Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shabbat Chazon ...

An Article I read yesterday on one of my regular website reads  The Jewish Woman Website (Chabad)   touched me. In fact touched me deeply in these preparation days for Tish B'Av that I am reproducing it herein on my blog, rather than just producing a one off link to any of my social webpages.  It will touch you too,  at least that is my hope in including it here  ..... 

"Judaism is replete with examples of the power of sight. In Jewish Law, there is a general rule that one who witnesses an act cannot be a judge regarding it. For example, if you witness a man roughly grab a wallet out of someone's hand and run away, you cannot later be a judge between these two individuals in court. Now that you have seen what looked like a robbery, you cannot objectively hear any testimony regarding what happened. You can only serve as a witness identifying the man who grabbed the wallet. This is because once we see something we are convinced of its reality - so much so that even testimony from several witnesses that the man was in fact only recovering a wallet that had been stolen from him moments before will not change the fact that your eyes saw a robbery.  

The power of sight is also reflected in the metaphors for love used throughout the Bible. When an especially close, loving relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people is spoken of, it is described as G‑d's eyes being directed towards us, or towards the Land of Israel and those who live there. The metaphor is also used to describe the deepest, most intense love between two people - expressed as gazing into one another's eyes.

The power of sight is also reflected in two "events" which coincide with one another this Shabbat.

This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Chazon. One reason is that this week's Haftorah (the selection from Prophets read after the Torah portion) relates a vision ("chazon" in Hebrew) seen by Isaiah. It's a vision of the destruction that will come to Jerusalem, and is one of the three Haftorahs of rebuke. Yet, another reason stems from the vision that is shown to each of us on this Shabbat - the vision of the rebirth that is destined to follow the destruction prophesied by Isaiah.

This is also the Shabbat that precedes the 9th of Menachem Av, (Tisha B'av) when we fast in remembrance of the destruction of both Temples. Yet this Shabbat, as we read the Torah portion, every Jew is granted a vision of the Third Temple which will be built (G‑d Willing speedily and soon) in Jerusalem.

The purpose of the vision is much deeper than merely comforting us with the promise of future redemption. In fact, that is the focus of the four Shabbats after Tisha B'Av. The point of the vision which we see on Shabbat Chazon is to inspire a change so fundamental that we will turn that vision of the Third Temple into actual physical reality.

The idea of visualization as a catalyst towards making that vision a reality is not foreign to us. From mock job interviews to "self-help" books, the "fake it so you can make it" message has permeated our culture. But as a tool for change, does it really work? Wouldn't any relaxation technique, or a good pep talk, be just as helpful before approaching a new challenge as seeing it through the eyes of one who has already achieved it? 
Yet there is a real advantage to this. When you visualize a new reality, you internalize it in a way that merely thinking or talking about it won't accomplish. It becomes something that you know, that you can relate to and understand. A good storyteller understands this, and will use words to paint a picture that the reader can see, and in some cases cannot resist seeing, himself. It's the ability to create visualization that makes the story something that remains a part of us.

This Shabbat, G‑d takes advantage, so to speak, of this very aspect of human nature: that what we see, even if only with our mind's eye, lingers with us and affects us so intensely. He shows us a vision of the future He is waiting to give us, and the vision itself becomes the tool with which we make this world ready to actualize it.

The concepts behind this are twofold; on the one hand, the vision of the future is meant to spark within us a desire and longing for seeing that future become our present reality. On the other hand, because it is something which our soul sees, the fact that it actually exists is immediately internalized and becomes a part of us. So we are simultaneously longing for something that is distant from us, and yet inspired by and at peace with something whose presence we can sense within us, something we can relate to completely.

The result is that a person is not only able to change; he is entirely unable to remain stagnant. Each of us is forced to move forward in improving our behavior, and it is simply second nature to do so. Moreover, the changes inspired by this Shabbat become permanent.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasized that any and every individual can access this power for change in a tangible way by meditating this Shabbat on what our soul will see, a vision of a House which will fuse the upper and lower worlds, spiritual and physical reality, in permanent union.

The particular dynamic of this Shabbat - that we receive a Divine Inspiration in the form of this glimpse of the Temple, and the effort on our part to visualize in our minds and to meditate on what our soul is seeing, mirrors the three Temples themselves.

The First Temple was filled with a more powerful Divine light than the Second Temple. The miracles associated with it are of a much more other-worldly nature. Yet at the same time, our Sages tell us that when it was built G‑d felt a certain anger towards us. We weren't taking care of the things we needed to take care of, and we weren't really ready for the Temple and its revelations. It was eventually destroyed.

