Torah Sparks: Parshat Va’etchanan by Rabbi Cantor Eliezer Kepecs

Today’s portion of the week, “Va’etchanan,” recapitulates some basic laws of humanity, namely the Ten Commandments, and the “Shma Yisroel,” “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” The beginning of the portion opens with Moses telling the Children of Israel that he will not be allowed to cross over the River Jordan, but that his successor, Joshua, will.  Deuteronomy 3:28 states: “Give Joshua his instructions, and imbue him with strength and courage ‘Chazak Ve’ematz’” for he will cross the Jordan River, and conquer the Promised Land.  But Moses warns the Children of Israel, “Lo Tosifu al hadavar asher anochi m’tzaveh etchem, v’lo tigr’u mimenu, lishmor et mitzvoth Hashem Eloheichem.”  “You shall not add anything to what I command you, nor take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you.”  Moses continues his dialogue to observe these laws faithfully, that the Lord will shine His countenance upon His people, “Ki El Rachum Hashem Eloheicha, lo yarp’cha v’lo yashchitecha, v’lo yishkach et brit avoteicha, asher nishba lahem.”  “For the Lord your God is a compassionate God.  He will not fail you, nor will He let you perish; He will not forget the covenant which He made, an oath to your forefathers.”

Through research on the internet, let us look at how this ancient Divine covenant, manifests itself today.

The Middle East has been growing date palms for centuries. The average tree is about 18-20 feet tall and yields about 38 pounds of dates a year. However, Israeli date trees are now yielding 400 pounds/year and are short enough to be harvested from the ground or a short ladder.

Israel the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world’s population, can lay claim to the following :
The cell phone was developed in Israel by Israelis working in the Israeli branch of Motorola, which has its largest development center in Israel .

Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel.

The Pentium MMX Chip technology was designed in Israel at Intel .

Both the Pentium-4 microprocessor and the Centrino processor were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel.

The Pentium microprocessor in your computer was most likely made in Israel.

Voice mail technology was developed in Israel.

Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel.

The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.

Israel has the fourth largest air force in the world (after the U.S, Russia and China). In addition to a large variety of other aircraft, Israel’s air force has an aerial arsenal of over 250 F-16’s. This is the largest fleet of F-16 aircraft outside of the U. S.

Israel’s $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.

Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.

According to industry officials, Israel designed the airline industry’s most impenetrable flight security. U.S. officials now finally look to Israel for advice on how to handle airborne security threats.

Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world.

Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin – 109 per 10,000 people –as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.

In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the U.S. (3,500 companies mostly in hi-tech).

With more than 3,000 high-tech companies and startups, Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the world — apart from the Silicon Valley, U.S.,

Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the U.S.

Outside the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies.

Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East.

The per capita income in 2000 was over $17,500, exceeding that of the UK.

On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech startups.

Twenty-four per cent of Israel’s workforce holds university degrees, ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland, and 12 per cent hold advanced degrees.

Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.

In 1984 and 1991, Israel airlifted a total of 22,000 Ethiopian Jews at Risk in Ethiopia, to safety in Israel in “Operation Solomon.”

When Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, she became the world’s second elected female leader in modern times.

When the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was bombed in 1998, Israeli rescue teams were on the scene within a day — and saved three victims from the rubble.

Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship — and the highest rate among women and among people over 55 – in the world.

Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity. Hundreds of thousands came from the former Soviet Union.

Israel was the first nation in the world to adopt the Kimberly process, an international standard that certifies diamonds as “conflict free.”

Israel has the world’s second highest per capita of new books.

Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees, made more remarkable because this was achieved in an area considered mainly desert.

Israel has more museums per capita than any other country.

Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer.

Every year in U.S. hospitals, 7,000 patients die from treatment mistakes. An Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment.

Israel’s Given Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill. Used to view the small intestine from the inside, it can detect cancer and digestive disorders.

Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with heart failure. The new device, synchronized with the camera helps doctors diagnose the heart’s mechanical operations through a sophisticated system of sensors.

Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U.S., 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions, Israel places first in this category as well.

A new acne treatment developed in Israel, the Clear Light device, produces a high-intensity, ultraviolet-light-free, narrow-band blue light that causes acne bacteria to self-destruct — all without damaging surrounding skin or tissue.

An Israeli company was the first to develop and install a large-scale solar-powered and fully functional electricity generating plant, in southern California’s Mojave Desert.

All the above while engaged in regular wars with a hardened enemy that seeks its destruction and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth.

Do we have the chutzpah to say that we accomplished all this on our own?  No. Of course not.  There must be a higher force at work here.  No matter what the rest of the World may feel about the Jews and Israel, we can recall the conclusion of today’s portion of the week, where Moses tells the people, “Ki am kadosh atta laHashem Eloheicha, b’cha bachar Hashem Eloheicha lihiyot Lo l’am s’gulah mikol ha’amim asher al p’nei ha’adamah.”  “For you are a holy people unto the Lord your God, of all the peoples on Earth, the Lord your God chose you to be His treasured nation…because He made a covenant with your forefathers…know therefore that only the Lord your God, is God, the steadfast God who keeps His covenant faithfully to the thousandth generation of those who love Him, and those who keep His commandments.”

Written and presented by Rabbi Cantor Lawrence Eliezer Kepecs for Sat. Aug. 5, 2006.  All rights reserved.

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