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What Does it Mean to be a Jew? Yehuda, Yosef and God’s Hidden Plan

“Vayigash eilav Yehudah, Then Yehudah approached him…” (Breishit 44:18)

One of the names that the Jewish people are known by is “Yehudim”. Our sages teach us that the word “Yehudim” comes from the word hoda’a, which means simultaneously an “admission, acknowledgment, declaration”. If we are known as the people of hoda’a, what is it that the Jewish people go through time acknowledging or declaring?

That everything both small and large, both good and difficult, comes from God.

The Sfas Emes continues with this message and teaches that this is helpful knowledge, especially during every challenging and dark time.

Claiming, that even in the dark times, when it seems that God is hidden from us, there is Godly energy there too.

Yehuda and his brothers were begging for their lives in front of the most powerful person in the world — who secretly was their brother Yosef, who they had sold into slavery. Yehuda recounts all the trials and tribulations that got them to this situation.

What is he doing? Why is the Torah spending valuable space recounting things that we already know?

Yehuda is acknowledging that amidst this terrible set of circumstances — and he knows that the brothers were being punished for what they did to Yosef decades earlier — God’s plan is being revealed and God is still with them.

At that moment when Yehuda declares that this situation too, as painful as it is to endure, is from God, Yosef cannot contain himself anymore and has to reveal his true identity to his brothers.

This bittersweet reunion, and what Yosef tells his brothers, makes them, and all their generations of offspring realize, that God did not abandon them. Rather God was with Yosef the whole time after he had been sold, and that this drought and famine were part of God’s larger plan.

Our subsequent life in Egypt, enslavement, and redemption, form a significant part of the core-identity system of the Jewish people, and subsequently for all downtrodden peoples throughout time.

Yosef had to go to Egypt, be falsely accused, rot in jail, translate dreams, become a ruler, and trick his brothers into bringing Binyamin down to Egypt — it was all part of God’s plan from t

he start.

So too, in our lives, we experience sets of circumstances and challenges that can truly test our strength, faith, and hope.

Whatever you are going through right now, God is waiting to reveal the reasons, but we have to do our job of being Yehudim, acknowledging and declaring that God is truly engaged in every aspect of our lives and the world, for us to begin to see the reasons.

Good Shabbos and Shabbat Shalom

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A Twitter Yizkor: Memorial for Israeli Victims of Terror Launched on Twitter

The double murder of Rabbi Yaakov (44) and Natanel Litman (18) on Friday, November 13th, was quickly overshadowed by the immense and horrific massacres across Paris later that night.

But even without the massacre, the names and stories of Israelis murdered in the past few months get lost behind the next group of names of victims.

Four more Israelis were killed in terror attacks today.

Inspired by the @ParisVictims Twitter account, created by Mashable to publicize the lives of each one of the 129 people killed in the horrific attacks on November 13th, 2015, we have launched @israelivictims to memorialize Israelis killed in terror attacks.

The @parisvictims account has quickly amassed more than 44,000 followers.

If you would like to help with this effort, just contact rabbi @ picoshul.org.

We pray to God that we don’t have to add any more names, and for a quick recovery of all the victims.

May God comfort all the mourners, and Hashem yikom damam.

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Rabbi Yaakov (44) a gifted teacher and Natanel Litman (18) a volunteer paramedic HY”D were murdered on Friday, November 13, 2015.

The Litmans were driving to pre-wedding Shabbat celebration for one of their daughters, Sarah Tihyeh. The family car was ambushed by Shadi Ahmed Matawa of Islamic Jihad, and maybe others, near Otniel in the hills south of Hebron.

Five other members of the Litman family were lightly wounded in the shooting, including Noa, three daughters aged 5, 9, and 11, and a 16-year-old son. On Saturday, Noa said an ambulance from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society stopped at the scene of the attack before Magen David Adom paramedics arrived, but left without offering assistance. Dvir, the 16-year-old son, called MDA and also said the Red Crescent ambulance left the scene.

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UNESCO Sponsors are Complicit in Erasing Jewish History

prayering kotel

  • UNESCO corporate and governmental sponsors need to publically distance themselves from UNESCO as it erases Jewish history
  • Sponsors include Google, Panasonic, A&E, Germany, Smithsonian, EarthWatch and others (list of UNESCO World Heritage Partners)
  • Hijaking of UNESCO’s agenda undermines the legitimacy of it’s noble mission — and continued support of UNESCO means supporting authoritarian, un-democratic, and anti-Semitic governments and institutions

UNESCO unilaterally called on Israel to “stop agression” against Palesinians, and made no mention of terrorism against Israeli citizens, in a resolution that referred to the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Cave of the Patriarchs, and Rachel’s Tomb, solely in Muslim terms. France, Spain (who wants Jews back) and Italy all abstained in the vote:

The vote in Paris was 26 in favor, six against and 15 abstentions. The US, Germany, United Kingdom, Estonia and Netherlands, Czech Republic voted against the resolution while a number of other European countries such as Albania, Austria, Ethiopia, Angola, Spain, France and Italy were among those that abstained.

Originally, UNESCO’s resolution, prepared by the Palestinian Authority and introduced by six Arab states, designated the Kotel or Western Wall as part of al Aqsa Mosque and the tomb of Rachel as the burial place of Bilal Ibn Rabah, a companion of the prophet Mohammed.

The finished draft declared the Cave of the Patriarchs as a Muslim shrine and an integral part of Palestine. Zero mention of it’s Jewish roots.

In addition to exposing the farcical role of UNESCO, the vote proves that those who care about the future of Israel and Jewish connection to the Holy Land must vigorously advocate to upend this travesty. 

