God miraculously causes the sun to stand still, allowing the Israelites under Yehoshua’s command to win the battle (painting by John Martin)
Hoshea bin Nun (c. 1355-1245 BCE) was born in Egypt during the time of the Israelite slavery. Upon the return of Moses, Hoshea became his trusted servant and right-hand man. He was the only one allowed to approach Mt. Sinai other than Moses himself, and is one of the few people in the Torah described as being filled with a Godly spirit. In the wilderness, he became the chief military commander of the Israelite army, leading them to multiple victories. When the Israelites originally reached the Holy Land, Hoshea was dispatched as one of the twelve spies. It was then that Moses renamed him Yehoshua (more commonly known as Joshua), to give him strength for his mission. He was the only one, along with Caleb, to bring back a positive report, and for this was rewarded with permission to enter the land of Israel, while the rest of the generation was condemned to perish in the wilderness over a forty year period. At the end of those forty years, when Moses passed away, Yehoshua took over and led the Jews into Israel, overseeing their successful reclamation and re-settlement of the land with a series of miraculous victories. His work complete, Yehoshua passed away in the Holy Land at the age of 110, having gained a reputation for wisdom, humility, and most of all, being a beloved caretaker of his people. He is believed to be the author of the Biblical book of Joshua. As his origins are obscure, and he alone has the moniker “bin” in his name (as opposed to the standard “ben”, which means son), several legends have come forth regarding his birth. In one of the most enigmatic, it is said that the baby Yehoshua was among those newborns thrown into the Nile River by Pharaoh’s soldiers. However, he was swallowed up by a great fish which was later caught by fishermen; Yehoshua was thereby accidentally rescued from the fish’s belly, hence the name “bin Nun” (nun means “fish” in Aramaic). Yehoshua’s yahrzeit is commemorated on the 26th of Nisan, which this year falls on Saturday.
Words of the Week
The Persian Empire was always against the Muslim Arab Empire, especially against the Sunnis. The threat is from Persia, not from Israel. – Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
The Touro family was forced out of Portugal in the explusion of 1497. They first settled in the Netherlands, then tried their fortunes in the New World, being among the earliest pioneers in America. There, they established the first official synagogue in the Americas, the Touro Synagogue of Newport, Rhode Island. George Washington visited in 1790, there giving his famous speech “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” Isaac Touro was the chazzan of this congregation. His son Judah Touro (1775-1854) established a small goods store in New Orleans which blossomed into a massive merchant empire. Throughout his life, Judah contributed vast sums of money for important causes, both Jewish and non-Jewish – schools, cemeteries, orphanages and hospitals, including the $20,000 necessary to build the Jews’ Hospital of New York, now known worldwide as Mount Sinai Hospital. In an early act of Zionism, Touro sent $50,000 to Jews living in Israel. In another instance, he provided the funds to establish a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem, called Mishkenot Sha’ananim. At death, he left half a million dollars to charity, an unheard of amount in those days. Two-thirds of this money went to non-Jewish causes. The other third was given to nearly every active synagogue operating in America. For these reasons, some say Judah Touro is the greatest Jewish philanthropist of all time. Most impressively, Judah Touro also served his country in the War of 1812. After getting injured, he continued to volunteer as a munitions carrier. In the Battle of New Orleans, a 12-pound cannonball smashed his leg, ripping off most of his thigh. Left for dead, he managed to survive and continued his business for another 40 years. Humble and modest, he lived in a small apartment all his life. Judah Touro’s financial advice: never take a mortgage on an existing property to invest elsewhere.
Words of the Week
Better an Israel that everyone hates than an Auschwitz that everyone loves. – Rabbi Meir Kahane
After massive assimilation of Jews to the Hellenistic lifestyle, the Greek-Seleucid king Antiochus decided to put an end to traditional Judaism for good. He outlawed Shabbat and holiday observance, banned circumcision and Torah study. The Temple in Jerusalem was captured and a statue of Zeus erected within it. Antiochus planned to seal the deal with a request of the Jews to sacrifice a pig to the Greek gods. Incredibly, many Jews agreed, wooed by Hellenism. But one man, Matityahu, stood up for the truth and declared “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers… Follow me, all of you who are for God’s law and stand by the covenant.” Thus started what may be the world’s first religious war. Matityahu and his five sons organized a rebel army based in Modi’in, led by Matityahu’s son Yehuda, nicknamed Maccabee – “the Hammer”. The war lasted nearly 30 years. At its height, the Maccabees had no more than 12,000 fighters, while the Greeks had a massive professional army with war elephants (under which Judah’s brother Elazar was trampled in a heroic feat). Meanwhile, children carried small spinning tops to conceal the fact they were secretly learning Torah. Two great miracles occurred: the Jews defeated the world-superpower Seleucid Greeks, and when they reclaimed the Temple and purified it of idolatry, one kosher jug of oil burned for 8 days. Light was restored to the Jewish people.
Words of the Week
A Jew is a lamplighter. The lamplighter walks the streets carrying a flame at the end of a stick. He knows that the flame is not his. And he goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight. – Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch