Reflections from Rabbi Waxman
Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalayim: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem
A few years ago, when we were in Israel, Sarrae and I took a cab and schlepped out to visit her college roommate and husband who were living on the edge of Jerusalem, in a development above the Jerusalem Forest. It was an Orthodox community, with seemingly a synagogue on every block. It was the base for Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef, the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi, as well as several other prominent figures in the ultra-Orthodox world. The community was Har Nof.
And so when I read about the brutal attack on the synagogue in Har Nof on Tuesday morning, I had a good idea where it took place and scanned the list of names, hoping not to see Sarah’s husband Moshe listed as one of the casualties. (He was not.) Over the past few weeks there have been attacks on those standing waiting for the Light Rail on the other side of the “Green Line”, which has meant that ridership to Jewish neighborhoods at the northern end has disappeared—passengers get off at earlier stops and board buses--. But those attacks were close the Arab part of Jerusalem: this one was about as far as one can get from that area and still be in Jerusalem. To say that the attack has unnerved some Israelis is to engage in understatement. One over-reaction is the ban on Arab workers by the mayor of Ashkelon, a move which has been widely decried, including by the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, my colleague, Rabbi Chaya Baker, at Kehillat Ramat Zion, the Masorti (Conservative) congregation on French Hill, which is on the other side of the “Green Line”, wrote as follows:
For several months now, as security issues have escalated in Jerusalem, we kept telling ourselves it will blow over. In April this year, youths from the neighboring and very hostile village, Issawiya, hurled 4 Molotov Cocktails at Ramot Zion, luckily damaging only our hall. They were caught and identified and we moved on, albeit unnerved. We hoped those were just youths looking to make trouble. When a terrorist drove his car into the crowd waiting for the lightrail at the next stop over from French Hill, right by our children's school, we were rattled but thought if we keep alert we would stay safe.
After this morning's horrific synagogue massacre it is clear it will get worse before it gets better.
We are scared, confused, frustrated, and worried.
It is clear that security guards now have to be employed not only in public buildings and restaurants, but sadly, as well at synagogues. It is sobering to think that the actions of a few terrorists, most of whom seem to have been “lone wolves,” have managed to destroy the peace of Jerusalem.
We mourn the death of the four murdered men and of the Druze policeman who rushed in, without his protective vest, and whose heroism undoubtedly saved lives. We pray for the recovery of those injured and in the words of the Psalm (122:6): Sha’alu Shalom Yerushalayim: Let us pray for peace to reign again in Jerusalem.
Chadashot MeYisrael: News From Israel
An End to Insulin Injections
An Israeli company, Beta-O2, with the help of Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden, is about to begin a two-year study of a bio-artificial pancreas. The device, called the BetaAir, represents an advance beyond previous efforts to treat patients. If successful, it will eliminate the need for regular insulin injections and the constant monitoring of glucose levels and of food intake.
For over 30 years, doctors have transplanted islet cells from cadaver pancreases. The problem is that the patients must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives. Several companies have developed encapsulation techniques that protect the transplanted cells from the immune reaction. Beta-O2 has taken the process a step further, of providing a mechanism to oxygenate the islet cells. According to Dan Gevlan, chairman of the board, “Islet cells are huge consumers of oxygen. If they don’t get enough, they won’t produce enough insulin. The company has taken an engineering approach to finding a way to make sure there is an active supply of oxygen to the transplanted cells.” Hence, those with the device will need to refill the air in the device via a replenishing system with a dedicated injector, once every 24 hours.
When asked how about the lifespan of the implant, Gevlan replied: “We don’t know yet how long it lasts, but conventional islet transplants continue to function well for 8-9 years. We hope that because we’ve created a protected microenvironment fed by oxygen, it will last even longer.” The hope is that if the concept is successful that eventually they can engineer an automated oxygen supply within the device.
As to how this device is different from “artificial pancreas” devices that automate glucose monitoring and insulin injection, Gevlan replied: “Our is a biological device that is meant to restore the original effect of having islet cells, so you have all elements of a functioning pancreas in response to the body’s varying glucose levels. We are actually simulating and emulating the functionality of an organ.”
A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion
The Torah portion of Toledot (Genesis 26:23-27:27) is read this Saturday, November 22nd.
27:6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I overheard your father speaking to your brother Esau, saying, (7) ‘I bring me some game and prepare a dish for me to eat, that I may bless you, with the Lord’s approval, before I die.’ (8) Now, my so, listen carefully as I instruct you. (9) Go to the flock and fetch me two choice kids, and I will make of them a dish for your father, such as he likes. (1) Then take it to your father to eat, in order that he may bless you before he dies.”
27:8 Rebecca commanded Jacob to go out to the field, to the sheep. Why was there such a stringent and demanding commandment? Because Rebecca saw how Esau was a “man of the field”, that he was a hunter, a man who went into the world; that he acted, he ruled, whereas Jacob was a tent dweller. And she feared that Esau would remain the one and only “man of the field”, the one and only statesman, the diplomat, the orator, the ruler—and he would rule over the economy, over the street, over the external world. And if he were but the only “man of the field”, he would [in time] banish Jacob from his tents, from his tents of Torah.
Rebecca feared that if Jacob remained isolated in Beersheva, alone in the house of study of Shem and Eber, that Esau, the “man of the field” would banish him from there. [Hence} she said to Jacob, go to the sheep, go out to the field, go out to the street, take your Torah from the tents and take it to the wider world.
And this is the command: to grasp the plough in one hand and to hold in the second, the Talmud. It is surely better to hold the Talmud in two hands. However, if we must go out to the public space, it is forbidden to us permit that the public space be a place of impurity, as per the wishes of our enemies.
If Jacob went out to the field, the field was sanctified. And that is how we should understand the words of Isaac (27:27): “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of the fields that the Lord has blessed.”
Jacob became an equal partner of the field, of society, of modern life. And when Jacob goes out to the field, this sanctifies the field, and introduces holiness to the field. (Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik in Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Itturay Torah, Volume I. Born in 1903, Rabbi Soloveitchik, often referred to within Modern Orthodox circles, as “The Rav”, was the scion of a line of distinguished Litvak rabbis. After a very traditional education, he graduated in 1922 from a Gymansium prior to enrolling at the free Polish University in Warsaw. He later moved to Berlin, where he earned a doctorate in philosophy at the Friedrich Wilhelm University. He came to the United States and settled in Boston in 1932 and in 1937 he founded Maimonides School, a co-ed day school. In 1941, he succeeded his father, Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, as the head of the rabbinical school at Yeshiva University (RIETS). He served in this capacity until illness forced his retirement in 1986. He promoted the study of text and of Talmud at Stern College and taught the first class in Talmud there. During his lifetime, he published very little, though his two general works, The Halachic Man and The Lonely Man of Faith, continue to inspire. Since his death in 1993, his students have published collections of his lectures and his Talmudic teaching sessions (Shiurim). He was the authoritative voice of Jewish law in the YU universe, and to the present day, his guidelines for interfaith dialogue and inter-denominational cooperation guide that world. His grandson, Rabbi Moshe Twersky, was one of those murdered in Jerusalem on Tuesday, November 18th.)