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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

In the army now . . . and always

By Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein





South Africa's Chief Rabbi ponders the role of the fastidious faithful; their mission and ours

JewishWorldReview.com | Flags are a meaningful emblem. Every country has its flag and people look towards a flag for a sense of identity. The encampments of the Twelve Tribes discussed in this week's Torah reading, Naso, were marked by the flags representing them. The Midrash on last week's reading details exactly what each of the Twelve Tribes' flags looked like. The Midrash also tells us how they got these flags in the first place: When the Divine came down on Mount Sinai, the people saw a vision of hundreds of thousands of angels descending, all carrying flags. When the people saw the angels' flags, they wanted flags as well and so the Almighty gave them the tribal flags.

Why were the flags so important to them? What did they represent?

Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz of Mir, one of our great rabbinic thinkers of the 20th Century, explains that the angels carrying the flags appeared to the people as the Divine's royal guards, like a king's most important officers who carry out his requests. Those gathered at Sinai saw the angels' glory of being in the royal guard and desired a similar position.

As we know, we relate to the Divine both as our King and as our Father, as we entreat during certain prayers, Avinu Malkeinu, "our Father, our King." Obviously, the Divine is above all human categorization and is complex beyond anything we can imagine, but from a human perspective, we have two different ways of relating to Him --- as our Father and as a King.


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Rabbi Yerucham says that our relating to the Creator as King does not mean that we are lowly subjects who merely obey His decrees. Rather, we are his important officers, his personal ministers and soldiers. In human terms, a king — or any leader, for that matter — is an individual; and in order to get his work done and keep his country functioning, he needs ministers, councilors, officers and soldiers to assist him in his tasks. So, too, the Divine has set up the world in such a way that He does not do everything required to run society on His own, but calls upon us to carry out these tasks and ensure that the world run the way it should. He "needs" us, so to speak. He could have set up the world in such a way that He would manage everything by Himself. But He purposely didn't because he wants our involvement. Flags represent the kind of relationship with the Almighty whereby He is our King and we are not only His subjects but His officers and soldiers who help Him do His work.

For example, take the mitzvah -- religious duty -- of chesed, loving kindness. The Almighty has set up the world in such a way that the world doesn't take care of itself. If there is a person who is sick, we have to go and visit him or her. Although G0d is close to every person and, as the Talmud says, His presence is particularly felt near the sick, in practical terms, we have to perform the mitzvah of visiting the sick, bikkur cholim, on His behalf.

Similarly, if someone passes away, who is going to prepare the body for burial? Who is going to ensure that there is a dignified funeral? The Divine delegated these tasks to us. He "needs" us, so to speak, to comfort the mourners, bury the dead, help the poor. Who is going to give the poor the money they need? Or the care and concern to the person in distress? Who is going to perform the great mitzvah of hachnasas kallah, of helping a destitute bride and a groom get married? Another task which is also very important to the Divine is that Torah be learned and taught. Who is going to do that if not us? Who will build Jewish schools and support Torah education? We have to. As the Divine's officers, ministers and councilors, we have been appointed to ensure that His work in the world get done.

Rabbi Yerucham explains, based on a verse that says "Give strength to G0d," that we give strength to the Almighty, so to speak. Once again we are using human terminology to better understand the Lord even though He is unknowable. The Creator could have set up the world in such a way that He wouldn't need us. But He set it up in such a way that we join Him in His work. We are not lowly subjects being given instructions which we must fulfill obediently. Rather, He wants us as part of His team.

The flags represent the fact that we are the royal guards, the royal entourage accompanying the King, the officers and councilors who do His work. When those at Sinai saw the angels carrying the flags in that prophetic vision, they saw the glory of what it means to be an appointee of the King, and that's why they wanted the flags, and so the Divine gave them their flags. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, he planted an American flag. When mountaineers get to the top of a mountain, they put up a flag. The flags in the desert represented our pride in being appointed to serve the Divine.

SAFEGUARDING THE SACRED
It goes one step further. In the encampments described earlier, the Mishkan, the Sanctuary, was in the centre of our ancient forebears encampment, with the Levites and the priests surrounding it, and then the Twelve Tribes surrounded them. This structure has a military feel to it, with everyone in strict formation in accordance with his tribe's particular flag. Yet it all revolved around the Mishkan at the centre, representing their defense of holiness and goodness in the world. They surrounded the Mishkan, guarding and defending that which is sacred.

This is part of the holy task of being the Divine's officers, ministers and soldiers. Interestingly, once the Temple was built, the Levites and the Kohanim actually had guard duty in shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They guarded all the entrances so that the Temple was never left alone. The Nachmanides, Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman, explains on last week's Torah reading that a king cannot have his palace left unguarded, and so the Levites served as the guardians of the King's palace. The Sefer HaChinuch (published anonymously in 13th century Spain ) explains that the reason the Levites stood guard wasn't just for the Temple's security, but rather it was to show the honor and grandeur of the Divine's palace.

Rabbi Yerucham says in addition to the honor and glory, the guard duty was about defending the Divine's values. Our task in performing the Divine's work is not only about fulfilling His duties but also about defending that which is sacred and important. Defending the Torah's eternal, holy values requires a lot of effort and energy because the Torah is oftentimes under attack. Sometimes the Torah is subject to attack from external forces, like Amalek, the archenemy of the Jewish people, who represents the evil forces of the world and against whom, says the Torah, there will be a battle for all generations. Sometimes the Torah is under attack from internal forces, as people battle against their evil inclination. This, too, is part of our role in being the royal guards of the Divine. We have to give honor to the Almighty and his Torah, and also be willing to defend the holy values which He has given to us and protect them from people who wish to undermine them.

OUR PRIDE AND SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT
Flags represent our pride in being the Divine's officials, as well as our willingness to defend His principles. But they are also a sign of victory and achievement, an assertion that we belong to something greater than ourselves. We are not lowly subjects who simply obey His instructions. Rather, we are His proud officers and soldiers. We have a sense of pride in knowing that the Divine has faith in each of us and has therefore appointed us to do His holy work in the world. The Lord asserted this when He gave us the Torah. He said, "and you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." In the same way the Kohanim served in the Temple and taught the people, so too, in a broader sense, the entire Jewish people are charged with being a kingdom of priests, serving the Divine throughout the world, and making a difference.

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The author is the Chief Rabbi of South Africa and the author of "Defending the Human Spirit: Jewish Law's Vision for a Moral Society," which explores the Torah's legal system compared to Western law. In using real court cases he demonstrate the similarities and differences between Judaism's view of defending the vulnerable and Western legal practice.


Previously:


Living with ideals --- in reality

Expansion Of Spirit
Laughter And Destiny
Truth Stands the Test of Time







© 2012, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein