Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
The main sign of a Jew who is truly devoted to Torah is that he does everything in his power never to cause emotional anguish to another. The sin of hurting another’s feelings deliberately is called ona’at devarim (Vayikra 25:17). It applies to words or gestures which makes others feel shamed, humiliated or unimportant. This includes name-calling, criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, teasing and humiliating punishments.
Faith after the Holocaust:
Emil Fackenheim said that after the Holocaust we were given a 614th commandment, that is to live as Jews and carry on the Jewish People. Here is his famous quote from, ‘To mend a world ‘ that is our great challenge:
‘We are, first, commanded to survive as Jews, lest the Jewish people perish. We are commanded, secondly, to remember in our very guts and bones the martyrs of the Holocaust, lest their memory perish.
We are forbidden, thirdly, to deny or despair of God, however much we may have to contend with him or with belief in him, lest Judaism perish.
We are forbidden, finally, to despair of the world as the place which is to become the kingdom of God, lest we help make it a meaningless place in which God is dead or irrelevant and everything is permitted.
To abandon any of these imperatives, in response to Hitler’s victory at Auschwitz, would be to hand him yet other, posthumous victories.’
Klausenberger Rebbe: One of the most remarkable leaders of Jewry in the post-Shoah era was the Admor M’Klausenburg , R.Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam (1905-1994). He was the founding Rebbe of the Sanz Klausenburg Chassidic Dynasty and one of the youngest rebbes in Europe, leading thousands of followers in the town of Klausenberg, Romania, before the Shoah. His wife, eleven children, and most of his followers and students were killed by the Nazis Y’SH. After the Shoah, he moved to the US and then to Israel, where he settled in Netanya in 1960. He re-established his dynasty in the US and Israel, rebuilt Jewish communal life in the displaced persons camps of Western Europe, established the Laniado Hospital in Netanya and in 1982 started the ‘Mifal Ha’Shas’ – learning Gemarah with Halacha and being examined every month which still runs. In 1947, at the age of 42, he remarried and had seven children. One of his two sons, Zvi Elimelech, is the current Rebbe in Israel. The story goes, that as he was much older than his second wife, he promised her before they got married that he wouldn’t die before their last child was married. This in fact was what happened. He dedicated his life to chessed and helping others. His determination and passion for life drove him to achieve heights that most cannot reach. Despite the horrific personal tragedy he experienced during the Shoah, he rebuilt his family and just kept on learning, teaching, and sharing with others.
The Klausenberger Rebbe taught me to say Kaddish every day for the victims of the Shoah as I am here and able to go the bet Kenese and they are not
Do You Love Me?
Our whole crew got together to celebrate the start of what we hope will be a happier year: Happy New Year from all of us at Boston Dynamics. www.BostonDynamics.com.
Last month on the 20th of Tevet, marked the Yom Hillula (day of festivity) or Yahrtzeit, of the Rambam (Maimonides). He died in 1204. So, I thought it would be interesting to look at a major event in his life, that might have been missed by some, back at the end of October.
The Torah reading was Parshat Noah, the Hebrew date was the 6th of Cheshvan. It marked 855 years since the Rambam, made Aliyah (went up), to Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), in the Old City of Jerusalem, and prayed…
Something the Israeli government officially forbids Jews to do today!
Jews that go up to the Temple Mount today, are warned by Israeli police, not to pray, yet they are still regularly harassed by Arabs and Wakf officials. The Wakf people commonly make a commotion and then get the Israeli police involved, who then often remove the Jews from the mount. For example, last month, a Jewish youth was detained in a humiliating manner (Chillul HaShem – showing weakness in the eyes of the enemy – the Wakf), and removed from the Temple Mount, after he was found with tefillin in his pocket, according to Temple Mount activist Arnon Segal.
It’s not only the Wakf officials on the Temple Mount, but the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs, who regularly work against Jewish rights on the mount. In a report issued by them, they alleged that there were more than 24 cases of “desecration of the al-Aqsa Mosque by Occupation forces and settlers,” during the month of December, 2020. They also claimed that Israeli security forces prevented the Muezzin (call for prayer) from being sounded in the Ibrahimi Mosque (Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron) from being heard 46 times.
But the Palestinians don’t just harass Jews. Recently, Abdul Rahman al-Lahim, a Saudi lawyer with a quarter of a million Twitter followers, called “to free the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Palestinian brats,” in a post on his Twitter account. He Tweeted, after Palestinian Arabs cursed other Arab visitors to the Temple Mount from Arab states, which had recently signed normalization agreements with Israel. “It is very important that the Emirates, Bahrain and Israel seek, after the peace agreements, to find a tool to liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Palestinian brats, in a way that will ensure that visitors to Al-Aqsa are protected from Palestinian bullying,” he wrote. He called the PA control of the Temple Mount, “the rape of Al Aqsa.”
On the 6th of Cheshvan, in the Hebrew year 4926, 1165 CE, the Rambam made Aliyat HaRegal (pilgrimage) to Har HaBayit, visiting other areas around Jerusalem and Hebron as well.
