Category Archives: Zionism

Sukkot and its pagan-like customs

I’ve grown accustomed to hearing, year after year, that “Sukkot is the hardest holiday to explain to outsiders”, or the o-so-popular “if a non Jew saw us shaking our Lulavim he’d think we were all pagans”. A popular answer is the standard default of “we do it because Hashem commanded us even if it looks strange”, or better yet, “even more so because it is strange”.

I cannot accept these kinds of answers.
1. I refuse to accept that Torah and Mitzvot are some sort of test, which is the foundation of these types of answers. I don’t observe Mitzvot in order to prove anything to anyone – other nations, other Jews, myself or even God. (For a short piece on why I am observant see here)
2. I completely disagree that there is anything odd or strange in the observances of Sukkot. Only a Judaism that has lost touch with its own origins could say such a thing. Torah is rooted in the life of a nation in its land. The three major holidays revolve around agricultural. They may have a historical element to them as well (Shavu’ot less so as expressed here) but their celebrations are primarily agricultural. Throughout exile, these elements were downplayed or forgotten altogether to the point where we are uncertain how engaging with nature on the most fundamental level could possibly fit with Torah.
And I say – few things make more sense than connecting to Hashem through the embracement of nature. We leave our artificial, man made, houses and lives and surround ourselves with those of Hashem’s. We surround ourselves with nature, we touch nature, we smell nature and it is all a Mitzvah. Doing nothing at all in the Sukkah is a Mitzvah not just because “Hashem said we should do it”, rather because, if you view nature as a place where Hashem dwells and reveals himself than by embracing it you are embracing Him (fulfilling a Mitzvah). Sukkot reveals that, sometimes, you can connect to Hashem even by just being You.
Maybe this can only be done after the purging of Rosh Hashan and Yom Kippur but, non the less, it reveals the possibility of engaging the divine without all the regular “hoopla”, rather by just getting in touch with the most fundamental aspects of existence – (our) nature itself.
Imagine how sincere such a natural/holly שמחה of מצווה such an approach would evoke and produce!
חג שמח!


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Mourning the exile while choosing to remain in it

At the opening of Tish’a B’Av I spoke at the AISH Toronto Community. The title was:

“Mourning the Exile While Choosing to Remain in it”. Here is the link to the video:
Not for the weak-hearted exile dweller…

May we Merit to understand that Galut has been over for some time now and it is time to hop on the Ge’ulah train as it prepares for the final stretch!

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I See Angels – Israel Memorial Day

I felt I had to translate and share this poem written by El’ad Chami’el:

The angels of today don’t have a halo over their heads
They have a helmet
They aren’t white as snow
They are khaki
You won’t see wings on their backs
You will see battle vests
They are not holding harps
And if they are “playing a tune”, it is using very different instruments
Once, the angels had only one mission
The angels of today finish one mission just to hop to the next one
Those angels were divided into units
Our angels, too, are divided into units, squadrons and battalions.
Once, children were named after angels: Gabriel, Repha’el
Today, angels are named after children: Yoni, Gadi…
Once, angels would descend from heaven to earth
Our angels, grow up on earth and ascend in a storm to the heavens

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Israel Independence Day – Are we Missing the Point?

It is easy to miss the point of Yom Ha’atzma’ut. The main point of Yom Ha’atzma’ut is not that we were saved from our enemies and won The War of Independence; the war actually intensified as a result of the Declaration of Independence and only won a year later. It is also not the Return of The Exiles, which only occurred in subsequent years, while at its establishment there were only approximately 600,000 Jews in the new State of Israel.  
So what actually happenedon the Fifth of Iyar that merits celebrating it as a religious holiday?
A similar question could be asked regarding יציאת מצרים. What had been achieved at the moment of the Exodus itself? The Egyptians were not yet vanquished, we had yet to receive Torah and we were far, far away from the ideal of being a גוי קדוש, a holly nation.   
The answer to both questions is similar – Birth. They both marked the birth of The Jewish People as a nation.
Because we were born in מצרים we were able to witness the final destruction of our enemy, because we were born out of מצריםwe were able to receive Torah and enter Eretz Yisrael. The same is true for Yom Ha’atzma’ut. Because The State was established we were able to win the war and because The State of Israel was established hundreds of thousands of Jews could return home.
On that Friday afternoon onתש”ח  ה אייר, April 14th 1948 in Tel Aviv, we, The Jewish People stood on our feet and declared – to ourselves, to Hashem and to the world – “This is our home. We are back. We are alive”. A nation was reborn. 1800 years of tears, dreams and prayers had come to an end with the rebirth of a people, free once again to realize its communal identity in the full faculties of a sovereign nation, in the newly formed state.
That is the significance of Yom Ha’atzma’ut day. Everything else stemmed from that day – the military victories, the in-gathering of the exiles, the blossoming of the desert, the flourishing of Torah study and observance, the economic boom and so much more. And, just as with יציאת מצרים, the process may not be complete. But we now know to identify the trials and tribulations we face not merely as an exilic struggle for survival, rather, as the “growing pains” of a nation blessed from above with the rejuvenation of youth and vitality.
May we recognize the ברכה bestowed upon us by Hashem in our generations. May we always appreciate the privilege we have to witness, contribute to and participate in, the realization of the dreams and prayers of millions of Jews over the past two millennia in מדינת ישראל today.
יום עצמאות שמח!  

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