Sunday, October 13, 2019

A Succah of Faith

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

It is quite pleasant here in Israel to live in a succah for a week during this time of the year. The intense heat of our summer months has lessened and the rains and chill of our relatively mild winter have yet to arrive. Though the commandments and requirements of Succot are meant to be observed by Jews wherever in the world they may find themselves, it is clear that the holidays of the Jewish calendar year were tailor made to fit with the climate and natural beauty of the Land of Israel.

Yet, since they are to be observed globally, not everyone can enjoy the climate and seasons of the year as we do here in Israel. I remember bitter cold and snow on the on top of the succah in Chicago and later in Monsey. I also remember the stifling heat and dripping humidity that accompanied sitting in our succah in Miami Beach. Even though the halacha provides for and excuses those who are not able to sit in the succah because of extreme physical discomfort, Jews throughout the ages and in very difficult physical circumstances have always tenaciously clung to this observance, no matter what.

The commandment of succah is so dear to us that we are not easily dissuaded from its observance by the relatively minor discomforts of cold and heat. For just as the succot of old in the desert of Sinai negated all climate discomfort, so too did that memory invest Jewish succot wherever they were located with that same feeling of Divine protection and spiritual comfort.

The truth be said, the Jewish people have been dwelling, in a figurative sense, in succot for all of our national existence. Always a minority, always the iconoclast nation and culture, subject to discrimination and persecution, the Jewish people have continually found refuge and shelter in their protective spiritual succah.

That succah was built of Torah and tradition, family and community. There was and still is plenty of inclement weather and hostile climate surrounding our succah. And there are Jews who are so ignorant and alienated from their core Jewishness that they are completely unaware of the existence of that protective succah. Yet somehow, here in Israel and throughout the Diaspora, there are thousands upon thousands of real succot erected in honor of the holiday.

There is also the national awareness of the inexplicable existence of that overall feeling that we are all dwelling in the great succah of Davidic origin and Divine protection. We have always lived in a flimsy succah and been exposed to wild forces that threaten our very existence. Yet our succah, though it might sometimes cause physical discomfort and even danger, never has betrayed us as a whole. It totters but does not fall, it shakes but it does not collapse. It has become the symbol of Jewish continuity and resilience, of optimism and unbounded accomplishment.

The Talmud records for us a description of that great and tragic sage of Israel, Nachum ish Gamzu. After the failure of the Bar Kochba rebellion, the Roman emperor Hadrian instituted a reign of terror against the sages of Israel. Nachum was mutilated and his limbs cut off. He lived in horrible squalor in a house that was rickety and exposed to the elements. Winds shook the house continually and the disciples of Nachum feared for his life, lest the house collapse upon him in his helpless state of being.

They arranged that a different, more sturdy and respectable structure would serve as his new home. They arrived at his bedside prepared to transfer him to this new home. They told him that after moving him they would return to the house to remove his belongings and other items, which they then would move to the new dwelling. He cautioned them saying: "No, my children. First remove all of the belongings that you wish to remove from the house and leave me here. Later you will return and then remove me. For know you well, that as long as I am in this house, the house will never collapse."

As long as the spirit and teachings of Nachum ish Gamzu remain in our house and succah, the house and succah will never collapse. That is the basic lesson of all of Jewish history and should serve as the guidepost to understanding and assessing our present society. And that is really the core message of the holiday of Succot to us and to our generations.

I Invite to My Meal Poor, Lonely Ushpizin

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh Hayeshiva, Har Bracha


The mitzvah of joy on Chag includes concern to make one’s family happy, and the poor and needy * The primary concern of joy should be between husband and wife, and both of them together are responsible to make the rest of the family happy * The Ushpizin in the Sukkah are first and foremost the poor and lonely, as well as new immigrants, and it is a mitzvah to invite them to a meal on Chag. Anyone who invites such guests merits hosting the exalted Ushpizin, the righteous souls * The laws of kashrut for guests: A person can rely on a host’s kashrut even without supervision, provided he is sure the host is familiar with the halachot, and does not disrespect them

The Mitzvah to Rejoice and Make Others Happy
The primary mitzvah of simcha (joy) on the holiday of Sukkot is to be happy and make others happy, for true joy is achieved only when one strives to share the joy with others, as the Torah says: “You shall rejoice on your festival along with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite, proselyte, orphan and widow within your gates” (Deuteronomy 16:14).

Upon further observation, we find that this mitzvah has two components: First, to rejoice together with one’s family and household members. It should be pointed out that the word ‘ata‘ (you) in the above mentioned verse includes both husband and wife jointly – one’s spouse always comes before all other relatives. Also, we find indeed that a man’s primary simcha is the festive meal which his wife customarily prepares, while a woman’s primary simcha is for her husband to buy her new clothes or jewelry. The responsibility of imparting their joy with members of the family is equally shared, for the simcha of Chag is incomplete without the participation of the entire family. The time-honored custom of all Jews is sharing the joy of the holiday with the family.

The second component of the mitzvah is bringing joy to neighbors and friends, the poor and the lonely. The orphan and widow mentioned in the verse were typically poor having lost their main source of sustenance, and the mitzvah to gladden them is carried out by giving them tzedakah (charity). The ger (convert), having left his homeland and family is liable to suffer from loneliness, and the mitzvah to make him happy is achieved by inviting him to participate in the festival meal.

In recent generations, a special mitzvah has been added to natives of Israel: to host immigrants, who often feel lonelier specifically during the holidays, and it is a great mitzvah to include them in the joy.

It should further be noted that the Torah commanded including the Kohanim and Levi’im (Priests and Levites) in the joy. Their task was to teach and instruct B’nei Yisrael, both young and old. From this we can learn that today, Torah scholars – the rabbis and educators who teach Torah and instruct throughout the year similar to the Kohanim and Levi’im, should also be made happy on the Chag. (Binyan Shleima, 1:33).

Who are the Ushpizin According to the Holy Zohar
The lonely or poor guests are the special ones of the festival of Sukkot, who are called in Aramaic ushpizin, and the more guests one brings joy to in his sukkah, the more praiseworthy he is.

Consequently, our Sages said in the Zohar that one should also invite to the sukkah “ushpizin ila’in” (supreme and holy guests), namely, the souls of the seven tzadikim (righteous men), Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David, whose spiritual light shines on Chag Sukkot. In other words, having merited the mitzvah of sukkah and bringing joy to guests, particularly the poor and lonely, one is able to elevate spiritually and also invite supreme and holy guests to the sukkah, i.e., enlightenment from the souls of the tzadikim. Each day, the spiritual light of one the tzadikim shines bright, and he enters the sukkah first, followed by the other six tzadikim.

