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What is Kabbalah?

The Medieval era began esoteric circles of Kab...

The Medieval era began esoteric circles of Kabbalistic dissemination in French Provence, Andalusian Spain and Germany-Ashkenaz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Dr. Jennifer Howard

The word Kabbalah means “to receive” and flows out of the Jewish mystical tradition. The Kabbalah systematically breaks reality down into a clear understanding and a potential path to wholeness. Most religions have a mystical tradition, but they don’t necessarily break it down into bite size concepts. By “mystical” we don’t mean some weird magical or supernatural “ooga booga,” but rather attaining an experience of union with God, Spirit or Universe.

It is the pursuit of achieving communion with the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct, personal experience rather than rational thought. It is an experience of the existence of realties beyond perceptual or intellectual comprehension. The Kabbalists would call it “G-d-cleaving.”

In the Kabbalah, we learn about the creation story. In the creation story, we come into manifestation from what the Kabbalah calls the great Ayn-Sof (Ein Sof or Ain Sof), which literally means without end or boundlessness. This is the unknowable nothingness aspect of God. In this understanding, we then differentiate from the oneness of the Ayn-Sof into duality. This is the creation of opposites. That is how we have night and day … happy and sad.

Most of the focus of religions is the belief in a Supreme Being. Belief itself means you believe in something and that automatically separates you from the something in which you believe. Much of the content of most religions has the emphasis on a God that is still separate and distant or looks at ideas about God.

The Kabbalah is the mystical interpretation or the hidden meaning of the Torah. The word Torah means “teaching”, and is a key document of Judaism. For the Christians, it is the first five books of the New Testament. The Muslims’ believe that the Torah is one of the fundamental tenets of Islam.

In contrast, any mystical path connects us with our direct experience. This is usually out of one’s ordinary experience and in the most profound sense is a direct embodied experience of unified consciousness or oneness. Other traditions might call this enlightenment. This experience of wholeness, which Kabbalistic studies and other mystical traditions can provide, is not just to be intellectually understood. These teachings are considered to be transmissions of the embodied experience of the teacher. This is why the Kabbalah was originally an oral tradition and not written down.

The Kabbalah is a spiritual framework that can aid you through to your spiritual growth and contentment.

About the Author:

Jennifer Howard, Ph.D. is an internationally known licensed psychotherapist, Integrated Kabbalistic Healer®, Integrated Energy Healer, life coach, author and professional speaker. She is a co-founder of the Healing Path Center and maintains a private practice with offices in New York City and Huntington, L.I., New York, as well as an extensive phone practice. As a psychotherapist, Dr. Howard brings together her more than 20 years of experience, extensive training and expertise in mind-body psychology, meditation, and a variety of the healing arts. She has been a faculty member of the graduate studies program of A Society of Souls and is currently a supervisor.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.comWhat is Kabbalah?


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Who is really important?

The Count Potocki and his sons via Wikipedia

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Who are the really important people in our world? Some people are influencial. Some people are powerful. Some people can shut down a government or start a war.

But these people are not the most important people in God’s world according to Jewish tradition. This tradition claims that there are 36 unknown righteous men whose existence sustains the whole world.

But this is not entirely correct.

First of all these righteous people are not all males. In Hebrew, a mixed group of men and woman are always called men even if 35 of the 36 are women.

Second, there are always at least 36 righteous men and women, but usually there are many more, and often there are many righteous Gentiles and converts to Judaism among them.

For example, Count Valentine Potocki, a young Polish nobleman who went to Paris to finish his education, There he became close friends with another Polish nobleman, Zarembo, Both of them met a Jewish teacher and asked him to teach them Hebrew. After some time each independently decided to become Jewish.

Potocki went to Amsterdam where it was safe to convert to Judaism. Zarembo returned to Poland where he married into the Tishkewitch family. After some years, Zarembo took his wife and 5 year old son to Amsterdam where it was safe to become Jewish. Then the family went to Israel as Zarembo’s friend Count Potocki had done previously.

The Zarembo family remained in the Land of Israel, but Count Potocki grew homesick and took the dangerous step of returning to Poland. He settled in Ilja/Ilia in the Vilna district of Belarus posing as a born Jew, and spent all his time studying Torah.

When the police found out he was a convert to Judaism he was arrested and sent to Vilna. There the bishop tried to save his soul with reason, followed by torture, and then by being burned alive in the center of Vilna in 1749.

The following month, when the Baal Sham Tov (the founder of the Hassidic movement) heard what had happened to Potocki, he said two things. First, Potocki’s soul was a Gilgul (reincarnation) of parts (sparks) of the soul of both Sarah and Ruth, who also were not born of a Jewish mother. Ruth was the most famous female convert to Judaism.

According to a Midrash the souls of all future converts to Judaism were also standing at Sinai. According to Sefer HaPliyah a 14th century Kabbalistic text, most converts to Judaism are gilgulim- reincarnated Jewish souls from previous generations that were lost to the Jewish people, who are now returning home to their original people.

Since Potocki left no children, his soul would be reborn in a Gentile body who would someday return (convert) to the Jewish people again. Jewish mystical teachings relate that the souls of Jews who were cut off from the Jewish people, without leaving physical descendants to propagate their Jewish lineage, will reincarnate in later generations in the bodies of close friends or extended family, who 3-7 generations later will revert to Judaism.

Second, according to the Baal Shem Tov, Potocki was one of the 36+ hidden saints. These 36+ hidden saints- Lamed Vav Tzadikim (ל”ו צדיקים or “Lamed-Vav(niks”) refers to a special group of at least 36 unknown righteous people whose devotion to Judaism keeps the civilized world from being destroyed by all the evil in it.

Hasidic schoolchildren in Łódź, circa 1910s.

Hasidic schoolchildren in Łódź, circa 1910s via Wikipedia

In the 19th and 20th centuries Hassidic Judaism and Yiddish proletarian writers expanded this Jewish tradition of the 36+ righteous people whose simple role in life justifies the value of mankind in God’s eyes; by adding that if even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end. Their identity is unknown, even to each other. The lamed-vavniks are scattered throughout the world.

On rare occasions, one of them is ‘discovered’ by accident, in which case the secret of their identity must not be disclosed. The lamed-vavniks do not themselves know that they are one of the 36+. In fact, if a person claimed to be one of the 36, (as bar Yohai did-see below) that is proof that he or she is certainly not one, since the 36+ are each great exemplars of anavah, (“humility”).

The 36+ are simply too humble to believe that they are one of the 36+. This is similar to the reaction of almost all Gentiles who rescued Jews during the Shoah; who deny being heroes and think what they did was only natural.

For the sake of these 36+ hidden saints, God preserves our world even if the rest of humanity degenerates to the level of total barbarism. This idea is based on the story of Sodom and Gomorra in the Bible, where God told Abraham that he would spare the town of Sodom if there were at least 10 righteous people in it.

Since nobody knows who the 36+ Lamedvavniks are, not even themselves, every Jew should honor and respect all the simple, honest, unselfish, hard working and long suffering people around us, for one of them may be one of the 36+.

Unlike the rich, the famous, the pious, the scholars, the powerful, the beautiful or the successful, who everyone else thinks are very important, the 36+ are the really important people, because without even a few of them the world could destroy itself.

It is important to note that Rabbi Abaye said that there must be at least 36 righteous people in each generation. Usually there are more, lots more. The full Talmud text is as follows: Abaye said; The world must contain not less than thirty six righteous people in each generation who receive Shechinah’s face, as it is written, “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18); the numerical value of him -’lo’ is thirty six.

Is there a maximum number of hidden saints? The Talmud discussion continues. Did not Hezekiah say in the name of Rabbi Jeremiah, that Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai said: I have seen the sons of heaven,and they are limited; if there are a hundred, I and my son are included; if a dozen, I and my son are included; and if only two, they are myself and my son? (Thus proving that Simeon bar Yohai and son are not among the 36+ )

There is no difficulty (says the editor of the Talmud): the former number (1,000) refers to those who enter (experience Shechinah) with permission i.e. by self sacrificial Mitsvot; the latter (100) to those who enter without permission. i.e. by Mitsvot and great force of prayer.

Also Raba silenced Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai with proof from the Prophets: The front row (of righteous people) before the Holy One, consists of eighteen thousand, for it is written (Ezekiel 48:35), “it shall be eighteen thousand round about” Sanhedrin 97b.

A Yemenite Jew at morning prayers, wearing a k...

A Yemenite Jew at morning prayers, wearing a kippah skullcap, prayer shawl and tefillin via Wikipedia

So there are between 36+ and 18,000 unknown Jewish and Gentile saints in the world in every generation. When the number is high as in the generation of the 1860′s, millions of American slaves and Russian serfs were freed. When the number dips below 100 the world is in big trouble. When it sinks close to 36; holocausts occur.

As I wrote above, in Hebrew grammar a mixed group of men and women, even a group of 99 women and one man, are referred to as men. Many thoughtless people refer to the 36+ righteous as men, although there is absolutely no evidence that there are no female humble saints.

Indeed, women are more likely to fit the 36+ mold then men are. Clearly the 36+ are both men and women. Reform Rabbis teach that the 36+ are composed of at least18 men or 18 women who keep the world (Hai) alive.

Or perhaps there are 3 sets of 12+. The first third are from the tribe of Levy; half of them are descendants from Aaron, the first high priest, and half are descendants from Miriam, the first female prophet.

The second third are from Judah with at least half of them descendants of Ruth, and at least half descendants from David.

The last third are descendants from Noah, half of them are righteous Gentiles (many of them among the 24,000+ rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust recorded by Yad V’Shem in Jerusalem) and the other half are converts to Judaism (among the tens of thousands of converts in North America and throughout the world).

When the numbers of righteous saints are much higher than 36+ the number of righteous Gentiles and converts to Judaism becomes very high.

These unknown righteous people have great influence with God, although they do not know it. A folktale from Syria illustrates this theme. Once, in the land of Syria, there was a great drought. A rabbi called all the Jews of his village to the synagogue. They prayed day and night, but still no rain fell. Then the rabbi declared a fast, and asked God to answer their prayers.

That night he heard a voice from heaven, saying, “God will send rain only if Rahamim, who always sits in the back corner of the synagogue, prays for it.” “But he’s an ignoramus,” protested the rabbi and I am not sure how kosher his home is.” Silence was the response.

When Rahamim came to the synagogue the rabbi said, “tomorrow you will lead the congregation in prayers for rain,” “But I do not know how to pray,” said Rahamim. “There are so many others who know more than I.” “Nevertheless,” said the rabbi, “it is you who must lead the prayers.”

The next day the rabbi called all the people together to pray. The synagogue was filled to bursting. All eyes were on the bimah, where everyone expected to see the rabbi leading them in prayer. How great was their amazement to see poor Rahamim standing up there before the Holy Ark, holding a clay jar with two spouts in his hands. “Now I ask that you pray with all your heart,” he told the congregation.

So they opened the Ark and the people poured out their hearts to heaven, wailing bitterly and beating their breasts. Then Rahamim lifted up his jar, first placing the one spout to his eye and then the other to his ear. Instantly there was a rumble of thunder and then the sky opened up, drenching the earth with rain.

The rabbi later asked Rahamim, “Why did you bring that jar here? What did you do with it?”

“Rabbi, I’m a poor, ignorant man,” Rahamim replied. “What I earn as a cobbler barely feeds my many children. Every day they cry for bread and I have little to give them. When I hear their cries my heart breaks, and I too cry. I collect my tears in this jar. When you asked me to come here to pray, I looked into the jar and said, ‘Master of the Universe, if you do not send rain, I will break this jar in front of the whole congregation.’

Then I heard a voice that said, “Ask again when you stand before the congregation” “So I did and I heard a voice saying: ‘Do not break the jar’.

And then it began to rain.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com


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Changing Gender, Religion and Reincarnation

Image via Tumblr

By Rabbi Allen Maller

If people reincarnate, they usually do so within their own religion, gender and culture. But there are always some who change one, two, or even three of these categories.

According to the Kabbalah -the Jewish mystical tradition – some Jewish souls are born into non-Jewish families, because one of their parents had a Jewish ancestor three or four generations previously.

When those people return to Judaism they of course, change religion and culture. And sometimes they change their gender too; for when a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman and helps to raise his children in a non-Jewish religion, after his death, his soul will reincarnate (Gilgul in Hebrew) in one of his own female descendants three or four generations later, and then be drawn toward becoming a Jewish male again.

Take as a example Kadin Henningsen, who grew up female and Methodist in the Midwest. As a preteen she was inexplicably drawn to Judaism, empathizing with Jewish characters in Holocaust documentaries on TV.

Then in junior high, Henningsen had a revelation while reading Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen”: “I remember thinking I was supposed to grow up to be a Jewish man.”

Less than two decades later, the premonition came true. At 30, Henningsen transitioned genders and converted to Judaism, all within the span of a single summer. “It was a circular process,” he said. “The more entrenched I became in Jewish knowledge, the more comfortable I started to feel with my masculine identity.”

Henningsen’s conversion certificates were the first documents that referred to him with male pronouns. Today, at 35, he is an active member of Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim, a Reform congregation in Los Angeles.

According to Naomi Zeveloff’s article in the Jewish Daily Forward (8/16/13) Henningsen is not alone in his trajectory. Transgender converts constitute a growing minority within the small community of LGBT Jews. For some transgender converts conversion was intrinsically linked to gender transition; the process of soul-searching unearthed one insight after another.

For others, Judaism was a lifeline during a time of immense vulnerability and isolation. When friends and family members grew distant, transgender individuals found community at the Hillel House or at a local synagogue.

Some transgender converts to Judaism came from strong Christian backgrounds and wanted to supplant their childhood religion with one that would be more accepting of their new gender identity. Others came to Judaism from a nonreligious background.

“In one way it is a search for personal authenticity,” said Rabbi Jane Litman, a congregational consultant with the Reconstructionist movement who has converted close to two dozen transgender Jews. “People who are transitioning in terms of gender are looking for a way to feel most authentically themselves.”

Jesse Krikorian, a 24-year-old engineer, began exploring Judaism as a senior at Swarthmore College, shortly after she began her gender transition.

Unhappy with her decision to take hormones, her parents threatened to withdraw their financial support. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and there was a lot of chaos and uncertainty,” he later recounted. “I found that I really needed community and ritual and all those good things.”

Though he was raised Methodist, Krikorian was always interested in the Old Testament. A visit to the campus Hillel confirmed that Judaism might provide him with the community he was seeking: The Hillel director at the time, Jacob Lieberman, was also a transgender man. “I didn’t have any questions of whether I could be transgender and Jewish,” Krikorian said. “It was really clear that the combination could work.”

Krikorian attended Friday night services at Hillel each week and began to recite a prayer about transformation each time he bound his chest to appear more masculine. After graduating from college, he moved to Philadelphia. There he joined Kol Tzedek, a Reconstructionist synagogue. He converted in June, and hopes to go to rabbinical school.

Unlike Buddhism and Hinduism, Kabbalah does not teach that reincarnation (gilgul) occurs over the course of millions of years to millions of different sentient species.

According to Kabbalah, only the souls of self conscious moral creatures like human beings reincarnate; and they reincarnate only when they have not fulfilled the purpose of their creation in their present incarnation.

Since Judaism is an optimistic religion, Kabbalists teach that most people can accomplish their life’s purpose in one or two lifetimes. A few souls may need as many as 3-7 lifetimes.

The bright souls of great religious figures like Moses or Miriam can turn into a dozen or more sparks that may each reincarnate several times.

The tragic souls of Jews whose children or grandchildren have been cut off from the Jewish people, either through persecution or conversion to another religion, will reincarnate as one of their no longer Jewish descendants.

These souls will seek to return to the Jewish people, and a majority of people who end up converting (or reverting) to Judaism and the Jewish people have Jewish souls from one of their ancestors.

It is possible to see this form of reincarnation occurring in the world today in the experience of thousands of non-Jews who become Jewish.

Image via Tumblr

Every human on earth has 8 great grandparents and 16 great great grandparents. Each of these 24 individuals contributes an equal amount of genetic material to each of their descendants. Nevertheless, brothers or sisters who share the same 24 ancestors do not have identical genomes.

Unless they are identical twins their physical, mental and personality traits always differ, sometimes greatly, from their siblings who share the same physical genetic heritage.

This difference is the result of the unique physical combination of genes that occurs at conception; and the unique soul-personality that enters the body sometime during the second trimester.

Every year many hundreds of people find out that one or two of their 24 great grandparents and great great grandparent ancestors might have been Jewish.

For most of them this discovery is an interesting fact of little significance. For many of them it might be an embarrassment to be ignored.

But for some of them; initial curiosity becomes a life changing discovery. They feel drawn to Jewish people and seek to learn about Jewish music, food, literature, culture and religion. They feel more and more attached in some mysterious way to the Holocaust and the struggle of Israel to live in peace in the Middle East.

