Peace Offerings | A Guest Post

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A guest post by Rabbi Aaron Fink (my father), Dean of Ateres Bais Yaakov on Monsey NY. Part of a weekly Dvar Torah (Torah “Thought”) series.

Parshas Vayigash
Yaakov’s Shlomim

Following the dramatic news of Yosef Hatzaddik’s survival in the flesh pots of Mitzrayim, Yaakov Avinu readies himself to visit his long lost son. With vigor and alacrity he packs his bags. Taking his entire family and all of his possessions in tow he head towards Be’er Sheva. Why Be’er Sheva? Chazal explain, it was years earlier that, “vayeitzei Yaakov miBe’er Sheva,” that Yaakov’s life travail from Lavan to Yosef commenced upon his departure from Beer Sheva. Now that his life had come full circle he went back to Be’er Sheva, to offer thanks to Hashem Yisborach in a makom Tefilah of his fathers, the place where it all began.

Energized with a renewed sense of simchas hachyim, Yaakov Avinu arrives in Be’er Sheva and immediately brings a korban of thanks to the Ribbono Shel Olam. However, unlike all korbanos offered heretofore, from the time of Noach and Avraham until this climactic moment, Yaakov does not bring a korban Olah, which is kulo laHashem. Rather, he offers zevachim, shlomim sacrifices. Offerings which are shared with and enjoyed by all. Interestingly, the Torah records that he offers them to the Elokei Aviv Yitzchok.

Mifarshei hamikrah wonder; firstly, why Shlomim? Secondly, why not also mention Elokei Avraham as Yaakov had in the past? And finally, why wouldn’t one korban suffice, he obviously offered many animals (zevachim). Read…

How to Issue a Condemnation of Violence

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Thugs and hoodlums from extremist religious groups in Israel have been terrorizing fellow Jews for some time now. They have done so without fear of condemnation or retribution from the religiously adjacent charedi community. This recent wave of violence is not new nor is it shocking or surprising.

Spitting on young girls, calling women whores, forcing segregation at bus stops and on buses are all acts cut from the same cloth as the violence at Manny’s Bookshop and a political beating in Meah Shearim. We’ve known about this for a while. Nobody has said a word.

However, this time the media found out about it. So now it’s national and international news.

This has prompted responses and condemnations from rabbis, rabbinic authorities and lay people. That’s great. Finally. The problem is that these condemnations are so weak, hedged and long-winded that they, in my opinion, are a failure.

There is only one way to condemn violence and abuse towards women. That would be something like this: Read…

Chanukah Party 2011 Photos and Wrap-up

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Pacific Jewish Center enjoyed another excellent Chanukah party planned and executed by Jeff Liss and his wonderful helpers. The party featured delicious Chanukah foods and treats, dreidel contests, a moon bounce for the kids, entertainment for everyone courtesy of Derek the Mime a speech from the rabbi and most of all, lovely company.

As usual, the party was open to the Pacific Jewish Center community and to the public as part of our Outreach on the Beach programming. The community was well represented with an excellent showing at the party. With our doors wide open at on Venice Boardwalk we also met and made many old and new friends. People who had been in the shul before returned this afternoon. One woman had been in the shul in the 50’s and had not been back since. Others were old friends who were part of our community for many years before moving on. It was so nice to see them all. We also met many new people. Some were local Jewish residents who had just never had a chance to come to shul and others were travelers and tourists, some Jewish and some not at all.

It was a beautiful afternoon. We thank everyone who came and who contributed to the festive and celebratory atmosphere.

If you missed the party, you can listen to my speech here: What Doomed the Hasmoneans?

And you can feel like you were there by watching the slide show below. Hopefully, next time you will be there in person. Read…

Chanukah 2011 Address: What Doomed the Hasmoneans?

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Hasmonean Coin

In case you are wondering what I said at the Chanukah party, wonder no more. You can listen to my 20+ minute address right here on the blog. Just click the play button at the bottom of this post.

I spoke about the fatal flaw that doomed the Hasmonean dynasty. I think the approach is novel. I have never seen or heard anything that provides this particular perspective and I hope you find the idea I propose thought provoking.

Agree or disagree, I always enjoy hearing your thoughts.

It was a great party, stay tuned for photos in a later post.

You can also subscribe to all classes in iTunes  Read…

Chanukah and Separation of Church and State

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Separation of Church and State is widely regarded as a modern concept. For most of the world this is an accurate assessment. In some places in the world there remains no separation. What I mean by a separation between church and state is that quite simply there are two different and exclusive bodies that legislate religion and politics. Political leadership is vested in one person or group and religious considerations are seen to by a different person or group.

In the United States, I believe separation of church and state is a misnomer. It’s not that there is a separation as much as the state has no opinion on religion. I think that a truer version of a separation between church and state originated with ancient Judaism.

The law was that the political leadership of the Jewish people flowed through the Davidic family of the tribe of Judah. The religious leaders in ancient Israel were the priests and the Levites who were are members of the tribe of Levi. These two groups were separate. This separation of powers was to ensure that no group had absolute power. It created a balance between political and domestic interests and religious interests. It was a good system and I believe the model for today’s separation. Read…