Shavuot 5776 – 2016: Zman Matan Toratenu. The Time of the Giving of the Torah: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, June 10, 2016— The festival of Shavuot underlines the spiritually significant lesson that the release from bondage and winning of political freedom does not constitute freedom unless it culminates in the spiritual discipline of duty to Am Israel, and Israel’s acceptance of the Torah.
The Expulsion of Jews from Lithuania and Courland on Shavuot 1915: Larry Domnitch, Algemeiner, June 9, 2016 — Shavuot 1915 was one of the largest single expulsions of Jews since Roman times.During this bleak period, more than 200,000 Jews in Lithuania and Courland were abruptly forced from their homes and into dire circumstances.
Tel Aviv Attacks: Israelis Want Peace But Need a Peace Partner: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News, June 9, 2016— Earlier this week, my Paris-based colleague, Dr. Shimon Samuels and I met with senior officials in Berlin that focused on the implications of 1 million Middle Eastern migrants/refugees coming to Germany
Bernard Lewis and Me: Daniel Pipes, Israel Hayom, May 31, 2016— The historian Bernard Lewis celebrates his 100th birthday (May 31).
On Topic Links
Policeman Lets Sarona Terrorist into his Home, Leaves, Then Realizes What He’s Done: Jewish Press, June 10, 2016
World’s Israel-Friendly Reactions to Terror Attack Don’t Herald Newfound Support: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, June 9, 2016
Tel Aviv Terror Attack Shatters Five Myths: Stephen M. Flatow, JNS, June 9, 2016
The Sound of Silence (Bamidbar, Covenant & Conversation 5776 on Spirituality): Jonathan Sacks, Times of Israel, June 9, 2016
CIJR, June 10, 2016
The festival of Shavuot underlines the spiritually significant lesson that the release from bondage and winning of political freedom does not constitute freedom unless it culminates in the spiritual discipline of duty to Am Israel, and Israel’s acceptance of the Torah.
Na'aseh v'nishma: “We will do and we will listen”.
Custom calls us to sit all night during the festival and read excerpts from the Torah and Rabbinical texts. Tikkun Leil Shavuot contains excerpts from the Bible, Rabbinic texts, Mishnah, and Zohar.
For me, the most meaningful of these customary readings is the superb love story of “The Book of Ruth.” The touching story of Ruth and Boaz is set in the time of the Judges. Boaz fell in love with Ruth, and they were married in the presence of ten elders (minyan) who served as witness. The union’s blessing has often been recited: “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built up the house of Israel” (Ruth 4:11)
Ruth gave birth to a son, Obed, whose son Jesse fathered David.
NB: It is customary to read the beautiful Book of Ruth on this holiday of Shavuot because events recorded in this book also took place at harvest time. Ruth’s love for the Torah, and loyalty to the people of Israel, were exemplified in her saying: “For wherever you go, I will go! Your people shall be my people, your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16).
Chag Shavuot Sameach! Happy Shavuot!
Baruch Cohen, CIJR’s Research Chairman, will be 97 in October.
Algemeiner, June 9, 2016
Shavuot 1915 was one of the largest single expulsions of Jews since Roman times. During this bleak period, more than 200,000 Jews in Lithuania and Courland were abruptly forced from their homes and into dire circumstances.
With the advance of the German army on the Eastern front in the spring of 1915, retreating Russian forces vented their fury against the Jews and blamed them for their losses. They leveled spurious accusations of treason and spying, and expelled Jews near the war front. From province to province throughout Poland, multitudes of Jews were expelled. Many also fled from their homes in fear of pogroms.
By March, German forces approached Lithuania as Russian forces continued their retreat. The first expulsion in Lithuanian took place in the small town of Botki. In April, in the town of Kuzhi, the local Jews were accused of hiding German troops in their homes. Although proofs brought by members of the Duma (Russian Parliament) exposed the charges as fiction, the accusations had already spread throughout Russia via newspaper reports and became another pretext to persecute Russian Jewry. The mass expulsion from Lithuania soon commenced.
While they were preparing for the upcoming Shavuot holiday, notices appeared calling for the Jews living in areas closer to the war front to vacate their homes over the next day or two days. Most of the notices gave 24 hours or even less time.
In just a few days, Lithuanian Jewry, whose legacy went back of hundreds of years, made a hasty exit. Even the sick and the infirmed were included in the decree. Those who did not comply faced execution.
With the evening of May 5 approaching, multitudes of Jews headed out into an environment of unknown perils. Most fled by foot, with few provisions, harassed and robbed, facing attacks on the roads as they began their desperate search for refuge. Out in the open fields facing numerous dangers, Kiddush for the holidays was recited and Minyanim were organized to recite the holiday prayers.
In Courland, otherwise known as Latvia, Jews faced a similar fate, although the expulsion was enforced a day or two later; most often on the holiday itself. A Jewish military physician watched as hundreds of Jews in the town of Keidan hastily gathered their belongings. In shock and despair he asked them why they were being expelled. They responded, “because we are Jews!” With tears in his eyes he replied, “I risk my head for them and they exile my brothers.”
