Friday, April 28, 2017

Yearning For Israel on Yom Haatzmaut

There is a pasuk in Tehillim, Chapter 87:5 that states:
And to Zion it will be said, "Man and man was born in her," and He will establish it on high.

וּלְצִיּוֹן יֵאָמַר אִישׁ וְאִישׁ יֻלַּד בָּהּ וְהוּא יְכוֹנְנֶהָ עֶלְיוֹן:

The Talmud in Ketuvot explains as follows:

Echad Hanolad Bah, V’echad Hametzapeh Lirotah

Two times Ish in the verse refer to both those actually born in Israel as well as those “Who yearn to see her”.

Some of us here tonight were actually born in Israel. Other people remember a time when there was no State of Israel and understand from living that history what it means to yearn to see Israel.

But there are many others today, including our youth, who don’t know of a world without Medinat Yisrael. I would go even further: there are many today that only know Israel as a developed country, as strong and advanced. The notion of Israel as a struggling developing fragile country is not part of their/ our experience.

And all of these groups celebrate Yom Haatzmaut in order to strengthen our commitment as Metzapim Lirotah, to count ourselves among those who proudly yearn for Israel and appreciate the significance of the State of Israel.
We do so in 2 ways:

First through our Yom Hazikaron commemoration we remember the sacrifices that were involved in Hakamat Hamedinah. In so doing we remember the significance of a State of Israel and why people were- and are- willing to sacrifice their lives on behalf of that state.

And second, we shift gears and celebrate on Yom Haatzmaut the technologically and spiritually rich country that Israel has developed into in 69 short years.

If we take advantage of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut to fortify ourselves as Metzapim Lirotah, those that yearn for and appreciate Eretz Yisrael, then may Hashem fulfill the end of that pasuk in Tehillim:
וְהוּא יְכוֹנְנֶהָ עֶלְיוֹן:
and He will establish it on high.

May Hashem establish Medinat Yisrael above all other lands, as a light for all nations and a source of inspiration for us all.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Shemini and Yom Hashoah: Honoring Our Past

Parshat Shemini tells the story of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. It is clear from the Torah that their deaths were a form of punishment; what is not clear is what was their sin.

Rashi suggests that their sin was showing disrespect towards Moshe by deciding Halachot in his presence. The Talmud in Sanhdrin picks up on this theme and elaborates:
Moses and Aaron were walking along, as Nadav and Avihu were behind them, and all of Israel behind them. Nadav said to Avihu, "When these two elders die, you and I will lead this generation." God said to them "Let's see who buries whom." (Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 52a).

According to the Talmud the fatal flaw of Nadav and Avihu was their disrespect and disregard of the previous generation. They believed that they represented the future of Klal Yisrael- and as the “next generation” they were better and smarter than their father and uncle. Instead of showing humility and learning from their elders, they demonstrate hubris and ignore, if not scorn, their forbearers.

It is very appropriate that we read Parshat Shemini this year right before we commemorate Yom Hashoah. Yom Hashoah is a day for us to remember and honor Holocaust victims and survivors. I am proud that every year the young Israel of Hollywood – Ft Lauderdale hosts a Yom Hashoah commemoration. This year’s event will take place Sunday evening at 8:15 PM. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of Dr. Lenny Hoenig, the program will once again include a dramatic presentation performed by the youth of our congregation. Our Guest speaker will be Mr. William Bernheim, an artist and survivor of the Lodz Ghetto and Buchenwald concentration camp.

I urge you to join me Sunday night. Let us learn from the tragic mistake of Nadav and Avihu and be sure to honor and remember our past.