Posts tagged " Tisha B’Av "

Napoleon’s Jewish Insight

August 6th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

Once upon a time, the great Napoleon paid a state visit to Russia.  Proud of the enlightened way his country, France, treated its Jewish population, he asked to see some Russian Jews.  His hosts brought him to a St. Petersburg synagogue.

Entering the synagogue lit by only a few flickering candles, they found it filled with Jews sitting on the floor weeping in the dark.  Napoleon swung around accusingly to his Russian hosts and asked, “What did you do to them?”

Just as astonished, the Russians hastily denied complicity in whatever horrible calamity had produced this misery.  Napoleon turned to the bereft community and asked what tragedy had befallen them.

The rabbi stepped forward and softly sobbed, “Our Temple has been destroyed.”

Turning a reproachful face to his Russian guides, Napoleon asked why the Czar had done such a terrible thing.  His hosts insisted that they were baffled by the accusation.

Questioning further, Napoleon soon discovered that the Temple in question had stood not in Russia but in Jerusalem, and had been destroyed not recently but over 2,000 years earlier.

Napoleon is said to have proclaimed, “Any nation linked so powerfully to its history that it agonizes over such an ancient loss will ultimately outlive both France and Russia.”

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Why not Israel?

July 19th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 27 comments

I love puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, acrostics, Sudoku, logic puzzles…a book full of puzzles even keeps me somewhat content on a cross-country flight. I am telling you this to put into perspective my answer to a question that came to our Ask the Rabbi column.

Matt asked, “I’m always wondering why your family never moved to Israel?” 

While my husband and I always answer the Ask the Rabbi questions as a team, I’m going to make an exception for this one and let my husband answer in that venue while presenting my own answer here. You see, my husband and I received very different upbringings with regard to the modern State of Israel. While the land of Israel is unquestionably precious and special to all Jews and has been since the days of Abraham, how love for the land translates into action is a different matter.

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Summer in The City

July 16th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

It was on a clear but cold winter afternoon that I landed at JFK Airport on my first visit to the United States.  After clearing customs and immigration and being granted a three week tourist visa, I climbed into a taxi on my way to my Manhattan hotel.  Half an hour later, as the sun was starting to set, the cab swept around a curve in the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and for the first time in my life my eyes fell upon a sight of which I have never tired.  The towering skyscrapers of lower Manhattan silhouetted against the still blue sky took my breath away.  I found myself silently mouthing these words, “How great are your works, Oh Lord!” (Psalms 92:5) as tears started up in my eyes.  It was then, only a couple of hours after first setting foot upon the continent of North America while driving up the East River towards the Brooklyn Bridge that I resolved to stay.  And, though no longer on a tourist visa, I’m still here.

Why did this sight move me so deeply?  Because the Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, and the giant redwood trees overlooking San Francisco Bay might all have conceivably come into being as the result of a lengthy process of random, unaided materialistic evolution.  Primeval winds and wild rivers might have shaped canyons and mountains while undisturbed saplings grew and grew.  But a colossal hub of millions of human beings all cooperating to build and maintain Manhattan with its buildings and bridges, its streets and subways and its unimaginably vast system of human enterprise could only have been built by creatures touched by the finger of God.  I was immeasurably moved realizing that I was gazing upon the proof of God’s goodness. 

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The Night Is Dark

July 31st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 62 comments

It is helpful to discover that the child who seems irrationally scared of dogs was once bitten by a snarling mongrel. Knowing that Moslem forces were defeated when their siege of Vienna was repulsed on September 11th, 1683, helps make sense of their September 11, 2001 attack on the United States.  The past should not provide an excuse but it does provide insight.

After inconceivably vast numbers of casualties, Europe’s first Thirty Years War (1618—1648) ended with the Peace of Westphalia, the foundation of a fierce and formidable nation, Germany.  After even more unimaginable horror, Europe’s second Thirty Years War (1914—1945) ended with a remarkable and enduring peace.

Along with many knowledgeable professional historians, I view World War Two (1939-1945) not as a stand-alone event, but as the continuation of World War One.  Presciently, the great French military leader Marshal Ferdinand Foch who was present at the signing of the peace Treaty of Versailles, called it not a peace but a temporary twenty year cease-fire.  World War Two broke out twenty years and two months later.

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