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9 posts from April 2018

The Miracles of Hanit

Today is Memorial Day in Israel for our martyred soldiers, of sacred and blessed memory.

Hanit Image at left courtesy of shows the Israeli Missile boat "Hanit" being tugged into Ashdod port after having been hit by a Hizbulla missile off the Beirut shore on July 14, 2006, during the Second Lebanon War.

17 October, 2006. A young Israeli Naval sergeant boarded the northbound train in Tel Aviv. I was on my way to a present a lecture in the Haifa area and he was returning to his base in the Haifa port. He sat down across from me, looking at me intently while I was learning my Gemara. I looked up at him, smiled, said "Shalom aleichem!"

He sighed deeply, as if relieved, and sheepishly asked, "Can I talk to you, Rav?"

"Of course," I answered, asking him how he knows that I'm a "rav". He said that he heard me eulogize one of his fallen friends during the war. The sailor had a relatively new beard, an almost new knitted kippa on his head, and the beautifully pure innocence in his eyes of a new Ba'al Teshuva. To make a long story short, he was a crewman on board the Israeli Navy ship Hanit (Hebrew for bayonet) when it was hit by a missile of shore in Beirut.

The sailor, who we'll call Moshe, began to relate the dozens of miracles that happened aboard the Hanit the night that it was hit. "It was Friday night. Usually, the crew would eat Friday night dinner in two shifts. But this time, since we were in a war zone, our three religious crewmen went to Lt. Col. A - the skipper - and begged that we all need Hashem's help. The first miracle is that the skipper agreed to leave only 4 sailors on the bridge, and allowed the whole entire crew to pray together; we piled into the chapel, and said a lengthy mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat. I was bored and wanted to eat quickly then catch a few hours sleep, because I had the midnight watch. But, I stayed with the rest of the crew. Then, all of us had a Shabbat meal together - 15 different sailors said Kiddush, each in the custom of his fathers; I'm talking about guys that aren't (weren't) even religious! The meal was drawn out - I had a headache and was dying to sleep. The religious guys started to say the grace after the meal, and BOOOFF! The missile hit, but on the opposite end of the craft. It should have sank the boat, but it hit a crane right above the chopper landing pad. What a miracle! If that's not enough, the helicopter-refueling tank - filled to the gills with chopper fuel - didn't explode despite the fact that the whole end of the boat was burned..."

At least twenty other crewmen aboard the Hanit should have been killed, but they were saved by Shabbat dinner on the other end of the ship. The four on the bridge all lost their lives.

Moshe had beads of sweat on his forehead; tears glistened in his eyes. "The newspapers don't write about the miracles that we all saw. I ran to my bunk on the deck right below the landing pad. It was charcoal; my metal bunk was completely melted down and all my possessions were ashes. If I hadn't been detained in the chapel and in the dining hall for Shabbat meal, I'd have been charcoal too. I haven't stopped thanking Hashem since - I've changed my life..."

Moshe continued with more miracles, including the engine room burnt to a crisp but a pair of tefillin was found unscathed. If that's not enough, amidst the embers of destruction, the sailors found a Book of Psalms - also unscathed - opened to Psalm 124. Read Psalm 124 and your hair will stand up!

The train was nearing my station, so I gave Moshe a blessing and a fatherly embrace, and we parted. The Hanit took a direct hit from a Hizbulla missile, but Moshe has turned the navy's setback into a victory.


Every day, I meet more and more "Moshes". Unlike many of the politicians, the Israeli on the street - especially the soldiers and the reservists - are diamonds looking to be polished, and have started to ask the real questions in life. They're looking for emuna. Were it not for the wars here, they wouldn't have bothered. 

The whole purpose of the wars is to bring us closer to Hashem. Once we get close to Hashem on our own initiative, Hashem won't have to send us wars anymore, amen. I'd much prefer dancing with Moshiach to eulogizing fallen comrades.

Climbin' Those Marble Steps

Up them steps
When I was a little boy in inner-city Washington, DC, we lived in a small apartment on top of my father's grocery store in inner-city DC, on Independence Avenue SE, twelve blocks from the Capital. We had a really nice Afro-American mailman who used to deliver the mail to us every day. I don't remember his name, but he had the warmest smile you could ever imagine. I loved to greet him and talk to him. He would pinch my then-chubby cheeks and say, "Child, I ain't gonna be totin' mail all my life down here in inna-city. I'm gonna climb them marble steps, like the ones at the White House. Shucks, someday, I'm gonna be rich. Maybe I'll even buy the White House. Meantime, I keep on dreamin' and I keep on truckin'!"

I'll never forget those words of wisdom. You keep on dreaming and in the meanwhile, you keep on plugging away. Every major accomplishment begins with climbing the first one of those marble steps. Let's get going!

Happy 7th of Pesach

7th day Passover
Tonight, the eve of the 7th day of Pesach, was the night that the Red Sea split, allowing the Children of Israel to escape from Pharaoh and his pursuing armies. The Midrash tells us that all the waters of the world split at the same time.

The 7th day of Pesach is also the day that Moses sang his famous "Shirat Hayam", the Song of the Sea, after Hashem miraculously led Israel across the Red Sea.

This year, the 7th Day of Passover leads directly into Shabbat, so we wish you a lovely and peaceful Shabbat as well. G-d bless and warmest regards from all of us here at the Beams and Breslev Israel.

Dancing the Dabka

Before the first Intifada (Arab civil uprising) in 1988, I'd freely visit my close Muslim friends in Gaza City and in many other Arab towns all across greater Israel. My best friend, Naif Abu Ayid, was the son of a sheikh in the Israeli Arab village of Tira, east of Kfar Saba. I was invited to all their family celebrations. To make me feel at home, Naif taught me how to dance the Dabka, the traditional Arab dance that's played to the beat of a tabla (Arab drum, like Oriental Jewry's drabuki) and to the tune of a mijwiz (Arab reed flute). I love Dabka  - it has a hauntingly beautiful beat and requires stamina, coordination and precision timing with your dance mates.

People ask me when there will be real peace in the Middle East - my answer is twofold: first, when everyone calls out Hashem's Name; and second, when Arabs and Jews will dance Dabka together...

With that in mind, it's too early for euphoria after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) recognized Israel's right to exist yesterday. Although his father, Saudi King Salman, tempered sonny-boy's comments earlier today by reiterating the rights of the Palestinians, he nevertheless refrained from contradicting his son.

MBS is pragmatic. He views Iran as the greatest existential threat in Saudi history. He is also a astute strategist. He sees what happens to nations and peoples, like the Kurds, who put too much faith in US help. Saudi Arabia can't afford to be disappointed. MBS, who has been cultivating ties with Israel for months now as you've read on Emuna News as far back as 5 months ago, knows that whereas the USA's interest in Saudi Arabia is economic, Israel shares the existential threat from Iran and is a much likelier ally as well as a neighbor he can count on.

Therefore, to paraphrase a Talmudic expression, MBS's recognition of Israel is fueled by his hatred of Haman (Iran) rather than his love of Mordechai (Israel).

When and how will we know that MBS is sincere? Here's our Emuna Outreach peace initiative: we hereby invite the Saudi Crown Prince to learn the Universal Garden of Emuna together and to dance Dabka together. If he doesn't want to come to Israel, Emuna Outreach will be happy to come to Riyadh. Then, we'll all know that both peace and Moshiach are at our doorstep. Happy Passover and warmest regards from sunny Ashdod.

Special note to Racheli: if you try Dabka, you'll never go back to Zumba...