Posts Tagged With: Prayer

Holy Sites and Violence: A War of Symbols

For the last two weeks the Temple Mount, churches, and several key graves in Israel and the West Bank have been the focus of tension, fears, and minor violence.

The Temple Mount

For the lat few weeks, the Al Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage, the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade and Muslim leaders such as Ekrema Sabri, have been beating the drums, expressing fears that Jews will desecrate or take over the Temple Mount.

Muslim fears aren’t coming out of thin air. Two weeks ago around the time of Moshe Feiglin’s usual monthly attempt to enter the temple mount, unknown parties distributed flyers in the Old City calling on people “to purify the temple mount from the enemies of Israel”. Feiglin denied any involvement in the pamphlets, but the timing of the pamphlets aggravated an already tense situation. Then Monday night this week, a home with right wing extremist documents discussing the Temple Mount were discovered in a home in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The police have worked with officials on the Temple Mount to prevent riots and personal injury, but their actions have been criticized on both the Arab and the Jewish side. On Sunday, Feb 12, the temple mount was closed to Jews. This sparked outrage by certain religious Jews and prompted the Zionist Organization of Amrica (ZOA) to send a letter to the Israeli government on Monday, Feb 13. Continue reading

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Extremism | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Neshama Carlebach: B’shem HaShem

While some are trying to hide women behind mechitzas, blur their pictures, and consign them to singing where only other women can hear, Shlomo Carlebach encouraged his daughter to sing even as a little girl of five. At fifteen she began performing with her father. Aware that some of his followers did not believe in listening to women, he would give fair warning. Recalling their last tour before his death, daughter Neshama says, “He would say if anyone has a problem with that, go out for five minutes and then come back,”.

After her father’s death she began singing out of grief and to comfort those who had followed her father. Eventually she found that the singing was her own mission too. She writes on her website:

My father always said that when we sing, it’s like we’re praying twice. When I am on stage I experience prayer in the deepest sense. In this crazy world, sadly enough, people often are too afraid to feel. We too terrified to open our souls to our deepest prayers, yet so broken at all we are missing inside. Somehow, when we don’t have the words to express all that we need, music says it for us. Music can somehow break our hearts and allow us to feel so whole all at the same time. This miracle is what I feel when I sing.

Neshama Carlebach sings a few concerts before women only audiences because some women feel more comfortable in all female audiences. However, most of her concerts are to mixed audiences. This has created controversy in certain orthodox circles (example), but she says she is comfortable with her decision to sing before mixed audiences. She told Ynet in 2006:

My father never told me not to sing for men. I’ll tell you exactly what he said. He said that if we lived in a time when every Jewish woman was lighting Shabbat candles and every Jewish woman felt that she had a voice to talk to G-d then women wouldn’t have to sing. But as long as there is even one woman in the world who feels disconnected and far from G-d, she thinks that she is limited and she thinks that she doesn’t have the same rights, the same opportunities, then, he said, my daughter has to sing. And he said this to me even before I thought this would be my career. I didn’t think what I was doing was so important, but then after my father died it became a part of my heart.

The song below, B’Shem HaShem was the song she sang on that last tour. According to lore, Shlomo Carlebach originally composed it as a lullaby for one of his daughters when she was young.

בשם השם אלוהי ישראל
מימיני מיכאל ומשמאלי גבריאל
ומלפני אוריאל ומאחורי רפאל
ועל ראשי, ועל ראשי, שכינת האל.

In the name of HaShem, God of Israel
Who is on the right of Michael and on the left of Gabriel
Who is in front of Uriel and behind Refael
And over my head, over my head, there’s the shechinah (presence) of God

Categories: To Be a Jew | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Avinu SheBashamayim: A Lyric Prayer for Peace

May this be a country of peace, with peace for all who live here, whether citizen or guest: whether Jew, Christian, Mulim, or Druze; whether European, African, Arab, or Asian.

Our Father our father who is in heaven
Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel;
Bless the State of Israel, with its promise of redemption.
Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace.

Our Father our father who is in heaven
Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel;
Send your light and your truth
To its leaders, its ministers, its advisors,
Establish them with good council before you.

Our Father our father who is in heaven
Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel;
Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land.
Deliver them; crown them with salvation and victory.
Bless the land with peace, and everyone who lives there with lasting joy.

And let us say: Amen.
As sung by the IDF Chief Cantor.

Categories: Building a Just Israel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Watching Birds at the Kotel

by Jonah Rank, cross-posted with permission from Jonah Rank on WordPress

Editor’s note: Women of the Wall (נשות הכותל ) is an international group of Jewish women who are working to grant women the right to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, Israel. Each month on Rosh Hodesh they gather early in the morning to pray at the Kotel.

"White Birds", by Ayelet

The Scene

Men praying in the Men’s section specifically with Women of the Wall were few. I only counted one friend of mine and myself.

It was a cold, windy morning with a slight drizzle. This means the weather wasn’t clear enough for the reappearance of the guy who shouted some angry polemics at me last month. Nobody bothered to substitute for him.

I stood fairly close to the mechitzah (partition) that divides the men from the women. I was able to hear the women’s voices just clearly enough to sing along from my side of the Wall.

No one stopped me. I was permitted by all.

Today was the first time I’ve prayed with Women of the Wall without talking to a single police officer or curious onlooker. I felt a greater sense of freedom today than I have ever felt at the Wall.

The Birds

Amidst this quietude and liberty, my friend Sam pointed out to me a whole collective of birds watching over us as we prayed.

Contemplating those birds seated at the top of the Wall before us, my mind immediately turned to all those birds intermittently referenced in the Psalm for Rosh Chodesh (Psalm 104): “Alongside them, the birds of the sky dwell, and amidst the foliage, they give voice;” (verse 12), “thereupon birds nest, and, for the stork, the cypresses are her home” (verse 17).

The Psalm for Rosh Chodesh envelopes the worshiper with flora and fauna from all over the natural world as the human choir joins a choir of birds.

The Dream

Reflecting on the chirping birds above and the officers presiding almost invisibly in the back, I find increasingly profound inspiration in Sam’s musing.

Today, I felt my actions were carefully watched by neither police officers nor other men. I was just there. Praying. With birds.

If anyone other than the Divine needs to watch me in my prayer, and if I need to be aware of their presence, I hope that they won’t always be police officers.

Today was quiet enough to give me hope that maybe one day we won’t need policing at the Wall. Maybe we won’t need to fear there that one Jew will hurt another because of our differences. Maybe the only ones who will come to watch us at the Kotel will be birds.

It might be a Messianic dream, but I don’t think we’re too far away.

After all, wouldn’t that be a real Rosh Chodesh?

Jonah Rank is a musician and a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary currently studying at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. His writing appears on his personal website, Oholiav: A Community for Viewing Arts & Entertainment Through a Jewish Lens (which Jonah co-founded), and elsewhere.

Categories: Moments of Hope | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Praying for Contemporary Captives

By Avi Shafran, cross-posted from Cross-Currents with permission.

It was over a decade ago, in the wake of a spate of terrible terrorist attacks on Jews in Eretz Yisrael, that the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah called upon Jews to recite chapters of Tehillim (they suggested chapters 83, 130, and 142) in shul after davening, followed by the short prayer “Acheinu”, a supplication to G-d to show mercy to His people. Many shuls, to their great credit, to this day still dutifully seize that special merit at the end of their services. None of us can know what dangers that collective credit may have averted, may be averting still.

It occurred to me, though, that recent events might well inspire us—not only those of us Jews who look to the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah for guidance, but all good-hearted Jews, charedi, “modern Orthodox,” non-Orthodox, “traditional,” and secular-minded alike—to consider reciting the holy words with special concentration, and the short prayer with an additional, somewhat different, intent.

For we have witnessed of late… Continue reading

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What was Eli Yishai thinking?

by Uri Regev
Cross-posted from Hiddush

Eli Yishai’s recent comparison of the Six Day War and the Second Lebanon War were not only offensive, they were just plain incorrect.


