Well, now that Yom Ha’atzmaut is truly over here, I suppose it’s time to reflect.
Last night I went to a special tefillah at my shule and then to a concert sponsored by the community. The concert was a fun, self deprecating exhibition of Israeli culture. It included quite a few speeches, short comedy performances, a video message from the Shnat kids in Israel and two songs (accompanied by dances) from each decade of Israel’s existence. The song that the concert ended on was מי שמאמין לא מפחד.
To me, this perfectly summarises what I believe Yom Ha’atzmaut is all about. It’s about recognising the miracles of Israel’s existence and giving thanks to God. It’s about realising that Israel’s independence is not just historically or politically important to the Jewish people and the world, but has a great religious significance.
The creation of the Jewish state is the fulfilment of a 2,000 year old dream and even though we have not reached the Geulah Shleimah, Israel is ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו.
That’s why to me, celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut with a special Tefillah and Hallel is so important. Essentially, it’s a Chag and we should treat it with the respect that it deserves, rather than just eating Felafel and wearing blue and white.
When an official body like the local and federal Zionist council (by no means Orthodox organisations) decide to end the evening’s festivities with a song recognising Hashem, it proves to me that we’re really in אתחלתא דגאולה and will merit to see the גאולה שלמה במהרה בימינו אמן.
Chag Atzmaut Sameach!
Today at university something happened to me that resulted me in thinking about my Jewish identity.
I made a new friend in my Arabic class and she asked me “where are you from?”
Every new person I’ve met at university has asked me this question. I suppose in a multicultural society like Australia, where everybody is originally an immigrant people are interested in knowing your roots. So far, most people have thought I’m either Greek or Egyptian. In case you didn’t know, I’m neither. I always answer, “I”m Jewish” and just continue on with the conversation.
However today, my new friend responded “But where are you from originally?”
I responded “My grandparents were from Germany and Poland”.
“So you’re mixed European?” my friend asked.
“Uhhh, I guess?” I said awkwardly and continued practicing reading Arabic words as if I was a six year old student.
To me, my Jewish identity is as much a nationality - after all I am part of Am Yisrael - as my religious beliefs. And most people I’ve met at university seem to see that too. But this girl was different and the more I think about it, the more I regret not explaining that part of my Jewish identity. I in no way identify as German and Polish - my grandparents were refugees because Jewish people were being systematically exterminated. Germany and Poland are drenched in Jewish blood. I could never identify with those countries.
Next time someone asks me this question, I’ll know what to answer. I won’t be afraid to say that Judaism is my national identity as well as my religious one. I shouldn’t be “awkwarded out” by that. It’s the truth.
A list of my direct ancestors who were murdered during the Holocaust. All of these people had relatives, siblings and parents who were also killed, just because they were Jewish.
- מינה בת יוסף - Mina the daughter of Joseph. She was killed in a concentration camp in France, although lived in…
This is a Dvar Torah that originally appeared a booklet full of Divrei Torah that my friend collated. She sends out a weekly Parsha Dvar Torah as well. If you’re interested in joining the email list, let me know.
The themes that stand out in this chapter are power and ambition and the Megillah guides us as to how we should act when wanting to increase and accept power.
Haman approaches King Achashverosh in the middle of the night to talk to him about the gallows he had made for Mordechai. However, Achashverosh asks him
, מַה-לַּעֲשׂוֹת בָּאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ בִּיקָרוֹ;
What should be done to the man who the king wishes to honour
According to the Malbim, Achashversosh is intentionally vague and merely says “the man”, guessing that Haman would assume the King was referring to him. Achashverosh’s instinct was correct as the verse continues with Haman’s inner thoughts
וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן, בְּלִבּוֹ, לְמִי יַחְפֹּץ הַמֶּלֶךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת יְקָר, יוֹתֵר מִמֶּנִּי
Now Haman said in his heart: ‘Whom would the king delight to honour besides myself?’—
Haman proceeds to divulge his deepest aspirations and desires. He wishes to wear the king’s clothing, ride the king’s horse, be paraded through the streets and even wear the King’s crown. According to the Targum Sheini, Haman’s proposal proves that Haman hoped that in the future he would become the king and as a result of that, Achashverosh decided to cut him down to size by making him organise Mordechai’s parade of honour.
After Mordeachai’s parade of honour, we are assured that the status quo is now just and fair. Mordechai is honoured and Haman is disgraced. The hero is recognised and the villain discredited.
וַיָּשָׁב מָרְדֳּכַי, אֶל-שַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ; וְהָמָן נִדְחַף אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ, אָבֵל וַחֲפוּי רֹאשׁ
And Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and having his head covered.
