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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Getting back into writing mode.

I have not written in a long while.
Finished the army.
Marrying my soulmate, Miriam!
In America for the wedding.
Getting to relive my Aliya with the woman who I waved to from the airplane last time - beside me.
New kinds of tears.
Hazorim b'dima b'rina yiktzoru.

I love the blog. Nathan, the neo-Zionist guru from Rockville Maryland deserves credit for the constant hounding of myself, and then Ben until it became a reality.

Not writing is like not reading the assigned reading for a class on college - you skip it once and then you can't restart because the task itself has grown so big that you can't even muster the courage to begin. I choose to simply start afresh, with an occasional flashback to the past half-year in the IDF....


P.S. Very excited about the opening of the Temple Mount. The apartment Miriam and I will me moving into is 8 minutes from my future Temple Levi job. Easy commute.
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Saturday, August 23, 2003

Jewish kids meet Israel

They met her and they loved her - Yishai and I just got back from a wonderful 10 day Birthright trip to Israel in which we escorted 40 first-timers to Israel throughout their ancestral home. With all of the painful issues at the forefront (what else is new?), this trip was the opposite of gut-wrenching, the opposite of painful or sorrowful. It was beautiful.
To see these young people experience their land for the first time, watching them absorb the curves and colors, the society and the other-worldliness, was such a joy and inspiration. They hiked, they swam, they talked and they prayed. They asked the difficult questions that belie their desire for truth, and they cried for the problems we all face - in Israel, in Judaism, in life...
And on the last night, hours after a suicide bomber blew up 20 of their brothers and sisters, sitting in a circle, they summed up their experiences. Some of them, who had never before been out of the country, meekly offered to the group that they might like to come back and make their lives here, "If I'm lucky enough."

It was sweet and special and real. Not the kind of real that everyone's focused on these days - the death and the politics and the money - but the kind of real that everyone wants to hear about but no one seeks out, the revolution of Jewish youth, one person at a time. Yishai and I feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to meet these people, the future of Israel, because that's exactly what they will be.
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Friday, August 22, 2003

Painful Concessions

Well today I was at a non-comforting press conference/rally, led by the American Conference of Presidents of Jewish Organizations--an extremely important sounding Jewish organization--directly across the street from the United Nations. The event was attended was closed off to the public, but open to the video cameras. Speeches were given by Mayor Bloomberg, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, New York State Speaker Sheldon Silver, Israeli UN Representative Dan Gillerman, Israeli Ambassador Alon Pincus, Malcolm Hoenlein and a few others.

They all spoke resolutely on the need to confront terror immediately. I felt as though the message was good, but I had heard it before--many times. Mayor Bloomberg read a list of names of some of those murdered visciously at the event. I really wasn't emotionally moved or comforted at any point during the event, until the end, when El Malei Rachamim was recited. Then my heart was touched.

Many times I have questioned the leadership of the Jewish People. Particularly, I have snickered at the idea that our Prime Minister throws around, you know the one where he says the Jewish People will have to make "painful concessions" to achieve peace. Yesterday the Jewish nation made 20 painful concessions, and that doesn't count the scores of maimed and injured. Those concessions are equally painful.

These are not the type of painful concessions the Jewish People can afford to make.

But I realized during the speeches, while staring at the magnificent United Nations complex in front of me, that painful concessions would definately be neccessary in order for the Israel to finally achieve peace.

Should Israel finally take matters into her own hands on this terrorism issue, and deal with our ruthless enemies in a way which will eradicate terror and secure Israeli territory for years to come, Israel will be forced to painfully let go of many of the notions that our young nation has been carrying for years.

We will have to concede the idea that in the future we will be a nation, just like any other, recognized by the United Nations and the international community. We will NOT be a regular modern democratic nation just like the other modern, democratic, secular nations of the world. We will be branded for what we are: as Jews (who did or will do a "not so nice thing" to our refugee neighbors). We will be known only as the Jewish nation, and this will be a painful concession for many secular Israelis. Our perverted sense of morality will painfully shattered.

Our economy will take a strong hit, when we will painfully struggle to replace the billions of dollars of international aid we receive from the United States. Some may argue that the international aid actually handcuffs the Israeli government, and many may suggest we will pick up the pieces of our economy with extra dollars from tourism; but even still, losing billions of dollars from one place may be very painful for some.

(One thing that is nice about writing on a blog is that you can conclude your idea wherever you want, and you don't have to worry about who will publish it. )

But in conclusion, we lost a great deal of manpower this week, and it hurts. It hurts the individuals, families, and friends of all involved. And it hurts the Jewish people as a whole. Mr. Sharon is right. To achieve peace we must make painful concessions, but Jewish lives are too painful, and they are worth much more than anything else we strive for in this world.

My sincere condolences to the mourners of all those lost in terror in Israel. May you be comforted among all the mourners of Zion.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2003

What can we do?

Today is a day of mourning - at current count, 20 Jews were murdered in a Jerusalem bus bombing today. We failed to react when 7 Jews were killed since the start of the "hudna," since they weren't all killed on the same day, so they were just "minor incidents." So the terrorists had to increase the death toll to make us notice. Will we notice this time? We will temporarily notice, but then forget in a few days? How many times has the same thing happened, and how many times have we not reacted? The terrorists keep trying to wake us up, but we refuse to be awakened.

Israel was not the only place where Moslems struck a blow against humanity today. In Iraq, 20 people were killed by a suicide bomber.

What can be done? The first thing we must do is to react, to wake up to what is going on around us. We have been fighting the Al Aqsa Intifada (Arabic for The Struggle for the Temple Mount) for three years. Actually, the Arabs have been fighting this struggle. We have merely been dealing with a matzav (Hebrew for situation). It's just a situation; no big deal. We've had worse before.

Why not at least recognize the nature of the current war? Why do we need to use an Arabic word to define it? Why not translate it into Hebrew - Milhemet Har Habayit, the War for the Temple Mount.

Uri Tzvi Greenberg said, "He who rules over the Temple Mount, will rule over the land." Arafat knows this - that's why he is so opposed to Jews being allowed up. We need to know this as well, and make a strong, positive statement about our rights to our land.

You may ask: Won't this just make things worse, at a time when things are already so tense? Won't this just evoke more Arab anger?

What does that mean? That if the Arabs were really angry, they would used a bigger bomb on the bus today? If they had been really angry, if the Temple Mount had been open to Jewish prayer, then the Arabs would have killed more that the 850 Jews they killed already in this war? No - we should know by now that trying to appease terrorists by trying to conceal our deepest values does not work. In fact, it probably makes things worse, by sending the messase that we will do anything to make the Arab terrorists happy; that our values are not as important as even a short period of calm.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Jerusalem police plan to reopen the Temple Mount to Jews by the end of this week. Hopefully this move will not be postponed due to the bombing, but rather, will be strengthened. That is a good start. But we have to respond. Jews in Israel, and those who are visiting soon, perhaps for the hagim, make a special effort to visit the Temple Mount. For more details, contact the Temple Institute, at 24 Misgav Ladach in the Old City of Jerusalem, 02-6264545.

Update: The Temple Mount is now open to visitors. Go today!
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Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Od Yishama B'arei Yehuda....

Today is Tu B'av, the fifteenth day of Av, a day associated with marriage. The Gemara (Taanit 30b) states that on this day, the tribes of Israel were permitted to marry each other (as opposed to being restricted to members of their own tribe), and the tribe of Binyamin was permitted to marry others, after the Pilegesh B'Giv'a incident, Shoftim 20).

The mishna records the tradition that single women used to go out on this day dressed in white, and men would come to meet their brides. The women would say, "Tzena ur'ena b'not Tzion b'melech Shlomo, ba'atara sheitra lo imo b'yom hatunato, uv'yom simhat libo" - Daughters of Zion, go and see King Solomon, in the crown which his mother crowned him with on the day of his wedding, and the day of the gladness of his heart (Shir Hashirim 3:11). The Gemara comments, "b'yom hatunato, ze matan Torah, uv'yom simhat libo, zeh binyan Beit Hamikdash, sheyibaneh bim'heira biyameinu" - 'The day of his wedding' refers to the giving of the Torah, and 'the day of the gladness of his heart' refers to the building of the Temple, may it be built speedily, in our days.

Why make the connection between marriage and the Temple? I would like to suggest that Tu B'av is a tikkun - a fix- for Tisha B'av, the day of mourning which took place only six days ago. On that day, the Temples were destroyed, and Jerusalem lay as a widow (Eicha 1:1). We commemorate the solitude of Jerusalem, which is compared to a widow, and the mourning, which is compared in the Kina "Eili Tzion," to a young bride mourning for her lost husband, with cessation of marriages for the three weeks leading up to Tisha B'av. Tu B'av is the tikkun for this, when we take the first step towards rebuilding ourselves by having engagements and weddings, and starting new families. Arutz Sheva reports today that 57 marriages were recorded in Jerusalem today.

