Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Ambition Takes You Far

 Ambition can be powerful. Ambition helps a person mobilize his resources. Ambition enables someone to face challenges and persist. Ambition prevents a person from giving up.

A person with a high degree of ambition will be able to accomplish much more than someone with similar intelligence and skills but without ambition.

Ambition enables a person to overcome laziness and a tendency to procrastinate. When you have an authentic ambition to excel in a certain area, you will put in the necessary time and energy to gain the knowledge. You will have the energy to practice the skill you want to perfect.

Ambition helps you overcome potential obstacles that might get in the way. The stronger your ambition, the less any obstacle can deter you from proceeding.

Love Yehuda Lave

What Is Shavuot (Shavuos)? And How Is Shavuot Celebrated?

What Is Shavuot (Shavuos)? And How Is Shavuot Celebrated?

The holiday of Shavuot is a two-day holiday, beginning at sundown of the 5th of Sivan and lasting until nightfall of the 7th of Sivan (May 19–May 21, 2018). In Israel it is a one-day holiday, ending at nightfall of the 6th of Sivan.

What Shavuot Commemorates

The word Shavuot (or Shavuos) means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week Omer counting period between Passover and Shavuot.

The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai on Shavuot more than 3,300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah.

The giving of the Torah was a far-reaching spiritual event—one that touched the essence of the Jewish soul for all times. Our sages have compared it to a wedding between G‑d and the Jewish people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day G‑d swore eternal devotion to us, and we in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him. Learn more about the Giving of the Torah and what it means to us today.

In ancient times, two wheat loaves would be offered in Holy Temple on Shavuot. It was also at this time that people would begin to bring bikkurim, their first and choicest fruits, to thank G‑d for Israel’s bounty. Learn about bikkurim here.

How Is Shavuot Celebrated?

Shavuot - The Day that Shook the World Discover the most important intellectual development in human history - the giving of the Torah.

Shavou’ot (Pentecost) guide for the perplexed, 2018
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative”

More on Jewish holidays:
1. The Shavou’ot (Pentecost) holiday commemorates the receipt of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses), which enshrines liberty and morality, as demonstrated by a whole night study on the eve of Shavou’ot (the “Enhancement of Shavou’ot” – Tikoon Shavou’ot in Hebrew):

*The liberty of the Land of Israel, which was initially pursued by Abraham the Patriarch 3,500 year ago;
*The liberty to embrace the Torah of Israel, which was transmitted through Moses;
*The liberty of the People of Israel, who were united by King David.

The acronym of the Hebrew spelling of Abraham (אברהם), David (דוד) and Moses (משה) is Adam (אדם), which is the Hebrew word for “human-being.” It is, also, the root of the Hebrew word for “soil” – אדמה, a symbol of humility. 

Shavou’ot (the Hebrew word for “weeks”) is celebrated seven weeks following the second day of Passover, and constitutes a historical, national, agricultural and spiritual extension of Passover. While Passover highlights the liberty from slavery, Shavou’ot highlights the liberty to embrace the Torah, in preparation for the liberation of the Land of Israel.  The harvesting season starts with Passover and concludes with Shavou’ot, which is also named the Holiday of the Harvest. Shavou’ot is one of the three Jewish liberty-oriented pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

Shavou’ot highlights reality as documented by the slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, forty years in the desert and the litany of wars and destructions: liberty – just like the Torah – is acquired through willingness to sustain tribulations (blood, sweat and tears). The steeper the hurdle, the more critical the mission, the deeper the gratification. Thus, adversity and challenges are opportunities in disguise.

2. In the US, the Early Pilgrims and Founding Fathers were inspired by the Biblical concept of liberty, beginning with the Exodus from Egypt (Britain), through the Parting of the Sea (the Atlantic Ocean), and the return to the Promised Land (the early Colonies). The Biblical concept of liberty impacted the US Constitution with its Separation of Powers and Checks & Balances, the Bill of Rights and the Abolitionist movement.

3. The Jubilee – the cornerstone of the Biblical/Mosaic concept of liberty, which is celebrated every 50 years – inspired the US Founding Fathers. Hence, the inscription on the Liberty Bell (Leviticus 25:10 – the essence of the Jubilee), which was installed in 1752, the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Jews study that portion of the Five Books of Moses two weeks before Shavou’ot. Moreover, according to ancient Jewish Sages, the globe was created through 50 gates of wisdom, and the 50th gate was the gate of jubilee/liberty/deliverance.  Also, the USA is composed of 50 states. Thus, Shavou’ot – which is celebrated 50 days following Passover - sheds light on the Judeo-Christian values, which contributed to the foundation of the US legal and moral ethos, underlying the unique covenant between the American people and the Jewish State.

In addition, the British philosopher, John Locke, who was involved in the early days of the Carolinas, wanted the 613 Laws of Moses to become the legal foundation of the Carolinas. Moreover, President Lincoln’s famous 1863 quote - "government of the people, by the people, for the people" - paraphrased a statement made by the 14th century British philosopher and translator of the Old Testament, John Wycliffe: “The Bible is a book of the people, by the people, for the people.” 

4. Humility. Shavou'ot commemorates the receipt of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) and its 613 statutes - an annual reminder of essential values. The Torah was received in the desert, on Mount Sinai, which is not a very tall mountain, highlighting humility, a most critical value of human behavior and leadership.  Moses, the exceptional law-giver and leader, was accorded only one compliment: "the humblest of all human beings."

5. Human behavior. Personal liberty mandates respect toward the liberty of fellow human-beings. It is customary to study - from Passover through Shavou'ot/Pentecost – the six brief chapters of The Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkey Avot in Hebrew), one of the 63 tractates of the Mishnah (the Oral Torah) - a compilation of common sense principles, ethical and moral teachings, which undderline inter-Personal relationships.  For example: 

*"Who is respected? He who respects other persons!"
*"Who is a wise person? He who learns from all other persons!"
*"Who is wealthy? He who is satisfied with his own share!"
*"Who is a hero? He who controls his urge!"
*"Talk sparsely and walk plenty;"
*"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?"
*"Don't be consumed with the flask, but with its content."
*Conditional love is tenuous; unconditional love is eternal."
*"Treat every person politely."
*"Jealousy, lust and the obsession with fame warp one's mind."

6. Jubilee/Constitution. Shavou'ot has seven names (Pentecost is celebrated on the 7th Sunday after Easter): The holiday of the Jubilee/fiftieth (חמישים); the holiday of the harvest (קציר); the holiday of the giving of the Torah (מתן תורה); Shavou’ot (שבועות); the holiday of the offerings (ביכורים); the rally (עצרת) and the assembly (הקהל). The Hebrew acronym of the seven names is חקת שבעה, which means “The Constitution of the Seven.”   

7. Seven. Shavou’ot reflects the centrality of 7 in Judaism.  The Hebrew root of Shavou’ot (שבועות) is Seven (שבע - Sheva), which is also the root of “vow” (שבועה – Shvoua’), “satiation” (שובע – Sova) and “week” (שבוע – Shavoua’).  Shavou’ot is celebrated 7 weeks following Passover. The Sabbath is the 7th day of the Creation in a 7 day week. The first Hebrew verse of Genesis consists of 7 words. According to Genesis, there are 7 beneficiaries of the Sabbath.  God created 7 universes – the 7th hosts the pure souls, hence “Seventh Heaven.” There were 7 monumental Jewish leaders – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aharon, Joseph and David (representing 7 human qualities), 7 Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Abigail, Hulda and Esther), 7 major Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Tabernacles, Chanukah, Purim, Passover and Shavou’ot) and 7 species of the Land of Israel (barley, wheat, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date/honey). The Jubilee follows 7 seven-year cycles, etc.

8. Agriculture. Originally, Shavou’ot was an agricultural holiday, celebrating the first harvest/yield by bringing offerings (Bikkurim-ביכורים) to the Temple in Jerusalem.  However, following the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the exile in 70 AD, the focus shifted to Torah awareness, in order to sustain the connection to the Land of Israel and avoid spiritual and physical oblivion.  
 More on Shavou’ot and additional Jewish holidays: 

The 2000 Year Old Prayer By Shmuel Sackett

Jews all over the world, have been saying these words for 2,000 years. Millions of tears have been shed clinging to the hope that – one day – these words would come true. Incredibly, after all that has happened to our Nation, Jews are still begging Hashem for this prayer to come to fruition. In English, its just 4 words and every child knows it by heart. What is this special prayer? Simple: “Next Year in Jerusalem”. The problem, however, is that while we all say it, very few actually understand what it means.

Without a doubt, the overwhelming majority of Jews will tell you that it is a prayer for the Bet Ha’Mikdash. 2,000 years ago the focal point of our service to Hashem was destroyed and since then, we have been begging our King to restore Jerusalem to its splendor and glory. This sounds nice and we definitely want the Bet Ha’Mikdash rebuilt as soon as possible, but I have bad news for you; that’s not what “Next Year in Jerusalem” means at all.

I will write it again so that this point is very clear. Yes, we want the holy Temple and without it, our Torah is incomplete. The Kohen Gadol, sacrifices, incense, Menorah, singing Levites plus all the laws of “Tuma and Tahara” (impurity and purity) are difficult for us to comprehend until we live them on a daily basis. Hundreds of pages in the Talmud - which discuss the intricate details of the korbanot, the gifts brought to the Bet Ha’Mikdash and concepts such as Teruma and Ma’aser - are merely intellectual exercises until our reality changes. We pray 3 times each day for Hashem to rebuild the Bet Ha’Mikdash and allow us to take these concepts and turn them into actions. However, while all that is true, I remain with my original point that the words “L’Shana ha’ba’ah b’Yerushalayim” – Next Year in Jerusalem – means something else.

So what does it mean? The answer is simple because the prayer is simple. For 2,000 years Jews have begged Hashem for one thing; to bring us back to Jerusalem. .. to kiss the holy stones and roll in its dust. Jews in Turkey, Yemen, Poland and Russia had one dream… to walk the streets of Jerusalem. That’s it. Yes, they also wanted the Bet Ha’Mikdash and the Sanhedrin and the return of the Davidic dynasty, but that would be steps 2, 3 and 4. The beautiful Jews who held on to the Torah despite the persecutions, crusades, blood libels, and pogroms did so because they hoped for something far simpler; that one day they would see the sun rise in Jerusalem. Even as these Yidden were thrown out of Spain, gassed in Auschwitz or beaten in the streets of Syria they held on to the dream that the day would come when they would breathe the air of Jerusalem. Those 4 words kept them going and – no matter what – they never let the haters and anti-Semites take it from them. The words “Next Year in Jerusalem” were their prized possession…

An excellent example of this came last week in a speech by Miriam Peretz, the mother of 2 IDF soldiers killed in battle. Despite the unimaginable pain of losing 2 sons, Uriel in 1998 in a battle in Lebanon and Eliraz in 2010 while fighting Hamas in Gaza, this incredible woman travels the world speaking and giving strength to others. Her positive message about Israel and Jewish unity is something we must all listen to and apply to our lives. Instead of focusing on the negative and the pain, Miriam Peretz motivates and inspires. Last week, the State of Israel awarded her with the Israel Prize and she delivered a powerful speech during the festivities on Yom Ha’atzmaut. She spoke about her childhood in Morocco (in the early 1960s), and how her father spoke about Jerusalem. Allow me to quote a few sentences from her amazing speech.

“Each night my father would tell me about a city he did not know, nor that he even saw in pictures, whose description passed from father to son. The city was Jerusalem. It had trees that dripped with honey and milk… Each time he pronounced the word ‘Yerushalayim’, my father would press 2 fingers to his lips and murmur its name with a sense of sanctity, while kissing each letter.”
She then said a line that gave me chills up and down my spine. “In 1964, my father’s dream was fulfilled and we came to Jerusalem; a transit camp in Beersheba where we lived until 1969.”

Let me summarize those few lines. Miriam Peretz’s father, never saw Jerusalem – not even in pictures!! Although he was living in Casablanca, Morocco he prayed every day; “Next Year in Jerusalem” and when he said that last word, he pressed his fingers against his mouth and kissed them! To top it all off, not only did the word “Jerusalem” not mean the Bet Ha’Mikdash (as I stated above)… it didn’t even mean Jerusalem!!! That word meant “Israel” – he was praying, dreaming, hoping and yearning that the day would come where he would leave Morocco and simply come to Israel.

That is exactly my point. For 2,000 years Jews begged Hashem, “Please, our Father – bring us back to your holy city. Yes, Father, even though that city does not have the Bet Ha’Mikdash – at this time - and even if that city is called Netanya or Ashdod, help us leave the lands of the goyim. We realize that things in the land are not perfect but bring us there and we will work the land to make it better! We will plant trees, build homes and return the greatness of Torah to Zion. Please, answer our prayer: Next year in Jerusalem!!!”

Dearest friends; only one question remains. What would our grandfathers and grandmothers have done if “Next Year in Jerusalem” could have meant simply purchasing an airline ticket? They cried while we play. They dreamt about Jerusalem while we dream about the Bahamas. They saved every penny to (hopefully) send one family member to Israel while we waste thousands on useless gadgets and golf outings.

The time has come for us to bring the dream to life! Say what you mean and mean what you say. “Next Year in Jerusalem”… for every Jew in the world! Its 4 simple words that can – and will – change Jewish history foreve

~Eleanor Roosevelt Quote

‘A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.’ 

Schindler’s List’ at 25: How Steven Spielberg’s Story Spoke to the Masses

Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — 1993 was a dramatic year in the memorialization of the Holocaust.

In April, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened its doors; 45 million visitors later it is a fixture adjacent to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., not only telling the story of the Holocaust but demonstrating the ongoing significance of this Jewish event – this European event – to the American people, to Western civilization, and to the world.

In November of that year, Steven Spielberg, widely recognized as the most influential director of this generation, released his monumental work “Schindler’s List” to international acclaim. Forsaking many of the tools of his profession, including the beautifying effect of color, Spielberg created a masterpiece. Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, it won seven, including best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay and best original score. The overture to “Schindler’s List,” written by John Williams, is routinely played whenever Holocaust events are held. Its haunting tones evoke not only the motion picture but the event itself.

Expected to lose money, “Schindler’s List“ was probably greenlighted by Universal Studios because Spielberg was Spielberg, a director’s director. He personally vowed not to make money on the film, saying his task was sacred, not entrepreneurial. Yet despite its length of over three hours, which made two screenings an evening difficult, it grossed $321 million in its initial release, more than 14 times its original cost. Spielberg donated his entire share to charity.

The story of Oskar Schindler was cherished by its survivors but little known even by experts. For years, Leopold Page would tell his story to people who walked into his Beverly Hills luggage store hoping that one of his prominent customers would bring it to the screen. Australian writer Thomas Keneally walked in one day. The result was his 1982 historical novel “Schindler’s Ark.” For decades, two New Jersey developers, Murray Pantirer and Abraham Zuckerman, named a Schindler Drive or Schindler Road in each of their New Jersey developments, honoring the man who saved their lives. Only later – much later – did residents of their developments understand who was being honored. 

Schindler, a Sudeten German, was an unlikely Holocaust hero. A philandering Nazi war profiteer, he used Jewish money, Jewish talent, and Jewish slave labor to build his metalworks business and his fortune. His transformation was gradual. He saw too much evil and then used the same cunning, and daring, to save his endangered Jews. He moved them from Krakow to Czechoslovakia along with his factory, and they survived the war. More than 1,200 Jews were rescued due to his interventions.

Spielberg resisted the temptation to valorize Schindler, who was portrayed brilliantly by Liam Neeson, warts and all. Spielberg couldn’t quite end the film, perhaps because he didn’t want to, so he gave filmgoers four endings: Schindler’s final speech wishing he had done more; the Jewish workers walking away into an uncertain future; a segment in color featuring real-life survivors visiting Schindler’s grave along with the actors portraying them; and a closing title card reading simply, “There are fewer than 4,000 Jews left alive in Poland today. There are more than 6,000 descendants of the Schindler Jews.”