And we thought we had heard it all. To explain the difference between the victorious Six Day War and the obstacle-ridden Second Lebanon War, Interior Minister Eli Yishai was recorded saying the Israel Defence Forces succeeded in the Six Day War because “Each and every Jew that went to battle looked up to the Creator” whereas in Lebanon, soldiers said “It is my own might and power” Yishai continued on to say “This is a great lesson. When all Arab states are against the Jewish people, what will save the Jewish people is those who study of Torah, who bring the masses back to the religious fold, and repentance.”

This horrific incident represents the darker side of the unholy alliance between religion and state in Israel. Under normal circumstances, someone like Eli Yishai would not serve in a government cabinet position, and his party would not be a welcome partner in the governmental coalition. His anti-historical account would call into question his capacity to act intelligently as a high ranking government official. Unfortunately, the nature of Israeli politics has made it not only possible, but in the minds of many, seen to be as natural as the elements.

After understandable fury from political circles, bereaved parents and civil society organizations, Yishai publicly “apologized” saying he regrets having hurt the bereaved parents which was not his intention.

His apology makes his earlier comments even more egregious. He attempts to find refuge in the standard line uttered by politicians when they are caught in an embarrassing situation: “My comments were distorted and taken out of context” Yishai responded. Tell me, Minister Yishai, what exactly about your quote was taken out of context? Out of context or not, Yishai’s comments are ahistorical and hypocritical. Yishai has not retracted these key statements, leaving us to assume he still believes in their truth.

If Yishai were to look into the actual history of the wars, he would realize that a vast majority of the soliders in the Six Day War were recruits from secular Zionist backgrounds; there was only one religious high ranking officer, Col. Shmuel Gonen. Gonen had previously studied full time in yeshiva, but contrary to the policies supported by Yishai’s own party, left his studies to take part in the army. In contrast, the Second Lebanon War was largely staffed by national religious soldiers because of changing demographics in Israeli Jewish society. Following Yishai’s logic, this would indicate, in fact, that the more religious soldiers, the less successful the war effort will be.

Eli Yishai: This is a great lesson. When all Arab states are against the Jewish people, what will save the Jewish people is those who study of Torah, who bring the masses back to the religious fold, and repentance.

While fully appreciating the potential efficacy of faith and prayer, it is another matter altogether to distort the facts to fit your religious purpose, claiming knowledge of Divine conduct in the outcome of wars without any humility. Had Yishai said “Faith and prayer strengthen Israel and its ability to meet external threats”, very few would have faulted him. His ridiculous characterization of the Six Day War as if the prayers of soldiers were the secret to Israel’s victory, and his debasement of the memory of fallen soldiers in the Lebanon War are insulting to both the army and the country. It tells more about Yishai’s own twisted sense of history, manipulative character and fundamentalist faith than it does about any rational evaluation of these historic events.

Either Yishai believes what he said, in which case, his perception of reality is suspect, or he does not believe what he said, in which case, he is a manipulative liar. In either case, he is unfit to serve.

One such soldier who fought in the Lebanon War spoke on the radio saying “Yishai is wrong. We prayed! We prayed so much! We prayed for more soldiers and more equipment.” This soldier voices his deep-seated disappointment that Yishai’s own party, Shas, is responsible for the military exemptions of some 60,000 yeshiva students who dodge mandatory army service and leave the yoke of defending the country to the “less faithful”. Hiddush’s own in depth public opinion polling demonstrates that the vast majority of Israelis stand with this soldier, preferring that the huge amounts of public money that fund Yishai’s yeshivas be put toward a more constructive use. Another such soldier remarked “The problem’s not the fighters that don’t pray; it’s the prayers that don’t fight.”

If Yishai really believes his own words, let him free these yeshivas from reliance on state coffers and try things his way, receiving modern day manna to fulfill their needs. As for Israel’s security, it’s a good thing Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defence Minister Barak are not heeding his words, replacing the army with full time prayer and Torah study.

On the other hand, maybe we should all hope he’s right; if ultra-Orthodox yeshivas and army exemptions are allowed to grow at the current rate, it’s prayer we’ll have to rely on anyways.

Uri Regev is the President of Hiddush

Categories: Building a Just Israel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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