Thursday, October 22, 2015

Once upon a time, in Bnei Brak …

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Once upon a time, there were two brothers.

Except they weren't really brothers, were they?

No, they were half brothers.

And one hated Judaism.

Yes, he did. 

So much.  So, so much.

Well, okay, don't get me wrong.  He was proud to be a Jew.

But he hated... Judaism.

Kind of, yeah.

And the other brother?

Half-brother.

Yes, him.

He came to Israel.  He lived it.  It's a simple story, really.

Is it?

Yes.  He came to Israel after the war, he had three children here, they had children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, without end.  Ayn sof.

And the other brother?

Half.

Yup.  Where did he go?

Canada.

Did he have children?

Oh, yes.  Actually, he also had three.

Did they have children?

Yes, seven of them.  He had seven grandchildren.  Five great-grandchildren.

Are they Jewish?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Star (and Dust) Trek: Thoughts for Parshas Lech Lecha

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In this week's parsha, Lech Lecha, Hashem says he'll make Avram's descendents like stars.  We often crow about this – “We're so great,” we say.  “We're just like stars.” 

And no wonder.  We get off to a roaring start this week.  You’ll forgive me if I’m thinking about outer space – I just saw the movie The Martian last night, and I think stars are totally awesome right now.

But so – obviously – does Hashem.

Yet that isn’t the most mindblowing thing about this week’s parsha.  It opens with the most promising beginning, of any story ever told.  Hollywood has nothing on this.

Listen to this:  Hashem takes a homeless guy.  Literally.  He’s just been evicted, because he refused to follow the local religion in Ur-Kasdim, where he grew up.  He’s not a young guy, either.  He’s very, very old, and so’s his wife.  They have no children.

So Hashem takes this homeless, barren man and makes the two biggest promises of history.  “You’re going to have a land; not just any land, but the best land ever, the centre of the universe.  Oh, and you’re going to have children – lots and lots of children.”

Really makes you sit up and listen, doesn’t it?

So listen to this, too, while I’ve got you here:  Hashem also says he'll make Avram's descendents like the dust of the earth.  Um, okay.  Now that’s a bit of a comedown.  Who wants to be like dust?  That's totally not worth much.

But here's the thing the Baal Shem Tov taught us about stars: