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A Message from Rabbi Spalter

A Civil War Miracle

This Shabbos is named Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Shabbat, because on this day a ‘great’ miracle happened in Egypt just before the Exodus. On the Shabbat before the Jews left Egypt, each family was commanded to prepare a lamb to be used for the Pesach offering. When their Egyptian neighbors inquired as to why every Jewish household is preparing a lamb, they were told that this was in preparation of the Exodus which would take place 4 days later, not before all firstborn Egyptians would die in a plague scheduled to take place on the night before the Exodus. When the firstborn Egyptians heard this, they demanded that their leaders finally let the Jews leave before this plague hit (after the first nine plagues,’ they were not taking any chances). When their leaders ignored them, a civil war broke out when scores of Egyptians were killed. This ultimately led to the Exodus. In commemoration of this miracle, this Shabbat earned its name the ‘Great’ Shabbat. 

I always wondered: what is so miraculous about a civil war in ancient Egypt? These kinds of wars are everyday occurrences in those parts of the world. And what does it have to do with the Jewish people?

The Jews at the time found themselves (as they always do) right in the middle of the most important civilization of the time. The Jews were hated by the ruling class and by most of Egypt, became the scapegoat for all of Egypt’s ills and were enslaved and tortured for over 100 years as a result. The fact that the Egyptians stopped talking about the Jews and engaged in a civil war against each other and left the Jews alone for a change was indeed a ‘great’ miracle.

We live in very uncertain times. Israel is going through quite a difficult time in its history. Israel has become the punching bag of every angry or anti-Semitic leader around the world. Just in the past two months, and in the last week especially, Israel has been coming under attack from every corner and even from its traditionally closest allies in ways I have never seen before. You would think that the world is this Garden of Eden with no problems at all other then the Palestinian one, which must be solved by Israel no matter what. If we just created a Palestinian State, then all the ills of the Middle East and the world at large would somehow just disappear. It makes no difference that the Palestinians have no intentions of ever making peace with Israel as they declare so unabashedly. Hamas wants us in the sea; Abbas says he will never recognize a Jewish right to any part of Israel, but Netanyahu is the villain. And now it’s not only the UN who are infamous for their bias against Israel, it is our own government and its spokespeople bashing Netanyahu every opportunity they get. It is incredible to watch how truth and decency is trampled on and turned on its head. The PA, Hamas and all the other Palestinian factions have engaged in nothing but terrorism and glorifying it for the past 20 plus years; the world knows it, but like in Egypt then, today as well, the Jews are the easiest target and scapegoats and are at fault for there not being peace in the Middle East and for a whole host of other problems.

Shabbat Hagadol is a time for a different kind of miracle. A miracle that causes our ‘allies’ and our outright haters to divert their attention from us and engage and busy themselves with the real problems of the world. A world where dozens of civil wars threaten the lives of millions of people on a daily basis.

I pray that the new government of Israel should have the strength to stand up for the truth and do what is right for Israel. The Rebbe always encouraged Israeli prime ministers to be strong and steadfast in their refusal to give away any part of Israel. He would say that America respects those who are strong and that if we really believed that there is no other option and that Israel cannot, for security reasons, relinquish any part of the land of Israel, then America would respect that. I hope Netanyahu will follow the Rebbe’s advice.

I know that there are those who are truly worried about the future of Israel. So am I, especially when I hear our own president threaten and say things that I could never have imagined would be said by an American president. Couple that with the efforts of the true haters of Israel who are using this challenging time to try and undermine Israel and bring it to its knees or worse. This all can cause one to fall into despair. The good news is that next week is Pesach. In the Hagaddah, we are reminded that in every generation they tried to destroy us, but Hashem saved us from their hands. I am certain that we will overcome all these challenges again and Hashem will save us from their hands this time as well. May we merit to celebrate this Pesach together with our Rebbe in the holy land with the coming Moshiach speedily in our days.

A Time for Miracles

A Time for Miracles

Wouldn’t it be great if G-d would perform miracles for us today as He did for our ancestors in the distant past? I get this question all the time. There are two ways of answering this:

1)      Why do we want miracles? Miracles are wonderful displays of G-d’s strength, but they do very little for those to whom it happens. Take for example the Jews of the desert during the times of Moses. Miracles happened every day. Did it change them? Did they not rebel against G-d and Moses again and again despite the miracles? Sure, it is exciting to see a sea split and water turn into blood, and it might even have a short term effect on the observers, but in terms of having long lasting effects? Nothing. Nada. The Jews worshipped a golden calf just after witnessing the greatest of all miracles. So do miracles really change anyone for real and create more committed Jews? I am not sure. What is even more important to ponder is this: why do we want miracles to happen? Is it so that we can be one hundred percent sure that G-d really does exist? That would mean that G-d would need to prove His existence for every generation, say every 50-100 years. A miracle that my great grandfather experienced would convince him, but would it convince his great grandchild? Perhaps not. And, if the only way to be really sure that G-d exists is by Him showing His omnipotence and His ability to alter nature, then He would need to do something grandiose for every generation or two separately so that they too have no doubts. That is a very immature way to get people to be convinced of G-d’s existence.  G-d expects mankind to mature up and reach a point where His existence and relevance are absolute and unshakable with or without Him having to prove himself all the time. Perhaps we should stop asking for miracles unless we really need them. For example, I have been asking that G-d should perform a miracle for my niece in California who is battling cancer and can use G-d’s supernatural powers to heal her. May she be well and recover quickly. But I am not asking for this miracle in order to convince me of His existence. For that I do not need miracles. Miracles should not be a crutch that keeps our spiritual balance. Over three thousand years of Jewish existence, tradition and Jewish scholarship are enough to convince anyone of the existence of G-d.

