HAPPY TU B’AV! REMEMBER OUR HISTORY (ALEPPO CODEX), AVOID DIVISIONS, GRASP OUR FUTURE

 

Being a confident Zionist isn’t merely an expression of a political worldview or Jewish values. It’s an approach to life that can permeate and improve all aspects of our lives, especially our relationships: with our bosses, our family members—and especially our romantic partners.

 

In honor of Tu B’Av on August 3, sometimes called the Jewish Valentine’s Day, but actually the day celebrating the beginning of the grape harvest in Temple times, when the single girls of Jerusalem would dance in the vineyards at Shiloh dressed in white and meet their mates.…

(Orit Arfa: How Being A Confident Zionist Can Help You Find A Mate—see On Topic link)

 

TU B’AV. A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

Larry Domnitch

Israel National News, August 03, 2012 4:51 PM

 

Tu B’Av, the fifteenth day of the month of Av, is a day on the calendar which heralds good tidings.  The Talmudic sage Shimon Ben Gamliel states that “there were not such fortunate days for the Jewish people as much as Yom Kippur and the fifteenth of Av.” (Mishna, Taanit 4:8) Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is a day of hopeful anticipation that favorable judgment will be granted by the Almighty. Tu B’Av, which falls six days after the fast mourning the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, Tisha B’Av, signifies the theme of restoration.

 

One such event suggestive of this theme occurred during the Israelite Kingdom in Biblical times on Tu B’Av. During the reign of an ancient king of Israel, the people were offered the opportunity to reconnect with their spiritual base and the heart of the Jewish people—Jerusalem.

 

The political ambitions of Yeravam Ben Nevat who reigned over the kingdom of Israel 928-908 BCE, caused a destructive split of the ten-tribe Israelite kingdom from Judea. When Yeravam Ben Nevat participated in a failed revolt against King Solomon, he fled to Egypt and then returned upon hearing of the King’s death.

 

Solomon’s son, and heir to the throne, Rechavam, levied high taxes to support the nation’s many building projects. High taxation, whether in ancient or modern times, will most often leave a political leader with a popularity problem. The ambitious Yeravam seized upon the chance for power.

 

He approached the young king, and addressed the peoples’ grievances; “Your father made our yoke hard. Now lighten your father’s hard work and his heavy yoke which he placed upon us, and we shall serve you.” Rechavam sought out his father’s advisors, who advised that he respond in a conciliatory and respectful manner in order to win the people’s loyalty.  Rechavam unwisely disregarded their council and chose to listen to his own younger advisors who recommended that he respond with callousness and assert his authority.

 

 He harshly told the people, “I shall add to your yoke, my father flogged you with whips and I will flog you with scorpions.” As a result, the ten tribes of Northern Israel seceded from the House of David. The nation was now divided between Judea in the south and the Israelite kingdom of the ten tribes to the north.

 

As king of the newly separated kingdom of Israel, Yeravam’s true motives became clear. Well aware that the thrice annual pilgrimage to the capital city of Jerusalem located within the kingdom of Judea would sustain the people’s ties to the Judean capital of-Jerusalem, he prohibited those pilgrimages. He set up two altars; one in the city of Dan and the other in Beit El, resembling the golden calves fashioned by the Israelites at Mount Sinai. These altars would be used for idolatrous practices as those resembling the heathen practices of the Gentiles around them.

 

Along with establishing Temples in the Northern kingdom, he sought to sever the people’s ties to Jerusalem. Well aware of the people’s continued devotion to the Holy City, Yeravam closed off those roads leading to Jerusalem, and stationed guards to prevent passage.

 

For generations to come, the people of the Israelite Kingdom traveled to Dan and Beit El where they immersed themselves in the ways of the heathen. When the king of Israel Hoshea Ben Elah, (732-722 BCE) ascended the throne, he broke ranks with his predecessors and removed the guards posted on the roads, opening Jerusalem to pilgrims from the Northern kingdom. The day this was officially done was Tu B’Av.

 

That gesture had great significance. It could have sparked a national revival; a reconnection of the people to their eternal capital. It could have led to a reunion of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

 

However, it turned out to be a lost opportunity. The king offered the people the option to go to Jerusalem, but did not mandate its requirement. After generations of journeys to the Temples in the North, the people were immersed in their idolatrous ways and distanced from the spirituality of Jerusalem. The opportunity that had availed itself on that Tu B’Av did not come to fruition.

 

Hoshea would be the last king of Israel. His rule. which was subject to several invasions. would be dealt its final blow by the Assyrian, who would disperse the ten tribes, who were then lost to the Jewish people.

 

THE FUTURE OF YOUNG ISRAELIS
Manfred Gerstenfeld

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Aug. 2, 2012

 

When Israelis say, “I worry about my grandchildren’s future,” this has a radically different dimension than similar concerns expressed in many other countries. Europeans’ current anxiety about the future derives mainly from darkening social and economic prospects. A number of Europeans are also apprehensive about climate change. For Israelis, physical survival is a prime matter, often over and above their many other concerns.

 

Israeli society faces mortal risks from parts of the Muslim world, where extreme anti-Semitic hate mongering is massive. Israel is threatened with a second Holocaust, for which the ideological basis is being laid today. The Islamic world has substantial components…which promote the genocide of Israel and Jews.…

 

Current Palestinian society is permeated with sympathy for the most criminal major Muslim movement, Al Qaeda. People who see a “peace agreement” as an interim stage toward the annihilation of Israel, are unreliable partners to make concessions to. In view of future unforeseeable radical changes in the Middle East, true peace is however not totally impossible in this century.…

 

Of the Israeli generations growing up, many will serve in the army and part of them will risk their lives. Once one’s life is at stake, everything else becomes secondary. The very different past experiences of Israel and other societies indicate that Israelis live in a reality and have worldviews which differ from those of other societies.

 

Having served in the army means that one cannot live a life as fully dominated by individualism as is possible in Europe. One can understand that for instance, from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s words which he said on 2012 National Memorial Day, “When you hear the siren tonight, we will turn into one family and the citizens of Israel will be united in our remembrance.”…

 

In Israel, due to the ups and downs of the economy and the political situation, few people outside government services assume that their employment is life-long. Percentage-wise, this has helped to cultivate many more people in Israel with well-developed flexible minds and attitudes to deal with unexpected situations.…

 

Many Israeli youngsters realize—contrary to many Westerners—that they owe much to society and that what Israeli society owes to them has its limits. At the same time, Israel’s unity is threatened in very different ways by major segments of two growing parts of the population: Israeli Arabs and the Ultra-Orthodox as well by much smaller but far more vociferous groups of extreme leftists.…

 

The threat of seeing one’s country destroyed is far from theoretical in Israel. In this type of reality, what should one advise Israeli youngsters who grow up in present-day society with vulnerabilities of a very different nature than European ones? Firstly, to continue informal learning during one’s whole active life. One should invest in one’s brain as much as possible. That will be the main portable source of one’s knowledge in crisis situations.

 

Israelis should learn as many skills as possible – preferably those which can also be used abroad. Furthermore, it is necessary to learn to speak proper English, which will remain the lingua franca of this century. Spending a few years abroad in one’s youth can be extremely useful for one’s future, wherever that may be. In an uncertain Israeli environment, the important skill of improvisation will be frequently required.…

 

Murphy’s Law is not necessarily valid. Not everything which can go wrong will go wrong. If Israel continues to flourish in the remarkable way it has done so far, the same skills will come in very handy in finding a place in Israeli society.

 

In Israel as elsewhere, there will be a small number of people who are extraordinarily talented. If they have reasonable emotional intelligence, their future in increasingly complex societies will offer them unprecedented opportunities. The overall complexity of future day-to-day life and technological advances will lead to the exclusion of many more people from the mainstream in advanced countries than is the case today.

 

To cope with this complexity, one will need knowledge of far more than basic numeracy and literacy. The extremely talented and flexible few have many more chances in opaque environments than in transparent ones. They will be able to find interesting openings in Western societies no matter what may happen. The same will be true in Israel as well.

