Monthly Archives: May 2016

Cemetery Renovations

The B’nai Israel cemetery, founded in 1902, is owned and maintained by our congregation according to the many laws that govern Jewish cemeteries. Recently, we completed some extensive repair work on one of the original walls of the cemetery, a wall halachically mandated and in desperate need of repair. The cost of the repair was a bit more than expected. We ask members of the congregation and those who have loved ones in the cemetery to contribute to the Cemetery Fund to cover these unexpected expenses. Please make checks out to B’nai Israel Congregation; note “Cemetery Funds” on the memo line. Thank you.

Yom HaAtzma’ut Message from Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

The day is over, but Rabbi Haber forwarded this timely message about Israel’s Independence Day:

Finally, and most importantly, Israel celebrated Yom HaAtzma’ut today. If you haven’t yet, please take a moment to reflect on the blessing that we have in our opportunity to visit and connect with Israel. This is something that our grandparents dreamed of for 2000 years.Here is a portion of Rabbi Schwartz’s beautiful Yom Ha’Atzma’ut message.
Click here for the entire piece.

Oblivious Witness to Redemption, by Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

Abraham Rabinovitch, an Israeli reporter for the Jerusalem Post, accompanied the paratroopers as they entered the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967. Following the war, he wrote a book in which he described the scene of the brave young soldiers as they searched for a way to the Kotel, the Wall that had been closed off to most of them since their birth.

“The brave men fought their way into the city and had but one thing in mind: where is the Kotel? They entered alleyway after alleyway, passing houses with flags of surrender flying from their windows-but there was no one in sight. Many of these young men were 19-20 years old. Their entire lives they had never been in the Jordanian controlled old city. The Kotel did not yet have the great plaza it does today as the arabs had built up to the wall where they would dump their garbage.

Suddenly, at the end of one street, they spied a slight young man, clearly frightened, standing in his doorway. The soldiers assured the Arab that he would not be harmed. All they wanted, the men explained, was to find their way to the Temple Mount, to the Har HaBayis. The twenty-something year old shakily pointed them in the right direction and remained standing and watching.

He stood and watched as his enemy ran to the Mount; he saw as they raised the Israeli flag over his mosque; he heard the shouts of joy and the songs of celebration

But he did not react.

He stared as if in a trance; not absorbing what he saw

He just didn’t get it

He didn’t have a clue.

As it turned out, the young man, was a reporter for the local Arab paper. His name was Muhammed Daud and he would become a fairly well-known newsman in the Arab world. Except……except he wasn’t born Muhammed Da’ud. At his bris he was given the name Mark David Schleifer-perhaps Mordechai David.But after meeting his future wife some years before the Six-Day War he converted to Islam.

So here was this Jewish Muslim who had just been part of one of the most remarkable moments in all of Jewish History……. and he hadn’t a clue! He felt nothing! He was so alienated from the nation of his birth that he couldn’t identify with their joy in seeing the dream of two millennia being realized

As painful as this story might be, you needn’t be divorced from Judaism to be blind to a miracle. You could be a fine upstanding Jew; you could learn Daf Yomi regularly; you could be a scholar, -but you still could not have a clue! You could be missing the boat that we are living the fulfillment of the period of the ingathering of exiles where we are almost at the tipping point of the majority of the Jewish people having returned and living in the land of our forefathers. We could be oblivious to the incredible miracle that the land that has been desolate for 2000 years and occupied by almost every major world Empire has never been fertile or produced for them and today with the return of our people to our country, we have become the most fertile country in the Middle East who exports its produce all over the world. We can be focused on the negativity and the headaches troubles and flaws of our yet to be fully realized dreams, that we don’t see the tremendous explosion of Jews returning to the faiths of our forefathers and the tremendous heroism and merits that even the most secular Jew in Israel has as he is willing to fight and give his life for his fellow Jew and to defend Hashem’s country.

We can all be Muhamad Daud Shleifers rather than children of a generation that should be in awe of being part of the greatest moment in our history. We can be as clueless as many of our ancestors might have been who thought that Europe, Poland, Hungary were our homes until Hashem took us out of there, or that many of the our Sefardic brethren felt about their Arab countries where they dwelled and flourished for centuries, or as many of the French, English, and other wonderful EU country Jews are first realizing today are not their real homes. Nor as tragically my American friends, despite all the “crisis’s” the struggles to make a living, to pay tuition, the growing anti-Israel and anti semitic stirrings, and despite which ever lunatic is the next President have yet to realize. We can just continue to be oblivious bystanders to the greatest moments in our history and the incredible opportunity that Hashem has offered us; to really come home.

This week’s Torah portion contains in it the verses that command us to give up our lives for the sanctification of Hashem’s Name.

“And you shall not desecrate my holy Name and I will be sanctified amongst the Children of Israel-I am Hashem who sanctifies you Who takes you out from the land of Egypt to be for you as a God. I am Hashem”

The mitzva and verse that precedes this Mitzva is the obligation to bring a thanksgiving offering. The connection between these two mitzvos seems to be that to sanctify Hashem’s name, the Seforno suggests is that once we see the awesomeness of Hashem we are obligated to thank Him. That will be the motivation to sanctify Hashem in all that we do. The opposite is true as well there is no greater desecration of Hashem’s name then to ignore the goodness and kindness that He performs for us. He does all that He does in order to sanctify His name amongst us. Don’t be oblivious, don’t’ be Mark David Shleifers or even worse, Torah Scholars, Observant God fearing Jews that miss the boat and not sings the songs of praise for the kindness and miracles I preform. I am Hashem who takes you- an eternal present tense- out of the constraints and bondage of that close minded enslaved we are eternally exiled mentality. You can be redeemed. You are being redeemed. Sanctify my name amongst the Jewish people with your thanksgiving offering. I am Hashem.

We are guaranteed that by the ultimate final redemption Bal Yidach Mimenu Nidach- there will not be anyone that will left behind. Not Mark David Shleifer, not my former college students, not the assimilated Jew, not the comfortable Lakewood Torah scholar, Yeshiva guy, Satmer Chasid, or that really incredible Jewish philanthropist and Baal Chesed that built himself the most beautiful house down the block from you that somehow feels that he actually might be staying there in America for a while and that may not yet appreciate the greatness of what we are experiencing. How close we are to the end. We will all return. We will all sing the ultimate songs of praise to the rest of the world.  Let’s start saying our thanks already now.

Have an incredible happy 68th Birthday Shabbat and awesomely holy Yom Ha’atzamut,

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz