All of our High Holiday services will be live on the internet, free of charge.  We hope you will join us if you can’t make it to a synagogue near you.  Simply click HERE to enter our sanctuary.

We do ask that you consider making a donation to support our internet sanctuary.  Donations may be mailed to Ramat Shalom, 11301 West Broward Blvd. Plantation, FL 33325

Shanah Tovah!!!

The Sound of the Shofar

It is the custom to blow the shofar during the month of Elul which began at the end of August. We do this, we are taught, to awaken our soul before we begin a new year.

The Call of the Shofar

Once upon a time, many years ago, in the faraway country of Russia, there lived a poor orphan named Moshele. He went to cheder (Jewish school) with all the other children in his little town. He loved learning about the Torah. When he became a bit older, he had to go to work. He was a poor orphan. He had to get a job and take care of himself. Moshele decided to become a peddler. In those days there weren’t many stores. Peddlers traveled all over the country with suitcases full of things to sell. Moshele got a suitcase and filled it with all kinds of odds and ends. He had needles and thread, scissors, thimbles, pieces of material, all sorts of buttons and many other things.

It was not easy to be a peddler. In the summertime it was hot, and Moshele became tired and thirsty walking on the dusty roads with his heavy suitcase. In the wintertime, Moshele shivered and froze because his clothes were not warm enough to protect him from the icy winds.

And so his life went on until one day poor Moshele was caught in a very big snow storm. It was a real blizzard. Snow was falling and falling from the gray skies. Everything was covered with a thick blanket of snow. Moshele tried to be brave and cheerful. He kept his spirits up by reciting by heart all the prayers he knew. With each step it was getting more and more difficult to walk. His suitcase felt heavier and heavier. The snow was up to his ankles. Soon the snow was almost up to his knees. Moshele could hardly move with his big heavy suitcase. Snow was everywhere. It was difficult to follow the road because the snow covered everything. Without knowing it, Moshele walked off the road and into the woods. He was very, very tired. When he found a tree-stump, he decided to sit down and rest for a while.

Moshele knew that it was very dangerous to fall asleep. He tried very hard to stay awake. He kept saying to himself over and over again: “Do not fall asleep. You must stay awake.” But Moshele was so very tired and he thought a short rest would be good for him. He was shivering in his thin old clothes, and he felt very sleepy. He stretched out his arms and legs and drifted off into oblivion…

It was beginning to become dark outside. Soon it would become light. The non-Jewish peasant on the road with his horse and sled was happy he would be home soon. But wait! What was that? Away from the road, somewhat into the woods, he noticed something odd. What was it? It looked like a boy lying in the snow. Could he be alive? He stopped his horse, and ran over to take a better look. He could hardly believe his eyes. There was no sign of life. The body was almost frozen stiff. There was not a moment to be wasted. He grabbed the boy and placed him in his sled. He covered him with blankets and spoke to him, trying to wake him up. All of a sudden, the boy stirred. He moved only slightly, but the peasant felt happy. The peasant drove his horse and sled as fast as he could to his farm in a village nearby.

The peasant brought the boy into the house. He put him down on some blankets near the fireplace. The peasant warmed up some milk and fed the boy slowly with a spoon. Moshele opened his eyes for a moment. Then he closed them again and went to sleep. He slept peacefully all night. In the morning, the crow of the rooster woke him up. Moshele opened his eyes and looked around. Everything seemed strange, he could not understand where he was. He tried to remember what happened, but Moshele had forgotten everything. He could not remember his home. He could not remember his travels as a peddler. But he was too tired to think. The peasant’s wife came to greet Moshele. “How do you feel?” she asked. “I guess I feel all right, thank you,” answered Moshele. He was still wondering what had happened to him and how he had come to the peasant’s home. The woman prepared some hot cereal for Moshele and fed him slowly with a spoon. “What is your name?” she asked him. Moshele became frightened. He could not remember his own name! He tried to think as hard as he could, but he just could not remember. “I don’t know. I can’t remember my name.” he said sadly. “Never mind,” said the peasant woman. “Don’t worry about that. You can stay with us in our home. We’ll call you Peter. How about that?” She gave him a kind smile. Moshele smiled back at her. “Yes,” he said, “that would be fine.”

Moshele, or Peter as he was called now, lived in the home of the peasant and his wife and became a part of their family. He did not remember that he was Jewish and instead became very much like the farmer and his wife. All summer long, Peter helped with the work on the farm. He plowed the fields and made nice, even rows. He sowed the seeds. He watched everything grow. When fall came, it was time to reap the harvest. One autumn day, the farmer said to Peter, “Tomorrow we will drive into town. We will take some of our products to the market to sell.” Peter was very excited. The work on the farm was hard and Peter had been very busy. It would be great fun to go into town.

Peter was so happy, he could hardly sleep that night. The trip to town was not very long, but to Peter it seemed like hours. When they got into town, they were very surprised. There were no people on the streets. The little town looked deserted. When they passed by the little synagogue in the town, they saw it was filled with people. It turns out it was Rosh Hashanah. The peasant decided that they should drive back to the farm because it was not a good time for business given that everyone was praying. Peter kept looking at the synagogue. He did not want to return to the farm. He could not tear himself away from the synagogue. He begged the peasant to stay in town for a while longer. The peasant saw how excited Peter was. He said Peter could spend the afternoon by himself looking around town. It would be a treat for his hard work on the farm.

Peter felt as if someone were pulling him toward the synagogue. He felt as if he were sleepwalking. Without knowing that he had walked there, he suddenly found himself at the entrance to the synagogue. The men were wrapped in their prayer shawls. Everyone was praying and somewere weeping. No one even noticed Peter standing near the door. No one paid any attention to him. Peter looked all around. Somehow it all seemed familiar to him. Had he ever been here before? His heart began to beat faster. The tune and melodies of the Cantor were familiar to him. The scrolls of the Torah that were being carried out of the Ark were familiar. And he was beginning to hear the words in the prayers and they sounded familiar too. Slowly his memory was returning to him and everything in the synagogue brought back more and more memories. As if glued to the spot, Peter stood motionless and stared…

Peter did not know how long he had been standing there when he began to notice a feeling of excitement among the worshippers in the synagogue. Everyone was becoming very quiet. There was finally complete silence in the crowd. All the people stood still in their places. Peter hardly dared to breathe. It seemed as if the air was filled with holiness. Peter closed his eyes for a moment. He felt as if angels were all around him. Suddenly the silence was shattered by the loud blast of the shofar. The sound of the shofar made Peter feel very strange. As each note was blown and moved upward, Peter felt as if he had wings and was flying upward with it.
Peter’s eyes filled with tears. The tears began rolling down his cheeks. But inside, in his heart, Peter was smiling. Everything was now clear to him. “Moshele, you are a Jew,” the Shofar called. And Moshele said quietly, “Thank you, Shofar. Oh thank you, thank you. Thank you for reminding me
that I am a Jew.”

Many of us can identify with Moshele. We “forget” who we are during the year. We lose sight of what is important. We fall away from the values and lessons that we believe in. The sound of the shofar speaks to our soul and brings us back – refocusing us, reminding us who we are and what is important.

We will be sounding the shofar many times before Rosh HaShanah. I hope you get an opportunity to hear the blasts and remember.

September 20th and the UN

On September 20th, the Palestinian Authority is expected to ask the United Nations to recognize “Palestine” as a sovereign state within the pre-1967 borders with Israel and as a full member of the UN.  In doing so, Palestinian leaders will be asking the UN to go back in time, to borders that were created in 1949, after Israel’s War of Independence.   This war was a result of the fact that the Arab world rejected the two-state partition plan offered in 1947 that created both a Jewish and an Arab state.  Israel accepted this plan and declared statehood in 1948.  She was immediately attacked by her Arab neighbors and the War of Independence began.  As a result of this war, the fledging State of Israel gained territory, as did Egypt and Jordan – the latter gaining control of the West Bank (Samaria and Judea) and East Jerusalem (including the Western Wall).  The 1949 Armistice lines that were drawn at the conclusion of this conflict are often referred to as the pre-1967 borders, the borders that the Palestinian Authority wants the UN to acknowledge as the official borders of the sovereign state of Palestine.

These borders were in place until 1967 and the Six Day War.  Until this conflict, Jordan and Egypt could have given up their territory to create a Palestinian state. There was nothing stopping them – EXCEPT the Arab world’s overwhelming hatred of Israel and a fierce determination to destroy the Jewish State and turn it into Palestine.  For the Arab world there was (and for many in the Arab world there still is) no other option.

Arab hatred led to another assault on Israel in 1967 – resulting in the Six Day War and Israel gaining more territory, including the West Bank and Gaza.  In response to this war, the UN passed Resolution 242 that called for a “peaceful and accepted settlement” between the involved parties.  This settlement would require return of some territory by Israel and an acknowledgment by the Arab world that Israel has the right to exist and the right to safety and security.  In June of 1967, President Johnson made it clear that Israel was not expected to give back all land that she gained during the Six Day War, saying that the old “truce lines” (the pre-1967 borders) had been “fragile and violated,” and that what was needed were “recognized boundaries” that would provide “security against terror, destruction and war.”

Over the years, Israel has attempted to negotiate with her Palestinian neighbors.  Israel gave up Gaza and parts of the West Bank have been given over to the Palestinian Authority.  Despite this, Palestinian terrorism continues to plague Israel and her citizens, much of it coming in the form of missiles launched from Gaza.  In addition, the Palestinian community still refuses to accept that Israel has the right to exist in peace as a Jewish state.  This has been a huge roadblock that has gotten in the way of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  How can Israel negotiate with an entity that refuses to accept her right to exist?

Playing the victim and asserting that Israel is refusing to negotiate, the Palestinian Authority is going to the UN this month and asking them to recognize the sovereign state of Palestine based upon the pre-1967 borders – borders that were created as a result of the Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist, borders that were “fragile and violated” by those committed to Israel’s destruction.  If the UN were to recognize a sovereign state of Palestine based upon these borders, the international body would be undermining the “peaceful and accepted settlement” that Resolution 242 requires, violating the calls for a negotiated settlement and the rejection of unilateral moves that were laid out in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement and empowering the enemies of Israel by giving credence to borders that were not agreed upon by Israel and that jeopardize her very existence.

As the Palestinian Authority prepares to bring their case before the UN, Palestinian leaders know that they face a tremendous obstacle.  A state cannot be recognized and admitted into membership in the UN without the recommendation of the Security Council.  The United States has the ability to veto such a recommendation and President Obama has said that:

 “No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.”

The Palestinian Authority might attempt to circumvent the Security Council by going straight to the General Assembly where they will probably have the votes needed for recognition and approval. Based upon the “Uniting for Peace” precedent of 1950, a special emergency session of the GA can be called to address urgent matters of international peace and security.  “Uniting for Peace” does not, however, apply to matters pertaining to membership in the UN.   If the General Assembly were to somehow pass a resolution that recognized the sovereign state of Palestine and accepted this state as a full member of the UN without the recommendation of the Security Council, this resolution would be nonbinding.  That is not to say that such a resolution would not have tremendous ramifications across the globe.  Some assert that the GA might independently upgrade the status of Palestine from an “observer mission” to that of a “nonmember state”, a symbolical move that would still pack a punch.

No one should believe that a UN resolution recognizing and empowering a sovereign Palestine based upon pre-1967 borders will increase the chances of peace.  If anything, a resolution that empowers those who refuse to accept Israel’s sovereignty while redrawing and reducing Israel’s borders without the involvement of the Israeli government would undermine the Jewish State and give legitimacy to those determined to annihilate Israel.  This is a recipe for disaster and part of the Palestinian plan: remove statehood and borders from the negotiating table and there’s not much more to talk about with Israel.

The United States needs to stand strongly by Israel’s side this month.  The US must veto any Security Council resolution that recognizes Palestine as a sovereign state.  An abstention by the US is not acceptable.  If the General Assembly votes to recognize a Palestinian state, the US must refuse to accept this state.  Our government must insist that the recognition of a Palestinian state must only happen when the Palestinian Authority ends all violence against Israel and acknowledges Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation within secure borders that are determined by negotiations.  Furthermore, the US must make it explicitly clear to the General Assembly that the US will withhold funds to any UN organization that admits a sovereign state of Palestine as a member state or grants it “nonmember state observer” status.

Please pay close attention to this situation and be in touch with the President, our Senators and our Representatives – sharing your concerns and urging them to insure that the United States stands with Israel.  Also, please consider signing the Petition Against a Unilaterally Declared Palestine sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Councils and The Jewish Federations of America:

The Man Who Was Always Late: The Power of Forgiveness

We have begun the Jewish month of Elul, the month that leads us into Rosh HaShanah. During the month of Elul, we are urged to begin the hard work of the High Holidays, which includes apologizing and forgiving. The story below, which I shared last Friday night, reminds us of the power of forgiveness – a power that each of us possesses. Perhaps this story will inspire you to use your power this year.

The Man Who Was Always Late

Try as he might, Reb Dovid found it impossible to be on time. It always happened that he either overslept or became sidetracked and forgot about his meetings.

