I cannot start this week’s post without mentioning some very not good news: yesterday an Israeli civilian, Yotam Ovadia was stabbed to death and two others injured in a brutal terror attack carried out by a 17 year old Palestinian in the village of Adam in the Binyamin region. Yotam Ovadia Hy’d was laid to rest today in Jerusalem, mourned by his wife, two very small children, his parents and many friends and family members.
I will write more about the attack and the murderous terrorist after Shabbat.
May the family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, and may Yotam’s blood be avenged.
And now back to some semblance of normal programming.
Israel’s national under-20 basketball team won its first European championship on Sunday evening in Chemnitz, Germany, beating the previously undefeated Croatian team 80-66.
After losing their opening game to Germany earlier this month, the Israeli team won six consecutive games in order to bring home the gold for the first time in the country’s history at an International Basketball Federation (FIBA) event.
The game was coach Ariel Beit-Halahmi’s first opportunity to take the European championship and the second year in a row in which the Israeli team overwhelmingly defeated France in the semifinals, this year by a score of 83-57.
“This is an amazing team here, boys from the best of our youth. We are proud to be Israelis and proud that we have inspired such pride,” the coach said.
Kol hakavod to the entire team and their wonderful coach. May they go on to even more wins both locally and internationally.
Another championship was also won by a Israeli players. This time it was the Maths and Physics Olympics in which Israeli students won 10 medals:
Israeli competitors earned a combined ten medals at the International Physics Olympiad which took place in Zurich, Switzerland, and the International Mathematical Olympiad which took place in Hong Kong, China. The Israeli teams, comprised of high school students, were ranked 19th and 22nd, respectively.
The math team jumped 18 places in the ranks from last year, when it finished in 40 place. 109 countries participated in the competition.
This year, Israel won three silver medals and three bronze medals. “Most of the team members participated in the Olympiad last year as well. There’s no doubt that the experience they accumulated helped them in succeeding this year,” said team coach Lev Radzivilovsky. “We prepared very well all year , the students invested a lot of effort and I’m proud of the good result, although it could always be better.”
Israel’s team at the International Physics Olympiad won four medals – three silver and one bronze. Israel finished in 19th place overall, out of 87. The top three spots went to China, South Korea, and Taiwan. “It’s a great achievement. The team competed in the highest levels and achieved a very dignified result,” said team leader Dr. Eli Raz of the Department of Physics and Optical Engineering at ORT Braude College. “The members of the science teams are excelling students, most of whom – when they later go to universities – reach the president’s list, and are those who will march the sciences forward in general, and physics in particular.”
Kol hakavod to all our young geniuses who did so well and did the country proud. May they go on from strength to strength, forming the nucleus for the next generation of Israeli technological advances.
Today is known in Jewish tradition as Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, commonly known as “the festival of love” in Israel, although it is so much more than that.
Originally a post-biblical day of joy, it served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women in the Second Temple period (before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.). Tu B’Av was almost unnoticed in the Jewish calendar for many centuries but it has been rejuvenated in recent decades, especially in the modern state of Israel. In its modern incarnation it is gradually becoming a Hebrew-Jewish Day of Love, slightly resembling Valentine’s Day in English-speaking countries.
There is no way to know exactly how early Tu B’Av began. The first mention of this date is in the Mishnah (compiled and edited in the end of the second century), where Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying:
There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)? (Ta’anit, Chapter 4)
It is a mini-holiday, and as Chabad explain:
The 15th of Av is undoubtedly a most mysterious day. A search of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) reveals no observances or customs for this date, except for the instruction that the tachanun (confession of sins) and similar portions should be omitted from the daily prayers (as is the case with all festive dates), and that one should increase one’s study of Torah, since the nights are begining to grow longer, and “the night was created for study.” And the Talmud tells us that many years ago the “daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards” on the 15th of Av, and “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride.
And the Talmud considers this the greatest festival of the year, with Yom Kippur (!) a close second!
Indeed, the 15th of Av cannot but be a mystery. As the “full moon” of the tragic month of Av, it is the festival of the future redemption, and thus a day whose essence, by definition, is unknowable to our unredeemed selves.
How fitting then that tonight we will be able to observe the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century, when the moon will appear blood red:
ABC News reported on Monday that this will be the lengthiest total lunar eclipse during this century, and it will make the moon appear to be red-orange in color – a “blood moon.”
Time and Date AS, a Norwegian company that runs a popular website listing time zones and time-related events, wrote that the total eclipse – where the moon is “completely red” – will begin in Jerusalem at 10:30 p.m., and the maximum eclipse, where “[the] moon is closest to the center of the shadow [cast by the Earth]” begins at 11:21 p.m.
Bateva, a guiding center based in Mitzpe Ramon near the Ramon Crater, is hosting “The Moon in Love” event, which ties the blood moon to the romantic Jewish holiday of Tu B’Av (15th of Av), which takes place the previous evening. The event will feature observatories, live music, and camping areas.
In a statement on Bateva’s website, tour guide and observatory owner Nadav Silbert said: “No child or adult should miss this rare sight, taking place just once every few decades, at this perfect ideal place… This is a wonderful opportunity to experience the desert around Mitzpe Ramon in all its glory, view the wonders of creation and understand why the Machtesh [crater] was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
The fact that the eclipse is viewable from Israel didn’t escape the orbit of the astrology-minded on Twitter.
A search for ‘eclipse Israel’ on Twitter shows that while some are simply treating the event as a sky-high experience, others think it portends tension and trouble for Israel.
“The longest ‘blood moon’ lunar #eclipse of the century will be on Friday and directly visible over Israel the entire time.”
The Jewish Press provides some religious background to the idea of the blood moon, with Biblical quotes from the Old and New Testaments:
The much referenced Christian blood moon prophecy, which appears in two New Testament books, based on the Hebrew text in Joel 3, verses 1-5. The original goes:
“And behold, after that, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and they will prophesy, your sons and your daughters, your elderly, will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. And upon the slaves, and upon the handmaidens in those days I will pour out my spirit. And I shall endow miracles in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun will turn into darkness, and the moon to blood—before the arrival of God’s great and terrible day. And then whomever calls out the name of God shall survive. Because on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem will be refuge, as God has spoken, and for the remnants, as God has called.”
Acts 2:19-21 goes: “And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Revelation 6:11-13 goes: “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood. And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.”
Their last point is the most relevant for us Jews:
From a traditional Jewish point of view, we have no way of deciding with certainty that the messianic era will or will not be ushered in by a blood moon eclipse. On the other hand, we are obligated to anticipate the arrival of the messiah every day, a time frame which absolutely includes Friday, July 27, 2018.
Let us hope that the Mashiach is on his way and about to arrive any minute now, and bring us the complete Geula. Meanwhile, for those of you celebrating, enjoy your Tu B’Av, and may we all know no more sorrow.
Tomorrow is Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Comfort, where we read in the Haftara the famous words of the Prophet Isaiah (ch. 40) “Comfort, Comfort ye my People” in which G-d, through his prophet, brings consolation to the People of Israel after the terrible tragedies of the Destruction which we marked last week.
After yesterday’s dreadful news, and more violence on our borders north and south, we pray for comfort and consolation from Hashem, that this week and all our coming weeks will bring only good news.
Shabbat Shalom everyone.