The Zohar also relates the custom of Rabbi Hamnuna Sabba, who, upon entering the sukkah, was extremely joyful and would stand inside the entrance of his sukkah and bless, saying: ‘Sit down, supreme and holy guests, sit down. Sit down, guests of Faith, sit down.’ He joyfully raised his hands and said: ‘Happy is our lot, happy is the lot of Israel who sit in the sukkah. For whoever has a share in the holy nation and the Holy Land, dwells in the shadow of Faith to receive the light of the seven tzadikim hosted in the sukkah, to rejoice in this world, and in the World to Come!’ (Zohar Emor, Vol.3, 103, 2-104:1, translation).

The Zohar Concerning Those Who Are Not Hospitable
In continuation, it is written in the Zohar (translation, and interpretation): “And although he merits receiving the souls of the righteous, he must be careful to gladden the poor, for the portion of the guests he invited to his meal, belongs to the poor. He sits in the shadow of Faith and invites these lofty guests, the guests of Faith, yet does not give them, namely the poor, their share of the meal, the tzadikim get up from his table because one should not be a guest of a kamtzan (miser)… for the table he set for a festive meal is a table made in honor of himself, and not in honor God, and of him it is written, “And spread on your faces, even the dung of your feasts” (Malachi 2:3). Woe to that man when the guests of Faith stand back from his table. Abraham , who throughout his life used to stand at the crossroads to invite guests and set the table for them, sees that this person who set his table did not give the poor their share, he stands up and says: “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men” (Numbers 16:26), and the rest of the supreme guests walk away after him… one must not say, ‘First I will eat and drink, and whatever is leftover I will give to the poor’, rather, first and foremost he should give to the poor. If he acts properly and gladdens the poor and satiates them, The Holy One blessed be He is happy with him, and each of the faithful guests bless him…”

Basic Reliability in Kashrut
Q: Rabbi, I know it’s a mitzvah on Chag to have guests in one’s sukkah and also to visit family members and friends, but when eating at other people’s sukkah, can I trust that they are strictly observant of the laws of kashrut?

A: In general, Jews who believe in Hashem and his Torah can be trusted in mitzvot. Consequently, the Torah commanded that every Jew, whether man or woman, fulfill the mitzvoth of kashrut by himself – slaughter his beasts and kasher the flesh from chalavim (forbidden fats), gid ha’nasheh (displaced tendon) and blood, and also set aside trumot and ma’asrot (tithes) from his fruits – without the supervision of a Kohen or Rabbi, and anyone who is a guest at another Jew’s house can trust him, and eat from his food.

Not only that, but according to the mitzvoth of the Torah even the Kohanim trusted every Jew and ate from their shechita (ritual slaughter), for indeed it commanded that every Jew who slaughtered a beast for himself, give the Kohanim as a gift the zero’a (foreleg), leḥayayim (jaw) and kevah (maw, or stomach). This is the meaning of our Sages statement: “One witness is believed in matters concerning ritual prohibition”, in other words, that a man can testify that his foods are kosher (Rashi, Yevamot 88a, s.v. “ve’amar”; Chulin 10b, s.v. “eid”). We also find that every Jewish man trusts his wife concerning nida on her say so (Tosafot, Gitin 2b s.v. “eid”), and as well, our Sages said: “The laws of hekdesh, terumot, and tithes are indeed essential parts of the law, and they were entrusted to the ignorant” (Shabbat 32a).

Two Conditions of Reliability
However, this basic trust depends on two conditions: first – that it is a person who knows how to fulfill the details of the mitzvoth. Therefore, for example, although a Jew is trusted when he says that he slaughtered his beast according to halakha, when a young man wishes to be a shochet (ritual slaughterer), he is accompanied to see that he knows how to slaughter properly (Chulin 3b; S. A., Y.D. 1:1). Also, when our Sages realized that amei ha’aretz (unlearned individuals) were not well versed in the laws of taharot (purity) and tumot (impurity), they enacted not to rely on an am ha’aretz in issues of tumah and tahara, unless he accepts upon himself before three witnesses to strictly adhere to its laws (Rambam, Metamme’ey Mishkav uMoshav 1: 1-5).

The second condition is that he does not disrespect the mitzvah. But if he is known to disrespect the mitzvah, he is not trusted. Therefore, when our Sages found in the Second Temple period that due to the high price of ma’asrot, many amei ha’aretz did not set them aside properly – they decreed that only those who pledged before three witnesses to be faithful to the laws could be trusted in matters of terumot and ma’asrot (Sota 48a; Yerushalmi, Sota 9:11; Rambam, Ma’aser 9:1).

In conclusion: When the hosts are known to be familiar with the rules of halakha and respect them, they can be trusted without asking questions.

The Need to Supervise Merchants
The basic trust of all Jews has to do with ordinary situations, such as a person hosted by his friend, who can rely on he is serving him kosher food. But when it comes to merchants, they need to be supervised, because of the economic temptation that could cause them to fail, as the Torah specifically warned merchants about measurements and weights that they be exact so as not to cheat with them, as written: “You must not keep in your house two different measures, one large and one small. You must have a full honest weight and a full honest measure. If you do, you will long endure on the land that God your Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 25: 14-15). Our Sages learned from the Torah’s emphasis “you must not keep” teaches that it is a mitzvah to appoint market inspectors (agradmin) to supervise the merchants measurements and weights, and to punish the scammers (Baba Batra 89a; Rambam, Geneva, 8: 20).

Even a Kohen, who mainly deals with matters of holiness, when confronted with a great temptation – he is not trusted. Therefore, our Sages instructed that if a bechor (first born kosher animal) attended to by a Kohen had a blemish that could be inflicted by a human, the bechor would not be permitted to be slaughtered and eaten without the Kohen bringing a witness to testify that the blemish had naturally developed. If there is no witness, the bechor is not permitted to be slaughtered, because there is concern that the Kohen may have inflicted the blemish to permit its slaughter, and to rid himself of having to look after it (S. A., Y. D. 314:1).

Also in the case of food sellers, where the merchant benefits from selling non-kosher food, he must be supervised. In recent generations, food production has become complex and segmented, to the point where it has become a resolute custom not to buy food whose kashrut is doubtful from a factory or a store that does not have a kosher certificate, even if the seller is known as someone who observes mitzvot (see, Meyshiv Davar 2:7, Igrot Moshe, Y.D. 4:1; Neharot Eitan 2:38; Minchat Asher 1: 37).

Indeed, there is no precise definition of the level of supervision required, but three basic rules guide the level of supervision. The first – the greater the temptation, namely, that by cheating the merchant profits more, the tighter supervision required. The second – the greater amount of people the merchant provides food for, the more rigorous his supervision must be, in order to prevent large-scale transgressions. Third – the greater the concern is about the severity of the prohibition, the tighter the supervision should be. Torah prohibitions are the most severe, followed by rabbinical prohibitions, and after them, prohibitions founded in minhag (custom). Consequently, the most stringent supervision is on meat where the temptation to deceive is huge since the price of kosher meat is double the price of non-kosher meat, and involves problems of Torah prohibitions. All the more so when it comes to a large-scale merchant.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: A Great Person Picking Up the Returning Light

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:74)

Gemara: Moshe merited to receive all of the [crowns], for it says right after [the matter of removal of the jewels]: “Moshe would take the tent …” Shemot 33:7).

