New preview of Ohr HaShachar

August 31, 2014

Ohr Hashahar is an in-depth commentary on the morning blessings and their underlying concepts. It covers Modeh AOhrHaShacharni, Netilat Yadayim, Asher Yatzar, Elokai Neshama, Birchot HaTorah, and the fifteen blessings of Birchot HaShachar. The “Preview Edition” features samples from selected chapters. The full book is available at http://www.UrimPublications.com as well as Amazon.com.

To see a special preview of our new book, Ohr Hashachar by David Bar-Cohn, click here.

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Will Our Boys Fight Again?

August 17, 2014

The world has not yet forgiven the Jews for the Holocaust. Yet Israel can survive – and this is the paradox of its reality – as long as it insists on its vocation of uniqueness.For the Love of Israel and the Jewish People

By Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Throughout the centuries, historians, philosophers and anthropologists have struggled with the concept called “Israel” more than with nearly any other idea.

While attempting to place Israel within the confines of conventional history, they experienced constant academic and philosophical frustration. Any definitions they suggested eventually broke down due to significant inconsistencies.

Was Israel a nation, a religion, or an altogether mysterious entity that would forever remain unexplainable? By some, it was seen less as a nation and more as a religion; others believed the reverse to be true. And then there were those who claimed that it did not fall into either of these categories.

In fact, it was clear to everyone that “Israel” did not fit into any specific framework or known scheme. It resisted all historical concepts and generalities.

Its uniqueness thwarted people’s natural desire for a definition, which can be alarming and terribly disturbing.

This fact became even more obvious once Titus the Roman forced the Jews out of their country, and specifically after the collapse of the Bar Kochba rebellion.

It was then that the Jew was hurled into the abyss of the nations of the world, and has since been confronted with a new condition: ongoing insecurity.

While mankind has always faced moments of insecurity, it is the Jews who have been denied even the smallest share of the dubious security that others possess. Whether Jews were aware of it or not, they always lived on ground that could, at any moment, give way beneath their feet.

In 1948, Israel once again became a country – but many forgot that it was not only a country. All the other dimensions, such as nationhood, religion, mystery, insecurity and lack of definition continued to exist. The people of Israel today do not find themselves exclusively in the Land of Israel, and instead of one Israel, the world now has two.

Yet the second, new Israel has until now been seen as responding to the demands of history, geography, politics and journalism. One knows where it is; at least, one thinks one does. But it becomes increasingly clear that this new and definable Israel has already become as much a puzzling and perplexing entity as the old Israel always was.

Throughout its short history, the State of Israel has experienced the most inexplicable events modern man has ever seen. After an exile of nearly 2,000 years, during which the old Israel was able to survive against all historical odds, it returned to its homeland. There it found itself surrounded by a massive Arab population that was and is incapable of making peace with the idea that this small and peculiar nation lives among them. After having suffered a Holocaust in which it lost six million of its members, it was not permitted to live a life of tranquility on its tiny piece of land. Once again, the Jew was denied the right to feel at home in his own country.
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Kaddish Review in Hakira

August 4, 2014

by Joel B. Wolowelsky

This anthology speaks to women who are considering acting on the permissibility of saying Kaddish.Kaddish: Womens Voices But it also speaks to those living in a community where no women say Kaddish-where (aided by a sensationalist-seeking press) the image of women saying Kaddish is that of the Women of the Wall protesting at the Kotel wearing talit and tefilin. It helps them understand how halakhic authorities of the first order actually did permit it-because in these communities a woman wanting to say Kaddish is no different from her wanting to eat in a sukkah. She does so not “to be like a man,” but to be like a member of the family now able, because of unprecedented increased opportunities in Jewish education, to more fully participate in the traditional mourner’s expression of grief and loss. Indeed, the reminiscences in this anthology generally give poignant testimony to Eisenberg’s portrayal of the women’s motivation to say Kaddish. These are not the Women of the Wall engaged in a public protest to challenge halakhic norms. These are simply heartbroken mourners using a time-honored and legitimate norm to confront and express their grief. This will no doubt come as a surprise to some people.

The anthology also gives the opportunity to hear of the pain some experienced when their motives were wrongly denigrated.

 Once, the tenth man in a Mincha minyan-a personal acquaintance of mine-walked out just as Kaddish was starting, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to say Kaddish as a result. My internal struggle to be kind and understanding vs. feeling angry and resentful was a serious challenge at times (217).

Once, I had a rather toxic experience, ironically at the school that I was running. When it came time for Kaddish at a Maariv minyan, after an evening event for families, I joined in. I heard murmurs and whispers from the men’s section and could feel eyes piercing through me. When I mustered up the courage, I looked up. Jaws were dropped. Some men left the room, asking whether this was a school for Reform Rabbis. I have never felt more humiliated as a member of the Orthodox community than during the time that I said Kaddish for my mother (141).

We were going to Atlantic City. I knew there was an Orthodox community near our hotel, and I called the rabbi to ask where I could find a minyan the next morning. He told me, “There is none.” I asked about the yeshiva high school and he said, “No.” I asked if he knew where I could go to say Kaddish, and he answered: “Why don’t you call the Conservative rabbi?” I’m sure if my husband had called him to find a minyan, he would have had no problem. I did call the Conservative rabbi, and he was so nice! He told me he would make a mechitza for me and have a minyan. I went the next morning and was relieved and honored that he went out of his way for me (112).

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