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The Rabbi's Blog

A Message from Rabbi Spalter

"Israel, Keep Moving!"

Human beings seek stability and a place to call home. People who are always on the move without the stability of a home are usually lacking not only a home but some very basic human needs and psychological health. The irony is that once we have our home we usually look to be on the move. Everyone wants to go on vacation, and when we get back home from vacation we very quickly begin planning the next one. So which one is it? Do we want to be home or away from our home? We all agree that we need some time off, a time to leave home and rest, to unwind. But it seems that for many people their home is just a resting place between one excursion and the next. Their “life” is on the plane, boat, car and the resort. Coming “home” is a downer and an unexciting destination.

In this week’s reading the Torah recounts all the journeys of the Jewish people during their forty year travel through the desert. The first verse reads: “And these are the journeys of the children of Israel by which they left the land of Egypt” and then the portion goes on to list the forty two places that they stopped and rested during those 40 years in the desert. There is an obvious anomaly in the introductory words “and these are the journeys”. It should have said “and these are the resting places”.

The Rebbe explains that a person must always be journeying. Even when we rest and stop, it’s a step towards the next journey.  A Jew especially is always supposed to move ahead. Never stop and be comfortable with the present situation. Always move forward. This is especially true when we are talking about our spiritual journey of life. You mastered a mitzvah? Got comfortable keeping Shabbos? Don’t stop. Move on to the next mitzvah. Of course we need to catch our breath. Recognizing our abilities and limitations is always important. Hence we take a “vacation”, we stop to analyze where we are in life and assess where and what we can set our sights upon as our next goal. But with that kind of “vacation” and “resting place” we can safely call it a “journey”. The Jews in the desert never stopped journeying. From the moment they left Egypt they kept moving ahead towards Israel. Their forty two “resting places” are justifiably called journeys. They never lost focus. They always knew where they were headed. They may have stopped, but it was always with the objective of perfecting the next phase in their journey towards Israel.

So would we rather be stationary and in the tranquility of our homes or on the go? The answer is that whether we are home or away, we must always be on the go. I don’t mean that we should always be thinking of the next place on the planet that we would like to see. That’s usually a sign that we don’t find daily life meaningful and purposeful. Indeed a very sad way to live. What I do mean is that we should always know our destiny and our ultimate goal in life and be focused on how to get there. The moment we “rest” we are in trouble. It means we lost focus. So should we vacation? Sure, every human being needs to recharge our internal human battery. But recharge for what? You’d better have a good answer for that or you will find yourself depressed, in a mid-life crisis or worse. Life must have a purpose and a living person must always have his or her eyes on that goal and constantly move towards it.

I want to apply this idea to the current situation in Israel. Operation Protective Edge is now going into its fourth week. This is not the first time that Israel is facing the Hamas terrorists. It’s the fourth time in 9 years. I believe the problem with the other 3 times was that there was no real goal. Yes, they bought some quiet for a couple of years, but they did not really rid themselves from the real problem. The international community “forced” a ceasefire on Israel without really accomplishing any long term goals. Of course that only invited more terrorism and forced us to face this ugly enemy once again but with greater urgency. In those cases even when Israel “journeyed” they were “stationary”. I am hopeful that this time Israel will do what every other country in the world would do; completely destroy the enemy’s ability to terrorize Israeli cities and towns once and for all. If they do that and never forget that goal, they will be able to be stationary for a very long time, but then it will be the kind of “rest” that represents real “progress” and the ultimate “journey” that will bring fear upon all Israel’s enemies; a fear that will end their dream and goal of destroying Israel and once and for all make Hamas, Daesh, the Islamic Jihad and all the other terrorist groups “stationary” for a very long time. This will allow Israel to focus on its ultimate goal of being a light unto the nations and a country that exports morality and G-dliness to the entire world.

"...Not One Man is Missing From Us"

 As Israel enters a new phase in its attempt to bring quiet to Israeli cities and destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure, I want to quote a verse from this weeks portion of Matos in which we are told of a war that the Jews had to wage against the nation of Midian. After the Jewish soldiers returned from the battle the troops told moshe as follows:

"They said to Moses, “your servants counted the soldiers who were under us, and not one man is missing from us!” Numbers, 31:49:

Midian like Hamas was bent on one goal, to destroy the Jewish people, men, women and children. The Jewish people were left with no choice but to engage in battle and destroy the enemy or be destroyed themselves. They chose life and destroyed their enemy, and as the above verse tells us, G-d blessed their effort to the point that not one soldier lost his life.