“Schindler’s List” had a monumental unintended consequence. Survivors kept coming up to Spielberg and saying “have I got a story to tell you,” and the filmmaker listened with ever-growing fascination. As a man who could move millions with his work and was at the forefront of technological innovation, Spielberg vowed to record the testimonies of 50,000 survivors and preserve them for posterity. Naturally he chose video.

The result was what was then called the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which took the testimony of 52,000 Holocaust survivors in 57 countries and 32 languages, compiling the largest collection of oral history of any historical event.

At first Spielberg envisioned disseminating the collection in its entirety to five major research centers. In the years since, the collection has not only been disseminated in its entirety, but community after community has made use of the testimonies of local survivors to create films and educational material.

Examples abound: In my own work with the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, the testimonies of Chicago-area survivors were turned into a dozen films. Macedonia has used Macedonian testimonies, Mexico City Mexican testimonies. It is the gift that keeps on giving as scholars have made use of it for their research. Even great document scholars, such as Christopher Browning, learned the historical importance of oral history. Related films have been made on death marches and Sonderkommandos, the prisoners who worked in the vicinity of the death camps, areas where documents are few and memories deep.

Now housed at the University of Southern California, the renamed Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education is pioneering a video dialogue with survivors using voice recognition software. It allows a genuine conversation with holographic images of survivors, drawing on their actual testimonies. It is taking testimony from other genocides, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, as sadly, the list grows. And institutions throughout the world are creating educational programs from this work.

Spielberg himself has become a major moral voice of our generation, a voice that only grew with time and with new works such as “Amistad,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lincoln” and most recently “The Post,” to name a few — films that grapple with racism and slavery, war and memory, freedom of the press, and the courage to take a stand.

Spielberg himself grew more comfortable and more profound in his Jewish identity and his ability to embrace that identity without being narrowly parochial or limiting the audiences for his films. His name is synonymous with excellence — film excellence and moral excellence. And his stature poses a challenge to filmmakers of all generations to engage their own tradition and speak through that experience to the world.

Like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Schindler’s List” demonstrated that a Jewish story could remain deeply Jewish and yet speak to the mainstream not only of American society, but the contemporary culture as well.

In Krakow last week, I stood in line with hundreds of visitors at Schindler’s factory, where a museum has been created. It attracts visitors from throughout the world, all of whom were drawn to the place because of the story Spielberg told as only he could: of a scoundrel who over time became noble. For after all, “he who saves a life, saves the world entire.”

By Michael Berenbaum for Jewish Telegraphic Agency 

D’var Torah Yom Yerushalayim

Our Sages taught that Jerusalem has seventy names; the second most frequently found name for Jerusalem in the Bible is “Zion,” appearing 154 times.

In the strict sense, Zion is synonymous with the original Jerusalem, David's City, as we find in First Kings 8:1:

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chiefs and the fathers of the Children of Israel to King Solomon in Jerusalem, in order to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord out of the City of David, which is Zion.

However, the name Zion was expanded by the Bible to include all of Jerusalem, and, at times all of Israel.

The "daughter of Zion" (30 times) and the "Sons of Zion" symbolize the People of Israel.

The expanded sense of the name Zion, to include the Land of Israel, begat the term for the movement to re-establish a Jewish state in Israel: Zionism.

Benny Mazuz, a student of my alma mater, Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavne was taken prisoner by the Syrians on the second day of the Yom Kippur War, and spent more than half-a-year as a "guest" of the Syrians. Benny described his last interrogation thus: the Syrian officer kept attacking Benny for being a Zionist; Benny responded: “You too are a Zionist”; the Syrian officer was quite taken aback and angrily demanded an explanation of Benny's comment; Benny responded: "Zion is simply another name for Jerusalem, you sir, as a Moslem consider Jerusalem to be holy, hence by definition you are a Zionist.” At that point, Benny was escorted out and never again invited for questioning by his Syrian captors.

