Saturday, 13 January 2018

My Kind of Hero

There is a Hebrew saying that reads:
"איזהו גבור? -  הכובש את יצרו"
 (who is a hero? One who controls his urge)

Avi Dorfman is a survivor of a terror attack carried out by Hamas. 
Survivors of terror attacks are all special people who lived to tell their horrific story. 

Avi, however, is unlike many of them. Avi was dealt the blow because he was trying to SAVE a friend, Tal Kain, and he did. Avi overcame a selfish urge to run for cover, an inherent human urge to avoid getting hurt. Instead, he chose to ensure that a friend is removed from harm’s way and himself ended with serious injuries.

You will rarely hear Avi tell his great story of survival. He is a modest young man who has never turned his victimhood into a means of survival let alone promote himself as a hero. In the words of my dear friend Roger Froikin: “today, people who are victims, who merely survive, are being called heroes – and they are not.”

Here is Avi’s story of miraculous survival, a story that has inspired many including my students who heard him speak and many more. Special thanks go to Yael Pedhatzur and to Michal Dar-El for their inspirational comments.

“My story is short & simple (and horrible in the middle). I had a perfect kind of childhood: no bullies, no fears, and I excelled in studying at the toughest levels both in school (math, computer science, pre-med, physics, and more) and by myself. I taught myself photography from the 8th grade (I took the annual yearbook's photos, guitar playing, computerized music (I started and manned the Audio-Visual control board for my school in ceremonies and events!), and computer science at least at a Master's degree level by the time I was 14. I knew all about Israel (biblical & modern history), it's neighbours, and it's technological prowess. I had simply excelled and was technically one rank below Valedictorian (one girl had a higher GPA but lacked these other fields of expertise). I was also aware of terrorism - two buses had exploded, and Prime Minister Rabin was shot right next to my house. I was destined to go to an elite IDF unit.
September 11, 2007 (...Twin Towers, different year...) was our last night at the IDF basic training base in the south. 1:30am. Tzeva Adom (red alert). Rocket alarms sounded. The Islamic Jihad launched a rocket to our area. We were in the 15 second impact range. We all woke and ran for cover. I noticed that a long-time friend of mine, Tal, who did basic training with me, was still sleeping. I nudged him and waited for him outside our tent, looking at the nearby empty tent. I suddenly saw a very quick white flash and heard the words "NOT YET!" ("od lo!"). Then, I had what *seemed to be* 20 seconds of seeing a soup of colors - just red, yellow, orange, black, and white, swirling around.
It was a Qassam rocket. These are the lighter artillery rockets of Hamas, and they are packed with shrapnel to maximize Israeli casualties and deaths (just look at Sderot). 68 soldiers were hit, 9 of whom were injured badly (e.g. lost a leg), and I was the worst: critical injury due to shrapnel. One piece went into the neck (2 millimeters away from killing me), one cut my index finger, and one went through the eye and into the brain. I had seen the previously mentioned colors for 20 seconds before I heard the rocket explode - from a meter away. My brain had managed to squeeze 20 seemingly seconds before the sound had reached me from only a meter away. I blacked out. I was technically awake, but I "woke up" as in regained consciousness while I was standing and telling a word salad to the base doctor (not a word salad as in confusion of words, but literally a salad - panicly saying onions, tomatoes, lemons, and the like). I again blacked out and woke up an estimated 5 weeks later. Keep in mind that I was awake through the entire time - but I was blacked out and cannot and could not know or remember a single thing (e.g. if you asked me "how are you?" then I would answer that I am fine - regardless of the tons of blood flowing out from my head). Both brain hemispheres were hit and my brain's linguistics section was the worst area damaged as far as they could see. The rocket had also removed my sense of smell and made it extremely difficult to cry (I only shed tears twice from that date). I was immediately evacuated (the first one out) to Barzilai Hospital and flown (love 669 (S&R) helicopters!) to Tel HaShomer Hospital - I owe these two places my life, as well as Ichilov Hospital for returning my forehead bones (they were removed so the brain would have the needed space to expand from the injury).
Light brain injuries (e.g. concussions) take 2 months of hospital & rehabilitation stay to officially pass. My injury was critical. I was, at the best-case scenario, supposed to take a whole year to recover and only then start my rehabilitation stay. But, this is assuming the worst-case scenario did not happen and the best case did - there was also a 30% chance that I would die within 10 days.

