Tag Archives: Rosh Hashana

Our connection to the departed and a Yom Kippur Message

benchdg2

This past week, having just celebrated the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in the same city where my parents are buried, I found myself inclined to do something I generally don’t feel an inclination towards doing. That would be to make a visit to their gravesites.  Now don’t misunderstand where I am coming from.  I have the highest level of respect for both of my parents and their memory.  In fact, my actions in honoring them and remembering them in the synagogue and in thought and discussion are not anything to be ashamed of.  I truly do my best to reach the highest level of honor and respect for both my mother and father.  It is merely the fact that although I believe in showing the utmost respect to cemeteries and individual gravesites, I personally do not put a lot of spiritual meaning into the physical location of the remains of our loved ones.  A feeling I know I share with others.  And yet, the day after Rosh Hashanah, without encouragement or even suggestion, I found myself wanting, almost needing to visit the graves of my mother and father.

I did not come away somber or haunted by my visit, in fact I’d be more likely to describe it as comforted and fulfilled, but I was intrigued to the point of inquisitive.  So I looked up the reasons why it is customary to visit our loved one’s graves between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and found all the answers I would expect.  The fact that it is a time of self-examination, soul searching and a time where we address God’s choice of who lives and who dies all would make sense in being a factor as to why it is an appropriate action during this time.  For me personally it didn’t explain why the urge came to me to do something I previously never felt the urge to do.

Whether you call it metaphysical, spiritual or hocus pocus nonsense, there are those of us who believe in what could be described as other worldly impacts or events.  I for one believe in the connection between the living and the dead, and as someone who believes in God, I believe in God’s involvement in at the very least, steering the souls of the living and the dead together.  Although I unequivocally respect everyone’s personal belief, regardless of how different it may be to mine, I find it to be particularly clear to me during this time of year that there is significantly more going on than just being born and when the time comes, dying.  If prayer is a conduit to another being or another realm, it stands to reason that a successful plea during the time of prayer would increase that connection and possibly lead to thoughts or feelings we otherwise might not have experienced.  I maintain that my desire to visit the place where my parents were buried is something to be grateful for, since it may very well mean my prayers were at the very least, somewhat acknowledged, and that maybe I was lead in a direction that will strengthen my physical and or spiritual future.  Regardless of whether or not the specifics are clear to me now or ever.  As I stood at the graves of my beloved parents I said the following words to myself.  “OK, I am here and listening. What is it you are trying to tell me?”

I know some reading this will say that what I am speaking of is more psychological than spiritual, but the fact remains that just as I can’t prove my theory, so too someone who thinks things just don’t work that way can’t prove it wrong.  I guess my question to those feeling that way is, why would you need to?

So as Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar approaches, and many who do not spend much time in synagogue will show up for Yizkor, the service honoring our departed loved ones, I leave you with this message for the coming year.  Wherever you need to go to find guidance, support or answers, be it God, your living friends and relatives, or those you remember with love and honor, let no one tell you what works best for you.  Just make sure that if you are asking questions, you keep your ears, heart and soul open to the answers.

LIKE THIS POST? SHARE IT ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER

HOW TO BUY THE BOOK

JOIN “THE GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL” ON FACEBOOK

IN CONJUNCTION WITH GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL


A Rosh Hashanah Message

shofar-770x513

Being very flawed myself, I make every effort to avoid ever sitting in judgment of others for behaviors that can be considered nothing short of human.  Human behavior allows people to make choices not everyone else will agree with as well as permitting people to do that one thing we all do.  Make mistakes.  So since I try my best not to be a hypocrite or cross the line, I am not going to spend any of my time criticizing my fellow Jews that make the choice not to live in accordance with Jewish law.  Having come pretty close to making that choice at certain points of my life, I get it. I also believe these choices to be between man and God only.  The issue I want to address is pride in being Jewish. Or lack thereof.

I am not afraid to call someone out if I feel there is blatant self-hatred, but since this post is directed more to the many in that grey area I realize it is important to be careful about stepping over a line.  If I am to address a subject that goes after people for something as reprehensible as being ashamed of who you are, I need to speak in generalities.  After all, I may have an opinion, even one shared by many, but even so I do not know what is in someone’s heart.  Let’s just say that if what I am to say applies at all to you, or wakes you up to a different perspective, then maybe I’ve done something right.