 

(Manfred Gerstenfeld is a member of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,
of which he has been Chairman for twelve years.
)

 

THE MYSTERIOUS FATE OF MAIMONIDES’ BIBLE

Matt Nesvisky

Jerusalem Report July 10/2012

 

Three cheers for Matti Friedman, a Jerusalem-based journalist who honed his reporting chops at the Associated Press, The Jerusalem Report and elsewhere, and who in his first book got his teeth into a terrific story and investigated and reported it as thoroughly as possible.…

 

This is all the more remarkable considering how hard the facts were to come by—and in view of how many sources were either circumspect, stingy, deceptive or otherwise unreliable when it came to revealing the truth. So let’s begin with what is known.

 

The so-called Aleppo Codex is nothing less than the oldest extant copy of the Jewish Bible. Created by rabbinical scholars in Tiberias around 930 C.E., the codex (which simply means a book, as opposed to a scroll) consisted of some 500 bound parchment leaves with three columns of handwritten Hebrew text on each side. The pages contained the Torah, the Writings and the Prophets, as well as important marginalia.…Some years after its creation, the codex was purchased by a wealthy Karaite and transferred from Tiberias to Jerusalem.

 

Shortly thereafter, in 1099, the Crusaders sacked Jerusalem. Subsequently, hundreds of sacred Jewish manuscripts, including the codex, were ransomed from the new masters of Jerusalem and conveyed to the prominent Jewish community of Fustat, just outside of Cairo. The most notable member of that community, none other than Maimonides, used the Tiberias text as the basis of his great legal code, the Mishna Torah.

 

Maimonides died in 1204, and during a period of turmoil in Cairo in the 14th century, his library was transferred to what was then considered one of the greatest centers of Jewish scholarship, Aleppo, Syria. (Maimonides had even dedicated his famous Guide to the Perplexed to his star pupil, Joseph ben Judah, a notable resident of Aleppo.) The Jews of Aleppo soon began referring to what we know as the Aleppo Codex as the “Crown” of its manuscript collection. It was locked away in an iron safe in a grotto of the community’s central synagogue and rarely brought to light.

 

There the Aleppo Codex remained until the riot in the city that followed the UN vote for partition of Palestine in November 1947. The synagogue and much of its contents were put to the torch. And this is where contemporary history becomes much murkier than ancient history. The venerable Aleppo Jewish community eventually fled from a now-hostile Syria and scattered—to the new Jewish state, to Latin America, to New York City, and elsewhere.

 

Somewhere along the line some Aleppo rabbis took it upon themselves to see that the revered codex, which had been zealously maintained in the central synagogue for centuries, should be spirited out of the country. The codex was duly smuggled to Turkey by a Jewish merchant, transferred to a Jewish Agency agent there, and eventually delivered to Jerusalem’s Ben-Zvi Institute, a scholarly academy headed by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who would become Israel’s second president.

 

Lengthy litigation before a Jerusalem rabbinical court then ensued over who should have custodianship of the codex—the State of Israel or the Aleppo Jews now in Israel. After four years an out-of-court compromise was worked out on that issue—but a much more contentious issue remained—the startling fact that fully 40 percent, or some 200 pages, of the priceless Aleppo Bible, including virtually all of the Five Books of Moses, were missing.

 

It is this mystery that forms the focus of Matti Friedman’s four-year investigation.…Friedman does an exemplary job of hacking his way through the various thickets that surround the Aleppo Codex.… He doggedly pursues and interviews just about everybody still alive who is connected in some manner to the codex, and he makes his own discoveries and astute observations in dusty libraries and record offices. As a good journalist, he is cautious about drawing conclusions or expressing opinions, but when he does, he makes sure he is on a firm foundation.

 

Which is not to say Friedman is a mere gatherer of facts for a good story. Consider the feeling revealed in his concluding paragraphs: “The Hebrew Bible, of which our codex was the most perfect copy, the one used by Maimonides himself, was meant to serve humans as a moral compass. Its story is a tragedy of human weakness. The book was the result of generations of scholarship in Tiberias, of the attempt to arrive at a perfect edition of the divine word. It was a singular accomplishment and a testimony to the faith of the men who created it. It was desecrated…

 

“We might file this tale between Cain and Abel and the golden calf, parables about the many ways we fail: A volume that survived one thousand years of turbulent history was betrayed in our times by the people charged with guarding it. It fell victim to the instincts it was created to temper and was devoured by the creatures it was meant to save.”