Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Glimpse of Moshiach

To say that all beginnings are difficult is an understatement. Our years of 'settling the land' have been fraught with what felt like every imaginable financial difficulty possible and then some. But it is a commandment to be happy and appreciate whatever HaShem gives us. So despite the hardships we have endured, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to dwell in the land of our forefathers and make this our home. To be blessed with the privilege of raising our children and grandchildren in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, is something not to be taken lightly. It is said that the land tries to 'spit out' those who don't merit being here and while it would seem sad that I have experienced that feeling, I am thankful. For without having gone through those trials and tribulations, I would probably not have made an effort to change our lives for the better. I used to think being Shomer Mitzvot, Shomer Shabbat and Kosher was enough. True, it was a big step, but it is something that needs constant work. Just like a marriage which cannot thrive unless the two partners make a continuous effort to improve, being religiously observant is not a be all and end all. We must continuously work on ourselves, continuously do tshuva and continuously learn, grow and strive to come closer to our Father in Heaven.
Last Shabbat, Parshat Noach, we spent in the holy city of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) with our daughter. We attended Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv prayers at the Kotel Hamaaravi, the Western Wall. This was my first taste of such a magnificent experience. As I stood there, in the midst of the holiest site on the face of the earth, time stood still. The songs of praise ascending to the Heavens flowed through the air like clouds of splendor. The multitude of people pouring out their hearts and souls to the Creator of the Universe was awe-inspiring and humbling. Hundreds of people from every corner of the globe made their way to this sanctified place to acknowledge their faith in a Being greater than themselves. In this slice of time, the world was filled with goodness and evil was non-existent. And it was in those seconds of peace, that I understood the concept of Moshiach.

True, humanity needs to do a lot of work on itself to rectify all of its sins, to pull itself out of the gutter of materialism and depravity, but unlike the generation of Noah, so much righteousness already exists today. What I witnessed at the Kotel was a sampling of the piety and devotion that mankind must utilize and cultivate in order to help elevate others spiritually. It is incumbent upon every knowing person to raise awareness of emuna** and spread the Light. But like sand in an hourglass, time is quickly running out. Will we succeed in purifying ourselves sufficiently to bring about our redemption in a peaceful manner? That is something only G-d Himself knows. I pray the answer is yes.

If now you will accept upon yourselves, it will be sweet for you from here and further, because all beginnings are difficult. (Rashi)

** (Hebrew) the firm belief in a single, supreme, omniscient, benevolent, spiritual, supernatural, and all-powerful Creator of the universe, we we refer to as G-d. (from "The Garden of Emuna", By Rabbi Shalom Arush, Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana Tova U'Metuka!

Wishing all my relatives, friends and Klal Yisroel a sweet and happy New Year! May we all be inscribed for a year of good health, success and spiritual growth. May HaShem open our hearts and our eyes to the Truth so we merit to witness blessings and miracles beyond our imagination.... a year of peace and redemption.

Shana Tova U'Metuka - Ketiva V'Chatima Tova!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Déjà Vu

There is so much talk recently about these days being the 'end days', the 'birth pangs of Moshiach', 'minutes before midnight' etc. that I find myself in awe. If what we read, hear, see and feel is correct, I say to myself, how fortunate that we live in the generation which may actually witness the forthcoming amazing and miraculous occurrences! But then I find myself feeling a kind of déjà vu like everyone has at some point in their life. It's a feeling of knowing that not only are we in the generation which may merit to be redeemed, but that we have always been in that generation. The Rabbis teach, (I specifically heard it from Rabbi Lazer Brody although I am not quoting) that we are all (or almost all) 'recycled neshamas' at this point in the history of the world. Our neshamas (souls) have been 'reborn', reincarnated more than once since the beginning of Creation. So in essence, we are not exactly the chosen generation from the viewpoint of personally being in the generation of redemption. We have recurrently had our share in the prospect since time immemorial.

It is said that in every generation a person worthy of becoming Moshiach exists, but if we don't merit his coming, life continues as usual until we do.... or eventually he will arrive on his own. In our past gilgulim (reincarnations), as a collective people, we didn't quite hit the mark. Since we are all responsible for one another, it is time that we helped each other work toward perfecting the world in order to assist in bringing true peace... Moshiach.

On a related subject, and here I am just throwing out my thoughts since no one knows what precisely will occur, (least of all me) but I find the idea of techiyat hameitim, resurrection of the dead, a fascinating topic. "According to the Leshem (as per the Midrash Ne’elam), Resurrection of the Dead begins in 17 years time" (from Rabbi Pinchas Winston's article 'A Step Back'). By then, HaShem willing that I should still be of this world, I will be in my early 70s. Nothing is certain, but my understanding is that the deceased will be revived at the age they died and then healed of any illness or disability they incurred prior to death. My Mother a'h passed away when I was in my mid 30s. I visualize meeting my Mom after all these years of separation. Hugs, kisses and crying aside.... she will be younger than her elderly daughter! How bizarre and shocking! This leads me to believe that our neshamas will play a much greater role in the future than in the world as we know it today and our physical bodies will be secondary.

I know some people think I have 'lost it' in the reality department when it comes to all of this, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. I have never had such clarity of mind as I have recently. My age may have caused me to require glasses to see more clearly for reading, but I believe it has had the opposite affect on my spiritual vision.

All I can do is to encourage people to heed the words of the many Rabbanim who tell us that it is time to do serious tshuva (repentance). It is not a laughing matter and when push comes to shove, I pray that all of my friends and family are on the right side of the gate. Now is the perfect time to begin or continue your efforts, the month before Rosh Hashana when we must each face the Judge of Judges to be inscribed for the New Year. We must use this time to make amends with anyone with whom we harbor animosity and with G-d Himself. This is an opportunity for introspection ~ we can look deep within ourselves and change for the better.

If each one of us takes on one more mitzvah, does one extra good deed, is kind, speaks less loshon hora and makes a serious effort to bring a little more light to the world, not only will our neshamas be more fine tuned, but we may even earn the chance to champion in the genuine, everlasting and long awaited peace!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Capitulating to Capitalism - for now

When I was very young, about 10 or 11 years old, I remember that I wanted to buy something which had gone up in price. Of course, being an innocent little girl, I couldn't understand why it cost more money that day than it did the previous time I saw it. I was told things always go up in price. I may not have understood about the economy or inflation, but all I could picture was that by the time I was an adult, things would be so expensive no one would be able to afford anything. And lo and behold, some 40 years later, the cost of materialism has skyrocketed beyond normalcy. True, salaries have increased over the years to balance out the purchasing costs, but things just kept spiralling upwards unrealistically. Unfortunately, only certain groups of people were able to keep up with the standards and the rest of the population just sunk to the bottom like a chunk of mud in a puddle of water. The rich got richer and the poor can't get ahead. (A good test for those trying to refrain from jealously and envy)

One specific commodity which has soared into absurdity is housing. I won't discuss the American situation because aside from the fact that I know very little about the real estate market in the U.S.A., it appears to be changing drastically day by day. But in Israel, it is definitely a seller’s / renter’s market. Supply and demand has pushed the prices into oblivion. So far, for many it is still a good incentive to make Aliya (every cake needs a bit of icing). I realize that “Aliya” money has affected the prices, but I don’t comprehend how anyone earning an average Israeli salary is able to afford housing in today’s market. Buying could be possible; if a couple is able to scrape together a down-payment for a small apartment, it’s a great investment. But what of the families who do not yet own a home? Living expenses prohibit savings. To purchase a property without help from the parents is difficult at best. How do those who must rent make ends meet? Mathematics was never my forte, but rental costs, plus food, plus utilities etc. must equal less than income. In this economy, the math just does not add up. (The system we are temporarily chained to is man-made and artificial, but it exist nonetheless)

We live in a small 'Yishuv' (literally settlement, but I prefer to call it a town). It started out as a communal agricultural town more than 30 years ago. At the time, one could buy a lot including a small home for less than $40,000. Today, the lot alone is selling for between $85,000 – a quarter million dollars! I am not totally naïve, and I understand the materialistic world we live in is controlled by the desire for profits, but enough is enough! In my heart I am saying “This land is not man’s to sell. G-d gave it to our people but it is still HIS.” But for now, He is allowing someone very big revenue. When I received word that these plots of land would soon be up for grabs, I had only one thought in mind ~ Moshiach is on his way!

Due to several events in our lives, our family has never had the privilege of owning a home in Eretz Yisrael. In light of the present circumstances, if I were to be realistic, I would be unable to foresee any changes in the immediate future. But what keeps me from being discouraged is that I know everything HaShem does is for the best. I continue to pray for salvation. My emuna tells me that life will soon be very different in ways we cannot even imagine, and only for the good.

