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
An Inspiring Hero: Israel’s First Astronaut
Ilan Wolferman (1954-2003) was born in Ramat Gan, Israel to Holocaust survivors. At just 19 years of age, he distinguished himself in the Yom Kippur War as a brave soldier, receiving a military decoration for his service. A year later he graduated as a fighter pilot, and as customary, took on a new name, ‘Ramon’. By 1981 he was promoted to squadron commander and was the youngest pilot to participate in the covert Operation Opera – Israel’s successful hit on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. He would log over 4000 hours of flying time, 1000 of which were in an F-16. In the relative calm of the late 1980s, Ramon studied at Tel Aviv University and earned a science degree in electronics and computer engineering. Returning to the military, he became a colonel by 1994, and in 1997 was invited by NASA to serve as a payload specialist in its space shuttle program.
His mission finally came in 2003, when he spent nearly 16 days in space, working 24 hour shifts and performing over 80 successful experiments. He proudly declared that he was representing all Jews and all Israelis. Part of that meant that his space food was certified kosher, that he brought to space with him a Torah scroll and a mezuzah, and he even asked his rabbi how he should keep Shabbat in orbit, where sunrise comes every 90 minutes. Tragically, the Columbia space shuttle exploded upon re-entry into Earth, taking the life of Ramon and his fellow crewmates. Sadder still, Ramon’s son Asaf perished in a training flight in 2009. In an unbelievable miracle, 37 pages of Ilan Ramon’s diary somehow survived the crash, when virtually everything else completely disintegrated. Scientists stated there is no “rational explanation” to how this was possible. An inspiring hero, Ilan Ramon was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and his memory continues to be a shining beacon for Israel and the Jewish nation.
Words of the Week
Why [are mourners fed] lentils? Just as the lentil has no mouth, so is the mourner speechless…Just as the lentil is round, so mourning comes round to all the inhabitants of this world.
– Talmud, Bava Batra 16b