I thank God for what had happened since the rocket impact. Literally. I now know there is a God - no more assumptions, but facts. I had moments of consciousness, but it was a "different" consciousness - I had experienced actual death (no past memories, no senses, no thoughts, simply seeing black). But, then I woke up one morning around the fifth week (four weeks of hospital stay were done - this was the first week at rehabilitation!). I saw a hospital staying room, with the IDF casualties officer (for that woman!) smiling at me, and my parents sitting nearby. I did not know at the time how I was hit, but my memory and abilities had remarkably stayed (and so I can tell you this), and I actually had perfect control but slightly worse hand-eye coordination because of losing an eye (a white piece of plastic was there so I did not notice anything wrong - despite the fact it did not have an iris or cornea), and I did not notice that my forehead was boneless (because the skin was still there - although I could see the brain's patterns on it). I did not notice that I could not smell (until I came home and immediately made and omelet - I judged their readiness by their smell). I also had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my leg, essentially blocked blood flow in an artery, and that had resulted in me being in a wheelchair for a while. I also slept for almost 16 hours every day. I had various other considered-permanent disabilities (e.g. single colored blindness - I saw green instead of a bright brown shade), but they had passed extremely quickly (miracles!!!). I was given various experimental medications (love Factor Seven enhancement!), and I recovered almost completely within a total of 7 weeks. I was home then, after 7 weeks, walking and talking and seemingly able. Much faster than light brain injuries! I was EXTREMELY happy (especially when I learned of how I was injured). I did not notice it until then, but my long-term memory was intact - but the very short-term memory (e.g. my parents are sitting behind me) was not. I then volunteered to return to the IDF of my own accord and to my commander's encouragement and the Medical Corp's massive suggestions. I got amazing gifts (gold medal, statuette, #1 medical miracle ever gotten by the IDF Medical Corp), and I had an incredible service in the IDF. LOVE!” 

Friday, 5 January 2018

The Missing Link

For a long time many of us, especially those who are involved in Jewish education in Yisrael and elsewhere, have been perplexed and frustrated as we try to understand where we went wrong in that realm, because we have. Many young Jews, nowadays, seem to have lost the compass and the road map which connects between our ancient inevitability and its path towards a fulfilling future. They feel lost. They are easily influenced by foreign creeds and quickly fall prey to manipulations and disinformation that are abundantly funneled by elements that wish to bring both a Spiritual and Physical destruction to our Jewish existence.

I recently read an article (in Hebrew) by Uri Heitner entitled “The dwindling of the Spirit in Yisrael.” In it, Heitner sheds light on some of the conditions and circumstances that might have speeded up and contributed to that process which has been going on for sometimes now.

Heitner claims, and justifiably so, that since the 70’s there has been a substantial devaluation of the Tanach in the Yisraeli culture. He continues to surmise that this sad reality stems from our desertion of the Oral Law and two thousand years of Jewish existence and cultural survival in the Diaspora.

As a teacher in Eretz Yisrael, I can attest to that. Secular Zionism (for Zionism, the several thousands of years old concept, has many facets), whose staunch supporter was David Ben-Gurion, claims that the return to Eretz Yisrael requires reconnecting only to our Tanach roots and disengaging from the Diaspora legacy and Post Tanach era. Ben Gurion suggested that in order to create a new modern Jewish identity, a leap in Jewish history and culture was vital, thus wiping out two millennia of a fruitful tradition that assisted and strengthened the spreading of Jewish roots in a fertile ground called Judaism.

That was a grave mistake.

It was a mistake since that essential link is what is missing from today’s Jewish education. It is the cause for ignorance about the concept of Zionism and other important concepts and land marks in our evolution as a nation, as a culture and as a civilization. Its absence has opened up the doors to wrong interpretations of our heritage, by foreigners who likewise, are, and not surprisingly so, uneducated about this great important link in our history as a Jewish nation.

 Judaism and its related concepts, like all cultures, are built on layers, each one supported by the layer underneath it. Trying to jump from “Tanach to Palmach”, as Heitner describes it, is like “trying to build a ceiling over a floor without having the support of pillars and columns between the two.” Disengaging from the wealth of the abundant and remarkable Jewish cultural layers that were conceived between the Tanach era and the current Yisraeli identity, was a great injustice. Any real effort to connect to the Tanach while ignoring the compelling culture and history that developed during the Diaspora era, in post Tanach times is doomed to failure. It has resulted in a culturally handicapped modern day Yisraeli and Jewish generations. Not only do they have difficulty understanding the Tanach, they face similar hurdles understand the poetry of National Poets like Bialik who was reared in that culture and whose poetry is saturated with that great heritage. Such a leap has culturally paralyzed our modern day Yisraeli culture to such an extent that Bialik needed to be translated into “Yisraeli Hebrew. “

By now many of you know my sentiments that any efforts to translate our Hebrew/Jewish culture into any language will result in a tragedy. In fact, it was Bialik himself who suggested that reading poetry in translation is akin to “kissing through a handkerchief.” He must be turning in his grave, as I am certain many of our great minds and cultural giants, such as Yehudah Halevi, Tschernichovsky and many others who kept our great Jewish Spirit going through all the years of separation from Eretz Yisrael, the Cradle of Our Civilization, must be.

They are probably mourning the loss of Jewish continuity, one of the pillars of our strength. They must be shedding their heavenly tears as they witness the misinterpretation, innocent or otherwise, of a few millennia old Jewish tenets such as Zionism, Halacha,  The Oral Law and other strongholds that have sheltered our people against the storms of history.

Recently, I read that Minister of Education, Bennett, boasted about the great changes he has made in our Yisraeli educational system. Not enough, I say. Bring back that badly needed missing link. Teach our young ones the meaning of Jewish pride and in the original language.

I have nothing against translation as a means of bridging between cultures and nations. I am all for it. However, by all means do not try to kiss the original through a “handkerchief.” That “handkerchief,” in many cases, is tainted and infested with germs of misunderstanding, disinformation and someone’s well planned and well-oiled agenda.

May we all have a Meaningful Shabbat and a Peaceful weekend.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Jewish Immunization

It is no secret that I detest missionaries, especially the kind that misrepresent Jewish scriptures in order to lure innocent Jewish souls to join their religious and eschatological plan. It is also no secret that I am not the only one.

Detesting by itself, however, is not enough. Neither is protesting sufficient. In many cases I feel that "The lady doth protest too much” and does too little.

Recognizing that Yisrael has a missionary problem is a first and much needed step. However, it is clear by now that Yisraeli politicians and the current system will do little, if anything, to stop the spread of this virus that nibbles at us slowly with the eventual mission of removing the Jewish essence of Yisrael and replacing it with that of “The New Jerusalem,” as some openly declare. Some who claim to be friends of Yisrael, are familiar as missionaries on the radar of those who are on the lookout for them, at least by their overt (and sometimes by their cunningly and well crafted) covert agenda. They have infiltrated charitable Yisraeli institutions. They are given land to set camp and enter alliances in the Knesset with some MK’s and are supported by Yisraeli and Jewish enablers. They conduct interfaith services with their enablers, leaving many vulnerable to this innocent and so- called noble concept.

Too much money, power and side benefits are involved in the cooperation between all parties, needless to add, at the expense of Jewish identity of the Jewish, the ONLY Jewish Homeland. It is a collaboration that has seeped very deep, too deep to easily root it out, so it seems. Such nefarious alliances, including some of our own Likud members, have been documented, exposed, written about and discussed ad nauseam by many on various forums

What then can and should be done?

