Thursday, July 27, 2006

Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'uman

I recently saw this picture on of one of our soldiers in Lebanon putting this famous nachman picture and slogan in his pocket in order to protect him.

When I was In Israel, I was astounded to see how popular this slogan has become. There is scarcely a billboard, fruit shop, or motorbike where this sticker or graffiti does not appear. I asked a secular man who has one of these pictures in his real estate agency why he chose to put it up? He said some Breslovers came and told him it would be good for business, and with business going the way it is at the moment in Israel, every little bit helps.

Acoording to this source The Na Nach Nachma phrase was revealed and taught by Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser, a controversial Breslov figure born in 1905 in Tveria. He was among the first Breslover Hasidim in Israel. When he was only 17 years old, Odesser was overcome with weakness and hunger on the Fast of Tammuz. He decided to eat. But immediately after eating, he felt great sorrow at having succumbed to his own physical temptations. Then a powerful thought came to him: "Go into your room!" He obeyed the inner voice, went to the bookcase, and randomly opened a book. In the book was a piece of paper that would later be known as "The Letter from Heaven." This paper contained a greeting, some text that referred to the Fast of Tammuz, and the Na Nach Nachma mantra.

It read as follows:
It was very hard for me to descend to you, my precious student, to tell you that I benefited greatly from your service. And to you I say, my fire will burn until the coming of the Messiah -- be strong and courageous in your service -- Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'Uman. And with this I shall tell you a secret: Full and heaped up from line to line, and with strong devotional service you will understand it. And the sign is: They will say you are not fasting on the 17th of Tammuz.Odesser believed the letter to be a message of consolation, directly from Rebbe Nachman's spirit to himself here on earth.

The popularity of this phenomenon is not without controversy. Rabbi Zev Reichmann (head of the Yeshiva University Mechina Program, student of Rav Aaron Soloveitchik, and son of Rav Herschel Reichmann) notes that many within common Orthodox society hold the view that people who wear "Na Nach Nachma" yarmulkes (see below) are not considered to be real Breslovers.

So what’s your view? Have you ever used this phrase or photo to bring you good luck?

Friday, July 21, 2006

"To Nasrallah with love from Israel and Daniele"

This photo appeared in all the Australian newspapers on Wednesday. I was perplexed. Was it a set up? Who are these girls? What are they writing? Why?

Thanks you to Lisa from “on the face” , I now know what was going on.
The photo was taken by Sebastian Scheiner an Israeli photojournalist who took the photo for Associated Press (AP).
The little girls shown drawing with felt markers on the tank missiles are residents of Kiryat Shmona, which is right on the border with Lebanon. On the day that photo was taken, the girls had emerged from the underground bomb shelters for the first time in five days. A new army unit had just arrived in the town and was preparing to shell the area across the border. The unit attracted the attention of twelve photojournalists - Israeli and foreign. The girls and their families gathered around to check out the big attraction in the small town - foreigners. They were relieved and probably a little giddy at being outside in the fresh air for the first time in days. They were probably happy to talk to people. And they enjoyed the attention of the photographers.

Apparently one or some of the parents wrote messages in Hebrew and English on the tank shells to Nasrallah. "To Nasrallah with love," they wrote to the man whose name was for them a devilish image on television - the man who mockingly told Israelis, via speeches that were broadcast on Al Manar and Israeli television, that Hezbollah was preparing to launch even more missiles at them.

The photograpers gathered around. Twelve of them. Do you know how many that is? It's a lot. And they were all simultaneously leaning in with their long camera lenses, clicking the shutter over and over. The parents handed the markers to the kids and they drew little Israeli flags on the shells. Photographers look for striking images, and what is more striking than pretty, innocent little girls contrasted with the ugliness of war? The camera shutters clicked away, and I guess those kids must have felt like stars, especially since the diversion came after they'd been alternately bored and terrified as they waited out the shelling in their bomb shelters.

Personally, I understand that pacifism never really took off in the middle east and probably never will, but this is ridiculous. Is this one of those "only in Israel" moments that I am proud of? not really. It's bizarre and sad. I said tehillim today with 300 people. Maybe that will help…. Shabbat shalom

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Teaching Israel

Shalom webfreinds,
I’ve recently returned from an invigorating educational sojourn in the Holy land, where I attended a conference with the a keen group of smiling academics and school teachers.

Below are three models we discussed for teaching Israel.

Option Aleph) The Classical Zionist Approach
The ‘evil goyim’ tried to kill us throughout our history, from Shushan to Chmielnitski and Kishinev (they were cities before they were pogroms). They killed us in the present generation, Shoah, because the diaspora is doomed (France, Argentina), therefore Aliyah for all is the only answer. Our role models should be those who die for the homeland like Trumpeldor, Eli Cohen, Yoni Netanyahu.
Proponents: Theodore Herzl, Tuvia Book, The Palmach Museum

Option Beit) The Religious Zionist Approach
The first Olim were not the Hovevi Tziyon in 1882, but Avraham Avinu who was on the first nefesh be nefesh trip from Ur Kasdim to Cannan in 1700BCE. Since then, all Jews have wanted to return, but didn’t ’cause they were waiting for mashiach. These folks decided its time to stop waiting. Israel is “reshit tzmichat geualteinu,” If only we can occupy the entire biblical moledet.

The religious Zionists (orange camp) were very upset with Gaza disengagement last year. We watched a video that made us cry. It showed the pain of the 0.5% of Jews who had to leave their villas and featured not a single one of the 99.5% of the Palestinians who suffered under this occupation for 39 years.
Proponents: No hard-core representatives of this group addressed us.

Option Gimmel) The Peoplehood (yes, it is a real word despite my spellchecker thinking otherwise) Approach
Jews live all over the world and we each have amazing stories to tell that we can learn from. Students should feel they are Jewish citizens of earth, rather than exiled spectators to the main event, which is Israel. The centre of the Jewish world has moved from Cannan, to Babylon, Cordoba, Mainz, Kairwan(Tunis) and now to Israel. It will keep moving as Jews keep moving. Our role as educators is to have students “connecting with community.”
Proponents: Steve Israel, Dena Thaller
Some say that the Centre for Teaching of Jewish Peoplehood at TA University, may be the Yad Vashem of the next generation.

My thoughts

Each model has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. But as was said many times, “the medium is the message,” which means HOW you teach Israel is just as important as WHAT you teach.

Finally, there are so many sweet tidbits of goodness going on in Israel that few people are aware of, like the Sapir Academic College in Sderot that provides an education and a better future to the olim from places like Chechniya. Like Rabbi Motti-Bar Or, whose amazing organization Kolot changes the perception of Limmud Torah being only for the datiyim, and returns, as God did at Mt Sinai, the ownership of our scared texts to the entire Jewish people (females and secular included). Like the thousands who watched the World Cup final on a warm Tel-Aviv Beach and cheered for Italy because they are LESS anti-Semitic.
Like the Ma'ale School of Television, Film and the Arts, which is providing an avenue for the young religious to raise questions that have been condemned by an earlier generation.
Like Dr Tova Hartman, who is challenging the models of negative identity by which we have so long perceived ourselves, like Rav Binyamin Lau, who has moved from Hitnatkut (Disengagement) to Hitchabrut (Connection) in reaching out to the Jews of greater Judea and Samaria. And finally, like Robbie Gringlas, who "shlectures” about us having a mature relationship with 58 year old Israel, warts and all, that can be filled with anger, tears, laughter and song. Shkoyach to you all!