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Parasha No. 11
Vayigash: “He came near...”

Bereshit (Genesis) 44,18 - 47,27


How to resolve conflicts in 7 stages: the art of listening to the other person
Plan

1. Instant peace does not exist
2. Themes of the parasha: pleading and reconciliation
3. A word in thine ears.

A. True communication
1. The first stage: be sensitive and direct
2. Draw near
3. Go towards
4. A meeting of the senses
5. The presence of the shekhina
6. The sixth stage: true dialogue

B. Rashi's commentary
1. Apparent simplicity
2. Rashi's method
3. A warning sign
4. Be open
5. What is our method of study?
6. Yehuda's language and approach
7. Divinity in his words
8. The right to study the Torah
9. Wisdom in negotiation

C. The art of mediation
1. "True" contact
2. From din to rahamim
3. The art of using allusions
4. Lesson 1: Jewish politics
5. Lesson 2: how we should view ourselves
6. Consequences: the necessity of studying the Torah
7. The Jewish way of resolving conflict
8. There is no easy solution
9. The "only" condition for success

Internalization exercise
Memorization exercise
Research exercise
Recommended reading

 

 

 


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Instant peace and happiness does not exist.
In each of the preceding parashiot, we saw the progressive unfurling of the divine plan: or, rather, through the patriarchs, we witnessed the reconstruction of humanity as it slowly discovers the divine middot (attributes) in their example.
This discovery, in itself, is insufficient, for negatives forces are powerful within man, between men and in the world in general. We saw suffering between fathers and sons in the sacrifice of Isaac, suffering at the hands of other peoples when they abducted wives and blocked wells, maternal suffering with sterility or loss of a child at childbirth, conjugal suffering with the separation of couples as when Yaakov had to wait for Rahel, fraternal suffering as in the story of Yaakov's children, and paternal suffering as that endured by Yaakov.

The road is long before we can attain familial and social happiness, or love.
The Torah taught us, in the preceding parashiot, that this suffering and these trials are necessary in order to better a world where the forces of good are pitted against the forces of evil, and in order to better ourselves. This concept of happiness is very different to concepts that preach instant happiness.
This is what Rashi tells us in his commentary on Bereshit 37, 2:
"bikesh Yaakov leshev be shalva, Yaakov wanted to dwell in peace,
kafatz alav rughzo shel Yosef, but torments fell on him through Yosef;
tzaddikim mevakshim leshev be shalva, the righteous aspire to tranquillity
amar Hakadosh Barukh Hu, Hakadosh Barukh Hu said:
lo dayan la tzaddikim, it is not enough for the righteous
ma she metukan lahem le olam habba, what is reserved for them in the world above
ella she mavakshim, but they ask for more
leshev be shalva ba olam haze, to dwell in tranquillity in this world."

But there is something new: this parasha gives us the principles for resolving conflict and achieving reconciliation. These are not simple moral precepts such as "reconcile yourselves; love one another," or facile slogans such as "peace now" which are no more than false forms of manipulation by one camp against another. To attain true peace requires time and skill, and knowing how to draw near to the other party, how to settle differences, how to avoid humiliating the other party in a settlement, how to avoid reviving old hurts, how to find true areas of unity, and how to agree on the rights of each party. The Torah teaches us all of this.

Many Jews say that they admire Judaism but are put off by its complexity.
This is correct, for Judaism is very different from "popular ideologies," "political platforms," "fashionable slogans," and "simple creeds." Judaism follows another path, and is based on three principles:
" it respects the complex science of He who created the universe, which is revealed in the Torah;
" it tells us to study the complex texts on human existence written by the patriarchs and the Sages;
" it teaches us complex rules of conduct. To be true, good, simple, just, and happy is very complicated.

Where does one find simplicity? In the feelings of our heart, in trust, and in righteousness.

Let us examine how peace and happiness are attained.

We shall learn how to forget ideologies, political parties, foreign creeds, betrayal in friendship and love…. all that was "Egypt."