Such was the case for the one half million Russian Jews who valiantly served in the Tsar’s army while so many of their families faced persecution. As the exodus began in the town of Keidan, according to one eye-witness, “People bid farewell. On our last night in Keidan, they slept on their bundles as cannon fire shook the walls or their homes.”
The mood in Lithuania was beyond description. But it was also a time when Jewish communities bestowed tremendous kindness upon one another. Assistance was offered to refugees arriving at their towns, which included food, lodging, and sometimes employment. The Yekapo organization, an abbreviation for the “Jewish Community Relief War Victims” would wait at train stations and other locations to offer aid. Sometimes the very communities assisting the refugees would soon become refugees themselves, forced out by the same or a subsequent decree.
Some exiles went to Vilna, where there was no expulsion. One rabbi described the reaction of the Vilna community to their arrival, “It was the first day of Shavuot and the Jews of Vilna went to synagogue not knowing that the first train with all those expelled was already arriving at Novo-Vileika … Notwithstanding that it was a holy day, meeting places here quickly organized and each Jewish family of Vilna was required to bring something edible … In the course of two hours, thousands of kilograms of bread, sugar, meat, cheese, eggs, boiled meat, and herring were collected.”
The expulsion decree did not last. Soon after, commander in chief of the Russian armies, Nikolai Nikolayevich, informed the military authorities that mass expulsions of Jews were no longer desired since the economy was damaged as a result. He proposed that Jews should be expelled only from one place at a time, where it was deemed “necessary.”
The long-term impact of the expulsion was significant. With the dismantling of Jewish communities, the religious life of Russian Jewry markedly declined. The religious institutions that were the lifeline of the community such as the cheder, the mikveh, the synagogue, and the yeshiva were diminished by the massive sudden dislodging of Lithuanian Jewry. Jewish life in Russia would never be the same.
Due to the severity of the expulsions, the Pale Settlement, which forcibly confined Russia’s Jews since the end of the 18th century, officially ended with a decree in August 1915 allowing Jews to move to Eastern Russia. The intention was not to free the Jews from the confinement of the Pale, but to keep them out of the proximity of the war front due to irrational suspicions of Jewish disloyalty.
Shavuot 1915 marked times of tragedy and challenge faced by Jewry. In one small vacant Lithuanian synagogue on the first day of Shavuot, where Jewish refugees had gathered to pray, a leading rabbi among the group arose and stood before the shocked and traumatized group and offered the following brief consoling words. “We have faced other difficulties before. Someday, this too shall pass. Now, let us say the Hallel prayers.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Fox News, June 9, 2016
Earlier this week, my Paris-based colleague, Dr. Shimon Samuels and I met with senior officials in Berlin that focused on the implications of 1 million Middle Eastern migrants/refugees coming to Germany. Social integration and the challenge of changing the problematic attitudes brought from their cultures about women, gays, and Jews was the focus of many of our conversations.
But despite the serious challenges we confronted in our meetings we were buoyed by the newfound resolve we heard in Brussels, Paris, Rome, and Berlin: European authorities are united in their revulsion of and commitment to defeat terrorism in their midst. They tell us they will not shirk from confronting the multiple global and homegrown threats and are determined to secure the safety and security of their citizens.
Yet, that commitment disappears at Israel’s borders. The latest outrage took place in the midst of the Middle East’s most tolerant city, Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
On a beautiful evening, two nicely dressed young men, ordered food and then took out weapons and murdered four Israelis and gravely wounding many others. The perpetrators, who were later caught by police, are now being celebrated throughout the Palestinian Territories and globally online, as heroes.
Everyone in Israel knows that such brutal attacks will continue. Why should the terrorist butchery stop, when the world rewards such behavior?
France, which cannot secure its own streets from young Muslim toughs and which has suffered devastating terrorist attacks, found time to convene a conference last week to promote an international “peace plan” for the Israel/Palestinian conflict. They didn’t bother consulting with or inviting Israelis to the table, though the Jewish State will be expected to pay the bill. Palestinians will continue to enjoy billions in aid (most of which disappears into the deep pockets of the corrupt Palestinian Authority) from the European Union, from the United States, from ‘human rights’ NGOs and from Church groups, no matter what terrorist outrage is unleashed on Israelis.
For Palestinians, terrorism does pay. They have been given a moral free pass by much of the world. So even Europe struggles to uncover terrorist cells, to come up with ways to stop hateful theology and pro-terrorist social media from infecting a generation of disaffected Muslim youth in their midst, they provide a moral blank check to Palestinian terrorism and continue to write real checks to help pay for hate education and a virulently anti-Israel media.
