We hope you had a wonderful Passover! In Sioux Falls, the community joined together for a beautiful Seder, and in the weeks before the holiday, we brought Matzah across the state.
This Sunday, we are bringing a Torah Scribe to Sioux Falls to work on our Sefer Torahs.
If you were to ask any child, with even the most limited Jewish education, what the holiest item in Judaism is, they will instinctively tell you it's the Sefer Torah; the parchment Torah scroll with the five books of Moses written by hand.
What the child may not know, but what is equally true, is that for the Torah to be used, each of the 304,805 letters must be complete, intact, and full. If even just one letter is missing or rubbed out, it could render this sacred treasure invalid for use. This is also why a Shul must have their Torahs checked by a qualified scribe, every few years.
Some may feel that this is a little "extra." After all, a Sefer Torah takes a year to write, and based on the skill and experience of the scribe, costs tens of thousands of dollars. Yet one missing letter and it is basically useless?!
That is precisely the point. For it to be a Sefer Torah, it must be complete.
In our personal lives too, we can look at a Sefer Torah as a microcosm of a Jewish community, where every Jew represents a letter in the Torah. So long as there is even one Jew missing, or broken, the community is incomplete. It is not a community. And just like the Torah, every one of us must also occasionally "get checked," take a moment of introspection, to ensure we are complete and whole, to fix what needs to be fixed, to fill in what is missing.
In recent weeks, our brothers in sisters in the Holy Land of Israel are once again facing a wave of unprovoked terror attacks, ending with 16 Israelis murdered in cold blood. Just yesterday, a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on a random bar in Tel Aviv, killing three, and critically wounding another seven people.
Unfortunately, as Jews are being murdered in Israel, our enemies rejoice by dancing in the streets and handing candy to their children. The parallel images sicken any sane human being. We also have the people who tell us "we condemn the killing of innocent civilians" before adding a "but."
What is it about Israel, the Jewish people and their homeland, that always get that “but”? Regardless of one's beliefs and political opinions on the Middle East, it should be simple to condemn terror and the brutal killing of innocents, without adding a “but”!
There is never an excuse for terror.
G-d was aware of all this when He started the Torah with the story of creation. One might wonder why the Torah starts with a story, rather than a commandment, when it is not a history book, but a book of instruction for our daily lives. Wouldn’t the first commandment given to the Jewish people be a more logical place to start the Torah?
Rashi, the greatest biblical commentator, explains that the Torah starts with Genesis to provide us with an important message. Should there ever come a time that people will accuse the children of Israel of being thieves for living in the Holy Land, they will be able to answer, “the entire world belongs to G-d, he created it (including the land of Israel), when he wished he gave it to you, and when he wished he gave it to us."
The Torah is considered a sacred book to billions of people, of all major faiths. It is by the word of G-d in the Torah that the Children of Israel have the right to the land, a right which no person, nation, or legal body can ever challenge. Ever. It is not the UN, League of Nations, or Balfour Declaration that gave the children of Israel the rights to the land, nor can they, or anyone else, take it away.
We will continue to teach our children the dignity of life and the value of each human being, and be unapologetically proud of our gift from G-d and ownership of the Holy Land. Then Israel will live in peace with her neighbors. In the hallowed words of the first morning prayer "I take upon myself the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself."
On April 12 this year, we will be celebrating the Rebbe's 120 birthday. Why posthumously celebrate a birthday? Some may ask.
A Jew always answers a question with a question. So though I'm only imagining a question you asked me, I pose a question back at you.
What does it mean to be living? To be alive?
This past Tuesday, I attended a conference in Washington, DC that focused on the Rebbe's work and impact on world Jewry, and the world entire. I was honored to be welcomed by our Senator John Thune, and our congressman Dusty Johnson.
At the conference we also heard from elected officials from every end of the spectrum. From Senators Chuck Schumer, to Ted Cruz, from Cory Booker to Lisa Murkowski, and even nearby Amy Klobuchar too.
They spoke about how the Rebbe's teachings influence them and how it inspires and empowers human beings of all walks of life to dedicate their lives to serve others, to make our world a place of goodness and kindness, of love and unity, a place where G-d feels welcome and comfortable. They noted how through his transformative approach and dedication to rebuilding Judaism and inspiring all people, today, so many years after his his passing, Chabad and the Rebbe's work continues expand and positively impact Jewish life and American life, today!
This is living. This is alive. And this is why the Rebbe's birthday is still celebrated today.
On this 120th birthday, I hope to continue the mission the Rebbe entrusted, not to me, but to all of us, to spread our individual surroundings with more light. More goodness. More spirituality. More kindness. That we become better people, better families, better communities and thereby a better world.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog and Mussie's Musings
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.