Many of these people eventually are led to become Jewish either by formal conversion or by informal reversion within Reform synagogues.

According to a mystical 14th century Jewish Kabbalistic teaching found in Sefer HaPliyah, those people who do feel this powerful attraction to Jewish things and Jewish people, have a Jewish soul that is a reincarnation (gilgul) of one of their own Jewish ancestors from 3-7 generations in the past.

That explains why they react to the discovery of some Jewish heritage in such a unusual way. It also explains why some people who do not even know that they have Jewish ancestors follow a similar path; and only discover a Jewish ancestor years after they have returned to the Jewish people.

The Hebrew word for reincarnation- gilgul, means recycling. Many people are born with new souls; they are here for the first time. Others have a soul that has lived on this planet before. Most people do not reincarnate after their life on this earth is over.

Of those who do reincarnate, most do so in one of their own descendants. Most non-Jews who end up becoming Jewish; especially now after the Jewish people have experienced several generations of assimilation, marriage to non-Jews, or hiding from anti-semitism , are descendants of people whose children, in one way or another, have been cut off from the Jewish People. Among their non-Jewish descendants a few will inherit a Jewish soul that will lead them to return to the Jewish people.

Leiah Moser, a 31-year-old student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, wrote on her blog about why “being transgender is a lot like being a convert to Judaism.”

Many people who convert to Judaism do so out of a sense that they were born with a Jewish soul and that only now they are finally coming home,” she wrote. “Being trans is also all about that uncomfortable separation between your truest soul and the outward circumstances of your birth.”

Moser, who grew up in a secular home, traces her interest in Judaism to reading “Yearnings” by Rabbi Irwin Kula. The book describes Judaism as a faith that embraces rigorous skepticism and questioning, a tenet that resonates with many trans folks.

When she moved to Tulsa, Okla., she sought out a Conservative synagogue to begin the process of conversion. “That initial period of finding a synagogue community and getting plugged in and becoming engaged in the Jewish traditions sort of had an air of inevitability, of rediscovery of something I had forgotten, even though I had never discovered it before,” Moser said.

“I think that is an experience that a lot of Jewish converts have, the uncanny experience of feeling more at home in this environment that they were incredibly new to.”

Moser began her gender transition last year, after her first year of rabbinical school. She began to experience her new religion in a new way, shedding certain traditions that were typically assigned to men, and embracing aspects of Jewish femininity.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com


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Kabbalah Numerology In Jewish Religion

Author: David Azulai

Jewish religion, or Judaism, explains how transcendent controlling powers of the invisible world affect our material, tangible existence. In this respect Jewish religion resorts to the help of Kabbalah sound. Kabbalah numerology explains how names can affect our reality and daily routine. Names – or sound vibrations – are a source of powerful energy that people are often unaware of. Decision making is the main factor that can change a person’s life.

Names may have a great effect on the human subconsciousness, modify our thinking and behavior, and influence the way we make our decision. By studying these sound variations and the meanings that are associated with them in Kabbalah numerology, you can have a better control of your life. It has been proven that people’s names control the yang and yin (male and female) natures, bad and good emotions, light and dark powers in most individuals.

Certain sounds of a name may also attract certain energies, both positive and negative ones. That is why most events and accidents in life are related to the person’s name and caused by the energies that represent particular sounds of a name. Therefore, it is also important to choose the right name for a child that would vibrate harmonically with the child’s personality and environment. Many curious individuals have started exploring Kabbalah numerology in Jewish religion now.

By knowing the meaning of your name you will be able to activate the powers of the kabbalistic Tree of Life (frequently described by adherents of this Jewish religion as a map that shows connection of all living creatures and animate objects with each other) within yourself and reach your personal predestination. You can focus your attention on the sounds of your name, let them guide you and use them in concordance with the main numerological methodologies that teach you how to apply this knowledge in life. This new life style that Kabbalah numerology revealed is the way of adjusting to your name for a particular purpose or predestination you desire to achieve.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/kabbalah-articles/kabbalah-numerology-in-jewish-religion-1858278.html

About the Author

Rabbi David Azulai, the great-grandson of the illustrious Rabbi Yosef Abraham Azulai, was born in Fez, Morocco in 1958. Rabbi David Azulai is the scion of a family of great “Talmidei Chachamim” (Torah Scholars) and “Ba’alei Mofes” (individuals who have the ability through prayer of performing miracles).