Themes of the parasha: pleading and reconciliation

The parasha recounts Yehuda's plea to Yosef, the Pharaoh's Viceroy; Yosef's disclosure of his true identity; Yaakov's arrival in Egypt with all his family; the list of Yaakov's descendants.

A word in thine ears
The story of Yehuda's plea is well-known, but the meaning of the parasha is much deeper than the story. Every word and phrase in hebrew is full of meaning. We shall focus on just a few of these words, in the first verse:

"Then Yehuda came near unto him, and said: Oh my lord, let they servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears and let not thine anger burn against thy servant, for thou art even as Pharaoh."

One has to translate the Hebrew literally in order to reveal the rich meaning behind the words:
"vayigah elave yehuda vayomer, and he draws towards him Yehuda saying:
bi adoni, in me my lord
yedaber-na avdekha, let him say, by your grace, thy servant
davar beoznei adoni, a word in the ears of my lord,
ve-el yahar afekha beavdekha kamokha paroah, and may thy anger not arouse against thy servant for as thou Pharaoh."

Rashi takes up this passage: "a word in the ears of my lord" (davar beoznei adoni…), and says: "may my words enter into your ears" (yikanesu devarai beoznekha).
Rashi bases himself on Bereshit Rabba 93, 6, which shows that the verse cannot be understood as meaning that Yehuda and Yosef talked intimately, since they used an interpreter; others also note that it is impossible to speak into the ear of a prince. Rashi's interpretation goes much further than the peshat (literal meaning) which refers to the tone of the voice. We shall see how Rashi's interpretation is based on all levels of meaning: the peshat, the drash, the remez, the sod. He constructs his interpretation as solidly as one constructs a house, beginning with the foundation which is the peshat.
This is Rashi's method.

I. True communication

1st phase: be sensitive and direct
In parasha lekh lekha, we saw the inner progress Avraham made when he was able to say to his wife: "thou are beautiful, thou" (Bereshit 12, 11). We find the same process in: "a word in thine ears."
But why does it say: "in thine ears"? An unusual detail in the Torah is always a source of great meaning.

Let us develop this further. Yehuda could have simply said: "permit me to say," or "pray hearken," or "allow me to say a word to you my lord." But "a word in thine ears" indicates that Yehuda does not just want his message to be heard and understood, he wants it to enter into the ear of Yosef, that he should feel it.
At the end of this exchange, we see that Yosef has been "moved." He is troubled, touched and can no longer bear the subterfuge of his position: his armor was breached and he broke out and wept (Bereshit 45, 2) and embraced Yehuda.
He truly felt Yehuda's plea. How did this happen? The Torah teaches us the steps needed to attain true communication -- how to overcome distance and animosity, and achieve a true encounter and true comprehension (in the real sense of the word, which is to "seize together") between two people.

2nd phase: draw near
Yehuda immediately puts himself in a situation of drawing near in equality. Indeed, the verb vayigash does not simply mean "he went forward" but that "he met." Yehuda draw near to Yosef because he believed in the divinity of his kavana, purpose.
The verses that follow are punctuated with expressions that stress his gesture: "towards," "towards you," "towards me…" The two men do not just talk and listen to each other: they use words in order to create a true meeting of minds and to discover each other.

3rd phase: go towards
The fact that the same expressions keep recurring means that the two men have advanced towards each other and drawn near. It is a loving process of going towards and drawing near.

Let us examine how the language describes this process:
The word "towards" (el) is important but it is often overlooked because of errors in translation.
Onkelos's translation in Arameic, however, stresses this word and Rashi attributes great value to Onkelos's contribution:
vezehu leshon onkelos, (Bereshit 6, 17 etc.)
vezehu targum shel onkelos, (Bereshit 49, 5 etc. )
vezehu she tirgem onkelos, (Bereshit 49, 9 etc.).