2)      Miracles do happen and they happen all the time. This Shabbos, we will bless the Hebrew month of Nissan which begins this coming week. Our sages tell us that the first of Nissan, the month in which Passover falls, is also a Rosh Hashanah of sorts. They explain that the Rosh Hashanah in Tishrei (September) is the New Year for the natural order. Then the world is judged and it is decided whether we will enjoy nature’s gifts of life, health, livelihood and all the rest. Nissan, on the other hand, is the New Year for a higher miraculous order. It is during this time that a higher supernatural energy is revealed; an energy that is the source of all the daily miracles which occur. So yes, miracles do happen, and when they happen, they are meant to strengthen us and bring greater blessings into our life. They happen either because we deserve them or because we are in need of a miracle and G-d, our loving Father, makes it happen even if we are undeserving. We need to just open our eyes to see and behold these daily miracles that are on display all the time.

I hope and pray that none of us should ever need miracles, but we should be good vessels to receive them nonetheless. We should be blessed with a New Year full of miraculous supernatural blessings from G-d for ourselves and our families for life, health, Nachas, good livelihood, both materially and spiritually. 

Shabbat Shalom

From Shushan to Tehran

This past Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered one of his best speeches ever in front of hundreds of Senators and congressmen and congresswomen who were visibly moved and undoubtedly inspired by what he had to say. The topic, Iran, is on the minds of most people especially Jews living in Israel and the world over. The danger of this monstrous regime is understood by all. I was amused the next day when I heard the foreign minister of Iran explain to us Jews, that we have nothing to worry about because in his words “in the book of Esther it was the king of Iran who actually saved the Jews” referring to Achashverosh, King of Persia, who ordered Haman to be hung and the Jews to be untouched etc.  The cynicism of such a statement would not be worth discussing under normal circumstances; after all, most, if not all people see it for what it is. The fact that you have a few gullible people out there who are eager to be convinced by this well-dressed Iranian diplomat with a smooth talking tongue should not be too worrisome. The problem, however, is that some of the people ready to buy into the falsehoods of Iran are our own diplomats. I heard one of them say this week that we cannot expect the Iranians to just buckle under to pressure because that is just not going to happen.

I have always argued that it is not the Hamans of the world we need to worry about, but the Achashveiroshe’s of the world who are misled by the Hamans of the world whom we need to worry about. This is exactly what we are faced with now. Iran, the modern day Haman, is the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world today. They announce that they want to destroy Israel, they have every intention to figure out a way to do just that and we are told to just sit quiet. Why? Because we have to let the diplomatic effort exhaust itself. Which diplomatic effort? The one that says that we must succumb before we even begin? The one that says that there is no way the Iranians will agree to give in? Should we be negotiating with Haman or his heirs in Iran as equals?  Have they not sponsored the killings of thousands upon thousands of men women and children?  Should Iran’s mullahs and Ayatollahs not be treated as the evil regime it is who need to be subdued and crushed? There are many ways to crush an evil regime, war being the last resort obviously, but Netanyahu has it right; they do need to be brought down on their knees. People with a conscious should not allow for this charade to continue.

So it was really refreshing to hear Netanyahu give the proper perspective. The world needed to hear it. The fact that there was such a commotion leading up to his speech is inconsequential when recognizing what is at stake. In the Megillah we read about Mordechai, a very important politician in Shushan, who invited Esther to give a speech before the king to alarm him regarding Hamans plot against the Jews. Esther, we’re told, was very reluctant. She argued that it was against protocol to just appear without being invited by the king himself, and if she did, her standing with the king could be devastatingly compromised. The very survival of The Jewish people and of Esther herself would be endangered if she just showed up without an official invitation from Shushan’s executive branch. However, Morderchai would net let her just wiggle her way out of it. He insisted that all those calculations are correct under normal circumstances, but when Haman plans to annihilate all the Jewish people we cannot afford to be worried about diplomatic niceties. (Read chapter 4 of the book of Esther if you think I am making this up).

The fact that Netanyahu was also faced with pressure to be silent and not alarm the world as to the true nature of Iran and the devastating ramifications of a bad deal, is in the long run, completely irrelevant. I believe that the United States and Israel’s common goals are the ultimate glue that keeps them united. This blip and ‘crises will soon fade away into oblivion. Time will tell whether or not Netanyahu’s speech will have changed anything or not. I believe it already had its effect.

I hope and pray that like in Shushan, where the king did not negotiate with Haman and his cronies, our government too will muster up the strength to stand up to this evil day Haman and not treat them like equals but with determination and conviction will bring them down on their knees.  I believe that the U.S. is ultimately a G-d conscious society and one founded on the principals of morality and kindness. I hope that the American spirit will penetrate the minds and hearts of our government so that this blessed country can play the role that it has played for the past century or more. The world relies on us and this is no time to lose focus of who we are and why we are.

Purim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom

 

 

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