It should not be a surprise that much of this discussion comes back to the Holocaust. Specifically in regard to the main issues I wish to address.  The first being support for the State of Israel.  Support does not mean blind agreement in all policies and actions of whatever government is in place. There are many people who have done more for Israel than I may ever have the opportunity to do that are much more opposed to the decisions made by the Israeli government than I am.  This is not about stifling opinions.  This is however about being balanced and fair as well as addressing the disingenuous motives of the BDS movement.

Fair and balanced means if you are to criticize Israel for its actions, you don’t fail to mention the years of dealing with a Palestinian Authority showing no indication of being a willing partner in peace.  It means if you are going to go after Benjamin Netanyahu for a hard line approach you also recognize that he is not only dealing with officials that reward terrorists financially for killing innocent Jewish residents of Israel but in many cases officials who once lead or performed acts of terrorism themselves.  And it means that when you criticize Israel for collateral damage that leads to the death of innocents that it happens when targeting enemies not looking for peace but preaching the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel.  So yes, criticize Israel if you feel it is appropriate, but realize that if you do so in a vacuum that ignores the actions of the other side that you are not only wrong for doing so, you are part of the problem.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, aka BDS, had proven time and time again that it is not about helping Palestinians, it is about ridding the land of Israel of Jewish people.  It is a movement designed to cripple Israel economically regardless of who it hurts, Jews or Palestinians.  If an organization is to claim that its purpose is to advance the cause of a people, what does it tell you when it causes the closing down of factories employing the very people it claims to be helping.  But don’t take my word for it.  Just look at the name of the organization. It is all about hurting the Israeli government with no mention about helping the Palestinian people.  Partially because the people running the organization work hand in hand with the leadership that has for decades pocketed and misappropriated funding desired to help Palestinians and use hatred against Jews as a means of motivating the masses, much like Hitler and the Nazi Party did in Germany.  So if you are Jewish and support the BDS movement you need to know that the goal of the organization is to destroy a country created to keep you safe.  A country born from the ashes of 6 million murdered Jews.  Which leads me to my final and most important point.

You can find Jewish practice antiquated, pointless or even wrong, but make no mistake. You can’t hide from who you are.   You might try, but history shows us that our enemies don’t care how you feel about being Jewish, they care that you are and want you gone.  And with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year approaching I would be remiss if I didn’t ask this question. Why would you want to hide from it? The Jewish people have major global impacts on education, science, medicine and pop culture. And for those of is who believe in it from a religious perspective, it has given us the Torah, a moral compass of how to live a good and productive life, regardless of how precisely or traditionally one chooses to interpret it.

Finally I want to wish all my fellow Jews a happy and healthy year ahead. Whether or not you believe or not, and even whether or not you accept who you are or not, I wish you blessings in the coming year.  I may not like how you think and I will call you out, but that very thing you want no part of is the very thing that teaches me to wish good upon you.  And when all is said and done, only you know what is truly in your heart.

A Happy and Healthy Year to all.

LIKE THIS POST? SHARE IT ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER

HOW TO BUY THE BOOK

JOIN “THE GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL” ON FACEBOOK

IN CONJUNCTION WITH GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL


Yom Kippur thoughts

???????????????????????????????????????As I write this on the eve of Yom Kippur, I would like to do two things. First is give a brief overview for those who don’t know much about the holiday, and the second is share some of my own personal thoughts and introspection of this very important day.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.  It is the culmination of a 10 day period that begins on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.  This 10 period, known as the 10 Days of Repentance, is the time we are judged by God and based on what we have done till now, and the degree of penitence we show, our future year is determined.  The book opens for each person as Rosh Hashana begins, and closes as Yom Kippur ends.  Jewish people even greet each other in this time with the phrase that conveys the wish that one will be written and inscribed for a good year.  We fast, which is not just food but liquid as well,  for 25 hours, as it begins around the time of sunset and ends the following day at darkness.  The fasting is part of the prohibition of anything that involves what is considered earthly pleasures, such as physical intimacy and the wearing of any leather, particularly leather shoes.  The idea is that we should be so connected with our spiritual connection to God that we should put ourselves in a position where we won’t be distracted by the pleasures and physical needs we have on most other days.

