Saving Iraq’s Jewish Scrolls

What a beautiful job by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

In Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, our Special Forces looking for WMD instead discoverd thousands of ancient Jewish texts.

The texts dating from 1540 to 1970 taken from the Iraqi Jewish Community were sitting defiled in the basement of Saddam Hussein’s Intelligence HQS molding and decomposing under 4 feet of water.

The U.S. military and NARA rescued these texts and have painstakingly restored and preserved them through freezing, categorizing, condition assessment, stabilization, mold remediation, mending pages, washing, binding, and more.

Pictures of the collection of texts from Iraq before and after preservation can be found here.

The collection includes:

– A Hebrew Bible from 1568

– A Babylonian Talmud from 1793

– A Zohar/Kabbalah from 1815

– A Haggadah from 1902

– 48 Torah scroll fragments

– And much more.

On October 11, NARA will unveil an exhibit in Washington, DC featuring 24 of the recovered items and the preservation effort.

Hopefully, the collection of Jewish religious texts will ultimately be returned to the Jewish community from which it came, so that it can be held dear and sacred once again, and used properly in religious worship and never again held hostage or profaned.

Thank you so much to both the Department of Defense and to the National Archives for saving and preserving these ancient, sacred Jewish religious texts.

You did a beautiful mitzvah! 😉

Hospital Wake Up Call

Sunrise

So recently, I was in the hospital for something. 



G-d, I hate hospitals, but this time something was going on and I knew I had to go. 



I admire all the doctors, nurses, and other health professionals that work there helping people–it is definitely not an easy job.



I watched the other patients–on gurneys, in wheelchairs, laying in the hospital beds, and getting various procedures–and it is eye-opening. 



Many people, who are otherwise strong and able-bodied, are reduced to needing help with feeding, going to the bathroom, getting around, and some even just turning over in bed.



I watched the people out of their everyday clothes and forced into hospital gowns–one of the most awful things in terms of our human modesty and dignity.



Then there is the need to have to ask for everything and being reduced to poking, prodding, and vitals checkups at all hours of the day and night. 



In one case, they even woke someone up to give them a sleeping pill, true. 



Also, when you have to share a room with a stranger with their own various ailments, the quiet time and the privacy to deal with your issues is even less. 



Hospital are not a great place for getting rest or for feeling confidant in your abilities–let’s face it, you’re confronting very helplessness itself.



In these circumstances, I found myself getting down about the circumstances and my wife, G-d bless her, said something really smart to me. 



She said, “You are better than this,” and I looked up at her feeling physically lousey and emotionally spent, and she repeated, “You are better than this.”



I stopped to not just hear what she was saying, but to really listen–and it was amazing. 



She was right, there was nothing to feel bad about. I needed to have faith and believe that all was for the best, and that I was stronger than this test. 



A short time has passed, but I will never forget my wife’s words to me–she gave me a great gift and I will always be grateful what she did for me. 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Boy Loses Arm, Girl Loses Memory

Aftershock3

I had the opportunity to watch an absolutely brilliant movie called Aftershock (2010) about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) that leveled the city and killed more than 240,000 people in China.

The movie is beautifully filmed and the events recreated with tremendous clarity–I could feel as if I was there and I literally cried for the these poor people.

In the film a women is saved in the quake by her husband who dies trying to go back into the falling building to save their children–twins, a boy and a girl, age 6–who themselves end up buried under the rubble.

The mother begs others to save (both) her children, but a rescuer tells her that when they try to move the concrete slab that’s pinning them down–this way or that–it will mean that one of her children will die.

She cannot choose, but at the risk of losing both children, she finally says “save my son.”

The girl hears her beneath the rubble–and tears are running down her face with the emotional devastation of not being chosen by her own mother for life.

The mother carries what she believes is her daughter’s dead body and lays it next to the husband–she weeps and begs forgiveness.

The story continues with rebirth and renewal…the boy survives but loses his arm in the quake and the girl also lives but loses her memory (first from post-traumatic stress–she can’t even talk–then apparently from the anger at her mother’s choice).

Each child faces a daunting future with their disabilities–the boy physically and the girl emotionally, but each fights to overcome and ultimately succeed.

The boy who is feared can never do anything with only one arm–ends up with a  successful business, family, home, car, and caring for his heart-broken mother.

The girl who is raised by army foster parents struggles to forgive her mother–“it’s not that I don’t remember, it’s that I can’t forget”–and after 32 years finally goes back and heals with her.

The mother never remarries–she stays married in her mind to the man who loved her so much and sacrificed his life for hers.  And she stays in Tangshan–never moving, waiting somehow for her daughter to return–from the (un)dead–but she is emotionally haunted all the years waiting and morning–“You don’t know what losing something means until you’ve lost it.”

The brother and sister finally find each other as part of the Tangshan Rescue Team–they each go back to save others buried in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed almost another 70,000.

Some amazing themes from the movie:

– “You’re family is always your family,” even despite wrongs that we do to each other, we are challenged to somehow find forgiveness and to love and extend ourselves for those who have given so much to us.

– “Some people are living, others only suffer.” After the earthquake, as with any such disaster, the living question why they survived and other didn’t. Similarly, we frequently ask ourselves, why some people seem to have it “so good,” while others don’t. But as we learn, each of us has our own mission and challenges to fulfill.

– Disabilities or disadvantages–physical or emotional–may leave others or ourselves thinking that we couldn’t or wouldn’t succeed, but over time and with persistence we can overcome a missing arms or a broken heart, if we continue to have faith and do the right things.

I loved this movie–and the progression from the horrific destruction of the earthquake to the restoration and renewal of life over many years of struggle was a lesson in both humility of what we mortals are in the face of a trembling ground beneath us or the sometimes horrible choices we have to make, and the fortitude we must show in overcoming these.

(Source Photo: here)