Who Was Nathan The Prophet?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

Nathan (c. 880-790 BCE1 ) was a prominent prophet during the reign of King David and King Solomon. According to tradition, Nathan studied in an elite academy of mystics2 under the tutelage of the prophet Samuel.3 Although no book in the Biblical Canon is associated with his name, the Talmud tells us that Nathan concluded the writing of the book of Samuel.4

Nathan Rebukes David

Nathan first gains fame in the Biblical account, in the heat of the great debacle of David and Batsheba. King David had cohabited with Bathsheba after observing her beauty from the palace rooftop and was severely reprimanded by G‑d for doing so.5

Nathan delivered G‑d’s rebuke by opening the conversation with a parallel. “There were two men,” said Nathan, “one rich and one poor. The rich man had very many sheep and cattle, and the poor man had nothing but one small ewe which he had bought. He cared for it, and it grew up [under his care] along with his children. It ate from his bread, drank from his cup, and slept in his bosom. It was a daughter to him.”

Nathan continued. “Then a guest came to the rich man. The wealthy host was too miserly to take any of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the guest who had come to him. [Instead,] he took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the guest who had come to him.”

King David was outraged by the arrogance and impudence of the rich man, and declared, “As G‑d lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He shall pay fourfold for the ewe, since he did this and had no pity!”

By issuing a verdict in the case set before him, David had unwittingly set the rules for his own prosecution and conviction.6

Nathan responded and said, “You are the man! . . . Why have you treated G‑d’s word with contempt, doing evil in My sight? You cut down Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) with a sword and took his wife as your wife! . . . I will raise evil against you from your own house . . . I will do this in the sight of Israel, in the open!”

When David recognized the scope of his sin, admitted his guilt and repented for his actions, Nathan conveyed G‑d’s message that He had accepted his atonement.7

Nathan was thus instrumental in restoring King David’s dignity (allowing him to “raise his head”) in the aftermath of this sin. Having been informed of G‑d’s forgiveness by Nathan, David remarked, “Instead of my beheading, you have raised my head.”8

Prophecy Regarding Building the Temple

When quiet finally reigned in the land of Israel, after King David subdued the enemies of Jews through many bloody battles, he sought the counsel of Nathan with respect to building a sanctuary for G‑d, a Holy Temple. Despite his initial nod, Nathan was informed by prophecy that King David was ineligible to erect the House of G‑d, which was to be a house of peace. King David, he was told,9 whose sword smote the enemies of the Jewish people, would be unsuitable to construct the Temple.10 Instead, his son, King Solomon will build the Temple.11

Through his prophetic vision, Nathan helped design the configuration of the Temple’s floorplan as well as develop the appropriate activities performed therein. The verse states:

“[King Hizkiyah] also stationed the Levites in G‑d’s Temple with cymbals, and harps and Iyres, as commanded by David, Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet, for this was the commandment of G‑d through his prophets.”12

The Appointment of King Solomon

As the reign of King David was winding down and David took ill, the race was on for a successor to the throne. David’s son, Adoniyahu put forward his candidacy and as the prospect of his nomination appeared to gain traction, a growing number of royal dignitaries declared him king.13

But David had already sworn to Bathsheba that her son Solomon would inherit the throne.14

Nathan proceeded to inform Bathsheba of the development and together they coordinated their appearance before the king.15 When David heard the news he swore, saying: “By the Living G‑d . . . I swore to you by G‑d, L‑rd of Israel: ‘Your son Solomon will reign after me and he will sit on my throne after me,’ and I will fulfill [my vow] today!”16

David then proceeded to have Solomon coronated in public view, by the agency of Nathan, Zadok the high priest, Benayahu ben Yehoyada and many other dignitaries.17

Nathan remained one of the closest confidants of King Solomon. The Midrash teaches that two honorary seats flanked the throne of King Solomon, one for Gad the Seer and the other for Nathan the prophet.18

FOOTNOTES
1.

See Shalshelet Ha-Kabalah p. 98b, cited in Seder Ha-Dorot, s.v. 2935 that Nathan’s lifespan was 94 years.

2.

See I Samuel 10:5. Radak, ibid.

3.

See R. Yehuda Ha-Levi Lifshitz, Dor Yesharim (Piotrkow, 1908) vol. II, p. 10.

4.

Bava Batra 15a.

6.

R. Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, cited in Likutei Maharankama, 113. See also the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s exposition of this teaching in Likutei Sichot, vol. IV, p. 1208 where this is understood as a testimony to the transcendence of the divine soul vested within a Jewish person, insofar as no force of nature or spirit can assert control over his destiny, unless he himself has granted that force the authority to do so, abdicating his state of transcendence above the natural order.

7.

II Shmuel, 12:13-14.

8.