Indeed, Rabbi Kook writes:

The source of Zionism is the ultimate sacred source, the Bible, which endows Zionism with the depth and majesty of our traditions and endows this worldwide movement with vitality. Zionism is not merely an echo of the nation despised by the world seeking refuge from its oppressors, but a holy nation, the treasure of all nations, [Exodus 19:5] the lion cub of Judah [Genesis 49:9], awakened from its prolonged slumber to return to its inheritance.

Zionism, as defined by Benny Mazuz, a love for the Holy Land and the Holy City, has always been a part of Judaism. Without minimizing appreciation of his accomplishments, Theodore Herzl did not create Zionism, rather political Zionism: that is, channeling our traditional love of Zion into practical avenues and working towards the recreation of an independent Jewish state within the Jewish homeland. (David Magence)

Israel at 70: How 1948 Changed American Jews

(JTA) — One year after Israel’s establishment, in the dead of night, three students ascended a tower at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and raised the Israeli flag.

The next morning, the Conservative rabbinical school’s administration took it down.

That act of surreptitious Zionist protest was one of several at JTS during the years surrounding 1948, when Israel gained independence, Michael Greenbaum wrote in an essay in “Tradition Renewed,” a JTS history edited by Jack Wertheimer. Students supported the new Jewish state. However, the seminary’s chancellor, Louis Finkelstein, opposed American Judaism focusing all its efforts across an ocean, and also needed to appease a board wary of Jewish nationalism.

But the students persisted. Once, they sang the Israeli anthem “Hatikvah” following graduation ceremonies. Another time, they convinced their colleagues at the Union Theological Seminary, the Protestant school next door, to play the anthem from their bell tower.

Today, nearly all American Jewish institutions are vocally, even passionately pro-Israel. But even in the years after the Jewish state won its independence 70 years ago, that feeling was not yet universal.

Before the Holocaust, Zionism itself was polarizing among American Jews. Many, especially in the Reform movement, felt support for a Jewish homeland would cause their loyalty to America to be called into question. The other side was represented by Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Supreme Court justice, who saw no conflict between American values and Zionist aspirations.

By the time Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, American Jews, scarred by images of the Holocaust and Nazism and inspired by newsreels of tanned kibbutzniks, were largely supportive of Zionism. But they were not yet turning out for organized political advocacy and mass tourism to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Instead they were getting used to the idea of a Jewish sovereign state — gradually incorporating it into their culture, prayers, and religious outlook.

“After the mid-1930s, the majority of American Jews had come to be positive one way or another about the idea of a Jewish homeland,” said Hasia Diner, director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History at New York University. “While 1948 on the one hand was very exciting and [had] lots of communal programming and celebrations, it was slightly anticlimactic in the sense that opposition had been gone for at least 10 years.”

North American Jewish support for Israel was turbocharged by the Truman administration’s quick recognition of the state, and by the Israeli army’s victory against the Arab states in its war of independence.

In February of that year, Golda Meyerson (later Meir), raised $400,000 in one day (the equivalent of some $4 million today) on behalf of the provisional state on just one stop in Montreal. In the weeks following independence, she started a drive in the United States and Canada for $75 million more (or about $750 million in 2018 dollars).

“There was a sense that once America recognized the state, Zionism had won, and everyone wanted to link with the winners,” said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University. “It was growing very quickly, it took in all of these refugees, which solved that problem.”

After Israel secured its independence, American Jews began to engage with the new nation in small ways. There was no rush of tourism, but American Jews would show their support by purchasing goods from Israel, reading books about Israel, or holding Israeli dance classes in their community centers.

“Here’s this new state they had to kind of develop this relationship with, [and] the cultural realm was really the place it was happening,” Emily Alice Katz, author of the 2015 book “Bringing Zion Home,” told the New Books Network podcast. “There were these years in which it wasn’t as much about rallying the troops for these massive outpourings of aid or political influence, but it was more of this coming to know Israel.”

Part of the reticence to support Israel stemmed from the ethos of 1950s America, with its focus on suburban growth, the “melting pot” and assimilation. Against that backdrop, American Jews were trying to prove they belonged as social and cultural equals in American society. So again they were fearful of “dual loyalty” charges that could stem from vocal support for a Jewish state.

In a watershed moment in that debate, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sent a letter in 1950 to Jacob Blaustein, president of the American Jewish Committee, which for many years had been hesitant to throw its support behind the Jewish national movement. Ben-Gurion pledged not to speak for American Jewry or intervene in its affairs, and to dial down his insistence that American Jews move to Israel. In exchange, Blaustein recognized “the necessity and desirability” of supporting Israel in its nation building.

“The 1950s were the heyday of American Jewish assimilation,” said Sara Hirschhorn, an Israel studies professor at Oxford University. “It was the postwar era, when American Jews were benefiting from the same things everyone else was benefiting from — the GI bill, all kinds of ways for people to move into the middle class — and they wanted to continue to make the most of that.”

Nevertheless, Israel began to show up in American Jewish religious practice. A Conservative prayer book published in 1949 had readings about Israel, but not the prayer for Israel that is now standard in many prayer books. Religious schools gradually shifted their pronunciation of Hebrew from European Ashkenazic to Sephardic-inflected Israeli. Non-Zionist religious leaders eventually were sidelined.

The biggest shift, Sarna said, was American Jewry viewing Judaism’s history as one of “destruction and rebirth.” That outlook posed the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel as its two poles and, Sarna said, remains dominant in American Jewish thinking today. He noted that Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day and its Independence Day are commemorated about a week apart by design.

“The theme of destruction and rebirth becomes a very important theme in the lives of American Jews,” he said. “So much so that American Jews don’t know the history of Zionism going back, and have bought the idea that it’s all about the Holocaust being linked to the birth of the State of Israel.”

American Jews became more open in their celebration of Israel about a decade after 1948. “Exodus,” the 1958 novel by Leon Uris that painted Israel in heroic terms, was a national best-seller and was adapted into a popular movie in 1960 starring Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint. In 1961, the Yiddish star Molly Picon starred in a Broadway musical about a visit by American Jews to Israel, “Milk and Honey,” which ran for over 500 performances. A few years later, the Israel Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair showcased the country’s charms. And as Cold War tensions continued into the 1960s, Israel began to be seen as a U.S. ally against the Soviet Union.

In 1967, Israel’s existence was again threatened by Arab armies. Between the anxious buildup to that war and Israel’s lightning victory, American Jewish acceptance of Israel had turned to adulation, placing the Jewish state at the center of their identity. The few dissenters are found on the non-Zionist left, among various haredi Orthodox movements, and in the quiet grumblings of some mainstream leaders and rabbis who think the emphasis on Israel has thwarted the development of distinctly American Judaisms.

“Slowly but surely, Israel became more important for American Jews,” Sarna said. “1967 is at once a reflection of Israel’s growing importance, but at the same time it is a great intensification of Israel’s centrality.”

Ben Sales for Jewish Telegraphic Agency 

You shall honor an elderly person, and you shall fear your God, for I am God (Leviticus 19:32).

 This mitzvah is of particular importance in our times, when many people are living to an older age.

Living longer does not always bring the joys of the golden years that some people expect. The "fifty-two weeks of vacation a year" after retirement are often not a blessing; finding themselves with much time on their hands, many retired people are extremely bored.

Not all couples age together; as our life spans increase, so does the possibility of losing our partner and remaining alone for many years. Children may live far away, and even when close, they may lead busy lives with little time to devote to their aging parents. The wear and tear diseases - emphysema, arthritis, osteoporosis - may make many people housebound. Failing sight and hearing make the radio and television useless companions. While we pray for long life, the "golden years" may be very, very lonely.

In a society which prizes productivity, the elderly do not have much value, and although society may pay its debt to them (albeit in inadequate payments), it may be done with an attitude that is characteristic of a debtor to a creditor: resentment.

As is evident in the construction of the verse cited above, the Torah equates honoring the elderly with honoring God Himself.

Today I shall ...
do something to make the life of an elderly person a bit more pleasant.

See you Monday- Sunday is Shavout,but also Monday outside of Israel- Shabat Shalom

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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