Additional Writings of Rabbi Schur
Published in the CJN,
The Cleveland Jewish News

Seventeen Years

by Dr. Daniel Schur, Rabbi

Ours is a generation that has been blessed with the greatest material prosperity in the history of the world. If our grandfathers had one half of the good things that we have - how fortunate they would have been! And yet, who of us is already so far removed from them as not to remember the satisfaction which our forbearers found in their simple home-made foods. Much toil went into baking those Shabbos challas, the cholent and the gefilte fish, but how satisfying they were. What a holy atmosphere of fulfillment hovered over the Sabbath and Yom Tov meals. When our grandfathers ate their bread dipped in honey on Rosh Hashana, all the sweetness in the world was in that bite.

And we? We eat the fat of the land. But are we satisfied? Our delicacies are brought from the farthest corners of the earth, but do they bring contentment and peace of mind? Our bodies eat - more and better food than ever before. But our souls are hungry.

The synagogue, too, is not what it once was. Synagogues have become institutions without reverence. In our Congregation, we have tried to resist the irreverent trend.

If we turn back the clock seventeen years and see what we have accomplished, we'll find we built a home of G-d for G-d. We have accommodated every organization that perpetuates the Torah way of life, and they inspire others to follow. We have strived hard to make our service inspiring. We have yet a long way to go. We attempted to teach our worshippers respect and reverence to the Shrine of G-d. We were the first shul, as such, to dedicate Shavuous night as a night of total Torah study. By now, others have followed suit.

Seventeen B'gematria (mathematically) is the Hebrew word for "Tov". In the last seventeen years we have accomplished much good, and with the help of the Creator we will continue, at least make attempts, to improve further. May we all merit the coming of the Messianic Era in our time.

Chanukah, A Prescription for Peace

December, 2003

by Dr. Daniel Schur, Rabbi

Special to the CJN

This year, more so than any other year, Jews the world over must join in the lighting of Chanukah candles and begin celebrating the Holiday of Lights.

Chanukah is the holiday that Jews celebrate all over the world because of the miracle of oil. Pure oil that enlightens the world with awareness of a victory of right over might and a minority of the righteous against a majority of the evil.

Our world again is on the verge of war. Not because of oil that enlightens, but oil that lubricates the machines of hatred, prejudice and racism.

Walk into a toy store and you can imagine yourself in an arsenal. Machine guns, rockets, torpedoes and all manner of weapons are available for sale. Certain games allow youngsters to simulate real battles.

All this can have but one effect on our children and on society. It teaches that violence and war are an integral part of life, that it is as indispensable to life as love.

My heart still aches from a discussion I had with a young adult. His words still ring in my ears. "Rabbi, you can't imagine what a thrill it is to shoot down an enemy plane."

It was sport to him, as if there were no pilot who had lost his life. As I sat and listened to him, I knew that despite all United Nations' deliberations and international conferences, as long as people harbor such romantic notions of war, we are still far away from world peace.

This then is the message of Chanukah. Fight wars if you must! Send forth armies if you cannot avoid battle! But remember always that war entails death and suffering, the killing of the innocent, and the maiming of the defenseless. Never glorify war.

The pupils of an eminent rabbi complained about the existence of so much evil in the world and asked him how they might drive out the forces of darkness. The rabbi instructed them to take brooms and sweep out the darkness from the cellar of the synagogue.

When this failed, again they approached their teacher and he advised them to take sticks and beat vigorously at the darkness. This, of course, did not help either. Then the rabbi suggested that they descend into the cellar once more and shout at the darkness and protest loudly against it.

When this likewise failed, he said, "My children, let each of you meet the challenge of darkness by lighting a candle." The students descended into the cellar and kindled their lights and, behold, the darkness disappeared.

In these days of gloom, as the world lives under the dark specter of war and annihilation, the Jew lights his Chanukah candles - hoping and praying that others will follow suit and learn the lesson of Chanukah, which is, in its own way, a prescription for peace.

-- Rabbi Dr. Daniel Schur is spiritual leader at Beth Hamidrosh Hagodol, Heights Jewish Center.--

Judaism's Secret Power is its Ceremonies

November, 2000

by Dr. Daniel Schur, Rabbi

Special to the CJN

Judaism is a religion of ceremonial observances, one that seeks to impress its ideals and its ethical lessons by means of ceremonies.

