“Pray as if everything depends on God, but act as if everything depends on you.”  Rabbi Heschel

It happened in 1888. Nobel, the man who invented dynamite, was reading his morning papers when, with a shock, he found himself reading his own obituary.  It turned out that a journalist had made a simple mistake.  It was Nobel’s brother who had died, and the paper just got it wrong.  What horrified Nobel was what he read.  It spoke about the dynamite king who’d made a fortune from explosives.

Nobel suddenly realized that if he didn’t change his life that was all he’d be remembered for.  That was when he decided to dedicate his fortune to creating five annual prizes for those who’d made outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.  Nobel chose to be remembered for peace.

There’s a beautiful law in Judaism, and it applies to a day like today, Friday.  On the Friday of Hanukkah we light two kinds of lights, for the festival and for the Sabbath, both of which begin at nightfall.  What if we only have one candle?  Do we light it as a Hanukkah light or a Sabbath light?  It can’t be both.

The answer is: we light it as a Sabbath light, because the Sabbath light symbolizes peace in the home.  And in Judaism, even the smallest fragment of peace takes precedence over even the greatest victory in war. Like Alfred Nobel, Jews prefer to be remembered for peace.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City


…”Hanukkah is the festival on which Jews celebrate their victory in the fight for religious freedom more than two thousand years ago. Tragically that fight is no less important today, and not only for Jews, but for people of all faiths”…

Optimism to Hope p. 96
“You can see religion as a battle, a holy war, in which you win a victory for your faith by force or fear. Or you can see it as a candle you light to drive away some of the darkness of the world”…

A new Chanukah miracle! Good wins over evil!

Sometimes ancient rituals can radiate contemporary significance. That’s the case this year with Hanukkah, the Jewish festival that we began last night.

The everlasting light that no power on earth can extinguish.

Optimism to Hope p. 94
“Hanukkah is about the freedom to be true to what we believe without denying the freedom of those who believe otherwise. It’s about lighting our candle, while not being threatened by or threatening anyone else’s candle.”

…”The symbol of Hanukkah is the menorah we light for eight days in memory of the Temple candelabrum, purified and rededicated by the Maccabees all those centuries ago. Faith is like a flame. Properly tended, it gives light and warmth, but let loose, it can burn and destroy. We need, in the twenty-first century, a global Hanukkah: a festival of freedom for all the world’s faiths. For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world”…

By Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.

…”What history taught us was that to defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilization you need schools. In the short run battles are won by weapons, but in the long run they are won by ideas and the way they are handed on from generation to generation. Oddly but appropriately, Chanukkah comes from the same Hebrew root as “education”…

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City


…”If you want one simple word to symbolize all of the Jewish history, that word would be: Jerusalem “…. Teddy Kolleek.

Israel is the Jewish home of hope.

No people ever loved a city more . We saw Jerusalem destroyed twice, besieged 23 Times, captured and recaptured 44 Times, and yet in all those years wherever Jews lived they never ceased to pray about Jerusalem, face Jerusalem, remember it at every wedding, in every home they built, and in every celebration.

The name Jerusalem, indicates the city’s function as a “ spiritual center for the entire world” influencing the nations of the world.

Unfortunately the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, has been turned into a political issue.

We pray that Jerusalem stays unified for the benefit of all nations, and the leadership and citizen of Israel will stand tall in the face of adversity.

…”You’re shaking… So am I. It’s because of Jerusalem, isn’t it?
One doesn’t go to Jerusalem, One returns to it!
That’s one of its mysteries”… Elie Wiesel.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City



…Community it is where each of us is valued simply for who we are, how we live, and how much we give to others…

It is the place where they know my and your name!

Our Bnai Jacob is the place where we know we’re not alone!

Some pictures of our last Sunday “Schmus, drinks and food” with our new members!



Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City



From our weekly text:

…”Jacob was very afraid and distressed “…(Gen.32-7).

Why is Jacob the “father of our people”?

We are the “Congregation of Jacob”!

Jacob is someone with whom we can identify.  Jacob is someone we understand.

We can feel his fear, his pain and the tensions in his family.

Jacob is human, but he is also spiritual!
He is the one who discovers that he is not alone, that God is with him.

Judaism is not an escape from the world, but an engagement with the world!