Onkelos often translates "towards" by the Arameic word levate which adds a connotation of accompaniment (livui, in modern Hebrew). Below are examples of verses where Onkelos uses this expression:

" 44, 18: "he came near unto him" (levate..)
" 44, 21: "bring him down unto me" (levati..)
" 44, 24: "unto thy servant" (levate avdekha..)
" 44, 28: "one went out from me" (milevati..)
" 44, 30: "to thy servant" (levate avdekha..)
" 44, 34: "how shall I go up to my father" (levate aba..)
" 45, 4: "come near me" (levati)
" 45, 9: "go up to my father" (levate aba.)
" 45, 9: "come down unto me" (levati..)

Note that this invitation to draw near is issued by and to all the participants: each one is receptive to the other and each one encourages the other to draw near.

4th phase: a meeting of all the senses
Then the encounter which began with talk and listening, goes on to involve all the senses (45, 12): "behold your eyes see and the eyes of my brother Binyamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you." The senses strengthen the meeting between the brothers:
" They do not communicate with intellectual words;
" They do not talk to each other like negotiatiors;
" They do not exchange philosophical thoughts.
" They are communicating with all the senses, as seen in the next verses: "ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt and of all that ye have seen, and ye shall hasten and bring down my father hither. And he fell upon Binyamin's neck and wept."

5th phase: the presence of the shekhina
There has been true receptivity, union and love. The Tzemach said that listening (shemiya) has the same gematria (425) as the initials of the last verse of the Psalms: "kol haneshama tehalle, let everything that hath breath praise."). These letters also make up one of the 72 divine names of Hashem. The importance attributed to hearing is seen in the fact that the two words shema Yisrael were chosen to represent the heart of our daily prayers. The Sages also tell us that language (lashon) and the shekhina have the same gematria (385). Language should aim to reach this level of divinity.

Onkelos also often uses the word lekabel (receive) or kibela to translate the Hebrew neged, "facing, opposing." His translation does full justice to all the meanings described above.

6. 6th phase: true dialogue
Only after there has been true listening and receptivity, can there be true dialogue ("ve aharei hken diberu ehav ito, and after that his brethren talked with him" 45, 15). True communication is so important that it can only take place after there has been a phase of listening and preparation. The same is true for any union between brothers, couples, friends and nations.

II Rashi's commentary

Apparent simplicity
As we examine these stages in Rashi's commentary, we shall see the mastery of Rashi.
Rashi says just three words on the expression he is interpreting ("davar beoznei adoni, a word in the ears of my lord"): "yicanesu devarei beozneikha, may my words enter your ears." At this, an ignorant person would say: "but this is evident and Rashis is just interpreting the peshat, the literal meaning for children and beginners, and is contributing nothing deep like other commentators who develop reflection, kabala, morality."

Rashi's method
Rashi's aim is altogether different: he draws our attention to a slight but important detail and, through this, he encourages us to examine the text in a new perspective in order to discover its meaning.

A warning sign
Whenever Rashi's commentary appears simple, even superfluous, this must be a warning sign to us to stop, think and listen to the text; this is a moment when cerebral thought should be suspended, for it is often too fast, pretentious and superficial. When we give ourselves this moment, we find that we discover many new meanings.

7th phase: be open
Rashi respects the reader, like the Torah does: "you are free not to seek or listen to the text, but you will not see the pearl which is under your eyes: but if you are open and say hineni, `here am I, your servant hearkens,'then you will see and hear the riches of the Torah which has been given to you."

The Talmud tells us this repeatedly: "come, listen.." The Zohar says the same: "come, see." First one must draw near, then listen, then reflect in a new way."

How have we proceeded?
Our method consists in examining Rashi and the other commentators only after we have read and listened to the text ourselves; "we read every verse in Hebrew twice, and once in Arameic," according to the traditional method ("shnayim mikra veehad targum, twice the Torah and once its translation," Berakhot 8a, Zohar II 138 b).

Rav Campanton, the Gaon of Castille, suggests that students read the text first on their own before studying the commentaries, even Rashi's (refer to my book Lev Gompers for guidelines on how to study the Torah and the Talmud).