For example, on Rosh Hashana we partake of honey and we wish ourselves a sweet year. On Yom Kippur we don't wear leather shoes, signifying our standing on holy ground. On Succot, we sit in the succah.

When we wonder at the phenomenal power of Judaism, , which has survived all the cults and religions that for long periods dominated the majority of the world; when we realize that after all the thousands of years, our ancient religion still stands unimpaired, we are bound to ask ourselves, "What is the secret power that has given Judaism such a hold upon the Jewish people?"

The answer is clear. It is its ceremonials. Judaism is more than a religion. It is a system of life. It is not a mere abstract, unattainable ideal, a creed apart from life and its requirements. Its precepts and observances are so closely bound up with everyday life that they have become part and parcel of the Jew's existence.

It is true that every religion has its ceremonies and observances. But there is a great difference between the observance of Judaism and those of other religions. The ceremonies in other religions are considered as ends in themselves. Mere observance of them can bestow upon the faithful eternal salvation. They are the end, the goal to which the creed leads.

This is not the case with Jewish ceremonies. In Judaism the observance of ceremonies is a means leading to a higher end - a great moral lesson. Jewish ceremonies are full of life, for they carry in themselves a living religion of moral construct and eternal values.

Yet it would be a distortion of truth to assume that ceremonies are in themselves religion. The ceremony is the shell which preserves the kernel of a great idea. The shell should not be held in higher esteem than the kernel. Nevertheless, it cannot be doubted, and experience has proved that the ideals of the Jewish faith were preserved by the retention of the ceremonies.

-- Rabbi Dr. Daniel Schur is spiritual leader at Beth Hamidrosh Hagodol, Heights Jewish Center.--

Israeli Ingathering Must Be Within Religious Framework

August, 2005

by Dr. Daniel Schur, Rabbi

Special to the CJN

On our agenda must be the future of the state of Israel.

Israel is not only a fulfillment of an age-old dream; it is essential to our very existence. It has added adhesive quality to the mortar that binds world Jewry and keeps us together at a time when other religious bonds are frail.

The eyes with which we look upon Israel are, therefore, important. Its ingathering must be more than a philanthropic endeavor. It must be as Isaiah tells us: "Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall gather thee in."

The ingathering must be realized in the framework of G-d's glory. To return Jews and not Judaism to Israel would be tragic.

As we behold Israel, we Orthodox Jews, who, if you will, are the only Jews with a future, must declare that a secular, socialist Israel can ultimately have no meaning for us. There is nothing more disappointing to us than an Israeli who is a goy dovair Ivrit, a gentile speaking Hebrew.

Not for such an Israel did we dream; nor can such an Israel long claim our loyalty or even interest. Such an Israel, just another state, albeit a state of Jews, cannot inspire us who live in a greater state with greater potential and promise. Rather, such an Israel may, G-d forbid, divide Jews and prove a calamity.

The very socialism that built the state may destroy the state, even as the very socialist who built a party thereafter threatens to divide the party.

The deliverance of Israel promised by the prophet in the haftarah may be delayed by the failure to heed his words: "If you turn your foot away from the Sabbath, from doing your desires on My holy day, and you proclaim the Sabbath a delight then shall you delight in the Lord."

To establish a state of Israel on foundations of Torah is to enrich its citizens with spiritual nobility; it is to establish Israel as a spiritual center for world Jewry and a beacon of Divine light for mankind.

As we look upon Israel, let our eyes not deceive us; let us build it and help direct it by supporting those who are dedicated to its spiritual, as well as material, development.

-- Rabbi Daniel Schur is spiritual leader at Beth Hamidrosh Hagodol-Heights Jewish Center Synagogue --

Tisha B'Av - Remembering Jerusalem,
Nationhood for 2000 Years

July 2001

by Dr. Daniel Schur, Rabbi

Special to the CJN

On Saturday evening July 28, the fast of Av begins at 8:15 p.m. The doom foretold by G-d's prophets had come to pass when Jerusalem fell twice under foreign conquerors, first Babylon then Rome.

Tradition fixes the 9th of Av as the date of both destructions, separated though they were by more than six centuries.

