Friday, December 25, 2015
A JEWISH MESSAGE FOR CHRIST-MAS.
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
JERUSALEM DATELINE-CHRISMAS EDITION
A Jewish Message for Christmas-December 24, 2015, 11:49 pm-THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
I don’t celebrate Christmas. I consider myself a serious Jew. On Christmas day, it is my tradition to take call in the hospital, so that my Christian colleagues can have that special time with their families. I also participate in the Daf Yomi, a seven year program studying one page each day of the Talmud, the ancient text of Jewish law and thought. I recently studied Tractate Sotah, page 47, which includes a lesson and a story that may refer to Jesus of Nazareth as a young student.Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perahya was traveling with his student, Yeshu ha-Notzri. When they stopped at an inn and were treated well, the rabbi mentioned to Yeshu that it was beautiful. Yeshu responded that the innkeeper was unattractive. The rabbi took great offense and banned his student, Yeshu. Yeshu tried several times to return to the rabbi, but was rejected. The rabbi came to realize that he had overreacted, and decided to accept his student back. The final time that Yeshu approached, the rabbi was in the midst of the holy prayer, the “Shema.” The rabbi held up his hand to ask Yeshu to wait just a moment. Yeshu took the gesture as a final rejection and left, never to return.The Talmud teaches to be “not like Yehoshua ben Perahya who pushed with both hands.” When criticizing or opposing, push away with the left hand, while bringing closer with the right, the stronger hand.This is the Jewish message that I offer on this Christmas holiday. When we face those we oppose, whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, or atheist, whether pro-Choice or pro-Life, whether Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian, let us push away with the left hand of morality and justice, while we hold close with the right hand of tolerance, mutual respect, forgiveness and humanity. May we merit peace on Earth, and good will towards all men. Wishing you a joyous holiday and a happy new year.
How Hasidim pointedly don’t observe Christmas Eve-During the hours leading up to Christmas or ‘Nittel Nacht,’ some ultra-Orthodox Jews perform more than a few fantastical counter-culture traditions-By Uriel Heilman December 24, 2015, 9:43 pm-the times of israel
NEW YORK (JTA) – Christmas is a day like any other in most Hasidic neighborhoods in New York: Children go to school, shops are open, and tinsel and holly are nowhere to be seen.But Christmas Eve occupies a special place on the Hasidic calendar as a kind of “silent night,” when beit midrash study halls fall silent.Known as “Nittel Nacht,” the hours leading up to Christmas include a few peculiar traditions in Hasidic communities. It’s one of only two times during the year when Torah study is avoided (the other is the summertime fast day of Tisha b’Av). Couples traditionally abstain from sex. Yeshiva students are encouraged to engage in such “kosher” secular activities as playing chess or doing household chores.And when it’s over – at the stroke of midnight, the same time many churches hold Midnight Mass – Hasidic study halls come alive when a community leader bangs on a lectern to signal the resumption of Torah study.