Friday, March 26, 2010

Is March Madness really about Basketball?

As the grass gets greener, and the days get longer, Northerners make plans to head back north, managers and coaches shore up their pitching staffs, regulars start playing seven innings and 40 year old veteran hangs 'em up for good while the twenty-one year old phenom from Waxahatchee Creek tries to navigate the press corps that he will hopefully face daily for the next ten years.  What Spring Training does, better than anything, is prepare us for Summer.  Warmer days, swimming pools, family picnics and the Fourth of July.  July 1st in Canada; le 14eme en France.  All in all, and wherever we live, these days all celebrate independence.  Freedom.

In our Jewish world, however, one day ranks even higher than Canada Day or the 4th of July. That day, this coming Tuesday, is the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. We are commanded on this day to observe, recall, remember and finally to celebrate our Exodus from Egypt and our liberation from bondage and slavery fashioned by G-d’s strong hand and outstretched arm, and the actions of His chosen messenger, Moshe Rabeinu, Moses.

On Monday evening, around the world, we will gather with family and friends. We will listen intently as the youngest at the table recites the “four questions”, which is really one question, “Why is this night different from all other nights”, and four reasons why it is different. The leader will then guide his or her guests through the telling and retelling of the story of the Exodus, and then, after two of our 4 required cups of wine, we will eat a delicious meal, sing some songs, eat dessert and finally, at the end of the night, we will proclaim: Le Shana haBaa b’Yerushalayim, Next Year in Jerusalem.

My question today is: Do we really mean it?

I mean… If we mean it every year… I guess I am really asking: If we mean it; Next Year in Jerusalem; why are we still not in Jerusalem? Why do we remain in Arizona or New York, or Los Angeles, Montreal, Sydney or Paris?

Just yesterday, a friend and I were talking and we were wondering if the Province of British Columbia or the Dominion of Canada had to ask for or receive permission from the “Temporary Tenant” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW to build the beautiful new buildings and neighborhoods in Vancouver that were introduced to us during their tremendous production of the Winter Games last month. If so, why did we not hear about it, and if not, why not? If Canada does not need permission from Mr. Osama, I mean Obama, why should Israel? We are sovereign nations. In fact, come to think of it, the world is full of sovereign nations that seem to be bossed around by this Country. Why is that?

This being the case, again, I ask: If we mean what we say, why are we still here?

You may recall that a few weeks ago, I recounted, quoted and showered British journalist Chris Roycroft-Davis and his piece called “WHY CAN'T THIS COUNTRY FOLLOW ISRAEL'S LEAD?” As is often the case, I received quite a bit of e-mail over the several days following publication of that Column, most positive, and one, from a Real Estate Developer in Hurst, Texas that I must share with you. Initially, I was going to share his name, address, phone number and every other way to reach him that he posted for all to see, but in reality, he just isn’t worth the bother. What he wrote, however, is. (Please note that he makes reference to a Jewish man in Los Angeles, whose name I have deleted and replaced with XXX).

From: Unnamed Reader in Hurst, Texas
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 9:06 AM
Subject: RE: A British Journalist's viewpoint...

I read your article with great interest. I support Israelis position and have always wanted Israel to pop them every time. But, I have to say I have dealt with several Jewish people in my business over the years and the experiences have been not good. Just this past year I settled a lawsuit with a XXXX XXXXX of L.A. I have never been so screwed. While this guy was screwing me he was praying several times a day. XXXXX would not say crap if his mouth was full of it but he would screw you out of everything you have and now regret it one bit. This may be the problem that causes the Jewish people to suffer so much… I have heard that the Jewish faith feel they can cheat everyone out of their possessions and not be sinning because it is just business and be forgiven the first of each year… I am not racist that is just a plain fact. I have had dealing with about 250 of them and I got took every time.

Is this “Public Opinion”? Are opinions like this reader’s popular to the point that the “Temporary Tenant” of Pennsylvania Avenue NW is more interested in where Israel builds Jewish housing than housing his own Citizenry?

If so, I must ask another question. An important question that each of us as Jews must take a moment to contemplate: If this “administration” is so concerned with Jewish housing in another country (Israel), what does he really feel about us taking up housing in this country? In short, I ask: Are we safe?

In Europe of the late 1920’s and 1930’s, we felt safe. Were we safe? Are we safe now?

At the end of the Seder, when we proclaim “Next Year in Jerusalem”, it is because we are commanded to return to Zion; to Jerusalem. Could the time be now? Could we do worse than Jerusalem? In the words of Sarah Palin: You betcha!

As March becomes April; the NCAA Basketball tournament heats up with new heroes born on late night television every weekend in an event called "March Madness", and I look at the activities of this past week and wonder if "March Madness" is really about the Basketball, or is the madness this March more about the rest of the world?

And, in this madness, where does Jerusalem sit? I believe that she sits waiting for us with open arms to golden walls. And, if you ask me further, I believe that G-d is ready once again to bring us from the bondage of “Galut”, of Diaspora, and to return us with a strong hand and outstretched arm to our freedom once again. To Eretz Zion, Yerushalayim.

When we sit with our families and friends next week and proclaim “Le Shana haBaa b’Yerushalayim”, let’s mean it. There is space enough for all of us. Whether Mr. Osama Obama gives us permission to build or not.

Hashata HaCha, This year we are here;  LeShana b'Araa DYisrael, May we all be in the Land of Zion.  Our land.  Jerusalem of Gold awaits.

From the Emek in the Midbar, I Send you my love and blessings; Ahavah u'Vrachot...

--Rabbi Alan Abrams

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A non-beating heart still beats...

There are times when just as I am about to write this column for you, I receive something via e-mail, or enjoy (or not so much) a telephone conversation, and it is so profound, so meaningful, that it would be absolutely wrong of me to not share it with you here.

As many of you know, I do much work with an organization called "One Heart".  We work with families of victims of terror attacks.  The father in a family that I have become so very close to, sent me a letter that was recently published in Israel.  I would be remiss were I to not share it with you.

2500 days without Tal.

Thursday, January 7th 2010, the 2500 Day without Tal.

The count of days is long, very long, too long. 2500 days that my Tal does not leave home. Not for shopping, not to the movies, nor does she return from the army or the university, not from a trip abroad. 2500 Days without Tal. Days without me worry for Tal.

357 weeks in which I did not see my daughter, I did not hear her voice, I did not laugh from a joke she told me or from one of her silly acts. I did not smell the scent, did not embrace her nor was I embraced by her. I did not spend even one afternoon together with her at a café or at a restaurant, or even just being together. I even did not receive a phone call nor a text message from Tal.

2500 days of "creativity". How could I, her father, preserve her memory in unique ways? How should I tell the world Tal’s story? Tal which lived such a short life but the wisdom she accumulated and the joy of life she shared gave so much hope and happiness to people she met.
208 months, in which every 5th of the month brings me to that Wednesday, March 5th 2003, the day my Tal boarded the bus in Haifa, the bus from which she it did not get off. I live the same nightmare I'd give anything not to experience. A nightmare of a parent searching for his daughter after a terror attack holding at every glimmer of hope even after entering the pathological institute in Tel Aviv. Then, unlike in fairy tales, as the clock hit midnight the doctor at the pathological Institute said "we have a positive identification of your daughter Tal which was killed at the terror attack”.

Six years, 10 months and two days is a long period of time. During such a period of time a baby already goes to second grade. Tal’s classmates finished their mandatory military service while other became combat pilots and are flying F-16 jets. Tal’s age group started its independent cycle of life while others are right before getting their master's degree. Medical student already began to cure his patients while my daughter lies in her grave in Haifa, and only the rose bush over her tomb is growing another cycle of roses, as life goes on!

2500 days and nights since I was forced over the fence to leave my routine life and start my life as a bereaved father, fighting a Don Quixote war at the wind mills of time, trying to fight forgetfulness, howl, and state my silent cry, I have a Daughter! And the world shall never forget my TAL!

I sit in Tal’s room and write from my heart in another desperate attempt to preserve my daughter’s memory. I found this 2500 day without Tal, a good reason to remind you, you busy people living your routine life about my daughter. And what would be on the 3000s day? When it will arrive? What will I be able to dig from the bottom of my soul to remind you then?

I sit it Tal’s room hearing in the background the breathing of my youngest daughter which was born four years and two months after Tal was killed. She already heard about her sister and recognizes Tal’s picture, approaching is also the recruitment day of my son, who will safe keep and protect him? I hope and pray they will realize and live their lives safely here in Israel for many years.

Ron Kehrmann the father of Tal (z”l) Dror and Mika.

I continue to believe, as does Ron Kehrmann, that as long as our loved ones' memories live on, so they will their hearts continue to beat.

From the Emek in the Midbar, I send you Ahavah, uV'rachot, Love and Blessings...

--Rabbi Alan Abrams