Yehuda's language and approach
This approach will help us to understand other commentators. We saw how Yehuda immediately drew near and put himself in a position of equality, for vayigash does not only mean "he advanced" but also that "he met." Midrash Rabba (93, 2) says that Yehuda's approach signifies that he is telling Yosef that he is equal to the princes of Egypt and it is the princes who accept to meet him.

The interpretation of the Midrash could be taken simply at face value. But, once again, as with Rashi's commentary, we shall see that there are deeper levels of meaning to be discovered. So let us stop and reflect.

As we know, the composition of words in Hebrew is a source of great meaning. The Tur, known as the Baal Haturim, confirms the interpretation of the Midrash by pointing out that the last letters of the first three words of the parasha (vayigash elav yehudah ) form the word shave, which means "equal."

Yehuda's divine language
Hassidic commentaries, such as the Maor va shemesh by Rav Kalonumos Calman Epstein (dec. 1823), note that the term shave indicates that Yehuda possesses an element of divinity. Epstein shows that the first letters of the first words of the parasha correspond to on of the divine names which can only be attained by holiness and humility; once it is attained, then it can lead to the kind of union and rapprochement which took place between Yehuda and Yosef. Students who wish to know more about these concepts should study Epstein's commentary.

The right to study the Torah
I refer to this commentary in order to show that the Torah can be read at all levels of understanding, from the apparent/literal meaning to the higher levels of interpretation. As the Ramban says, in his introduction to the Torah, these levels are open to anyone who wishes to discover them: they are hidden in order to be revealed, but there is nothing secret or mystical about them. Ribbi Yosef Caro goes even further; he says that every Jew "mehuyav, is obligated" to study these levels of meaning in the Torah.

Yehuda's approach teaches us a lesson in conduct, which applies to all Jews: he believed in his kavana, intention and in the divine will symbolized in the Hebrew words he uses. His very name Yehuda means Jewish (yehudi) and is formed by the 4 letters that make up the divine name of Hashem plus dalet which represents the inclusion of the real world.

Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassidism (1700-1760), notes that the divine names are found many times in the first words of the parasha, but Yehuda believed that the Egyptian Viceroy (Yosef) did not hear his message of equality and divinity (indeed Yehuda spoke to Yosef through an interpreter who translated his words into Egyptian, as verse 42, 23 says). Many commentators have tried to discover, by looking to see where the term beozneikha appears in the Torah, whether Rashi's use of the term (in your ears) indicates that other people were present. Rav Menahem Mendel Schneerson solved this problem.

Wisdom in negotiation
Yehuda knew the secrets of wisdom
"mayim amukim etza velev-ish
counsel in the heart of men is like deep water,

veish tevuna bakatzir vaayin
but a man of understanding will draw it out" (Mishle, Proverbs 20, 5).

One of the divine secrets in negotiation is that one must be ready simultaneously to be judged, to make war, to make conciliations and to use prayer in action (Bereshit Rabba 93, 6).

Yehuda knew that one should not deal lightly with the heart of man, and that one must never provoke an adversary to react dangerously. Bereshit Rabba 93, 4 says that Yehuda knew how to get through, with his every word and response, to the heart of man (davar al davar ad she amad libo).

The parasha teaches us the skills and stages needed in order to attain fraternal love in cases of conflict:

" rapprochement
" awareness of all levels of reality (social, personal, psychological, spiritual)
" building an equal relationship with respect
" communicating and responding with all the senses
" going towards the other
" persevering in this direction
" attaining true dialogue


C. The art of mediation

Note the use of the superfluous word bi (in me):

"The Yehuda came near unto him and said in me my lord, let thy servant…." (vayigash elav yehuda vayomer bi adoni yedaber-na avdekha..).

True contact
This shows us that Yehuda was in contact with himself and with his lord (bi adoni), not just with external political reality.

His actions and relationships are subordinated to his own inner self, which is contained within the Creator who is the makom, and who governs all creation.

Love, friendship, and fraternity are only possible at this level of inner "being."

From din to rahamim

Yehuda knew that, through Hashem, he had to pass from the level of din (judgment), because of having sold Yosef, to the level of rahamim (mercy) which is the source of all blessing in the world.