Judaism is about faith as a journey, as Rabbi Lord Sacks said.
To be a Jew is to move, to travel, to find our place in the world.
Life is a journey, and this means striving each day to be greater than we were the day before!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City



…”It is gratefulness that makes the soul great”…
Rabbi Heschel

Thanksgiving is a secular holiday that represents values important in Judaism and in American culture.

It is no longer a celebration affiliated with any particular religion or faith.

Gratitude lies at the heart of who we are as Jews.

Just as gratitude lies at the heart of who we are as Jews, mindfulness lies at the heart of gratitude.

Rabbi Heschel talked about mindfulness in this famous quote: ”Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement “ he said. Get up every morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal, everything is incredible, never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed“.

Thanksgiving is as important to societies as it is to individuals. It protect us from resentment and the arrogance of power.

Thanksgiving must help us to heal the wounds that so divide us in our nation today.

Thanksgiving is essential to happiness and health.

Enjoy it!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City



Dear All,

…”Time is free, but it’s priceless.
You can’t own it, but you can use it.
You can’t keep it, but you can spend it”…

Jews as a people have been more often connected to time than to places or things.
The Bible, and all other Jewish texts tend to pay greater attention to the nature of events than to the places where they occurred.

Rabbi Herschel spoke about “holiness in time” as a basic characteristic of Jewish practice.
Prayers, the Shabbat, Holidays and festivals gives a sense of spiritual renewal to the passing time.
We have the commandment to remember events and peoples. Time and memory are a pillar in our Jewish identity.

This Shabbat we are announcing the new month of Kislev.
On Kislev the days grow short and night arrives early.
In this month we will celebrate Chanukah.

…”Twenty-two centuries ago, when Israel was under the rule of the empire of Alexander the Great, one particular leader, Antiochus IV, decided to force the pace of Hellenisation, forbidding Jews to practice their religion and setting up in the Temple in Jerusalem a statue of Zeus Olympus.
This was too much to bear, and a group of Jews, the Maccabees, fought for their religious freedom, winning a stunning victory against the most powerful army of the ancient world. After three years they reconquered Jerusalem, rededicated the Temple and relit the menorah with the one cruse of undefiled oil they found among the wreckage.
It was one of the most stunning military achievements of the ancient world. It was, as we say in our prayers, a victory of the few over the many, the weak over the strong. It’s summed up in wonderful line from the prophet Zechariah: not by might nor by strength but by my spirit says the Lord”… from Rabbi Sacks.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City



From our Text of the week: Parshat Toldot.

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skilful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Gen. 25:27-28)

Parents and leaders must establish a relationship that is basic in a honest, open, respectful communication that involves not just speaking but also listening.

Unconditional love is not uncritical, but it is unbreakable!
That is how we should love our children!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City



From our Parsha: Chayei Sarah

On Judaism and Islam:

The Torah is not a history book. The Torah tells us what happened only when events that occurred then have a bearing on what we need to know now.

There is a Midrash: (Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, 30) which tells the story of how Ishmael was twice visited by Abraham.

On both occasions, Ishmael was not at home. On the first , his wife, not knowing Abraham’s identity, refused the stranger bread and water.  Ishmael divorced her and married a woman named Fatimah. This time, when Abraham visited, again not disclosing his identity, the woman gave him food and drink.  The midrash then says ”Abraham stood and prayed before the Holy One, blessed be He, and Ishmael’s house became filled with all good things.  When Ishmael returned, his wife told him about it, and Ishmael know that his father still loved him.”

This story has an immense consequence for our time!  Jews and Muslims both trace their descent from Abraham – Jews though Isaac , Muslims through Ishmael.  Fatimah is an important figure in Islam.  She is the daughter of the prophet.

The rabbis piece together a story of reconciliation between Abraham , Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael.
Yes , there was conflict and separation, but it was at the beginning, not the end.

Between Judaism and Islam there can be friendship and mutual respect.  Abraham loved both his sons, and was laid to rest by both.

There is hope for the future in this story of the past.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City


… Some are guilty, but all are responsible…

The early history of humanity is a series of disappointments.

The civilizations failed in taking responsibility.
God gives human beings freedom, which they then misuse.
They lack personal and collective responsibility!  They said: It wasn’t me!

Our faith is built with the principle that we will not defend the human status quo.  We must learn, and we must challenge it.

Our rejection of ideologies that contradict our ethical ideals should not be limited to negative criticism.
We need to open an offensive front by presenting a positive outlook based on true values.

