Thursday, May 17, 2007

The secret that won the Six Day War

As Jews, we are trained to see the world differently. We look beyond the face of facts, and discern the hand that pulls the puppet strings.

To the Jew, World events are a Divine orchestration playing out in the terrestrial theatre.

To the Jew, if his People are involved, he is involved. He may not play a visible role in the National drama, but he directs some of the action from behind the scenes.

To the Jew, every event is a lesson. Major events provide key lessons; personal events convey personal messages.

It has now been 40 years and the Six Say War still captivates the minds and imaginations of people all over the world.

Military strategists still cannot quite explain how, with the odds stacked so heavily against them, the Israelis successfully routed the Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians and their allies in six days.

Israel’s army was outnumbered and vastly outgunned. As Egypt vowed to push Israel into the sea, nobody could afford to be optimistic.

Well, almost nobody.

Just a few days before war erupted, the Lubavitcher Rebbe announced that Israel was guaranteed Divine protection. He launched an overt campaign to enlist Jewish reserves around the world, and a secret weapon that would change the tide of the war.

The Rebbe approached the war from a distinctly Jewish perspective. He understood that the direction each battle would take is determined by a Higher Power. He appreciated that every Jew’s actions contribute to the success or otherwise of other Jews. He knew that a united approach to pulling the right spiritual strings would turn the tide in Israel’s favour.

So, he launched the Tefillin campaign.

Jewish unity in serving G-d, he said, would empower the Jewish people. He quoted the Talmud, which terms Tefillin the “Mitzvah that strikes fear in the hearts of your enemies”.

It was controversial. It challenged Jews to confront their Jewish identity, often in public. It challenged religious Jews to reach out to their secular counterparts.

It succeeded. By the end of that year, about half a million people had donned Tefillin.*

Within six days, Israel had a miracle.

It’s now been 40 years since that revolution. In that time, people have come to expect to wear Tefillin at the Western Wall. Nowadays, you may be stopped at a bus station in Tel Aviv, on an Ivy League campus, on a plane or in your own office, and be offered to put on Tefillin.

Jews see the world differently.

We appreciate that one Mitzvah can jump-start our soul. We realize it could protect the rest of our People. We acknowledge we each play a lead role in the Divine production of Life.

So, roll up your left sleeve, and join the “war” effort.

*"Just before the outbreak of the war, an active campaign to push observance by Jewish males over 13 years of age to do the "mitzvah" of tefillin was launched by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the "Lubavitcher Rebbe" of New York--leader of a Hasidic sect with branches throughout the world.
Since the Six Day War in June which resulted in the creation of a united Jerusalem as part of Israel, more than 400,000 members of the Jewish faith are estimated to have observed the commandment to wear Phylacteries-- tefillin In Hebrew--at the city's Western, formerly known as the "Wailing,” Wall. "
The Boston Globe November 24, 1967

Thursday, May 10, 2007

FINAL COUNTDOWN- Jewish Israeli Blog awards

A big thank-you to all of you who voted for this blog and got me into the Finals of the Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards (didn't quite expect it!).

It's crunch-time, so, please go ahead and vote here for this Blog in the finals.
While you're about it, please also support Its Almost Supernatural, finalists for Best News and Current Affairs Blog and Best Coverage of a Live Event Post.

Voting closes on May 16th.

Thank you for your continued support!

Friday, May 04, 2007


It’s exciting when Lag B’omer falls on a Sunday, especially if the weather is good. Lag B’omer is designed to be an outdoor affair, so you can really enjoy it when you don’t have to go to work. People have picnics, make bonfires- Chabad organizes Lag B’omer parades*.

And, people play with bows and arrows.

You might find that incongruous- playing with weapons on a day of unity, but that’s how it is. Lag B’omer happened during the height of Roman oppression in Israel. Torah study was a capital offence, and many of our greatest Sages were executed for this “crime”. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the main character of this holiday, had to hide for 13 years to evade the Romans who had put a price on his head.

Brave souls who studied Torah in outlying fields and forests, would feign archery contests when Roman patrols passed their way. So, we re-enact those archery games to remember their dedication under fire.

That’s the simple reason.

But, Lag B’omer is not a simple day. It is a day of mysticism and spiritual secrets; it celebrates Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s vital contribution to Kabbalah. Everything about the day bears deeper significance. We light bonfires to represent the blazing spirituality of the day.

So, what about the bows and arrows?

As spiritual as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was (so much so that his mentor, Rabbi Akivah, believed none of the other students could even perceive his greatness), he understood the foibles of ordinary citizens. While he demanded total dedication to Torah from himself, he taught that people under work-pressure need only say the Shema twice daily to fulfil their Torah-study requirements.

He was a great Sage, not because of his personal spiritual advancement, but because of his ability to relate to- and guide- the average person.

A bow and arrow represent his unique perspective. To propel an arrow forward, you need to pull the bowstring backwards. Spiritually, when you’ve slipped a little in the wrong direction, you develop potential to fly in the correct direction. Rather than criticize the person who had fallen, Rabbi Shimon hinted that each fall has the capacity to propel us to new heights.

As you draw your bowstring back this Lag B’omer, reflect on the great potential you have to progress.

Let fly!

*The theme of Lag B‘omer is Jewish unity. Lag B’omer is the day that Rabbi Akivah’s students stopped dying. They had been struck by a plague because they hadn’t had proper respect for each other. Lag B’omer reminds us to strengthen unity, in the light of what disunity can cause (G-d forbid). In the 50’s the Rebbe introduced the idea of a parade that would unite Jews, advertise Jewish messages and show Jewish pride on the streets.