With G-d’s help, may all of His children soon dwell in His land in comfort, peace and joy!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Love Your Fellow as Yourself

The Sage Rabbi Hillel said, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn"

This is not my usual style of blog, but it is something which I feel is very important, and at this juncture in time it is of the utmost urgency. I am the least likely person to write these words as I am as guilty as the next person, but I feel obligated to pass on my thoughts nonetheless. The views contained herein are not new, but I believe that these ideas can never be overstated.

Before any action or any spoken word…. Think!

So much damage can be done by acting impulsively. If someone says something you don't agree with, think twice before automatically responding with negative harsh words. If someone hurts your feelings, take a deep breath and gently ask for an explanation. Let them know it was hurtful. If someone starts out in a fierce tone, respond as calmly as possible in order to change the atmosphere. As it says in proverbs 15:1, a soft reply turns away anger.

I could go on and on about the dos and don'ts of verbal abuse. And I won't even get into the subject of physical abuse but to say that hurting another person, physically or emotionally, is a major Torah transgression. For more on the topic, read this article by Rabbi Shalom Arush, The Danger of Verbal Abuse.

By hurting those we love, we are also hurting ourselves. Not only is it forbidden to harm our family members, but to cause injury to any Jew is a grave sin. The store clerk, the bus driver, the telephone repairman.... all must be treated with respect. To quote Rabbi Akiva, one must 'love your fellow as yourself'. Imagine how you would feel if someone did to you what you intend to do to them? To take it one step further, each one of us holds a spark of HaShem within, and by wounding another human being, we are in essence causing pain to the Holy One, Blessed Be He! Who would dare do such a thing?

It is no secret that the world we live in has become dangerously out of control. There is no reason or logic to many of the events unfolding each day. Madmen have power over countries that own weapons of mass destruction which they have no qualms about using. They threaten the very existence of our Holy Land of Israel. We must unite as one people in order to bring about Divine intervention. Tisha B'Av will soon be upon us when we will mourn the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples. Our sages say that the Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred among Jews. Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since then. It is our duty to remedy the situation and bring light into this dark world of exile.

We must increase our love for one another, do kindness beyond the norm and end the abuse and loshon hora (evil speech). Loshon hora is said to be one of 'the causes of our exile and until we rectify the evil, we will not be deemed worthy of redemption'. (from Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin - based on Chofetz Chaim).

For those readers who have not yet taken on the yoke of religious observance, there is no better time then the present. Just let G-d know that you believe that He is in control and the rest will fall into place, one step at a time. (Click for more information on Tisha B'Av and Laws of Shabbat.)

It is only a matter of time until we will have no one to rely on but our Father in Heaven. Don't wait until it is too late to call out His Name!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Feels Like Purim in June.....

Everything is so upside down, it reminds me of Purim. Here we are, a peaceful, democratic people, bending over backwards to have peace with our neighbours. Our enemy, constantly attacking our innocent civilians, demanding control of most of our land. (Only with the help of G-d have many of these attacks been unsuccessful.) Along comes an ‘unbiased’ mediator, and insists that the only way to ensure peace in our region is to hand over our land. Hypothetical comparison; if a terrorist bombed Obama’s neighbourhood, would he insist that they all better pack up and move to Alaska in order to maintain peace? A humorous Purim spiel no doubt!

According to news reports, the Obama administration will soon be pressuring Israel to withdraw from positions held prior to 2000, to dismantle cities and towns built over the years. Something is terribly wrong with this picture! Where in any psychology book does it say that the way to chastise a criminal is by giving him what he wants, to reward him for his corruption? Pretending to entertain the idea, where exactly do they expect thousands upon thousands of Israeli residents to live? And are we to just stop having children in order to prevent natural growth of our communities? Even if, in someone’s twisted mind, they thought this would accomplish something… been there, done that. It’s been almost 4 years since more than 3,000 Israeli citizens from Gush Katif were forcefully removed from their homes by the Sharon-Olmert government in a bid to make peace with the arabs. This land we vacated for ‘the greater good’ was supposed to give the arabs some hope and dignity. Instead of growing crops and building industrial and commercial parks for employment, it became a hotbed of terrorism where terrorist training camps, weapons factories and tunnels blossomed. Instead of any kind of reciprocal peace gesture, we had to bear the brunt of daily barrages of rockets into our southern towns. In this backwards, upside down playing field of the Middle East, even self-defense needs justification.

The comparison to Purim is even more striking as, like Haman’s scheme of old, the end game today is total obliteration of the Jews. The threat is not just to the south or the north of our G-d given country… it is the whole tiny little spec of our Holy Land which is in peril. Like the Purim story, we must start acting like Esther and Mordechai and begin to put The Master of the Universe at the top of the equation. We must understand that He is our only salvation. May HaShem grant our Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the strength and wisdom to make the right decisions for our people.