Abraham was the first human being that had the courage to challenge God.
Abraham gave us the basic of challenge human rules!

Judaism and Jews, do not accept the world that is.
We are the first religion of protest. We challenge the world instead of accepting it.

Abraham is the role model of leadership.  He took personal, moral, and collective responsibility.   Abraham acted.

Indifference to evil, indifference to the suffering of human beings, is worse than evil itself!

In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City


Parshat Noach.

Leadership begins with taking responsibility!

Hillel said: “…If I am not for myself, who will be?, But if I am only for myself, what am I?…”

This is the argument of our text of the week from Parshat Noach.

Two stories in this parsha: the Flood and the Babel tower.

The flood tell us what happens to civilization when individuals rule and there is no collective.

The second event from our text, the Babel tower tell us what happens when the collective rules and individuals are sacrificed to it.

There are individualistic cultures and there are collectivist ones, and both fail!  The first one because they lead to anarchy and violence, the latter because they lead to oppression and tyranny.

Judaism gives equal weight to individual and collective responsibility.

Judaism is a religion of strong individuals and strong communities.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sent from my iPhone
Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City



Did you know the last of the Jewish holidays is here? Simchat Torah marks the close of the Jewish holiday season and is celebrated in dance by scrolling the torah back to the beginning.

Our Simchat Torah wish for you is that you’ll mark new beginnings with your chosen one in the coming year.

Tomorrow, Thursday October 12 @ 6:30…

See you with Pizza!

Your Rabbi,




…”What matters is not how long we live, but how intensely we feel that life is a gift we repay by giving to others.

Simcha = Joy, in the Torah is never about individuals. It is always about something we share.

Our Shabbat Sukkot gathering was a Simcha for our members and friends!

Sukkot is the time we ask the most profound question of what makes a life worth living.

What makes a hut more beautiful than a home is that when it comes to Sukkot there is no difference between the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor.

On this Sukkot may you be blessed with abundant happiness, health and gratitude!

Judaism places a big emphasis on happiness. In fact, the holiday of Sukkot is centered around the concept of happiness. No wonder it is called “the time of our joy,” a time where we are supposed to be filled with happiness and thanksgiving.


Our first night in this year’s Sukkah:



Please join us for Friday night Shabbat in the Sukkah on October 6!




On Yom Kippur:


To be a Jew is to be creative, and our greatest creation is our self.


It was Judaism, through the concept of teshuvah, that brought into the world the idea that we can change. We are not predestined to continue to be what we are.

Yom Kippur is the time when we ask ourselves where have we gone wrong?  Where have we failed?

When we tell ourselves the answer, that is when we need the courage to change.  If we believe we can’t, we won’t.  If we believe we can, we may.

Never believe we can’t be different, greater, more confident, more generous, more understanding, and more forgiving than we were.

May this year be the start of a new life for each of us. Let us have the courage to grow.

Rabbi Aaron.



Judaism is the story of a love affair between a people and a book, the Book of Books!

One of our commands is the duty to make the Torah new in each generation.  It must speak to us affectively and emotionally.

Music is central to our Jewish experience!  When we pray we sing!

Music is the map of the Jewish spirit!

To make the Torah new in every generation means that the Torah was given once, but it must be received many times, every day; for that requires not only intellect, it requires emotions.

Each of us enters to our Synagogue with a different need.  Our Synagogue is called a House of God because it is the place for the ideals by which we say we live.  It is the home address of kindness.

We make our Sanctuary a house of prayer, of study, and of meeting.

Our Community is a House, and more than that, a home.  It is the home of a family of families.  We are creating a room for You!

See you at our High Holidays services!

Your Rabbi,



…For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as we remember them…


Rabbi Aaron Katz  9/11/2017


As we approach this holiday season:

Dear all,

We’re fast approaching yet another Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and all the blessings and challenges they invite!  As Grace Paley wrote in her marvelous short story Wants, “I don’t understand how time passes.”

It continues to be a wonderful experience for me to serve as your Rabbi.  Now that I’m into my second year at B’nai Jacob I’ve come farther along in getting to know, or at least making the acquaintance of, almost everyone in our Temple community.  I plan to continue to do my best to deepen and expand these relationships in the months and years to come.

We were so privileged that in the last year we increased our membership and created amazing programs, such as: the millennial Shabbat, family Shabbat service, Lunch and Learn, Judaism in Spanish, Hebrew, bar and bat Mitzvah classes, Sunday school, movie nights and even had a scholar in residence!