The event was so special to the Rambam, that he vowed to make it a personal holiday and commemorate it annually.
The Rambam, wasn’t just another radical, right-wing political rabbi. But one of the greatest rabbis of all time, both in Halacha (Jewish law), and Jewish thought. His most well known work, is the 14 volume Mishneh Torah, (literally, The Repetition of the Torah), which was the first comprehensive, systematic codification of the entire Halacha, including, Hilchot Beit HaBechira (the Laws of the Temple – the Rambam assumed Jews would rebuild it). His work became the basis for later codifications, most notably, the Shulchan Aruch, written by Rabbi Yosef Karo in the 16th century. Yet, the Shulchan Aruch didn’t even cover all the areas of Jewish law that the Mishneh Torah did.
The Rambam in describing his pilgrimage to Israel said:
“We left Akko (the port city of Acre), for Jerusalem under perilous conditions. I entered into ‘the great and holy house’ and prayed there on the sixth day of the month of Cheshvan. And on the first day of the week, the ninth day of the month of Cheshvan, I left Jerusalem for Hebron to kiss the graves of my forefathers in the Cave of Machpela. And on that very day, I stood in the Cave and I prayed, praised be God for everything. And these two days, the sixth [when he prayed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem] and the ninth of Cheshvan, I vowed to make as a special holiday, in which, I will rejoice with prayer, food and drink. May the Lord help me to keep my vows….” (translation, courtesy of the Temple Institute).
What was this “Great and Holy House” the Rambam talks about?
Many believe that this place was the synagogue that existed on the Temple Mount, a house of worship that had remained empty and deserted ever since the Crusaders occupied the mountain sixty-six years earlier. Others suggest that he didn’t pray in the synagogue on the Temple Mount, because it had been destroyed by the Crusaders, instead, he prayed on the Temple Mount at a place that was near where the Holy Temple once stood.
Either way, it’s clear he prayed on the Temple Mount and at the Cave of Machpela in Hebron. Something that Jews are still struggling with, to do, today.
Achievements in 2020 in the Battle Against Antisemitism
While the number of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide increased in 2020, there were several positive developments in the fight against this hatred.
The decision this year by the European Court of Justice that the Flemish and Wallonian governments can only allow ritual slaughter of animals after stunning was a major antisemitic act. It also affects part of the Muslim population. When Hitler came to power, the Nazi government introduced a similar measure in Germany, as it fit their antisemitic policies.
Though the European court effectively backed up Hitler’s approach, it is possible that the judges were ignorant of the antisemitic character of their ruling. Antisemitism born of ignorance is one of the hatred’s many strains.
The court wrote that its judgment strikes a “fair balance” between animal welfare and religion. This is a lie. Jews who observe the laws of their religion are forbidden to eat animals that have been stunned before slaughter. There is thus no balance at all. The court’s decision should be seen as one more step in the more than 1,000-year antisemitic culture that permeates European societies, whether the judges were aware of the fact or not.
Yet 2020 also saw a number of positive developments in the battle against antisemitism. The most important of these result from policies initiated by the Trump administration. Its decision to stop American financing of the Palestinian Authority was a major step against antisemitism. No more US government money would be made available to an organization that rewards the murderers of Jews.
The cessation of US funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) falls into the same category. This UN agency finances hate literature against Israel and makes it available in Palestinian schools, among many other antisemitic acts. Any renewal of funding by the Biden administration to UNRWA, which it might falsely call “humanitarian aid,” would boil down to an act of antisemitism.
Within the broad framework of Trump administration policies, several other measures favorable to Israel had a positive effect in the battle against antisemitism. While visiting Israel in November 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US considers the anti-Israel boycott BDS movement to be antisemitic. There is indeed ample documentation of the profound antisemitic motivation of the initiators and main promoters of BDS.
Another important issue that came up only marginally (there was no follow-up) occurred in the final days before the US presidential election in November 2020. Sources inside the Trump government made it known that the State Department may declare three major human rights organizations—Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam—antisemitic. That this is factually correct was not news to antisemitism experts, but to hear it expressed in US government circles was a radical step forward.
These organizations can be described as practicing “do-gooder antisemitism.” The concept is simple: If an organization or person mainly undertakes actions perceived as meritorious, it is granted leeway to misbehave at the margins, even to an extreme degree. These three major NGOs and many others have used this latitude to disseminate antisemitic ideas about Israel.
“Do-gooder” NGOs frequently incite, malign, and defame Israel while remaining largely silent about the criminality and death culture that permeate Palestinian society and leadership.
Another major development in the battle against antisemitism was the publication of the report of the British Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on antisemitism within the Labour Party. This highly critical document was released at the end of October. The EHRC found that the office of Jeremy Corbyn, the previous chairman of the party, unlawfully “politically interfered” in almost two dozen cases of antisemitism.