Over the past 12 days the world is in awe of Israel’s success in thwarting the barrage of missiles fired at them daily. Reporter after reporter and world leaders are amazed by the results. Almost like in the bible. Almost no Jewish casualties. Every one is praising the Iron Dome. I was having a conversation with someone this week about this amazing system and the incredible defense it provides. This person asked me, is it G-d or the Iron Dome? And he suggested, with considerable amount of confusion, that maybe we should give 80 percent credit to G-d and 20 percent credit to the Iron Dome? I wondered why he left out a certain percentage to the IDF soldiers who so bravely sacrifice their life and engage in battle against Hamas. Either way, I do want to give my take on it. I think we should give 100 percent credit to G-d and 100 percent credit to the IDF and its Iron Dome. The IDF soldiers are the agents that Hashem uses to protect the Jewish People. And these agents are great. Its like a doctor who saves a life. Its G-d who gives life and uses the doctor as his agent in doing so. We credit the doctor of course but we also know that the doctor can do nothing with out G-d’s blessing. Do we thank the Doctor? Sure, because he went to school and trained to be a good messenger of G-d when the time comes. It’s the same with our heroes in the IDF. They get full credit for being such great conduits through which G-d brings salvation to the Jewish People. But we also know with certainty that with out G-d’s blessing they would not be successful.  

So the world is in awe of Israel’s ability to fight such a precise war and suffer so few casualties. It is almost like the war in this week’s Torah reading in which there were no casualties. I hope and pray that our men should get the job done quick  and all of them should return home safely. Sadly we won’t be able to give an accounting as they did back in the desert, as we already lost two holy Jews in this battle. May their memory be a blessing, but we should continue to thank Hashem for his open and obvious blessings. The whole world is marveled by this phenomenon, it behooves us Jews to thank G-d for what we are witnessing. I invite all of you to join me tonight at 7:00 PM for a special gathering of thanks giving and heartfelt prayer for the continued success of the Israeli operation in Gaza. Our sages tell us that the prayers offered by the multitude are always accepted. Please join us!

May we merit to see an end to this violence once and for all as the forces of evil will be completely removed from the world with the imminent coming of Moshiach. May it be speedily in our days.

Good vs. Evil

Israel finds itself once again in a fight for survival as it launched operation Protective Edge to put an end to the Hamas missile attacks on Israel and to bring life back to normal for three quarters of the country’s citizens. Sadly this has become almost a routine every couple of years; Hamas fires Missiles and tries to kill as many men, women and children possible and Israel is left with no choice but to respond and do what any country in the world would do. The world, while agreeing that Israel has the right to defend it self, asks all sides to show restraint and so it goes from one skirmish to the next. There is so much on my mind as I read and hear about all this, especially this time around when I am hearing about it from my own two sons who are living thorough this. My Yossi calls me to tell me that today he had to run into a bomb shelter because the sirens in Kfar Chabad went off, and that Levi was really scared (and Yossi himself was not?) and that thank G-d it passed without casualties.

 

I want to share with you my feelings about this. Firstly, we the Jewish people around the world have to raise our eyes upwards towards heaven and thank Hashem for the incredible miracles that He is working on behalf of the Jews in Israel. Think about it, close to 400 missiles have been fired at Israel and NOT ONE casualty. These missiles are being fired into populated cities and with Hashem’s help they have missed their targets (Jewish men, women and children) one hundred percent of the time. Even those few instances where the missiles have landed on homes, they turned out be empty. It’s astounding. It is nothing short of a miracle for which the people of Israel must celebrate and offer thanks to Hashem. Hashem’s kindness is so visible and clear. The Torah tells us that Israel is a land upon which G-ds eyes are constantly watching over.  These past few days have shown that to be true in such a magnificent way.

 

Secondly, it is so frustrating to hear every one advise both sides to show restraint. Now, let’s analyze which two sides they are referring to. Israel and Hamas. Does anyone really think that Hamas terrorists care about showing restraint? Imagine saying during the war against the terrorists after 9-11 that both sides should show restraint, referring to America and Al-Keida headed by Osama Bin Laden. Those very words are a slap in the face of the war on terror. Those words suggest that there are two equal sides that are fighting with some respect for rules of engagement. Everyone knows what kind of evil we are dealing with. Hamas has one goal, to murder as many Jewish men, women and children as possible. This blurring of the real situation is, in my belief, one of the reasons for why we are in such a quandary in the first place. If everyone would recognize the real truth, that Hamas is an evil organization that must be wiped off the face of the earth once and for all just like Bin Laden and Al-Keida, then maybe we would allow Israel to finally do it without interruption and not have to worry about this every two years. But statements like these and others continue to be made and coupled with pressure “on both sides” to cease fire, only invites more agony and a repeat of this tragedy over and over. When will the world learn?

