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24 November, 201124 November, 2011 0 comments Uncategorized Uncategorized

My curious Christian friends always ask me whether I, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, celebrate Thanksgiving. The mere question reminds me that we still have much to learn about each other, because the answer is obvious once you really understand what Thanksgiving is all about.


Every Kindergartner knows the story of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower who landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and gave thanks for their success and accomplishments. What most people don't know, however, was just how unique those Pilgrims were.


Unlike any other group before them, the Pilgrims were fleeing from religious oppression in Europe and looked to the Bible for inspiration. They saw themselves as the chosen people fleeing from a brutal King (James I), who they referred to as Pharaoh, casting off the yolk of bondage and oppression. They referred to their voyage on the Mayflower as passing through the Red Sea into the wilderness. For inspiration, they looked to Exodus and even studied Hebrew in order to read it in the original. When they arrived in what they referred to as the "Promised Land", they offered thanks and prayer to God, like the biblical Feast of Tabernacles.


No other group in history had ever felt that they were reenacting and fulfilling the Bible like America's first settlers. For centuries, European explorers had set sail for new lands without referring to the Bible, seeing themselves as God's chosen people or lookin

23 November, 201123 November, 2011 0 comments Uncategorized Uncategorized

I met an elderly Christian lady in Atlanta recently whose words have been continuously reverberating in my head. The frail but feisty lady had a cast on her arm and so I told her I hoped she feels better soon and may God bless her. Without missing a beat, "I'm already blessed," she replied, "God blesses me because I bless Israel." The church where I met her, on a busy Atlanta street, not only proudly displays eight Israeli flags on their front lawn, but a banner broadcasting Genesis (12:3) which for many Christian Zionists is their main mantra, and for many Jews, is known as the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Parshat Lech Lecha.


God's famous first words to Abraham command him to seek out the Promised Land, "Go from your land, your father's home and your birthplace to the land that I will show you." God continues by offering a guarantee that, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you." Millions of Christians take those words seriously and literally, doing everything they can to "bless" the State of Israel and the Jewish people in order to reap His reward and benefit from His blessing. It is with the Divine promise to Abraham in mind that Pastor John Hagee distributed over $6 million to Jewish causes in Israel at his 30th annual Night to Honor Israel at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas recently. Jewish organizations from across the spectrum gratefully accepted this genuine act of kindness from the Kolel C

12 October, 201112 October, 2011 0 comments Uncategorized Uncategorized

Having just made "aliyah" this past summer, my family and I are looking forward to celebrating our first of the three major festivals as residents of Israel. There are too many differences between the way Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) is celebrated in Israel and back home in Ohio to even count. Driving throughout Columbus you might see a succah or two, but in Israel, on nearly every balcony sits a little booth, bringing to life Leviticus (23:42), "all Jewish residents shall dwell in booths for seven days."

Compared to the other two biblical festivals of Passover and Shavuot (Pentacost), Sukkot is unique according to Jewish tradition. The first two are considered particularistic holidays while Sukkot has a universal character. Passover celebrates the exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation. Shavuot commemorates God's giving the Torah to Moses and the acceptance of all the commandments by the Jewish people. Sukkot, however, is different. Built into the DNA of the day, Sukkot is the most universal of the Jewish holidays and is meant to be celebrated by Jew and Gentile alike.

When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, 70 animal sacrifices were offered on behalf of all 70 nations of the world during Sukkot. This concern for the welfare of all of mankind has its origins in King Solomon's inaugural prayer upon the dedication of the First Temple. According to I Kings (8:43), Solomon prayed, "May You hear from Heaven and act according to a

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