Rosh Hashanah





Welcome to the first Rosh Hashanah service of the year 2000. We are so lucky to be here! We think we got here by ourselves, because we are free to make our own choices. And we think that we are so independent, so self sufficient. We have done it all ourselves.

Well, that is not quite so. Not one of us originated speech; no one person invented the double helix of D.N.A.; no recent genius discovered a way to make life where there is no life. We are good, quite good, at figuring out the systems that are in existence. The super computers exhibit signs of working almost as well as the human brain - but, of course, they are limited by the need to be plugged in to a power source – while the human brain is powered by the Source of all power, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Nor is it true that we are not affected by our surrounding. We think that our religion, Judaism of the twentieth century, is not affected by Christianity or Islam - but of course it is – or maybe it is they who are affected by us. After all, they claim to be spiritual off-springs of Judaism. Sometimes they even claim to supercede us. Take for example the matter of numbers: The Christians believe in the “Trinity.” We claim that this is a heresy, and profess a belief in the unique and singular nature of God. We avoid “counting” anything, it is considered “bad luck.” You know how they count a minyan in an orthodox shul: “not one, not two, not three, etc...” Our great Sephardic sage, Moshe Ben Maimon, was vilified for publishing lists of numbers: from the qualities of God to articles of faith, from positive mitzvot to negative mitzvot. However, the holiday liturgy quotes the Hebrew Scriptures, “So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom ” [Psalms 90:12] So it is that numerology, or “gimatriya” is very big in Judaism. Which means that we do not believe “trinity,” but do believe in the power of “three.” Quite so, we do, indeed. Ecclesiastes teaches us, “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” [Ecc. 4:12] In case you are wondering what that means, let me make it clear: one is weak, two is stronger, three is the strongest yet... Does this apply to our God? Probably not, not the way Christianity does! But the numerical “value” of “Eheye” (I am [that I am] IS three in gimatriya... And in the liturgy of the High holidays we read “Utfila utshuva utzedaka ma’avirin et ro’a hagzera” – and prayer, return to the good path and deeds of proper lovingkindness avert the evil decree. Tractate Avot in the Mishnah teaches us, Al shlosha dvarim ha’olam omed – the world exists by virtue of three things: Torah, the service of God, and G’milut Khasadim – deeds of lovingkindness and mercy. We have our three fathers, Avraham, Yitzkhak and Ya’akov. Now, the modern thinkers will hasten to add, “but we also have four mothers.” I agree, and would like to point out to you that the three and the four are together seven, as the seven days of the week – six for labor and the seventh for rest. We are all influence by and from one another, from generation to generation and from civilization to the next civilization. We are all limited by the length of our days and the paucity of our Shabatot that come only once a week!

Only God, who is eternal, whose Being is from everlasting to everlasting, is without the limitations and restrictions of time. For Him, today is the Day of Creation. Today is the day of His revelation to Israel at Sinai, and the day of infamy, whenthe Israelites mourned the report of the spies, bringing about the curse of the ninth of Av; Today is the miracle of Khanukkah and the debacle of Beitar, the expulsion from England and Holland, from Spain and Portugal. It is today that we arrive at New Amsterdam and Newport; today we establish the Zionist movement. It is also today that our great-grandchildren, still unborn, still subject to our creative genius or destructive impulse, will usher the Messianic era. How good it is to think that if only we heed His word, if only we use our God-given powers to learn from our past and improve our present – His will shall prevail, and His design shall come to be speedily and in a timely fashion. This is our destiny, this is our challenge.

Shanah Tovah to one and all.



Rosh Hashanah I

We read in the Torah the history of our first Patriarch, Avraham, from a Rosh Hashanah view point – that is, the view toward the future. “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. ” [Gen. 21:1,2] Abraham had waited long to see a child born to Sarah, since children are every generation’s hope for the future. Because Sarah could not conceive for such a long time, she had attempted to procure a child by proxy, allowing her handmaid to bear a child to Avraham, who was mades Yishma’el. After the birth of Sarah’s son, Yitzkhak, we read that “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had born to Abraham, mocking. And she said to Abraham, Cast out this slave and her son; for the son of this slave shall not be heir with my son, with Isaac.” [Gen. 21:9,10] The text in the Torah tells us that Avraham was not keen on doing as Sarah had asked, but God intervenes. “And God said to Abraham, Let it not be grievous in your sight because of the lad, and because of your slave; in all that Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac shall your seed be called. And also of the son of the slave will I make a nation, because he is your seed. ” [Gen. 21:12,13] Modern scholars of Torah and social science like to condemn our heritage because of this story. Avraham and Sarah are painted as heartless manipulators of human lives that should have been left to their own destiny. Hagar becomes a sex slave, raped and forced to raise the child forced upon her, and then expelled from the camp precisely because of the presence of that child.

We must be wary of people who wish to impose the mores of our times on a civilization four millennia old. We do not live in the age of Avraham, even as he did not live nor perform his destiny in our times. Would that he did. I think we could have learned a thing or two from him. However, there is value in learning from the experience of our progenitors. The lesson they impart to us concerns the rearing of children. All too often, nowadays, we allow our children to grow like weeds in the field. We believe that “self expression” is a natural right not only of adults but of children, without limit or restriction. We fail to discipline children, and we demand precious little of them. Consequently they grow like weeds in the field, uncivilized and uncultivated, socially maladjusted and incapable of interacting in society for the good of the community. So many young people go astray, lacking discipline they fall prey to negative disciplines: cults, violent gangs, drug cultures and the such.

This shortcoming of the young is not new! It is precisely what happened to Avraham’s first born son. He was failed by his mother, who reared him, and became a child of violence and raw emotions. His “ mocking” which Sarah noticed and for which she asked to have him expelled was not a matter of joking or fooling around. Commentary suggests that he was threatening the life of Yitzkhak. When Sarah said to her husband, “ for the son of this slave shall not be heir with my son, with Isaac,” she did not mean to disinherit him of his portion, but rather she was informing Avraham that Yishma’el was not inclined to share any inheritance with his younger brother. God’s affirmation of Sarah’s request of her husband was not the act of a capricious deity that favors one over another of His creatures, but rather the intervening of a merciful God who recognizes the potential of extreme violence and who wishes to prevent theviolence from taking place. Hence, he prompts Avraham to follow his wife’s request, but immediately informs His servant, “ And also of the son of the slave will I make a nation...

Judaism teaches us that our progeny is in our hands as a trust from God. If we wish to see them prosper and become responsible adults and members in good faith of the community of Israel, we must insure their proper instruction and rearing. In those cases, and there are always such cases, when children go astray, we must accept the need for what is called these days “tough love.” We must not allow our children to engage in unlawful and destructive behavior while under our roof and our protection. A child who becomes criminally involved, who takes drugs or abuses alcohol must be expelled from the home, for the benefit of society, and possibly even for his/her benefit. For when a child realizes that his/her own parents will not put up with this kind of behavior, it may just be the impetus to change and return to the good grace of society. This is a time of repentance and return, and we must learn to forgive and to forget. However, we must also recognize that the habitual sinner, who asks to be forgiven and then proceeds to repeat the sin again, will find the gates of forgiveness closed before his insincere plea. Let us hope that the lesson will be learned, that the misbehavior will be mitigated, and that pardon will be gained by all who have gone astray. Amen



Rosh Hashanah eve II

This evening I will make a brief comment since we are all still sated from the morning service and wish to return home to be with family and friends.

We come to worship Him on this holiday, and we ask, what holiday is it? We have just consecrated the holiday with the wine of Kiddush, and we mentioned “Yom Hazikaron” (the day of Memory) and “Zikhron Teru’a” (the remembrance of the blast of the horn). These named give us a clue to the nature of the holiday and the theme of our observance during this holiday. The remembrance we mention is our history, and the history of God’s interaction with that which he created. We say in the service, “Ha’yom harat olam” – this day the world is pregnant, about to give birth to creation. Thus we celebrate history, from the time of creation to our time, but also onward, for all the coming years, generations, and even eons – to the end of time. The “Zikhron Teru’a” that we call the holiday speaks of the sound of the Shofar, a ram’s horn which is sounded as part of the service of the holiday except when the holiday falls on Shabbat. The name of the instrument in Hebrew, “Shofar,”

comes from the root “leshaper,” meaning to improve. The horn is sounded to alert us to the need to improve: improve our attitude, improve our relation with God, improve our relation with God’s creatures, from the beasts of the field to our brethren, God’s handiwork.

We gathers in synagogues around the world on this holiday, and we pray for a “shanah Tovah Umetukah” – a good and sweet year. We ask God to review our behavior during the past year with compassion and forbearing, with mercy and pity, granting us a chance to change and improve our performance. We ask this with a view to the future – a future which is manifest in our progeny, our children and grand-children. We must be keenly aware of the passage of time, that we play our role as adults even as our parents and grand-parents did only a few short “minutes” ago. Life is a fleeting commodity. Time is the only thing in our lives that we cannot save nor hoard, give away nor store for a future opportunity. Time passes, it moves on whether we make use of it or not. It waits for no one and is the same for the rich and the poor, the fortunate and the wretched.

This holiday that we celebrate, which is not called in our Torah Rosh Hashanah – why do we call it that, and why is it so important? The Mishnah, which is the Oral Torah that was carried on by our people in parallel with the Torah in ancient times and was then transcribed after the destruction of the first Temple, says, “There are four ‘new years.’ On the first of Nisan is the new year of sovereignty and pilgrimage; on the first of Elul is the new year for tithing the domestic animals... On the first of Tishrei the new year for years and for the release and the jubilee and planting vegetables; on the first of Shevat, the new year of the trees, according to the House of Shama’y. The House of Hillel says, on the fifteenth of that month.” [Tractate Rosh Hashanah I]

What does it mean, “ On the first of Tishrei the new year for years and for the release and the jubilee and planting vegetables?” It does not sound like the important festival that we have come to accept this yearly celebration to be. I have found in commentary a very interesting and instructive explanation.

Normally we accept the term “Rosh Hashanah” to mean ‘head of the year,’ since “rosh” is head and “Shanah” is year. This new commentary I spoke of suggests that “rosh” is not the word head but rather an acronym for “retzon Avinu Shebashama’yim” – the wishes of Our Father who is in the Heavens above. Thus, the holiday is not “head of the year” but “the time of year to do the will of Our Father who is in the heavens above.” In this regard, we read in the our Scriptures, “Return, O Lord, deliver my soul. Oh save me for the sake of your loving kindness! For in death there is no remembrance of you. In Sheol who shall give you thanks? I am weary with my moaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my enemies. Depart from me, all you evil doers; for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. Let all my enemies be ashamed and much troubled; let them return and be ashamed in a moment. ” [Psalms 6:5-11] God wishes to have us follow inHis path, do that which is proper and receive His blessing. All we need to do is recall our history, follow the example of those who did God’s bidding, and make sure that we establish God’s purpose upon this earth. It seems simple enough, though to be sure it is far from simple. However, it is ‘do-able.”


May we so conduct ourselves during the coming hours and days that we shall be judged by our God as fulfilling His wishes, and thus we shall inscribe ourselves in His book of merit, find favor before Him, and be inscribed in the book of life. “Let your work be visible to your servants, and your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish the work of our hands upon us; O prosper it, the work of our hands. ” [Psalms 90:16,17] Shannah Tovah.


Rosh Hashanah II

I must make a confession: I have sinned by speech. I have been very sophisticated, which is a Greek word, meaning polished or refined - but only “skin deep.” Actually it means to place a thin veneer over something, which hides all imperfections and makes it look like something it is not. I have spoken to you three times in the last day and a half, and I waxed philosophical, and hopefully profound and wise, too. I told you of freedom and connectivity, of love and harmony with God and our fellow men (and women, to be sure). But yet I have not looked at the fact that when push comes to shove, we shove – that is to say, when our intellect is threatened by brutality, brutality wins every time. In the final analysis, we are flesh and blood, we are clay and dust. We aspire to godliness – but we rarely achieve it. The High Holidays, with the beautifully lyrical and rich liturgy composed and written by God inspired-men in over a millennium, attempt to elevate us from the everyday to the sublime, from the primordial ‘soup’ to the lofty heights of the Eternal, way above the atmosphere to the “domain of the Almighty.” Yet our mortality and our physicality bring us back to earth time and time again. We aspire for the apogee, but we end up in the dust and dirt, in the slime and silt of human existence. It is the “curse” of our nature.

Our faith recognizes it, and gives voice to it with the sound of the shofar, and with the physical characteristics of the Ram’s horn. It is interesting to note that while we have very fancy and beautiful “shofrot” (horns) that some from kosher animals such as gazelles and mountain goats and are long and curled and capable of multi-sounds – still, for the obligation of hearing the sound of shofar on the High Holidays, it is the wild ram’s horn that is required. The ram is the animal that was caught in the thicket when Avraham bound his son to offer him as a sacrifice to God. The ram replaced the boy, as a measure of mercy from God for the life of the boy. Another reason for using the ram’s horn is that the sound emanating from this kind of a horn is harsh and shrill and reminiscent of the screeching cry of small infants. Listen to its plaintive wail, and you shall become aware of what it awakens in us. Call it “sound therapy,” or call it atavism, there is a primitive and deeply rooted reaction to the sound as we hear the “teki’a, shvarim tru’ah, teki’a.” And when it is time for the “teki’a gedolah” – the longest possible wail – why, the very heavens rip open to plead before the Eternal, Blessed be He: “Av harakhaman,” Father full of mercy, listen to the cry of the infant, the frail human you have placed on the earth that you created. You have made him smaller than the bear, weaker than the tiger, slower than the wild dog, and least ready to face the elements in his naked and natural state. The only advantage You have given him is that he has a prehensile thumb and a brain that can figure out how to overcome his handicap. Why be surprised if he turns out to be a little wicked, malicious, spiteful and sinful in his ways? Have pity on him and give him a second chance to do well, to do good.” Another teki’a, a couple of more shvarim, and our case is made. Here we are, suspended between our mortality and His Eternal nature. We are the ones you created with the Spark of the Divine - we are humanity. With all our failings, deficiencies, imperfections, inadequacies and weaknesses, God, have pity on us! God, save us for the sake of Your glory. Grant us a year of peace. Amen



Rosh Hashanah 5763

Welcome to the first service of the New Year - Rosh Hashanah 5763, Taf Shin Samekh Gimel. During the holiday period I wish to refresh your memory about the basic tenets of our faith and the methods we use to reinforce and affirm our commitment to the God of Abraham and the perpetuity of Judaism. As my dear friend and the synagogue's immediate past president, Claire Stoopack likes to mention, I have taught in the past the lesson that every shabbat is as important as this Shabbat, which is khag, which is Yom Hadin, the day of judgement - only this shabbat is a little more so. Jewish worship, whenever it is undertaken, is meant to evoke in us a feeling of identity with the destiny and hopes of our people. On this holiday, and in the coming days leading to Yom Kippur, this feeling must flood our consciousness and become ever more intensified in each and every one of us, individually - even as it is communally.
The corporate, community feeling that pervades the holiday liturgy is well understood. There is a sense of things being "right" about hearing the chanting, seeing the white adornments and vestments, and feeling the old familiar "newness" of the traditional holiday sense of "returning to our roots" that is so unique and comforting. We are here, we are Jews, we have survived, our covenant is intact. Yet, in the midst of the togetherness of the congregation that draws us to the synagogue at this particular time of year, far from being submerged in the crowd - our self-awareness is deepened, our self-respect broadened, and our sense of accountability for our historical moral conduct is brought into focus and sharpened.
Whether it is a prayer of gratitude, a petition for relief from distress, or the confession of sins, the sense of community expressed in the tenor of the prayer is a help and not a hindrance to each of us as individuals. Viewing the present, anticipating the future, and reviewing the past year in the perspective of bygone centuries and in the light of Israel's hopes for future redemption, we find in the prescribed prayers a homeland of the spirit and a perennial inspiration for purposeful living.
One of the greatest religious thinkers of the twentieth century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, describes the community spirit of Jewish worship in these words: "Judaism is not only the adherence to particular doctrines and observances, but primarily living in the spiritual order of the Jewish people, the living in the Jews of the past and with the Jews of the present. Judaism is not only a certain quality in the souls of the individuals, but primarily the existence of the community of Israel... What we do as individuals is a trivial episode; what we attain as Israel causes us to become a part of eternity. The Jew does not stand alone before God; it is as a member of the community that he stands before God. Our relationship to Him is not as an ‘I to a Thou,' but as a ‘We to a Thou.'"
On this most awesome and intense time of year, as we stand together, and also as we stand one by one, we have to keep in mind the confusing dichotomy of individual communion with God even while we follow the prescribed text of our holiday makhzor. Life, in the year 5762 was anything but sedate and calm. We have been assaulted in the most horrendous way on September 11. It was not only the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that came under attack. It was each and every American, and particularly members of the Judaic creed, including our Christian brothers. This terror attack was only the latest symptom of a society that is plagued by violence and insecurity. The economy of our nation, the most blessed in history, has also taken a turn for the worst, mostly caused by fraud and mismanagement. Uncertainty and confusion are celebrating in our land.
The confusion is overcome with a secret ingredient of Jewish religiosity called "kavanah" - which means "aim" or "purpose." We are trained to "take aim" on our target, which is communicating one-on-one with our Creator and Maker, the Holy One, blessed be He Routine prayers tend to be recited by rote, and "kavanah" establishes the proper devotion and spirituality on the part of the individual worshiper. The cultivation and achievement of genuine devotion are the primary task before us as we begin to celebrate this New Year season. May you find your holiday inspiring and rewarding, and may peace and harmony abound in this wonderful world that God created for our habitation. Amen

Rosh Hashanah 5763 - first day

We celebrate Rosh Hashanah as the anniversary of creation. "Ha'yom Harat Olam" - today terminates the pregnancy of the world - so our liturgy tells us. It is a time of beginnings, a cooling down time, a season for introspection and self scrutiny. We have to ask ourselves, "where are we? Where have we been and what have we learned, and where do we want to go from here?"
The Torah reading chosen for Rosh Hashanah is from Beresheet, Genesis, chapter 21 - the story of Abraham our Father, the birth of Yitzkhak, and the expelling of Yishmael and Hagar from the Abrahamic family circle. The text begins with the words, "Vadona'y paskad et Sarah - The Lord remembered Sarah..." God "remembers" man. This, the major motif of Rosh Hashanah, informs us that God takes cognizance of our prayers even as He remembered Sarah. Our reading from the prophets tells the story of Hannah, another woman who had been without child until God "remembered" her. Tradition has it that it was on Rosh Hashanah that both Sarah and Hannah were each "remembered" and blessed with child. The blessings of parenthood, and more particularly of motherhood, are celebrated in this Torah reading, as well as in the corresponding prophetic portion. So we go from the pregnancy of the world to the delivery of God-revering men (and women) who struggle to create a relationship with God.
Not everyone wishes to - or is capable of - creating such a relationship. On the eighth day after his son's birth, Abraham brings the boy into the covenant he made with God by circumcising him, calling his name Yitzkhak. There is a great celebration when he is weaned. However, not all is perfect in the tents of Abraham: Sarah, concerned about the behavior of Ishmael and his possible influence on Isaac, approaches Abraham with the request that he and his mother, Hagar, be banished. This demand may appear to us to be unreasonable, petty and cruel - it certainly seemed a little difficult for Abraham to take. However, God speaks to Abraham and confirms Sarah's request as being reasonable and necessary. Abraham sends the two away - and the text continues to inform us that God does not neglect even those not worthy to be a part of the Abrahamic covenant.
Why was Hagar removed from the "family?" It was because she did not fit in. She did not raise her son to be worthy of his father, Abraham. When we fail to "make the mark" - we cannot expect to stay in the game, not even "because we are family."
Life is full of adversity and controversy. Often we are placed in positions that seem untenable to us. We have to reprimand and discipline our children. Some of us have executive duties that make it necessary to hire and fire, to demand effort and decry laziness and ineptness in people who wish nothing more than to make a day's wages to sustain themselves. We feel bad when we have to criticize, when we have to reprimand or even to terminate employment. Yet, like Hagar, those people make their own choices that bring about the consequences that seem to be administered by our hands. We cannot - and must not - compromise.
The chapter closes with Abraham planting a tamarisk tree at Beer-Sheva, and worshiping there "the Lord, the everlasting God." This planting of a tree is an affirmation of a faith in a future where Abraham's progeny will enjoy the shade of the tree he planted. There is a future - and we shall celebrate it in the shade of our tree, in peace. As we ponder our life's tasks, we must keep in mind God's admonition to the prophet Micah: "It has been told to you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord does require of you, but to do justice, and to love loving-kindness and mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." [Micah 6:8] May you and your dear ones be written in the Book of Life and all Good. Amen

Rosh Hashanah - second day

"Tikhle shanah vekileloteha, tatkhil shanah uvirkoteha - Let the year and its curses end, and let a year of blessing begin" These are traditional words of blessing for the new year. Now, you must admit that the year 5762 was a tough year, a year filled with what could only be described as "curses." However, this saying was not coined for this year. It is used every year, for decades, for centuries, for ages. "Dear God, you have created so many curses... Could you not direct them toward someone else for a change?" Sounds like Tevye the milkman from "Fiddler on the Roof." But it is not, its your Rabbi, it's the man on the street, its everyone!
Enough with the crying and bellyaching. I did not come here to cry on your shoulder or make you feel bad. Quite the contrary! We are here to celebrate, to be happy and jovial. It is time for a good belly laugh. I believe that laughter is, indeed, one of the motifs of this most solemn day, which attracts more Jews to synagogues than any other. Regular worshipers in our synagogue are accustomed to learning some lesson from the Torah portion on Shabbat. On Rosh Hashanah, Chapters 21 and 22 of Genesis are read; they chronicle the birth and early life of Abraham and Sarah's son, Isaac, history's first born Jew. Even before conception, laughter surrounds him. Informed by God, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give you a son also of her; and I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed" [Gen. 17:15-17] Abraham laughed first, and Sarah laughed when the angels repeated God's promised where she could hear it. After his birth, "Sarah said, God has made me laugh, so that all who hear will laugh with me."[ibid. 21:6] Tradition says that Sarah's tent became a place of mirth and joy. Women came to visit who had not been able to conceive for year - and they left with the sure knowledge that within the ordained time they, too, shall give birth.
Laughter is one of the distinctions that humans enjoy over animals. We laugh at things that violate our sense of how things ought to be. Pratfalls and slapstick evoke guffaws aplenty. Keystone cops and Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp were among the first things immortalized on film. To this day, Milton Berle's comedy hour is still remembered as the most popular show on the air, and Henny Youngman will forever be remembered for his line, "take my wife... Please..." Sexual innuendo can provokes snickers among school boys and titters among stockbrokers. Jokes and puns, ridiculous situations and human foibles are greeted with joy by all but grouches and augers.
Talmudic tradition informs us that Abraham, through his renowned kindness and patience, eagerness to please and welcome strangers, attracted thousands of devotees to Judaism. I would venture to guess that he knew a few good jokes, with which he pleased the guests at his table. "Did you hear about the three angels that were invited for a meal and turned out to be health department inspectors..." Oh, well - it sounded better in Canaanite...
Abraham is not known as the first stand up comic - maybe because he didn't get any laughs when he went to Mount Moriah with his son, Yitzkhak. Abraham wanted his audience to focus on the Almighty's capacity for unrestrained love and compassion. So he bound his son, the icon of Rosh Hashanah, and placed him on the altar - and in so doing introduced an awareness of God's firm hand into Jewish teaching. Here was the father who yearned for a male heir for ninty nine years - and he was ready to offer him up as a sacrifice. No laughing matter, to be sure. God did stay his hand at the last moment, commanding him to "Lay not your hand upon the lad, nor do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you did not withheld your son, your only son from me." [ibid. 22:12] In so doing He made it possible for countless generations of Jews to laugh.
We are all reluctant to submit ourselves to God's authority. That is why so many people do not attend synagogue. We want the cheap joke, the man slipping on the banana - not the meaningful laughter that comes out of joy, because we have done well, because we have been touched to the core. Our most treasured moments always evoke laughter - the first sight of a beloved, the first words of a child, the joy of a pet dog or cat when first apprehending their master. However, the laughter reaction is predicated on another human capability: love. When we love life, when we are moved by our relations to parents, spouses, children, comrades from work and school, from the service and the civic organizations we become involved in - then we develop the ability to laugh and enjoy the "fun" in "funny." We become part of a whole that is bigger than ourselves, and we submit ourselves to God's love - and to His judgement. And God, informed that we are before His judgement seat, starts to laugh, too. He laughs with joy because His children come to Him. He laughs with pleasure because his creations submit themnselves to His sovereignty. He laughs and says, "Salakhty - I have forgiven, even as you ask. My dear, beloved children, all your transgressions are so small, so unimportant... Come, sit with me a while, and see how much mirth can be enjoyed by all who come to be with Me in My habitation." And joy and laughter fill the world as the sound of gaggling geese and bubbling brooks. And God sees that it is good!


Rosh Hashanah 5764

I want to wish each and every one of you a very happy and sweet year - shannah tovah u'mtukah. This is my basic message for this evening. When I was preparing this message I stopped and asked myself: why do I say this to a group of people meeting at the media center of the Tournament Players Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida on the 26th of September? Obviously, it is because this evening, this is not "the media center of the Tournament Players Club" – it is Beth-El, a Jewish place of worship. The "group of people meeting" here is not just any group of people – you are "Khilat Ya'akov," the Congregation of [the descendants of] Jacob – Jewish people, celebrating an event that dates back thirty five hundred years, to the time of the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
At Sinai the Jewish calendar was fixed, and the month of spring, the time of the exodus, was announced to be the time of the new year. "This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you." [Ex. 12:2] Yet, from the start, there was a second "new year" – not a national beginning but a "natural beginning" – what we might call God's time of beginning. The Torah tells us, "Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall you have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of horns, a holy gathering." [Lev.23:24] It is this time that we celebrate this evening and at this season, and it is this time that we view as a time fit for new beginnings. That is why my message is fitting for this time and this place and this assembly. And yet... And yet, I wonder how many of us sitting here really think of this evening as a time of new beginnings?
Anyhow, how do we go about making a new beginning? We cannot be born again for real, and anything else is... Not quite the thing. Well, I would like to suggest to you that being human, which is to say capable for abstract thought and deductive reasoning, we can renew ourselves. We do this in four steps: 1. Beginning or initiation; 2. Adaptation; 3. Reassessment; and finally, 4. Reconciliation. This evening, and actually beginning last Shabbat night with the Slikhot service, we were into the first stage. We began. We initiated a thought process that will continue and become more involved, more complete, deeper into our very being, into our essence, in the coming two days of Yom Hadin. Even while we examine and question our past, our experience and our present state of mind – we shall engage in adapting. We shall attempt to change for the better. God willing, and with all our sincere prayers and effort we shall initiate this adaptation, and we shall increase our fervor and our self-seeking beyond this evening, beyond this holiday, into the week that separate us from Yom Kippur. This shall be the time of reassessment, our own internal judgement – are we worthy of another year of life? Do we deserve to continue – and if we do, how do we intend to live the coming year?
Life goes in cycles – the cycle of the day, the cycle of the week, the month, the seasons which altogether make a year. We repeat our days again and again, and what is the purpose of it all? We need to give our days meaning, our seasons a special cadence, a particular rhythm. We do this by means of relating ourselves to the Source and driving energy of all existence - to God. Our love of God and of His creation makes each day unique and special for that day, for us in particular.

I cole with a prayer, wishing you a very happy and fulfilling new year, where every day brings you closer to God and to His love for His world.