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A ‘Lost’ Tribe of Israel Returns Home

Bnei Menashe in Adloyada of Purim in Carmiel, ...

Bnei Menashe in Adloyada of Purim in Carmiel, Israel by Jusmine via Wikipedia

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Most people have heard of the ‘ten lost tribes of Israel’. In reality they were never lost; they were just submerged among the much larger non Jewish population in the places where they lived, or they moved to distant lands, and over the course of centuries became detached from the main body of the Jewish People; and were forgotten. The well known Marano Jews, who are the descendants of Jews forced to convert into the Catholic Church in 15th century Spain and Portugal, are a good example of a submerged Jewish population. The Jewish communities in India and China are a good example of remote Jewish communities, who in the 12th  and 13th century became detached from the body of Israel and were forgotten. Today the Jews of India and China are remembered primarily because, unlike Jews in Europe and the Middle East, the Jews in India and China never were subject to Anti-Semitism or any form of religious oppression.

Now, a new group of  ‘lost’ Indian Jews, who are descendants of the tribe of Menashe, one of the ten tribes exiled from the Land of Israel in 721 BCE by the conquering Assyrian Empire, are returning home. In March 2005, Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar officially backed the Bnei Menashe’s claim to be Jewish. That announcement led to a wave of immigration from India to Israel; and about 1,700 of the 7,200-strong Bnei Menashe community arrived in Israel. But the flow stopped in 2007, when Israel stopped giving visas to the Bnei Menashe due to objections from some ultra-Orthodox Rabbis.

Israel’s decision to reverse that policy now will pave the way for all the remaining Bnei Menashe members to migrate. A source close to the prime minister’s office gave two reasons for the change in Israeli policy.  Some of the donors to Shavei Israel, an organization that seeks to repatriate  ‘lost’ Jewish communities, are also donors to Netanyahu, and several fundamentalist Christian groups that support Netanyahu also pressured him strongly because they believe that the return of the remnants of the ten lost tribes is a necessary part of the coming Messianic Age.

The Bnei Menashe Indian Jewish community says it is one of the ten lost tribes of Israel who were exiled when Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom of Israel in the 8th century BCE. According to its oral tradition, the tribe travelled through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China and on to India, where it eventually settled in the north-eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram.

When the new group of 53 Bnei Moshe landed in Tel Aviv there were emotional scenes at Ben Gurion airport as the newcomers were greeted by relatives who had moved to Israel during the first wave of immigration. Several hundred more Bnei Menashe members are due to arrive in the coming weeks, said Michael Freund, a spokesman for the Shavei Israel group which helped organize the journey for the Bnei Menashe members. “The members of this tribe have never forgotten where they came from. and we are excited to be able to help them come back,”

Freund, a passionate religious Zionist from New York, immigrated to Israel in 1995 and was employed as deputy communications director for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term. In 1997 Freund discovered one of the many letters sent by the Bnei Menashe on a desk in the prime minister’s office. “The letter, hand-written and in a faded orange envelope, looked like it had been through a washing machine. At first, I thought the whole thing was nuts,” he said. But he was intrigued enough to visit the tribe in India. “When I met them and saw the similarities between their customs and beliefs and the biblical Israelites, I was convinced that these are indeed descendants of the lost tribes” Freund said.

Ethiopian Jews are another remote community that returned to Israel a generation ago after a separation of over 2,000 years. The amazing 1991 rescue of 15,000 Ethiopian Jews in an airlift lasting less than 48 hours stirred and inspired people for several weeks. Subsequently, the difficult problems the newcomers faced (similar to those of the 900,000 Russian Jews who immigrated in the 1970′s and 1980′s) occupied the Jewish media. Now both are taken for granted. The miracle has become routine.

But if you had told the Jews of Ethiopia two generations ago that they would someday all fly to Israel in a giant silver bird, they could only conceive of this as a Messianic miracle.  If you had told Russian Jews a generation ago that the Soviet regime would collapse, and the Soviet Empire disintegrate; while hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews would emigrate to Israel, they would have conceived it only as a Messianic dream. In our own generation therefore we have seen the dramatic fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “I will bring your offspring from the East (India) and gather you from the (European) West. To the North (Russia) I will say ‘give them up’ and to the South (Ethiopia) ‘do not hold them’.  Bring my sons from far away, my daughters from the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:5-6) Truly amazing things are happening in our generation if we would only open our eyes.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com


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Pope John Paul’s Jewish Miracle

English: Pope John Paul II during General Audi...