There are rumors about that President Obama will instruct our UN Ambassador Samantha Power, not to veto a French-led Security Council Resolution this Fall that will make draconian one-sided demands of Israel in the name of “peace”. The boilerplate reaction to the murders of the four Israelis by our State Department reveals more in what it doesn’t say:
“The United States condemns today’s horrific terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in the strongest possible terms. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and our hopes for a quick recovery for those wounded. These cowardly attacks against innocent civilians can never be justified. We are in touch with Israeli authorities to express our support and concern.”
Not one word of rebuke of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and Gaza City. Those crocodile tears dried almost before they were shed. Here’s the bottom line. Israelis want peace but need a peace partner. Isaac Herzog, head of Israel’s ‘pro-peace’ Left publicly stated that a two-state solution is impossible right now because there is no Palestinian partner.
If the EU, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, the NGO community, the international Media truly want to leave a legacy of peace for The Holy Land, they must start holding the Palestinians to the same standard of all civilized people. Anything less will kill prospects for peace and ignite more chaos and bloodshed.
Israel Hayom, May 31, 2016
The historian Bernard Lewis celebrates his 100th birthday (May 31). Three quotes establish his career. Martin Kramer, a former student of Lewis, sums up his teacher's accomplishments:
"Bernard Lewis emerged as the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East. His elegant syntheses made Islamic history accessible to a broad public in Europe and America. In his more specialized studies, he pioneered social and economic history and the use of the vast Ottoman archives. His work on the premodern Muslim world conveyed both its splendid richness and its smug self-satisfaction. His studies in modern history rendered intelligible the inner dialogues of Muslim peoples in their encounter with the values and power of the West."
The University of California's R. Stephen Humphreys notes "the extraordinary range of his scholarship [and] his capacity to command the totality of Islamic and Middle Eastern history from Muhammad down to the present day." And, as the late Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University put it on Lewis' 90th birthday, he is "the oracle of this new age of the Americans in the lands of the Arab and Islamic worlds."
Lewis' career spanned a monumental 75 years, from his first article ("The Islamic Guilds") in 1937 to his autobiography in 2012. Midway, in 1969, he entered my life. In Israel the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college, with my aspirations to become a mathematician in doubt, I thought of switching to Middle East studies. To sample this new field, I visited Ludwig Mayer's renowned bookstore in Jerusalem and purchased "The Arabs in History," Lewis' 1950 book.
It launched my career. Over the next 47 years, Lewis continued to exert a profound influence on my studies. Although never his formal student, I absorbed his views, reading nearly all his writings and favorably reviewing seven of his books (in 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1994, 1996, and 2000), far more than those of any other author. His name appears on 508 pages of my website. Beyond numbers, he more than anyone else influenced my understanding of the Middle East and Islam.
That said, he and I argued strenuously during the George W. Bush years, narrowly on Iraq policy (I was more skeptical of U.S. efforts) and broadly on the matter of bringing freedom to the Middle East (ditto).
I first met Professor Lewis in 1973 in London, when he generously invited me to his house and offered advice on my doctoral studies. I saw him most recently, twice, at his small apartment in the Philadelphia suburbs.
He's impressively fit in body and mind, spending time on the computer, ever the raconteur ("What's a Jewish joke? One which non-Jews can't understand and Jews have heard a better version of"), and conjuring up anecdotes from a time before the rest of us were born (his 1946 discussion with Abba Eban about the latter's career choices). It's wonderful to see him doing well even if it's sadly understandable that he no longer engages in scholarship nor opines on current events.
Born a mere 15 days after the Sykes-Picot agreement that defined the modern Middle East, their common May centennial finds Syria and Iraq in shreds but Bernard Lewis is, more than ever, an inspiration to his many self-identified disciples, including this one.
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters:
Chag Shavuot Sameach!, Happy Shavuot!, & Shabbat Shalom!
Policeman Lets Sarona Terrorist into his Home, Leaves, Then Realizes What He’s Done: Jewish Press, June 10, 2016 —This story should be tagged under Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture: a policeman who lives near the area where the shooting attack took place Wednesday night let one of the terrorists into his home and gave him water, unaware of his identity.
World’s Israel-Friendly Reactions to Terror Attack Don’t Herald Newfound Support: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, June 9, 2016 —In their statements on Wednesday’s deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv, world leaders refrained from their usual chorus of asking both Israelis and Palestinians, in the same breath, to exercise “restraint” and to resume peace talks.
Tel Aviv Terror Attack Shatters Five Myths: Stephen M. Flatow, JNS, June 9, 2016 —The June 8 terrorist massacre in Tel Aviv exposed all five of the major myths that cloud discussions of Israel and the Palestinians.
The Sound of Silence (Bamidbar, Covenant & Conversation 5776 on Spirituality): Jonathan Sacks, Times of Israel, June 9, 2016—Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. So the sages connected the two. Shavuot is the time of the giving of the Torah. Bamibar means, “In the desert.” What, then, is the connection between the desert and the Torah, the wilderness and God’s word?