly joke, which he immediately admitted and apologized for. However, someone tweeted the joke and it went viral. After that, he became the target of an online shaming campaign, which ultimately forced him to resign his positions at University College London, the Royal Society and the European Research Council, and turned him into a pariah. This happened even though he obviously was only making a joke (immediately afterward in his talk, he said, “Science needs women.”) It happened even though his wife is a distinguished scientist, even though he apologized time and time again, and even though fellow scientists defended him. Despite it all, he was condemned without trial, without consideration of the evidence, due process, appeal, mercy, regard to his lifetime of service to science, and the simple fact that he was a human being and human beings make mistakes. Ours is an unforgiving age. Jordan Peterson is a psychologist at the University of Toronto and probably the most followed public intellectual globally. He has a massive following because he’s a counter-cultural figure and dares to challenge politically correct positions. Somebody discovered, somewhere on Facebook, that an unknown person had taken a selfie with Jordan Peterson. The man who took the selfie was wearing a t-shirt with an insulting slogan. Now, hundreds of people on that night took selfies with Jordan Peterson. He had no opportunity to scrutinize what the people were wearing. He had no idea what was written on the t-shirt, and yet he was condemned. Ours is an unforgiving age.

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Here is a man condemned because of somebody else’s selfie with him, somebody else’s t-shirt, with no trial, no evidence, no judicial process, no reflective moral judgment, no “you shall inquire, and research, and ask diligently”(Devarim 13:15), no effort to examine the evidence well and see if the thing is true. Nothing but simple condemnation. I happen to have the privilege of knowing Jordan Peterson. I went to interview him at his home in Toronto, and we had a long conversation together. Here is a serious human being, a man whose work is intensely moral, profoundly spiritual and intellectually challenging. A person who is focused on taking responsibility for his life. Not blaming other people, but taking responsibility. And yet – nothing was said in his defense.

Nobody gave them a chance to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ to explain or to be forgiven.

Here was a man who made an illjudged joke, and here was a man who unwittingly took a selfie together with somebody wearing an inappropriate t-shirt. And yet these were the people for whom, in Maimonidies words: “The gates of repentance were closed.” Nobody gave them a chance to say, “I’m sorry,” to explain or to be forgiven. Now consider two people who did commit great wrongs – wrongs so bad we would understand if what they did was unforgivable. Think of a young man who said: “What profit will we get if we kill our brother? Come, let us sell him to the

Ishmaelites… for he is our brother, our flesh and blood…” (Bereishit 37:26–27) Yehudah sold his brother as a slave – an actual, real sin. And yet Yehudah became the ancestor of Israel’s Kings. But he also became much more than that. We bear his name. We are called Jews, Yehudim, because we are named after Yehudah. Why? Because he was forgiven. And why was he forgiven? Because he owned up and said, “But we were guilty.” As we recite in the Selichot: “What more can we say to justify ourselves?... G-d has uncovered our guilt.” (Bereishit 44:16) What’s more, he changed: From the person who sold his brother as a slave, Yehudah became the person who was willing to spend the rest of his life as a slave so that his brother Benjamin could go free. He became a Ba’al Teshuvah. Yosef, his brother, forgave him. G-d forgave him, and it is his name we bear. Let me give you a second example. Here I speak of a King of Israel whose behavior was... well, how can I put it? In the immortal words of the late Leonard Cohen: “Your faith was strong, but you needed proof. You saw her bathing on the roof; her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you.” King David committed adultery with somebody else’s wife and then sent her husband to the army’s frontline. This was a horrendous sin, an appalling crime. And yet, he became Israel’s greatest King and the most remarkable religious poet the world has ever known. Why? Because he was forgiven. And why was he forgiven? Because he said in the shortest form of Selichot ever delivered, “Chatati.” “I have sinned.” But he also said, “My sin is in front of me all the time.” (Tehillim 51:4) Meaning, I will never, for one minute, forget that I sinned. And so he was forgiven.

Rabbi Sacks delivering the pre-Selichot address at Hampstead Synagogue in 2019.

Yehudah and King David were Ba’alei Teshuvah who confessed and apologized and changed, and they were forgiven. They committed severe wrongs, not jokes in bad taste or selfies with inappropriate t-shirts, and yet they were forgiven. Imagine if they hadn’t been forgiven. If Yehudah hadn’t been forgiven, there would be no Jews today, for it was Yehudah who survived when the 10 tribes in the North disappeared from history. If King David had not been forgiven, there would be no book of Psalms today, leaving the whole world impoverished. At the heart of our faith is a G-d who forgives. “And Hashem said, I have forgiven according to your words.” (Bamidbar 14:20) G-d says to us, “Be honest with Me and then I will forgive you.” Then He says to us, as we say over and over again throughout Selichot, “Hashem Hashem, Kel rachum v’chanun.” “G-d is a G-d of mercy and compassion.” And when did He say those words? After the worst sin of all, the Golden Calf. Without G-d’s forgiveness, we could not survive our mistakes. What happens when an entire culture loses faith in G-d? All that’s left is an unconscious universe of impersonal forces that doesn’t care if we exist or not, a world of Facebook and Twitter and viral videos in which anyone can pass judgment on anyone without regard to the facts or truth or reflective moral judgment, where, by the time the person accused has had the chance to explain or the truth has emerged, the crowd has already moved on. They’re not interested anymore. And what happens in an unforgiving culture? Have a look at who is influential in the world today. In an intolerant culture, the people who survive and thrive are the people without shame because those are the only people who survive in a world without forgiveness.

But we believe that G-d gives us a chance to acknowledge our mistakes. We believe that if we are honest about the wrong we have done, if we stand before G-d with a broken heart, if we have the guts to say, “but we are guilty,” if like King David we can say, “Chatati,” “I sinned,” then G-d will give us a second chance.

I tried to explain to the Rabbi that the real difference is not between failure and success. The real difference is between failing and giving up and failing and keeping on going. That’s the real difference in life. And what keeps me going, I explained, is the simple knowledge that G-d lifts us up when we fall and forgives us when we fail.

This is what Selichot are all about. About being honest, about saying, “Master of the Universe, I know I let You down. I know I let others down. I know I let myself down, but shema koli, Hashem, Hear my cry! Help me become the person You created me to be!”

I have one request. Forget the public persona of perfection that people post on their social media and know that in the inner reaches of our soul we can be honest with ourselves. We can acknowledge the ways in which we’ve failed because we know that G-d forgives. And in that forgiveness, G-d gives us the strength to heal what we have harmed, to mend what we have broken, and to become the people He wants us to be.

Years ago, I was about to lecture 1,000 people in a big shul in America. Now, getting 1,000 Jews to sit down is as hard as splitting the Red Sea. And so the Rabbi of the shul said to me, “Rabbi Sacks, we’ve got 10 minutes before we begin. Every week I do the local Jewish radio program. Would you do a quick interview with me?” I said, “Fine!” We went into his study, just the two of us, and this is what he asked me. “Rabbi Sacks, I look at your CV, I look at your career... tell me, Rabbi Sacks, did you ever fail at anything?” I almost fell out of my chair laughing. I said, “I have failed at almost everything.” My favorite sentence in the English language is Winston Churchill’s definition of success: “Going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

 Adapted from Rabbi Sacks’ pre-Selichot address at Hampstead Synagogue, London, September 21, 2019.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 until his retirement in 2013. He spent decades bringing spiritual insight to the public conversation through mass media, popular lectures, and more than 30 books. Rabbi Sacks passed away in 2020, leaving behind a legacy as one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of our generation, one who bridged the religious and secular world through his remarkable and ground-breaking canon of work.

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Releasing Debts, Restoring Dignity


he laws of Shemitta that garner most of our attention are those that relate to the “resting” of the land of Israel. However, a less frequently discussed aspect of Shemitta – debt relief – also deserves our attention: “Every seventh year, you shall release your debts. This shall be the nature of the release: every creditor shall remit the due he claims from his fellow; he shall not exact it from his neighbor or his brother, for the release proclaimed is of Hashem” (Devarim 15: 1–2). Although debt relief only takes effect at the end of the Shemitta year, the meaning of this fascinating law is bound up together with the other laws of Shemitta. Whether money, land, or fruit, all property ultimately belongs to G-d and not to human beings. Once every seven years, during Shemitta, we are reminded that the property is not ours. We are commanded to abandon the fruits in our field and allow everyone to use them as they please, for the fruit belongs to G-d. Along the same lines, we are commanded to release the debts that others owe us. The money we have accumulated is a gift from G-d, and if G-d wills it, it must pass over to someone else. Debt relief also has another layer of spiritual significance which can be learned from the mitzvah to release slaves during the Yovel year: “For it is to Me that the Israelites are servants: they are My servants, whom I freed from the land of Egypt, I am Hashem your G-d” (Vayikra 25:55). Bnei Yisrael should be enslaved only to Hashem and not to other human beings. Like the commandment to release slaves, the obligation to cancel debts teaches us that the people of Israel are meant to be servants of G-d and not of man. A loan is a form of a lien. When

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Rabbanit Sharon Rimon a poor man borrows money, he grants the lender significant power over him. A lender can seize his salary or property, pressure him and demand that he work harder to earn money. Although the lien is justified because the money belongs to the lender, the Torah states the lender’s lien must be limited in scope to emphasize that the borrower is also a servant of G-d, so it is inappropriate for him to be a slave to another. For the same reason, every seven years, G-d commands the lender to release all debts owed to him. In releasing the borrower from the lien bonds, the lender testifies that G-d is the ultimate Owner and that the borrower is “enslaved” not to the lender but only to G-d.

The cancellation of debts during the Shemitta year also causes a realignment of society. The cancellation of debts during the Shemitta year also causes a realignment of society. One who has fallen into debt is in a socially inferior position from which it can be difficult to break free. As anyone in financial distress understands, it can be very challenging to break the debt cycle and return to normal life. Consequently, when borrowers are released from their debts, they are given an opportunity to start over and reestablish their place in society. The economic impact is significant as well. People who are mired in debt and forced to hand over all of their earnings to lenders will often lose the motivation to work and create, further impairing their economic

rehabilitation. On the other hand, a society can only function if its members meet their obligations and repay debts to lenders. And so the Torah offers a balance – while borrowers are generally required to repay their loans, every seventh year, they are given a respite and the freedom to decide how and when to repay them. The Rabbis teach that even during Shemitta, borrowers should repay their debts when possible. But if a borrower is crushed by his loan and unable to lift himself out of poverty, the lender must relinquish the debt. A Torah economy requires a delicate balance of competing values and only functions properly when society maintains a high moral standard and borrowers do not use the debt waiver to make easy money at the expense of others. The key to maintaining this delicate balance of values is to remember the ultimate purpose of Shemitta and the cancellation of loans. The objective, of course, is not to benefit one person at the expense of another but rather to remind the entire nation that all property ultimately belongs to G-d. The Shemitta year offers an extraordinary opportunity for human beings to achieve social and economic equality and highlights the spiritual significance of each human being’s dignity in society. All human beings are created in the image of G-d and worthy of serving G-d and G-d alone.

Rabbanit Sharon Rimon teaches Tanach and is Content Editor for the HaTanakh website.

‫טֹובה‬ ָ ‫ּכְ ִת ָיבה וַ ֲח ִת ָימה‬ Wishing you a Shana Tova from all of us at Mizrachi

We look forward to coming back to your community in 5782 with our speakers, live shows and programmes

The Fiftieth Year Rabbi Hershel Schachter


he yovel year, when Jewish slaves are freed and property returned to its original owners, is observed every 50 years, following seven Shemitta cycles. However, there is a debate among the rabbis concerning the counting of the yovel year, as to whether the 50th year is considered a “blank” year, not belonging to any seven-year Shemitta cycle. Rebbi Yehudah holds that the yovel year is also counted as the first year of the next seven-year Shemitta cycle, which means the year after yovel is already the second year of the next cycle. This contrasts with the Chachamim, the accepted opinion that holds that the yovel year is not part of any cycle; the next Shemitta cycle commences after the “blank” yovel year.

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The Gemara (Arachin 32b) tells us that towards the end of the first Beit HaMikdash period after Sancheiriv exiled the shevatim of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe, the observance of the dinim of yovel were annulled. This is based on ‫יה‬ ָ ‫אתם ְ ּדרוֹ ר ָ ּב ָא ֶרץ ְל ָכל י ְֹׁש ֶב‬ ֶ ‫ו ְּק ָר‬, “And you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all its inhabitants” (Vayikra 25:10, later inscribed on the Liberty Bell), which teaches that the laws of yovel are to be observed only when ‫ָ ּכל‬ ‫יה‬ ָ ‫יה ָע ֶל‬ ָ ‫יוֹ ׁ ְש ֶב‬, “all its inhabitants are on [the Land],” and not after some of them have been exiled. The majority of the world’s Jewish population must be in Israel, and each tribe must be in its respective territory. The Jewish nation and Israel enjoy a symbiotic relationship, each positively affecting the other. The fact that the majority of Jews reside in Israel gives

the Land a deeper holiness, and the laws of yovel then apply. Similarly, since Israel is considered our national homeland, it accomplishes a tziruf (combination) of the Jews living there, who are then considered the primary congregation of Klal Yisrael. This is in contrast to the Jews residing in exile, who are only classified as individuals. David Ben Gurion used to say, “Whoever does not live in the land of Israel is not Jewish.” Since his concept of Judaism failed to recognize the individual Jew’s holiness and consisted only of the idea of Jewish nationhood, he was correct to state that the Jew in exile is “not Jewish.” We, however, who believe in a twofold holiness – the holiness of the nation and the holiness of the individual – recognize that the individual Jew’s holiness remains intact and obligates him in Torah and mitzvot, regardless of his location. The Gemara continues to explain that even though the laws of yovel were no longer applicable at the end of the first Beit HaMikdash period, following the opinion of the Chachamim above, “they [continued to] count the yovel years [as blank years] to sanctify the Shemitta years [at their proper time].” The Rambam (Hilchot Shemitta VeYovel 10:3–4) cites the opinion of the Ge’onim that even though this was the case at the end of the first Beit HaMikdash period, this is not the practice to be followed currently, after the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash (or during the 70 years of the exile in Babylonia). Nowadays, the yovel year should be totally ignored and we only recognize a continuous series of seven-year Shemitta cycles; we do not count a “blank year” in between.

Although the Rambam disagrees with this view in theory and holds that the yovel year should continue to be reckoned before commencing the next seven-year Shemitta cycle, he maintains that in practice, we should act in accordance with the opinion of the Ge’onim of Israel, who had continuously observed the laws of Shemitta, because “tradition and practice are great pillars in the determination of practical law.” The Ra’avad writes that we should follow the Rambam’s opinion in this case. The Tanna’im in the Sifra (quoted by Rashi, Gittin 36a) further dispute whether the condition regarding the observance of yovel, ‫יה‬ ָ ‫יה ָע ֶל‬ ָ ‫כל יוֹ ׁ ְש ֶב‬,ּ ָ affects the Shemitta year as well. Rebbi maintains that Shemitta and yovel are interrelated, such that the observance of Shemitta can only be d’oraita (biblically binding) when it leads up to a yovel year. If we know in advance that yovel will not be observed because we lack the condition of ‫יה‬ ָ ‫יה ָע ֶל‬ ָ ‫כל יוֹ ׁ ְש ֶב‬,ּ ָ then the observance of Shemitta can only be a d’rabbanan (rabbinically binding). The Gemara alludes to this debate, indicating in several places that the accepted opinion is in accordance with Rebbi (Mo’ed Katan 2b, Gittin 36a). This is the opinion of the majority of authorities – that Shemitta in our time is only rabbinically binding.  Adapted from Rav Schachter on the Parsha II. Rabbi Hershel Schachter is Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University.


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Stories of

Change Sivan Rahav Meir and Yedidya Meir When Rabbi Lau heard the shofar


abbi Yisrael Meir Lau once recounted the first and most powerful time he heard the sound of the shofar during Selichot: “We, a group of Holocaust orphaned children and adolescents, immigrated to Israel at the beginning of Av in 1945, shortly after the end of World War II. At the age of eight, I could not read or write one word in Hebrew, and in any case, I did not know about Rosh Hashanah and the shofar. After a short stay in Atlit controlled by the British and in a children’s institution in Kfar Saba, I arrived at my uncle’s house, Rabbi Mordechai Fogelman zt”l – the rabbi of Kiryat Motzkin, where I grew up until I reached my Bar Mitzvah. At the heart of the city, the main shul stands, large and with a high dome. The shul is full on Shabbat and Yom Tov but relatively sparse during the week. “I will never forget that morning when I accompanied my uncle. It was Rosh Chodesh Ellul davening, with Hallel, the reading of the Torah and the Mussaf prayer. I just stared at my siddur because I could not yet read it. Suddenly I jumped in panic at the unfamiliar sound of a mighty siren that resounded throughout the shul. Its sound echoes in my ears still to this day. In Polish, I asked my uncle what this vibrating siren meant. I then received my first lesson in the meaning of the shofar in Jewish law and tradition. How already in the month of Ellul we blow it every morning to arouse the heart of the people to teshuvah. How the shofar not only shakes the heart and reminds us of the binding of Yitzchak and Mount Sinai, but its letters are equal to the word ‫– ׁ ִש ּפוּר‬ improvement – improve your deeds. I heard all this for the first time in my

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life that morning when I was eight years old.” This beautiful story teaches us a simple but powerful lesson: that one can move forward in life and bridge gaps. The boy who did not understand a word of Hebrew and who did not know what a shofar was until the age of eight later became the Chief Rabbi of Israel and one of the most prominent Jewish speakers in the world.

How will next year look?


ave you imagined yourself on Rosh Hashanah next year? Many explain that this is precisely what should be done on Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah, our focus is not, primarily, on looking backwards, but mostly on looking forward to the year ahead. We must try to clarify what we want from ourselves, on all levels. Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, hy”d, the Grand Rabbi of Piaseczno who was murdered in the Holocaust, captured this sentiment with a practical proposal: “If you would like to worship G-d and elevate yourself so that you will not be on your 70th birthday as you were on the day of your Bar Mitzvah, please do the following: every year, set for yourself a goal. If your name is Reuven, for example, imagine what kind of Reuven you will be next year, what will your achievements, your service and your middot (character traits) be like one year from now. And that imaginary Reuven shall be for you as a measuring stick to assess yourself throughout the year – how much are you still lacking to be that imaginary Reuven? Is your daily service and acts

of self-improvement enough to reach the level of next year’s Reuven?”

Breaking down the task


he first 10 days of the year are called Aseret Yemei Teshuvah – 10 Days of Repentance. Rambam writes of these special days: “Although it is ever well to cry out and repent, during the space of the 10 days’ time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom HaKippurim it is exceedingly better, and the supplication is presently accepted, even as it is said: ‘Seek Hashem while He may be found’ (Isaiah 55:6).” Now the time has come. How do you do teshuvah? How do you begin such an internal and personal process? In the early days of the Hasidic movement, Rabbi Zusha of Hanipol heard a scholarly and profound explanation of what teshuvah is and then said that he could not reach such a high level, so he broke teshuvah down for us into smaller parts, smaller tasks, initial letters. Here is the division he presented: ‫ת ָּת ִמים ִּת ְהיֶ ה ִעם ה‘ ֱאל ֶֹקיך‬ Thou shalt be whole-hearted with Hashem your G-d. ‫יתי ה‘ ְלנֶ ְגדִּ י ָת ִמיד‬ ִ ‫ש ׁ ִש ִּו‬ I have set Hashem always before me; surely He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. ‫ו ְו ָא ַה ְב ָּת ְל ֵר ֲע ָך ָ ּכמוֹ ָך‬ You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ָ ‫ב ְ ּב ָכל דְּ ָר ֶכ‬ ‫יך ָד ֵעה ּו‬ In all your ways acknowledge Him. ָ ‫ה ַה ְצנֵ ַע ֶל ֶכת ִעם ֱאל ֶֹק‬ ‫יך‬ Walk humbly with your G-d.

Everyone needs to find their path and try to become the best version of themselves.

Innocence, devotion, love of Israel, love of G-d, modesty – Rabbi Zusha breaks teshuvah down into several gateways, and making it closer and more accessible. But perhaps there is an additional message here that: there are different ways to achieve change. We do not have to panic at what initially seems a daunting amount of work needed to do teshuvah. We can and should find different gateways and paths which speak to each one of us. In the same spirit, Rabbi Zusha is said to have taught: “I am not afraid of being asked after my death, in Heaven, why I was not Moshe Rabbeinu. I am not scared of being asked why I was not Rambam. I’m just afraid they’ll ask me why I wasn’t a Zusha. “ Everyone needs to find their path and try to become the best version of themselves.

A small commitment


bit of practical advice: during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is customary for us to take upon ourselves a new commitment. To make one commitment regarding improvement in one area of life – and

to persist in living up to it. It could be any little positive obligation or commitment regarding ourselves, our family, our community, tzedakah, surfing the Internet, prayer, learning or something else. In this way, we assure ourselves that all the promises and thoughts for the new year will not disappear. A little something will remain and continue to accompany us. Some commentators explain that this new commitment for the new year is like a new garment that a person buys – not for the body, but for the soul. The commitment needs to be modest, doable, and within reach. Rabbi Elimelech Biederman tells of when he was a student and approached his rabbi at the beginning of the year and asked for a worthwhile commitment to take upon himself. His rabbi answered: think about, contemplate, and then choose an easy commitment that you are confident you can live up to throughout the year. Rabbi Biederman returned to his rabbi with a promise to undertake a specific commitment. His rabbi then told him: now cut that commitment in half so that you will be sure to fulfill it. Sivan Rahav Meir and Yedidya Meir are popular Israeli media personalities and World Mizrachi’s Scholars-in-Residence.

Members of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/ speakers

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Agriculture in the shadow of terror Israel’s farmers stand at the forefront of our country’s security. Some of the farmlands that safeguard Israel’s border lie in the Gaza periphery area and western Negev. Consequently, the farmers there are suffering the most as a result of the current Israeli reality. The Palestinians from Gaza are committing grievous acts of terrorism in this area, causing the farmers to find themselves in an intolerable security situation as incendiary balloons burn their fields and trees. Now, against the backdrop of the upcoming Shemitta year, something can be done. Becoming a partner in the land together with the farmers will provide them with an island of security and stability in the face of a harsh reality, strengthening them as those who stand guard over our land. The project, run in partnership with Shemitta On The Front Lines, will also enable us to establish a special fund to support the farmers safeguarding Israel’s borders.

Partners in the Land In order to support the tremendous agricultural endeavor in the Gaza periphery and western Negev, we offer you a one-year partnership agreement in the Land. Supporting F ar


n the Gaza Bo rs o rd me

Shemitta on the Front Lines

22 | August 2021 Ellul 5781

Shemitta Project – Proposed Plan

From $180 to $18,000 you can support the project and halachically purchase a stake in the land, from one square amah (half a square meter) to 16 square amot, as well as purchasing mobile extinguishing units, mobile protective

gear for farmers in the field, securing an entire field and adopting a farmer.

Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael The Shemitta year provides an opportunity to reinforce our G-d given right to the Land and perform important acts of strengthening our core values of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael. Am Yisrael | This initiative is a great act of Jewish solidarity of ‫כל יִ ְש ָׂר ֵאל ֲע ֵר ִבים זֶ ה ָ ּבזֶ ה‬,ּ ָ all Jews being responsible one for the other, in strengthening the common fate and destiny with our brothers and sisters on the front line of ongoing challenges on the Gaza border – the constant threat of terror for them and their families, the incendiary balloons and the burning fields. Eretz Yisrael | Supporting these communities and farmers is a great way to strengthen our connection to the Land and State of Israel. Supporting this critical frontier in the ongoing fight for our spiritual, historical and moral right to be in the Land as well as securing and supporting this agricultural endeavor connects us deeply to Eretz Yisrael. Torat Yisrael | This particular year affords each one of us the opportunity, wherever we are in the world, to be a partner fulfilling the mitzvah of Shemitta and affirming our acknowledgment that is a Divine right to the Land. It allows us also to partner in fulfilling the great mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, settling and strengthening our presence in the Land.

Introduction to Shemitta


with RABBI YOSEF ZVI RIMON Launching a series of explanatory videos about Shemitta and its practical application

Sunday, September 5, 2021 4:00 pm UK time at mizrachi.tv

Partnership opportunities Supporter: $180 | Be a supporter of this enterprise Partner in the Land: $360 | 1 square amah $1,800 | 4 amot x 4 amot (16 square amot) dedicating 16 plots of 1 square amah each, in the name of family members, each receiving a special certificate

The Shemitta Sensation by RABBI BINYAMIN ZIMMERMAN

Partnership and Protection: $5,000 | In addition to 4 amot x 4 amot: fire extinguishing equipment and extinguishing gel $7,500 | In addition to 4 amot x 4 amot: Kevlar (bulletproof) vest, helmet and protective blanket for farmers in the field Adopt a Farmer: $10,000 | Adopt an individual farmer; donor’s plaque at entrance to greenhouse or field; a personal thank you video/letter will be sent by the farmer with an invitation to visit

The Shemitta Sensation takes a deeper look into the Jewish sabbatical year, highlighting Shemitta’s reemergence in modern history as the Jewish nation returns to its land. Its author, Rabbi Binyamin Zimmerman, is an innovative Jewish educator who heads Mizrachi’s rabbinic ordination program for English speakers in Israel.

$18,000 | Rehabilitation of a burned field; donor’s plaque at entrance to the restored area

To partner with us, visit mizrachi.org/shemitta

Available now from Mizrachi Press at mizrachi.org/press

ANTISEMITISM, RIOTS AND TRAGEDY: REFLECTIONS ON THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE Jewish residents take out a Torah scroll from a burned synagogue following overnight riots between Arab and Jewish residents in Lod in May 2021 (PHOTO: EPA/ABIR SULTAN)

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For the past year and a half, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all of our lives, inflicting painful losses and bringing much of our communal life to a halt. Alongside this global catastrophe, Jewish communities across the world have grappled with an array of tragedies and antisemitic attacks, but also unexpected opportunities and silver linings. As we prepare for an uncertain year ahead, we asked leaders from Mizrachi communities across the globe to contemplate the extraordinary challenges they faced this year and their hopes for the future.

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“We have to stand up and speak up.” With a Jewish population that dwarfs that of other Diaspora communities, New York City has long been the hub of American Jewish life and a stronghold of Religious Zionism in the United States. But this year New Yorkers have experienced an unprecedented wave of antisemitic attacks and tension with local government officials.


​AVITAL CHIZHIK-GOLDSCHMIDT is a writer and a Rebbetzin living in New York City. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, Vox, Vogue, Salon, Glamour, Business Insider, and Religion & Politics, among others. Avital has taught journalism at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women. ​She is a recipient of honors from the Atlantic, Moment, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and elsewhere.

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For generations, Jews have felt at home in New York City. Have recent events changed the way you feel about the city? This past year has definitely been the hardest year we’ve ever experienced here, between the pandemic, crime and hate crime in New York City, but I don’t think it’s really changed how I feel about New York. Antisemitic attacks are in no way limited to New York City.

might expect antisemitism in places where the KKK (Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group) was historically strong, but not in New York City, where Jews have felt at home for so long. But I really believe that this is a country-wide epidemic. I also believe that the place where it is most rampant, and most dangerous, is not in a particular geographic location, but in the virtual space.

Yes, we’ve seen an increase in these attacks, but that is likely because we have an extensive and robust Jewish community here.

The virtual space is where much of this violence is instigated, and from which it can really mushroom into something much more terrifying.

For me, personally, it raises a larger question about this country. A Chabad rabbi was stabbed in Boston a few weeks ago, and we all know what happened in Jersey City, Poway and Pittsburgh.

How has the rise in antisemitism impacted your community?

These attacks are happening across the country, not just in New York. In New York, we feel a little more shocked when these attacks occur; we

People are certainly worried. Quite a few people asked for our opinions and advice, and sometimes even help, in buying real estate in Israel. This past year, especially when the borders were closed (and they are still closed to most

American Jews), I felt a sort of dull, constant panic that we can’t get in, unless we make Aliyah. The feeling that we can’t just go there whenever we want is very painful. Many people are also rethinking things. If you’re stuck in one place, where do you want to be? Where’s that one place that you want to be? I’ve seen quite a few families end up buying homes in Israel this past year, even without seeing it and considering Aliyah more seriously.

That being said, I don’t think people are moving en masse out of New York City, specifically. People are weighing their options. There has been financial instability and Covid questions, so it’s not just antisemitism pushing people to make these decisions. It’s one of several factors.

Mayor Bill de Blasio strongly criticized and singled out the New York Jewish community during the Covid pandemic, eliciting an angry response from many Jews. Do you believe that his statements were rooted in antisemitism? I do not believe his statements are rooted in antisemitism, and I say this because I know his history. Look at New York City politics over the last few years. You’ll see that before he became mayor, he had a solid relationship not only with the Jewish community generally but with the Orthodox Jewish community

as well. If you talk to a lot of askanim in the Orthodox community, off the record, they have quite positive memories of working with him, of situations where he had their back on various things. This past year, shockingly, looked very different. He posted a critical tweet about the Jewish community after thousands of Chassidim attended an outdoor funeral for their Rebbe. He attacked the community for it. But even so, I don’t think it was due to antisemitism.

I think it was a terrible and poorly worded statement, and it was undoubtedly dangerous in that it could incite more hatred. But I don’t think it came from hatred itself. At the same time, I don’t think de Blasio has been the smartest person in the way he’s run New York City. It’s a general failure of leadership. And one of the ways it manifests itself is through his poor decisions regarding minority communities like the Orthodox community.

Do you believe that the rise in antisemitism will pass, or is antisemitism in New York here to stay? I am a daughter of Soviet Jewish immigrants, so I was always raised with this feeling and awareness that antisemitism is not going anywhere. Before this past year, I was always conscious of it and knew that it existed under the surface. It’s just that it has been far more

emboldened over the last few years because of the political climate in the United States. With more considerable economic instabilities, identity politics and nationalism on the rise, it’s not surprising to any student of history that antisemitism is on the rise here as well. I think it is here to stay, and it is here to stay in New York as well. It is painful, but we have to understand that this is the reality of being a Jew in a time of galut.

Those of us who imagined that America would forever be different were being slightly delusional and naive. We are not the first Jews to be welcomed by foreign countries, experience golden ages in the Diaspora, and imagine ourselves finally stable, comfortable, and fully integrated. This story has played out before. I’m very mindful of that. And so we must trust in G-d and figure out the best way to protect ourselves. When we see disturbing things happening in the public arena, we have to stand up and speak up. Over the last few years, I’ve been talking more and more about what it’s like to be a visibly Jewish person walking in New York City; what it means to be an Orthodox Jew in this city, where you are wearing a target on your back. It’s crucial that these realities are voiced. n

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“Jews from all over came to secure the streets to protect us.” As Hamas terrorists launched thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities this past May, Israeli Arabs rioted in Lod, part of a wave of Arab violence throughout Israel. During nightly rampages, the rioters firebombed Jew-owned cars and buildings, including a synagogue.


TAHAEL HARRIS has lived in Lod for two years, with her husband Yedidia and their two children, Yaela and Roi. In July, we met with her as part of Mizrachi USA’s Leadership Solidarity Mission to Israel and spoke with her about her experience during the violence. Tell us about the Jewish community in Lod and the “Garin Torani” you are a part of. What was it like to live in a “mixed” city with Jews and Arabs living together, before the May riots broke out?

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For many years, Lod was seen as one of Israel’s least developed cities, with high poverty and crime rates.

an understanding that the communities operate differently, but we have been excellent neighbors.

Twenty years ago, two families decided to form a Garin Torani, a group of religious families who would move to Lod to strengthen the Jewish community here. The Garin Torani has since grown significantly, now numbering a few hundred families. The community has a warm, small-town feeling and is in a fantastic location, only a few minutes from Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport, and Israel’s main highway Route 6.

For me, living in the same building as Arabs has taught me a lot about their culture. I arrived with many stereotypes, but now I know the culture first hand, which has been very eye-opening.

Lod is 70% Jewish and 30% Arab, but our neighborhood of Ramat Eshkol is the reverse: 70% Arab and 30% Jews. In general, we have excellent relations between the two communities. There is

Tahael Harris with her family in Lod

What was it like to be living in Lod during the riots? On Monday evening, May 10th, the riots began. That afternoon, we’d held an event in the cultural center, and we had greeted the Arab women there as usual; everything felt normal. We were caught off guard and never imagined that we would ever be scared simply to leave our homes. On the first night, the rioters burned the local Beit Midrash of the pre-army Mechina, and crowds of young Arab men burned cars and threw stones at Jewish homes. On the second evening of the riots, there were Arabs in our

Vehicles belonging to Jewish residents that were set on fire by Arab rioters in Lod, May 2021 (PHOTO: MY ISRAEL FACEBOOK PAGE)

Burned sacred books found in the local school in the aftermath of the riots

neighborhood throwing rocks and fireworks, but there was a siren because of a rocket fired by Hamas.

How has the Jewish community of Lod worked to rebuild since the riots ended?

It was surreal – we had to decide what was riskier; running to the shelter, but possibly being exposed to the Arab rioters, or staying in our home but unprotected from the Hamas rockets.

During the riots, we felt like we received a massive hug from Am Yisrael.

We decided to go to the shelter, and we met Arab families there – or more accurately, half of the Arab families. The women and children were in the shelters, but the men weren’t there, and I can only guess where they were. We couldn’t look each other in the eye – we had nothing to say to them, and they had nothing to say to us. Because it was Ramadan when the Arabs fast each day, the days were calm. But the riots kept getting worse in the evenings. It was a lonely time, as we felt abandoned by our Arab neighbors, who didn’t even reach out to ask if we were okay, and abandoned by the police, who were too slow to deal with the rioters. The riots became more severe, as the rioters progressed from throwing rocks to firing guns. After three days of rioting, we decided that I would leave with the children to Yerushalayim, while Yedidia would stay to help secure the neighborhood.

People from all over the country sent cakes, games for kids and whatever we needed. Jews from all over came to secure the streets to protect us. After the riots, we have been focused on the mental health of the community. Children, parents, individuals – so many people saw horrendous and shocking things. People have had their cars and homes burned, so we are also focusing on rebuilding and fixing what needs to be restored. We have even tried to welcome new residents to the community to build and strengthen our presence here. Some people are coming to live here for a year, just to help strengthen the community. We also hope that the Arabs who move here will be those who reject the violence. This area will continue to be a mixed neighborhood, but we want to ensure it will be a neighborhood where people will live in peace together.

Going forward, do you think it will be possible to rebuild relationships with members of the Arab community of Lod? It is not easy at all. Do we now need to start sending our children with security guards when they walk in the street? The Arab community is diverse, with many different groups and views. Our community wants to work together with our Arab neighbors, but at this point, the feelings are still raw. I am optimistic, as we remember that it was only half a year ago that we did have good inter-communal relations. I think that we need to regain our basic sense of security and feel comfortable again, and only then can we begin to rebuild relationships. Another critical goal is strengthening the moderate Arab voices within Lod. There are many Arabs in Lod who want to live peacefully and side by side with us, and we also understand that being an Arab in Israel means living as a minority, something we must be sensitive toward. It is complicated, it will take time, but I am confident about the future of Lod as a diverse city and about the ability of Jews and Arabs to live in peace around Israel. As the Israeli saying goes, “The eternal people are not scared of a long journey.” n

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“They came to a place of darkness and brought light.” The tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South in the Surfside neighborhood of Miami on the night of June 24 has hit the Jewish community particularly hard as many of the missing residents were members of local Orthodox synagogues.


JOE ZEVULONI is an IsraeliAmerican entrepreneur, founder of Simcha Layeladim (mywish4u.org) and organizer of Strong for Surfside, a volunteer network that provided thousands of kosher meals to first responders and family members of victims of the Surfside collapse. When Champlain Towers collapsed, the Surfside community was devastated, literally overnight. How did Strong for Surfside, your network of volunteers, emerge from this horrific catastrophe? When Champlain Towers collapsed, Surfside was in absolute chaos. The scope of what happened was overwhelming. Thousands of people were streaming into the community – relatives of the victims, emergency workers, rescue personnel, police and fire departments. All of this emergency personnel needed support; food, supplies and so on. People were helpless, and government officials seemed vulnerable too. When I approached the mayor and other

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bureaucrats in the area to tackle the logistical problems, I got nowhere.

Surfside’s community center, about half a mile from Champlain Towers.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait for the government to get started. My friend, Eli Ginsburg, is the owner of Surf-n-Sides, a kosher restaurant in

Together, we dove in and repurposed Eli’s kitchen to prepare over 3,000 high quality kosher meals a day – teriyaki salmon, rib eye steak; you name it.

Hundreds of kashrut-observant Jews ate at the kitchen, but we also served thousands of others. Each day, we used golf carts to bring lunch boxes to the emergency workers at the site. When the building collapsed and we began to realize the enormity of the situation, it struck me that we all have to join together and be strong for Surfside. So we made “Strong for Surfside” t-shirts and bumper stickers, and amazingly, it went viral. Within a few days, over a thousand volunteers had signed up to help from all walks of life. People who were vacationing in Florida and felt guilty about being at the beach came to volunteer.

to Surfside. To their credit, the local officials agreed. When the IDF arrived, the vibe at the disaster site immediately changed for the better; they were the only tactical army team at the site, and their confidence and competence boosted everyone’s morale. The US rescuers said that the Israelis brought a different approach, and within a few days, they had learned how to bolster their efforts with tactics they learned from the IDF.

One of the Israel Defense Forces National Rescue Unit at the site of the Surfside collapse (PHOTO: IDF)

Initially, we self-funded the project, and then friends joined in to help. Rabbi Sholom Lipsker and the Shul of Bal Harbour were a huge help as well. With their help, we were able to produce more than $10,000 worth of food every day. We tried to make the community center a home away from home for the families of the victims and the first responders. We made meals to order; Michael, who lost his daughter in the collapse, liked pastrami sandwiches, and the Patel family only ate vegetarian. The community center is where the families came for updates, and the police and other responders come to the center to recover after exhausting days at the site. Many police officers and firefighters took the “Strong for Surfside” stickers off the food boxes and added them to their uniforms.

IDF Col. Golan Vach with sacred Jewish books uncovered in the rubble (PHOTO: IDF)

As someone at the disaster site every day, what did it mean to you to see members of the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command on the ground in Surfside? Immediately after the collapse, many Jewish families that lost loved ones in Surfside pleaded with local officials to bring the IDF search and rescue team

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis with Joe Zevuloni at the disaster site (PHOTO: STRONG FOR SURFSIDE)

As Jews, seeing Israel and the US working together was a massive source of pride. Israel, of course, is the “little brother” in the US–Israel relationship. But when the US is suffering, it is incredibly comforting to see how the “little brother” is there to help. I think we all understand this from personal experience. When you are suffering, having your family and close friends with you is deeply comforting. It’s not that the American personnel on the scene were incapable of doing the job independently. It’s simply friendship; when a friend is suffering, you need your friend to be there with you. The American first responders working at the scene bonded with the Israelis; they felt a powerful kinship with one another. One day, while we were delivering lunches, one of the American captains approached me and asked: “where can we get Israeli patches for our uniforms?” I bought hundreds of patches with the flag of Israel and distributed them to the rescuers working at the scene, who attached the patches to their uniforms. One of the captains gave me his patch in return. It was an extraordinary moment. It’s hard to describe how heartbreaking the Champlain Towers collapse has been for our neighborhood. We all lost friends in that building. But once again, the people of Israel showed that our nation is a source of light and friendship to the entire free world. They came to a place of darkness and brought light. n

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“What will be the future of the 500,000 Jews in France? Only G-d knows.” In April 2017, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year old Parisian Jewish woman and retired kindergarten director, was savagely beaten and thrown out of her apartment window to her death by Kobili Traoré, her Muslim neighbor. During the 30 minute attack, Traoré yelled verses from the Koran and screamed “Allahu Akbar.” Yet this past April, France’s highest court of appeal ruled that Traoré, who regularly smoked cannabis, had been experiencing a “psychotic episode” at the time of the attack and would not stand trial for the brutal murder, but instead remain in a secure hospital. .

More than 20,000 people in Paris protest against the French Court’s decision to acquit the murderer of Sarah Halimi. (PHOTO: TWITTER)

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ROBERT EJNES is the Executive Director of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions), the official French affiliate of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the worldwide umbrella organization of Jewish communities, and of the European Jewish Congress. How did the Jewish community of France react to the court’s ruling in the Sarah Halimi case? Do you believe the court’s ruling was antisemitic? The Halimi Case is a long and complex judicial story. Sarah Halimi was murdered by being thrown out of a window on April 4, 2017 by a Muslim fundamentalist. The murderer was immediately arrested but put under psychological surveillance. For several months the judge hesitated to label the killing as antisemitic. The assailant was declared to be not criminally responsible when the judges ruled the murderer was undergoing a psychotic episode due to cannabis consumption, as established by three independent psychiatric analyses.

statements in support of the Jewish community. Did the President’s response reassure you?

Jews are increasing. Surveys show that 90% of Jewish students in France have been bullied or attacked.

To his credit, in the Sarah Halimi case, President Macron called for justice.

This is especially true in the outlying suburbs of the major cities, the “banlieues.” These areas have been described as the “lost territories of the Republic” according to a book first published in 2002, which showed that Jewish children had to leave the public school system in some of these areas.

President Macron, together with the rest of the government and most of the political leaders of France, are supportive of the Jewish community. The Jewish communal buildings are secured with the assistance of the Ministry of Interior and Jewish synagogues, schools, and events are protected by security forces. The Jews are threatened by terrorists more than other French citizens. The president and the government understand this, and this is meaningful to our community.

How has the ruling impacted the Jewish community’s sense of security in France? The fact that the antisemitic crime of Sarah Halimi went unpunished leads essentially to a loss of trust in the French Judicial system. Since the recent wave of antisemitism in the 2000s, Jews have felt a greater sense of insecurity in France. Reports established by the security service of the Jewish community together with the Ministry of Interior show that antisemitic threats and attacks against French

In the wake of the Halimi trial, what do you believe lies ahead for the Jewish community of France? Jews have lived in France for more than 2000 years. They have survived being expelled from France in the Middle Ages, the Dreyfus affair of the 19th century, the Vichy regime of the Second World War and the Shoah. They also remember that France was the first country to give Jews emancipation and full citizenship in the modern era. Globally, Jews have a very long history in France and feel very attached to the French Republic and to its culture and history. Jews have also very extensively contributed to the Republic. There are many new home constructions in Jewish areas, a sign that many Jews believe they have a future here. At the same time, French Jews are very close to Israel. Most Jewish families in France have relatives in Israel, visit Israel very often (when they are not prevented from doing this because of the Coronavirus), and about 2,000 Jews make Aliyah from France each year. (Editor’s Note: This is around eight times the rate of American Aliyah, per capita) However, Aliyah numbers jumped to close to 8,000 per year from 2013–2015 after the Toulouse killing, when a Rabbi and three children were murdered in a Jewish school in another antisemitic attack.

The final decision was made by the highest French Court, the Cour de Cassation, which confirmed the previous decision, so the assailant will not be judged for the crime of murdering Sarah Halimi. The Court ruling was based on legal principles, but while the judges can be justified within the technical letter of the law, they did not serve justice to Sarah Halimi and to the Jews of France.

President Emmanuel Macron criticized the court’s decision and made

Jews may not feel threatened in the streets, but nonetheless we share a feeling of insecurity in France.

London’s Rabbi Sam Taylor expressing solidarity with French Jewry at a rally outside the French Embassy in Knightsbridge. (PHOTO: FACEBOOK)

What will be the future of the 500,000 Jews in France? Only G-d knows.” n

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Connection W I T H O U T


Entry Permit Rabbi Reuven Brand


e had been dreaming of, planning for, and hoping to attend a wedding this summer in Israel. There were many complexities in leaving our children in Chicago and flying to Israel, but they did not dim our excitement and anticipation for this rare trip. But ultimately, my wife and I experienced what so many others have over the past months. The Israeli government would not allow tourists to enter due to health considerations. With just a keystroke, our trip disappeared; we never reached the Promised Land. Although the cancellation of our planned trip was undoubtedly a “first-world problem,” it was still a significant disappointment – and one which provoked reflection. First and foremost, my wife and I were sad to miss sharing a simcha with people who mean so much to us. But on a deeper level, I felt a sense of disbelief: Even after vaccines and so much progress in fighting the Covid pandemic, a trip to Israel was still out of reach. Israel out of reach? I felt a strange sense of being in exile, locked out. It was noteworthy that the Israeli government’s decision to foreclose summer tourism was reported on Tisha B’Av, a day when we contemplate the complexities of our relationship with Hashem, the state of our exile, and our relationship with Eretz Yisrael. On Tisha B’Av, we mourn. We grapple with tragic events and are left with profound and challenging questions. We feel our collective longing for Israel, the home of our fathers and our future. Captured in the words of generations of poets, we express our desire to return to the beautiful Land of Israel. And yet, our Tisha B’Av experience today is profoundly different from that of our great grandparents. Their

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The recent reality of only Israeli citizens and their immediate relatives being allowed into Israel has highlighted our family’s personal decision to live in America, bringing the implications of this choice squarely into focus. We have become more conscious of our separation from the Land of Israel.

experience highlighted a longing for a far-off, mostly out-of-reach dream. But in the modern era, Tisha B’Av has taken on a new dimension for Jews living in the Diaspora. Today, Tisha B’Av challenges us by posing an implied question: Why am I not now living in Hashem’s Land, the Land of our people? We confront the same questions as we move through the Jewish calendar. On Tu B’Av, we recall a turning point for the people of Israel, who finally stopped dying in the desert as Hashem cleared them for landing in the Land. On Rosh Hashanah, we remember Avraham Avinu’s journey to Hashem’s chosen place in the heart of Eretz Yisrael. The introspection of the Yamim Noraim opens our eyes and hearts to consider whether we are doing our best to nurture our connection with Hashem. This overall spiritual reflection invites us to seriously engage the contradictions of our Jewish life in the Diaspora, especially today. Why haven’t we chosen to make our life in Israel? Why is it important in the first place? And how can we strengthen our connection with Eretz Yisrael from afar? These age-old questions lie just beneath the surface of our busy everyday lives. We should consider them as part of our annual spiritual checkup.

Why is Hashem preventing us from entering our holy Land now? Hashem’s ways are mysterious; we are not privy to His plans. We do not ask ‫מדּ ו ַּע‬,ַ seeking a rationale, but rather ‫ל ָּמה‬,ָ “for what.” Perhaps Hashem wants us to consider the reasons we haven’t moved to Israel. Or maybe He is challenging us to find new ways to connect to our Land and our people. Or could it be that He wants us to keep asking questions, to keep the conversation going? The Chafetz Chaim and Rav Kook, 20th-century spiritual visionaries, kept the Land of Israel at the center of their spiritual and everyday conversation. They emphasized that we are on the threshold of redemption. We can too. Although this process may be slower than they imagined, we know that Israel is our ultimate destiny. We know the unfolding of the process of Jewish history will continue, along with its hiccups and frustrations. We know that one day all barriers of entry to Israel will disappear. Most importantly, we know that even if we are not currently in Hashem’s Land, we can connect with it wherever we are.

Rabbi Reuven Brand is the Rosh Kollel of the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel, a community Torah institution with a vibrant Beit Midrash, array of creative learning opportunities, unique women’s initiative and diverse outreach programming. He lives in Skokie, Illinois with his wife, Nechama, and their five children.

Thoughts and

Intentions Shoshana Cohen


lthough Rosh Hashanah is a familiar chag, it is also an intriguing one. If we examine key elements of the day, many questions arise: 1.

“The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a) records an opinion that states the world was created on Rosh Hashanah. Yet the Torah does not explicitly link Rosh Hashanah and creation. Why not?

2. Blowing the shofar is a key part of the day and takes a central role during the service. However, it is the only positive mitzvah unique to Rosh Hashanah. What does this indicate about the chag? 3. In tractate Rosh Hashanah, there are many digressions in order to discuss Rosh Chodesh. What is the link between Rosh Hashanah and Rosh Chodesh? 4. The Talmud (Megillah 31b) strangely equates Rosh Hashanah with Shavuot. When explaining why we read Parashat Ki Tavo, which contains the curses that would befall the Jewish people for not keeping the mitzvot, just before Rosh Hashanah, Reish Lakish explains that “one year and its curses should be finished before the next begins.” The Talmud compares this to the reading of the curses in Parashat Bechukotai, just before Shavuot, providing the same explanation and indicating that Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot are intrinsically comparable. What is the nature of this connection? The answer to these questions lies in the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a), which records the disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer, who states the world was created in Tishrei, and Rabbi Yehoshua, who argues it was created in Nissan. Rabbeinu Tam (Tosafot, Rosh Hashanah 27a) resolves this debate by explaining that while the

world was physically created in Nissan, it was created six months earlier in thought and intention, in Tishrei. This is the key to understanding the essence of Rosh Hashanah: It is a day which centres around thoughts and intentions. This is why the only positive mitzvah of the day is listening to the shofar. The beracha we make is not on blowing the shofar, but on hearing it. The act of hearing is passive and is reliant on intent: By focusing one’s attention and concentrating on the sound, one can fulfill their obligation to hear the shofar. One need not get up or go to shul or blow the shofar in order to discharge their obligation; it is sufficient to simply pay attention. This is explicit in the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 3:7) which discusses whether one can fulfill the commandment of shofar simply by passing a building where a shofar is being blown. The Mishnah states: ‘even though this one heard and this one heard, this one paid attention [and fulfilled the mitzvah] and this one did not pay attention [and did not]’. The defining factor is a person’s intent. This also explains the connection between Rosh Hashanah and Rosh Chodesh. The Beit Din could only declare a new month after two witnesses had travelled to Jerusalem to testify that they had seen the new moon and been cross-examined by the court (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah, especially 2:6, 3:1). The essence of Rosh Chodesh and Rosh Hashanah are the same: They both depend on human attention and subjectivity. Indeed, Rosh Hashanah coincides with Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, making it more dependent on witnesses and Beit Din than other holidays. This also explains the parallel between Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot. Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Pesach commemorate concrete historical events – the people’s forgiveness after the golden calf, the protection of the nation in the

desert and the exodus. Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot are different, as the Torah does not explicitly link these holidays to any historical event. Instead, these holidays focus on our personal, subjective relationships with Hashem. On Shavuot, we reflect on the place of the Torah in our lives. On Rosh Hashanah, we reflect on our relationship with Hashem and our service of Him throughout the past year. Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot are new beginnings that require us to focus on our personal, subjective relationship with Hashem. Rosh Hashanah is a time that requires us to reflect upon our flaws and failings over the past year, which can feel frightening, alienating and dejecting. But this misses the true goal of our reflection and of Rosh Hashanah: The deepening of our relationship with Hashem. On Rosh Hashanah, Hashem invites us into a relationship with Him for the coming year – one that involves responsibility but also one that is deeply meaningful and joyous!

Shoshana Cohen studied English at Bristol University and is a previous participant of the Lilmod Ul’Lamed, the Student Beit Midrash Women’s Educator Program in partnership with Mizrachi UK, Bnei Akiva and the United Synagogue.

Yamim Noraim Tefillot M A LC H U YOT

Connecting with Avinu Malkeinu


ow can we relate to Hashem as a king nowadays? Have you ever met a king? I don’t think I have. Kings seem so old-fashioned. Is it even a mitzvah to appoint a king? Is monarchy the ideal form of government? Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein addresses these questions in his analysis of hilchot melachim: “Hashem gives Bnei Yisrael the guidelines of a king if they decide to appoint a king over themselves when they enter Israel (Devarim 17:14). Others throughout Tanach discourage appointing a king. Gideon refuses the people when they ask him to rule over them – G-d will rule over you! (Shoftim 8:23). Then Shmuel warns the people at length about the negative aspects of having a king, “the king will take your slaves, tithe your flocks, take your sons as soldiers, and seize your fields” (Shmuel I, 8:1–22). Abrabanel believes that the model of a republic is more prosperous than the dangers of a tyrannical despot. The Rambam and others claim that monarchy is the chosen form of government and that there’s a mitzvah to appoint a king.”1 However, in conclusion, the rabbis are still in disagreement as to whether there is a mitzvah to appoint a king or not. A quick survey of kings in Jewish history will show the first few kings, Shaul, David, and Shlomo, were good kings [as well as a couple of others down the line], but not perfect – and the rest were far from exemplary. Due

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Tova Levine to the nature of the job description of a Human King, which includes wealth, power, making unilateral decisions, and instilling fear into his subjects, most kings are often involved in bloodshed, warfare, seizing money and land, enslaving people, immoral behavior, etc. We wouldn’t want to relate to Hashem as such. In Malchuyot, we proclaim that Hashem is a unique King and there are none like Him. There are never perfect human monarchs, Hashem is the epitome of benevolent kingship. Hashem also holds the record for the longest reigning monarch, ‫ַה ַּמ ְלכוּת ׁ ֶש ְ ּל ָך ִהיא‬ ‫עול ֵמי ַעד‬ ְ ‫ו ְּל‬, “The kingdom is Yours, and to all eternity.” An example of a modern monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who is the longest reigning incumbent human monarch, is peacefully leading a parliamentary system of government. Her face is on currency and stamps; the Royal Warrant is on tea, coffee, chocolate, and even baked beans! It’s debatable whether she actually has power or remains an influential force, leading by example. She’s a celebrity figurehead with a lot of wealth. Yet we want more than to relate to Hashem as a Celebrity King, only being able to connect by looking in from the outside. Just to get backstage passes once in a while is an empty relationship with no reciprocity. Miriam Kosman relates the following: “Imagine taking a train to meet your Beloved. You can barely wait to get there. The train makes a stop along the way, you wait impatiently to get moving again and suddenly notice a familiar figure boarding – it is them! The very person you got on the train to meet has surprised you by getting on the train early. Jumping up and

running over, you think to yourself, even in that moment of great joy, what a pity that I still have another two hours on this train.”2 Just like the rider on this train, the kings of Israel and the people of Israel missed the point! Hashem is our Beloved King with whom we are waiting to reconnect. The Kings of Yisrael and Yehudah were supposed to be those holy conduits, like the train from the story, connecting Hashem to the Jewish people and vice versa. Perhaps the most common in our liturgy is also Hashem as our own personal Father King looking out for our best interests, loving us, open for conversation and yet almighty and powerful, who can make anything happen for us. Let’s try to get past the imagery of a Human King of flesh and blood, and Celebrity King where there is no building of a true relationship and hopefully relate to Hashem as our Beloved King or personal Father King. Let’s try to connect with the true meaning of Avinu Malkeinu. Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein, “The Commandment to Appoint a King,” Jewish Political Theory, Hilkhot Melachim (2016). 1

Miriam Kosman, Circle, Arrow, Spiral: Exploring Gender in Judaism (2014). 2

Tova Levine has an MSW from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a graduate of World Mizrachi’s Shalhevet leadership program, and currently serves as Co-Director of Education for the Hale Adult Hebrew Education Trust in Manchester, UK.

Yamim Noraim Tefillot ZICHRONOT

Why Does the Akeida Take Center Stage?


n the Zichronot section of Mussaf on Rosh Hashanah, we call on G-d to remember the merit of our ancestors as He judges us for our shortcomings. A key event in the Zichronot section is the famous story of the Akeida, the binding of Yitzchak. The Akeida appears in several of the High Holiday prayers, and is highlighted as the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Why does this event take center stage in our tefillot at this time of year? The Akeida story is controversial, and many classical and contemporary commentators question Avraham’s behavior. Why did he not challenge G-d’s commandment? Avraham’s appeal to G-d to spare even the few righteous of the city of Sedom proves that he was not afraid to challenge G-d’s decisions. Why did he not fight for his son?

Gila Chitiz man! Have you lost your mind [lit. have you lost your heart]? You are going to slay a son given to you at the age of a hundred!’ ‘Even this I do,’ replied he… [Samael said:] ‘Tomorrow He will say to you, “You are guilty of murder, you murdered your son!” He replied: ‘Still I go’.” (Bereishit Rabba 56:4) Nechama Leibowitz explains that dialogue is a symbolic representation of Avraham’s internal struggle: “The voice of the tempter in the guise of an old man is none other than the promptings of Abraham’s own heart during those three momentous days. One by one doubts assail him – the voice of the tempter.”

Rashi praises Avraham for the enthusiasm and excitement with which he seemingly set off to perform G-d’s command. Personally, I struggle with Rashi’s reading as it makes Avraham seem super-human. What normal father could embark on a mission to slaughter his only son without any hesitation?! And so I would like to suggest an alternative reading of the Akeida which can shed light on the centrality of this story in our liturgy.

The Midrash hints that Avraham did not set out enthusiastically in the fulfillment of G-d’s command, but rather was filled with inner turmoil. He was a deeply devoted servant of G-d, but also a father with immense love for his only son. Rav Yehuda Amital points out that this tension is expressed in one of our best known selichot: “He who answered Avraham Avinu at the Mountain of Moriya, He should answer us.” While ascending the mountain, the location intended for the slaughter of his son, Avraham cried out to G-d, begging for a reversal of the decree. But at the very same time, he continued to prepare to sacrifice his beloved son, in subservience to G-d’s decree.

The Midrash records a conversation between Avraham and the angel Samael on his way to the site of the Akeida: “‘And Yitzchak spoke to Avraham, his father, and said: My father’ (Bereishit 22:7). Samael went to our father Avraham and said: ‘Old man, old

This narrative portrays our struggle, on one hand as Jews and as ovdei Hashem, and yet as humans. What do we do when we do not understand a commandment? How should we react when we cannot relate to a particular mitzvah that we are obligated to

perform? The Akeidah teaches us that serving G-d is not always meant to be clear-cut or easy. Even though as humans we question, we doubt and sometimes we don’t understand, but we still do. We must always seek out answers, grapple with interpretations, strive for explanations. But even when our solutions are unsatisfactory, as believing Jews, we commit to this struggle because it is a commitment to G-d. During the Yamim Noraim, we reaffirm our dedication to G-d, declaring His Kingship over the world and us His nation. A nation of humans, doing our best to fulfill the Divine laws. Sometimes we fail and fall, but on Rosh Hashanah, we declare to G-d that we are getting up and trying again because we are committed to Him. This was Avraham’s message and is still ours today.

Gila Chitiz recently returned to Israel from Johannesburg, South Africa, where she and her family served as World Mizrachi shlichim. A graduate of World Mizrachi’s Shalhevet leadership program, Gila is currently providing a variety of professional editorial services to Koren Publishers Jerusalem.

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Yamim Noraim Tefillot S H O FA R OT

Giving Words to a Wordless Act


f the three blessings unique to Mussaf on Rosh Hashanah, Shofarot is perhaps the most obscure and, on face value, superfluous. Whereas the other two blessings evoke themes related to the essence of the day, the blessing of Shofarot, whose content is about the shofar, seems to be wholly unnecessary. Why, if we are already blowing the actual shofar, is it necessary to recite a blessing dedicated specifically to this act?

will mention it and establish a blessing for it…”

This notion is further exacerbated upon analyzing the rationale provided in the Gemara for the recital of Shofarot: “Recite before Me on Rosh Hashanah Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shofarot: Malchuyot – so that you will crown Me over you; Zichronot – so that your remembrance will ascend before Me for good; And with what? With the shofar” (Rosh Hashanah 16a).

Ritva’s second answer, however, offers a different approach for understanding Shofarot. According to this explanation, Shofarot is not a reference to the shofar blowing which occurs on Rosh Hashanah; rather, it is a substitute for it. The shofar blowing that is a pinnacle of Rosh Hashanah is referenced in prayer and embodied therein. The shofar blowing is incorporated in the text itself.

This statement appears to be somewhat flawed. It commences with all three blessings and enumerates the purpose of each one yet, ultimately, it omits the rationale for Shofarot, substituting it with the all-encompassing role of the shofar itself. Ritva (ad loc.) raises this question, and offers two explanations: “It is obvious that once there is a shofar there should also be verses about the shofar. Furthermore, this is what it means: And with what? With the actual shofar and with the verses of Shofarot, for the blessing of Shofarot is for the shofar, so that even when one has no shofar, he

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Rabbi Jonny Brull I believe that Ritva’s two explanations indicate different understandings as to the nature of Shofarot. According to Ritva’s first answer, Shofarot is an articulation of one of the facets of the day. Just as there are blessings of Malchuyot and Zichronot which reference the holiday’s themes of kingship and remembrance, so too is there a blessing of Shofarot which references the day’s shofar blowing.

To emphasize his point, Ritva evokes the following statement from the Tosefta: “Recite… Shofarot – so that your prayers will ascend in terua” (Tosefta Rosh Hashanah 1:11). Ritva’s reference to this source is clear. The verses of Shofarot are, so to speak, akin to the terua sounds of the shofar which accompany our prayers before G-d. The blessing of Shofarot is in some sense a textual equivalent to the shofar blasts, a provision of words for the wordless act of shofar. This notion is reflected in the text of Shofarot. Like shofar blowing itself, the blessing of Shofarot has multiple meanings. The blessing commences with a colorful description of the Divinely-induced shofar at Sinai, citing verses therefrom which convey G-d’s kingship – “the sound of the shofar grew very

loud,” proceeding on to general calls to sound the shofar as a declaration of G-d’s majesty – “praise Him with the shofar blast.” Shofarot, like the shofar blasts, is a declaration of G-d as King. The blessing then progresses, from the shofar that once was to that which is yet to come, from the shofar of Sinai to the “great shofar” that will be sounded at the time of the redemption. We now pray that G-d should “sound the great shofar for our freedom” and ingather the exiles with its call. Just like the shofar blasts, the text of Shofarot is timeless and all-encompassing in the themes that it evokes. We ultimately conclude, however, not with the wish that G-d should “sound” the shofar, but that He should hear ours: “Blessed… who hears the sound of the terua of His people Israel with mercy.” Thus, Shofarot is a two way relationship between G-d and us, much like the shofar blasts themselves. On the one hand, we recognize the Divine shofar call throughout history and yearn for His “great shofar” that is yet to come. Yet we also sound our own shofar and recite our own Shofarot, praying that G-d hears our terua in musical and textual form. Hence, it is both the shofar blasts and their textual counterpart which accompany our Rosh Hashanah prayers before G-d: “And with what? With the shofar.”

Rabbi Jonny Brull is the incoming Rosh Kollel for Torah MiTzion at Mizrachi Melbourne.

Yamim Noraim Tefillot KOL NIDREI

The Journey We Started Together


ach year we enter a packed shul, a little out of breath, a little too full, somewhat over-hydrated, and we find our seats. Everyone is in white sneakers looking somewhat strange with our finest Shabbat attire, all the men in tallitot. A hush falls over the crowd and we can’t believe that this is really it. The Torahs have left the aron and are lying before us, also clothed in white. ‫אוֹ ר זָ ֻר ַע ַל ַ ּצ ִ ּדיק ו ְּליִ ְׁש ֵרי ֵלב ִש ְׂמ ָחה‬, “Light is planted for the righteous and happiness for those who are upright of heart.” Perhaps, at this moment, we really are tzadikim – at least for these fleeting seconds on this holiest of days. ‫יבה ֶׁשל‬ ָ ‫ַעל ַ ּד ַעת ַה ָּמקוֹ ם וְ ַעל ַ ּד ַעת ַה ָ ּק ָהל ִ ּב ִׁיש‬ ‫ ָאנ ּו ַמ ִּת ִירין ְל ִה ְת ּ ַפ ֵ ּלל‬,‫יבה ֶׁשל ַמ ָּטה‬ ָ ‫ַמ ְע ָלה ו ִּב ִׁיש‬ ‫עם ָה ֲע ַב ְריָ נִ ים‬,ִ “With the consent of the Almighty, and consent of this congregation, in a convocation of the heavenly court, and a convocation of the lower court, we hereby grant permission to pray with transgressors.” Our shul has solemnly been turned into a heavenly and earthly courtroom as we invite all sinners to join the service where we will all be judged. And then… “Kol Nidrei.” The haunting melody, the repetition, the gradual crescendo as more and more people join in more loudly and with greater confidence. You don’t want it to end – this magical, spiritual, communal moment. You look down at the words, at the Aramaic text, at the English translation. What does this mean? The glory of the light of the tzadikim, the pathos of the sinners of history united over time – and now these words? They seem cold, dry, legal, meaningless – a contradiction to the very melody they are set to, the opposite of the sanctity of this moment.

Rebbetzin Abby Lerner Yom Kippur is Matan Torah – a re-enactment of the tragic, failed first attempt on the 17th of Tammuz. G-d says to Moshe: “They have made themselves a molten calf, prostrated themselves to it and sacrificed to it and they said, ‘This is your god, oh Israel who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” (Shemot 32:8) What is G-d’s response to this? “And now [Moshe] desist from Me. Let My anger flare up against them and I shall annihilate them; and I shall make you a great nation.” (Ibid 32:10). ‫ ל ֹא יַ ֵחל‬...‫ֽוֹ ִה ׁ ּ ָש ַבע ׁ ְש ֻב ָעה‬ ‫ִא ׁיש ִ ּכי יִ דּ ֹר נֶ ֶדר ַלה‘ א‬ ֹ‫דְּ ָברו‬, “When a man makes a promise to Hashem or swears... he may not profane his words” (Bamidbar 30:3). Our words are sacred. Rabbi Yehuda explains that the words “he may not profane his words” imply that while the speaker himself may not reverse his unwise oath by himself, others can help him do so. This is the basis for the laws of “Hatarat Nedarim,” the annulment of vows (Chagiga 10a). ‫וַ יְ ַחל מ ֶֹׁשה ֶאת ּ ְפנֵ י ה‘ ֱאל ָֹקיו‬, “And Moshe sought the face of Hashem, his G-d.” (Shemot 32:11) In the wake of the Golden Calf and G-d’s desire to annihilate the Jewish people, Moshe turns to G-d and, with the same word used to describe the reversal of nedarim, beseeches Him until the promise to annihilate is undone (Brachot 32a). This was an act of Hatarat Nedarim; Hashem “reconsidered” what He had said He would do. Throughout the Yom Kippur prayers, we recite, over and over again, the 13 Attributes of Mercy. G-d proclaimed these famous words in response to Moshe’s prayer for the Jewish people after the sin of the Golden Calf. Rabbi Yochanan teaches that G-d himself was cloaked in a tallit as a Ba’al Tefillah

as He taught Moshe the 13 Attributes of Mercy, to teach us that when the Jewish people sin, the Ba’al Tefillah, similarly cloaked, should recite the 13 Attributes to achieve atonement for them (Rosh Hashanah 17b). On Kol Nidrei night, G-d and the Jewish people are all wearing tallitot. The Scrolls are lying before us as we prepare again to receive the Torah, this time in purity. G-d and the Jewish people are all reciting the ancient formula of Hatarat Nedarim together. Kol Nidrei… Forgive us the folly of our words. “And Hashem said, ‘I forgive them as you requested.’” G-d walks back his promise to destroy the Jewish people. We, Klal Yisrael, retract our shout to the Golden Calf, “This is your god.” The final, glorious spoken words of Yom Kippur are “‫ה' הוּא‬ ‫ה ֱאל ִֹקים‬.” ָ Kol Nidrei has manifested its magical powers to set Klal Yisrael and G-d back on the journey we started together.