Pope John Paul II during General Audiency, 29 September 2004, St. Peter Square, Vatican (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special to Earthpages.org

A second public miracle is needed in order to proclaim Pope John Paul II a saint, and that second miracle could be the revival of Jewish music and Jewish life in Poland, according to Reform Rabbi Allen S. Maller, who was a visiting scholar for two months at Beit Warszawa, a Reform synagogue in Warsaw, in the Fall of 2010, and returned to Poland for another 6 weeks in 2012.

Rabbi Maller points to an interview of Sir Gilbert Levine by Cecile S. Holmes, distributed by Religious News Service (1/5/11) that revealed John Paul’s role in the resurrection of Jewish music in Poland by the Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow.

Sir Gilbert Levine, whose conducting career spanned the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic and the Dresden Staatskapelle, was a Jew from Brooklyn. In 1987, Levine was invited to be guest conductor and artistic director of the Krakow Philharmonic in John Paul’s native Poland. The invitation was unsettling since Levine’s grandparents had fled Poland to escape the Nazis and members of his wife’s family had died in Auschwitz. Also living in Krakow in 1987 meant living behind the Iron Curtain, but Levine accepted anyway.

Soon after Levine arrived in Krakow, the Vatican invited him to Rome for an audience with Pope John Paul. That invitation led to others, and Levine was invited to conduct a concert in 1988 to mark the 10th anniversary of John Paul’s election. Thus began almost two decades of musical collaboration and a joint mission of peacemaking. Three years later, in 1991, the first public Jewish Cultural Festival was held in Krakow. John Paul and Levine also worked together on a 1994 concert to commemorate the Holocaust.

When Levine arrived in Krakow there was no Jewish music festival in Krakow; but his presence and his close connection with the first Polish Pope inspired some Poles in 1989 and 1990 to dream of reviving the Jewish musical tradition in Poland. Today there are more than two dozen Polish (non-Jews) klezmer bands and several Polish (non-Jews) groups that play and sing both Yiddish and Hebrew songs. Today there are Liberal Reform synagogues with Rabbis in Warsaw (2) and Krakow (1) that welcome Poles to  programs of Jewish music and culture. The partnership of a Polish Pope and a Jewish conductor, stimulated a musical engagement of Poles with Jewish souls, and Jewish music for Polish souls.

Levine still recalls his friendship with the pope with a touch of wonder:

Q: Tell me how your relationship with the pope affected you.

A: It deepened my faith, and he honored that Jewish faith wonderfully. It deepened my music making. I understand the spiritual side of music in a deeper and better way than I ever did before. It made me understand that there is no such thing as judging a person by the country they come from, the religion they practice or any other surface issue. Only by the character of their soul should a person be judged.   I was always astonished by the fact that he could let me into his life the way that he did. For him to have been open to such a friendship is just amazing.

Q: What are the most important things you learned from the pope?

A: My 17 years with John Paul taught me so much. The power of music and spirit to foster hope, transformation, healing and love. And more about the mysteries of faith, not one but three—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The potential for reconciliation and redemption in the face of violence and sadness.

But Pope John Paul’s connection to Judaism was not aimply a post Holocaust reaction, He also had a personal connection from his childhood years. Jerry Kluger and Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, were classmates in the southern Polish city of Wadowice; and were friends from first grade through high school. “The young Karol Wojtyla learned a lot about Judaism from Kluger,” said Italian author Gianfranco Svidercoschi, who was an aide to the late pope and wrote a book about the pontiff’s friendship with Kluger.

“He had a great influence on the pope’s life,” Svidercoschi, who wrote about their friendship in the 1993 book “Letter to a Jewish Friend,” told Reuters.  “The young Wojtyla visited the Kluger home in Wadowice, helped Jerzy with his studies, particularly Latin, and started a friendship that would influence his relations with Jews for the rest of his life,” said Svidercoschi, who was editor of the Vatican newspaper during part of John Paul’s pontificate.

They lost track of each other when World War Two broke out with the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and did not see each other again until 1965. Early in the war, Kluger and his father were arrested by the Russians and sent to a gulag in Siberia.