We celebrated yearly events including Sukkot party, Chanukah latke fest, Shabbat dinners, barbecue, Purim, tree planting, Passover dinner, Yom Ha Shoa Memorial Day, baby namings, adult bat Mitzvah, founding family recognition, and all with great attendance.

Our last High Holidays service was a introduction to our new inspirational view of Judaism. We hope that you will continue to participate this year in all of our programs.

All of this was possible because of you and because of the total support from the board of directors!

I know this commitment is in our bones.  Our community could not exist for a day without its members and our board of directors.  You are the lifeblood of our organizations, we are growing thanks to all of you!

We need your support, economicly, emotionally and spiritually!

The Community we build for tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today.

We are making space in our lives for the things that matter, for family and friends, love and generosity, fun, and joy.

Come to Us and enjoy our Community!

Rabbi Aaron


Parshat Ki Tavo

One of my mentors told me that a good rabbi is one who can tell a particular kind of story. The story must explain our collective vision.

The first question that we need to ask is “who we are”, “why are we here” and “what is our purpose “, and the best way to answer this questions is by telling a story.

Our Torah is a book of stories, and the Torah wants us to be part of the stories.

In our text of the week : Deut.26:5-8, we can read:

My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt and lived there, few in number, there becoming a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians ill-treated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labour. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.

For the first time the retelling of the nation’s history becomes an obligation for every citizen of the nation.

The injunction to remember felt as a religious imperative to an entire people.

Rabbi Lord Sacks said: There is a fundamental difference between history and memory.

History is “his story”, an account of events that happened sometime else to someone else.

Memory is “my story”. It is the past internalized and made part of my identity.

If we forget the past, we will lose our identity!

Don’t forget Bnai Jacob history!

The community we build for tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today!

Remember Bnai Jacob as a part of your identity!

Shabbat Shalom,

Your Rabbi,

We know this in our bones

Our community could not exist for a day without its volunteers. They are the lifeblood of our organizations, we are growing thanks to all of you!

The Community we build for tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today..
We are Making space in your life for the things that matter, for family and friends, love and generosity, fun and joy.

Come to Us, enjoy our Community!

Our Days of Awe 5778!

A meaningful Service! Linking our traditions in a innovative way with music, spirituality and friendship!
This year the Rabbi joined by:
Aristo String NYC.
Cantorial Solist: Rebecca Weitman.
Cantor Solist: Simon Ciubotariu.
Shofar Service: Kevin Gleason Katz and Will Trotta.
Opera singer: Isabella Megyeri.
Yoga teacher; Garrett Steagall.

Hello and shalom to all of you!

News for the month of September….

Saturday, September 2, at 7PM.
Movie Night: Doubt: a film by: John Shapley.
The film takes place in St. Nicholas school led by Sister Aloysius(Meryl Streep) Sister James(Amy Adams) tells Aloysius that Father Flynn(Philip Seymour Hoffman) might have too much personal attention with the school’s only black student Donald Miller(.Joseph Foster), thus leading thus Aloysius starting a crusade against Flynn. The film also stars Viola Davis as Donald Miller’s mother.
Soda and popcorn:$5 donation.

Monday, September 4, 12-1:30PM.
Lunch and Learn.
Take a break during the day, come for a light lunch, discuss ideas and share opinion with friends.

Saturday, September 9: 10:15-11:30AM.
Ruach Shabbat: A Family Shabbat Service.
Family Shabbat is a kid-friendly oriented and encourage children’s participation. All are welcome and this service is specially popular with families with children.
Ruach Shabbat have a shorter service and a nice Kiddush.
Family Shabbat Service is a great way to connect with Shabbat and with other families with young children….

Tuesday, September 12: 7-8:15PM.
Hebrew Classes!
Hebrew for Adults: a innovative Ulpan style teaching method using associative learning to teach Hebrew in Hebrew. We will use basic vocabulary revolving around Jewish holidays, traditions, modern day Israeli culture and current affairs.
The classes focus on speaking, reading and some writing.
Cost: Member: free
Non Member:$10 per class.

Monday, September 18: 12-1:30PM.
Lunch and Learn.
Our topic: Honey from the Heart.

Days of Awe 5778 with Bnai Jacob Jersey City.
5778 Schedule:
Saturday, September 16: Selichot Service, 6:30PM.

