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When the United Nations Unites One Nation

Shake Em' Up

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    1218 views
  • September 29, 2009
  • |
  • 11 Tishrei 5770

Netanyahu showing Auschwitz blueprints during his UN address

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Class Summary:

When the United Nations Unites One Nation - Shake Em' Up

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein
In the loving and sacred memory of Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rivki Holtzberg
And all of the Kedoshim of Mumbai

Jews and decent people the world over swelled in appreciation when Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, finally spoke some words of truth in a house of lies.

The latest monstrous lie to find a nest in the United Nations was one presented by the despicable President of Iran denying the holocaust. Imagine: People who lost complete families in Auschwitz and Treblinka needed to sit on their couches and watch on CNN how the leader of a sovereign country declares that one-and-a-half million children were never gassed by the Germans.
What a travesty. What mockery of any sense of justice and humaneness.
“Last month,” Netanyahu told the UN on Thursday, October 24, “I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments. Here is a copy of those minutes in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews. Is this a lie?"
“A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler’s deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself. Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?”
This is the time to reflect on a simple but profound theme in the Sukkos holiday.
Four Personality Types
On the Jewish holiday of Sukkos, beginning this Friday, October 2, and continuing for the following week, Jews bring into their homes four species of fruits and plants: the citrus fruit (Esrog), the palm branch (lulav), the willow (aravah) and the myrtle branch (hadas). Each morning (except on Shabbat), they hold these four species close together, recite a blessing and give them a nice shake.
The origin of this tradition is in the Bible and dates back more than 3,300 years. "You shall take for yourselves on the first day [of the festival]," instructs the Torah, "the fruit of the splendid citron tree, the frond of a date-palm, the thickly leafed sprig of the myrtle, and willows that grow at a brook" (1).
What is the significance of this mitzvah? Why do we take these four species, and why do we need to shake them?
The Midrash (2) observes that these four kinds possess distinct characteristics. The citron has both a delicious taste and a delightful fragrance. The palm branch generates taste (dates) but no smell. The myrtle branch professes a delightful aroma but lacks any taste, while the willow is both scentless and tasteless.
On a symbolic level, we might suggest that these four species represent four general personality types. There are human beings who exude a beautiful aroma, who know how to give off a positive energy and express themselves eloquently, but once you "taste" them or get to know them on the inside, you may be disappointed. They are good for the show biz, not for authentic relationships.
Others may lack an "aroma." They have no skill for schmoozing up a crowd or bringing life to a party, but once you get to know them on the inside, you marvel at their delicious taste and flavor.
Others are blessed with both an outer aura and an inner depth, while others lack both fragrance and a taste.
On a deeper level, the Midrash suggests (2), the citron represents the individual who is both knowledgeable in Torah and spiritual wisdom (taste) and replete with good and noble deeds (aroma). The date palm personifies the learned but deed-deficient individual -- the scholar who devotes his life to the pursuit of wisdom (taste) but shuns the active sphere (aroma). The myrtle embodies the active but unlearned Jew. Finally, the willow represents the Jew who lacks all outward expression of his or her Jewishness.
When you look into your own spiritual mirror, you can identify whether you are a citron, a palm branch, a myrtle or a willow.
Integration
Ordinarily, these four categories remain distinct, each to their own. How can the "citron" Jew connect with the "willow" Jew? How can the myrtle tolerate the palm? Under usual circumstances, each of us remains fixed in our own comfort zones, spending time with people who think like we do, and live like we do. Why shake the boat and create inconvenience?
Yet on Sukkot, the Torah instructs us to bind the palm frond, myrtle, willow and citron and join them together to perform a single mitzvah. The four distinct and even contradicting categories of people must unite. But how? How can you take four opposite Jews and bring them together?
The Torah, aware of this challenge – perhaps the greatest one in Jewish life today - tells us that part of the mitzvah is to give the four species a nice big shake. To unite the four categories, the Torah is telling us, you need to "shake" them up!
The dramatic distinctions between all of the categories of Jews are significant as long as each feels complacent in his or her own existence. The moment we are shaken up, however, the layers of self-perception are peeled away and our authentic inner core comes to the fore. Then all categories of Jews discover who they really are and what they truly stand for. And it is then that we realize that we are truly ONE.
You can’t plan for such a moment, but when it comes, there is nothing more powerful than it, as it effects our deepest core.
One such moment famously occurred in Jewish life forty two years ago, during the 1967 Six Day War. The moment Jews perceived the danger of six powerful Arab countries pledging to annihilate Israel, all Jews -- even the most universally-minded Jews usually shunning any form of particularism -- experienced an atomic surge of Jewish consciousness, ready to put their lives on the line to protect our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. Even a Jew who a day earlier doubted if G-d was a reality, if Torah was true, and if we had a moral right to live in a land, which, according to Arabs had been stolen, that Jew suddenly knew in the deepest recesses of his heart that this was and is the Jewish homeland, eternally.
And then, in six days, came victory and with it an unprecedented Jewish awakening in Israel and around the world. Totally unexpected, the miraculous victory of the Six-Day War evoked an extraordinary spiritual awakening amongst people of all backgrounds. Religious and secular alike, believers and cynics, could not contain their tears when touching the stones of the newly reclaimed Western Wall. Regardless of their previous life choices, regardless of education or lack of education, people from all over the world suddenly felt a surge of connection, and were drawn to travel from the world over to touch the stones remaining from the ancient Holy Temple.
It was those experiences which contributed to the renaissance of Jewish life and awareness around the world which began then and continues until today. Youngsters who till that time felt completely alienated and apathetic to their heritage, suddenly experienced a yearning to reconnect with their roots, to discover ideals, values, and dreams that their people carried with them from Sinai to the 20th century.
Whence such a transformation? We can understand an arousal in the hearts of Jews who believed in the sanctity of the Western Wall. But how can we justify the warm tears streaming down the face of a secular Jewish atheist upon touching stones of an ancient wall?
The answer is that our cynicism, agnosticism, apathy, and loyalty to mondernity and all of its trends may run deep in our intellect, but it is not the essence of who we are. When the Jew is shaken to his or her very core, what emerges is a pure, undiluted, and absolute devotion to the Jewish people and to its G-d.
Today
The chutzpah and the lies coming from the United Nations -- giving a forum to a leader who denies the holocaust and vows to create a second holocaust (heaven forbid) – ought to shake us up, and allow us to experience our underlying unity with each other. This is no time for divisions and fragmentation. This is a period in history when we must stand united and empowered, with courage and resolve, to stand up against Jew-haters the world over.
As difficult it is to believe and as hard as it is to understand, their hatred is real and deep. But so is our unity with each other and our inner strength to confront them (3).
Footnotes:
1) Leviticus 23:40.
2) Midrash Rabah Vayikra 30:12.
3) This article is based on a talk delivered by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, 6 Tishrei 5728, October 10, 1967, a few months after the Six Day War.

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    Rabbi YY Jacobson
    • September 29, 2009
    • |
    • 11 Tishrei 5770
    • |
    • 1218 views
    • Comment

    Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein
    In the loving and sacred memory of Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rivki Holtzberg
    And all of the Kedoshim of Mumbai

    Class Summary:

    When the United Nations Unites One Nation - Shake Em' Up

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