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur by Polish Jewish artist Maurycy Gottlieb, 1878

Rebbetzin Abby Lerner serves as the first National Director of Conversion Services for Geirus Policies and Standards, a network of conversion courts. Previously, she taught at Yeshiva University High School for Girls and served as the Rebbetzin of the Young Israel of Great Neck in New York. She and her husband recently made Aliyah.

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Yamim Noraim Tefillot NEILA

The Human Gates of Neila Rabbi Moshe Taragin


he Neila experience is dominated by a sense of foreboding and last-minute urgency. Four tefillot have already been completed throughout Yom Kippur: Ma’ariv, Shacharit, Mussaf and Mincha. At this stage during Neila, the gates are closing. Our tefillot may not ascend and may not penetrate Shamayim in time. There’s an urgency to daven furiously and desperately to assure that our tefillot do indeed ascend at the last minute before the gates slam shut. Over the years, before Neila, Rabbi Yehudah Amital related the following revo lut i o n a r y perspective: Shir HaShirim describes a courtship between a man and a woman, which is meant to capture the courtship between Hashem, the man, and the Jewish people, the woman. Throughout history we have sought each other, trying to unite, trying to rendezvous. In the Megilla, when the man seeks the woman, Hashem is looking for us; when the woman seeks the man, we are looking for Hashem.

A member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau mizrachi.org/ speakers

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In chapter 5, the courtship reaches a critical point. The man solicits the love of his beloved in a direct way, knocking on her door – kol dodi dofek! He pleads with her to open the door, but she is indolent. “I’m already in my pajamas, it’s too hard to wake up. I’ve already washed my legs, I don’t want to dirty them.” At which point, the man says: “Well, if you can’t answer the door for me, I’ll go one step further. I’ll stick my hand through the door. Just take my hand.” Finally, the woman awakens.

Slowly, she gets up to open the door, her hands filled with the aroma of perfume, and her fingers on the lock of the door. This interaction is a parable for our people’s relationship with Hashem. Hashem pursues the Jewish people, asking us to open the door to let Him in. Slowly, lethargically, the Jewish people arise, attempting to open the door for Hashem. “I rose up to open to my beloved; my hands dripped with myrrh, and my fingers with flowing myrrh, upon the handles of the door” (Shir Hashirim 5:5). The Midrash likens this scene to the sequence of prayers on Yom Kippur. The woman’s rising is Shacharit, her “hands full of myrrh” refers to Mussaf. “My fingers with flowing myrrh,” as she draws ever closer to her beloved, is Mincha. And finally, when she takes the door to open it - this is Neila. Slowly but surely, Yom Kippur culminates in Neila as the Jewish people respond to Hashem’s call and open the door to allow G-d in. Traditionally, Neila is understood as our attempt to keep the doors of heaven open, to allow our tefillot to ascend. In this Midrash, however, the door we are trying to open is not the door of heaven, potentially blocking our tefillot. It is the door that separates man from woman, the door that separates Hashem from His people and the door between Hashem and our own heart. This is the door that we have tried to open through all of Yom Kippur and hopefully can pry open during Neila. That door is not the gate of heaven, but rather the gate of the human heart – the only gate whose key Hashem does not possess. For Him to enter and

create that rendezvous, a human being must let Him in. The goal of Neila is not to look towards heaven, to try to halt the closing of the gates of tefilla. It is a time of internalization, of looking into our own hearts, of trying to open our hearts to allow Hashem to enter. The Midrash teaches us that the true drama of Yom Kippur is not whether our tefillot will or will not be accepted, but whether we will become one with Hashem. Hashem is trying to open the door. He’s on the other side of the entrance of the human heart, trying to enter. He’s our ally. He’s cooperating. Will a rendezvous occur? This is the drama of Neila; it is our attempt to pry open the gates of the human heart and allow Hashem to enter. May we open the door and let Hashem into our hearts!  Adpated from a shiur given as part of the ‘Rabbi Moshe Taragin on Rav Amital z”l’ series.

Rabbi Moshe Taragin has taught at Yeshivat Har Etzion since 1994. He previously taught Talmud at Columbia University and Yeshiva University, and served as Assistant Rabbi at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue. Rabbi Taragin is the author of the popular online shiur “Talmudic Methodology” and he co-wrote the commentary for the The Krengel Family World Mizrachi Edition of the Koren Yom HaAtzma’ut Machzor.


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Eretz Yisrael in Chassidut Shoshana Judelman spent months davening to Hashem and begging for His help. After an entire year, Rabbi Avraham Dov emerged from his seclusion and expressed gratitude that the meshulach had spoken to him so forcefully. “Because of the strength of his words, I worked so hard to be worthy and, indeed, I now see that his words were true, the rocks of Eretz Yisrael are truly precious gems.” How can we tap into the energy of seeing like the Bat Ayin, with our hearts and souls instead of with only our physical senses? How can we even begin to tap into the energy of Eretz Yisrael?


he Bat Ayin, Rabbi Avraham Dov of Avritch, had always yearned to live in Eretz HaKodesh. One day, a tzedakah collector arrived from Tzfat and the Bat Ayin asked him about living in Eretz Yisrael. “It is so beautiful,” responded the meshulach, “that even the rocks and stones are like precious gems!” Upon hearing these words, the Bat Ayin could no longer hold back and, in 1830 at the age of 65, he made Aliyah. A year later he met that same meshulach in Tzfat. “And?” asked the meshulach, eagerly awaiting Rabbi Avraham Dov’s reaction. “Indeed, our Land is wonderful and holy as you described,” observed the Bat Ayin, “but when you said the stones are like gems, that was an exaggeration!” The meshulach stared at Rabbi Avraham Dov and declared, “Whoever is worthy sees it!” Upon hearing these words, Rabbi Avraham Dov secluded himself and

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We know that what we see with our eyes is not the whole picture; we see the material world around us but not the deeper truth beneath the surface. We learn from the prophets that “the whole world is filled with His Glory,” (Isaiah 6:3) that our mission in life is to seek out the G-dliness that is hidden in every aspect of existence. In the Shema, the Torah tells us not to “wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray.” The Sfat Emet points out that according to Rashi, the Torah’s use of “wander,” which derives from the same linguistic root as the instruction to the spies to “scout out the Land,” teaches us that the eyes and the heart are the “spies” of the body. When a person sees everything on a materialistic level, they are in danger of falling prey to superficial temptations and a skewed view of the world. True sight comes from a life spent connecting to the One Above and continuously working towards personal growth. With enough persistence, we can grow an appreciation for depth over beauty, experiences over objects, and love over ego. We might even catch a glimpse of the shining spark of G-dliness that Hashem puts in everything and everyone.

The very air of Eretz Yisrael can help strengthen our ability to see G-dliness because, as we learn from the Gemara, “the air of Eretz Yisrael makes one wise.” (Bava Batra 158b) Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that this is so because “the eyes of G-d Almighty are continually upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end” (Devarim 11:12) and eyes signify awareness and wisdom. Eretz Yisrael is filled with His presence, but our ability to feel it depends on our deeds, our davening, and our continuous efforts to come closer to Him. One of Israel’s most confusing and heart-breaking sites is the Kotel, where our holy Beit HaMikdash should but does not yet stand. And yet, it is there that we go to daven and pour out our hearts to The One Above because it is a spiritual window of potential connection, a gateway through which the tefillot of the whole world ascend together to the Heavenly Throne above. If we open our hearts, we can feel the tears, gratitude and yearning of generations past and present. May Hashem bless each one of us this year with renewed courage to seek deeper relationships and the strength to keep davening for them. May He bless us to harness the power of possibility and connection of Eretz Yisrael to see beyond the physical to the precious gems in one another.

Shoshana Judelman teaches Chassidut for Shiviti Women’s Institute in Jerusalem and in the Shirat David Community in Efrat, and guides at Yad Vashem. Shoshana holds a BA in History and an MA in Jewish History. She lived around the world, including in New Jersey, Western Australia and Pennsylvania before settling in Israel in 2013.


Ancient Embezzlement Rivi Frankel


ncluded in the Yom Kippur vidui is the request to be forgiven “for the sin we have committed before You by embezzlement.” While the word embezzlement may conjure up Wall Street and Ponzi schemes images today, embezzlement in the ancient world was often conducted by a merchant using purposefully incorrect weights and scales. We are commanded many times in Tanach to ensure our businesses’ weights and measures are honest: “You shall not have in your pouch alternate weights, larger and smaller. You shall not have in your house alternate measures, a larger and a smaller. You must have completely honest weights and completely honest measures, if you are to endure long on the soil that the L-rd your G-d is giving you.” (Devarim 25:13–15) Around the City of David and Temple Mount, archaeologists have discovered many stones used as weights in commerce during the First and Second Temple periods. The stones were often crafted out of local limestone and marked with an Egyptian symbol that resembles the Greek letter gamma, as the Egyptian weight system was the commonly used system in international trade. Next to this symbol would be a demarcation of the stone’s weight. For example, two lines indicated a two-shekel stone. Remarkably, these stones were consistently accurate; all of the shekel stones weighed about 11.5 grams. In the 1960s, Kathleen Kenyon found 34 weights in a First Temple building in the City of David. Most of them were shekel weights, but two of them had the word “pim” engraved on them. This added a new understanding to the verse found in Shmuel I 13:21: “The charge for sharpening was a pim for plowshares, mattocks, three-pronged forks, and axes, and for setting the goads.”

A First Temple-period weight measure unearthed in an excavation. (PHOTO: ELIYAHU YANAI, CITY OF DAVID)

As we see, this translation reflects the new understanding of the word pim. However, pim is a hapax legomenon, a word only appearing in Tanach once. As such, the commentators struggle to understand what this word means. Mitzudat David suggests that it is a type of sharpening tool, and Rashi also relates it to something that sharpens. It is only after Kenyon’s discovery that we can come to a more historically accurate translation. A pim is measured as two-thirds of a shekel and can be seen on display at the Israel Museum. In the same room, you will also find a stone with the word netzef, weighing approximately five-sixths of a shekel, as well as a stone equating to 24 shekel. While the Temple Mount is often associated with prayer and holiness, visiting the area reminds us that this was also a market center of the city. Of course, the City of David had administrative and commerce sections in the royal plazas, but the area between the City of David and the Temple was also a bustling financial sector. With remnants of shops, coins, and weights

and measures for scales, it is easy to be transported back to a time when this part of Jerusalem was alive with business – much of it related to pilgrims coming to pray at the Temple. How fitting that directly below where the people stood, anxiously waiting to see the Kohen Gadol emerge from the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, a sign of G-d’s forgiveness of the people’s sins, we find proof of the people’s dedication to following the Torah’s laws of honest business. The Torah is not restricted to ritual matters, nor is it limited to the precincts of the Temple Mount. We are meant to walk in the way of G-d every day, in all of our interactions. The finding of consistent weights in the ancient streets of the City of David demonstrates that the Jews of antiquity strove to serve G-d in every aspect of their lives. May we merit to do the same! Rivi Frankel is a tour guide in Israel working with individuals and groups from all backgrounds, and particularly with children and teens.

A member of the Mizrachi Tour Guides Bureau mizrachi.org/ tour-guides

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W H AT ’ S I N A W O R D ?

The Rosh Hashanah Simanim David Curwin


n Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to eat symbolic foods (simanim) that express our wishes for the year to come. Let’s look at the words for some of the most common ones:

At that time, only wild bee honey was available, and it was hard to obtain. But by Talmudic times, the techniques for beekeeping had advanced, and so in rabbinic literature, ‫ דְּ ַב ׁש‬generally refers to bee honey.

Tapuach b’dvash


The word ‫ ַּת ּפו ַּח‬appears only a few times in the Bible – five times in Shir HaShirim, and once each in Yoel and Mishlei. The identity of the fruit is not clear. Some scholars identify it with today’s typical apple (pirus malus). Others say that fruit was not found in the Land of Israel in biblical times. By looking at the verses that mention the ‫ת ּפו ַּח‬,ַּ they find several characteristics: it was pleasant to look at, it was sweet and fragrant, and the tree provided shade. Mishlei 25:11 mentions ‫ַּת ּפו ֵּחי‬ ‫זָ ָהב‬, so perhaps they were a golden color. Based on all this, they suggest that the most likely candidate would be the apricot, which was found in the Land of Israel during those times.

Today many people understand that silka refers to beets as the word for beets in Modern Hebrew is selek. However, others say that silka refers to spinach, and Sefardim generally eat spinach for that siman. How could the same word be understood as both spinach and beets?

The identity of ‫ דְּ ַב ׁש‬is not as debatable as ‫ת ּפו ַּח‬.ַּ In the Bible, there are two kinds of honey: bee honey and date honey. Date (or fig) honey is much more prevalent; some scholars believe that of the over 50 appearances of the word in the Bible, only a few refer to bee honey. While today we enjoy both types of honey, only date honey was seen as a blessing in biblical times. When the Torah calls the land of Israel ‫ֶא ֶרץ זָ ַבת‬ ‫“( ָח ָלב ו ְּד ָב ׁש‬a land flowing with milk and honey”), it is referring to date honey, since that is a product of the land itself. On the other hand, bee honey is a sign that the land is not in a good state. When Ya’akov sent ‫ דְּ ַב ׁש‬to Yosef (Bereishit 43:11), it was probably bee honey, since it was a time of famine.

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Although the plants are very different, their leaves look similar to each other. In addition, the modern Hebrew word for spinach, tered, is identified in the Talmud as beets. This confusion can be even found in one Talmudic passage (Eruvin 28b), where Rav Hamnuna calls the plant ‫ ַּת ְרדִּ ין‬and Rav Hisda calls it ‫ס ְל ָקא‬.ִ To avoid this uncertainty, Ben-Yehuda suggested calling spinach ‫קוֹ ִצית‬, but it was never adopted. So while it might not be clear what silka is on the Rosh Hashanah table, in the Israeli grocery store selek always means beets, and tered always means spinach.

Karti Karti (‫)כ ְר ִּתי‬ ּ ַ certainly means “leek.” It is a secondary form of ‫כ ֵר ׁ ָשה‬,ּ ְ the modern Hebrew word for leek (although leeks are also sometimes called ‫לוּף‬, based on the Arabic). The biblical term for leek was ‫ח ִציר‬,ָ as in Bamidbar 11:5, where the people remember the ‫ ָח ִציר‬they ate in Egypt. However, in Modern Hebrew, ‫ ָח ִציר‬only means “hay,” so be sure not

to ask for that in the supermarket if you’re looking for leeks.

Rubia and lubia Until now, we’ve seen Hebrew words that either have debatable translations or have meant different things over time. With this siman, there isn’t an issue of translation, but the word itself is subject to question. Some people call the siman rubia (‫)ר ְ ּביָ א‬. ֻ This is generally identified as “fenugreek.” The reason for the name rubia is unclear, but fenugreek was known from ancient times to increase milk production in nursing mothers. Along these lines, it may be that rubia derives from the root ‫ר ָ ּבה‬,ַ “to increase.” Others call the siman lubia (‫)לו ְּביָ א‬. Lubia, in Arabic, refers to black-eyed peas. Where did it get that name? There are two theories. Some say that it is so-called because it originated in Libya – ‫ לוּב‬in Hebrew. Others say that it comes from the Greek lobos, meaning “pod,” since that is how those peas grow.

Gezer While the root ‫גזַ ר‬,ּ ָ meaning “to cut,” is of biblical origin, the word gezer, meaning carrot, only entered Hebrew in the Medieval period. Hebrew borrowed it from Arabic, which in turn got it from either Persian or Pashto. This is not surprising since the carrot originated in Afghanistan. David Curwin is a writer living in Efrat, and the author of the Balashon blog, balashon.com.


A Shared Choice Laura Ben-David


ou know those things that stir the deeply intense, raw emotions that Zionism inspires within us? Singing Hatikvah. Watching the movie ‘Exodus.’ Finding an unexpected El Al plane anywhere in the world. Hearing the Yom HaZikaron siren. Seeing IDF soldiers doing, well, just about anything; especially at a formal IDF ceremony… I am particularly susceptible to these emotional triggers; they are no less powerful after more than a dozen years of living in Israel. Perhaps, they are more powerful. Attending my first ‘tekes siyum’ or basic training completion ceremony, I expect to be moved. And I was. I was stunned at the vastness of the field and the hundreds and hundreds of soldiers standing in formation, waiting to march onto it. I pulled out my camera as I spotted James, our cousin and our very own ‘lone soldier’, the one whose presence brought us to this army base in the north of Israel. Immediately the music started, and the soldiers all marched in, unit by unit, grinning broadly. As I took in the proceedings I gazed at the faces of these hundreds of new soldiers, clearly immigrants from all over the world. I looked proudly at the many Israeli flags waving above them in the early evening breeze, bright blue and gleaming white. The sun slowly dipped behind the westerly mountains casting a wonderful golden glow. The band was playing ‘Jerusalem of Gold.’ I was crying. Ceremonies can be long and boring; filled with speeches and more than enough pomp and circumstance. One might imagine that the strict discipline of the army would render a ceremony that much more rigid. I know I speak for just one ceremony, but, really, think about all the Israelis

The officer shouted, “French!” and the line was repeated in French. Then Spanish. Russian. German. Italian. Chinese. Finnish. Ukrainian. Amharic. Kuki. Each line was received with resounding applause since everyone, soldiers and guests alike, understood the commitment and sacrifice behind each foreign-born soldier’s decision, who was not born with the obligation to serve, rather chose it.

An Israel Defense Forces swearing-in ceremony at the Kotel. (PHOTO: IDF)

you know. The only time I imagine you will get thousands of Israelis standing at attention, silent and motionless is during the Memorial Day and Holocaust Day sirens. And then it’s only for a maximum of two minutes. The guests were relaxed; the soldiers slightly less so. My camera was clicking away as I tried to capture the excitement; the timelessness; the immense pride on every soldier’s face. Not just the soldiers, but their officers. And their families. And the guests from the local kibbutz who came to show support. And the Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program team who come to every. Single. Ceremony. It doesn’t get old. Not ever. Then the soldiers did something remarkable. They were down on their knees, and a soldier stood and called out words that are the title of a very popular Israeli folk song: “Ein li eretz acheret!” Suddenly an officer shouted, “English!” A soldier from America stood at attention and translated, “I have no other country!”

The officer shouted, “Arabic!” An Arab Israeli soldier stood up and called out the translation in Arabic to thunderous applause. We thought nothing could surprise us more… when the officer called out, “Yiddish!” A bearded, young, religious soldier stood and recited his line to equally resounding applause. Clearly, the symbolism of the final two languages was planned. And served its purpose well. Arabic and Yiddish are spoken by two rather opposite segments of Israeli society: Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews. While they are from Israel, as opposed to most of the other soldiers at the ceremony, they traditionally do not serve in the army. In that way, the Arabic and Yiddish speakers had much more in common with the rest of the soldiers than you might have thought. You see, they, too, left their comfort zone and made a choice: they chose Israel. Laura Ben-David is a photographer, public speaker and Israel advocate. Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of Moving Up: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken worldwide about Israel, Aliyah and other topics, often with beautiful photographic presentations. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B’Nefesh, Laura is the director of marketing at Shavei Israel and a marketing consultant.


Advice to a Troubled Father In this letter from 1908, Rav Kook comforts a friend whose sons have become non-observant, and advises him to continue to treat them with love and support in their secular studies. On the next page, Rabbi Chanan Morrison examines Rav Kook’s practical suggestions. By the grace of G-d, the holy city of Jaffa, may it be built and established, l9 Iyar, 5668. My friend, your precious words and expression of sorrow saddened my heart and I was shocked and did not know what to answer. Afterward, I concluded that silence is not proper, especially since we should never despair of any child of Israel, and “Also when I sit in darkness, the L-rd will be a light to me.” (Micha 7:8) I will therefore reveal to you that were your children ideologically connected to the people of Israel, and were, for instance, members of Chovevei Zion, It would be easier to bring them back to the steadfast way of the L-rd, because there is an essential relation between Jewish national consciousness and the root of holiness that lies in faith and the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot. But even now that they have gone far astray, you should not despair of them completely... We find that the entire error of this generation is in what they do not know: that in order to arrive at the fine goals they desire, the children of Israel must honor the Torah and hold fast to the faith of the L-rd, the light and life of the entire world. For this reason, it is my opinion that, to fallen ones such as these, one must behave in this way: explain to them that, at its foundation, their goal is truly desirable, but that they must not be “like a blind man in a garret”, following the leaders and ideas accepted by the masses. Every new idea is born with its deficiencies and impurities, and for this reason, they must be careful to purge these impurities. This process will be more successful if they try with all their might not to distance themselves from Judaism, so that the light of G-d will illuminate their souls, for then they will stand on their natural base, whole in their souls, with all their spiritual powers alive in them, and they will be able to assess their ways... and not be excessively devoted to the new ideas of our time with all their impurity and waste. In my humble opinion, their hearts will soften a bit with this approach, and if you are wise enough to relate to them with love and compassion, perhaps you will be able to raise them many levels... What does not have an immediate effect will work later... Yes, my friend, we will see in these days the fulfillment of the prophecy, “and your voice will come softly out of the ground” (Isaiah 29:4). We must considerably soften our sacred emotions to speak with our children in the way they need, and along with this to believe with complete faith that the light of G-d rests on each and every Jew and that all regressions are nothing but great unintentional mistakes. For these children are in the category of one who errs in performing a mitzvah, thinking that such is their moral obligation... Therefore, my friend, my advice to you is do not abandon your children, but bring them as close as possible, and in the end, they will certainly return. If they only begin to turn to good, their children will complete this process after them. G-d’s mercy is great, because He acts with lovingkindness in every generation...

Humbly yours,

Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen

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Background illustration of Rav Kook courtesy of gedolimcanvas.com

Messages from Rav Kook’s Letter Rabbi Chanan Morrison


grief-stricken father turned to Rav Kook for advice. He was a rabbi and Torah scholar, yet his children had abandoned religious life. What should he do? How should he respond to this betrayal of his values and lifestyle? Should he cut off all ties from them and sit shiva over their lost souls? Should he argue with them and rebuke them?

political injustice. Their yearnings for justice and kindness are rooted in “the inner soul of Israel’s holiness hidden within their hearts.” They have been led astray, not because of hedonist passions, but because they seek integrity and goodness. If we don’t push them away but do our best to draw them back, they will be ready to return to Judaism.

In a series of letters, Rav Kook consoled the father and offered some practical suggestions.

1. Don’t reject them The first and most important principle is not to break off contact. Rav Kook was adamant that the father should not sever his connection with his children, despite their rejection of their religious upbringing. “I understand well your heartache and grief,” he wrote. “But if you think, like most Torah scholars do, that in our times it is fitting to reject those children who have left the path of Torah and faith due to the turbulent currents of the era – then I say, unequivocally, this is not the way that G-d desires.” We should never give up on a single Jewish soul. “A myrtle among the reeds is still a myrtle and is called a myrtle.” (Sanhedrin 44a).

2. Appreciate their motives Rav Kook’s second point was that we must accurately judge the new generation and appreciate their motives. In these turbulent times of social movements and uprisings, our sons and daughters who have abandoned Judaism should be viewed as acting under duress. “G-d forbid that we should judge them as having rebelled willfully.” They are motivated, not by selfish desires but by aspirations to repair societal inequalities and address

If we don’t push them away but do our best to draw them back, they will be ready to return to Judaism.

3. Support them financially Practically speaking, Rav Kook advised the father “to assist them, as much as you are able, toward their livelihood and pressing needs.” It is not easy to financially support children who have rejected your way of life. But this will maintain your connection with them and “provide an opportunity to express words of mussar, chosen judiciously, in your letters. It is in the nature of words that come from the heart to have an impact, whether much or little.”

4. Encourage them to stay connected to their people Rav Kook further advised the father to remind his children of their Jewish heritage. Counsel them not to abandon their people due to false dreams that they will gain a secure place of honor and respect among the nations of the world. “They befriend you when it serves them, but in times of trouble, they will rejoice in your downfall.” If you successfully awaken a love of the Jewish people in their hearts, this

will spark feelings of faith and holy aspirations. And it may eventually lead to complete teshuvah.

5. Their teshuvah will be motivated by the intellect, not emotions Rav Kook’s final observation: our children left Judaism due to mistakes of the intellect; they think that this way, they can do greater good in the world. Their return to Judaism will not be spurred by impassioned fire and brimstone speeches but by an intellectual recalculation. “We need not picture their return as repentance accompanied by a terrible anguish and the fear of utter collapse, like the common perception of ordinary teshuvah. Rather, it will be a simple reassessment, like a person who corrects a mistake in arithmetic after clarifying the numbers.” To summarize: 1.

Keep a connection with your children.

2. Recognize their positive qualities and good – if misguided – motives. 3. Continue to support them financially, as this concretizes your link to them. 4. Encourage them to stay connected to the Jewish people. 5. They will return to Judaism, not through emotional pleas and feelings of guilt, but when they reassess their educated decisions.  Based on Iggerot HaRe’iyah, Vol. I, Letter 138.

Rabbi Chanan Morrison is the author of several books on Rav Kook’s writings.

| 47

From the Riversof Z I O N I ST H I STO RY



y the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept as we remembered Zion” (Tehillim 137:1). This verse of longing for Israel has been recited by Jews throughout the millennia, perhaps most poignantly by the Jews of Babylon themselves, in modern day Iraq. But when Iraqi Jews recited this verse on Tisha B’Av in 1947, they could not have imagined that many of them would be in Israel by Rosh Hashanah of that year!

It all began in June 1941, when the Iraqi Arabs attacked the Jewish community of Baghdad in what would later be known as the “Farhud”, the “looting”. Hundreds of Arabs attacked Jewish homes and businesses, murdering 179 Jews and injuring thousands more. Recognizing that Jewish life in Iraq was no longer safe, the local Zionist movement began searching for a plan to bring Iraqi Jews to Eretz Yisrael. At this time, the British ruled over Mandatory Palestine and had enacted a quota system, limiting the number of Jews who could emigrate to Palestine. The Mossad le’Aliya Bet, the agency responsible for the illegal immigration of Jews to Israel during the British

48 |

Elli Shashua

Mandate, sent representatives to Iraq to come up with a creative plan.

