Tag Archives: Shabbat

Holland’s Heroes presents: It’s Friday. You’re Welcome!

I have never been one to overly sell the merits of the Jewish way of life.  I choose to leave that up to those far more qualified.  However, as someone who observes Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, I and my fellow Jews occasionally have an advantage during this time that others might not. Since Shabbat starts on Friday at sundown, unlike many who during this unprecedented time find one day after another blending into each other, we always need to know when it’s Friday.  With that in mind Holland’s Heroes will do its best to provide you with a weekly post with the intention of inspiring you, encouraging you, and bringing some joy to the many faces looking for reasons to smile.

These weeks installment is from my friend Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport, a  Chabad Rabbi in South Jersey and his heartwarming interaction with some Ugandan Jewish young men.  Enjoy!!

You can watch more of rabbi Raps’s videos by subscribing at www.youtube.com/rabbiraps or following on Instagram @rabbiraps







A Shabbat message for everyone


This message is for everyone out there.  Whether you are Jewish or not, observant or not.

The observance of Shabbat, the Sabbath, is the weekly observance of a day of rest.  It is a day in which we stop much of our weekly activities, many of the more observant Jews refraining from work. driving, spending money and using electricity or phones.  The belief is that God created the world on 6 days and on the 7th day he rested.  Although different religions have different beliefs as to which day that is, Islam believes it’s Friday, Judaism Saturday, Catholicism Sunday, the basic concept is the same.  A day of rest to acknowledge God’s work and to make that day a holy day.

We live in a time when many will inevitably have a crisis of faith, while many will have a strengthening of faith.  Other’s who do not believe will either find themselves turning towards God, or believing that the current situation proves their position that God does not exist.  Although I am one who not only believes in God, but is also not having a crisis of faith, this message is applicable to each and every one of you, for even if you do not believe the origin of the concept is in religious dogma, the essence of the concept is a pure one.  It is what Judaism refers to as Bayn Adam L’chaveyru, the relationship between one person and another.

Jewish commandments are broken down into 2 categories.  One is the aforementioned relationship between one human being and the other, and the other being what is know as Bayn Adam L’Makom.  The relationship between People and God. I have no intention of using this forum today to convince anyone to hold my views on what relationship mankind should have with God, nor will I project a feeling of an attitude of superiority based on the one that I have.  I do this on purpose.  I do this because our relationship with each other may be at the core of so many of the problems facing us today.

Before we try to do right by others, we need to be honest with ourselves.  We need to be honest about our intentions and be honest about our actions.   Are we doing what we are doing because it is self-serving or because we want to do good for others?  Do we truly care about other people or does everything we do revolve entirely around our own needs?  As a flawed individual, I need to constantly ask myself those questions.  Am I doing the best I can to help those close to me, to contribute to society?  Are my intentions pure? I ask these questions of myself on a regular basis, but when do I have an actual scheduled stop from my every day life to take a step back and take an introspective look on who I am and what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong? That time is from sundown on Friday evening till darkness on Saturday.  The time designated in the Jewish religion as Shabbat.

So my Shabbat message to each and everyone of you is the following.  Take a step back. Stop your regular weekday activities.  Of course the irony is that it at this moment in time for many that means, stop your past week’s activities of stopping your everyday activities. You may not believe in God, or you do believe in God and don’t believe God gave us Shabbat, but your belief does not detract from the fact that it is indeed something wonderful.  Shabbat brings you peace and tranquility, sometimes added understanding, and a brighter outlook for the future.  Whether you believe it is God given or not, who among us couldn’t use those things right now?

Be safe, be healthy, and Shabbat Shalom.

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Jay Agular.







Remembering the Rally cry of my youth: Torah v’Avodah

Bnei_akiva_logoTo all those out there who have either been members of, or been exposed to the Jewish youth group B’nei Akiva, the title of this post will immediately strike you with what will most likely be a fond and warm recognition. Although the practice of my faith has a lot to be desired, the rallying cry of Torah v’Avodah seems more important to me today than maybe any other time in my life.

Some of you reading this will have shared some fun times with me when I was part of the organization as a teenager in Philadelphia and London and belonged to what was called, Shevet Amichai, literally the “Tribe of Amichai” based on the names given to each age group.  I have no trouble admitting my reasons for being a member were social more than anything else.  There were the few, such as the late great Ari Horowitz, or my dear friend Danny,  that seemed to be motivated by some idealism at that age, but for me it was simple.   It was about the girls and the fun gatherings of friends.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything to do with B’nei Akiva.  My last memory was one I should be somewhat ashamed of, but seeing as it was over 30 years ago and no one got hurt, I look back at it with more amusement than shame.  Me and 3 other friends, 2 from Dublin Ireland and one from Liverpool went to the small town of Petach Tikvah, right outside of Tel-Aviv, went to a B’nei Akiva gathering and falsely portrayed ourselves as the heads of branches.  Two in Dublin, one in Liverpool, and myself in London, where I was a member of the organization from 1976-1980.  It worked like a charm.  We achieved a degree of celebrity status for the day and each of us had dates with some of the cutest girls in the group for one very enjoyable summer Saturday night.  It was all in good fun, not all that serious, and went no further than that.

Today I think of B’nei Akiva, and being significantly more mature than I was 30 plus years ago, the 2 words that represent the group have a far greater importance than ever before.  Jewish unity is critical.  Everyone needs to do something during this very difficult time in our history.  It is my feeling that what makes the term Torah v’Avodah so poignant today is that no Jew who genuinely cares about the Jewish people and the State of Israel has an excuse not to at least choose one or the other.  If you are a dedicated and practicing Jew who follows the laws and listens to and studies Jewish teachings(TORAH), then you are strengthening the Jewish people.  If you question religious dogma or philosophically struggle with Jewish practice, that should not stop you from making some efforts or working (AVODAH) towards helping Israel and the Jewish people.  And which ever one you choose, unless it is both, I implore you to show respect towards those who choose the other.  For without unity we are lost.

And then there is that one lesson I learned from being part of B’nei Akiva even when I was just there for the girls.  That the future of the Jewish people is tied to the State of Israel.  Something all Jews need to realize today more than any other time in my lifetime.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Importance of Freedom

As Jews all over the world celebrate Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), I think back once again to what we commemorated and remembered this week.  It strikes me how the Holocaust reached even further than the 6 million killed.  The basic freedom to practice the religion in any way was stripped from mostly every Jew in Europe.  The lesson to  us all, regardless of what we believe in or practice, is to never take for granted our freedom and to stand up and fight those who would oppress others merely for being what they are and for what they believe in.  We must recognize it happened before in order to prevent it from happening ever again.