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Jet Jew

by Rabbi Israel Meir Lau


Library » Mitzvot » Should I do them? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Imagine, if you will, the difference between a homeland visit by Julius Caesar and one by Moses.

Julius Caesar disembarks at Aeroporti di Roma in Italy and immediately senses that something is amiss. The people don’t speak his language. The local religion is entirely different. And Rome is no longer the cultural capital of the world. He has nothing in common with the people of his land.

At Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, the scene unfolds very differently. An elderly Moses steps out of an airplane. He is overcome with emotion as his foot touches Israel’s soil for the first time. Having led his nation through the desert for forty years and then dying without reaching the Promised Land, Moses finally has made it.

“Shalom,” says a young, Russian-born airport worker who approaches him to offer help.

“Shalom,” replies Moses, amazed that the language spoken in this wondrously modern place is the same one he spoke thousands of years ago. He notices a group of men praying in a corner of the airport. As he approaches them, he sees that each is wearing Tefillin and a Tallis. After they finish praying, Moses talks with them and examines their religious articles. They are the same as those he prescribed at Mt. Sinai.

Over three thousand years separate these men. One was born in Egypt; the others in Moscow, Ethiopia, New York, Casablanca, Bombay, Sydney, Paris, and Johannesburg. Yet they share the same language, faith, tradition, and life view. Moses turns his face toward Heaven and shouts, “Blessed is the Almighty, that my people are still alive!”

The Jewish nation has outlived empire after empire of would-be persecutors. Ancient Egypt, Persia, ancient Greece, ancient Rome—where are they now?

What is the miracle of Jewish survival?

It is our unified Jewish faith, history, and heritage.

We have survived throughout the ages because of the unbroken chain of our heritage. When the 25th of Kislev comes, the first Chanukah light is kindled in Leningrad and Helsinki, Melbourne and Ottawa. Jews all over the world come together to make the same blessing. On the 15th of Nissan all Jews sit together at a Passover Seder. We eat the same food, the same Matzah. Some recite the whole Haggadah, some a summary of it, and others sing a few songs.

Three thousand three hundred years is a long time to keep the same menu.

Reprinted with permission form


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(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Black leather boxes containing small scrolls with passages of the Bible written on them. Every day, aside for Sabbath and Jewish holidays, the adult Jewish male is required to wrap the Tefillin--by means of black leather straps--around the weaker arm and atop the forehead.
An eight day mid-winter holiday marking: 1) The miraculous defeat of the mighty Syrian-Greek armies by the undermanned Maccabis in the year 140 BCE. 2) Upon their victory, the oil in the Menorah, sufficient fuel for one night only, burned for eight days and nights.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Text read at the Passover Eve feasts. The Haggadah recounts in great detail the story of our Exodus from Egypt.
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
The ninth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to November-December. The holiday of Chanukah starts on the 25th of this month.