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Kluger was freed and joined Polish forces fighting the Nazis in Africa and Italy under General Wladyslaw Anders. Toward the end of the war, when he discovered that his mother had been killed in the Auschwitz death camp, he decided to stay in Italy. He studied engineering in Turin and later moved to England.

He settled in Italy again in the early 1960s, working for an import-export company and re-connected with Archbishop Karol Wojtyla in 1965 when Wojtyla was in Rome for the Second Vatican Council. Until they met for the first time since 1938, each presumed the other had died in the war.

After Wojtyla became the first Polish pope in 1978 they intensified their friendship and Kluger helped organize reunions between the pope and classmates from Wadowice either in Rome or during the pontiff’s trips to Poland. Kluger was in Rome’s synagogue when Pope John Paul made his historic visit there in 1986 and called Jews “our beloved elder brothers”.  When the pope made his first trip to Israel as pontiff in 2000, Kluger was in attendance at the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust. Their friendship continued right up to the pope’s death in 2005.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is rabbimaller.com


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The Deeper Meaning of Shofar Blowing

Another shofar by Chadica / Chad Rosenthal

Another shofar by Chadica via Flickr

By Jewisheart

The shofar is a special instrument used during significant Jewish religious events. The practice of shofar blowing is an essential part of the synagogue services during the Yum Kippur. Shofar blowing on Rosh Hasahna is also observed by modern Jewish communities.

The blowing of the shofar is mentioned in numerous instances in the Hebrew Bible and in many other Hebrew literatures indicating that it is an age-old religious tradition of the Israelites.

In the present setting, the shofar blow signifies the observance of religious holidays such as the Jubilee Year. The Tisri or the seventh month is ushered in with a “memorial” blowing of the shofar which is commonly referred to as the day of blowing. The practice of making shofar sounds is also observed during processions and to signal the start of a war.

The shofar should be made out of the horn of an African antelope or a ram and not just of any other ordinary horned animal. In the ancient Hebrew societies, the shofar blowing is an integral part of special religious rituals. It is also practiced to usher in major armed undertakings of the Israelites.

Shofar blowing is an integral part of the curriculum as it is taught by educators to their students to impart the importance and significance of these ancient tradition in their history and present day living. Even Christians are now using the shofar for important religious events. A shofar is also considered as an appropriate present during bar mitzah, birthday, marriage and other significant milestones. The shofar and the practice of shofar blowing are essential in reinforcing Jewish heritage and tradition and Judaism. It is not uncommon to find a shofar on display in a typical Jewish home.

Shofars when measured along its curve shape reaches 7” to 52”. The sound is controlled by its length along the curve, the mouthpiece and curve size, its thickness as well as the person blowing the instrument. Generally, the larger shofars are the easier ones to blow and produce deeper sounds. These larger shofars can also produce more tones than the smaller ones. Once an individual learns how to blow a shofar, he can produce distinctive sounds even without the additional mouthpiece.

Most prefer of not using an additional mouthpiece when blowing the shofar because the instrument is made out of natural material and the distinctive sound that one produces is what makes it a unique instrument.

If you decide of buying your own shofar, it is important that you buy from reputable shofar sources and outlets. The company must be capable of providing personalized and customized service to clients who buy their shofars. The company must be able to make provisions in the customization of the shofar whether it will be primarily used for display or a regular instrument for the synagogue. Of course, a shofar that will be used more as a display must be well-polished and injected with the requisite features needed for aesthetic purposes. The shofar should also be specially designed to produce more tones and the highest volume if it is intended for the synagogue.

When you decide to purchase a shofar, make sure you buy it from a company that’s willing to provide customized service. For instance, you may want a very large, fully polished shofar that will be used primarily as a display, or you may want one that gives the most number of tones and/or highest volume for a synagogue. You may want the shofar for a young child, so it must be easy to blow and produce sound, or you may want one for yourself that has a specific tone to it.

A good shofar seller will work with their customers individually to find the perfect shofar for each person, and will even encourage them to call or email if they have any questions at all about their shofar purchase. Not all shofars are created equal and come from quality manufacturers, so don’t be shy to ask questions before you buy!

About the Author:

Jewisheart is an online store selling Tallit, Shofar and other jewish related accessories at special prices over the internet.

Article Source: ArticlesBase.comThe Deeper Meaning of Shofar Blowing

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