As a teacher of Jewish children in Eretz Yisrael, the country and the People I care about first and foremost, I am doing my share, I believe, in helping contain and eradicate this virus.

Education is my way of fighting it. I call it “Jewish immunization.” Knowledge, as we all know, is power. It is the knowledge of our wonderful tradition, our great history starting with the Tanach, which I believe is the best weapon to ward off any efforts by elements who try to steal Jewish souls, sometimes in deceitful ways, misrepresenting verses from the Tanach to try and convince Jews that it is their way which will bring an end to their misery and loss of direction and purpose in life.

Towards that end, I do not only teach them about our celebrated tradition, about our marvelous culture and history, I also educate myself about it. And there is so much to be educated about, so much to absorb. The more I learn and study it, the more I realize how little I know, yet, the more I learn it and delve into it, though, the prouder I am of it.

Imparting and passing on that knowledge, the pride which comes with that knowledge, is the greatest pleasure of being a teacher. When I address my students, and instruct them about it, I feel as if I am under a spell. I am thrilled, I experience the rush of adrenaline flowing rapidly through my essence. I can sense the invisible waves of delight and dignity that emanate from me. I look at their faces, I observe and study them.  The expression in the eyes of some, that shining look that tells me that they are swept by my enthusiasm and share my joy while silently partaking and basking in the art of knowledge. I can almost feel their Jewish roots strike and spread deeper filling the vacant corners of their young core, shaping their fragile universe and providing them with the security and firm Jewish foundations and existence that has kept our People going for a few thousand years. Their expression confirms to me that their Jewish identity is slowly being reinforced and that, hopefully, one day it might be as unshakable as mine.

This is when I know and am comforted by the understanding that they are on their way to fulfilling our destiny, our millennial old destiny.

What more could any Jewish teacher ask for?

Wishing all of you a great year in 2018.

Saturday, 23 December 2017


The Hebrew word תפילין (Tefillin or phylacteries in Greek) which is also referred in the Torah as טוֹטָפוֹת (totafot) describes a set of two small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from four sections of the Torah. These boxes are attached to leather straps. The word Tefillin is derived from the same root as the Hebrew word Tefilah (prayer) and these are worn by Jewish men during weekday morning prayers.
One of the boxes is placed on the left arm against the heart - the seat of emotions, and the attached leather strap is wound around the left hand, and around its middle finger. The other box is placed above the forehead -the seat of reason.
“In this manner,” according to Alexander Cowen, “our attention is directed to the head, heart and hand. It teaches us to dedicate ourselves to the service of G‑d in all that we think, feel and do. It is also to teach us not to be governed solely by the impulse of the heart, lest that lead us into error and transgression. Nor are we to be governed by reason alone, for that may lead to harsh materialism.
Placed on the arm opposite the heart, and on the head, the Tefillin signify the submission of one's mind, heart and actions to the Almighty, as well as the rule of intellect over emotion.”
Why have I decided to write about this subject now, you may ask?

A few days ago, I returned on an El Al flight from New York to Yisrael. As always, observant Jewish passengers perform this very important and several millennia old Mitzvah, one we are commanded in Devarim (Deuteronomy 6:8) “And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for ornaments between your eyes.”
Watching them filled my Jewish heart with joy and my cup of Jewish pride overflowed.