The Gemara above quotes two more events that happened on Tu B'av which strengthen the relationship to Tisha B'av as a tikkun:

1) On Tisha B'av, it was declared that the generation which left Egypt would all die in the desert. The tradition has it that every year on the night of Tisha B'av, everyone would lie down in graves, and many would die there that night. In the 40th year, no one died. They were not sure if they had miscalculated the date of Tisha B'av, so they lay down the next night. They kept doing this until Tu B'av, when the full moon assured them that they had not miscalculated, and would all be able to enter into Israel.

2) Another tragedy which we commemorate on Tisha B'av is the destruction of Beitar. On Tu B'av, permission was granted to bury the bodies. In recognition of this, the blessing of hatov v'hameitiv, praising God for good things, was instituted.

Tu B'av is the day where we reverse all the tragedy of Tisha B'av. We begin to rebuild, first and foremost by marrying, and begining the holy task of creating new Jewish families. May the act of building inherent in marriage lead us to the rebuilding of the Temple in our days.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Ross Sandler, who passed away last year on Tu B'av.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Two terrorist attacks today

There were two terrorist attacks in Israel today. The Jerusalem Post (1, 2) reports that two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Ariel and in Rosh Ha'ayin. Fatah and Hamas, both parties to the "hudna," each claimed responsibility for one attack. Abu Mazen announced that today's events do not constitute a violation of the hudna.

I don't know Arabic, so I'm not sure what hudna means. It apparently doesn't mean ceasing to build bombs or rockets, ceasing to smuggle weapons from Egypt, or ceasing to have terrorists blow themselves up in supermarkets. Today's victims are the 6th and 7th victims of the hudna, which started July 29th. This does not include two other kidnapping victims from last week, who have not yet returned home. We must not fall into the trap of being so used to terror that we do not consider it a "big deal" if one or two Jews get killed. "Kol demei achicha tzoakim alai min haadama" - God says, the blood of your brother calls out to me from the ground (Bereishit 4:10). We must echo this call, and call out to God the pain of losing our brothers, as pray that both God's ears and the ears of the Israeli government will be open and hear our cry.
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Friday, August 08, 2003

Practical Messianism

Now that Tisha B'av has passed, we start to focus on nechama, or comfort. Natually, we expect that the full nechama will come when Mashiach comes.

So, I think this is a good time to talk about a central Kumah philosophy, which is what I call, "Practical Messianism." In a few words, here is what I mean.

A central tenet of our faith is eager anticipation of Mashiach. Mashiach will be the one to gather in the exiles to Israel, re-establish the Kingdom of David, and build the Third Temple (Rambam Hilchot Melachim 11:1). However, there is a great divide about how this will come about, and what form our anticipation should take. Some argue that we can only pray and do mitzvot, and when God feels that we have merited the redemption, then it will come. Others believe that the Messianic age will come gradually, and that, in addition to praying and doing mitzvot, we must all take practical actions, when possible, to bring the redemption closer.

I will make a simple argument for the latter: A major part of the redemption is kibutz galuyot, ingathering of the exiles. Does this mean every Jew will live in Israel? Does it mean the majority? I think it is a safe assumption that we don't need every Jew in Israel at the same time, but rather, when a majority of Jews live in Israel, this will be the major milestone of kibutz galuyot. It is predicted that the majority of Jews will live in Israel in about 20 years. (For more details, please see Yishai's article, Biat Kulchem.)

How does the ingathering happen? Already, millions of Jews have been gathered in from the four corners of the earth to Israel. This process continues today. Even while a descendant of David is not declared to be Mashiach, this process will continue. And every one of us who makes Aliyah is bringing kibutz galuyot one step closer. It is as if each of us has the potential to be a little bit of Mashiach.

We don't know exactly how the actual Mashiach will be revealed. The Rambam argues that it will be a natural process, without any miracles occuring (Rambam Hilchot Melachim 12:1). But however it happens, we are laying the groundwork for a smoother redemption by working towards the goals which define the redemption.

We each have the potential, through personal efforts, small and large, to bring the redemption closer. If you want to be active in this process, think about what the redemption will be like, and think what you can do to make that a reality.
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Thursday, August 07, 2003


It's past midday on Tisha B'Av so the rules for mourning are a bit relaxed now.
I went to shul early, read Kinot, then watched "The Pianist" with my family. Indeed I did feel real sorrow for the loss of Jerusalem and the great many tragedies that have befallen our people through history.

