Author: Yossi Belz

A Child’s Cry

Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov lived from 1700 to 1760 and was the founder of Hassidut. He was one of the greatest mystics known in the history of Judaism. Very few documents written by him still exist but many stories and teachings are being passed down until the present day.  The following is a parable of Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov on the Shofar, the Jewish horn used primarily on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), which is meant to rouse the people into leaving their sinful ways and return to G-d. There was a King in a far-off country who had an only son who was immensely precious to him. The King wanted his son to acquire an appreciation of different cultures and to expand his knowledge. Therefore, the King sent his dear son off, equipped with silver, gold and precious treasures to a distant country. After a few years the money ran out and the son was left penniless. His distress knew no bounds and he wished more than anything to return to his father’s country and indeed, after a strained journey, succeeded in arriving at the gate of the courtyard of his father’s palace. To his horror, he realized as he stood at the gate, that he had been away for so long that he had forgotten the language spoken in his father’s kingdom. The guards...

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The story of a kippah, a chaplain and a president

The kippah is the head-covering worn by Jewish males. The source for the kippah is the Talmud where it is stated that a G-d fearing man doesn’t walk bare-headed. The wearing of a kippah started as a custom and has become a very strong one in religious communities. This is due to the fact that wearing a Kippah is viewed by religious people as an opportunity to sanctify G-d’s name. Kippot (plural of Kippah) come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Jewish people often identify the stream of Judaism that a people affiliates with by the head covering he wears although this was certainly not the reason for Kippot. It is interesting to note the changing attitude in American secular law towar ds the Jewish head covering In 1986 it was decided that any active military member was obligated to remove his Kippah indoors. The response of the Congress was to propose an amendment called the Religious Apparel Amendment.  The Amendment stated that religious head coverings could be worn as long as they were “neat and conservative”, barring extreme circumstances. The Religious Apparel Amendment wasn’t passed for two years. In 1983 the Jewish Navy Chaplain Arnold Resnicoff succeeded in portraying the Kippah in a positive light. During the Lebanese Civil War two truck bombs exploded in separate buildings which housed American and French military forces killing 299 American and...

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Shofar- A modern symbol of liberation

The year is 1967. There were confident predictions in the fledgling State of Israel that Nasser, the President of Egypt wouldn’t dare start with Israel after his defeat in 1956. Relations between Egypt and Jordan weren’t good, a coalition didn’t seem viable and this too led to a feeling of security. However, Syria lost thirteen planes in a clash in the air and as result Russia, who is an ally of Syria, prodded Nasser to send troops to Sinai. Nasser did so, as well as demanding the withdrawal of the UN and closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping on the twenty-third of May. He then proceeded to taunt Yitzchak Rabin, Israel’s Chief of Staff at the time saying, “Let him come. I’m waiting.” Nasser succeeded in coordinating with Syria, leading to King Hussein placing his forces under Egyptian control. Israel waited tensely for three agonizing weeks. Israel seemed alone. The Big Powers did nothing to reopen the Straits. Israel decided to go it alone. Despite Nasser’s taunts, Egypt was not ready for Israel when it surprised Egypt on the fifth of June 1967 with an attack of their air force. In the shockingly short time span of six days, Israel succeeded in overrunning the entire Sinai peninsula and captured the west bank of the River Jordan. A considerable part of the Golan Heights was also captured in...

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Wearing Tefillin

Our personalities are made up of three layers- the intellect, emotion and action. These layers correspond to what we think, feel and do. Intellect includes my opinions on issues, my philosophies on life and my attitude towards myself and others. Emotion translates as my moods, desires, passions. Emotion is the things I love, hate, fear and what attracts me. Action refers to activities I do, how I live my life and spend my time. In an ideal situation these three layers should be in synch. My intellect should direct my emotion which in turn should guide my actions. In other words, my opinions, philosophies and attitudes should direct my passions and desires which in turn should guide the activities I do, how I live my life and spend my time. However, this is too often not the situation. Sometimes I know I should do something yet it still doesn’t feel right. Sometimes I feel like doing something yet still don’t end up doing it. I know I shouldn’t lie to cover up my actions, feel bad doing so yet still do it. I know I’m in a detrimental relationship yet am too scared to leave. I know I shouldn’t go along with what they’re saying but I am not brave enough to make a stand. This is one of life’s biggest challenges. The ability to tune into oneself to...

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The Power of the Mezuzah

The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote an open letter to the Jewish women and girls of the world on Rosh Chodesh Elul in the year 1976. His letter was written in response to Operation Entebbe which was a hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Israeli army at Entebbe Airport, Uganda. This was a week after an Air France plane was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and flown to Entebbe. On landing, all non-Jewish passengers were free to go. The Israelis succeeded in saving 103 hostages. Tragically four hostages, five Israeli commandos and an Israeli commander lost their lives during the operation. The Rebbe viewed the operation as proof that Jews worldwide must strengthen their security, both spiritual and physical. The Rebbe explained that every Jewish house needed the best possible security system available.  Who else provides this apart from the Almighty? G-d promised us that He will dwell among us. The Rebbe explained that fulfillment of  the commandment to affix a Mezuzah to the doorways in one’s house will protect those dwelling there. The Mezuzah doesn’t only  protect the house’s inhabitants when they are within its four walls. It also protects them when they venture out into the world. As we are assured in Psalms, “ה’ ישמור צאתך ובואך מעתה ועד עולם”, “G-d will guard your going and coming from now and forever”. Furthermore, the three Hebrew letters on the back of...

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