Does the blueprint from our future lie in secrets from Israel’s past?
Viewers are invited to join Ohr Torah Stone President and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander in his new video series, “If These Stones Could Speak,” in which he explores various unique locations across Israel. Each week, Rabbi Brander unearths surprising stories from our nation’s past and delves into the historical, archaeological, and ethical lessons we might learn from them as we strive to improve ourselves personally and spiritually as well as seek a better Jewish future.
Among the sites Rabbi Brander examines are a synagogue in Zippori, the home of the Mishna, which specifically faces away from Jerusalem, as well as a synagogue in Jerusalem whose parochet used to be the famous cloak of Emperor Napoleon. He raises important questions about Jewish unity at the Arch of Titus, and shares thoughts about authentic prayer while standing, literally, on ancient stones in which tears of the pious are absorbed. A visit to the site of a former communal Shabbat oven launches a conversation about trust; while a trip to a building named for its residents’ custom of saying morning prayers at the earliest permissible time focuses, rather surprisingly, not on the importance of mitzvot bein adam lamakom [between Man and G-d)] but rather on those of bein adam l’chavero [between Man and fellow Man]—showing kindness to our fellow human beings.
As Rabbi Brander explains, many of these sites are located in places that thousands of people walk by each and every day and so many Jews come to visit, but are not given the opportunity to appreciate their deeper meaning or examine their relevance to our lives today.
“Many look at Israel as a tourist attraction, albeit a very special one, but the truth is that nearly every corner of the country holds a wealth of history with hidden messages from thousands of years ago that deserve our attention,” said Brander. “There is certain fluidity and interaction here between the past, the present, and the future that is just begging to be rediscovered.
“We live at a time when the Jewish people are becoming more and more fractured,” he continued. “When you study the archaeology, you will see that some of the challenges that we are facing today—whether from the right, left, center; people who support the current Israeli government or those who stand staunchly in opposition—this is not the first time we, as a nation, are having this experience. Generations ago, the Jewish People had these same challenges; sometimes we succeeded in dealing with them and sometimes, tragically, we did not. Visiting these sites and bringing these issues up for communal examination and discussion brings them back into the light for reflection, introspection, and hopefully an opportunity to resolve some of our challenges.”
The series of short videos is available at ots.org.il/stones, as well as via WhatsApp and YouTube, where new episodes are posted weekly.