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6 posts from November 2005

Inspiring prison inmates

Grandmother White Eagle, a Cherokee elder, does a lot of inspirational speaking. She also counsels Cherokee prisoners in Texas prisons. She has a method of spiritual rehabilitation amazingly similar to the method I developed as rabbi and director of spiritual rehabilitation at Ramla prison several years ago. Grandmother White Eagle is a staunch supporter of Israel and a firm believer in every iota of Torah. She always knew in her heart that the Cherokees had Jewish roots, and after the Trail of Tears series, she was doubly sure. Since then, she calls me Wa ya Udo, or Wolf Brother in Cherokee.

Here's another moving letter she sent me, with an amazing drawing:

Smgmwhiteeaglesm

Osyio Wa ya Udo (Peace Wolf Brother - LB),

I have attached a photo of a card that came to me over the weekend.  It is from an incarcerated Cherokee.  He hand drew this with colored pencils.  Inside about 35 of the 50 men that I counsel signed the inside of the card with blessings from the Creator.  It is a thank you for the words of wisdom I have been sharing.  These words have all come from the book of Proverbs and they have been blessed - to some it is the first time they have heard these words.

As you can see, when I saw this card I was reminded of my Wa ya Udo.  As you also know, the Cherokees believe that the eagle and the wolf work closely together and are brothers. The eagle represents the link between the Creator and man. The wolf has the gift to teach the ways of the Creator - giving out this wisdom to those in need.  I saw where you have been involved in prisons as well and I hope you are blessed with this card too - he did not know that we have been communicating - this prison is about 150 miles from here - I will share with them of their new Wa ya Udo and your words of wisdom.

Osyio and Wadoequa (peace and thank you tremendously - LB)

Ulisi Unegv Wohali  (Grandmother White Eagle)


The Wisdom of Grandmother White Eagle

White_eagle Yesterday's letter from Grandmother White Eagle stimulated some interesting reactions from the four corners of the globe. Here are a few:

YMG from London writes:

Just wondered if any of your readers noticed the expertise Grandmother White Eagle showed in her letter to you - her analysis of the lessons to be learnt from the wolf could lead to a doctorate in the in the University of the Trail (referring to Chapter 3 of The Trail to Tranquility - LB)! I wonder who'll be teaching who when we become reunited with our lost brethren. Warmest regards from chilly London

Rabbi HK from NYC writes:

Your post from yesterday was a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of Hashem's name - LB), especially when the Cherokee elder wrote, "Your loyalty to G-d's word shows the world why only the Jews could be trusted to pass down the word of G-d without changing as much as one letter". When the wise people of the nations praise those loyal Jews who walk the path of Torah, then the Shechina (Divine presence - LB) is raised from exile. I wish our own people would realize the importance of preserving Torah to the letter...

Miriam W. from Jerusalem writes:

I got chills up my spine when I read yesterday's post. I am a gerras Tzedek (convert - LB), and my mother was half Cherokee; my grandmother's name was Helen Lightfoot, a full Cherokee from Oklahoma. Strangely, I always had a deep love for the Jewish people, and once I came here to Israel, I knew I had come home. Your articles about the Jewish roots of the Cherokee are not only fascinating, but in my heart and brain I know they're true. I join Grandmother White Eagle in applauding Wa ya Udo - Rabbi Wolf Brother.

Brian from San Francisco writes:

I checked out your site after seeing you quoted in a Bay-area Jewish newspaper. I had always heard that the Orthodox, especially the ultras like the Hassidim, are intolerant and insular. I was floored to see a letter between you and a Cherokee elder. Seeing how much Grandmother White Eagle respects the Jewish people makes me want to learn more about my own people...

I'll conclude this post with another amazing Jewish-Cherokee tidbit: Grandmother White Eagle wrote me that the Cherokee have a custom of ritual immersion and purification seven times in a river or other natural body of fresh water, called Atawastiyi, the Cherokee version of mikva. In ancient Arameic, the daily jargon that the Northern tribes of Israel spoke, Asa vest, which is amazingly similar to Atawastiyi, means "the menstrual period has gone", indicating the exact time of required ritual immersion.

May we see an ingathering of all the exiles soon, amen.


A tribute to "Wolf Brother"

My affinity for the Cherokee nation is no secret. The striking similarities between the Jews and the Cherokees, in addition to several deep friendships I made with Cherokee Indians, led to the five-part series known as "The Trail of Tears". Since then, I've developed many more contacts with Cherokee descendants.

Yesterday, I received a moving letter from Ulisi Unegv Wohali (Cherokee for Grandmother White Eagle), a highly respected elder of the Cherokees, who has honored me with the Cherokee name of Wa ya Udo, which means "wolf brother". It's an amazing name, because phonetically, it's very similar to Hayehudi, Hebrew for "the Jew". Here's what she writes:

Osyio Rabbi Wa ya Udo [Peace to you Rabbi Wolf Brother - LB]

It is my honor, as a Tsa la giyi [Cherokee - LB] Ulisi [elder - LB] to give you the name that the Great Being has told me to give you. You are a brother - no doubt and you have the best understanding of "peace" or Shalom of any in this land. However, you are also a teacher and a pathfinder for the uneducated.  Your loyalty to G-d's word shows the world why only the Jews could be trusted to pass down the word of G-d without changing as much as one letter.

This is why you should be called Wa ya Udo or Wolf Brother. Wolves have been long regarded by Native Americans as teachers or pathfinders. Wolves are fiercely loyal to their mates, and have a strong sense of family while maintaining individualism. The Wolf has come to be associated with ancient teachings. Wolves are probably the most misunderstood of the wild animals. Tales of cold bloodedness abound, in spite of the their friendly, social and intelligent traits. They are truly free spirits even though their packs are highly organized. They seem to go out of their way to avoid a fight. Traditionally, someone with Wolf Medicine has a strong sense of self, and communicates well through subtle changes in voice inflection and body movements.They often find new solutions to problems while providing stability and support that one normally associates with a family structure. In short, a Wolf is a loyal Brother that teaches, leads and makes a path where others do not have the courage to go.

I hope you find this pleasing and may the G-d's word always be a lamp unto your feet and light unto your path!

G-d Bless,

Ulisi Unegv Wohali

Thank you, Grandmother White Eagle, from the bottom of my heart. May The Almighty wipe the tears from Cherokee eyes, and return them happily to their lofty roots. Osyio, Wa ya Udo (Peace, Wolf Brother)


The Lenny Solomon story - part 2

Shabbosshlock Here's what you do if your kids don't want to learn this week's Torah portion:

First, use Lenny Solomon's method of teaching about Avraham Avinu:

"Passed the Test"

You must go far away and leave your home behind
Take everyone with you and see what you will find
The angels came down from above he ran and gave them food
To honor all his guests is what he understood


Chorus: And he did fear me wanted to revere me passed the test
Head of our nation reason for creation passed the test
Turn to God Avraham knew he had to go on
Turn to God Avraham knew he'd just carry on


Now take your precious son who is so very dear
Sacrifice him to me you should not shed a tear
You didn't ask what's this about you simply understood
If it comes from above it has to be for good.

Second, put the above lyrics to Mama Mia's S.O.S, and here's what you get.

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Let's flash back to the late 1980's: After Lenny released Learning is Good, he started getting fan mail, big time.  One lady wrote:

"Dear Shlock Rock, My non-religious brother who hates Judaism is listening to your music around the clock.  Keep up the good work."

At that point, Lenny realized that Hashem was assigning him a greater task as a musician than simply banging away on the keyboard - he was to spread the word of Torah and teach Torah through music. Musical Kiruv became the name of the game, and Lenny Solomon became its shining star.  

Today, Lenny lives in Beit Shemesh, halfway between Ashdod and Jerusalem, with his remarkable wife and four daughters. He operates on his own with no real promotion or marketing, and yet, Shlock Rock has grown into one of the building blocks of Jewish Music today. He's already recorded twenty six Shlock Rock albums: Ten of the albums are parodies, eleven of the albums are original, and 5 are for children.

From his base in Eretz Yisroel, Lenny continues touring the USA, UK, Australia, South Africa and Canada three months a year, with writing and recording to boot. May Hashem bestow upon Lenny Solomon an abundance of success and blessings, and may his music hasten the arrival of Moshiach and the Geulah amitis, Amen!

Shlockprophet

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How can a tzaddik who left this earth over 13 years ago be responsible for the political upheaval that's happening in Israel this very minute? G-d willing, you'll find out in this coming Sunday's Lazer Beams...