Nearly 2,000 years ago today, the city of Jerusalem was a heap of ruins. Twenty-four hours later, the Temple in Israel, the house of G-d, was in ashes. The Romans thought that the people of Israel were lost; that Israel as a nation had disappeared from the stage of history.

Rome did not realize that without Israel (the Jew), mankind could not exist, and that without our Bible, the whole world would fall in ruins. We were scattered all over the world, and for nearly 2,000 years we have been remembering Jerusalem and our nationhood every day, several times a day. In the words of the Psalmist, "If I forget thee o Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning."

One day has been set aside as a day of mourning for our many losses - the 9th of Av.

In spite of all the troubles and sorrows which have befallen Israel during the 2,000 years, Israel lives on. We are the eternal children of an eternal Father. We are the eternal people of an eternal book. We have undying faith in the living G-d, that He is with us as He was with our fathers. He would not leave us or forsake us.

On the day the Temple fell, the mystic tells us the Messiah was born - the spirit making for redemption came into life.

Jerusalem owed its downfall to dissension; the new Zion can only be built up on harmony. We are challenged to rebuild the land of Israel, to build as Israel's sanctuary of old was to have been built. Avanim Shelemoth! "Stones of Peace."

There is a legend that before the throne of G-d is a cup in which are collected the tears of the Jewish people. The cup is full to overflowing, and the time has come when the Judge of all the world has restored His people to His land so that, having sown in tears, Israel may now reap in joy.

We Jews have behind us a long history of weeping and lamentations. The earth is saturated with the tears of Israel. To build, to sow; these are our tasks. We have to mobilize our energies, not for destruction but for constructive efforts in rebuilding our national home, which shall be a source of inspiration for all of Israel and a symbol of freedom and justice to all the world.

Without harmony, without unity, it is difficult to build. It is for the whole of the Jewish people to rise. Our welfare, our dignity, and our historic sense demand it.

-- Rabbi Daniel Schur is spiritual leader at Beth Hamidrosh Hagodol-Heights Jewish Center Synagogue --

Jewish History is Marked by Predominance of Spirit

November, 2002

by Dr. Daniel Schur, Rabbi

Special to the CJN

"This is the Word of the Lord unto Zerabbabel, saying not by might nor by power but by spirit says the Lord of Hosts." - Zechar IV 6
It is not by might nor power that we have preserved our national spiritual possessions amidst the disintegrating influences in our environment. Not by might nor by power have Jewish ideals penetrated the inner lives of the people.

The whole of our history, from the days of the Second Temple to our times, is a record of the predominance of the spirit and its final victory over the material forces which are constantly threatening its existence. This idea is embodied in the celebration of Chanukah and symbolized by the lighting of its candles.

Chanukah commemorates not the military power of the heroic priests, the Hashmoneans, but the spirit for, and with which they fought against might and power.

The Jews had no army to compare with the physically superior forces of the Greeks. Might and power were on the side of the enemy. The zealous patriarchs were animated with a more irresistible force: Spirit of faith and of conviction which knows no obstacle. The Jews fought for liberation of the spirit, for the liberty of living in accordance with the dictates of the Torah and with their national traditions. They fought and they won.

The prophetic lesson of Chanukah today is to never be dismayed by physical might or material power. It is the spirit of Godliness, righteousness and justice that must and will ultimately prevail.

No material force is inexhaustible. The Jewish spirit, however, endures forever.

In the presence of a great world conflict, the question each Jew must ask himself is not which side possesses more might and greater power, or which side is most likely to emerge victorious, but which side is animated by the spirit of righteousness and justice.

The highest ideal which Judaism has set for humanity is peace. Our own history shows us, however, that it is sometimes necessary to obtain peace through war.

The Maccabees fought to establish peace by overthrowing the forces of might and power. We Jews hate war. We detest bloodshed. We pray for a peace that will make war impossible. We pray for the destruction of brute force and hope for the day when the universe is ruled not by mere physical and material strength but by right, justice and truth. "Not by might nor by power but by My spirit," said the Lord of Hosts.

-- Rabbi Daniel Schur is spiritual leader at Beth Hamidrosh Hagodol-Heights Jewish Center Synagogue --