On Zionism, Continuous Revelation & the Next Generation

Transmission of Jewish continuity and Israel connectivity does not take place in the formal classroom setting on its own. Israel and Jewish education must include an experiential component; it is through experientialism that our children explore and discover meaning that they can connect to. Transmission to the recipient in a more practical – less theoretical – approach provides the individual the opportunity to explore the multi-faceted complexities of any given data, an experience rooted in intellectual, emotional and internal ties to the information that is experienced.

Israel studies are rooted in such an exploratory experience. The explorative process of walking the land with primary sources in hand, of utilizing Israel as the classroom provides the kind of experience that reveals a level of comprehension not found in formal Jewish education. This type of revelation is continuous if experienced properly.

Continuous revelation, discovering answers to questions, permeates throughout Israelite practice, Rabbinic Judaism as well as Zionism, all firmly rooted in taking action – experientialism. It was only after Jacob’s wrestling with God’s presence on earth was his name changed to Isra-el, as it was explained: for you have struggled with God and with humanity and have prevailed (Genesis 32:28). Jacob underwent a transformation, as did the Children of Israel who upon revelation at Sinai transformed to the People of Israel and later on to the Nation of Israel, all experiential, all transformative, and all-purpose driven journeys.

Today’s Zionism, part and parcel of this continuum of revelation, seeks its next exposé. Early Zionist idealism left no room for debate for the future of Israel. Early Zionist thought was fed by visions of utopia, of an Israel that would be perfect and once it came to be, the modern nation-state would initiate a wave of understanding and co-existence resulting in a utopic global community. And yet our people’s desire to realize the utopian vision of our founding ancestors ought not to remain an end within itself, rather an endless means of continuous purpose, through the constant experiencing of things, which purpose is realized. Indeed we ought not to expect anything less; we should definitely strive to build a world anchored in universal values of peace and harmony – imagining the world as it could be tomorrow – tempered in co-existence with the world as it is today. The quagmire we the People of Israel, global Jewry, currently find themselves in is of nothing less than apathy; an apathy that is self-inflicted, but can be lifted.

Being apathetic is quite simple, indifference has no emotional or intellectual capacity; lifting the veil of apathy requires nothing more than effort and desire. Question is: what do we as a collective, the People of Israel, desire?

At the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, transmission of Jewish memory, history, and belonging to something greater then self is an active undertaking. Through the passage of knowledge, experiential field trips, and activities, our educators encourage students to forge their link to the chain of transmission. Extended programs in Israel provide the participant with the effective bandwidth of space and time to explore and discover their entry point visa vie identity, peoplehood and Israel whether through a historical lens, religion and philosophy, arts and culture, politics and sociology, environmentalism and more.

We know that this next generation wants to belong and wants to lead, as generations of past have. This generation also wants to ask the difficult questions, the type of questions asked by the sages of the Talmud and commentators of the Torah who all attempt to make sense of the their world and their purpose, why should this next generation be any different? Should they not be urged to explore, ask questions, and find answers to their understanding of identity, tradition, peoplehood and Israel?

This is a next-generation tasked with guiding the world’s greatest and fastest information systems. They are told to dream, be creative and take initiative. The invitation to be bold is embedded within information technology’s open-access approach to impacting and acquiring knowledge, and it is years ahead of traditional Jewish learning and pedagogy as we know it. Yes there have been major strides to Jewish learning around the world. The strides, in part, have to do with recognizing that long-term experiential learning is engaging, and when applied to formal study increases the chances of a lasting impact bound in the intellect of the mind and wisdom of the heart.

It is time for the People of Israel to agree on matters as they pertain to our next generation, to our collective future. We mustn’t deny this next generation’s privilege of standing atop the shoulders of our ancestors, as we all do today, rather we must trust those who are next in line and embolden them to take the lead. To ask the difficult questions, to struggle and debate, give and take, as have those who have come before us. It is only through this process of experiencing Israel and Jewish learning; of exploring the unknown and asking “why” – will we find that we have been successful in the age old transmission from generation to generation, of transforming tomorrow’s generation today.

Rabbi Leor Sinai is co-CEO at JNF’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel.

Continuous Revelation: Transforming tomorrow’s generation today

LeorAmhsiTransmission of Jewish continuity and Israel connectivity does not take place in the formal classroom setting on its own.  Israel and Jewish education must include an experiential component; it is through experientialism that our children explore and discover meaning that they can connect to.  Transmission to the recipient in a more practical – less theoretical – approach provides the individual the opportunity to explore the multi-faceted complexities of any given data, an experience rooted in intellectual, emotional and internal ties to the information that is experienced.  Israel studies are rooted in such an exploratory experience.  The explorative process of walking the land with primary sources in hand, of utilizing Israel as the classroom provides the kind of experience that reveals a level of comprehension not found in formal Jewish education.  This type of revelation is continuous if experienced properly.  Continuous revelation, discovering answers to questions, permeates throughout Israelite practice, Rabbinic Judaism as well as Zionism, all firmly rooted in taking action – experientialism.  It was only after Jacob’s wrestling with God’s presence on earth was his name changed to Isra-el, as it was explained: for you have struggled with God and with humanity and have prevailed (Genesis 32:28).  Jacob underwent a transformation, as did the Children of Israel who upon revelation at Sinai transformed to the People of Israel and later on to the Nation of Israel, all experiential, all transformative, and all-purpose driven journeys.  Today’s Zionism, part and parcel of this continuum of revelation, seeks its next exposé.  Early Zionist idealism left no room for debate for the future of Israel.  Early Zionist thought was fed by visions of utopia, of an Israel that would be perfect and once it came to be, the modern nation-state would initiate a wave of understanding and co-existence resulting in a utopic global community.  And yet our people’s desire to realize the utopian vision of our founding ancestors ought not to remain an end within itself, rather an endless means of continuous purpose, through the constant experiencing of things, which purpose is realized.  Indeed we ought not to expect anything less; we should definitely strive to build a world anchored in universal values of peace and harmony – imagining the world as it could be tomorrow – tempered in co-existence with the world as it is today.  The quagmire we the People of Israel, global Jewry, currently find themselves in is of nothing less than apathy; an apathy that is self-inflicted, but can be lifted.  Being apathetic is quite simple as indifference has no emotional or intellectual capacity; lifting the veil of apathy requires nothing more than effort and desire.  Question is: what do we as a collective, the People of Israel, desire?  At the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, transmission of Jewish memory, history, and belonging to something greater then self is an active undertaking. Through the passage of knowledge, experiential field trips, and activities, our educators encourage students to forge their link to the chain of transmission.  Extended programs in Israel provide the participant with the effective bandwidth of space and time to explore and discover their entry point visa vie identity, peoplehood and Israel whether through a historical lens, religion and philosophy, arts and culture, politics and sociology, environmentalism and more.  We know that this next generation wants to belong and wants to lead, as generations of past have.  This generation also wants to ask the difficult questions, the type of questions asked by the sages of the Talmud and commentators of the Torah who all attempt to make sense of the their world and their purpose, why should this next generation be any different?  Should they not be urged to explore, ask questions, and find answers to their understanding of identity, tradition, peoplehood and Israel?  This is a next-generation tasked with guiding the world’s greatest and fastest information systems.  They are told to dream, be creative and take initiative.  The invitation to be bold is embedded within information technology’s open-access approach to impacting and acquiring knowledge, and it is years ahead of traditional Jewish learning and pedagogy as we know it.  Yes there have been major strides to Jewish learning around the world.  The strides, in part, have to do with recognizing that long-term experiential learning is engaging, and when applied to formal study increases the chances of a lasting impact bound in the intellect of the mind and wisdom of the heart.  It is time for the People of Israel to agree on matters as they pertain to our next generation, to our collective future.  We mustn’t deny this next generation’s privilege of standing atop the shoulders of our ancestors, as we all do today, rather we must trust those who are next in line and embolden them to take the lead. To ask the difficult questions, to struggle and debate, give and take, as have those who have come before us.  It is only through this process of experiencing Israel and Jewish learning; of exploring the unknown and asking “why” will we find that we have been successful in the age old transmission from generation to generation, of transforming tomorrow’s generation today.

 

 

 

Rabbi Leor Sinai, co-Executive Director at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel.

Who is a righteous person, a tsadik?