Sweet memories of my late father always surface before my eyes when I witness such scenes. They reconnect me with the beautiful days of my childhood when I would wake up to my father’s soft recitation of the morning prayer. His melodious chant was always filled with so much earnestness and sincerity. I would listen to him as he repeated the following verses from Hosea 2:21-22 while winding the leather strap around the middle finger of the left hand:
"וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי לְעוֹלָם וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בֶּאֱמוּנָה וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת יְהוָה."
“And I will betroth you unto Me forever; and I will betroth you unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in compassion. And I will betroth you unto Me in faithfulness and you shall know The Lord.”
This particular verse, which is the second reason I elected to put my sentiments on paper, bears a great significance for me, as a Jew. It encapsulates the eternal covenant between G-d, Am Yisrael and our Jewish People. It allows us to get closer to satisfying our aspirations to know G-d, the One and Only G-d of Yisrael and His benevolence towards us.
This daily renewal of the vow of betrothal and the eternal love story between G-d and Am Yisrael coupled with its subsequent commitment and rewards is what the gift of being Jewish is all about. How many of us avow, daily, our alliances, loyalties or sacred covenants be they with partners, siblings or just friends and dear or loved ones?
Furthermore, the marks of the straps that are left on the skin of those who perform this Mitzvah remain for much longer after they are removed. They continue serve as a constant reminder of that which has kept us Jews and Am Yisrael the Eternal People.

This verse from Hosea and the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin are also a reaffirmation that my unshakable Motto, נֵצַח יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא יְשַׁקֵּר)Samuel 1 15:29 The Eternal of Yisrael shall never lie), is not merely another verse. It is a living proof that Jews are the People of Eternity and that G-d will never forsake us.
For as long as ONE Jew, yes ONE Jew only still performs it, just like in the words of Hatikvah, our Hope is not lost.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Time to Drain the University Swamps

I remember the days, not so long ago, when a biased university lecturer poisoning the minds of our youth made the news. Many would rise in rage, wring their hands and bemoan the sad reality of today’s academic institutions. Though names after names of such culprits keep popping up, what was then a cause for concern has, unfortunately, become the norm. Many simply seem to have gotten used to it.

I encountered such bias. It was quite an eye opener.

The year was 2000, more precisely, the fall of 2000. Let me take you back to that time and introduce you to a name that has run a familiar and blood pressure raising note in my mind. Meet Dr. Ron Macintyre, a senior lecturer in Political science at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Though I was myself a lecturer at that University, I had never met Macintyre. Unfortunately, his name was brought to my attention under some dismal and disturbing circumstances.

I happened one bright morning when I received a telephone call from a young student by the name of David B..

“Your name was given to me by the Yisraeli Embassy in Wellington,” he told me after he introduced himself. He was a freshman at the university and attended one of Dr. Macintyre’s classes. “I am in his POL 101,” he added.

Later, I discovered that many refer to Macintyre’s class as “PLO 101” due to his staunch pro-Palestinian stance.

“It started with him entering class on the first day wearing a Kaffiya while boasting that it was given to him by no other than Yassir Arafat,” David told me. “A visit to his office,” he added, “revealed walls adorned by photos with leaders from the Arab/Muslim world, ruthless leaders like Khaddaffi and others.”

No one should have a problem with such a display. Anyone can befriend and be photographed with whoever they wish. We could not, however, allow such alliances to interfere and affect the line of teaching in an academic institution.

Being a young and rather uninformed kiwi youngster, David was appalled at the anti Yisraeli and biased message delivered by Dr. Macintyre from the university podium. His strong sense of justice compelled him to contact the Yisraeli Embassy in Wellington in an effort to develop a more balanced view about the middle eastern conflict. They directed him to me.

David did not waste any time and called me promptly.

“Surely, we cannot let such antics go on,” he voiced his concern when we met for coffee a day later. “No, definitely not,” I thought to myself. “This is where I will need your help, though,” I added as I looked David straight into the eyes. “Are you ready?”

Both David and I established a strategy whereby we could monitor what information or rather disinformation Dr. Macintyre was feeding his students and, if and when necessary, report him to the university’s board.

We did not have to wait very long. During his last lecture before breaking away for the Christmas holiday in 2000, Dr. Macintyre showed his students a documentary entitled: “The Final Solution,” about the Nazi extermination of the Jews and other undesirables during WWII. At the end of the film, timed and perfectly synchronized with the end of the lecture, Dr. Macintyre asked his students to go home and “over the holidays” ponder whether that was not what the Jews were “currently” doing to the Palestinians.

How about that for twisting, toying with and tainting the brains of those who need to learn how to think instead of what to think?

