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Switch to Forum Live View The Heart of Jewish Life - Israel
3 months ago  ::  Aug 17, 2014 - 8:13AM #261
NahumS
Posts: 1,769

The impressions of the fighting in Gaza are still with us, and are often reinforced as we speak with the soldiers who fought there. 


Yesterday we had a "meal of thanks" in our neighborhood (not much of a meal, mostly small cakes, watermelon and soft drinks - but a great deal of gratitude) for the accomplishments of the IDF in Gaza and for the safe return of every one of the 40 or so soldiers from our neighborhood. It was held outside, and hundreds of people from the neighborhood came. Someone had made a huge sign and hung it on one of a fence: "Thank God for He is good- His lovingkindness is eternal!" Some psalms were recited, and our rabbi spoke, and a very moving rendition of "Nishmat Kol Hai" (The soul of all that breathe bless you) was recited. Bust most of all, we were all together and our soldiers and sons were home. One young man was engaged on Friday, and people were happy to wish him Mazal Tov.


Another young man who had been in Gaza got married last week - another mazal tov. The previous Shabbat I attended his 'sheva brachot" (7 blessings - the traditional week of feasting for a bride and groom). The young man described where he was two weeks before for the third Sabbath meal - on the roof of his tank in Gaza with another soldier. They had been munching on some pretzels and decided to sing the 23 Psalm, customarily recited at the third Sabbath meal:


 1 A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.


Here are some of his remarks as I remember them:
There were neither green pastures or still waters on the outskirts of Gaza, but there were paths of righteousness - the righteousness of defending our people, our homes and families. There was a sense of God's presence - even in the shadow of death. And here we were, in the presence of enemies, at a "table" on top of a tank, eating a symbolic Sabbath meal and hoping for goodness, mercy and redemption.


I saw an interview on TV with "Officer Eitan" - a soldier who had risked his life by running into a tunnel to look for his friend and soldier. In the end, he only found evidence that the soldier was no longer alive. The young man insited he was no hero - just a soldier doing his duty. Before he returned home from the front, he visited the family of the soldier he had tried to save. They were sitting shiva, based on the ruling of the army rabbinate that their son was dead. It was a a very emotional meeting, and "Officer Eitan" returned their son's tefillin and prayerbook to them. The dead soldier had a twin brother - and when he and "Officer Eitan"  hugged each other, tears came to their eyes - and I think most of the viewers joined them. In the course of the interview he came across as very brave, determined, devout, modest, sensitive and gentle. 


This describes many, many of our soldiers - and I am convinced that the strength of their spirit is what made the many accomplishments of this war possible. 






 

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2 months ago  ::  Sep 23, 2014 - 3:32AM #262
NahumS
Posts: 1,769

One year is ending and another beginning. I think of the piyut (liturgical poem) that Sefradim recite on the eve of Rosh HaShana -"May this year and its curses end - and may next year begin with its blessings."


We've gone through a tough year here - especially the summer. Someone asked me how the summer was - and I answered "We really didn't have a summer - it was just hot." Summer means vacation, relaxing, maybe going to the beach or the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), eating watermelon and just having a good time. With the exception of the watermelon, we didn't have any of those things - and the watermelon season seemed shorter than usual. Maybe the war got in the way of the harvest.


But a new year is almost here - and we hope that it will bring peace and blessings.


This coming year is the sabbatical year - Shemittah. According to the Torah, the ground must lie fallow and only very limited agricultural work is permitted. I've been preparing our garden as well as I can - we put in new sod and have a small lawn now, and everything is trimmed and fertilized. I planted flowers that I hope will last the year, and it looks (with the exception of a few sad-looking patches in the new lawn) very nice. I've been reassured that the dead-looking patches will rejuvenate, and they have to an extent.


The issues facing consumers and farmers are really complex - and I don't know if it interests anyone who doesn't live here. Suffice it to say that every Shemittah the issues come up again and the solutions are only partial - but everyone eats plenty of vegetables nonetheless.


The Wikipedia article seems to sum it up pretty well - and if you have any questions, I'll try to answer:
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmita


So Shana Tova to everyone - Rosh HaShana is an international festival, marking Creation and God's judgement and kingship - so it applies to all mankind. May 5775 be a peaceful, healthy and blessed year that brings only good things to our entire world.

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2 months ago  ::  Oct 07, 2014 - 2:59AM #263
NahumS
Posts: 1,769

The new year has begun, and it is a Sabbatical year - Shemittah. 


This year provides us with the opportunity to learn a number of important spiritual and social lessons. First and perhaps most obviously, that there is a God in the world who created it and us, and can command us to give the land a rest- similar to Shabbat. Treating the land's produce as ownerless teaches us generosity as well as the ability to relinquish "our" fruits in favor of others. What the land produces belongs to everyone - and is for our nourishment, and not for making a profit. Leaving the land rest also allows the farmer to rest- and take a "sabbatical" to study Torah, preventing him from becoming a slave to the land. 


Of course, this is the ideal, and is not completely practical today. For various reasons, among them the importance of Jewish agriculture in the Land of Israel, various ways of permitting agricultural work were found by Halachic authorities, allowing many farmers and the consumer to proceed "as usual" during the Shemittah year. But we can try to incorporate the spiritual and social lessons of Shemittah into our lives, and look forward to the day when we can observe these laws more completely.


We have a small ornamental garden in front of our house. I worked hard before RH to make sure it was in decent shape and that the automatic irrigation is in working order and that it was pruned and fertilized. I planted perennials in the empty patches, and it looks quite nice. Maintanence work, in most cases, is permissible, so we will continue to water and trim it, but refrain from turning over the soil, planting and pruning. Whatever fruit it produces starting next spring (the fruits that are already growing are considered the previous year's produce) is considered "holy" - it may be eaten but cannot be thrown in the garbage as long as it is edible, and cannot be harvested and stored, but must be shared with others, as if it were ownerless. If we had vegetables growing, they would already be considered "holy". I considered putting in some tomatoes and cucumbers before RH, but there isn't much room. Some of the flowers that I planted for the winter and spring are already sprouting, even though I planted them a month or so too early.I should probably take "before" pictures - since the garden is likely to look a bit neglected before the Shemittah year ends next Rosh HaShana! 


And it is almost Sukkot! This is really the most beautiful holiday in Israel - people build beautiful Sukkot on their balconies and in their yards, anad there are markets everywhere now for palm brances, the preferred material for Schach - the Sukkah's covering, decorations and of course, Lulav and Etrog. I bought for myself and my sons, and we just have to finish putting up our Sukkah - which, G-d willing, will be especially beautiful this year. I may even make paper chains if I have time! I found pomegranates in the supermarket with their stems intact -and these will look amazing hanging in the Sukkah, along with assorted bells, birds and lanterns my daughter just brought back from a trip to India, besides the decorations we hang up every year. 


So a joyous Sukkot to all. Wherever you visit a Sukkah, I hope that you feel a little bit of the atmosphere of Eretz Yisrael!

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1 month ago  ::  Oct 15, 2014 - 3:43AM #264
NahumS
Posts: 1,769

Sukkot is one of the most beautiful holidays here in Israel - the celebration spills over into the public domain, with Sukkot gracing not only private homes (and visable on balconies that face the street) but in public spaces as well.


My friend Jacob Richman posted some pictures of Sukkot in Jerusalem:
www.history-of-israel.co.il/jerusalem/20...


And here's a few shots of our Sukkah:


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1 month ago  ::  Oct 15, 2014 - 3:44AM #265
NahumS
Posts: 1,769

And one more:

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