So who is a righteous person, a tsadik? Is one born a righteous person? Or does one evolve to become – a righteous person? Was it Noah? Abraham? Two weeks ago we read about Noah, and that he was a righteous man – within his generation; well what does that tell us about Noah? After all, didn’t God destroy that generation, ‘that world’, for it was evil? So then how righteous was Noah in comparison to that society? I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but with some logic we can arrive to some conclusions. In this last week’s Torah portion, Lech L’cha – go forth for your self – Abram leaves his homeland, leaves his birthplace and leaves his father’s home.  He goes against all that he was brought up on, turns his back on his past, on his own father, the traditions and values he was brought up on, the gods of his ancestors and decides he knows better.  Sounds like quite the rebel.  What would you have to say were your son/daughter to do the same? “Mom, Dad, I disagree with everything you’ve taught me; I’m outta here!” And then there’s his treatment of his own family: 1. During a visit to Egypt he asks his wife, then named Sarai (later changes to SaraH), to introduce him to the Egyptians as her brother so as not to endanger his life for Sarai was very attractive and Abram didn’t want to be perceived as a threat to anyone who wanted her, so he lied to save himself!  Not the most righteous, eh? 2. and then there’s his treatment of his concubine Hagar and their son – Ishmael, sending them off to the wilderness in order to appease Sarai (when she in fact offered Hagar to Abram for Sarai bore no children – at the time)? His own flesh and blood, sent away.  In this week’s Torah portion, VeYera, we arrive to a new Abram, now known as AbraHam. Abraham seeks to please others.  The portion begins with him sitting at the entrance of his tent in the middle of the desert – in great pain, having had his Brit Milah, covenantal circumcision, at the end of the previous scene; he was 99 yrs old.  As he has his ‘sit down’ with God, bearing the pain, and who knows what they were discussing, Abraham sees three ‘individuals’ walking in the distance, coming his way. He puts his one-on-one with God on pause (who does that?!) and quickly jumps up to welcome these three strangers into this home.  He asks Sarah to cook up a storm, washes these strangers’ feet and provides them shelter from the desert wilderness – what a mentch!  The sages teach us that ‘Hachnasat Orchim’, welcoming guests, is one of the greatest of all Mitzvoth – one that even God is willing to be ‘second’ to in importance. So who is a righteous person? Is one born a righteous person? Or with time, does one evolve to become – a righteous person, a better person? I don’t know, but I do think that these biblical characters are human, just like you and I, and we have what to learn from them. It is never too late to be a mentch, a tsadik, a righteous person.  Let us live and learn! Shavua tov – wishing all a wonderful and productive week. Love & Light from Israel.

There is a time for everything, now is the time to stay alive

There is no doubt that we, here in Israel, need to go through some process of cheshbon nefesh, self-reflection, reconnecting with our principals for humanity and seeing the sanctity of life in all that we do. We can discuss politics, society and the educational system – all of which require serious thought & consideration. My personal feeling is that now, at this very moment, is not the time to have this conversation; I’m afraid that opinions, good will & desire to be part of Tikun Israel, healing Israel, will be misinterpreted & brushed off by readers who are simultaneously reassuring their children, hugging them while sitting in a bomb shelter. The past several weeks have been intense, stressful and heartbreaking. So much hate, too much death, victims so young, so innocent. We here in Israel find ourselves surrounded by horror, by hate and evil intentions on all borders – & within. This can cause any population to live in stress and anxiety – all of which leads to an entirely different perspective, a dramatically different reality from others living in other parts of the world, especially the US. I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m looking for perspective. Yesterday I hid under a bridge from incoming rockets while coming home from work. What was anyone else’s commute home like? Last night my kids woke up every hour of the night in fear and anticipation of a siren; they have already internalized the reaction to sirens so much so that they anticipate it, frightened by the sound of a motorcycle or ambulance. This morning, instead of saying goodbye and wishing him a great day, I sat in a bomb shelter with one of my kids and his class mates because 4 rockets were shot from Gaza to our vicinity. There were 15 6 yr olds sitting there, scared out of their minds as they listen to the eerie sirens and heard the booms; I pray that no child, not any of yours or anyone else’s, experience this. No need for compassion, just understanding and perspective. Would love to continue the conversation, dissect all that needs to be fixed, it’s part of why I live here, but I’d rather do this, and have the ability to think clearly, when I’m not anticipating the sirens. I’m not thinking of tomorrow, just want to make it through the day.  Praying for peace and quiet for our region, for all children – on both sides – won’t you join me?

Seeds of diplomacy: The Children of Israel then and now

This week’s Torah portion, the beginning of the book of Exodus (Shmot – שמות) describes the realities in Egypt as the Israelites multiply and their presence becomes of national interest, or rather disinterest. In it there is a verse that spells the beginning of the end: ויקם מלך חדש על מצרים אשר לא ידע את יוסף /
“And their rose a new king of Egypt who did not know Joseph.” Why did this new king not know Joseph? Maybe b/c there was no long term planning. Maybe because the Israelite community rest assured that Joseph was their savior from the famine of Canaan, they did nothing to nurture their collective relationship with the host government/kingdom as they grew and felt part of the larger Egyptian society. This verse is a defining moment for the Children of Israel. The seeds for a collective lobbying effort were planted thereby impacting our relations with host countries from time immemorial. Sure there are different opinions on law and practice, different interpretations to our sacred text, but these differences cannot overshadow the need for a collective agenda impacting our shared destiny. When I read this verse: “And their rose a new king of Egypt who did not know Joseph”, I think to myself – year after year: uh oh, this isn’t good… For the Children of Israel it was expected, for one way or another they were going to return to their homeland. Today, now that we are back home, we must think about diplomacy and the collective Jewish voice differently. We don’t necessarily need host countries as we much as we needed a return to Zion, however we do need to maintain positive relations with the international community, for the sake of our people living around the world, and for the sake of Zion’s presence as a nation among nations. Never underestimate the power of ignorance. Then it was a new king of Egypt that did not know Joseph, now it could be a new president of ______ that does not know the Jews. Jewish memory is saturated with lessons to learn from, all we need to do is take a peek and the answers are right under our noses. “Know from where you came and (you’ll know) where you are going…” Book of Ethics 3:1

The Gd of Abraham: What would you do if Gd showed up at your front door?

This week we read about Abraham preferring to greet strangers over his 1:1 w/ Gd. Its quite perplexing & here is the scenario: the previous portion (Lech Lecha) ends with Abraham entering the covenant (circumcision) @ 99 yrs of age. Abe, sitting there in the heat of the desert, in great pain, and Gd shows up! Rashi explains that Gd is coming to do a well visit – bikur cholim…

וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְדוָד, בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא; וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל, כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם. ב וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים, נִצָּבִים עָלָיו; וַיַּרְא, וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל, וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ, אָרְצָה

“And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth”

Seriously? Abraham gives Gd his back and runs to greet these strangers, bowing before them, and all. There is something important to learn here in that the Gd of Abraham expected him to do just that, that is to greet strangers, bring them into his tent and provide them food, drink, and shelter from the wilderness. I’m not suggesting that we go out there and bring absolute strangers into our home, but I am suggesting, and Jewish tradition reflects this value of “Hachnasat Orchim”, that we make every effort to welcome guests into our home – those in need and those who need not. Its these kinds of interactions that enable us to create and be a part of community, a life that is more meaningful, built on relationships that extend beyond our own four walls and into the world beyond.

Israel, part III – what’s it gonna be?

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!  As if we haven’t been around this block before. Remember destruction and forced exile? Remember the rivers of Babylon? I do and I ain’t goin back. Unfortunately it’s not up to me alone; I need all of you to get along too. Continue reading

Jewish Memory and Revelations

Living a Jewish life means living within a particular framework of rituals and experience, values and memories (i.e. we were slaves in Egypt) and guidelines (Jewish Law). Passover, a microcosm of Jewish life, requires a set of guidelines in preparation of the festival including the cleaning of “Hametz”, dietary constraints and of course the ‘Seder’ accompanied by the ‘Haggadah’. Continue reading

גילוי דרך עשייה

לחיות חיים יהודים זה לחיות בתוך מסגרת מסוימת של טקסים, ניסיון, ערכים, זיכרונות (כ”עבדים היינו במצרים”) והנחיות (דרך החיים או הלכה). פסח, מיקרוקוסמוס של חיים יהודיים, המחייב סדרה של הנחיות לקראת החג שכולל ניקוי חמץ, הגבלות תזונתיות וכמובן את ה’סדר’ שמלווה על ידי ההגדה. Continue reading

"…אם לא עכשיו, אימתיי?!"

“הוא (הלל) היה אומר, אם אין אני לי, מי לי; וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני; ואם לא עכשיו, אימתיי?”
אם אתם מסכימים שהגיע הזמן לתקן את עצמנו – שתפו עם אחרים! תיקון ישראל. מדי פעם אנו מתעסקים באיזושהי רמה של תיקון. זה קרה עם משה רבנו אשר הוביל את בני ישראל מעבדות לחרות, ולאחר אלפי שנים דרך תשובתו של הרצל בשאלת היהודים (הציונות המודרנית), ומה קורה עכשיו – ממש ברגע זה? Continue reading