Diplomacy and psychological skills are not enough to overcome such crises; one must also know the art of prayer and directing one's kavana (intention) towards spiritual forces.

Most politicians and militants remain at the level of din (power, rivalry, hatred).

The Torah and the Sages show us the road to rahamim.

The art of using allusions
Many commentators have analyzed the remez level of meaning in Yehuda's words. Yehuda was in contact with himself and with his Lord (bi adoni). The word bi (whose numerical value is 12) shows that the 12 names of Hashem were integrated within him and within his name.

The Baal Shem Tov, basing himself on the Ribash, analyzes the remez and notes that there are many, apparently, superfluous words and letters in the first verse of the parasha:

vayigash el av yehuda vayomer bi adoni yedaber-na avdekha beoznei adoni veal yihar apekha beavdekha ki khamokha ke faro…

The "superfluous" words are bi na el ke.. which are the initials of the words in verse 9 of Psalm 119: bame yizake naar et orho lishmor kidevarekha ("wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word").

The Baal Shem Tov notes that the numerical value of these letters is 114, which is the numerical value of the two divine names of Hashem (63 and 52) which repair anger (hatikun lakaas).

The Sages want to teach us two things here:

Lesson one: Jewish politics

Yehuda's skill is based on wisdom, psychology, politics, and the Torah. May God give us such negotiators and politicians who respect the Torah and apply it, as should be the case in a holy land and among a holy people. Yehuda is a model for us: his example shows us how to engage in politics as Jews.

If we do not follow his example in politics, we will be governed by the values of other nations and we will be alienated from our own Torah. It will become foreign (hol) to us.

Lesson two:
We should recognize that:
" we are like young people (naar), dominated by uncontrollable forces,
" that the road ahead is long (orho),
" that it requires the right conduct (orho)
" and that we attain (izake) this level of conduct only by a process of cleansing and purification that combines human expertise, the teachings of the Torah and prayer.

Consequences: the necessity of studying the Torah
It follows that those who do not devote the same time to studying the Torah as they do to studying other subjects and sciences
" will be unable to resolve the conflicts that confront the Jewish people,
" and will cooperate, as happened many times in the past, in the process of the destruction of the Jewish people (just like mishandling a powerful car or missile inevitably leads to its destruction).


The Jewish way of resolving conflict
Political principles that do not follow Yehuda's approach are avodah zara for:

" they are based on subjugation and domination,
" they pretend to be above all creeds, including the Torah,
" they sacrifice friendships, families, individuals forthe "cause" and in the name of a political ideal, everyone is legitimate target for insults and disrespect.

In contrast, those who seek shalom emet base the resolution of conflict on the teachings of the Torah: "They shall know My name and I shall answer them and they will be My people" (bi adoni).

The lack of communication between Cain and Abel, seen so often in human relationships, is resolved here in the inter-family conflicts of the Jewish people and for the benefit of humanity. One could object that this did not change the course of history, which continued in its cruel ways, and that the Jewish people still do not structure their lives according to the teachings of the Torah.

To this we answer that the Torah both teaches and proffers: Hashem created the world and gave it freely to man, for him to do as he pleases. It is up to man to learn the consequences of his actions.

Jews at least should have the honesty not to attribute the calamities of the world to "God's silence," when it is man himself who is responsible, and when the Torah has given us the rules for building happiness in the world.

Jews should also have the wisdom to understand that it is useless, and destructive, to look for solutions in alien ideologies and to ignore the teachings of the Torah.

There is no easy solution
No, there is no easy solution. It is vain to cry out, like market vendors: "come, come, everything is simple, Rav X or Y said so, do this or do that and everything will be fine."

This is not what the Torah says. Our Sages teach that maturation is a long process and what one generation does influences another generation. Despite the successful reunion between brothers in this parasha, the errors and false directions taken by the sons of Yaakov had negative consequences for many generations. The texts say that this was the reason for the asara harughei malkhut --- the 10 great Sages (Ribbi Akiva, Ribbi Hanania…) who were killed with unparalleled cruelty by the Romans and who, tragically, paid with their lives for the errors of the sons of Yaakov.