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana II, Parshat Ki Sisa, 1. Midrash Tanchuma, ibid, 3.

9.

I Chronicles 22:7-8. Radak, ibid.

10.

Much like the prohibition against using metal instruments to carve the stones of the altar in the Temple (Metzudat David, I Chronicles 22:8).

Radak (ibid) adds that David also orchestrated the death of Uriah, husband of Bathsheba (See II Samuel 11:15-17). In addition, the tragic slaughtering of 85 kohanim(priests) of the city of Nob (I Samuel 22:22) by the instruction of King Saul, was an inadvertent result of David’s actions. In lamentation, David stated, “I knew that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he surely told Saul. I have caused the death of your clan.”

With respect to casualties of war, the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 63:8) states that David’s actions were sanctioned by the Sanhedrin. See also, Kli Yakar (R. Shmuel Laniado, II Shmuel 2:7 p. 133). Yachin Uvoaz-Zera Rav, p. 126. Ezrat Kohanim, p. 48.

11.

I Chronicles ibid. 9.

13.

See I Melachim, 1:5-7. Ibid, 25.

14.

Ibid., 17 and Abarbanel. See Radak, II Shmuel, 12:24who explains that Bathsheba initially refused to bear another child with king David, fearing that he would be taunted for his being of tainted lineage. David assured her that he had been informed by the prophet of G‑d that the first son that would be born to her would inherit the throne.

A commentary attributed to Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Chassid (Pirushei Ha-Torah l’Rebi Yehudah Ha-Chassidhaftorahof parashat Chayei Sarah, cited in Chumash Otzar Ha-Rishonim) presents an alternative narrative. After Solomon was born, Nathan had informed David that Solomon would reign, which prompted David to seek qualified teachers to prepare Solomon for the position. When his mother, Bathsheba, protested saying that she feared that he would be slain by his older brothers such as Abashalom, Adoniyahu and Amnon, David swore that he would ensure his ascent to the throne. He then enlisted Nathan, Tzadok (the high priest), Benayahu ben Yehoyada (the chief commander of the military) to train Solomon in various fields, and an entire corps of guardians to provide physical protection for Solomon.

I am grateful to Rabbi Joseph Asia (publisher of Chumash Otzar Ha-Rishonim) for sharing the original source with me.

18.

Midrash Abba Gurion, 1.

10 Facts about Pesach Sheini every Jew needs to know

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

1. Pesach Sheni Means “Second Passover [Sacrifice]”

In Temple times, Jews spent Passover in Jerusalem. On the afternoon before the holiday, they sacrificed a lamb or kid, referred to as the Korban Pesach (Passover Sacrifice) to eat during their Seder that evening. If someone was unable to participate in the Passover offering at the proper time, they would offer the sacrifice a month later.

Read: The Second Passover

2. It Was Initiated by the People

One year after the Exodus, the People of Israel celebrated their first Passover as free people. Some, however, had become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, and could not, therefore, prepare the Passover offering on that day. They complained to Mosesand Aaron, “Why should we be deprived, and not be able to present G‑d’s offering in its time, amongst the children of Israel?”1

In response to their plea, G‑d established the “Second Passover” (Pesach Sheni) for anyone who was unable to bring the offering at its appointed time.

Read the Original Narrative in the Torah

3. It Is Observed on 14 Iyar

The second Passover sacrifice was offered on Iyar 14, exactly a month after the rest of the Jewish people had sacrificed their Paschal lambs in Jerusalem. Though Iyar 14 did not have the status of a festival or holiday, we commemorate the offering on the same day that it was sacrificed, not on the evening after, when it was actually eaten, which would be Iyar 15.

Read: Why Celebrate Iyar 14 and Not 15

4. The Second Passover Was Eaten With Matzah and Bitter Herbs

Like the primary Passover offering, the lamb of the Second Passover was to be roasted over fire and eaten on the eve of the 15th, together with matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs). The other mitzvahs and rituals of the Seder, however, were not observed.2

5. It Could Be Eaten With Chametz in the Home

The Second Passover only concerned the sacrificing of the Paschal Lamb. There was no obligation, however, to purge one’s home from chametz. Another difference between the two Passovers was that Psalms of Praise (Hallel) were said during the consumption of the first Passover offering (as we do today during the Seder) but not while eating the lamb on Pesach Sheni.3

Read: What Is Hallel?

6. The Second Passover Was Even for Willful Offenders

The Torah states that the Second Passover was principally for those who had been impure or distant from Jerusalem (15 mil away4) on the morning of Nisan 14. But anyone else who neglected to bring the sacrifice the first time around could make amends on Pesach Sheni, even those who did not have a good excuse.5

7. Today We Eat Matzah

In our post-Temple reality, there is no Passover sacrifice, and, until Moshiach comes, Pesach Sheni has lost its primary function. Nevertheless, Jews around the world still celebrate this meaningful day by eating some matzah (but not bitter herbs).