David called me as soon as he came out of that lecture.

That afternoon, David and another justice seeking fellow student lodged, with my help, a formal complaint against Dr. Macintyre with the University Chancellor. I also sent a stern letter to all that were concerned expressing my dismay at such “academic conduct” as demonstrated by a member of the university staff.

A week later, I ran into the head of the Political Science Department of the University. “Dr. Macintyre showed me a copy of the letter you sent to us and asked if you were ‘for real,’” he told me. We had a good laugh.

You bet, Dr. Macintyre, you and all the “Dr. Macintyres” of this world, we are very much “for real” and we will chase you and your dirty tricks out of our campuses and drain the University swamps of you and your ilk!

 May we all have a Joyous Holidays Season full of honesty, truth and unbiased perspectives.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

A Vanished World

Yesterday, I posted a video of a rare footage that captured Jewish life and culture in the Shtetl before WWII. I am a product of that culture. I am grateful that I am.

Now, I cannot expect everyone to share my sentiments on this. However, I am dumbfounded at some of the reactions that somehow projected a negative attitude and somewhat contempt towards that chapter in our Jewish history. Yes, there were pogroms, yes there was persecution and yes, there was poverty. But is that all that people see and remember of it?

How sad!

Life in the Shtetl was very hard and often dangerous, no doubt about that. It was particularly true during the end of 19th and early 20th centuries when persecution, economic restrictions and outbreaks of violence pressed increasingly on the socioeconomic foundations of the shtetl.

But it was the culture that helped overcome some of those difficulties, I believe, 
 create a wonderful resilient Jewish spirit. 

I personally was always captivated by the stories that I heard about the shtetl. I was enchanted particularly by the values of Yiddishkeit (Jewishness) and Menshlikhkeyt (humanness) around which the shtetl's life revolved. The traditional ideals of piety, learning and scholarship, communal justice, and charity were integrated in the warm and intimate life style of the shtetl.

As a child, I would always want to hear more about the life that had become a graveyard.

"Bobe, dartziel mir a maise fun amolike yorn (Grandma, tell me a story from the old days)," I would constantly beg of my grandmother in Yiddish. 

Those were some of the happiest moments in my childhood. The stories told by my grandmother mirrored a life of substance and meaning that could not and would never be duplicated. They had a hidden glow about them, always threaded with humour, wisdom and wit.

One person asked, after watching that video, “Where were the women in that video?” “They were at home,” answered another. I will tell you where the women were. They, the Yiddishe Momas, were at home raising some of the finest Jewish kids, giving them all the love and warmth that no nanny or living in maid could ever.  The home was the basic unit in the culture and life of the shtetl; it was founded on a patriarchal and closely- knit structure on traditional lines. The Jewish mother oversaw the Home. And thank G-d for that.

If you really wish to know what the women did, let me invite you to read the lyrics of "My Yiddishe Mommee." It will tell you where women were in that video. I know what it means, I had such one “woman” as mother. Mine was not only at home, she was also out working hard helping my father create a fine Jewish Home. She was one who is described in these few lines:
"How few were her pleasures, she never cared for fashion's style 
Her jewels and treasures she found them in her baby's smile 
Oh I know that I owe what I am today 
To that dear little lady to old and gray 
To that wonderful Yiddishe Momme of mine."

The synagogue, Beit Hamidrash, was the house of prayer, the house of study and the house of assembly combined. It was the place that preserved the Great Spirit of the Jewish people in its purest form. It was the compassionate, old, loving and loyal mother who, in her graciousness gathered the tears of her lost sons and daughters constantly sheltering and consoling yet at the same time granting them the iron will for an eternal spiritual survival. 

Has anyone ever read Bialik?

Bialik, the greatest Jewish poet, in my humble view, was a product of that culture. His poetry mirrored the suffering, but it also reflected the Jewish Spirit that this culture produced and preserved. He was the bridge between that culture and our modern Jewish state. So were Sha”i Agnon, Natan Alterman and many others who were  reared in that culture. I cannot brush it off as insignificant, dear readers.