‘Two minutes before midnight, everybody stands with their Gemaras [Talmuds] open, ready to learn’“Two minutes before midnight, everybody stands with their Gemaras [Talmuds] open, ready to learn,” said Yaakov Yosef Braun, a native of New Square, a Hasidic village in Rockland County about a 45-minute drive from Manhattan. “It’s like a race is about to begin. It’s really something to see.”The origins of Nittel Nacht customs are murky, and even the name itself is a matter of some debate.While “nacht” is Yiddish for night, variations on the origins of “nittel” range from the Latin for “the birth of our god” to the Hebrew acronym for the words meaning “born on the ninth of Tevet” — a reference to the time of Jesus’ birth.Historically, Christmas Eve was a fraught time for Jews who lived among Christian populations in Eastern Europe and Russia, a night when Jews sought to keep off the street for fear of violence by Christian celebrants. This, say some community experts, is why study halls were kept closed and mikvah ritual baths were shuttered (preventing women finishing their menstrual cycles from immersing and resuming intimacy with their husbands).Others cite spiritual reasons for avoiding Torah study on Christmas Eve. Those who saw belief in the Trinity as a form of idolatry believed Christmas Eve was a time when dark forces were about, rendering it unfit for the purity of Torah study. Others say Torah study was avoided on this night so that the heavenly merit of Torah learning would not be accrued by Jesus or those celebrating his birth, or somehow benefit the souls of the wicked.Some cite the opposite reasoning for the custom of learning Torah beginning at midnight on Christmas: If the Christians are awake worshipping God at that time, the Jews by comparison shouldn’t be asleep at the wheel.“If the Jews are asleep, the bad angels are criticizing the Jews: How come you’re not worshipping me when they are? Why aren’t you learning Torah?” said Yosef Rapaport, a Vishnitzer Hasid and media relations coordinator for Agudath Israel of America.Whatever the reason, Nittel Nacht observances remain in Hasidic communities, taking place either for the last six or 12 hours on December 24 or, for Hasidic sects with origins in Russia or Ukraine, for the six or 12 hours before the Eastern Orthodox Christmas on January 7. Vishnitzer Hasidim, with origins in the borderlands, observe Nittel Nacht both on December 24 and January 6.Many Hasidim use the hours when Torah study is off-limits to catch up on household work, like fixing leaky faucets-In New Square, where Skverer Hasidim observe the 12-hour “grosser Nittel” (“big Nittel”) on January 6, Braun says many of his fellow Hasidim use the hours when Torah study is off-limits to catch up on household work, like fixing leaky faucets. In some Hasidic households, Nittel hours apparently used to be spent ripping toilet paper – once a necessary household chore among the strictly Orthodox who don’t rip toilet paper on the Sabbath. Today, however, the manufacture and sale of pre-ripped toilet paper has made that Nittel task unnecessary.Perhaps the most common Nittel observance is sleeping. With study halls opening at midnight or 2 a.m. (some communities simply open earlier than usual rather than having a dramatic midnight study session), many yeshiva students spend Nittel napping.“Nittel is not a particularly noteworthy event within these communities. The only people it affects are the people who study Torah regularly,” said Shulem Deen, a New Square native who wrote a memoir about leaving Hasidim titled “All Who Go Do Not Return.”“People who learn in yeshiva stop studying at 12 p.m. They save their household errands for that day. There’s also a little bit of a tradition to spend some time doing what might be considered frivolous activities, like playing chess. You’ll see people in the shul or beis midrash playing chess,” said Deen.Rapaport said the customs of Nittel Nacht are not well-recorded in the literature of Jewish law.“There’s no authoritative source for any of this. It’s more folkloric traditions,” he said.And even though the reasons for some of these traditions may have faded away – such as the dangers to Jews on Christmas – the customs nevertheless persist.“Hasidic people aren’t even thinking about Christmas anymore on Nittel Nacht,” Rapaport said. “If you want to understand the Hasidic way of life, this is what it is: You don’t change anything.”
Groom says ‘didn’t even see’ extremists’ behavior at wedding-Yakir Ashbal, said to be friends with Duma suspects, insists he was unaware of revelers celebrating with weapons, photo of murdered Palestinian baby-By Times of Israel staff December 25, 2015, 12:41 am
The groom at the now-infamous wedding earlier this month where Jewish extremists brandished weapons and stabbed a photo of a murdered Palestinian child said Thursday he had not been aware of what took place on the dance floor.“I didn’t even see it. At my wedding I was in the clouds, not on the ground at all,” Yakir Ashbal told Channel 10.He called the footage “shocking,” but insisted that “there were about 600 people at my wedding, and this wasn’t something I agreed to. There were a million people. I don’t control what happens at my wedding. I’m just the groom; I didn’t even pay for the photographer or the singer.” Ashbal’s father, too, joined the chorus of denunciation Thursday, insisting he would have stopped the revelers calling for “vengeance” if he had seen them.“We’re not connected [to the extremists]. We’re establishment people, who always teach respect for other people. We reject this and everything that took place,” he said.The wedded couple were said to be friends of Jewish extremists detained in connection with the firebombing attack.According to Channel 10, Ashbal belongs to a group calling itself “the rebellion,” which advocates the toppling of the Israeli state and its replacement by a Jewish monarchy. The group also reportedly supports expelling non-Jews from the land.Both bride and groom have previously been investigated by the Shin Bet.The video, aired Wednesday by Channel 10, shows revelers at the Jerusalem celebration waving knives, rifles, pistols and a Molotov cocktail during the wedding.Amid the festivities, a photo of baby Ali Dawabsha, who was burned to death in a July 31 firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, is shown being repeatedly stabbed by celebrants.The crowd in the video chants the lyrics of a song which includes a verse from Judges 16:28, quoting Samson, blinded in Gaza, saying “let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes” — but changing the word Philistines to Palestine.The attack in Duma killed three members of a Palestinian family. Only one member of the Dawabsha family — Ahmed, now 5 — survived the attack, and remains hospitalized in Israel. The 18-month-old baby Ali was killed on the night of the attack, while parents Riham and Saad succumbed to their injuries in the succeeding weeks. The video from the wedding, which took place earlier this month, has drawn vehement condemnation of the extremists, including from far-right leaders.Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon showed the clip to settler leaders a few days ago during a meeting intended to calm concerns over the torture accusations leveled by the detainees against the Shin Bet.The defense minister said the footage showed the Shin Bet was working to disrupt a well-organized group of dozens of young extremists who passionately supported the alleged Jewish terrorists.Minutes after the clip was aired on Wednesday, Zionist Union MK and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni spoke before the Knesset and railed against the youngsters in the film, saying “this is the group that wants to destroy Jewish Israel, to destroy this state from within, to destroy the government from within and sow hate.”Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich condemned the “evil price tag ideology,” referring to right-wing attacks against Palestinians, but attempted to disassociate himself from the extremists, saying it “is not the way of religious Zionism, period.”“The demonic dance with the picture of the murdered baby represents a dangerous ideology and the loss of humanity,” he said, according the Israel National News website.Opposition leader Isaac Herzog termed the revelers “maniacs.”“Lowlifes, you forgot what it is to be Jewish. You disgrace the kippah, the prayer shawl, and the name of God. Those who dance at a wedding and celebrate the death of a baby in his sleep are not Jews and not Israeli. They should be locked up as soon as possible,” he said in a tweet.In a statement, the Joint List of Arab parties said the Israeli government and defense minister, “who let the settlers attack Palestinians without facing punishment, are the first ones to blame for this terror network.”The party urged Israeli society to “wake up” and see that “the hatred and terror are the inevitable result of military control and occupation of a civilian population.”Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), an outspoken supporter of the settlement movement, condemned the participants at the wedding.“The clip published by Channel 10 news this evening is shocking and one cannot allow the activity of radical groups fueled by hate,” Ariel wrote on Facebook.“Violence and support of violence deserve only condemnation. This is not the path of Zionism and this is not the path of the settlement movement,” wrote Ariel, who a day earlier had called for the Shin Bet to close down its division that deals with Jewish terror cases.The video clip was also denounced by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who said it went against Jewish values. Other religious figures also spoke out against it.The video comes as the Shin Bet faces criticism from some right-wing activists over claims that it has tortured suspects detained in connection with the Duma attack.An unspecified number of Jewish suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack, which is being investigated as an act of terrorism. Details of the investigation, and the identity of the suspects, have been withheld from publication by a court-imposed gag order.On Wednesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett of Jewish Home doubled down on his criticism of figures in the religious Zionist community for their condemnation of the Shin Bet, calling them hypocrites.
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