Three leading British Jewish organizations—the Board of Deputies of British Jewry, the Jewish Leadership Council, and the Community Security Trust—thereafter released a statement: “Jeremy Corbyn will rightly be blamed for what he has done to Jews and Labour, but the truth is more disturbing, as he was little more than a figurehead for old and new anti-Jewish attitudes. All of this was enabled by those who deliberately turned a blind eye.”
Corbyn reacted to the report by saying the allegations of antisemitism were “dramatically overstated for political reasons,” at which point Labour’s general secretary, David Evans, suspended him from the party. Corbyn also lost the position of Labour whip, which means he now sits as an independent parliamentarian in the House of Commons. (Less than three weeks later, the National Executive Committee reinstated Corbyn as a member of Labour, but the party’s current chairman, Keir Starmer, has said Corbyn will not be returned to the Labour whip position.)
In the framework of what are commonly called the Abraham Accords, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco agreed on normalization with Israel. Bahrain and Israel also decided that they would jointly fight antisemitism. Bahrain became the first Arab country to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
The number of countries, cities, and organizations that have accepted the IHRA definition of antisemitism increased in 2020. They include London and Berlin, a variety of universities, the great majority of English Premier League football teams, and diverse civil society organizations.
The year 2020 also saw countries and entities hire coordinators to guide their efforts to fight antisemitism. One important appointment was that of former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler as that country’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism. Cotler is a highly respected international human rights lawyer with a lengthy background in the study of trends in antisemitism.
In Germany, where there were already a few such coordinators, new ones were appointed. A particularly important choice was that of political scientist Samuel Salzborn as antisemitism commissioner of Berlin. The Netherlands announced it will appoint such a commissioner in 2021.
One might add to the above that the European Council, which groups together the heads of EU member states, issued a declaration against antisemitism. It has some merit, though it failed to address many relevant issues.
While the overall situation regarding antisemitism in the world continues to deteriorate, the bright spots of 2020 indicate that important achievements are being made in the battle against this widespread hatred.
Coronavirus: Businesses losing hope as Israel's 3rd lockdown continues
As Israel’s third lockdown continues in its second month, anger has turned into a sense of hopelessness for small businesses.“At this point, I just don’t know what to do,” said Jan Elazar Refoua, who owns the Ora gift shop in Jerusalem’s city center. “They tell us to close; they tell us to open. We can’t go on like this. We have been here for 40 years, and we have always worked with tourists. But now there are no tourists. Other than a few people calling to place orders, there’s nothing.”
“We have gotten some help from government grants, and they helped, but they aren’t enough,” he said. “If we open in the next week, we can keep the business going. But we don’t want to sit at home getting grants. We want to work.”When Israel’s third lockdown started on December 27, officials estimated that it would cost Israel’s economy NIS 2.5 billion to NIS 3b. per week, not counting the costs caused by businesses going bankrupt and continuing unemployment. However, the rules of the lockdown became even more restrictive during the second week of January, and with novel coronavirus infection numbers dropping more slowly than expected, there is no end in clear sight. The lockdown is currently scheduled to end Friday, but it seems likely that it will be extended. A total closure of Ben-Gurion Airport to commercial passengers, scheduled to end Sunday, also appears set to continue for longer. That means commerce in Israel’s largest commercial and tourist centers is at a standstill.
“When I walk around central Jerusalem, I see that no less than 97% of stores are closed, and those that are open have just the owner working, without any employees,” said Ilan Ben-Harosh, who owns an electronics store in the center of Jerusalem. “Many stores are for rent, and many of the businesses that have closed won’t restart. The current lockdown has made things much worse than it was beforehand. People are losing hope and aren’t interested in going out anymore.”
Government policies have exacerbated the situation, Ben-Harosh said.“The government offers different grants to businesses that are affected by the closures, and those that can show that they have lost 95% of their business are entitled to even larger amounts,” he said. “So at this point, some people are calculating that they might make more if they stay home than if they open.”The government is responsible for policies that have encouraged unemployment, Ben-Harosh said.“The country made a big mistake by giving halat [unpaid leave] payments to so many workers,” he said. “They should have instead given the money to the stores to continue to employ them.”Refoua said he was concerned that many customers will be lost for good because essential stores such as supermarkets have been allowed to stay open and sell goods like the ones he carries, while his business is shuttered.“It’s not fair that I can’t let someone into my store, but they can,” he said. That claim was upheld by the High Court of Justice on Tuesday. In response to a lawsuit filed by various businesses, it ruled that essential stores cannot sell nonessential products during the lockdown. But while that may feel fair to angry shop owners, it is a blow to shoppers who already have few options during this period.“In general, businesses feel very limited by a lack of clarity,” said Nurit Schechter, an activist for small businesses and an event organizer in Shoham. “We see that people are out at demonstrations, and we feel like this lockdown is for the business owners only. Many businesses are unable to open their stores even if they follow all the rules, and the fines for breaking the rules are so high. We can’t make up the losses we’ve had, and we don’t know what will be.”Nonetheless, Ben-Harosh said there is a sense of hope for an uncertain future.“We are a strong nation, and this is a great crisis, but we will get out of this,” he said.