However, for the last three years I have been to the Kotel on the 9th and every year I felt something other than sadness. Anticipation, excitement, a buzz in the air. Jewish multitudes come, tens of thousands mull around at night smiling, singing, and strolling. Beautiful Jews everywhere. The Kotel has the air of a show about to start - a construction site with work in progress. In Israel, the Jewish people are being reborn and all the souls of the millions of murdered Jews are recycled into this rebirth - you can feel it.

Tisha B'Av is certainly about mourning. But tomorrow let's dry our tears and get to workin' on making Israel the best place in the world. Don't be cynical about the state of our State - cynicism regarding Israel is merely a superficial reaction to the incomprehensible Jewish renaissance of our time. The retrograde actions of our leaders only serve to mask the progress of the Jewish rebirth and the Third Temple period. Sometimes it's hard to see the big picture, especially when it's so big.
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Where every Jew is from
Where every Jew belongs

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A Day of Mourning

The reasons for the destruction of the first and second Temples are a popular topic for Tisha B'av. Learning from past mistakes and improving ourselves is a central part of Judaism. But, I would like to suggest that on Tisha B'av, this is not the main goal. It should be a pure day of mourning. In a shiva house, you do not attempt to discuss the reasons for the person's death; rather, you simply sit on the floor in mourning for the loss of the person. You do not try to move on; you simply reflect on the loss. In the long run, this will help the process of moving on and rebuilding. Similarly, on Tisha B'av, it is appropriate to engage in pure mourning for all the tragedies that have befallen us in the past. There is no need to try to explain why we suffered destructions, exiles, pogroms, and the Holocaust. We can take this one day to cry out, and reflect on this sad state of affairs.

However, we are rarely comfortable with endless mourning. Customs have developed that divide Tisha B'av into two parts. The first part, from the evening until chatzot (noon), is dedicated to pure mourning. We read Eicha, recite kinot, and focus on all the tragedies that have befallen us. We cry out to God, and ask, "Why have You forsaken us?" We sit on the floor, as is the custom of mourners. In shul, we dim the lights and remove the decorative cover over the aron.

After chatzot, we sit on chairs, and return the shul to its normal look. Men put on tefilin, which they did not do in the morning. We read the Torah reading and haftorah of a regular fast day, which reassure us that God will not forsake us. This is an appropriate time to start thinking about how we will rebuild, and what practical actions we can take to bring a speedy end to our long exile.

"Kol hamitabel al Yerushalayim, zocheh v'ro'eh b'simchatah" - all those who mourn the loss of Jerusalem will merit to see it in its joyful times. By spending tonight and tomorrow morning focusing solely on mourning the destructions and the losses we have suffered, we will be strengthened in our ability to rebuild.
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We cannot replace them
But we can take their place

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Approximately this hour last year, my then-fiance Yishai and I were davening mincha on the balcony of his parents' King Solomon hotel room - it would be the last time we saw each other for seven days - until our wedding on Tu b'Av in Hebron.....

We faced east and knew that soon all of our prayers would be answered, that we were entering the happiest, most exciting and long-awaited time of our lives.

We still believe that. Tonight and tomorrow, as you face the east in prayer, know that we are entering the happiest, most exciting and long-awaited time....

Have a meaningful fast.
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According to my friend Alex Traiman, Tisha B'Av is the day of potential. The spies in the desert had the potential to excite the Jewish people about the Land, to set the stage for a great rite of passage, to be the harbringers of Mashiach. Instead they went over to the dark side and deflated the hearts of their brethren, casting doubt on the ability of the Jews to inherit the Land. Our generation's job is to be a tikkun for the sins of the spies, to overcome fear and complacency and to take this great oppurtunity - that is, the opportunity of the State of Israel - with our bodies so that we will merit to say "Vetechezena Einenu" - 'Our eyes should see' the very real redemption of the Jewish people and the world.
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Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Welcome to the new Kumah weblog! This weblog will feature frequent updates by various Kumah personalities on any topic relating to Israel, Zionism, Aliyah, and Kumah events. Our goal is to spread positive Neo-Zionist energy and ideas, and to provide new, fresh content relating to current events and progress from a Kumah perspective.

Please check back soon for more updates, and please bear with us as we get the site started.
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