Today and Yesterday we celebrated the anniversary of the liberation of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson of blessed memory, from soviet prison in 1927. As known he was arrested for his efforts on behalf of Judaism in the then anti-Jewish soviet regime. The Bolsheviks waged a ruthless war against Jewish life in the Soviet Union. The Previous Rebbe and his Chassidim fought back and with incredible determination held strong and continued to teach, observe, learn and practice Judaism as before. They were hunted down and tortured and killed mercilessly by the evil regime of Stalin and the communists. Finally in 1927 they arrested the previous Rebbe and sentenced him to death. Miraculously his death sentence was overturned instead to ten years in exile and that too was completely overturned and after 27 days he was completely released. That happened on the 12th and 13th days of Tamuz and is marked since then as a holiday marking the triumph of Judaism over atheism and good over evil. In the Hagadah we say “in every generation they stand up against us to destry us” indeed the Stalins of yesteryear is Hamas of today. They are all the same. In one word: Evil, which must be completely eradicated. In the same section of the Hagadah we end of with the words “and the holy one blessed be He saves of from their hands” just as the Previous Rebbe was saved from their hand in the last generation so are we witnessing Hashem saving us from their hand in these very days as Hashem continues to show us his kindness and saves the Jews from hundreds of misilles fired at them as I write these words. 

May Hashem continue to protect our brothers and sisters in the holy land and may he bless the political leaders of Israel to stand strong and do what’s right for Israel and its citizens security rather than be enticed by momentary smiles and empty promises coming from capitals around the world.

Am Yisroel Chai

"A Nation that Dwells Alone"

There is so much on my mind these days that I am not sure what to emphasize and what to ignore. As many of you know I just returned from New York where about 50,000 of my fellow Lubavitcher Chassidim spent Tuesday, the third of Tamuz, at the resting place of the Rebbe. While there I saw news vans from many stations that were there to report on the Rebbe and the 20th anniversary of his passing and how the world continues to be inspired by the Rebbe’s legacy and message to humanity. It’s interesting that all the reports that I heard are focused on the fact that the Rebbe continues to lead the people even 20 years after he is no longer with us physically. Reporter after reporter is trying to figure out why even they refer to the Rebbe in present tense. But they all do. The Rebbe lives on in real terms as his presence continues to inspire tens of thousands of Chassidim and hundreds of thousands of admirers who continue to seek out his blessing and guidance.

As Americans celebrate the fourth of July, I am reminded of the times when the Rebbe spoke about the uniqueness of this blessed country. He explained that the blessing that we Americans enjoy is due to the fact that we are founded on principles of faith in G-d and His eternal moral laws. I remember hearing the Rebbe speak about America being a nation of Chesed (kindness) and how it must remain a super power of good in this confused world. I hope that we always remember why we are so blessed and continue to ensure that G-d keeps blessing this country. It depends on us. If we continue to believe in Him and we behave according to His moral code then we can be certain that we will always enjoy G-ds blessings. This is what the fourth of July means to me. To remember who made this country and why? The founding fathers believed that a society devoid of G-d cannot last. It simply implodes from within even if it does not suffer the trials and tribulations from without. Our youth need to be reminded of this. They need a lesson in history. They need to be taught who George Washington was and why he and the other founding fathers fought so hard for American independence. It was so that every person can serve G-d the way he or she chose without being coerced in one way or the other. We call it freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. May G-d continue to bless America.

This week also brought the awful 18 day saga to its sad ending with the finding of the dead bodies of three wonderful teenagers whose only sin was that they were Jewish and living in biblical Israel. What a terrible sin. Imagine that! Jews living in Israel! How dare they. I have to tell you that the hypocrisy of the world is unbelievable. For over two weeks we heard nothing from the U.N. about the abduction of the three young teenagers. Not a peep from our own president. John Kerry seems to have been sleeping during this time. Our European friends, no one even expects to hear anything from them anymore when Jews are the victim. A few Jewish teens got killed? Not their problem. But when a Palestinian teen (the same age as the three Israelis) is found dead we suddenly hear a choir of outrage. We don’t even know who did it, but everyone is sure its revenge. How do they know? The latest I heard is that its looks like an inside job from the teens own family. Who knows? If it turns out that it was revenge then Israel will and should condemn this act in the strongest of terms. We will do it for real, not like these fakers in the U.N. and in the rest of the world, even in the U.S., who are outraged when the blood is Arab but not when it’s Jewish. I know it’s hard to fathom such a double standard. King Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun, it’s been this way for ever. The difference is that now it’s done by our so called “friends”.

This is what Bil’am of this week’s Torah portion meant when he said about the Jewish people. ”Hen Am Lvadad Yishkon”, this is a nation who dwells alone. He meant that they are always alone. They celebrate alone and they mourn alone. No one else cares. But in these words of Bil’am also lie the greatest of blessings as well. We are alone because G-d has chosen us and He continues to protect us against all odds.

May Hashem comfort the Sha’ar, Frankel and Yifrach families and all of the Jewish people who came together as one family in such unity. May we merit the day when G-d will wipe away our tears and bring an end to all suffering with the coming of Moshiach now. Amen

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