The First Temple was built on Divine command and assistance. The Second Temple was constructed at the orders of a human being. The level of revelation associated with it, and the accompanying miracles, were far less intense. Yet, precisely because it came to be built through human efforts and on human initiative, it had a greater impact on this world. It was larger than the first Temple, taking up more of this world in terms of space, and it lasted longer, occupying this world for a greater length of time.

The Third Temple, like the Shabbat on which we are shown its image, combines the strengths of both the first and second Temples. It combines the Divine revelation, an inspiration from Above, along with human effort, an inspiration from below, to create a permanent home for G‑dliness. Thus is the lesson and inspiration of this Shabbat. We are given a Divinely revealed vision which we must combine with human efforts to permanently alter the world we live in, and, even more challenging, ourselves".

The Original Article by Chana Kroll is published here .... Make It Real.
The Artist is Alex Levin & his website is here .... Alex Levin's (Artist)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shiva Asar B'Tammuz ....

What shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Y'rushalayim?  What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O maiden of Tsion?  For thy breach is great like the sea, who can heal thee?
~ Eichah 2.13 ~ 

Although today, Sunday, is the 18th of Tammuz in the Hebrew calendar,  Jews the world over fast and lament today  (because the 17th fell yesterday on Shabbat, and we don't fast on Shabbat),  to  commemorate the many calamities that have befallen our people on this ominous day.   The purpose of such fasts is, according to Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov's Book of Our Heritage, "to awaken hearts towards t'shuva through recalling our forefathers' misdeeds, misdeeds which led to calamities...".  

The 17th of Tammuz is a historically tragic day for the Jewish people and the fast actually commemorates five tragic events that occurred on this date: ~

Moshe descended Mount Sinai on this day and, upon seeing the Golden Calf broke the first set of Tablets of the Testimony ~ the luchos ~  (Shemot 32:19, Mishna Taanit 28b).

The Kohanim in the First Temple stopped offering the daily sacrifice on this day (Taanit 28b) due to the shortage of sheep during the siege and the next year 3184 (586 BCE), the walls of Jerusalem were breached after many months of siege by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces.  The destruction of the First Holy Temple by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces followed.

In Melachim II 21:7 we find that King Menashe, one of the worst of the Jewish kings and a Rasha, had an idol placed in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple, according to tradition on this date.  The Talmud, in Masechet Taanit 28b, says that in the time of the Roman persecution, Apostomos, captain of the occupation forces, did the same thing, and publicly burned the Torah  ~ both acts considered blasphemy and desecration. These were followed by Titus and Rome breaching the walls of Jerusalem in 3760 (70 CE) and three weeks later, after the Jews put up a valiant struggle, the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple on the 9th of Av,("Tisha B'Av").  The Jerusalem Talmud maintains that this is also the date when the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem on their way to destroying the first Temple.

Pope Gregory IX ordering the confiscation of all manuscripts of the Talmud in 4999 (1239).

But, you know,  this day continued to be a dark one for Jews.  In 1391, more than 4,000 Jews were killed in Toledo and Jaen, Spain,  and in 4319 (1559) the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted.  

The Kovno ghetto was liquidated on this day in 5704 (1944) and in 5730 (1970) Libya ordered the confiscation of Jewish property.   And I have heard somewhere too that the first mass gassings of millions of Jews ~ the first event of the 'Final Solution' ~ took place on this date in 1942.

Other occurrences on this day include Noach sending out the first dove to see if the Flood waters had receded, (Bereishit 8:8) in 1650 (2100 BCE).  Moshe Rabbeinu destroying the golden calf, (Shemot 32:20, Seder Olam 6, Taanit 30b - Rashi) and then ascending back up Har Sinai for the second time where he spent the next forty days pleading for forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf, (Shemot 33:11, Rashi).  

Agonizing over these events is to help us conquer those spiritual deficiencies which brought about these tragic events to our nation. Through the process of "T'shuva" we have the power to transform this tragedy into joy.  Our Sages stated explicitly (Ta'anis 30b)  "All who mourn over (the destruction of) Jerusalem merit to see her in her joy."    We are assured that if we properly appreciate the enormity of our loss, we merit to share in the joy of seeing Jerusalem re-established in all her glory, B"H. 

Have a meaningful fast and may we all merit to see the rebuilding of the Beit Ha'Mikdash in our days!