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February 15, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 15, 2013 PAGE 15A Torah for teens By Rabbi Rachel Esserman The (Vestal, N.Y.) Reporter For many students, one of the most difficult parts of their bar/bat mitzvah prepa- ration is writing the speech about their Torah portion. While there are many Torah commentaries, it's rare to find one whose comments relate directly to the lives of contemporary teenagers. Fortunately, the publication of "Text Messages: A Torah Com- mentary for Teens," edited by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin (Jewish Lights Publishing), solves this problem. Its title contains a play onwords that refers to the younger generation's depen- dence on technology: Salkin notes that just as the Torah text contains "our sacred stories, laws and teachings" so do we send text messages "to God during prayer... [while] God and our tradition 'text' back to us in the words of Torah and wisdom." "TeXt Messages" contains one or two short essays (most are two to three pages) on each Torah portion. The commen- tary was written by rabbis, can- tors, educators and activists. In order to make certain the sub- ject-matter appealed to those of bar/bat age, a teen editorial advisory board was formed. Members of the board read each essay and offered advice about whether or not they were appropriate for their age group. Although this means that the discussions may be simplified as compared to adult com- mentaries, the essays provide enough thought-provoking material that adults might find it of interest. Parents may also be surprised to discover how much they learn'about their children when asking their opinions about the topics covered. The essays adclress a wide variety of subjects, including sexuality, body image, impul- sive behavior, connections to Judaism and relationships to parents, siblings and friends. While it's difficult to single out specific essays because they are all uniformly excellent, some did stand out. These either offered new insights into the Torah text or had subject matter that spoke to me personally. When looking at the dif- ferent answers Adam and Abraham gave to the question "Where are you," Rabbi Brad Hirschfield discusses what they can teach us about "living the best lives possible." Rabbi Steven Z. Leder shows how Isaac and Rebec- ca's marriage can also serve as a model for friendship. A very clever look at Esau's dysfunctional family by Rabbi Mordecai Finley, Ph.D., offers a lesson on the importance of honesty. The question of why God hardened Pharaoh's heart serves as the basis for two essays: Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe discusses the difference between having strong con- victions and being stubborn, while Dr. Ron Wolfson takes a more personal look at the consequences of hardening Despite probe of Burgas bombing, EU noncommittal on Hezbollah designation but whether proscribing (JTA)--In his many years of service for France's spy Hezbollah will hinder its agency, Claude Moniquet has : continuing efforts to murder seen much evidence link- innocent civilians." ing Hezbollah to terrorist- related activities in Europe and beyond. The attacks, says Moni- quet, a 20-year veteran of the DGSE intelligence ser- vice, go back as far as 1983, Analysts say a European lifeline is crucial for Hez- bollah, which holds several seats in the Lebanese parlia- ment. Wim Kortenoeven, a former Dutch lawmaker and author of a book on Hamas, one's heart. Social justice serves as the theme for Lisa Exler and Ruth W. Messinger's essay, which questionswhyall Egyptians-- rather than just Pharaoh-- suffered from the 10 plagues when they were not directly at fault for the injustices done to the Israelites. Rabbi Debra Newman Ka- rain believes that God does "sweat the small stuff" when it comes to a person's well- being and suggests we should do the same. How we can, and should, bring holiness into our daily lives is the theme of Rabbi Amy Schwartzman's essay. The question of how we perceive ourselves--and how that perception affects our lives--is discussed by Dr. Erica Brown. Rabbi Edward Feld explores different styles of leadership and the need for leaders to "behave in loving ways." Even though Jacob and Israel are names for the same person, Cantor Ellen Dreskin believes they represent very different modes of behavior. Does silence offer consent for inappropriate behavior? l'hat question is explored by Rabbi Laura Geller. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner focuses on anger and how we can't truly love someone--in- cluding God--if we're afraid to express it. When discussing Moses' last conversation with the Israelites, Dr. Arnold M. Eisen explains why "everything we do matters." The need to channel con- flicting impulses is discussed by Rabbi Micah D. Greensteen. Two essays examine our ability to focus: Rabbi Denise L. Eger writes about the need to truly listen to what others are saying, while Rabbi David B. Rosen talks about how we should also listen with our eyes. "Text Messages" would make a wonderful present for a bar/bat mitzvah student, but parents may want to be proactive and give a copy to their children during their tween years. These essays show how Judaism and the Torah remain relevant, even as technology and our meta- phors for understanding the biblical text radically change over time. YANMAN photography to the bombing of military barracks in Beirut that killed nearly 300 people, including 58 French soldiers. But the evidence, he says, was ignored. So Moniquet believes that Bulgaria's announcement last week that it concluded Hezbollah was behind the July 18 bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bul- garian national at the Burgas airport won't necessarily lead European leaders to join the United States in brand- ing the Lebanese group as a terrorist organization. "Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's government," said Moniquet, the founder of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, a Brussels-based think tank. "Calling it terror- ist would limit France's ties with Beirut and put French targets and personnel in Lebanon at risk of retalia- tion. The Bulgarian report doesn't alter this realpolitik. There were always plenty of smoking guns." Bulgarian Interior Minis= ter Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters Feb. 5 that the attack in the Black Sea city last summer was financed by Hezbollah and carried out by at least two members of the group's military wing--one carrying an Australian pass- port, the other a Canadian one. The results of the Bulgar- ian investigation led some to speculate that the European Union, unable to ignore an attack on the soil of a mem- ber state, would be compelled to designate the group a terrorist organization, a move with potentially wide- reaching implications for Hezbollah's ability to raise money on the continent. But European officials thus far have been noncommittal. Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, took "note of the results of the investigation," adding Dano Monkotovic/FLASH90/JTA Israeli ZAKA emergency rescue team carrying a body bag with one of the victims of the terrorist attack July 19, 2012 in Burgas, Bulgaria. that it required further "re- flection." And the union's top counterterrorism official, Gilles de Kerchove, told a Belgian news agency that be- ing behind a terrorist attack did not automatically result in a terrorist designation. "It's not only the legal requirement you have to take into consideration, it's also a political assessment of the context and the timing," de Kerchove said. While the refusal to des- ignae Hezbollah a terrorist group is widespread in Eu- rope, France is considered to be a major impediment to any changes. Lebanon is a former French colony, many French soldiers serve in the country under U.N. auspices, and there is extensive trade and cultural exchange be- tween the two countries. Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Con- gress, said he was going to use an already scheduled meeting last week with French President Francois Hollande to press him on the issue. Hezbollah already is con- sidered a terrorist group by the United States, Australia, Canada and Israel. The Neth- erlands, alone among Euro- pean countries, declared in 2008 that it considered Hez- bollah to be a terrorist group. The lutch foreign minister said the Bulgarian investi- gation proves its decision is correct and called on fellow EU states to reconsider their positions. Britain considers only Hezbollah's "military wing" a terrorist group. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ad- dressed that distinction in his reaction to the Bulgar- ian findings, noting that he hoped Europe would finally draw the right conclusions about Hezbollah. "There is only one Hezbol- iah, a single organization with the same leadership," Netanyahu said. The Butgarian investiga- tion traced a money trail leading from Hezbollah's military wing, which perpe- trated the attack, to Hezbol- lah's leadership in Lebanon.. That revelation could make the British distinction be- tween Hezbollah's political and military activities harder to defend. "It implicates the much bigger financial structure that facilitated the attack." said Nuno Wahnon Mar- tins, director of European Affairs at B'nai B'rith. "fit] means Hezbollah's entire drug-smugglingand money- laundering operations are serving the organization's terrorist activities." Like other Eastern Eu- ropean countries, Bulgaria tends to be more closely aligned, with U.S. foreign policy than countries in the West. Moniquet attributed the country's "courageous" statement last week to precisely that inclination. and to the fact that it has fewer strategic interests in Lebanon. European Jewish groups recognize the tangle of interests at play in Europe, but generally have little sym- pathy for it. European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said the decision to label Hezbollah a terrorist group "should not be subject to political considerations says Europe is Hezbollah's "money laundromat and piggy bank." David Suurland, a lec- turer at Leiden University's school of law and an expert on. radical Islam, believes the Bulgarian report can be used by jurists to force the EU into severing ties with Hezbollah-affiliated bod- ies, including the Lebanese government. This, in turn, could remove incentives to .shield the terrorist group from being labeled as such, Suurland said, since it would violate a number of interna- tional treaties. It also would violate the 2002 bilateral trade agree- ment between Europe and Lebanon. Article 2 of the pact states that.the relation- ship is "based on democratic principles and fundamental human rights"--not Hezboi- lah's forte. Kortenoeven says. 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