Only when we begin to act like a light unto the nations will we merit being one.

A Rude Awakening

I always considered myself very open-minded and a person who accepted everyone, regardless of race, colour or religion. I grew up in a small town with very few Jewish families so most of my friends were not Jewish. Because of this, when we made aliyah in the summer of 1992, I couldn’t imagine being anything but open to peace with our Arab neighbours.

Israel signed the Declaration of Principles with the PLO on September 13, 1993. No one with any understanding of the political situation would have given this any credence, but the media played it up in grand style. Still naive, I too had hopes that it may prove successful. But the ink had barely dried on the paper when the terrorist attacks intensified. Random shootings, knifings and suicide bus bombings became a common occurrence.

Then, a little over a year later an incident occurred which bore deep into my heart and soul. A 19 year old soldier, Nachshon Wachsman z’l, was kidnapped and held hostage by Hamas terrorists. After nearly a week, an ultimatum was given with a 24 hour deadline of Friday, October 13th. Uniting together with thousands of others from around the world, we prayed for his safe release. On Friday night, as per a request from Nachshon’s mother, Esther, we lit a candle for him. In his merit, many Shabbat candles were lit that may not have been otherwise. I fell asleep that Shabbat night with Nachshon on my mind and I dreamed that I saw him floating above the Old City of Jerusalem. It was only when I awoke and heard the sad news did I realize what my dream meant. Even with no radio or TV on Shabbat, this report somehow made its way to us all…. Nachshon Mordechai Wachsman (as well as another Israeli soldier) had been murdered by his captors during a failed rescue attempt.

This was the beginning of my realization that peace with the enemy was out of reach. Less than a week later, October 19, 1994, a suicide bus bombing in Tel Aviv claimed the lives of 22 precious souls and injured 75 others. From the signing of the ‘agreement’ on September 13th 1993 until September 2000, 269 civilians and soldiers were murdered in terrorist attacks in Israel. The existence of such monsters was indeed a rude awakening for me. What kind of human beings could be so hateful and heartless? These events could no longer be viewed as arbitrary. Something of this magnitude can only be orchestrated by a power greater than mankind itself.

The Jewish people merit to dwell in the land because of their Covenant with G-d. One imperative obligation which binds us to this Covenant is ‘You Shall Keep the Sabbath’. If we fail on our end of the agreement, how can we expect HaShem to sit idly by? These wake-up calls are but a ‘love tap’ from a Father who loves us. HaShem is trying to shake us up yet so many do not hear the message. We are all one people, yet we are all guilty of so many sins against our own; this one judging that one and that one judging the other. The only solution is to be united and live our lives according to G-d’s word, and in so doing, He will have reason to protect us and save us.

May we all merit HaShem’s loving mercy…..

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Closing the Circle

It seemed like the natural progression of things. I asked myself… “What are we doing in Canada?” I love Canada and am proud to be a Canadian. Canada’s a nice, clean, polite, multicultural country. But what are we doing here? The only reason I was born in Canada is because my grandparents on both sides tried to make a better life for themselves. They crossed the ocean from Poland several years before WWII broke out. Coincidentally (although there is no such thing as coincidence) my father’s and mother’s parents all originated in the same little town of Yvansk (Iwaniska) and surrounding areas of Poland/Ukraine. Had they not left when they did, I would surely not exist. Hitler and his ilk wiped out most of my other ancestors who remained back in ‘the old country’.

But Canada is not really our home. Our only home is Israel – home to every Jew in the world. Our temporary stay in Canada was merely HaShem’s stepping stone of survival. With it came the risks that all Jews faced; assimilation, intermarriage and secularization. We, like most, succumbed to the prevalent lifestyle at first, but thank G-d my husband and I had the strength to see the true path while our children were still quite young. As we returned to religious observance, we felt a need to live out our lives and raise our children in the land of our forefathers. It is not only a privilege to live in Israel, it is our duty. So now, with G-d’s help, we have closed the circle and have given our children and grandchildren a future that they are entitled to.

Of course, living in ‘the land’ is not without effort or hardship, but nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. More on that in future blogs. Thanks for reading….

Friday, May 22, 2009

Welcome to My World

People have told me to write a blog, so today I finally set one up. I still have to make time to write something worth reading, but in time, G-d willing, it will happen. Since making aliya almost 17 years ago, we have learned so much about life in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. We are truly blessed and grateful to be able to make this our home. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts and views soon. Stay tuned....