Wednesday, September 20: Erev Rosh Hashana Catered dinner, 7PM. Cost: $36. Please RSVP.

Thursday, September 21: Rosh Hashana I.
9:45AM-12:15PM: a innovative service linking the past to the future includes: morning service, Torah service, and Shofar service .
Tashlich service: 4PM.

Friday, September 22: Rosh Hashana II.
9:45-12PM: a traditional service.

Saturday, September 23: Shabbat Service:

Sunday, September 24: 3-6PM
Celebrating the New Year with Friends in the Rabbi’s home.

Friday, September 29: 6:30PM.
Kol Nidrei Service.

Saturday, September 30: 10AM-7:15PM
Yom Kippur Service.
Keep an eye out for the great and exciting details of the High Holidays services and activities!

Wednesday, October 4: 6:30-9:30PM
Erev Sukkot BBQ dinner in the Sukkah .
Cost: $18 donation.

Friday, October 6: 7-9:30 PM
Millennial Shabbat in the Sukkah.

Saturday, October 7: 7-9PM.
Movie night.
Soda and popcorn:$5.

Sunday, October 8: 10:15-11:30.

Sunday School in the Sukkah.

Monday,October 9: 12-1:30PM.
Lunch and Learn.
Take a pause from work, enjoy a lunch in the Sukkah with friends and celebrate the time with community!

Tuesday, October 10: 7-8.15PM.
Hebrew Class.

Thursday, October 12: 5:15PM.
Yizkor service.

Thursday, October 12: 6:15PM.
Simchat Torah Celebrations.

Keep an eye out for great and exciting details!!!

See you soon!!!
Rabbi Aaron

Hello and Shalom to all of you! How we respond to what happens to us!

In the aftermath of violent demonstration by white supremacist, neo nazis and their sympathizer in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in 3 deaths and many injures, we see and hear that Racism is still with us!
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel said:”Racism is man’s gravest threat to man- the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason”…
The repeated failure from the President and his Attorney General, to condemn the supremacists, neo nazis and their sympathizer is a threat to all American and civilization.

It is up to us to prepare our next generation for what they have to meet, we should place great emphasis on the idea that it is all right to be different.

Racism it is not automatic, is taught in our society.

“Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustice they commit”. Alveda King.

From our Parsha:
…”If only you would listen to these laws”… Deut.7:12.
Our Torah contains 613 commands, but it does not contain a word that means “to obey”!
The verb used by the Torah in place of “to obey” is “Shma”- means: to hear, to listen, to heed, to pay attention, to understand.
In Judaism, God want us to understand the laws, to reflect, to listen.
To listen it means to be open. It is a spiritual act. To be a leader and leadership begins with taking responsibility!
Leadership is about the future!

We believe that we are God’s image. Free as God is free, creative as God is creative!
“No human race is superior, no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them”.Elie Wiesel.


As Moses begins his great closing addresses to the next generation, he turns to a subject that dominates the last of the Mosaic books, namely justice:

I instructed your judges at that time as follows: “Listen to your fellow men, and decide justly [tzedek] between each man and his brother or a stranger. You shall not be partial in judgment. Listen to great and small alike. Fear no one, for judgment belongs to God. Any matter that is too difficult for you, bring to me and I will hear it.”

Tzedek, “justice”, is a key word in the book of Devarim – most famously in the verse:

Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Deut. 16:20)

Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.

I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation.

Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. Coretta Scott King

Rabbi Lord Sacks said:

“Why then is justice so central to Judaism? Because it is impartial. Law as envisaged by the Torah makes no distinction between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, home born or stranger. Equality before the law is the translation into human terms of equality before God. Time and again the Torah insists that justice is not a human artefact: “Fear no one, for judgment belongs to God.” Because it belongs to God, it must never be compromised – by fear, bribery, or favouritism. It is an inescapable duty, an inalienable right.

Judaism is a religion of love: You shall love the Lord your God; you shall love your neighbour as yourself; you shall love the stranger. But it is also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts (who would not bend the rules, if he could, to favour those he loves?). It is also a religion of compassion, for without compassion law itself can generate inequity. Justice plus compassion equalstzedek, the first precondition of a decent society.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tisha Be Av, the day of Jewish tears

Dear all!,

In a couple of days, Monday July 31 at sunset, Jewish communities around the world will commemorate together Tisha Be Av, the day of Jewish tears.

