Tag Archives: Holy Temple

Jew of the Week: Abraham

‘Abraham and the Three Angels’ by Gustav Doré

Avraham ben Terach (c. 1813 BCE-1638 BCE) was born in the Sumerian city of Ur (in modern-day Iraq). His father Terach was a wealthy idol merchant, and a minister to the king. According to legend, Abraham’s birth was predicted by the king’s soothsayers, who warned that it would be a bad sign for the monarch. Terach was thus ordered to eliminate the newborn, but couldn’t bring himself to do it, instead abandoning the child in a cave where he was protected and nurtured by an angel until Terach could safely bring him back home. By the age of 3, the young Abraham began to question the idolatrous and immoral society he was born into. Soon enough he had come to the conclusion that there must be one God, and man must strive to be righteous and draw closer to his Maker. By 52, Abraham had gained quite a following, and was a thorn in the side of both the king, and his own idolatrous father. He was put on trial and sentenced to death by fire. It was only at this point that God first revealed himself to Abraham, and miraculously saved him from the flames. Abraham went on to live in Haran (modern-day Syria), where he and his wife Sarah continued to spread the new faith, before permanently settling in the Holy Land. Abraham would become a wealthy and famous shepherd, as well as a popular astrologer, philosopher, and holy man. Rulers and sages from around the world would seek his council. He was undoubtedly most famous for his hospitality, constructing an entryway on each side of his house to make it easy for guests to find him, and providing free meals and lodging for all who were willing to listen to his message. Although naturally a pacifist, Abraham participated in his fair share of battles, including a regional war that engulfed nine different kingdoms, which he ultimately put an end to. It was with him that God first established an everlasting covenant, and promised that his descendants would be innumerable. This is the meaning of his name (“father of multitudes”) and indeed, today some two-thirds of the world’s population claim some form of descent from Abraham, whether biologically or spiritually. The place where he “elevated” his son Isaac would later become the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, the holiest point in Judaism. Abraham is considered the first Jew, and is often attributed with being history’s first monotheist. While there were other monotheists before him, Abraham was certainly the first to spread monotheism widely and combat idolatry head-on. It is said that he wrote a 400-chapter book debunking various idolatrous beliefs and proving that God is One. To him is also attributed the mystical Sefer Yetzirah, “Book of Formation”. He is Judaism’s first forefather, and the start of the chain that climaxed six generations later with Moses and the Israelites being saved from Egypt and receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai. According to one tradition, Abraham was born and passed away on Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah Begins Tonight! Wishing Everyone a Shana Tova u’Metuka!

Words of the Week

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
– Anonymous

Jew of the Week: Judith

Heroine of Chanukah

Judith displaying the head of Holofernes

Judith displaying the head of Holofernes

Yehudit bat Merari (c. 2nd century BCE) was a Jewish woman who lived in the town of Bethulia in Israel. Her husband, Menashe, fought and died with the Maccabees during the Chanukah wars against the Syrian-Greeks. When a massive Greek legion led by General Holofernes invaded her village, the local men were too frightened to fight back. Taking matters into her own hands, the young widow (together with her maid) crossed enemy lines and pretended to be a Greek spy. Slowly, she got closer to the Greek authorities and eventually made it to the tent of Holofernes. One night, Judith plied him with wine and fed him cheese until he was asleep. She then decapitated him with his own sword. Judith brought the head back to the fearful Israelites and roused them to attack the Greeks. Her inspirational words and wise military counsel led to a monumental Jewish victory. Jewish texts credit this event as the turning point of the war, leading to the recapture and re-dedication of the Holy Temple, the preservation of Judaism, and the ultimate collapse of the Syrian-Greek empire. Judith is often listed as one of the genuine prophetesses of Israel, and a great heroine like Esther, Deborah, Yael, and many others before her. (She was even canonized as a saint in Catholicism!) In honour of her feat, it is customary to eat dairy products during the 8-day festival of Chanukah, and for women to abstain from any work while the Chanukah lights are burning. Judith continued to lead the nation until her passing at the age of 105.

Chanukah Begins Saturday Night! Chag Sameach!

Words of the Week

The darkest time of the night is just before dawn.
Midrash Tehillim, Chapter 22

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Yehuda Glick

Yehuda Glick (Credit: Amitay Salomon)

Yehuda Glick (Credit: Amitay Salomon)

Yehuda Joshua Glick (b. 1965) was born in Brooklyn to an Orthodox Jewish family which made aliyah to Israel when he was nine years old. After completing his rabbinical studies, Glick began working for the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. In 2005, after some ten years, he quit the job to protest Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. He then served as executive director of The Temple Institute, an organization working to rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem through peaceful means. Glick is most famous for his activism with regards to permitting Jews to ascend the Temple Mount. This area is the holiest site in the world for the Jewish people, yet entrance to it is severely limited for Jews, and prayer there is currently forbidden to all but Muslims. As chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation and leader of the HaLiba group, Glick has worked tirelessly to end this racist policy, and to open the Temple Mount for visitation and prayer to people of all faiths. He envisions rebuilding a temple – “a house of prayer for all nations” – next to the Dome of the Rock. For leading prayer groups to the Temple Mount, Glick has been arrested multiple times. In 2013, he went on a hunger strike to protest a ban that forbid him to go to the Temple Mount. After twelve days without food, Glick was permitted to return to the Mount. In 2014, after giving a speech at a Jerusalem conference, an Arab man approached Glick and shot him four times in the chest before driving off on a motorcycle. Glick underwent multiple surgeries, and was unable to communicate or breathe on his own for a couple of weeks. Amazingly, he survived the assassination attempt. Shortly after, he joined the Likud political party, and was placed 33rd on its list. The party won 30 seats, making Glick third in line to become a parliamentarian. Over the past year, three Likud MKs resigned, including Moshe Ya’alon earlier this month. This opened the door for Glick to enter Knesset, which he did two days ago. His calls for peace, prayer, and human rights are truly universal, as he has stood by not only Orthodox Jews, but also Christian groups and Reform Jews (including the Women of the Wall) who aim to pray freely at Jerusalem’s holy sites. He has also spoken frequently about ending the plight of the Palestinians, and bridging gaps between Jews and Muslims. In addition to his own six kids, Glick is the legal guardian of six more children, and two foster children. He has been compared to Gandhi, and described as “earthly, wise, thoughtful, nonviolent, and compassionate.” Last year, he was awarded the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism by the Jewish National Fund.

Words of the Week

If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.
– Ellen Johnson Sirleaf