Pesach Sheni is also marked by the omission of Tachnun (prayers of penitence) from the day’s service.

Read All About Eating Matzah on Pesach Sheni

8. It Is an Independent Holiday

Although it is called the Second Passover, Pesach Sheni is actually a distinct sacrifice in its own right. This plays out in a fascinating law:6

If a person converts to Judaism (or a minor who was not part of a Passover offering and then becomes bar/bat mitzvah) during the month between the first and second Passovers, he or she must bring the sacrifice on Pesach Sheni. If Pesach Sheni were only a catch-up for those who missed the first round, why would the convert need to bring the sacrifice? They lacked nothing, since they were not Jewish at the time. Rather, Pesach Sheni is an independent mitzvah—an opportunity for growth and improvement.

Read: How to Convert to Judaism

9. It Was Once Called “Minor Passover”

This date is universally referred to as Pesach Sheni. In the Mishnah, however, it is referred to as Pesach Katan (“Minor Passover”).7

What Is Mishnah?

10. The Lesson: It’s Never Too Late

Pesach Sheni is an extraordinary mitzvah. G‑d legislated it only after a group of Jews, impure ones at that, sincerely demanded a second chance. The lesson for us is clear: No matter how far we may wander, or how impure we may become, G‑d will pave the way for us if we sincerely want to make amends.

In the same way, says the Rebbe, we must cry, plead, and even demand that G‑d bring Moshiach and the Final Redemption. Just like the impure Jews of old were not afraid to ask for the opportunity to become closer to G‑d, neither should we.

Read a Transcript of the Rebbe’s Talk

FOOTNOTES
4.

mil is a bit less than a kilometer. Fifteen mil is the distance one could walk at an average pace to Jerusalem, beginning at sunrise and arriving there by noon, in time to bring the sacrifice. Anyone farther away than that is considered to be at a distance.

7.

Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 1:3.

Poway And The Struggle For Americas Soul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

If you’re a Jew in America today, there’s a good chance you’re concerned. First, the largest hate-driven massacre of Jews in American history occurs in Pittsburgh. Then, precisely six months later, with an almost identical fingerprint of hatred, a deadly attack on a synagogue in Poway, California.

Whose problem is this?

The Jewish people are no weaker for these attacks. Synagogues are not about to empty out because of a handful of disturbed, poisoned minds—and much to the contrary. As for those whose lives were taken, all very special Jews, all missed terribly: Don’t call them victims. There’s an honored title in Jewish tradition for any Jew who lost his or her life simply for being a Jew: A Kadosh. A holy Jew. Jews don’t die as victims, we die with dignity. That is why we are still alive.

My contention is that this is not a Jewish problem. It’s the World’s problem. Both these attacks, along with many other violent crimes of hatred in recent years are symptoms of a malicious disease spreading unabated in America, in Europe, and in the world at large.

But that’s a problem that we, as Jews, are going to have to assist in healing. For our own best interest, as well as for the interest of this country, and for the entire world.

America is suffering. According to FBI figures, hate-crimes rose 17% last year, with similar increases over the previous two years. All this while other forms of violent crime continue to decrease. Something’s wrong.

Jews are an obvious target. Like the canary in the coal mine, we tend to get hit the hardest. And yes, these are acts of rabid antisemitism. But if we want to solve anything, we need to take a broader perspective. Muslims, Christians and others have been under siege as well. Just a few days before the Poway shooting, a young war veteran plowed into a crowd crossing the street in Sunnyvale, California. He told police he thought they were Muslims.

Is there a medicine for this plague?

In the sixties, seventies and eighties, violence was increasingly on the rampage in America in a way not seen since the days of the Wild West. Ideas for quick fixes and long term solutions abounded. The Rebbe’s prescription, unique and counterintuitive, was this: Fix the education system. How? Introduce a moment of silence every day into the school curriculum, and take it seriously.

Why do I think that’s a good fit for today’s plague of hate-driven violence?

Think about it: America is divided over gun law restrictions, yet there is one point that enjoys universal consensus: Gun restrictions alone are not enough. Because the problem is not the gun. The problem is the mind of the person that holds the gun.

What has the American school done for the mind of that criminal?

We taught him how human beings first appeared on the planet. Did we teach him to be a human being? Did we teach him to respect another human being?

We taught him to use his mind to solve problems with numbers. Did we teach him to apply his mind—rather than his fists—to solve problems with people?

We taught him anatomy. Did we teach him that a human life is more than the sum of blood, guts and bones? Or did we, perhaps inadvertently, teach him that the notion of a human soul has no place in the educated mind?

We taught him about laws and prisons. Did we teach him that even if you’re so smart that you don’t get caught, you’re still wrong? Did we give him a conscience?

Did we ever demonstrate to him that these are the things that really matter in life—more than math, more than science, even more than the niftiest technology? Did we ever give him a chance to stop and think about himself, about his life, about his family, about everything that bothers him in life? Is there a space and time for thinking about life in his school?

That’s all that a moment of silence in school is about. And, yes, it works wonders. Ask those who work in schools where it’s been implemented. They will tell you that a moment of silence means that a child will go home and ask Mommy and Daddy what he should think about. It means that a child will share with his teacher the troubles he’s going through. It means the school becomes a place not just for the child’s mind, but for his heart and his soul.

Or take it from this 2013 report on the Moment of Silence program at Paul Robeson High in Brooklyn, N.Y., that described it as “an ongoing, transformative experience.”

“…The Moment of Silence provided the students an opportunity to become more mindful and reflective of their experiences inside and outside the classroom. The students have become more introspective in their writing and have a greater appreciation, empathy, and understanding of their peers . . . Students have also gained a greater understanding of educational objectives.”

Jews have to adapt to the times. The knee-jerk reaction, reinforced through thousands of years of history, has been to huddle down and strengthen the internal steel grid when under attack. But America in 2019 is not Shushan, not Rome, not medieval Spain, not Poland.

It’s that attitude that prompted some Jews to believe that if Judaism were to be safe in America, G‑d had to be kicked out of public school. They failed to realize that, in the times we live in, the opposite is true. A moral society demands a notion of an objective, supreme Judge, an “eye that sees and an ear that hears”—even if you don’t get caught by the police or the media. When that notion is lost, so is America’s soul. And that’s when the madness begins.

A moment of silence doesn’t impose prayer or belief in a Creator on anyone. But it opens the child’s mind to search for meaning, and hopefully, for G‑d’s presence in the world. And there’s a good chance the child will talk to parents and grandparents and discover that they once had faith in their lives.

True, anti-semitism never died, even in America. But here we have a voice, a well-respected voice, and therefore a responsibility to our host country. Isn’t this why we were given a Torah? Isn’t this is the core mission of our people here in this world—to be a light to the nations, who will finally come to realize that the world has a Creator who cares about how we treat His world?

We can use our voices to heal America. Let America’s schools nurture the humanness of America’s children. Let children know the meaning of silence, just enough silence that they can hear their own hearts pounding inside. Let America have a soul again.

Chabad shooting victim named as Lori Gilbert-Kaye, said to have shielded Rabbi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Chabad shooting victim named as Lori Gilbert-Kaye, said to have shielded rabbi

Friend says 60-year-old mother jumped between gunman and rabbi at Poway Chabad center; Israeli girl and her uncle injured in rampage

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in a shooting at a San Diego County synagogue on April 27, 2019 (Facebook)

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in a shooting at a San Diego County synagogue on April 27, 2019 (Facebook)

The US woman killed in a shooting at a San Diego County synagogue was named late Saturday as Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a 60-year-old mother.

Gilbert-Kaye was attending Passover services at the synagogue when a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle on worshipers at the Poway, California, synagogue, local authorities said.

Three other people were injured, including Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, who was leading services at the time and was shot in both hands.

The other two were Noya Dahan, 8, a girl originally from Sderot in Israel who was hit by shrapnel in the face and leg, and her uncle Almog Peretz, 31, who was shot in the leg as he ushered children in a playroom to safety, according to media reports. Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the two were injured, adding that the consul in Los Angeles, Avner Saban, had spoken with the girl’s mother and offered help.

Authorities said all three were in stable condition.

Gilbert-Kaye was described in media reports and by fellow congregants as a mother of one.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad of Poway, California. (Facebook)

Her friend Audrey Jacobs, a community activist, said Gilbert-Kaye had jumped in front of Rabbi Mendel Goldstein — Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein’s son — “to take the bullet and save his life.”

“Lori you were a jewel of our community a true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor,” Jacobs wrote on Facebook. “You were always running to do a mitzvah (good deed) and gave tzedaka (charity) to everyone. Your final good deed was taking the bullets for Rabbi Mendel Goldstein to save his life.

“Lori leaves behind a devastated husband and 22-year-old daughter,” she added.

Witnesses said the injured rabbi continued his speech calling for unity and peace despite suffering gunshot wounds to both index fingers.

“The rabbi said, ‘We are united,’” said congregation member Minoo Anvari, who said her husband witnessed the shooting.

“He prayed for peace,” she said, according to the Chabad website. “Even in spite of being injured he refused to go to the hospital until he spoke. And he finished his speech and he then left the synagogue.”

“We are strong; you can’t break us,” Anvari said.

Rabbi Goldstein also serves as a Jewish chaplain at the local San Diego police department.

He underwent surgery and would have to remain hospitalized for several days, according to Dr. Michael Katz, trauma chief at Palomar Medical Center, according to the San Diego Jewish World.

According to Jacobs’ Facebook post, the family of the injured Israeli girl and her uncle “moved to San Diego from the Israeli city of Sderot to get away from the terrorism and the constant attacks on their community.”

Sderot has been targeted by thousands of rockets fired by terror groups in the Gaza Strip over the last 15 years.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore addresses the media in front of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue after a shooting on April 27, 2019 in Poway, California. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP)

Rabbi Yonah Fradkin, executive director of Chabad of San Diego County, said in a statement that “in the face of senseless hate we commit to live proudly as Jews in this glorious country. We strongly believe that love is exponentially more powerful than hate. We are deeply shaken by the loss of a true woman of valor, Lori Kaye, who lost her life solely for living as a Jew.”

“Lori Gilbert-Kaye is a Jewish heroine, and will be remembered as a heroine in Jewish history,” said Israel’s minister of diaspora affairs, Naftali Bennett. “She sacrificed her own life, throwing herself in the path of the murderer’s bullets to save the life of the rabbi. But it is clear that such heroism and good deeds are not only characteristic of dear Lori in death, but that this was the way she lived her life — constantly doing charity and good deeds for those in need.”

Police have named the suspect in the shooting as John Earnest, 19, from San Diego, and have said they are reviewing an anti-Semitic white nationalist manifesto allegedly posted by a user with the same name.

“We’re looking into digital evidence and checking the authenticity of an online manifesto,” the office of San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.

Earnest surrendered to police after leaving the synagogue and calling to report the shooting, according to authorities.

Gore declined to say what the motive for the crime was, but Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and others have said it appeared to be a hate crime.

Agencies contributed to this report.

READ MORE:

Jews: Why Stay In The Sukkah When It Is Raining

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

If it rains during Sukkot, we don’t have to sit in the sukkah, correct? So why have I seen people who continue to sit in the sukkah even when it is pouring?

Answer:

Sitting in the sukkah is the only mitzvah that, if you’re bothered by it, you’re exempt. Usually, even when a mitzvah is hard, you have to do it. Like fasting on Yom Kippur, when only those who must eat for medical purposes may do so. Most people find not eating or drinking for 25 hours quite uncomfortable, but we still have to do it. And yet, if sitting in the sukkah bothers you, like in wet weather, you can leave and eat inside the house.

Nevertheless, many people refuse to eat outside of the sukkah, no matter how bad the weather, because they would be more bothered by eating inside a dry home than outside in a leaking sukkah. When you understand what the sukkah is, you’ll see why.

The sukkah is a holy space. You are sitting in a divine abode, under the heavens, with the stars shining down on you, surrounded by angels and the souls of our forefathers. Our sages teach that we are only worthy enough to enter the sukkah after Yom Kippur, when our souls have been cleansed and we are at our spiritual peak. And the mystics explain that while the sukkah may look like a derelict hut cobbled together from wood and branches, in truth it is a made from the holy names of G‑d.

The weather may be a little unpleasant, it may be a little squishy in there, and your palm allergy may be flaring up…but the inner serenity, the love and feeling of connection with those around you, the sense of being embraced by G‑d—all that should override any physical discomfort. If you’re still not enjoying the sukkah, then you’re not really in the sukkah in the first place, and you can go inside. But if you know what you’re missing, you won’t want to leave.

There are moments when we are called upon to transcend the material world. Sitting in the sukkah is one of those moments. A little rain, or even a lot, can’t stop that.

Henry Ford Sr. And His Hatred Of Jews

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

 

The International Jew, the four-volume, virulently anti-Semitic tract, written and self-published by Ford Motor Company founder, Henry Ford Sr. in the early twenties and said to have inspired Adolf Hitler (may his name be erased) to write Mein Kampf, is partially true. And though I’m certain it wasn’t the intention of the author, I must tell you, the ‘partly true’ part of the book left me feeling more proud to be Jewish than anything I’ve read since… well, perhaps since Leon Uris’s Exodus.

It’s a well-established idea in Judaism that nothing can exist if it doesn’t contain at least a modicum—some homeopathic dose—of pure truth. This past summer I spent a Shabbat at a friend’s house in Minneapolis and it was by complete surprise that I happened on a bit of that truth. As they always do in the northern latitudes of Minnesota, that mid-July Shabbat day seemed like it would never end. Sometime around 7:00 p.m., with the sun still high on the horizon, I reached up and discovered a dog-eared copy of The International Jew on a crowded bookshelf.

I grew up in Minnesota, a place that for all its liberal leanings was the original home of the National Socialist Movement in 1974. Knowing this fact, and having felt acutely the effects of anti-Semitism as a boy, I was curious.

For historical context, just think what it might have felt like to be Jewish if Apple founder, Steve Jobs, had used his economic power and social standing principally to spread Jew-hatred. Like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford was wildly popular and a much-beloved figure among most Americans at the time The International Jew was first published. And imagine if Steve Jobs had written a similarly anti-Semitic screed and put a copy of it on every new iPad!

As frightening as that sounds, Henry Ford did much the same thing in his day. Ford used his money and influence to finance The Dearborn Independent, a nationally distributed newspaper, dedicated in large part to the propagation of his anti-Semitic worldview, in which he first published excerpts from The International Jew. With a circulation that reached 900,000 by 1925, it was second only to The New York Daily News in scope. The effect of Ford’s widespread hate mongering on Jews, both in America and worldwide, was so devastating it is nearly impossible to overstate.

The International Jew is rife with outlandish proclamations such as:

Jazz is a Jewish creation. The mush, slush, the sly suggestion, the abandoned sensuousness of sliding notes, are of Jewish origin.

But alongside them, and the malevolent ignorance of the book’s overall conceit, in which a mysterious cabal of super-Jews are using their devilish ingenuity and international reach to destroy the world—there was one idea that Ford kept coming back to:

There is lacking in the Gentile a certain quality of working-togetherness of intense raciality, which characterizes the Jew. It is nothing to a Gentile that another man is a Gentile; it is next to everything to a Jew that the man at his door is another Jew.

It was as if that very notion had pained him, not just in some general or academic sense, but personally. Ford couldn’t seem to wrap his head around why Jews—Jews who’d never met one another, Jews who didn’t share a common language or a cultural heritage, could be so immediately at home with one another. How was it, he wondered, that the Jews, a people that had been in exile for thousands of years and virtually cut off from each other, could create such an immediate sense of trust and familiarity?

What Ford could never fathom was what we Jews know as “Ahavat Yisrael,” the innate love a Jew has for a fellow Jew. This, of course, is not to say that a Jew doesn’t have, or is not capable of having, G‑d forbid, love for others. In the same way that I love my brother more than my closest friend, and my closest friend more than a mere acquaintance, this hierarchy of loves is actually instructive in how to love in a larger sense.

But what is the glue that binds one Jew to another? Is it a cultural or culinary connection like a love for the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer or gefilte fish? Or is it a shared language—Yiddish or Ladino, for example? What I have come to understand is that the Torah itself is at the root of the deep, almost mystical affinity of one Jew for another.

Now some might say they don’t accept its Divine origins, some may dispute the present-day relevance of certain of its laws, still others may consign the entire Torah to mere historical artifact. But one thing is indisputable: Unlike any other people on the planet, the Jewish nation has remained intact throughout its 2,700 years of diasporic existence. I believe it is only possible because we were given the Torah, a Testimony of laws, and highly specified codes of morality, that we have been able to accomplish this miraculous feat.

But even with all our differences, whether political, religious, or cultural, when the Torah is removed from the ark on the holiday of Simchat Torah, the day we celebrate having been given this precious and unifying document, we will rush as one to kiss it, to embrace it, and to dance with it—as if the Torah were a beautiful child.

In that moment we won’t be holding parchment scrolls; we will be carrying history itself. We will dance, not just with our friends and community members, but also with our grandparents, many of whom died to uphold the Torah.

And when we raise our voices to sing on Simchat Torah, we will sing for our children, those born and those yet to be born, and for brothers and sisters so distant it’s unlikely we will ever meet them—and perhaps most of all, we will sing for departed loved ones who can no longer sing for themselves. On Simchat Torah, we will celebrate the joy of having been given nothing less than the embodiment of God’s Will.

Throughout the millennia it has been our shared sense of mission to that “Will,” along with the connection to one another that sense of mission inspires, which has been the cause of so much enmity among our adversaries.

But on Simchat Torah, and during the coming year, I won’t be dwelling on hatred. Instead, I will focus my mind and heart on kindness, on unity, and on a renewed sense of Jewish pride —a pride that emerged from the unlikeliest of sources —the unadulterated animus of The International Jew, among the most ruthlessly anti-Semitic works of the 20th century.

If The Haggadah Has Got It Correct Then Western Education Has It All Wrong

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

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What’s So Wise About the Wise Child?

They say the Haggadah never ends. That makes sense, because the Haggadah is the classic Jewish guide to education, and education never ends.

So now that we’ve done our Seder for the 3,329th year, and while it’s still Passover, I’d like to open a discussion on how we educate our kids. And I’d like to start by listening to what the Haggadah is telling us.

It seems it’s telling us we’re doing it all wrong.

Here’s evidence: How do we test, monitor and measure the success of our students? By asking questions, right? (Like I just did.)

And indeed, the average middle-grade teacher asks around 400 questions a day. That’s about two per minute. After 15 years, a teacher has asked at least one million questions. The student has asked if he can go to the bathroom.After 14 and a half years, that’s a million questions. The average student, however, generally only asks two or three questions a week—most commonly, “Can I go to the bathroom?” In high school, not much better, with about ten questions a day. Compare that to preschool kids, who ask an average of 100 questions a day.

Some will tell you that’s the Socratic method. We’re attempting to elicit intelligence from students by battering them with questions they never thought of asking.

But the Haggadah does the opposite. Rather than evaluating children by their ability to answer, it identifies them in four categories by their ability to ask.

Questions Are Rich

That turns everything around.

For one thing, from a child’s correct answers, you often know very little. Maybe he simply has a good memory. Maybe he’s good at guessing what you want to hear. At very best, a child’s answers only tell us what that child knows.

But theA child’s answers tells us what he knows. A child’s questions tell us who he is. child’s questions provide a window into the child’s mind and soul. A child’s questions tell us who that child is.

Every child is on a critical mission to make sense of things, to find the meaning behind everything, to put the pieces together. But each child sees a different world, through different eyes. So each child discovers that meaning in his or her particular way.

So that only once we know what this child is looking for, and how he is looking for it, only then we can assist him to find it. And that is education—assisting the child on his or her particular journey of discovering meaning.

Ask! Please Ask!

Let’s start from the beginning: The Haggadah is designed to incite questions.The Haggadah is designed to incite questions. How does it do that? By breaking the routine.

Generally, a festive Jewish meal begins with a blessing on the wine. We then all proceed to wash our hands, return to the table, and say a blessing on the bread.

On the Seder night, we also start with the wine. And then the hand-washing. And we return to the table. And then we take small vegetable and dip it in some sort of liquid, and eat it.

Why the change?

You’ll hear all sorts of reasons, but there’s one definitive answer cited in the Code of Jewish Law: We do it so that someone will ask a question.

And if they ask, what do we answer? We answer that they got it right. They asked a question.

Which means that the question is of prime value, even when there is no answer. As the ancient rabbis said, “Even though we have no answer for this question, once the child is asking, he will ask more questions.”

And why is that important? Because, to those ancient rabbis, it’s obvious that you can’t teach a child a thing until the child has a question.

Passing by a ninth grade classroom in a yeshiva, I hear the teacher lecturing: “Okay, so the ultimate reason for the creation of all things is…”

The diligent students take notes. The rest stare into empty space. The teacher may as well be speaking about the average rainfall in Indonesia.

You can’t teach a thing until you have first awakened a question.

A question creates a vacuum, a space in the brain to fit new knowledge. Just like a car is useless if you live in a big city where there’s no place to park it, and a meal goes in the trash if there’s no one to eat it, so the most satisfying answer in the world is meaningless to the child who never had the question. He has no place in his skull to store it. It’s just a distraction and confusion for his mind from its true quest—to find meaning.

Yes, in case the child has no questions, we provide some, in the form of the Ma Nishtana—”Why is this night different from all other nights?”

But that’s Plan B. Plan A is that the children will ask questions of their own. And you, the parent, will wrack your brains finding answers for them.

Answering the Children

That brings us to another vital lesson from the Haggadah: We don’t answer the question.Don’t answer the question. Answer the child. We answer the child.

“The wise child—what does he say?” Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitchwould point out that in Hebrew, with just a slight change in punctuation, those words can read quite differently: “The wise child—what is he? He says…”

Through the question, we see the child. And that is who we answer.

The wise child articulates his question. He’s obviously thought it through well and knows exactly what he’s looking for.

If he’s wise, why does he ask? Why doesn’t he just have faith, like a good religious boy, and accept all his parents and teachers tell him?

He asks because he has faith. Like a scientist who believes that there will always be an explanation if we will just dig a little further, he believes that there will always be meaning, and deeper meaning, and yet deeper. His mind is not fettered by faith, but driven by it. And his faith, in turn, is enriched by his questions.

Something neat Rabbi Avraham Altein just pointed out: If there are no children to ask, no guests, nobody, the halacha is that you have to ask the question to yourself. According to Maimonides, even if the children have asked the questions, the parents must also ask.

Get that? You know the answer, but you have to ask again. Really ask. Revisit the darkness of “I don’t know”—as though you never knew. Because last year’s answer no longer satisfies you. That’s how you get to a new light. And that’s what it means to be wise.

All the Children

Which all explains why the Wise Child often ends up getting all the attention, while the others are left out.

But no, there are three more children in the room.There are three more children in the room. They are also our children. They are also our children.

Like the Wicked Child. He’s next in line in expertise at asking questions. After all, he has identified exactly what it is that is bothering him. Problem is, he’s not interested in an answer.

But he’s still number two, because something bothers him. The whole Seder bothers him. Which means he’s alive and kicking. Which means there’s something there to work with.

The Simple Child asks, but he’s not sure what he’s asking. He’s the one that is too often ignored. Since you don’t really get his question (because neither does he), he never gets an answer. In the times we live in, that’s a precarious situation. Because that may one day mean to him that there is no answer. And if so, he will have a different question: “Why am I doing all this if there is no answer?”

So the Haggadah instructs you to tell him stories of wonders and miracles. That is his world, that is what he sees. He is in wonderment. Go with it—take that wonderment and nurture it, all the way. Don’t give him any less than the Wise Child, or the Wicked One. And don’t demand that he become the Wise Child—lest you push him towards his cynical brother.

As for The Child Who Doesn’t Know How To Ask—In illustrated Haggadahs, he’s always a baby with a pacifier in his mouth. But that’s nonsense.The Inquisitively Challenged Child got 100% on his Haggadah test. I’ll bet he got 100/100 on his Passover Haggadah finals.

You know why I think that? Look at the answer we give him: “For the sake of this, G‑d did what He did for me when I left Egypt.” That’s a deep answer to an intelligent person.

So what does it mean that “he doesn’t know how to ask”?

Many of the ideas I’m writing here were sparked years ago by a conversation with an Israeli researcher, a student of renowned educational psychologist, Benjamin Bloom, who visited our school along with many high schools across North America. At each school, the researcher would ask the principal, “Give me your best students, one by one, in a private room.”

When the student would enter, she would just sit there for a minute or two. Then she would ask, “Do you have any questions?”

Silence.

Then: “I’m visiting from Israel.”

More silence.

“I’m doing research.”

You get the gist of it.

But then, she would ask the principal to bring in the troublemakers, one-by-one. They would enter, and immediately break into, “Why am I here? Who are you? What is this all about? Israel? What’s that like?”

Open For This Child

So this child #4, a bright child who excels in school, why does this child not ask? Why is he not in search of understanding and meaning? What went wrong?

My guess? He went to school. There he was rewarded for answering questions just the way the teacher likes. But he was never rewarded for asking the really good ones that might disrupt the class, or the questions that the teacher might not have the answers to.

So Teach him, by example, that it’s even ok to question the most basic assumptions.for this child, “You must open for him.” Open his mouth. Teach him to ask. Teach him that it’s ok to ask. Teach him that it’s even ok to question the most basic assumptions. How? By example. By showing him how you yourself question assumptions.

That could explain another one of those Seder tidbits that should spark a thousand questions—or at least some annoyance. Immediately after the episode of the four children, a heavy chunk of Talmudic exegesis plops down upon us, seemingly telling us nothing of the Exodus narrative or the people sitting here.

Here’s the classic translation:

One may think that [the discussion of the exodus] must be from the first of the month. The Torah therefore says, “On that day.” “On that day,” however, could mean while it is yet daytime; the Torah therefore says, “It is because of this.” The expression “because of this” can only be said when matzah and maror are placed before you.

But Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abravanel (15th century) tells us it’s actually as relevant as you can get. It’s a response to that Inquisitively Challenged Child. It’s about opening his mind with a question that challenges the most unquestioned assumption of the entire ritual: Who says it’s Passover tonight?

Try reading it like this:

You: Hold on, maybe we were supposed to do this Seder on Rosh Chodesh—15 days ago on the first day of the month!

Child: Umm. Why then?

You: Because that’s when God told Moses about the mitzvah of Pesach.

Child: Okay, so we messed up.

You: Nope, it says on that day.

Child: Okay, so let’s get on. What do we say next?

You: Not so simple. Because then we should be doing it during the day. Now it’s night already.

Child: So it’s over. Let’s eat.

You: Not so fast. You see, it says, for the sake of this stuff. Meaning this matzah and bitter herbs that we eat on the night of Pesach. So we have to wait until we’re supposed to eat that stuff—and that’s tonight.

Child: Why on earth do we have to tell a story to food?

See? It worked!


So here’s what I’m taking from my Seder into the coming year:

Torah comes to us in a beautiful package, wrapped and tied. The only way to untie those knots and open up its treasures is by asking the right questions whenever and wherever they come to mind, and asking them without fear or shame.

How do we get ourselves,How can we teach the faith and courage it takes not to fear a good question? our children, other Jews, and everyone else who can benefit, to ask? How can we teach the faith and courage it takes not to fear a good question?

If we can find answers to those questions, we will have half of education nailed.

What’s So Wise About the Wise Child?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman’s writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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