Saturday, October 25, 2014

From Noah to Abraham

Throughout hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, a question has been asked, “Would Noah have been a better person had he lived in the time of Avraham?” Some commentators say, “Yes, definitely! In his generation, he had no support system. Think of what he could have accomplished, had he counted Avraham as a friend.” Others said, “No! In his unworthy generation, he alone was found worthy, but he could not have compared to our Father Abraham.”
I guess we’ve got to wait for Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) to come to answer that question.
Avraham Saved Noah
I also found another interesting connection between Noah, the second father of mankind, and Avraham, father of the Jewish people.
On Rosh Hashana, we read, “G-d remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark, and G-d caused a spirit to pass over the earth and the water subsided. And it is said: G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.”
Can you imagine? G-d saved Noah, his family and all the animals of the ark, because of Avraham and his children.
Avraham wasn’t even born yet. He hadn’t passed one trial yet. Yitzchak wasn't yet a dream in his father's eye. But G-d’s time is a continuum – past and future are the same to the Almighty. G-d saved Noah in the ark, because one day a great man named Avraham would be born and repair the wrongs that Noah could not fix. Noah was rescued from a world of violence and robbery, by Avraham who would build a world of kindness and caring.
The Signs of Noah and Avraham
A beautiful fall day, right after the rain. We look up in amazement and see a magnificent rainbow. Whether it is a warning or a wonder, we see the rainbow and remember Hashem’s words, “I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.” (Bereishit 9:13)
Pirkei Avot teaches us that ten things were created on the eve of Shabbat, and one of them was the rainbow. G-d created Noah’s rainbow at the beginning of creation, and then waited ten generations to use it as a sign that He would no longer destroy the world.
Two days before that, Hashem created the luminaries and the stars. The stars filled the skies, spreading over the expanse of the universe. Twenty generations later, Avraham was born, and began to change the world for the better. 
Hashem took him outside and said, “Look up high toward the Heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them!...So shall your seed be!” The stars became a sign, not of punishment or non-destruction, but of countless children, of building a nation, of expanding a people. The stars were Hashem’s sign to Avraham that his children would reach the highest heights and be a Light to the world.
May it be so.

NOAH! Ride the Wave!

The year 2003 was a frightening one. Another year of terror. Another year of tears. For those of us who lived in Israel, it seemed that the whole world was devastated. In every city, on every road, Jews were targeted by Arab terrorists. Arlene Chertoff, Toby Klein Greenwald and I had written and were performing in ESTHER and the Secrets in the King’s Court, the story about Queen Esther and the miraculous rescue of the Jewish people from the hands of the evil Haman.
We performed with a background of almost daily terror. If terror continued, Raise Your Spirits would continue too. Arlene, Toby and I decided to write a new show. We asked ourselves, “How could our world ever rebuild itself after this destruction?” We thought of Noah, who had literally seen the end of the world, and then learned how to rebuild again.
And we wrote a poignant, funny, inspirational, fanciful show, “NOAH! Ride the Wave!” We performed in 2004 to sell out crowds, and we felt ourselves asking, as Noah did, “Why was I saved?” We felt hopeful when we sang, “Fill our world with colors…fill all our days with blessing from Above.”
If Noah could rebuild his world, so could we.


This is the tenth anniversary of “NOAH! Ride the Wave!” As I sat in the synagogue today, I thought of our Animal March as all the creatures of the world marched on to the ark, two by two. I remembered our animal’s talent show (well, what do you think they did for so long on the ark), I imagined the graceful flight of the dove, and the reluctant raven. And I thought of the rainbow, and remembered how we stood one night in Gush Katif, and waved our colored banners to our beautiful rainbow song, and then lifted our orange scarves high above our heads, and cried (photo at top).

















It was quite a show. To see photos and read more about it, you can visit http://www.raiseyourspirits.org/noah.html or http://www.bible-arts.com/productions.htm.

Photo credits Rebecca Flash Kowalsky, www.imagesthroughtime.com and Sharon Katz.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9-11 and Raise Your Spirits

9-11.
That's the catchy term the world uses. 9-11 and everyone knows what each person is referring to.
The Arab terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in the United States, plus two other attempted sites.

The towers came down in death and destruction, and smoke and steel, and horror and loved-ones-lost.
In Israel where I live, we had been living our own mini-9-11s every day. A shooting here, a suicide bomber there (the most infamous being the Sbarro bombing).
It was a beyond-frightening time for all - so scary that many folks would have just stayed locked up in their homes, rather than face the outside world.
But we women of Raise Your Spirits were determined to go on with life. And, live life ourselves and with our friends and families despite the hells around us.

So on 9-11, we went on! The show went on! Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
We had debates and even borderline- fights with those who disagreed, but we knew we had to go on. If we stopped living life at every terror attack, we'd still be home under the covers.
In addition to that, the WORLD had now just joined the people of Israel in what had been our private trauma.
We needed to be together with others, and we needed to believe that life would go on, that the earth would keep turning.

So after complex discussions, we sent cast members to synagogues around Gush Etzion, collected prayer books and handed them out to our audience.
We turned our performance into a giant prayer rally - 450 women praying together in complete faith. Our performers prayed behind the curtain and the audience in their theatre seats.
And then the show went on - one our best shows ever. The audience weeped and they laughed, and they were able to put the evil world out of their hearts and minds for one hour, as they traveled with us through the stage version of "a silly-sad-serious-shiny" life of Joseph and his brothers. 

And there we stood on 9-11, Raise Your Spirits and our sisters, united, believing, supportive, loving - getting through the worst day the world has known TOGETHER as a family of Jewish women.
[http://raiseyourspiritstheatre.blogspot.co.il/2014/07/doing-our-job-again-our-rys-emergency.html]

May Hashem bless the world and finally soon destroy evil from our midst.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Avraham's Strength to "Go Out"

While learning this week’s Parsha Ki Teitzei, I opened Orchard of Delight by Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, and what did I find? You guessed it. Rabbi Trugman used our patriarch Avraham to help teach the topic, “Going Out to War on a Personal Level”.
Rabbi Trugman said that because Ki Teitzei comes out so close to the High Holy Days, we can look at the words about going out to war against our enemy, and think of them in reference to our soul and inner force.
He asked, “Where does the Jew find the strength to go out into the world and fulfill the injunction to be a ‘light unto the nations’ (Isaiah 42:6)? As we learn in Bereishit, the actions of our forefathers engraved this lesson on our collective consciousness.”
“Abraham consistently found the strength to follow G-d, no matter what stumbling blocs were placed before him. He left his country and family to venture forth into the unknown, wherever G-d directed him.”
“After arriving in the Land of Canaan, famine forced him to leave for Egypt, but he returned wealthier than before.”
“…Abraham’s devotion paved the way for Israel to leave Egypt in the middle of the night, to follow G-d into the desert and the great unknown and ultimately to enter the Land of Israel as a strong nation.”
Rabbi Trugman continued, “When Abraham complained to G-d that he had no children to continue his work G-d ‘took him outside’ where he showed him the stars and promised him that his progeny would be as numerous as the stars.”
He explained, “The Hebrew word for took (hotzi) has the same root as the name of our portion (teitzei). As we learned in Lech Lecha, G-d taught Abraham that he needed to go outside of his nature, to go above the stars…This power is the inheritance of every Jew – but each and every Jew must work hard to bring that potential to fruition in his own life.”


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Avaham - An Example for All

You know how when you’re thinking of buying a certain item, suddenly, you notice that item everywhere. You never noticed it before, but now that you’ve got your mind on it, it seems to be everywhere.
Well, lehavdil, that’s how it seems to be with our patriarch Avraham.
Now that we’re in the midst of rehearsals for our new show, COUNT THE STARS – The Journey of Avraham and Sara - everything I learn, every daily prayer, every spiritual experience lately seems to deal with Avraham. So, I guess it won’t be a surprise when I tell you that I was excited to learn Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) today and find our father Avraham used as an example to explain Chapter 1 Mishnah 15.
“Shammai said: Make Torah study a regular habit, say little and do much, and receive every person cheerfully.”
The commentators on this Mishna gave Avraham as their example, they explain that when the travelers (angels) came to Avraham’s tent, he told them, “And I will bring a piece of bread…” (Bereishit 18:5), and then he proceeded to bring “butter and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and placed it before them.” (18:8)
And about the phrase…“receive every person cheerfully…” Well, no one had a kinder more welcoming demeanor than Avraham Avinu. One of the strongest reasons for his success in “creating souls” (bringing people under the wings of Hashem) was his cheerful countenance, the happy warm way he greeted each person and the loving way in which he gave over his teachings.

Let us all take yet another lesson from our father Avraham, and shavua tov to all.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sbarro's 13 Years Later

It was August 9, 2001. We had rehearsal that night. We had rehearsal most nights of the summer of 2001. There was too much terror and fear around us. The alternative to coming to rehearsal was to sit home under the blankets and cry. So, if someone wanted to cry, she could do it on her friend’s shoulder, then say some tehillim and get up on stage.
I had founded Raise Your Spirits two months before in order to raise spirits, to win our private war against the terror around us, after my next-door-neighbor Esther Elvan was murdered along with my friend Sarah Blaustein, HY”D. But the list of murdered Jews that summer was horrifically long.
So, on August 9, everyone showed up, hugged, and told one another where they were when the Sbarro’s bomb went off. One of our narrators, Miriam, a local Bnei Akiva head was very worried and beyond upset. One of her Bnei Akiva counselors, Malki Roth, was missing. Miriam had called a meeting of her counselors and Malki didn’t show up.
At the popular eaterie, Sbarro’s on the corner of King George and Rechov Yaffo, a suicide-homicide bomber had murdered 15 people - fathers, mothers, children. It was a horrible vicious attack, and we were all still reeling from the catastrophe.
Then, as today, in this horrible incident, the Hamas terror organization was responsible for the blood-shed.
Miriam found out that Malki Roth, HY"D, was among the murder victims in Sbarro’s. We were all devastated beyond words, beyond tears, beyond heartbreak. We said tehillim. Our knees shook. We continued on. A Jew has no choice but to continue on.
That was 13 years ago. Raise Your Spirits went on stage in JOSEPH and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to bring the women of Efrat/Gush Etzion together in a positive uplifting project, to give women of Israel a reason to cry in the darkness and then sing about the eternity of Israel.
Throughout the past 13 years, we’ve performed in seven different productions for 50,000 women. The situation in the country has fluctuated, sometimes from bad to worse. Today, we are faced with Hamas again (although all sorts of terror groups have raised their heads continually).
Today as war rages in the south, as sirens blare in different parts of the country every day, we are rehearsing again, aiming to raise our spirits with a positive uplifting activity – the production of COUNT THE STARS – The Journey of Abraham and Sara.
May Hashem bless the women of Raise Your Spirits and the entire nation. One day soon, we pray the music we sing will be filled with pure joy.
(Photo from Keren Malki)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Abraham and Tisha B'Av

The very first word of the megilla, Eicha, which we read of 9 Av, recalls our patriarch Avraham (Abraham). According to the great commentator Me'am Lo'ez, citing another perspective: Eicha can be broken into two words - אי כה - Ei Cho - Where is Cho (thus)?
Hashem had promised Avraham, " כֹּה יִהְיֶה זַרְעֶךָ " Thus shall your seed be! (As many as the stars in the heavens!)
Therefore, when the prophet Jeremiah sees the downfall and destruction of the once lofty Jewish nation and the Holy Temple, he asks, "Where is that promise of Cho - thus shall your seed be?"
Hashem answers with His own question, Where is Cho?
G-d had commanded Moses, Cho, כֹּה תֹאמַר לְבֵית יַעֲקֹב , Thus you will tell the House of Jacob!
And now Hashem asks, "Where is the Nation that upholds Cho - G-d's mitzvot (commandments)?"
Friends, we have the opportunity to bring the Cho back by setting an example of blessing. When we keep Hashem's mitzvot and when we follow Avraham Avinu's teachings and ways of loving kindness, then Hashem's words to our Patriarch will be fulfilled.
Cho, thus shall your seed be - like the stars of the heavens.
May your Tisha B'Av conclude with meaning. May the joy of Tu B'Av follow with true joy and bracha (blessing) for Am Yisrael.