The hardest blow, however, came in the form of a private message from a person who shall remain nameless. That person could not understand how I felt the way I did about this chapter in our history. That nameless person went on to suggest that those Jews of the shtetle, my people were “whimps and went like a lamb to the slaughterhouse.”

To that nameless person and all those other nameless who feel “machoisticly” superior to the millions who died in the Shoah, let me say this.

What did you expect of 1.5 million children that were mercilessly murdered in the Shoah, resistance? How about the frail elderly, women, and disabled ones? Had you been in their place, would you have believed then that the human mind could have conceived of putting people in ovens??? Would you not have jumped into a shower after several days of being in a cattle train surrounded by the smell death, urine and facies? Would you, yes YOU, have thought that instead of water, you would be showered with Zyklon B?

Those who could resist, did resist.

My father was one of them. He had a choice. He escaped and joined the partisans. That is how he earned 71% disability from the Nazis.

That culture cradled, developed and shaped others like him. It also produced Jabotinsky, Ben Gurion, Begin and many other giants, lest you forget. Those ended up being the leaders of our Great Home, Medinat Yisrael.

That is how I prefer to remember that Vanished world. That is the way, I always will.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Am Segulah

Some words contain an idea, a concept and sometimes a whole universe. They simply cannot be translated into any language or transferred to another sphere of a national or cultural experience lest they lose their linguistic sensitivity.

The Hebrew word “Segulah” is one of them. “Am Segulah” is what G-d refers to Am Yisrael as and on several occasions in the Torah. " "וְעַתָּה אִם שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת בְּרִיתִי וִהְיִיתֶם לִי סְגֻלָּה מִכָּל הָעַמִּים כִּי לִי כָּל הָאָרֶץ" )Exodus 19:5) (Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine).
Am, as many of us know, is a nation, a people. Am Segulah is a unique, a very distinct and rare nation. Segulah סגולהstems from the Hebrew root, ,סגל the same root of the word, purple סגול . What then, may some of you ask, is the relationship between Am Yisrael and the colour purple?
It is not a secret that purple is the colour of royalty and has been for thousands of years. There is a reason.
The production of the colour purple in ancient times was costly. Hence, it was rare and accessible only to kings and rulers who could afford purple fabrics. The dye that was used to produce the colour purple originally came from the city of Tyre, ruled then by the ancient Phoenicians. It was extracted from the Mollusk which according to the Online Oxford Dictionary is “An invertebrate of a large phylum which includes snails, slugs, mussels and octopuses. They have a soft unsegmented body and live in aquatic or damp habitats.” It took thousands of mollusks to create just a tiny quantity of the dye.
It follows then that since it was exclusive to kings and rulers, the ones who could afford to purchase fabrics of that colour, purple became linked with the ruling classes of ancient empires. The colour was also associated with holiness and wisdom as those who wore it were regarded by many as descendant of gods.
Though not all members of Am Yisrael are part of the imperial classes, our nation, just like any other, each in their own way, is unique. Am Segulah, though, is what G-d named and referred to our People as the quote from Exodus above points. It is not a title that, one bright day and out of nowhere, we chose to adorn ourselves with.
What many Jews, however, fail to understand is that this title, associated with once a very rare and unique colour, is not merely a label one can wear as a feather in their hat or let it serve as the laurel leaves upon which they can rest and enjoy that title. To be a chosen, chosen to carry a unique mission, role or destiny, requires constant work and toil. It bears high responsibility and demands repeated and concerted efforts to prove, time and again that the title and the awards attached to it are well deserved and well earned.
Nowadays, as the colour purple has become more widely accessible, I pray and wish that this new reality does not dilute the significance of our People’s role in history. I implore every Jew to remember who we are, where we came from and prepare ourselves to our destined purpose on the timeline of history. Only a close familiarity with these will ensure that for us and our relationship with G-d, we will forever remain as rare, precious and unique as the ancient purple dye, an Am Segulah.