Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Bible Comes Alive!

Archaeologists have recently unearthed a most remarkable find in the ancient city of Lachish, which was the second most important city (after Jerusalem). It is a discovery that allows us to really "see" a passuk in Sefer Melakhim.

In the gatehouse of the city, they discovered a room that contained an altar, in other words, a small temple. The altar had been deliberately smashed and ruined, and then, the room had been turned into a toilet. It seems that there was a direct attempt to desecrate the illicit temple by turning it into a bathroom. Since the finds date to the period of Hizkiyahu, it is likely that the desecration of the altar were perfomed by the men of King Hizkiyahu's in their purge of the idolatry that endured from the reign of his father, King Ahaz.

Here is concrete evidence of a practice that is recorded elsewhere in Sefer Melakhim. We read the following in the depiction of Jehu's purge of the Baal: .
"וַיֹּצִאוּ אֶת-מַצְּבוֹת בֵּית-הַבַּעַל, וַיִּשְׂרְפוּהָ. וַיִּתְּצוּ, אֵת מַצְּבַת הַבָּעַל; וַיִּתְּצוּ אֶת-בֵּית הַבַּעַל, וַיְשִׂמֻהוּ למחראות (לְמוֹצָאוֹת) עַד-הַיּוֹם. (מלכים ב', י', כ"ז).
The NJPS translates it:
"27 They destroyed the pillar of Baal, and they tore down the temple of Baal and turned it into latrines, as is still the case."

How do you desecrate a pagan altar? Turn it into a latrine! There could be no greater indignity!
Amazing when archaeology gives as a snapshot into a passuk, and the Bible springs to life!

[Going back to Lachish, it is fascinating that whereas the pagan culture placed an altar at the city gates, the Torah states that we should place judges at the gates - שופטים ושוטרים! God wants justice at our gates more than ritual sacrifice!]

Shimon Peres z"l

We are all saddened today at the passing of Shimon Peres z"l. A few thoughts:

1. It is an open secret that Shimon Peres gave Israel its nuclear program. For that, we owe him a debt every single day. He was a contentious figure in Israeli politics and not always loved, but his achievements ensure our survival. 

His yearning for peace was sincere, and driven by a deep belief that only peace would ensure Israel's future: עת מלחמה ועת שלום.

2. Late in life, he became a consensus figure in Israeli society. He skillfully restored the honor of the presidency after it was so badly tarnished by Katzav and Ezer Weitzman who were both marred by scandal. He made the presidency into an institution of national unity and international respect.

3. As we will see the entire world leadership gather in Jerusalem on Friday to honor this remarkable statesman (- so poignant for Erev Rosh Hashanna ויעשו כולם אגודה אחת -) we should be reminded how important and historic the State of Israel is in the long landscape of Jewish History, in that it places us on the world stage and has given Israel and the Jewish people global standing and respect. If we act "like a light into the nations", the world is watching. The potential is enormous. It feels almost like a prophetic vision. I view this as nothing less than a divine miracle after 1900 years of exile and national persecution and humiliation.

4. There are many lessons that we can learn from this man. Shimon Peres got up every morning ready to work. His sense of mission was incredible. He never stopped thinking, planning, and working tirelessly for Israel. To quote Peres: "Sometimes people ask me, ‘What is the greatest achievement you have reached in your lifetime or that you will reach in the future?’ So I reply that there was a great painter ... who was asked which picture was the most beautiful he had ever painted. [He] replied, ‘The picture I will paint tomorrow.’ That is also my answer."
I heard an interview on the radio when he said: "Why celebrate your birthday? Every day when you wake up is your birthday! You are born anew. You have work to do!"

Avri Gilad said that Simon Peres taught us the lesson of אל תשליחיני לעת זקנה - not to give in to old age; to remain active until the last, not to retire, always to keep trying, to keep growing.

This is a fitting message for Elul and the season of "Teshuva". Whatever you are, wherever you are in life, you can change yourself, shift course, you can transform reality. You just have to set goals, believe in your abilities, and work hard to make change happen.

יהי זכרו ברוך.


We view Peres as a public figure, but here is a very different take.

Galei Tzahal had a show today in which they asked the public to share stories about Peres. A a man just called in with a remarkable story.
This man knew of a family in his neighborhood who were extremely poor; no food, no heating.
The man posted on Facebook and asked friends to donate to help the needy family and offer some financial assistance.
Nobody responded.
He was associated with the central committee of the Labor Party and thought that maybe, if he called the office of President Peres to present the problem, they may find a way to help this unfortunate family.
The next day he got a call from Shimon Peres himself. (He says that at first he thought someone was playing a practical joke.)
Peres asked him how much money he needed to help the family. The man told him.
"I will pay it myself" said Shimon Peres, "but with one condition. That as long as I live, you tell nobody that I was the one who donated the money." A few days later, he got a personal cheque from Shimon Peres.
Today was the first time he could tell the story! 

I wonder how many stories of this kind there are?