Tisha B'Av

We will collectively mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples, for the loss of the Jewish state. For the defeat of the Bar Kochba rebellion. For the first crusade 1096. For Jews were expelled from England in 1290, for the expulsion of Jews in France 1306 and from Spain in 1492. For the day in which Himmler was given the go-ahead for the “final solution”.

On July 1942 began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto. The AMIA bombing of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires.

Why so much suffering for so long? What does it tell us about the Jewish destiny and fate?

Antisemitism and Antizionism are a complex phenomena!

From our past we learn that Jews throughout history have recognized tyranny for what it is, and have refused to be intimidated by power, threat, terror and fear!

Dr. Robert Gordis, after an extensive discussion of the question, concludes that the fast must be retained. “In sum,” he writes, “Tisha B’av can perform these basic functions for Jews living in the middle of the twentieth century, with the state of Israel before them as a reality. It can keep Jews mindful of the tasks which lie ahead in the areas of Jewish religious rebirth and of ethical living, both in the state of Israel and throughout the world. It can focus attention upon the universal aspects of the Messianic hope, which have long been integral to Judaism. Finally, it can help to remind Jews of the long record of sacrifices and sufferings of past generations, and thus prevent the cultural degeneracy which would follow from the ignoring of the achievements of Galut or Diaspora”

On Tisha Be Av, we mourn not only what happened to us then, but, perhaps more importantly, we mourn what it symbolizes for us now.


Parshat Pinchas
The Parsha of the week always occurs at the heart of the three weeks.

The three weeks or Bein Ha-Metzarim in hebrew (from the 17 of Tammuz to the 9 of Av), is a period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It happened twice, once in the sixth century BCE, the second time in the first century of CE. In both cases it happened because of poor leadership! When there is no effective leadership, divisions open up whithin the group. There is internal conflict, the energy is wasted and no coherent strategy emerges.

Abraham Lincoln said:”A house divided against itself cannot stand”! Leadership is not a luxury! Leadership is a necessity! A leader is a prophet of Hope! Rabbi Lord Sacks said that optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that if we work hard together we can makes things better! We need courage, wisdom, understanding of history and possibility, and ability of communicate to create a civilization that values the young! If we value the young, we stay young! A leader must love the people he lead!

We must invest in the future! If we invest in the future- we have a future! A leader needs to give the possibility to widen our horizons! To embrace humanity as a whole! The prophet Jeremiah said:”Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its prosperity you shall prosper”! Jeremiah:29-7. This is the first statement in history of what it is to be a creative minority!

The leader who cares only for their own people are chauvinist! They create false expectations and bravado rather than real courage! Great leaders, are great not just because they care for their own people! They are great because they care for humanity!

Moses was worried. Who would lead the Israelites after his death?

…”Moses spoke to God, saying: Let God…appoint a man over the community… Let God’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd. God told Moses: Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hand on him”…
Moses did as God ordered him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Elazar the kohen and before the entire community. He then laid his hands on him and commissioned him”… (Num:27:15-22).

…”And lay your hand on him – this is like lighting one candle with another. Give him some of your authority – this is like emptying one vessel into another”…(Bamidbar Rabbah 21:15).

Joshua’s appointment to replace Moses was clearly a critical point in the spiritual and political development of the Jewish people.
Every aspect of this sensitive transition was significant!

We read that God commanded Moses to :1) “lay your hand” on Joshua. 2) have him stand before Eleazar and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence.3) give him “some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.
The Torah testifies that Moses did as he was commanded. But in fact , Moses placed BOTH of his hands on Joshua. What is the significance of this change?

What does it tell us about the nature of leadership in Judaism?

This is what we call: “separation of powers” into three branches: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
The Torah is concern for the future of freedom if power were concentrated in a single source.

Rabbi Lord Sacks said:” Liberty does not flourish because men have natural rights, or because they revolt if their leaders push them too far. It flourish because power is so distributed and so organized that whoever is tempted to abuse it finds legal restraints in his way.

The world require two types of
leaderships . We need leadership in worldly matters: economic, societal, political and military. In addition we require spiritual guidance.
Capable leadership will lead to success in both areas!

Rashi, comments on this: …”when they are about to leave this world, they put aside their personal needs and become preoccupied with the needs of the community “…

Great leaders think about the long term future! They are concerned with succession and continuity. So it was with Moses.

And what’s happen with our leaders?