This initiative is part of a long process led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that seeks to deny the existence of the Jewish Temples and to erase any Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Mr. Abbas has made his intentions veryclear by delcaring that the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre “are ours”.

It is imperative that those concerned about the situation react by calling, emailing, Facebooking, and Tweeting about this to every UNESCO sponsors – which include Google, Smithsonian, A&E, German Gov – and all mainstream media sources. Other governements that support UNESCO, and those that abstained from voting, need to hear that they are complicit in erasing Jewish history.

It is important that those who care for the future of Israel contact the companies and countries that support UNESCO. They may support good work in some areas – but their public association with UNESCO and continued financial support, means that UNESCO will never change.


Here is some more background info:

At a meeting of ISESCO in Amman in 2011, the motion was introduced that the Western Wall also be called Al-Boraq’s Wall, named for Mohammad’s horse. From time immemorial the site was called the Western Wall/Wailing Wall (Kotel Hamaaravi) and was known to be the outer retaining wall for the site of the Temple. The Palestinians now want to take it a step further by seeking to gain UNESCO recognition of the Wall as part of the Al Aqsa Mosque which was built many centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. This claim of exclusivity to the holiest sites of the Jewish people and revered sites of Christianity, central to tenants of both religions, is an outrage that would not be tolerated in any other circumstance.

At UNESCO’s World Heritage Council meeting in Bonn, Germany in July 2015, President Abbas advanced the same ideas. The automatic pro-Arab majority in virtually every UN body assures automatic passage of even the most ludicrous and counterproductive proposals. We hope that every nation that respects religious freedom, historical truth and seeks to foster mutual understanding among religious groups, will reject this outrageous resolution. Palestinian leaders have been engaged in incitement claiming in public statements, sermons, broadcasts, media reports, that al Aqsa was “under siege” and calling on Palestinians to rally to its defense. Mr. Abbas also spread this message into neighboring Arab countries. The resulting violence has taken almost 50 lives with many more injured in recent days. By inciting passions over the Temple Mount and fomenting disputes these religious sites, Mr. Abbas is turning a political conflict into a religious war.

The UNESCO Executive Council is expected to take the matter up on Wednesday and it may go to the full plenum, where Palestine is a recognized member state. The resolution declares the Western Wall and Mughrabi Gate are part of al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The resolution then goes on to condemn the excavations in the Old City despite UNESCO decisions approving them. It condemns “Israeli aggression and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to al Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempt to break the status quo since 1967”. The litany of condemnations includes accusations of attacks by extremists on the mosque, and opposes the building of a cable car in east Jerusalem, and attacks actions by Israel and the IDF in Jerusalem. These charges and the Palestinian drive to de-Judaize Jerusalem and deny the Christian attachment to the holy places, should be the subject of condemnation. Passage of this resolution will be seen as a reward for terrorism and violence of recent days and further exacerbate any chance for meaningful negotiations.

It should be noted that the only desecration of the Temple Mount was as a result of Palestinian actions which destroyed vast archaeologically significant sections. More than 400 tons of debris were taken off the Temple Mount as the Waqf expanded an underground mosque in Solomon’s Stables. For ten years, volunteers have been sifting through the debris and finding many important antiquities.

People to contact include:

  • CEO of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bikova at i.bokova@unesco.org and Ms. Marie Paule Roudil, head of the UNESCO Liasion Office to the UN at mp.roudil@unesco.org.

Some prominent partners of UNESCO include;

  • Panasonic USA, @panasonicUSA, is a leading partner.
  • The History Channel, @history, part of A & E, partners with UNESCO
  • Smithsonian, Director is Cristián Samper, (202) 633-1000, @smithsonian
  • German Government supports UNESCO. The embassy number is (202) 298-4000 @germanydiplo
  • Google also partners with UNESCO +1.650.930.3555 @google
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5 Ways to Keep the Spiritual Momentum of the High Holidays

The High Holidays and Sukkot have ended. This marathon of Jewish holy days earned many of us an increased spiritual awareness, sensitivity, and commitment. But how can we maintain that growth throughout the year? Here are five suggestions for maintaining the momentum of the High Holidays:

1 – Honoring Shabbat

Shabbat is a weekly opportunity to unplug and stay in good spiritual health. Meals with family and friends, communal worship, connecting with community, and creating time to rejuvenate are critical elements to Shabbat, and to keeping the High Holiday growth going during the year ahead. What you do to honor Shabbat, will reward you spiritually and materially.

2 – Creating time for daily Torah study

A person who is not engaged in daily Torah study is depriving themselves of the nutrients they need to stay in good spiritual health, nurture their soul and develop a stronger connection with God. I suggest a Chevruta – learning with a partner. While attending classes is important, it’s often passive learning. The real impact of Torah learning on your life comes from having a study partner. Even 5 minutes a day.

3 – Acquire for yourself a Shul Friend

Our sages teach us in Pirkei Avot, “Acquire for yourself a friend”. Be in regular contact with people you spent the holidays with. This is a natural group of people to help you maintain your spiritual strength this year.

4 – Volunteer for Tomchei and other chesed projects

My last Dvar Torah of the holiday season was about the importance of doing someone a favor. You cannot underestimate the power of helping others — both on how it will positively influence your life and those you are helping.

5 – Paying your pledges

Many people make pledges of tzedakah / charity during the Holidays. Whether in memory of someone during Yizkor, or a misheberach after an honor, an auction, it is critical to pay your pledge for the impact in the world to take place.

May you continue to grow and learn, and be blessed with an outpouring of divine favor!