At last Reb Dovid came to Reb Zalman about it. Reb Zalman was very curious to know why Reb Dovid was unable to overcome this flaw, so he sent up a dream question about it, and that night he learned in a dream that Reb Dovid’s soul had always known this affliction. In fact, in a previous life he had even come late to his place at Mount Sinai. For when the Holy One had apportioned time to souls, a playful angel had taken a hundred and one minutes from him and given them to another soul, one that always came to be too early.

So it was that in subsequent lives, despite all efforts to correct this flaw, Reb Dovid’s soul had continued to suffer from it. In some lives he had served as a soldier, who had been punished for not being able to follow orders on time. In other lives, when he had been a woman, he had missed the time to light the candles and as a result had desecrated the Sabbath. Thus when Reb Zalman awoke and recalled this dream, he recognized that Reb Dovid’s flaw, which had haunted him since the time of the creation of his soul, would not be a simple one to eliminate. And Reb Zalman gave the matter much thought, but he could not think of a way to restore to Reb Dovid’s soul the hundred and one minutes the angle had robbed him of.

Reb Zalman continued to meditate on this matter, and meanwhile Reb Dovid suffered from his flaw, saying his prayers late, after the stars had appeared, and having his matzos condemned because they reached the oven too late. These failings caused Reb Dovid great pain, for they were completely unintentional. And the scoldings he got did not help, because of his soul’s disposition to tardiness.

The next time Reb Dovid came to Reb Zalman with this problem, Reb Zalman told him that he could not help him in any direct way, and Reb Dovid was so distraught that he forgot to give Reb Zalman a message from Reb Levi of Ludmir, inviting Reb Zalman to serve as the mohel at the bris of his newborn son. Only once he was on his way did Reb Dovid remember this message. Then he pleaded with the coachman to turn back, and after he promised to pay additional fare the coach did return to Zholkiev. Once again Reb Dovid stood before Reb Zalman in tears, and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “I’m afraid I have done it again.” Then it was difficult for Reb Zalman to arrange things to leave with Reb Dovid at once, so Reb Zalman gave him the bag of the tools for the bris and told him to meet him at the home of Reb Levi in the morning. Then Reb Dovid assured Reb Zalman that he would let Reb Levi know that he was coming, and would have everything there on time the next day.

Reb Zalman took the coach early the next morning after Shaharis, and hurried to Ludmir. But when he arrived he was not met by Reb Levi or someone from his household as he had expected. At last, with the aid of some children Reb Zalman found his way to Reb Levi’s house, where he saw the strained patience on the faces of those present, but no Reb Dovid with the bag of instruments for the circumcision. This time Reb Zalman too felt anger at Reb Dovid rising in him, and he explained that he could not go on with the bris until Reb Dovid arrived.

Then someone left to fetch Reb Dovid and found him asleep. He woke him, got Reb Zalman’s bag and asked Reb Dovid to hurry for he too was needed for the bris. Meanwhile , at Reb Levi’s house, they began making preparations for the bris. The table was set and Reb Zalman began to chant to invite Elijah to join them. Suddenly Reb Dovid entered and the air was charged, and Reb Zalman realized that it was not right to proceed with the bris while so much anger was in the air. So he turned to Reb Dovid and said: “Before we can complete the covenant of the bris, we must remove the taint of anger that hangs in the air, so that will not cling to the moment of the child’s covenant. Therefore I must ask you to lie face down on the circumcision table.” Reb Dovid and the others were amazed at these words, but Reb Dovid did not resist, and did as Reb Zalman had said.

Then Reb Zalman turned to the others present there and said: “Let those who felt anger toward Reb Dovid, as I did, come forward and place your hands on his back. Instead of scolding him we will put the power of our anger at the disposal of his soul. For does he himself not scold himself enough as it is? For know that his soul is innocent of the failing, and longs to be on time. What is needed is that each of us give his soul a few minutes of our lives, so that it may have restored to in the time that was snatched away so long ago.”

And although the others present did not understand what Reb Zalman meant, still each and every one came forward and placed their hands on Reb Dovid’s back, and in this way each of them gave him a few moments of their lives. And Reb Dovid wept without ceasing, for in all his lives he had not been met with so much love. And after that Reb Dovid no longer had a problem with time, but arrived promptly everywhere, and became known as one who could be fully depended upon. As for the child, the love and warmth present at the time of his bris made the seal of the blessing of the covenant so strong that it could never be broken, and his love and loyalty to his heritage and to the Holy One Himself, blessed be He, never wavered.

The power of forgiveness is truly incredible.