There are 2 days in the Jewish calendar when we are required to fast for 25 hours.  One is the 9th Day of Av, which is widely accepted as the saddest day of the Jewish year, and the other is Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year.  I once heard a Rabbi say the following when speaking of these 2 days and the law of fasting.  On the 9th of Av who would want to eat knowing how sad it is and on Yom Kippur who is able to eat knowing what’s at stake?  As I like to say about Yom Kippur, it’s for all the marbles.

Although I accept the points I’ve shared till now, I wish to share my own personal perspective, a perspective I am fairly certain was probably shared by someone much greater than I will ever be a long time ago.  As scary as Yom Kippur is, and as important and solemn as the day is, it is also the greatest day of the year, for it represents the greatest gift from God.  That gift is opportunity.  The opportunity to stop and reflect with an open heart, to ask your fellow human being for forgiveness, and most of all to ask God to allow you to start over and put your mistakes behind you.  It’s a wonderful and beautiful concept, and as the sun sets tomorrow, as awestruck as I will be, I will also be grateful.  Grateful for another chance.

To all those who do, I wish you an easy fast, and to all of you I wish you the happiest, healthiest and safest days ahead.

 

LIKE THIS POST? SHARE IT ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER

HOW TO BUY THE BOOK

CLICK TO JOIN “THE GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL” ON FACEBOOK

Follow Holland’s Heroes on Twitter @hollandsheroes

 

 


How the Boys changed Everything

img65649Recently I found myself more frequently engaged in discussion about the event that not so long ago changed everything. That turning point in one’s life that impacts how one thinks and even acts, very possibly for the rest of their lives. Although, as in this case, it is so often a tragedy, it can also be such a positive paradigm shift that it not only remakes the tragedy, but occasionally makes you feel a debt of gratitude to the victims.

The tragedy I am referring to is the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Naftali Frenkel,  Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shaar. So much has been written about the impact their loss had on the events that took place in the weeks that followed.  The evidence that Hamas was responsible for their murder, together with the ongoing barrage of rockets being fired into Israel, was the motivating force for Israel’s operation into Gaza this past summer.  As we know, the operation uncovered the terror tunnels built by Hamas to carry out potentially devastating terrorist attacks.  It’s widely been recognized, even by Naftali Frenkel’s mother, that the death of the boys, as tragic as it was, saved many lives.  That was the immediate impact.  What we don’t know yet is the impact their deaths will have moving forward based on the residual effect of the events that have taken place. We will learn that as time goes on. What I do know right now however, is the profound effect the tragedy had on me personally and many like me.

There is a major difference between turning to hate and no longer being tolerant of evil.  Granted it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the two, but doing so is important.  Baseless hatred and anger can be and often is more destructive than beneficial.  However, being aware of what is happening around you, recognizing the truth no matter how harsh it may be, and knowing who your enemies are is something positive that can save lives today and in the future.  Tolerance for one’s enemy is not a good quality.  It’s dangerous, even life threatening.  Being a moderate in this day and age is a luxury we can no longer afford.  It is something I once was and now no longer am.  That ended when the boys were found dead.  When they were declared kidnapped I became involved like so many others did, getting behind the rallying cry of “Bring back our boys”. When they were found murdered, I had finally had enough.  My limit of tolerance had been exceeded and I was changed for what I believe is most likely forever.

The Jewish High Holidays make many of us extremely reflective, and when I reflected on the change that had taken place in me as a result of these boys deaths, as sad as the event made me, I came to the conclusion that it made me a better person.  It made me care a lot more about the well-being of others as opposed to primarily caring about myself.  It made everything my parents taught me growing up blend together in a way it never had till now.  It made me feel that I no longer am happy not being part of the problem.  Now I want to be part of the solution.  I want to be one more voice for Israel and the Jewish people.  I want to be one more voice for humanity, for what is right.  When I reflected on this over Rosh Hashana, I wanted to thank these 3 young men for having such a profound impact on my life. Unfortunately, as we all know, I’ll never be able to express my gratitude to them directly.  But what I can do is tell their mothers and fathers that in more ways than they can imagine, their boys changed the world.  They changed my world.  They made me and so many others care more about the things that are really important. Their lives were far too short, but their lives had such deep meaning, and because of that they will never be forgotten.  Because their deaths caused others like myself to become better people, it may translate into saving more lives down the road, and I can’t imagine a better way to honor their memory and to bless their souls.

 

LIKE THIS POST? SHARE IT ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER

HOW TO BUY THE BOOK

CLICK TO JOIN “THE GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL” ON FACEBOOK

Follow Holland’s Heroes on Twitter @hollandsheroes

 


My Summer of Gaza

img65649The summer of 2014 was set to be a great one.  I had slimmed down from the year before, had recently moved into a better home closer to the beach, the World Cup had started and I was all set to enjoy the next few months. Although life always presents its challenges, nothing had come up that was so important that it would change my priorities significantly.  Then something happened that changed everything.  3 Yeshiva boys were kidnapped.

I still remember that ray of hope we had that Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal would somehow make it back safely.  The motto “Bring Back our Boys” was everywhere as we all prayed that somehow God would see them back to their homes unharmed.  I have seen many bad actions taken against Jews and decent people everywhere, but somehow I found myself more involved now than I had been for at least 13 years since 9/11.  I related to these boys.  I remember being a Yeshiva student myself in my late teens, in Israel, and knew that even if I wasn’t like these boys, I knew guys who were.  So it hit home and I found myself caring more than usual.  It wasn’t till they were found dead, murdered brutally at what we all knew immediately was the hands of Hamas terrorists, that something truly snapped in me.  That was when I, David, had finally had enough.

When tragedy strikes one never knows exactly how they will react.  Although I related so significantly to these three boys, I did not know them personally. Had I known them personally, maybe I would have been so distraught that I would have had trouble functioning.  So when I say I had finally had enough and I snapped, I felt an anger I had rarely felt in my life and I turned to my weapon of choice, the written word.  And my position as a moderate was now a thing of the past as well, as I realized that moderation is something that needs to be saved for the reasonable and fair, not the racially bigoted and brutally violent.

When the Israeli cabinet met on how to react to the boys’ deaths, I knew one thing.  As a Jew and a Zionist living in New York, unless they did nothing, I would support the Israeli government.  I committed myself to not only stating my feelings, but in rallying as many people as possible to the cause.  Not my cause, not merely the Jewish people’s cause, but in truth what should be seen as the entire world’s cause.   Before this would happen I would call someone a piece of garbage for being anti-Semitic, and occasionally even write something about it, but now it felt more personal than before.  It became so clear to me as it is to almost anyone with an unbiased desire for a peaceful world.  So now I decided to go further than I had ever gone before.  As I state on my Twitter profile, “no longer am I happy not being part of the problem. Now I want to be part of the solution.”

When Israel first went after Hamas with airstrikes in Gaza, no one really knew how serious the situation would turn out to be.  The terror tunnels they discovered were designed to carry out mass murders of Jews, and the intelligence they gathered indicated that it was going to be as soon as this Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year which falls towards the end of September. Israel’s incursion by ground troops into Gaza was used to uncover and destroy these tunnels.  However, while this was happening the situation took an ominous term.

I almost typed unexpected as well, but as a Jew paying attention, anti-Semitism is never completely unexpected.  I’ve been accused of being slightly over-sensitive to comments, but no one has ever accused me of having a persecution complex.  At least not to my face.  So when I say I was not totally shocked by the global spike in anti-Jewish words and behavior, this is not coming from someone who makes declarations that “everyone hates the Jews”.  I know better.  What we’ve seen this summer however has been epic.  Even by the usual standards of hatred.  Gone is the requirement of logic and fact.  Merely wanting to hate the Jews became enough.  Telling half of the story so that the part that exonerated Israel was conveniently missing became the strategy of the vocal and clever anti-Zionist/anti-Semite.  And gone forever is the notion that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are not two in the same.  When  you have two signs at a protest that say “Free Gaza” and ” Hitler was right”, you have lost the argument that they are different.  When pogrom style attacks took place on French synagogues by people claiming to do things in support of Palestinians it was made abundantly clear that this was about hating the Jew at least as much as it was about opposing Israel.