Malbim explains that Mordechai not only returned to the king’s gate, but to the position of honour he deserved, whereas Haman went home in disgrace. Haman’s disgrace is iterated by his wife Zeresh and his advisors who claim
וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ חֲכָמָיו וְזֶרֶשׁ אִשְׁתּוֹ, אִם מִזֶּרַע הַיְּהוּדִים מָרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר הַחִלּוֹתָ לִנְפֹּל לְפָנָיו לֹא-תוּכַל לוֹ—כִּי-נָפוֹל תִּפּוֹל, לְפָנָיו.
‘Since Mordechai is of Jewish descent, once you’re begun to fall before him, you’ll never over come him; but continue falling before him’
Haman’s downfall was not caused just because Mordechai was of Jewish descent, Haman’s pride and arrogant behaviour also contributed his downfall. The idea of arrogance causing destruction is found in Mishlei.
לִפְנֵי שֶׁבֶר גָּאוֹן וְלִפְנֵי כִשָּׁלוֹן גֹּבַהּ רוּחַ,:
Before destruction comes pride, and before stumbling [comes] a haughty spirit.
It was Haman’s haughtiness that caused him to hate the Jews and Mordechai, eventually leading to his own death. Haman could not simply accept that the Jews and Mordechai did not bow to him like all the other people in Shushan did. He could not accept the fact that the Jews looked to God as the ultimate authority, rather than man. Haman was not able to swallow his pride and accept beliefs different to his own. Rather, he was consumed by his hatred and became obsessed with plotting Mordechai’s death and the genocide of the Jews. It must be remembered that Haman was already second in command in Perisa, he had achieved greatness and accumulated power, but it was not enough for him. He wanted more. It was this attitude that led to his downfall.
In contrast to Haman is Mordechai, who is simply described as “Mordechai the Jew”. Not much is said about him in the text, but it appears that his aim in his life is to follow the word God. He does good where he can, saving the King from Bigtan and Teresh’s assassination plot and does not complain that he was not honoured or recognised for his efforts. When he is honoured he does not ask for more or reject it, he simply accepts it. It is Mordechai that eventually becomes the viceroy when Haman is hanged. He accepts the position and performs the job to the best of his ability, advocating his people along the way. In the closing of the Megillah we read
כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי, מִשְׁנֶה לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, וְגָדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים, וְרָצוּי לְרֹב אֶחָיו—דֹּרֵשׁ טוֹב לְעַמּוֹ, וְדֹבֵר שָׁלוֹם לְכָל-זַרְעוֹ.
For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed.
Mordechai continues to be addressed by the same title “Mordechai the Jew” throughout the entire Megillah. While Mordechai’s position may have changed, he remained the same person. He did not become arrogant as a result of his promotion and he continued to seek and speak peace.
Ambition is not bad. It is important to be motivated and to try and achieve a goal. However, we must ensure that we do not allow ourselves to be consumed by our pride and become arrogant along our path. Furthermore, when we are presented with opportunities we should not reject them, rather accept them with humility and grace. Like Shakespeare wrote in the Twelfth Night “be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em”. Mordechai proves that power is not an inherently corruptive force or something to be afraid of, we must try to emulate him and remain the same person we always were, accept our greatness and do not expect more.
Harlem Shake (Original Bochur Style)
Found this in my Facebook news feed
Just thought the story on this plaque in the shule here was interesting.
Hasidic Jews going Gangnam style
Found this on Facebook…Hilarious!
I was on the train today on the way to the city to meet a friend. I was sitting in front of two women, one born here, the other born in Peru. From the conversation I gathered that both of them lived in the suburbs around my area for a while and this was their first time meeting. (Here, it’s not uncommon to strike up conversation with people on public transport. Most people here are safe and very friendly).
I heard their conversation and they were discussing the suburbs they lived in. They talked about the great shops, the delicious restaurants, the ambience of the cafes, the peaceful parks and then one of the women said
“There are a lot of religious Jews in the neighbourhood so I feel very safe”
It made me happy and I wanted to share that with you.
Members of the Aboriginal and Jewish communities have observed the anniversary of a unique protest in Melbourne.
Seventy-four years ago Aboriginal activist William Cooper and his colleagues at the Australian Aborigines League tried to hand a resolution to the German consul-general condemning the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews.
But the consul-general refused to see the Aboriginal delegation, which had walked into town from Mr Cooper’s home in Melbourne’s west.
“On behalf of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia, we wish to have it registered and on record that we protest wholeheartedly at the cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government in Germany,” his message said.
“We plead that you would make it known to your government and its military leaders that this cruel persecution of their fellow citizens must be brought to an end.”