Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seeing the Good

By Rabbi Reuven Spolter, Director of Student Recruitment and Jewish Studies Lecturer 

It was almost inevitable.
Even before the streets were plowed, media figures and government officials began calling for an investigation into the "failures" surrounding the recent blizzard that blanketed a good chunk of Israel. True, many people lost power, and thousands were stranded. But, from my point of view, we did pretty well: the roads were shut down appropriately, saving many, many lives; the power company crews worked around the clock to restore and repair power lines that buckled under the heavy weather.
And yet, we complain. Somehow, too often, our intuition is to see the negative, rather than appreciating the positive that exists in every situation. Our task – and responsibility, is to overcome this inclination to kvetch, and to try to appreciate and grow from our struggles. According to Rashi, this is precisely the message that God conveys to Moshe Rabbeinu.
By all accounts, things aren't going well.
Rather than rescuing the Nation of Israel from bondage, Moshe has only made things worse, as the people must now gather the straw necessary to construct the bricks themselves while still fulfilling their old quotas. Recognizing his failure, Moshe complains to God.
God, why did you deal negatively with this people? Why did you send me? Since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has made things worse for this people; and You have not saved Your people.' (Shemot 5:22-23)
God responds by telling Moshe that He would, in fact, redeem the nation as promised. But then God adds:
'I am the LORD; and I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov, as God Almighty, but by My name Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay I did not make known to them.
What is the nature of this minor lesson about the Avot? What is the difference between the two different names of God, and what is God trying to communicate to Moshe?
Rashi, in his second answer to these questions (on verse 9), quotes the Midrash explaining that God's message was a direct response to Moshe's complaints.
Said God [to Moshe]: I yearn for those who are lost but not forgotten!…Many times I revealed Myself to them, and they never asked me, "What is Your name?" And you said, "[When they ask] what is His name, what should I tell them?"
When Avraham wished to bury Sarah and could not find a grave until he was compelled to purchase one at great expense; When they complained to Yitzchak about the wells that he dug; When Ya'akov was compelled to purchase the plot of the field in order to pitch his tent –they did not wonder about My attributes! And yet you said, "Why have You made things worse?"
It's a chilling message.
How often do we "wonder" about the struggles we endure and immediately lapse into "complaint" mode – whether we're talking about the snow, our jobs, our kids' education?
I believe that these verses also carry the key to unlocking a successful Aliyah. After all, the subject under discussion here is the redemption of the Jewish Nation and their ultimate arrival in the Holy Land.) 
Aliyah, especially for people making Aliyah by choice, represents a degree of hardship.  Moving to the Holy Land requires sacrifice. Sometimes you really do feel like you've taken two steps backwards. And yet, God powerfully relays to Moshe the message that our attitude is critical. We cannot immediately complain when things don't go our way. Rather, we must permit ourselves to see the good, the blessing, and the potential that lies ahead.

A New Art Exhibit Opens at Orot Israel College’s Elkana Campus Library

A collection of Dr. Bella Layosh’s paintings are currently on exhibit on the ground floor of Orot Israel College’s Elkana campus library. The collection’s themes are Holocaust remembrance, faith, and hope – namely, the experiences of a second generation survivor, as envisioned by the artist.
Dr. Bella Layosh was born in Germany in 1948, and made aliyah with her Holocaust survivor parents when she was a year old. An Orot Israel College lecturer in educational administration, she earned her doctorate at Bar Ilan University. In addition, she has an extensive background in art and art history. She graduated from the Beit Tze’irot Mizrachi Seminary’s Midrashah for Art, and over the years, she studied with a wide array of noted artists, including Yaskil in Teveriya, Arieh Lamdan in Netanya, Rachel Shachar in Tel Aviv, Batya Magal in Kfar Maas, and others. Her works have been displayed in prestigious locations and galleries around the country – such as Avenue in Airport City (March 2009), the International Kabbalah Center in Tzfat (December 2010), the Israeli Art Gallery in Tzfat (December 2010), the Blue Bird Gallery in Petach Tikva (February 2012), and many more.
In the Orot library, Dr. Layosh’s paintings, which depict the transition from the Holocaust to Israel’s rebirth and have motifs of faith and hope, are exhibited together with a number of similarly-themed books from our extensive collection.
The exhibit is open to the public, Monday-Thursday. Enjoy pictures from the exhibit below.

Orot Israel College Library Receives Bequest from Professor Yochanan Silman z”l

By Rav Ari Shvat - Lecturer, Orot Israel College & Amalya Tsoran - Library Director, Elkana Campus

Orot Israel College’s Elkana campus library recently received a significant collection of books and manuscripts as a bequest from the late Rav Professor Yochanan Silman’s estate, thanks to the generosity of his dear wife Yehudit and as a result of Rav Ari Shvat’s efforts.
Professor Yochanan Silman z”l (5692-5772) was part of a generation of trailblazers who sought to combine Torah and research with faith, fear of Heaven, and a love of the Torah. We hope that his many books as well as his unique vision and teachings will inspire our students to learn more about him.
A graduate of prestigious yeshivot, including Hevron, Ponevezh, and Merkaz HaRav, Professor Silman learned b’chavruta for many years with Rav Dr. Zvi Elimelech Neugroschel, a veteran Orot Israel College lecturer, and he was even offered the position of head of Orot’s Jewish thought department. At a certain point, while still learning in yeshiva, he earned academic degrees from Hebrew University in philosophy and Jewish history.
Professor Silman was a longtime philosophy professor at Bar Ilan University, where he was known for his unwillingness to compromise on either Torah or research. His books and articles – as well as his extensive library – are testament to his expert knowledge of history, the Oral Torah, and many other fields. Professor Silman’s doctorate was entitled “God and Matter in the Light of the Hierarchical Relations in the Kuzari,” and he wrote numerous articles and books, including Philosopher and Prophet: Judah Halevi, the Kuzari, and the Evolution of His Thought, The Voice Heard at Sinai: Once or Ongoing, and Halachic Instructions As Guiding Principles or As Commands. In addition, he edited several scholarly journals and many books, such as The Faith of Abraham: In the Light of Interpretation throughout the Ages.
Many of Professor Silman’s books and articles focused on R’ Yehudah HaLevi, but he was also a pioneer in the field of philosophy of Halachah. In The Voice Heard at Sinai, he used his all-encompassing Torah knowledge together with his systematic thinking to tackle fundamental questions. For instance, was the entire Torah given to Moshe at Sinai, or will it be revealed or developed throughout the generations? Also, what is the difference between the rationalist and Kabbalistic approaches to the mitzvot and their underlying reasons?
Among the collection the Orot Israel College Library received from Professor Silman’s estate were books about general philosophy, ethics, morality, Jewish thought, religion and science, and Jewish history – including the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, Jewish-Christian polemics, and the history of Eretz Yisrael.
We at Orot Israel College are deeply honored to have received such a valuable gift and are extremely grateful to the family for their wonderful generosity.