Rosh Hashanah 5764

Last night I spoke about personal renewal on Rosh Hashanah. Actually, that lesson was only a preface to this mnorning's lesson, which is about our place of worship - our synagogue. Indeed, we may well ask, why are we here in this public gathering? Why can't we do everything that I have mentioned above in the privacy of our own home, or some other (maybe) private and secluded place were we could concentrate on relating to our God, the Almighty creator of heaven and earth? The Torah did not command us to built or go to "synagogue." There were no synagogues in the desert when the Israelites were traveling to the promised land, nor did they build any synagogue in the days of the great judges, kings or prophets of Israel. Yet the concept was there from the start, when Moshe, in his last words to his flock, spoke as follows: "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir to them; he shone forth from Mount Paran, and he came with holy tens of thousands; from his right hand went a fiery law for them. He truly loves the people; all his holy ones are in your hand; and they sat down at your feet; every one shall receive of your words. Moses commanded us a Torah, the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob." [Deu. 33:2 - 4] The Israelites settled in Canaan, and for close to a thousand years live there without synagogues. To be sure, there was a Temple of God in Jerusalem – but it was not in any way, shape of form similar to the place we worship in now-a-days. On Rosh Hashanah we read in the Torah about father Abraham, the birth of father Yitzkhak, and the binding of Yitzkhak on the altar at Mount Moriah. Abraham worshiped God everywhere – why must we gather together in this place?
The Talmud taught that a town that does not have a core group of Jewish people to form a congregation is "a forsaken town" – and should not be settled by any Jew. The importance of the synagogue in the Jewish community was never in doubt. This central institution served many important functions essential to the very existence of the community. It is well known that it was established as a "beyt Knesset" – an assembly place for Jews and a "beyt Midrash" – a school where young children were first exposed to the art of reading and writing, where young and old alike learned and practiced their skills of prayer and text disputation that we are so famous for. In the synagogue were housed the "treasures" of the ages: the Torah scrolls, the community records of births and deaths, the institution of Gmilut Khesed – acts of loving kindness such as help for the poor, the widowed and the orphaned, establishment of cemeteries and the burial of the dead – and the synagogue kitchen often served as the community catering place, preparing meals for the sick and the shut-in, making lavish feasts for weddings and preparing the food for the meals after funerals in the homes of the families sitting Shiv'ah.
Building synagogues, to be sure, involved an outlay of large sums of money. Many times the synagogue was the recipient of a life-giving gift of one or a few very rich Jews. Many old synagogues are decorated with plaques or etching in the stone that speaks of the largess of one or another generous and pious family whose open hand made possible the establishment of the home of the congregation. Yet, through the ages there have also been those who failed to carry their share of the obligation of supporting the building fund. I recall visiting a synagogue in France where I saw a plaque that was obviously fixed to shame a miser: "The Fuchs family contributed all the funds for the acoustics in the sanctuary..."
Many of the ledgers of congregations long forgotten reveal the efforts of raising the funds for building the synagogue. A ledger from East Russia tells the story of one Aryeh Leib ben Khayim Yoseph who informs the treasurer of the congregation that he has suffered a reversal of fortune since he made his pledge and will send his pledge "as soon as I find a buyer for my brand new holiday suite and coat." The ledger records that the money was paid in full shortly after the letter arrived. Another account of a building fund in Lvov tells of the surprise of the congregation's treasurer of the kindness of a certain tinsmith, who lived in an unheated shack, and ate his evening meal unheated by the light of a single candle that provided both light and heat for his abode. The man brought a large bag filled with coins. The treasurer was amazed as he recorded that the bag contained six hundred twenty seven rubles! It was the fourth largest gift made to the building effort of that congregation. It is obvious that the poor tinsmith gave away all the money that he had saved in years of self deprivation – to establish the local beyt Midrash.
Our Holy Scriptures teach us, "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts." [Psalms 96:8] And again, "Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your produce;" [Proverbs 3:9] How do we go about "honoring" Him, and what is a proper offering to bring "into his courts?" It is interesting to note that while fund-raising for building our houses of worship has been going on since the establishment of the first synagogues in Babylon some twenty five hundred years ago – there is nothing in Rabbinic literature to guide those who undertake to establish a new congregation in its own home. The are no rules of how much should be given by the rich, or if the poor are exempt, or if the ones who pledge and don't fulfill can be sued, or expelled or denied the right to attend services.
I suppose that the reason for this lack is that every community is different, and what may "fly" in one will never leave the ground in another. One thing is quite evident: Judaism will not survive without its central institution – the synagogue. We need a place where we can come together as Jews – to show our pride, to celebrate our festive times and commemorate our sad times. We need it for the purpose of the continued existence of our people. The heritage of our ancestors is not self evident – it needs to be defined, stated, studies and internalized. The role of the synagogue as a beyt Midrash is paramount, even as it was in the days of Babylon. Little children must be taught the Aleph Bet, the prayers and blessings of their ancestors – and they must be trained to give of their hard earned money to build and support synagogues.
However, let us make it perfectly clear that we are not building a school here. We do not want to become a museum exhibit, something ancient and interesting to study, research and investigate by students and scholars, by amateur historians and enterprising archeologists. We don't want an establishment whose purpose will be completed when all the children complete their Bar and Bat Mitzvah training. Our purpose in teaching the children is not "performance, party and presents." We wish to establish the next generation of scholars, social reformers, and sentinels of our heritage and our way of life.
We are a living faith, a vibrant tradition, a valued culture – and a valuable cornerstone of our American society. We are an essential element in the continued growth and prosperity of Western civilization, nothing less than that! Therefore, we have no choice but to step up to the front of the line, and do our best, and better than our best, to establish this permanent home for the Jewish community at the beaches. This is nothing less than a call from God, and an echo that reverberates through twenty five hundred years of devotion to klal Yisrael – the community of Israel, anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Rosh Hashanah Eve 5765

A few weeks ago we were reading in the Torah on Shabbat the second portion in the book of Dvarim, Deuteronomy. The portion contains the text we read twice a day in our prayers: “Sh’ma Yisrael, Adona’y eloheynu, Adona’y ekhad.” I mentioned that Shabbat morning that this text was included in the order of worship in the Temple at Jerusalem – and that this was preceded by the recital of the Ten Statements at Sinai (Aseret Hadevarirn) [Mishnah Tamid 5:1].
Why don’t we continue to read this text in the same manner even today? There is no direct evidence, but we surmise that the reading of the Ten statements was abolished soon after the rise of Christianity. The Jerusalem Talmud claims that the reason is that the Christians contended that only these commandments and no others were given at Sinai [TP Ber. 3c] The “proof” of their contention lay in die fact that the Sh’ma contains the verse, “And these words which I command thee this day shall be upon thy heart” [Deut. 6:6]. As the text of the Sh’ma does not specify what is meant by “these words,” the juxtaposition of the Sh’ma and the Ten Commandments offered seemingly irrefutable evidence that “these words” are none other than the Ten Commandments which are designated in the Torah [Deut. 10:4] as the “Ten Words” (Aseret Hadevarirn).
Judaism claimed the exact opposite of this argument. We look at the text in Exodus and comment, “Va’ydaber elohim et kot hadvarim ha’ele lemor Anokhi adona’y elohekha asher hotzetikha me’eretz mitzra’yim mibeyt avadim – And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” [Ex. 20:1,2] Rashi explained that “et kot hadvarim ha’ele” means that the whole teaching, “all these words, ” came out as one word – even as creation happened with one word. However, in creation we are told God created “et hashamayim v’et ha’aretz” [Gen1:1] the whole heaven avd earth, as evident in the word “et” – the Hebrew definite article for the object of the verb, made up of the first and last letters of the Alpha-bet. Likewise in Exodus 20 we are told “et kot hadvarim ha’ele” and the “et” means the whole. This “whole” is the entire Torah – all 613 mitzvot.
It is interesting to note that the Talmud informs us that there were attempts to reinstate the reading of the Ten statements in the daily service in Babylonia – possibly because there were no Christian community there. The Talmud tells us that when such attempts were made in the Babylonian academies of Sura and Nehardea to institute once again the daily reading of the Ten statements, the historic precedent was invoked in each case, that “the reading of Aseret Hadevarirn had long been abolished because of the contentions of the Christians” [Ber. 12a].
The removal of the text of “Aseret Hadevarirn” from the liturgy did not affect the historic association of the Sh’ma with the Ten statements. In fact, quite to the opposite, the Rabbis began to teach that there is a direct relationship between the text of Aseret Hadevarirn and that of the Shma, and a scholar by the name of Rabbi Levi found in various phrases of the Sh’ma these allusions to all the Ten Commandments:

“Hear 0 Israel” is an allusion to “I am the Lord your God.” Who would speak to the people Israel with authority if not their redeemer from Egyptian bondage.
“The Lord is One” reflects the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Only those who recognize the singular and unique nature of God can serve this one God without being tempted to search other “gods.”
“You shall love the Lord your God” alludes to: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” for one who really loves God will not lie nor swear falsely in His name.
“That you may remember all My commandments” is mirrored of the statement, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” – as the importance of the Sabbath has been equated with that of all the mitzvot of the Torah combined.
“That your days and the days of your children may be prolonged,” is an implication of “Honor your father and your mother,” since this is the reward assured to those honoring their parents [Deut. 5:16].
“And you shall quickly perish,” can be deduced to speak of “You shall not commit murder” – since he who commits murder will eventually face justice and will eventually be executed.
“That you go not astray after your heart and your eyes,” is inferred to “You shall not commit adultery” – as, indeed, the heart and the eyes are the agents of temptation and of sin.
“You will gather in your corn,” teaches us that you may gather your own corn and not that of your neighbor – and therefore it is teaching us, “You shall not steal.”
“I am the Lord your God” is the lesson that “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” since to bear false witness against another person is tantamount to denying that God created heaven and earth.
“And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house” – your house, not your neighbor?s house – is related to “You shall not covet your neighbor?s house” as is evident from as the Torah being so specific here on private ownership, speaking on YOUR specific house.
As we begin the new year, we should be cognizant of the fact that we stand before the Holy One, Blessed be He, in perpetuity. Three hundred and sixty four days a year he is there, ready to help, to rescue, to succor, to comfort and to heal. One day – for the two days of Rosh Hashanah are called “yoma arikha,” one long day – the Holy One, Blessed be He looks at us “b’midat hadin,” with the measure of judgement. May we measure up to His expectations, and may we learn to change our life to the better, so that next year – assuming God grants us the extra year – we will do even better.

Amen. Shanah tovah.

Rosh Hashanah Morning 65

This morning’s reading in the Torah and in the prophets both dealt with a miraculous birth: In Beresheet it was the birth of Yitzkhak to Sarah in her old age; in the book of Samuel it was the birth of Elkana and Hannah’s child after years when she could not conceive and have children. In both cases, the child was a “gift from God,” a totally unexpected event. There is a parallel, in the very existence of the People Israel, and certainly its present sovereignty in the “promised land.” We were exiled from that land after a national existence of over a thousand years – and we stayed away, by edict of our enemies, for two millennia. We pined for a return; we prayed from a rebirth; we dreamed of the shores of the Mediterranean, the hills of Galilee and the hills of Judea. In every generation some made an effort to return – most failed, and some arrived in time to be interred in the earth of our homeland. But just as Hannah and Sarah could not bear a child until God was ready for it – so also the Jews did not achieve their repatriation until God was ready for it to take place.
As we read in our Holy Writings – which are a part of our Scriptures, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8]
Last night I introduced the theme of our High Holiday lesson, which will run through the entire ten days. The call words of our people, the Sh’ma, was part of our liturgy from antiquity – and was linked to Aseret Hadibrot (the so-called Ten Commandments) spoken at Sinai. These “dibrot” are NOT a decalogue as much as they are a credo – a definition of our very being, and a ladder built by living a life of mitzvot. A ladder from our clay physical being to the spiritual spark of the Divine that is God’s image in which we were created.
The first statement at Sinai is, “Anokhy Adona’y eloheykha asher hotzetikha me’eretz mitzra’yim, mibeyt avadim – I am I am the Lord your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” [Exodus 20:2] Surely, no one can see in this statement a “command.” A command is a call to action, and with the above statement, what exactly are we to do? Are we being told to refrain from anything, or to do anything? Neither, according to the best that I can understand the meaning of the words. Yet it is the first pronouncement made by God at Sinai, and it is the first rung in the “ladder” from our earthly existence to our loftier, holy celebration of our communion with God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. What we are asked to do in this instant is a fateful act of uniting ourselves to all the generations from the time of our presence at Sinai to our own time – and even to all the future that is yet to unfold. We have been blessed by God, and we have been cursed and persecuted by the worst that humanity could hurl at us. From Pharaoh to Nebuchadnezer, to Antiochus to Herod and to Titus – they kept coming at us to put us down. We were persecuted by “the best” of the nation-gobblers, by Greece and Rome, by Byzantium and the holy Roman empire. We were expelled from every land in Europe and most of the lands in Asia and Africa, and it was not until we came to the New World, some seventeen hundred years after our exile from our own land, that we found a safe haven and a place to rest from millennia of persecution.
And just when we thought that the world was beginning to get the message that we had been carrying all those ages, the one inherent in “I am I am the Lord your God” – that He is the father of us all, and that, therefore we are all brothers – we were exposed to the worst that human nature could tolerate: the despotic and dastardly Nazi regime that arose in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Suddenly the sun was plucked out of the heavens, and darkness covered Europe and threatened the entire world. For the duration of the Nazi regime, accepting that first step of Sinai became a death edict, and we were thrown into a vortex of unspeakable evil.
Fifty seven years ago, this very day, Jews were sitting in synagogues all over the world, still suffering from the trauma of the stark evidence of the holocaust, which had been verified two years earlier after V E day. The enormity of the loss was made more evident to us because we were the people who stood at Sinai, the people who accepted His word – “I am I am the Lord your God” – and then we went astray and He allowed calamity to overtake us. In the U.S., close to half a million Jewish men and women had served in the armed forces and were returning home. In the Promised Land, falsely misnamed “Palestine” by those who did not want it to be a Jewish homeland, 600,000 Jews were struggling mightily to achieve independence, bring home the last ember of the European fire storm. We were so old and frail, we were so young and innocent. We were ready to take on the world.
That Rosh Hashanah, in synagogues worldwide, they recited a prayer: “Av harakhamim, ase lema’an she’erit amkha. Master of mercy, act for the sake of the remnant of Your people.” Once more, as so many times through the generations of exile, we turned our faces eastward, and spoke to the Almighty as children speak to their father. We climbed the first rung, we stood as one, recognizing that He was the Lord our God, and we called on Him for Succor.
We recommitted ourselves to Him, we reaffirmed our belief that He was our Master, our liberator and protector, Av Harakhamim, merciful Father. He saw us in our low estate, He heard us – and the miracle occurred. Israel came into being, in the midst of war and bloodshed, He stood by us against all the odds, and the miracle birth, or rebirth, like the miracles that happened to Sarah and to Hannah, took place. And since we all witnessed this last miracle, which was much more extraordinary than anything that can happen to one woman – can we doubt His ability to make the other miracles happen? No, indeed.


Rosh Hashanah afternoon.

Back on Rosh Hashanah of 5707, 1947, we were in the thick of the diplomatic war to secure U.N. approval for the establishment of a Jewish state. Gestation in humans takes nine months, and at the appropriate time, our darling Israel came into being. Many nations were given their independence since that time – but who can boast the achievements and accomplishments of the Jewish state. In battle for its life from the day of its inception, boycotted economically by every one of its neighbors and many others who did not dare defy that boycotte, Israel has a record to be proud off.
650,000 thousand Jews on the day of Independence, Israel has brought home at her own expense, more than three million Jews from Europe, South America, Africa, India and the former Soviet world. Still, with 5,500,000 million inhabitants, Israel is the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world's population.
Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East. The per capita income in 2000 was over $17,500, exceeding that of the UK. Twenty-four per cent of Israel's workforce holds university degrees – ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland - and 12 per cent hold advanced degrees. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. When Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, she became the world's second elected female leader in modern times.
Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious and personal freedom, and economic opportunity. In 1984 and 1991, Israel airlifted a total of 22,000 Ethiopian Jews at risk in Ethiopia, to safety in Israel. Israel brought in and absorbed some 750,000 Jews from Arab lands, and more than a million and a half from the former Soviet world.
Israel has been working on improving productivity of traditional crops. The Middle East has been growing date palms for centuries. The average tree is about 18-20 feet tall and yields about 38 pounds of dates a year. Israeli trees are now yielding 400 pounds/year and are short enough to be harvested from the ground or a short ladder. Egyptian cotton has been known around the world for its quality. Israel improved the purity of the Egyptian cotton fiber and is getting three times the crop per square mile.
Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined. Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita. Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the U. S.. Outside the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies.
Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin - 109 per 10,000 people -- as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed. In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies – more than any country in the world, except for the U. S. – and the highest rate among women and among people over 55. With more than 3,000 high-tech companies and startups, Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the world -- apart from the Silicon Valley, U. S.
The cell phone was developed in Israel by Israelis working in the Israeli branch of Motorola, which has its largest development center in Israel. Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel. The Pentium MMX Chip technology was designed and produced in Israel at Intel. Both the Pentium-4 microprocessor and the Centrino, the newest processor from Intel were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel. Voice mail technology was developed in Israel. Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel. The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.
Israel has the fourth largest air force in the world (after the U. S, Russia and China). In addition to a large variety of other aircraft, Israel's air force has an aerial arsenal of over 250 F-16's. This is the largest fleet of F-16 aircraft outside of the U. S.. Israel developed all the “avionics” – the electronic equipment that is used by the pilots to fly and engage in war with the F-16's Israel uses. The U.S. bought Israel’s technology to use in its planes.
According to industry officials, Israel designed the airline industry's most impenetrable flight security. U. S. officials now look to Israel for advice on how to handle airborne security threats. Israeli experts on security and anti-terrorism are the highest regarded in their field and are employed by security organizations all over the world. The Homeland Security department uses Israeli experts to train U.S. air marshalls, F.B.I. agents, C.I.A. operatives and state and local intelligence and security agencies.
Israel is a world class expert in emergency aid in natural and man-made disasters. Israel was on the scene when earthquakes struck in the Ile of Rhodes, in Greece and Turkey - and in Iran. When the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was bombed in 1998, Israeli rescue teams were on the scene within a day -- and saved three victims from the rubble. Israel established a “peace corps” years before the U.S. did. Israel sent experts to developing nations in Asia and Africa to teach modern agriculture, infrastructure building, manufacturing and state craft. Israel was the first nation in the world to adopt the Kimberly process, an international standard that certifies diamonds as "conflict free."

Israel has the world's second highest per capita of new books. There are more newspapers published in different languages than in any other land. Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees, made more remarkable because this was achieved in an area that is considered mainly as a desert. Israel has more museums per capita than any other country. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that allows freedom of religion.
Israel has the largest number of biotech startups. Medicine is on the cutting edge in practice and research. Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer. Hadassah hospital invented a non-invasive procedure to remove kidney and gallbladder stones. An Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment. Every year in U. S. hospitals 7,000 patients die from treatment mistakes. Israel's Givun Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill. Used to view the small intestine from the inside, the camera helps doctors diagnose cancer and digestive disorders. A new acne treatment developed in Israel, the ClearLight device, produces a high-intensity, ultraviolet-light-free, narrow-band blue light that causes acne bacteria to self-destruct -- all without damaging surrounding skin or tissue.
Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with heart failure. The new device is synchronized with the heart's mechanical operations through a sophisticated system of sensors. Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U. S., over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions.
An Israeli company was the first to develop and install a large-scale solar-powered and fully functional electricity generating plant, in southern California's Mojave desert. Israel developed water saving methods that make possible agricultural production in semi-arid desert land. Israel is the world authority in reclamation of desert and swamp lands.
We are proud to be Americans. We pray for the wellbeing of our land. We can also hold our heart high and be proud of our “old country.” Israel is a besieged land that keeps its high moiral standards in a tough neighborhood. It is a place of sunshine and laughter, joy and contenment. It has become once more a land of milk and honey.

Shanah Tovah.



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