How an Ancient Lesson Sheds Light on a Critical Issue in Our Time

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How an Ancient Lesson Sheds Light on a Critical Issue in Our Time

Interpretations of our ancient texts are fascinating and illuminating for many reasons, one of them being the nuances or multiple meanings of a single word. Here is a most relevant case in point for the Jewish community right now. Today.


In Ezekiel (24;2), G-d instructs Ezekiel to record the date of the 10th of Teves, saying that on that day the king of Babylon will besiege Jerusalem, and this will be an indication that all Ezekiel said in G-d’s name was true. The prophecy did, indeed, come to pass, expressed as “Samach melech Bavel,” which means the King (Nevuchaduetzar) “laid siege.” So where is the ambiguity? The lesson?


The Rebbe, of blessed memory, points out that the Hebrew word “samach” means both “besieged” and “supported.” So his interpretation of this pivotal event in our history, leading to the destruction of the Temple, is that the “siege” of Jerusalem was a missed opportunity. That, in fact, events of that time supported the Jewish people because by being thrown together under another’s rule they had the opportunity to thrive anew as a united community.


Further, this perspective is borne out by events earlier in our history when Sancheriv, who had a much more powerful army of 185,000, besieged Jerusalem, and it led to a great rejuvenation of our people.


The Rebbe explains that every time the Jews encountered calamity, G-d simultaneously gave them the antidote: the opportunity to unite in renewed effort and brotherhood. But tragically the Jews failed to realize the opportunity to come together in the wake of Nevuchaduetzar’s invasion, continuing to bicker, to succumb to petty distractions and to distance themselves from one another, and our people fell into centuries of disarray.


How do such ancient events relate to the Jewish condition in 2015? The Jews of Israel have become quite united of late in their opposition to the proposed agreement with Iran. Voices are unified across political lines and religious lines. Leaders normally in opposition to each other are linked arm-in-arm around this catalyzing issue.


But here in the US the opportunity to mine this critical crossroads as a period of support for our peoplehood is undermined by the usual distractions, apathy and passivity. Adversity often creates strength, but we need to recognize our shared values, history and destiny to turn adversity into a time of unified action. We need to come together.

Shabbot Shalom,



Mazel Tov type

Mazel Tov to BB Chernoff on the birth of his grandson, Hudson Jacob.


Mazel Tov type

Mazel Tov to Drs. Aaron and Katie Carroll on the birth of their son, and very proud grandparents, Marc and Lisa Carroll.


We offer our deepest condolences to Scott, Todd, Mike and Lisa Schiff on the loss their dear mother, Shirlie Levitin.
We offer our deepest condolences to Michael, Gary and Nancy Rosen on the loss of their dear mother,  Nona Barbara Rosen.


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Parshat Eikev

In the Parshah of Eikev (“ Because”), Moses continues his closing address to the children of Israel, promising them that if they will fulfill the commandments ( mitzvot) of the Torah, they will prosper in the Land they are about to conquer and settle in keeping with G‑d’s promise to their forefathers.

Moses also rebukes them for their failings in their first generation as a people, recalling their worship of the Golden Calf, the rebellion of Korach, the sin of the spies, their angering of G‑d at Taveirah, Massah and Kivrot Hataavah ( “The Graves of Lust”). “You have been rebellious against G‑d,” he says to them, “since the day I knew you.” But he also speaks of G‑d’s forgiveness of their sins, and the Second Tablets which G‑d inscribed and gave to them following their repentance.

Their forty years in the desert, says Moses to the people, during which G‑d sustained them with daily manna from heaven, was to teach them “that man does not live on bread alone, but by the utterance of G‑d’s mouth does man live.”

Moses describes the land they are about to enter as “flowing with milk and honey,” blessed with the “seven kinds” (wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olive oil and dates), and as the place that is the focus of G‑d’s providence of His world. He commands them to destroy the idols of the land’s former masters, and to beware lest they become haughty and begin to believe that “my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.”

A key passage in our Parshah is the second chapter of the Shema, which repeats the fundamental mitzvot enumerated in the Shema’s first chapter, and describes the rewards of fulfilling G‑d’s commandments and the adverse results (famine and exile) of their neglect. It is also the source of the precept of prayer, and includes a reference to the resurrection of the dead in the messianic age.

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