The Lenny Solomon story - part 1

Give_us_a_sign_lennie_solomon

Lenny Solomon is one of my favorite people. He's a shining example of the new breed of ideologists – those who are leaving fat city for the some purpose of coming to Israel, strengthening their Yiddishkeit, and welcoming Moshiach.

Lenny's miraculous story started in late 1985. He had written 13 Song Parodies and decided that he'd go into a studio and record an album. He named his music Shlock Rock, since the music was second hand (although the lyrics were original), and when he grew up something used or second hand was called "Shlocky". Lenny never dreamed that by 1988, music would become his full time vocation.  Nor could he fathom that in 2005-6, he'd be entering his 20th season of Shlock Rock, a venture that would carry him to the 4 corners of the earth. But, Hashem's master plan dictated that Lenny would be inspiring Jews all over the world by way of his music to seek and return to their Jewish roots.

Hashem works in wondrous ways. When Lenny was a boy of 8, his father, Alexander Solomon ob"m  took him and his brother every Sunday morning to Cantor Katz for music lessons. For 10 years, they learned accordion and piano.  Coming from a long list of Cantors on both sides of my family, the Solomon boys had natural musical ability.  When it was time to go to College, Lenny's dad suggested Julliard School of Music and a degree in music.  But, Lenny sought the greenbacks and attended Queens College, taking Music electives but majoring in Accounting.  He worked for three years as an accountant, bored stiff. When he turned to music, Hashem tripled his income in the first year, followed by even more financial success. His dad knew all along!

From 1981, he had been playing part time in bands.  The Shemesh Orchestra was his first band and during 1981-82, he played NCSY Conventions in the NY, LI area.  In 1983, Lenny formed Kesher, a contemporary Jewish band and released three albums with them. He also played in all the regions of NCSY doing 35-40 Shabbaton's a year all over the United States and Canada.

From 1985-88, Lenny served as the music director of JPSY or the Jewish Public School Youth Organization.  He went into 40 public high schools and performed for the students in their Hebrew clubs trying to attract them to Judaism.  It was an awesome experience and it was there that he developed the ability to perform before crowds that were not always friendly. He was also surrounded by the most creative people in informal Jewish Education.  The music that he played was Shlock Rock.  That was the curriculum.  By playing songs that the students could relate to and inserting Jewish messages, Lenny helped them to relate to being Jewish.

G-d willing, part 2 of the Lenny Solomon story will appear in tomorrow's Lazer Beams

Meanwhile, here's a special treat for Lazer Beams readers, courtesy of Lenny and his very talented webmaster, Karen Wolberger. If you've never heard Moshiach Rap music, you have to hear Lenny's Redemption Time - we'll all be boogyin' our way to Beis HaMikdash!


Never too late

My phone rings:

MW: Hello, Rabbi Brody? This is MW from the USA. I'm here in Israel!

LB: Welcome to Israel, MW! Where are you staying, and for how long?

MW: I'm here for 2 weeks at the Lev Yerushalayim on King George. Do you think we could meet while I'm here? It's important, b-but I'm a little embarrassed...

LB: What's the matter?

MW: I think I told you in one of my emails that I'm 80, and I've never had a Bar Mitzva. I grew up in the Depression, and my folks never taught me much about Judaism nor did I ever get any Jewish education. I'm embarrassed to approach a rabbi I don't know, because it looks kind of ridiculous that a person with one foot in the grave wants a Bar Mitzva, but you seem to have patience for everybody.I don't know why, but I feel sort of incomplete without ever having a Bar Mitzva.

LB: That's understandable, because your Yiddishe soul feels hungry and incomplete without the mitzva of tefillin. By the way, you have at least 40 more years to go on this earth, MW; that's not yet "one foot-in-the-grave" status. Don't sell yourself short. To Hashem, you're just as important as any other Jew.

MW: Thanks for the kind words, Rabbi, but isn't a little late in life to start doing what 13 year-olds should do?

LB: It's never too late for tefillin or for getting closer to Hashem. Did you know that you own a full share of the Kotel, the Western Wall of our holy Temple? G-d willing, I'd like to take you there; you can put on tefillin, and we'll celebrate your own private Bar Mitzva. Is tomorrow at 2 pm OK? I'll meet you at the "Lev".

MW: Looking forward to it!

Kotel_retirement_bar_mitzva Never too late! Lazer helps MW from the USA put on tefillin for the first time at the the Kotel, this past week.