These teachings should strengthen our sense of responsibility, for we are a generation who have witnessed the best and the worst in the world and cannot plead ignorance.

We have the knowledge, but do we have the strength? The Torah shows us that man needs great strength and will power. Read chapter one of the Book of Yehoshua (Joshua).

The preceding parasha (re-read it) showed us that Hashem is the source of our strength and He never closes the door of His benediction, for He is Rahamim. The festival of Hanukka reminds us of this.

"The" sole condition for success
Certain conditions are necessary in order to carry out this program. It is written that Hashem did not choose Yisrael because of his strength or his actions, but because of his humility: lo bahar Hashem beYisrael ki im bishvil haanava (Hida, in Tehilot Yosef, on Psalm 149, 4).

This means that it is the recognition of our weaknesses that makes us worthy of receiving the help of the Savior, the Rock and the Guardian of his people.

Yehuda, similarly, merited royalty because of his anava, modesty and humility: mipnei ma zakha Yehuda lamalkhut, mipenei haanava (Tosefta Berakhot 3).

These issues do not concern just the leaders of the Jewish people, they concern every Jew, for every Jew is a member of Yisrael and Yisrael is the tzaddik (righteous) and the yesod (foundation) of the world and its mission is for the good of all creation.

Internalization exercise

We should understand the teachings of the parasha at our own level:

1. Is there nothing worse than to reject someone we love, as the brothers of Yosef did, and endanger their lives?
(There are many ways of doing this and we should examine our relationships honestly). The parasha does not teach us to ask pardon of others on Yom Kippur, invoke divine pardon and then go back to our old ways.

2. The parasha teaches us that we should learn to say:
" geshu na elai, come near to me, I pray you (Bereshit 45, 4).
" lo atem shelatem oti henna ke haelokim, it was not you that sent me hither, but God (Bereshit 45, 8).
" maharu, make haste.
" vekhilkalti otekha sham, there will I nourish thee (Bereshit 45, 11).

Memorization exercise

1. The 7 stages of negotiation as demonstrated by Yehuda
2. The rule for studying Rashi.

Recommended reading
For more on the words of this parasha, refer to:
Baal Haturim or the Tur, Rabbenu Yaakov ben Asher
Baal Shem Tov
dibbur hamathil
Onkelos
Caro
Schneerson
Tzemach
asaraharuhei malkhut

Angle2


- Psychology and Repentance
   (in french)

Part 15
STUDY HEBREW

Part 16
JERUSALEM

- Jerusalem excavations
- Terror and counseling
- Peace and peoples
- Israel and Iran
- Visual study & song on snow
for, through our union with the song of nature, the plan of Creation will be fulfilled

-
Poem: to be moon

In french

Avec Modia, vivez
vos vacances en Israël,
Texte et photos

- Par Modia, arrivez au Kotel
- La vie du Kotel
- Prières au Kotel
- Fête au Kotel
- La destruction du Temple
- Photos rares et émouvantes des abords du Temple
- Synagogues de Jérusalem
- Maisons de Jérusalem
- Les fleurs de Jérusalem
- Ici, tout sur Jérusalem
- "Le" texte sur Jérusalem
- Voir et visiter Israël
- Voyage dans le Nord d'Israël
- Belle carte d'Israël
- Jérusalem et les nations

- Vacances en Israël sur Modia
- Le Kotel en film direct
- et ici aussi, autre caméra

- Trahison historique:
L'antique synagogue de Jéricho

 

Part 17
ISRAEL AND
THE NATIONS

- Love towards all people
- Light in war
- Before the hanukiah
- Land of Israel
- Jerusalem excavations 2007
  Proof of the lies propagated
  by the media

In french - Hope in Israel



Part 20
PHOTOS
"Encounters with God
in the real"

- You are planning a tour in Israel - Photos
- My photos and judaism
- New year of beauty
- Flowers
-
Gallery photos


Part 21
SONGS

- My english songs



Dedication

Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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