Shlomo Hillel, a Mossad le’Aliya Bet representative and native-born Baghdadi, joined the effort. Hillel traveled to Baghdad in 1942, hoping to help Iraqi Jews emigrate to Israel, but returned to Israel after a year of fruitless efforts. Five years later, on the 3rd of Ellul, 1947, Hillel was at his Kibbutz, Ma’agan Michael, when the director of Mossad le’Aliya Bet, Moshe Karmil, came looking for him. A rescue plan was coming together and Karmil wanted Hillel to lead the operation. Two American World War II veteran pilots were in Israel with a commando plane which had a capacity of 50 passengers. Though not Jewish nor Zionists, the mercenary pilots were willing to fly to Iraq to bring a plane full of Jews to Israel in return for payment. Hillel immediately accepted the challenge, excited about the opportunity to bring 50 Jews to the Holy Land. Although only 24 years old, Hillel knew Baghdad like the back of his hand and was the perfect fit to lead the mission. Later that day, pilots Mike and Leo Vessenberg and Shlomo Hillel, dressed as a mechanic, flew to Baghdad in a Curtiss Commando plane, landing in

a semi-isolated airport without arousing the suspicion of any Iraqi officials. Hillel immediately went to the Shasha family home in the Al’oliya neighborhood of Baghdad, where Mossad Le’Aliya Bet members were waiting for him. Despite the dangers involved, everyone agreed that the best chance for successful escape would be to leave from the airport. The challenge, of course, was how to smuggle 50 Jews onto the plane without being noticed. Hillel, disguised as Abu Yusuf, spent the next two days making preparations. The empty plane would taxi along the tarmac, and while at a turning point, it would stop for a few minutes to allow the engines to warm up. While stopped, the passengers would secretly board under the protection of the plane’s blinding lights. With a plan in place, the Mossad Le’Aliya Bet representatives gathered 50 young Jewish men and women from across Iraq. The Shura – the operational arm of the underground – was responsible for organizing the passengers and getting them to the plane safely. On the 7th of Ellul, the eve of the operation, the pilots approached Hillel demanding their payment. Hillel assured them they would be paid upon

arrival in Palestine, but the Vessenbergs were not satisfied. Hillel offered them a personal check. The pilots accepted, not knowing that Hillel, a kibbutznik, didn’t have a personal bank account. Early on Shabbat morning, Parashat Shoftim, the 50 Jews woke up before dawn, and 10 cars quietly traveled to the airport in Baghdad. It was the month of Ellul, and they were accustomed to waking up at that hour during the week to say Selichot at the time known as Et Ratzon. Nine cars arrived as planned, with the tenth being delayed by a herd of camels crossing the road. Fortunately, the

delay wasn’t long and all 50 passengers made it to the airport, where they were smuggled through a hole in the airport fence next to the last turn on the tarmac before take-off. It was 3:30 am. The plane’s lights and engines went on, and in the noisy tumult, the young Jews climbed on board. A few minutes later, the plane was in the air, and the new olim cheered their fearless leader, Shlomo Hillel. As they approached Israel, they broke into song. Flying over the Kinneret, they sang songs by Rachel HaMeshoreret1 with tears in their eyes. At 6:30am, they landed in the Yavniel Valley, next to Teveriya, far from the eyes of the British. The Palmach created an artificial runway,

lighting bonfires to mark the plane’s landing area. The 50 olim were taken on trucks to nearby kibbutzim. The aerial operation, the first of its kind during the British Mandate, was named “Operation Michaelberg” after the pilots Mike and Leo Vessenberg. The pilots later flew two more rescue operations, a second rescue flight from Iraq and one from Italy, and the plane was later used in the War of Independence. Shlomo Hillel, the organizer of the mission, would later become Israel’s Chief of Police and ultimately the Speaker of the Knesset. He passed away earlier this year. In the month of Ellul, in the hours of Selichot, 50 Iraqi Jews were brought from “the rivers of Babylon” to kibbutzim in northern Israel to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, a new year and a new life in Israel. They fulfilled the words of the piyut “Achot Ketana” (a pizmon sung in Sephardic communities before the commencement of the Rosh Hashanah evening prayer): .‫ִחזְ ק ּו וְ ִגיל ּו ִ ּכי ׁשֹד ָ ּג ַמר ְלצוּר הוֹ ִחיל ּו ְ ּב ִריתוֹ ׁ ָש ַמר‬ “Be strong and rejoice for the plunder is ended; place hope in the Rock and keep His covenant.” .‫יה‬ ָ ‫ָל ֶכם וְ ַת ֲעל ּו ְל ִצ ּיוֹ ן וְ ָא ַמר סֹלּ ּו סֹלּ ּו ְמ ִסלּ וֹ ֶת‬

Operation Michaelberg delivering Iraqi Jews to Palestine in August 1947.

“You will ascend to Zion and He will say: Pave! Pave her paths.” May the new year bring blessings, joy, and many more Jews to Eretz Yisrael! Rachel Bluwstein Sela (1890–1931), a celebrated Hebrew-language poet known as Rachel HaMeshoreret (Rachel the Poetess). Many of her poems were set to music and became classic Israeli songs. 1

Iraqi Jews boarding trucks to travel to kibbutzim upon their arrival on Operation Michaelberg.

Elli Shashua is an Israeli tour guide with a passion for sharing his country with others. He was born and raised in Tel Aviv in a home imbued with a deep love of the Land of Israel and its people.

A member of the Mizrachi Tour Guides Bureau mizrachi.org/ tour-guides


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A Dispute for the Sake of Heaven


n the middle of 1909, as the Sabbatical (Shemitta) year of 5670 approached, a controversy flared up over the way the settlements should observe the laws of Shemitta. In keeping with their decision from previous Shemitta years, a number of Ashkenazi rabbis in Jerusalem prohibited Jewish farmers from working the Land, no matter what the consequences might be. They even threatened the settlements of Judea and the Galilee with a severe boycott on all grains, fruits, and wine produced during the Sabbatical year. The major force behind this side of the dispute was the Ridbaz (R. Ya’akov David ben

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Ze’ev Willowsky). Renowned for his commentary on the Yerushalmi (the Jerusalem Talmud), the Ridbaz was a great Torah scholar who had settled in Safed in 5665 (1905). The Rabbi of Jaffa, however, firmly opposed this viewpoint. Fearful that strict adherence to the laws of Shemitta would bring a financial holocaust upon the settlements, Rav Kook decided to rely on a halachic loophole known as the heter mechirah (permission by sale). Basically, using this heter, an arrangement is made in which Jewish farmland is sold to non-Jews for the duration of the Shemitta year. This allows Jews to continue working the Land since the laws of Shemitta did not apply to gentile-owned soil. The Rav even published a specific book entitled Shabbat HaAretz to explain his position. Among the many proposed solutions to the Shemitta problem, there was talk of a joint venture between the Ridbaz and Rav Kook. Together they would travel to Paris to try and convince Baron de Rothschild to help offset the losses

the settlements would incur during the Shemitta year. This plan, however, never came to fruition. The Ridbaz and a number of rabbis in Jerusalem refused to yield an inch. Nonetheless, the Rav stood his ground and the settlers began forming ranks behind him, following his instructions on how to act during the Shemitta year. Thus this whole ordeal actually fortified the Rav’s status as the highest spiritual authority of the New Yishuv. At the same time, his relations with the rabbis and leaders of the Old Yishuv did not suffer at all. Despite their sharp differences of opinion on the heter mechira issue, the Rav and the Ridbaz retained a strong feeling of love and respect for each other. That very same year (5669), in the midst of the Shemitta debate, certain individuals disputed the Rav’s rabbinic authority in Jaffa. One man even called himself “the Rav of Jaffa,” established his own facilities for ritual slaughter (shechitah), and attempted to usurp Rav Kook’s authority.

The rabbis of Jerusalem, headed by Rabbi Shmuel Salant and Rabbi Chayim Berlin, came out “with great zeal to defend the honor of the brilliant, great, righteous, and renowned rabbi, our master, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook” (to cite their own words). In the declaration they issued, these gedolim expressed utter shock at this act of insolence, cautioning the residents of Jaffa and the settlements not to be party to this evil act of encroachment. Rather, they should all stand behind their mentor, Rav Kook. The Ridbaz added his own, scathing remarks to this warning: “In addition to what is written here, I proclaim to you: When the brilliant scholars – the mighty ones of Eretz Yisrael – heard about the despicable offense that was committed in your holy city, they were incensed. At first, they did not believe their ears, for who would think that a fly with no wings would contend with the great eagle, whose fame has spread throughout

the world. People from the furthest reaches of the earth seek him out, to be enlightened by his Torah, righteousness, and wisdom… Therefore, when I arrived here in the Holy City [Jerusalem] and informed [the rabbis] that the story was true, they decided to issue this great warning. But this is only the beginning. And if you fail to heed this [warning]... [We must] arouse all of Israel – in the Holy Land and abroad, dwellers and wayfarers, and all of Jewry’s wise men – to do whatever they can to banish this scoffer, so that iniquity will leave the Jewish people. For this is no private matter; rather, one that affects the entirety of Israel…”

 Reprinted with permission from An Angel Among Men (Urim Publications, 2003).

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A New Dish for the

New Year Susie Fishbein


ew foods go further back in our history than silan – date honey. Silan, a current belle of the culinary world ball, is a staple of Iraqi, Persian and other Middle Eastern cuisines. It is the honey made from boiling down dates. According to Gil Marks, noted food historian, date seeds from the 3rd millennia BCE were found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur Kasdim, making it an almost certain part of Avraham Avinu’s diet. Dates are amongst the Sheva Minim – seven species of Israel – and the frond of the date palm tree is one of the Arba’a Minim – four species of the Sukkot rituals.

Reproduced from Kosher By Design Brings It Home by Susie Fishbein, with permission from the copyright holders ArtScroll/ Mesorah Publications, Ltd. Photograph by John Uher.

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Roasted Eggplant

with Silan Techina

The honey described in the verse, “The Land of milk and honey,” is not the golden bee honey; it is this date honey. The charoset from Talmudic times was dates boiled into this syrup. When the Dead Sea scrolls were uncovered at Qumran in 1947, a 2,000-year-old date-honey press was found. Silan was a beneficial ingredient in times before refrigeration as it could be stored for much longer than its mother fruit and the syrup was easily portable. It is a natural sweetener whose caramel notes add a fantastic depth and sweetness to recipes for today’s cooks, as in the recipe below.

Silan Techina 1 cup raw tahini (sesame paste) ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced pinch kosher salt

Yields 6 servings Eggplant, in some form or another, can be found on every restaurant menu in Israel. Halved roasted eggplant is the ambassador of these appetizers. Gorgeous, simple, and healthy, it is the perfect starter with its smoky aroma and smooth-cooked center. Roasting the eggplants on the open flame adds so much flavor but can be a bit messy; make sure to cover the grates with foil to catch the charred skin — or follow this recipe for an oven-baked version.

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper ½ cup warm water, plus more as needed ¼ cup silan (date syrup) Roasted Eggplant 3 large, long eggplants ⅓ cup olive oil salt pepper pomegranate seeds, for garnish radishes, sliced paper-thin on a mandolin, for garnish scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Prepare the silan techina: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade, purée the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, ½ cup warm water, and silan. You may need a bit more warm water to thin to desired consistency. Set aside. Prepare the roasted eggplant: Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, cutting straight through the green stalk. Using a small sharp knife, make 3–4 “X” marks to score the eggplant flesh without cutting through to the skin. Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them heavily with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35–40 minutes; the flesh should be soft, flavorful, and nicely browned. Remove from the oven; allow to cool. Transfer the roasted eggplant to a platter or plate for serving. Drizzle on the silan techina; garnish with pomegranate seeds, radish slices, and scallions.

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Four Stages of Teshuva

During the Yamim Noraim, we talk about teshuva, or repentance. But what is it exactly? Teshuva means “return,” and it is our effort to return to Hashem by righting the wrongs that we have committed. Teshuva is a process, with different stages: recognizing when we’ve hurt others, righting our wrongs by saying “sorry” or forgiving, and resolving to do better the next time. The Yamim Noraim present an opportunity to discuss concepts like forgiveness, empathy, and reevaluating priorities together with our children.

Here are the stages of teshuva to discuss with your family: 1 Regret. The beginning of teshuva is a recognition that

Ask your child: How can we make sure you don’t do that again?

3 Verbalization. Next, we verbally express the sin that we have committed through Vidui. Say with your child: “I have done such and such; I deeply regret my actions, and I declare before G-d, Who knows my innermost thoughts, that I will try to never do this again.”

we have done something wrong, and genuinely feeling remorse for our sins.

4 Resolution for the future. Finally, we gather our determination and resolve to not let the transgression happen again.

Ask your child: Have you done anything lately that you regret?

Tell your child: I’m here to help you. I believe you can do it!

Kids are often surprised that teshuva is possible by taking these steps in whatever language you are most comfortable with, and that we can talk to G-d whenever we want to – not just during the prescribed times for davening. It is important to dwell on this for a little while because the idea that G-d is always accessible and that we can always speak to Him, even and especially when we’ve done something wrong, is a foundational principle of our relationship with G-d. 54 |

2 Leaving the sin behind. After we feel regret, we must stop acting the way that we did, and leave the sin behind.

Make sure your children are aware that teshuva is an ongoing process that cannot be accomplished overnight. No matter how many times they may stumble in the teshuva process, they can and must simply pick themselves up and keep trying to stay on the right path. G-d loves each of us more deeply that we can express in words. All He wants is for us to try as hard as we can!

Yamim Noraim Trivia W I T H DANIELL E KRIEGER

1. What are some different greetings that we use during the Yamim Noraim? 2. How many days is Rosh Hashanah? Do the number of days change depending on where you are in the world? 3. How many names does Rosh Hashanah have? What are they? Why do you think it has so many names? 4. How many shofar blasts do we blow each day of Rosh Hashanah? 5. What special day comes just ten days after Rosh Hashanah? 6. What is the date of Yom Kippur? 7. What do we call the ten days from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur? 8. Which fast day falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? 9. Why do we fast on Yom Kippur? 10. Which minhag do many people do right after Yom Kippur? Why?



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This Rosh Hashanah,


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