The more Jews were attacked, whether in Israel or outside of Israel, the more committed I became, expressing my commitment through articles and letters to those expressing damaging sentiments towards the Jewish people, while also writing articles acknowledging our supporters.  Every time I heard “Free Gaza” I felt more and more compelled to shout to the world that the people of Gaza needed to be freed from Hamas not from Israel.  Every time the United Nations revealed its bizarrely obvious bias against Israel I wanted to write something to expose it.  Why?  Partially because it was cathartic, but even more because I wanted to make sure everyone I could reach would know the truth, and once I began to do that, there was no turning back.  With every missile fired at Israel, with every fatality including the 64 members of the IDF fighting to preserve Israel’s survivor, my commitment grew stronger.

Recognizing the need for unity with more than just the Jewish community, I created the Global Coalition for Israel on Facebook as a means of showing a cohesive support for the State of Israel. One month later the group is at 1300 and growing daily.  When the summer began I was worried about when I was going to get to the beach, lay in the sun and get to barbecues.  I’m not saying that I didn’t do those things to some extent during the summer of 2014, but they all took a back seat to something more important.  My new activism.  Watching CNN and FOX on a daily basis to get the news coming from the region, researching websites and news sources online, and meeting people with stories to tell from Israel and Europe, the summer of 2014 became something I never expected it would become, it became my Summer of Gaza.

HOW TO BUY THE BOOK

CLICK TO JOIN “THE GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL” ON FACEBOOK

Follow Holland’s Heroes on Twitter @hollandsheroes

 

 

 


A Terrifying Question

photo-8This is a post I was reluctant to write because it poses a question I am so hesitant to ask. Let me start by saying this. To my brothers and sisters in Israel, if your nerves are on edge and the suggestion of something terrifying will be unpleasant for you to read, please stop reading this now and move on to something else.

It’s the question people are afraid to ask, but needs to be addressed. Now that we know of the terror tunnels that exist from Gaza to Southern Israel, how do we know that similar tunnels are not being built to Israel’s north and to Israel’s east? The news out of Israel now is that recently captured Hamas terrorists revealed a plot to send terrorists trough these tunnels this coming Rosh Hashana, just under 2 months from now and murder and kidnap as many Israelis as possible. Israel is surrounded by people committed to her destruction and to think that it is not at least a reasonable possibility that there are tunnels on other borders would be irresponsibly naive. I posed the question to an Israeli family member of mine and his response was quick and succinct. He basically believes the Israeli government now assumes, as does he, that terror tunnels are being or have been built on other borders as well.

Let me be very clear. I am proposing a question, not providing verified information. But knowing the barbarism of the enemy, and understanding that the enemy is on more than just one front, to ignore the possibility could be devastating.

It must be emphasized and can’t be said enough, that despite the horrific tragedy of the kidnapping and murder of the 3 Yeshiva boys, their death has come to have incredible meaning. Their murders triggered this campaign that discovered this evil plot to kill thousands of Jewish residents of southern Israel. The lives saved by their deaths is something quite astounding and makes their memory even more special to everyone.

CLICK TO JOIN “THE GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL” ON FACEBOOK

Follow Holland’s Heroes on Twitter @hollandsheroes


My personal memory of a Jewish Teen Icon: A cousin’s response

On September 16 I wrote a piece about the tragic death of Ari & Sari Horowitz who had been struck by a car and killed on the way home from synagogue earlier that day, the day before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.  Today I was contacted by Ari’s cousin who sent me a copy of his very moving words spoken at the funeral in Israel.  Scroll down to the comments to read this moving eulogy.  My thanks to Yoni Reif and my deepest condolences for your loss.

https://hollandsheroes.com/2012/09/16/my-personal-memory-of-a-jewish-teen-icon/