Ein Ayah: Spiritual “colors” that spread in the souls of man differ in clarity according to the level of every individual who is prepared to have such a flow of light reveal itself. In regard to the lofty level accorded to those who accepted the Torah, everything emerged from the great light of Hashem’s lofty wisdom, which dwelled in the great soul of the master of prophets, the teacher of all of Israel (Moshe).

The highest quality is the light that reaches its deepest root and remains concealed. Its nature and value are inestimable. These were the types of colors in the heart and soul of every individual in Bnei Yisrael. The colors appeared as branches extending from the source of the light. They could not have received their colors in the high place that the choicest person was able to.

When this light was withdrawn due to sin, the light did not disappear; it actually returned to its source. This brought about a situation in which there was an increased recognition, desire, and energy that exceeds that which the nature of a normal person can imagine. This increase needed to be in the soul of the greatest prophet to compensate for the lacking that came to the world and the light that dimmed. The branches that were separated from the places to which they spread returned to their place. Since there was such an abundance of available light, it entered Moshe’s soul for safekeeping until Hashem’s light will be able to blossom and flower in Israel (see Yeshayahu 27:6). As the gemara said, Moshe merited and received the crowns.

Light in Hiding 

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:75)

Gemara: Hashem will return all [of the crowns] to us, as it says: “Those redeemed by Hashem will return and come to Zion with joy, with eternal happiness on their heads. Rejoicing and happiness will they achieve, and torment and disappointment will flee” (Yeshayahu 35:10) – the happiness of the distant past is on their heads (i.e., the crowns).

Ein Ayah: That which is embedded deep in the essential nature of a matter will not be eradicated as long as the matter has staying power. The internal, natural essence of Israel is the light of Hashem in their souls. Eternal happiness is the delicate internal sanctity that comes from the divine glow and the appearance of the highest manifestations of Hashem that man can grasp and use to strengthen him. This holy element within Israel was singularly defined and noticeable in Moshe, whereas throughout the generations, individuals in Israel had to develop and cultivate it.

Undoubtedly, we cannot lose our natural positive content permanently; rather, it just hides for an extended period of time. The many waves that pass over our heads, the persecution, and dangers are special national learning experiences that will cause a grand transformation at the End of Days. They will join together to return us to our natural qualities and enable us to embrace the light of repentance. The high level we reached when we said “na’aseh v’nishmah” will return to us when Hashem’s nation will be rebuilt to bring light to the world and be Hashem’s glory. This return is the happiness of old on their heads.

The Shamrak Report: UNRWA vs UNHCR Goals and Agenda

by Yona Levy Grosman
UNHCR – within a period of a few months, and no more than one year, all refugees acclimatize to their new home and begin to build their new lives. UNHCR considers "Family planning" as a very important issue for adapting to their new countries.
UNHCR Goal: Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. UNHCR provides basic material help and passes to the shelter countries all the other needs of the refugee.
UNRWA - creates total dependence on its support system for the refugees and their descendants, with no limit of time. It prevents rehabilitation resolutions in many cases.
UNRWA Goal - Its main goal is to educate and to execute the "Right of Return" to Palestine (which was designated to Jews as Eretz-Israel, the Land of Israel, in 1922 by the League of Nations). In order to achieve this goal, all means are valid; to preserve the refugees’ refugee status even though some of them receive citizenship in other countries. UNRWA works as an autonomous authority, to preserve its main programs - health, education as they have been for many decades.
Does UNHRC Care about Real Refugees?
The United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed three officials to conduct a fact-finding mission on how the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron) affect the lives of PA Arabs. Israel’s Foreign Ministry subsequently decided to sever its ties with the UNHRC, saying the decision stems from a series of unilateral moves that the "Palestinians" are trying to lead against Israel. (There are more than 50 million refugees world-wide! There is a shortage of shelters and food, and funds. They are waiting for UN assistance. For over 60 years UNHRC’s main focus is welfare of the fake Palestinian refugees, who are living in comfort of (cities) the so-called refugee camps. There was no agency to care about the Jewish refugees, thrown out of Arab states after the creation of Israel!)
Zionism is Jewish National Independence Movement!
Presented by www.shamrak.com (this box is available to sponsors)
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
I don't know when the last time you were truly shocked about the state of Jewry - the lack of guts in our leadership, the moral bankruptcy of so-called progressive leftist Jews... it is hard not to be dismayed! There are still plenty of Jews who are creative professionals, advocates and contributors to Jewry, Israel and broader society. But the numbers of Jews with no sense of self-preservation and self-respect, who are selling themselves short, is rising! They are self-indulgently endangering the rest of us and betraying our ancestral heritage for a trifle of recognition by enemies, who actually hate them. Their stupidity, ignorance and perpetual weakness, reminiscent with a galut mentality of our past suppression in Diaspora, are becoming unbearable. It is pathetic and dangerous!
Two rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Friday night. Around 6,000 Palestinians took part in Friday's demonstrations, throwing stones and explosives at several locations along the fence, and a Molotov cocktail hit a military jeep.
Israel is 'Stimulating' Economy of Gaza
1. Tens of thousands of lulav holders made in the Gaza Stripwere transferred into Israel. The holders are made out of palm leaves and are meant to bind together the lulav, a bundle consisting of a palm frond, myrtle branches and willow branches used in ritual services on the holiday of Sukkot.(Surely, they could be happily supplied by many African and Asian countriesWhy is Israel helping the enemy to survive?)
2. Israel is quietly allowing thousands of Palestinians to enterfrom the Gaza Strip to conduct business and work menial jobs, apparently as part of understandings with the ruling Hamas terror group aimed at preventing a fourth war in the blockaded territory. (Border attacks and rocket fire from Gaza is not war?)
Top Democrats to join PLO at conference critical of Israel! US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic members of Congress and elected officials plan to address the annual J Street National Conference later this month, also featuring speakers from anti-Israel organizations including IfNotNow, the New Israel Fund, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) national and central councils. (It is one step from becoming anti-Semitic – like what the Labour party in the UK has done!)
The Palestinian Authority has agreed to accept hundreds of millions of dollars ($430 million) in tax revenues collected by Israel months after declining them in protest. The PA had refused to accept the funds because Israel was withholding an amount equal to what the Palestinians pay to the families of prisoners and those killed in the conflict, including slain militants. The cash-strapped PA now appears to be retreating in the face of an economic crisis. (Why is Israel Financing EnemiesFunds could be better spent to compensate Jewish victims of terror and security requirements due to enemy terror!)
Israel wants to “share the land and find a way to live together” with the Palestinians, President Reuven Rivlin told Cardinal Leonardo Sandi, one of the highest-ranking Vatican diplomats. Knowing that Sandi is also going to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Rivlin asked him to convey his regards, and noted that Abbas had sent New Year greetings to the people of Israel.
Nearly all the members of the 22nd Knesset on Thursday arrived at the Israeli parliament ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, without 13 Members of Knesset (MKs). The Joint List, an Arab-majority party in the Knesset, announced its MKs would not attend the inauguration in protest of the rising violence in Arab communities and loss of life. (Enemies within have no loyalty to Israel! Arabs, fake Palestinians, kill each other and it is, as usual, the fault of Jews.)
Quote of the Week:
“Apart from those who have been virtually ‘blind’ since childhood, all the other moderate Zionists have long since understood that there is not even the slightest hope of ever obtaining the agreement of the Arabs of the Land of Israel to Palestine becoming a country with a Jewish majority.” - Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky, “The Iron Wall (1923)” - Those “moderate Zionists” have a short memory, and ignore reality! Unfortunately, ‘liberal’ Jews have never learnt the lesson from abuse by anti-Semitic beasts of Europe and terror that is being still committed against Jews by so-called Palestinians. Appeasement of the enemies does not work for Jews!
Anti-Semites of the UN Love Palestinians
Ron Prosor, former Israel's ambassador to the UN.
Unlike other refugees, the Palestinians have their own set of rules, their own funding and even their own international agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency or UNRWA. To paraphrase George Orwell, all refugees are equal, but some refugees are more equal than others.
In 2012, the United Nations spent six times more on every Palestinian refugee as compared to all other refugees. Like a favored child, the Palestinians have been on the UN’s permanent payroll for over 60 years and are entitled to every service from healthcare to housing and from food rations to education. When it comes to refugees from Syria or Somalia, responsibility falls to the host country to provide basic assistance.
While UNHCR’s approach teaches independence, UNRWA’s approach prepares the Palestinians to be lifelong dependents. Under UNRWA’s framework, Palestinians can continue to be called refugees long after they acquire citizenship and find permanent housing.
…By allowing refugee status to pass to Palestinian children and grandchildren, the number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned from a few hundred thousand in 1948 to over five million today. Left unchecked, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will continue to be added to the UN’s permanent payroll every year.
…If the current trend continues, then, in ten years there will be 6.8 million. The 10 million mark will be reached in 2035, when a Palestinian child born today will be 22 years old. And in 100 years, there will be 116 million Palestinian refugees!
This is clearly unsustainable, but the only ‘solution’ acceptable to the Arabs, to supporters of BDS, to a majority of UN members, and even to our local “Peace Fresno” organization is that all of these Arabs will ‘return to their homes’ in what is today Israel. In the meantime, their ‘oppression’ qualifies them to engage in violent actions.
...By making the Palestinians the poster children for international victimhood, the Arab states believe they hold a permanent trump card to defame and pressure Israel. While the Arab states are saturated in petrol dollars, the funds mysteriously dry up when it comes to assisting Palestinians and subsidizing UNRWA.
Scan the list of UNRWA’s top contributors and you’ll find it’s exclusively North American and West European countries.
To put it more bluntly: the US and the Europeans are contributing more than $650 million a year (2011 figure) to help the Arab nations build a weapon to use against the Jewish state. And the Arabs pay almost nothing! What a deal.
And it is more than simply a demographic weapon. UNRWA in Gaza supports Hamas in several important ways, particularly by way of its educational system. Teachers use books and materials supplied by the Hamas regime. Many Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniyeh, are graduates of UNRWA schools, and teachers sometimes moonlight as terrorists. (The international bigots ‘love’ only invented, fake Palestinians because they hate the existence of the Jewish state and Jews generally!)

Have we Learned to Learn Lessons?

by Victor Rosenthal

Israel’s Security Cabinet met on Sunday, according to reports, to discuss the Iranian threat and in particular the dangers exposed by the September 14 attack on a Saudi Arabian oil facility by Iranian cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft (UAVs or drones).

The Iranian attack was very successful in hitting key targets precisely, and in avoiding Saudi missile defense systems. It demonstrated advanced capabilities in coordinating the attack using multiple weapons systems. Although Israeli defensive capabilities are probably much better than those of the Saudis, the small number of critical power stations, industrial installations, communications facilities, airports, fuel depots, roads and more, means that a great deal of damage to Israel’s ability to fight, her economy, and daily life could be done even if a relatively small number of Iranian weapons were to find their targets. There are very important military targets, some of which I know about but won’t mention, as well as others that I don’t know about but the Iranians might. And then of course there is the Dimona nuclear reactor. Such an attack could be launched against Israel from Iranian bases in Iraq, which bring us within the range of the missiles used in the attack on Saudi Arabia.

PM Netanyahu reportedly asked that the defense budget be boosted by billions of shekels, in part to develop a better defense against cruise missiles. Although some might be tempted to attribute political motives to his statements, the comments by independent analysts Uzi Rubin and Uzi Even, as well as expressions of concern(albeit guarded) by defense officials, indicate that the danger of attacks by “low and slow” weapons like cruise missiles and drones should not be minimized.

If we needed to add billions to our budget, why wasn’t this known beforehand? I’m not reassured by those like Moshe Ya’alon, the shadow Defense Minister of the Blue and White party, who said that the attack on Saudi Arabia revealed “nothing surprising.” Let me remind readers of the way that warnings about the threat of tunnels under the Gaza border given by Naftali Bennett in 2014 were ignored by Ya’alon, who was Minister of Defense at the time.

Questions immediately arise: what would we do if a drone/cruise missile attack were aimed at our key infrastructure tomorrow? Do we know how many of Hezbollah’s missiles have already been modified to give them precision guidance capability? Do we have countermeasures in place?

It seems that there were significant things we didn’t know about Iranian capabilities before the attack on Saudi Arabia. How is it that the people who stole the nuclear archive out from under Iranian noses didn’t know about conventional weapons?

I understand that our strategic doctrine is not to preempt an attack unless it is truly imminent, because of expected international reactions. Is it possible that we will wait until precision-guided missiles are striking our airbases and critical infrastructure, or will we be able to realize the very great advantage of striking first?

Iran is preparing for the conflict by trying to improve the quantity and quality of Hezbollah’s rocket inventory, by positioning its proxy militias in Iraq and Syria, and by trying to set up missile launchers there. We are trying to stop them, but although we can slow them down, we can’t stop their progress entirely. The American withdrawal from Syria will probably result in gains for the Assad regime and Iran, in particular by allowing Iran to complete its “land bridge” through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

At this time of year, it’s impossible to forget the way Israel’s defense establishment was unprepared for the Yom Kippur war, the failures in intelligence gathering and – perhaps worse – the failure to translate intelligence into practical recommendations and to transmit it to the commanders in the field. For example, a new study by a former tank commander, Oded Meggido, explains how Israeli tank forces suffered great losses on the Egyptian front because they were not prepared to deal with infantry armed with effective anti-tank weapons. The IDF had already encountered “Sagger” shoulder-fired antitank missiles in the early 1970s, but “the information was not assimilated … practice drills were not carried out,” he said. “There was a shortage of machine guns,” necessary to protect tanks against infantry armed with antitank weapons. “Overconfidence,” “hubris,” “arrogance,” “negligence,” and “lack of professionalism,” are all expressions used by Meggido to describe the higher echelons of the tank corps in 1973.

I think these words could fairly be applied to our leadership today. The home front must be reinforced, as much against earthquakes as against enemy rockets, and it is barely being done. The security situation is often used as an excuse to put aside worries about social problems, the transportation infrastructure, and more. And yet, what percentage of their day do our politicians spend working on these questions as opposed to intriguing against their political opponents and defending themselves against such intrigues? How many buildings could be made more secure for the cost of one national election?

We would like to believe that today the lesson to learn lessons has finally been learned. We recall the war against Hezbollah in 2006, in which the IDF ground forces were seriously hurt by poor intelligence, logistical and communications failures, and incompetence at the highest levels, especially including the political echelon. As we draw nearer to the next war, which will be fought against an inventive and relatively sophisticated enemy, I wonder what, if anything, we have learned.

Succot: An Allegory

BS”D 
Sukkot 5780
by HaRav Nachman Kahana


Reb Yisrael and his sons erected their succah adjacent to the kitchen door of their palatial home in one of the Five Towns of Long Island, NY, as they had done for years in the past. But this year was different. Reb Yisrael had just learned from his rabbi that one of the reasons for residing temporarily in a succah is in case one’s destiny was decided on Rosh HaShana to be expulsion into galut, the departure from the comforts of home into the succah could be considered to be that galut.

Reb Yisrael, his wife and children left the warm comforts of their beautiful home and entered the succah with the knowledge that by taking up temporary residence therein, they would be absolved of any galut related sins.



As the family continued to reside in the succah, they got so used to the pleasant smell of the sechach (branches used to roof the succah) and the pretty pictures on the walls and the overhanging decorations, that they decided to remain there even after the chag! Even though they were able to peer into their permanent home with its luxurious amenities, electrical gadgets, and state of the art under floor heating units, thick hanging drapes, lush carpets and much more, they showed no interest in returning there.

As odd as it may seem, the family became accustomed to the crowded, cold interior of the succah. Their relatives and neighbors tried to point out the irrationality of what they were doing, but the very idea that this was galut did little to encourage the family to return home.

When their rabbi came to visit, it was surprising that he encouraged them to remain in the succah rather than to return home; because it was in the succah that the family felt comfortable and closely knit.

In the meantime, several strangers noticed that the previously brightly lit home was vacant, and they decided to move in as if it was indeed their own!

Reb Yisrael and his wife and children saw the strangers living in the house; but in veneration for the succah, they stubbornly bonded with the thin walls and dried out sechach and refused to leave.
The whole thing was so absurd. To leave such a beautiful home for the feeble, fallible construction of the succah, despite the fact that their beautiful home was beckoning them to return was beyond the understanding of any rational person.

Then came the stones thrown by the local anti-Semites who wanted to rid the neighborhood of this succah eyesore. Reb Yisrael and his family dodged them one by one and steadfastly remained in their fragile dwelling, rationalizing these acts as irrelevant nuisances.

Then came the terrible night when one third of the succah was torched by the local bullies. Reb Yisrael and his family were aware of what was happening, but their minds had become so warped that no amount of reasoning could move them. To them the succah was home and their home was galut.

Eventually the succah came crashing down, killing Reb Yisrael and his entire family in their beloved galut!

Chag Samayach
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5780/2019 Nachman Kahana

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Rav Kook on Parashat Ha'azinu: The Diversity of Israel

An anecdote relates how a certain Jew was stranded for many years on a deserted island. When he was finally rescued, he boasted of his many accomplishments on the island, including the construction of two synagogues.

“Very impressive,” responded his rescuers. “But why two synagogues?”

“This is the synagogue that I attend,” explained the man, pointing at one structure. “The other one is the synagogue I refuse to step foot in.”

The joke would not be humorous if it did not contain a kernel of truth. The Jewish people often seem to be “blessed” with an overabundance of infighting. Why is there so much division and conflict?

The Borders of the Nations
The song of Ha’azinu compares the heritage of Israel to that of the other nations of the world:

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance... He set up the borders of the nations, corresponding to the number of Israel’s children.” (Deut. 32:8)

What are these “borders of the nations”? And in what way do they correspond to the “number” of Jewish people?

Every nation is blessed with unique national traits. Each nation possesses special talents and makes a unique contribution to the world. This specialty may lie in the arts, sciences, organizational ability, and so on. The verse refers to these areas of specialization as “borders.”

All of the talents that can be found among the nations of the world also exist in the “number” - that is, in the diversity - of the Jewish people. Historically, we have seen that Jews were always at the forefront of a remarkably diverse range of professions and disciplines.



Seventy Souls
The Midrash describes the diversity of Israel by comparing the size of Jacob’s family who went down to Egypt - seventy souls - with the seventy nations of the world. This number represents the seventy archetypical souls, each with its own unique characteristics and talents. When God commanded Moses to organize leaders to govern the people, He told Moses to gather seventy elders (Num. 11:16). With these leaders, Moses brought together the people’s diverse range of outlooks and natural gifts.

The multi-talented diversity of the Jewish people, however, has a downside; it makes them more prone to internal friction and conflict. Each talent strives to express itself fully, often at the expense of other talents. The Sages noted that “The greater the person, greater his evil inclination” (Sukkah 52a). This insight is true not only for the individual, but also for the nation. When a nation is blessed with great talents, it has a greater potential for internal strife.

The Floating Palace
The Midrash uses a striking image as a metaphor for the Jewish people. It compares the nation to a palace constructed on top of many boats. As long as the boats are tied together, the Midrash notes, the palace will remain secure.

It is natural for each boat to try to make its own separate way in the sea. It is only the palace on top that keeps the fleet of boats together and ensures that they sail together in the same direction.

What is this palace? It is the force that guards against internal strife and unifies the Jewish people - the Torah itself. In its highest state, the Torah encompasses all areas of knowledge. The seventy elders, representing the full range of souls, gathered together to unite the people under one flag, “to perfect the world under the reign of God” (from the Aleinu prayer).

Diverse disciplines are harmoniously united when they can emphasize their contribution to the common good, as developed and refined under the guidance of the Torah. Then the diversity of the Jewish people becomes a blessing, as the nation is united via the root of its inner being - the Torah.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Orot p. 169, paragraph 6; Midbar Shur, pp. 110-115)

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

“Remember Days Long Gone - Ponder the Generations”

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir


“Remember days long gone by. Ponder the years of each generation. Ask your father and let him tell you, and your grandfather, who will explain it to you” (Deuteronomy 32:7). Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook would customarily repeat to his students that in our generation we have to learn and recognize “what we are and what our life means.” We have to know who the Jewish People are, what is unique about them and what is their destiny. Yet if we are to know “what we are,” we first have to learn history. As it says, “Remember days long gone by. Ponder the years of each generation.” Yet if you lack the strength to learn this on your own, you must “ask your father and let him tell you, and your grandfather, who will explain it to you.” “Your father” refers to the prophets, and “your grandfather” refers to the sages (Rashi, ibid.).

The history of mankind is not a random collection of events. It has a beginning and a purpose, and it is all connected to the existence and the centrality of the Jewish People. As it says, “G-d set up the borders of nations to parallel the number of Israel’s descendants” (32:8). He orders and apportions each of the nations of the world its rightful place on earth, and He does all this “parallel to the number of Israel’s descendants.” In other words, it is all in accordance with the Jewish People, who are the center of the world and of all mankind, and for whose sake the world was created. It is around them that the entire history of the world and of mankind revolves.

The Jewish People are the teachers and educators, the disseminators of the light of faith and knowledge to all mankind. “G-d’s own nation remains His portion. Jacob is the lot of His heritage” (32:9). Israel is a special nation, a chosen people. They are the nation of eternity. True, we are small in quantity, as it says, “You are among the smallest of all the nations” (7:7). Yet we are giants in “quality” – in the role we play and in the influence we have – past, present and future.

We are the nation of eternity, who recount and testify to G-d’s existence on earth. Thus, in the third and most important of the Torah blessings, we bless G-d “who chose us from among all nations and gave us His Torah.” We are a unique creation, as it says, “I created this people for Myself that they might tell My praise” (Isaiah 43:21). [The preceding is a synopsis of a talk given by Rav Tzvi Yehuda to soldiers in 1978]

Our nation has experienced the trauma of expulsion of Jews from Eretz Yisrael by their own brethren. That trauma has to arouse us to national repentance. Our weakness as a nation is not in the realm of economics or the army, but of the spirit. We established the State of Israel as a national home in order to solve the existential duress of the Jewish People in the exile. Yet there is no justification to establishing a national home just in order to eat and to drink and to be like all the nations, G-d forbid. The purpose of the State of Israel has to be drawn directly from the goal and purpose of the People of Israel. The world was created for our sakes, and a grave responsibility rests upon us for the world’s continued survival. In this generation, the generation of national rebirth, we see how the fallen Succah of David is rising up once more. Especially at this time, we must repent and return to ourselves and uncover our uniqueness. Thus we will be privileged to see with our own eyes the redemption of Israel and the fulfillment of G-d’s promise to Abraham: “I will make you a great nation… you shall be for a blessing… Through you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12).

G'mar Chatima Tova.
With blessings for a joyous Succot,
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

"My lesson will drip like rain; my word will flow like Dew"

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

My lesson will drip like rain; my word will flow like dew; like storm winds on vegetation and like raindrops on grass. (Devarim 32:2)

THERE IS ONLY one type of criticism, but two kinds of people to “receive” it. There is the person who “hears” it, and the one who doesn’t, or more accurately, CAN’T.

Of course there are many ways you can level criticism at someone, from “soft sell” to “all guns firing.” But at the end of the day, or rather, at the end of the criticism, the point is the same: something is wrong and needs to be changed.

When it comes to the receivers of criticism, there are “Windows” and “Walls.” Like real windows, these “Windows” let criticism in, and quite possibly, back out again. (“You’re criticizing me? Before you criticize me, look at your own life…”). Like real walls, these “Walls” just let any criticism directed at them ricochet right off.

With “Windows,” there is hope. These people may not change right away, but they will probably change over time, at least a little bit. There can BE improvement, and it is worth caring about what they do and how.

Not with “Walls,” though. These people are hopeless, so you might as well save your breath. Unless it is simply therapeutic to speak your mind no matter WHO listens, perhaps save your energy for something that DOES make a difference.

True, the Talmud says that a person has to protest when something is wrong even if they do not believe it will change anything (Shabbos 55a). In fact, it goes so far as to say that if you don’t at least say something, then you can end up being held responsible for their “sin.” Keep THIS is mind next time you find yourself shouting at a “WALL.”

Not all “Walls” are the same. Some might know better, but just refuse to face the less-than-nice facts about themselves. They’re insecure, and have a difficult time accepting that they are flawed, even though they so obviously are…even to THEM.

Then there are the Walls that are simply missing something. They lack some component that would allow them to see themselves in a true light. Whatever it is that allows a person to compare their behavior with a DECENT social norm in order to appropriately judge their actions, they lack. They just can’t tell that they’re doing something wrong.

About 30 years ago, a book came out that questioned the new standard of modesty winning over society. It bemoaned how things that used to embarrass people in public had become more acceptable, which is never good for mankind, not from God’s perspective. Shame had gone missing from many sectors of society, and some of that had even spilled over into the Torah world as well.

That was then. Today, something ELSE seems to have disappeared. It seems we’ve reached that point in the historical cycle (because the pattern has repeated itself many times already) when people lose touch with the world around them. Social context, for many, is vanishing.

A simple example. A person needs to park, but all spots close to their destination are taken. So, they park on the sidewalk instead, possible inconveniencing, or worse, endangering pedestrians. Or there is a small spot remaining that is only big enough for part of their car, so they park part of their car in it, and let the rest of their car remain sticking well into the street, blocking traffic, endangering people, and putting their own car at risk.

The other day, while at the local grocery store, a woman pulled into a convenient parking spot right in front of the store. What she failed to realize, as she got out of her car talking on her cell phone, was that the spot was left open because other drivers had noticed that parking there blocked the entrance to the parking lot itself!

So I stopped her in her self-absorbed tracks and pointed out her error. She turned around to verify what I was saying, returned to her car, and moved it. Had she already known this, and chose to ignore it, or had she been too involved in her reality to care how what she did affected others? I didn’t ask her that, and I doubt giving her mussar would have changed much anyhow.

But something I have noticed about many such people is that they are not malicious. They do not have ill-intent. In fact, a lot of times they think they are doing the right thing and helping out society with their convoluted way of thinking. They are, basically, very nice people.

That’s important, for a number of reasons. For one, it makes it easier to not get angry at them for their somewhat reckless behavior. It is always a lot more annoying when people know better but do worse. It’s also a little easier to put up with when the problem is generational, and not specific to a few individuals.

Furthermore, as we learn from the story of Yonah, read at Mincha on Yom Kippur, God also deals differently with sin that is committed from sloppiness versus sin committed from a lack of mental capability:

Now should I not take pity on Nineveh, the great city, in which there are many more than one hundred twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left…? (Yonah 4:11)

That’s certainly today. So many people do not know their right from their left, especially POLITICALLY, or - right from - wrong, SPIRITUALLY. And this saved Nineveh in Yonah’s time, and who knows how much it is saving OUR generation in OUR time!

The question is, but for how long? One of the straws that broke the camel’s back in Noach’s time was a general disregard for the wellbeing of others. The world can handle only so much selfishness before God decides to lower the boom on mankind. Innocence can spare a person time in Gehinom, but not necessarily in everyday life.

It is the way the world is made. For example, it doesn’t matter that the two drivers were trying to drive safely. When they hit each other, serious damage resulted, because that’s the laws of Physics. Likewise, Creation is built to handle only so much “Me-ness.” After that, it falls apart.

This is, perhaps, why such an integral part of Yom Kippur is asking forgiveness from others. We didn’t do it on Rosh Hashanah, but we certainly do it on Yom Kippur. We even have a special prayer, “Tefillah Zakah,” that we say before Kol Nidre with which we declare our forgiveness of others.

Why would a day of working hard on personal forgiveness start off with forgiveness of others? Why does God say that He won’t forgive us for wronging others if they haven’t first forgiven us, if not because how treat others is so integral to the purpose of Creation?

We’re not here to create “Me” generations.

We’re here to create “Others” generations.

So, maybe there is something missing from this generation that used to exist, either in education or in actual brain capacity. But we should work on reversing that and fast. God has patience with us. This is the time to fix that, especially as we become a bit closer to one another, leaving the privacy of our brick homes for the lack of privacy of our schach-covered “tents.”

Anecdotally, one of the highlights of Succos for me has been sitting in my succah while being able to hear other families singing Yom Tov songs. It created a sense of achdus—unity we don’t get the rest of the year. Now it is clearer that even this is more intended than incidental.

Gmar Chasimah Tovah and Chag Samayach.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

To Live in the Past and the Future simultaneously


by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
There are two major songs/poems that appear in the Torah. One is the great song of deliverance, which was the reaction of Moshe and the Jewish people to their being saved from the bondage of Egypt and the waters of Yam Suf. The other is that of this week's parsha, Haazinu. This song/poem is also authored by Moshe but this was composed at the end of the forty-year sojourn of the Jewish people in the desert of Sinai, as Moshe himself departs from life in this world.

The circumstances and certainly the tone of both songs are obviously different. The song of Yam Suf is a song of exultation, triumph and the relief of deliverance from a brutal foe and fate. But it is basically a poem of the past, what has already occurred and an acknowledgment of God's past goodness towards Israel.

This week, in Haazinu, the song is of much darker hue. It is visionary, prophetic and somber. It sees the great challenges of the Jewish future that lie before this people that Moshe so loved and loyally served. It is a song that will accompany the Jewish people throughout their long and tortured road of exile, persecution, survival and eventual triumph.

To our generation, standing as we do thirty-five centuries after Moshe spoke these words, this is a clear and incisive description of what has befallen us and our mission in the world. Haazinu is current events and not merely a recording of our past. Both poems of Moshe are essential to the furtherance of Jewish life and society. But they each transmit a different message.

The ability to live, so to speak, in the past and in the future at one and the same time is a particularly Jewish trait. The Jewish people have a long memory and collectively, even if not individually, we remember everything that has befallen us. Tragically for many Jews of our time this memory has failed and disappeared in our current society.

Only a minority of the Jewish world recites Moshe’s song at the Yam Suf in daily prayer services. The deliverance from Egypt and the splitting of the sea at Yam Suf are no longer even distant memories for large numbers of Jews. Forgetting the song of Yam Suf is tantamount to eventually excluding one’s self from Jewish life and society.

However, forgetting the song of Haazinu is even more damaging to the individual Jew and to the nation. Those who live only in the present and do not glimpse the greatness of the future truly cut themselves off from participation in that future. The poem of Haazinu promises us repentance and redemption, serenity and a better world.

Without such a vision and a belief that the song of Moshe here in Haazinu was accurate and true, the Jewish people could never have survived the long night of our exile and troubles. This song was "to be placed in their mouths" as the witness for all of our history and a valid proof of the just entitlements of our future. Our task is to rededicate ourselves to fulfill the goals of this great song of Haazinu in the blessed good year that is now upon us.

“You became Fat, Thick, and Corpulent”

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh


Rav Kook zt”l wrote in a letter to his father-in-law, the Aderet, who was the Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim:

I will reveal to you, Sir, even though it is probably not new to you, that I am afraid of what it says in Sifre Ha’azinu, “His land was filled,” etc., which is based on the pasuk, “You became fat, thick,” etc., which is three generations before the coming of Mashiach. You understand my thoughts. Nevertheless, G-d will do on behalf of His Name, and hasten the time of His salvation, “and Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.”

Rav Kook refers here to what it says in the Sifre on our parsha, on the pasuk, “Yeshurun became fat and kicked. You became fat, thick, and corpulent” (Devarim 32:15):

When they are satiated, they rebel. You find the same with the people of the generation of the flood, who rebelled against G-d only from food and drink and tranquility...

When Yisrael enter the Land, they are destined to rebel out of eating and drinking, and out of tranquility, as it says, “For I shall bring them to the Land that I swore to their forefathers, which flows with milk and honey, but they will eat, be sated, and grow fat, and turn to the gods of others.” (Devarim 31:20) Moshe said to Israel: When you enter the Land, take care that you do not rebel against G-d out of eating, drinking, and tranquility, as it says, “Lest you eat and be satisfied.” (8:12) What does it say about them, “Your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem, your G-d.” (8:14)...

Another interpretation, “You became fat, thick, and corpulent,” These are the three generations before the era of the Mashiach, as it says, “Its land became full of silver and gold ... its land became full of horses ... Then its land became full of false gods.”

The Sifre refers to what is said in the beginning of Yeshaya (2:7-9):

Its land became full of silver and gold, with no end to its treasures; its land became full of horses, with no end to its chariots. Then its land became full of false gods; each one of them bows to his own handiwork, to what his fingers have made. Humankind will have bowed and man will have humbled himself.

There are three stages in this moral decline. The first stage is when the land is full of money, wealth and economic boom. The second stage is the excessive and exaggerated use of money; there is no end to the horses and chariots, the cars and other luxuries. In the end comes the third stage, the most awful of all, “Its land became full of false gods,” when the silver and gold become society’s god. It is bowed down to and worshiped. These will be the three generations before the coming of the Mashiach. This is what frightened Rav Kook zt”l, because, as described in the Sifre, this was the root of sin already from the days of the flood – the chase after luxuries and love of money.

Chazal also saw this as the root cause of the destruction of the Second Temple:

Why was the first Temple destroyed? Because of the idolatry, adultery and murder that was in it. However, the latter one, we know that they toiled in Torah ... why were they exiled? Because they loved money and hated each other. (Tosefta, end of Menachot)

“One who seeks his lust will separate.” (Mishlei 18:1) One who is full of lust, loves himself. One who loves himself finds it hard to love his friend, because it always seems to him that his friend is encroaching upon him, and deprives him of what he deserves. Therefore, a lustful person separates from others and causes enmity.

The Netziv writes about this in the beginning of Sefer Devarim (4:17), “This was the love of money in the Second Temple, and it is still rampant among us.”

Yet, the conclusion of Rav Kook’s letter is optimistic: “G-d will do for His Name and hasten the time of His salvation, ‘and Hashem will be exalted alone,’ speedily, soon,” because the prophet Yeshaya also concludes this way: “Humankind’s haughtiness will be humbled and man’s arrogance will be brought down; and Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.” (2:17) In the end, everyone will understand how perverse this path of chasing after money is, and “On that day man will throw away his false gods of silver and his false gods of gold, which they made for him to prostrate himself.” (2:20)

American Jewry’s days of reckoning

by Caroline Glick

On September 29, President Donald Trump set out his nationalist political philosophy in his address before the UN General Assembly. Arguing that the nation-state is the best guarantor of human freedom and liberty, Trump set up a contrast between “patriots” and “globalists.”

“The future does not belong to globalists,” he said.

“The future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors, and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.”

Jewish nationalists, that is, Zionists, could hear their core convictions echoed in Trump’s statement. Israeli political philosopher Yoram Hazony made much the same argument in his book "The Virtue of Nationalism," which was published last year.

One of the regimes most opposed to nationalism is the Iranian regime. Iran’s leaders view the regime not as the government of the nation of Iran, but as the leader of a global jihad, which will end with the regime’s domination of the world, in the name of Islam – not Iran.

Anti-Semitism is one of the animating doctrines of Iran’s regime. The leaders ascribe to genocidal Jew-hatred. They use their commitment to annihilating Israel and war against the Jewish state as a means to build legitimacy for their regime and revolution throughout the Islamic world.

In his speech, Trump highlighted the regime’s anti-Semitism and its commitment to annihilate Israel.

Trump also excoriated the Arab world for refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist, saying, “Fanatics have long used hatred of Israel to distract from their own failures.”

Trump pledged, “America will never tolerate such anti-Semitic hate.”

Rather than earning him plaudits, American Jews were caustic in their response to Trump’s speech. Britain’s Independent reported that several American Jews condemned Trump’s speech as anti-Semitic. For instance, Laura Seay, a political science professor in Texas tweeted, “So … Trump condemns anti-Semitism in the same speech he started with anti-Semitic code language like 'globalism.'"

A couple of weeks before Trump delivered his address to the UN, the leaders of the Reform movement published a pre-Rosh Hashanah statement on the movement’s website. Rather than concern themselves with Jewish continuity or spiritual renewal, the statement was a long diatribe against Trump.

Among other things, they alleged, “Since taking office, President Trump’s words and actions have sowed division, spread fear, and expressed hateful views that go far beyond the legitimate expressions of policy differences that characterize healthy political debate.”

The question is, what has the Reform movement done for American Jews? According to a few hundred Jewish demonstrators who congregated outside New York City Hall on September 22, the answer is: Nothing.

The purpose of the demonstration was to demand that city officials take effective action to stem the rising wave of anti-Semitic attacks in the city.

According to a report published in May by the New York Police Department, from January through May of this year, New York City experienced an 83% rise in hate crime. 59% of hate crimes in the city are directed against Jews. And anti-Semitic attacks have risen 90% in the past year.

Among the participants, Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America was the only leader of a major Jewish organization. Aside from two New York City councilmen, no Jewish politicians attended the event. New York Senator Charles Schumer wasn’t there. Neither were any of the Jewish representatives from New York.

The Union of Reform Judaism also didn’t send a representative.

It isn’t difficult to understand why almost every Jewish leader ignored the rally. The Jews under assault aren’t their sort of Jews. And the people attacking them aren’t their sort of anti-Semites.

The Jewish victims in New York are not Reform Jews. They are ultra-Orthodox Jews. And they don’t live in Manhattan. They live in Brooklyn.

Shortly after the NYPD released its hate crimes report, New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio held a press conference in Brooklyn. There he insisted that the anti-Semitic assaults are the work of the far right. In his words, “I think the ideological movement that is anti-Semitic is the right-wing movement.”

He added, “I want to be very, very clear, the violent threat, the threat that is ideological is very much from the right.”

Unfortunately for De Blasio, there are no neo-Nazis in Crown Heights and Williamsburg. The perpetrators of the attacks against his city’s Jewish community are not Trump voters. They are his voters.

Most of the perpetrators are African Americans, and as such, like the Reform Jews, they are members in good standing of the progressive camp in American politics.

The liberal Jewish establishment in America is far more comfortable talking about neo-Nazis than black anti-Semites. That is a large part of the reason that in its annual reports on anti-Semitic attacks in the United States in 2017 and 2018, the Anti-Defamation League tried hard to give the impression that most anti-Semitism in the U.S. emanates from the political right, and is inspired by President Trump. But the facts point to a different conclusion.

Last month the Amcha Initiative, which documents, investigates and combats anti-Semitism on college campuses, published its 2018 report on-campus anti-Semitism. The report revealed that classic anti-Semitic attacks – that is, right-wing anti-Semitic attacks – decreased 42%. In contrast, 2018 saw a 70% increase in leftist anti-Semitic attacks on campuses.

The report’s most alarming finding is that faculty members are playing a central role in propagating and inciting anti-Semitism on campuses by pushing academic boycotts of Israel. Their decisive role – and the fact that their actions are largely backed by university administrators – indicates that anti-Semitism has become institutionalized in American academia.

Rather than fight against this dangerous state of affairs, major Jewish groups have been diffident in their responses. While anti-Israel groups like J Street oppose legislative initiatives to penalize companies that boycott Israel, other liberal groups, like the ADL sit on the fence. They give lip service to anti-BDS laws while grousing incoherently that supporting the penalization of those who discriminate against Israeli Jews somehow breaches the First Amendment or otherwise causes undefined harm to the Jewish community.

The frustrating fact is that these liberal Jewish organizations could make a difference if they wished. If major Jewish groups, including the Reform movement, were to wage a serious, sustained campaign against U.S. academia’s institutionalization of anti-Semitism, liberal politicians would be doing much more than they have been to combat the phenomenon.

Notably, as they hem and haw, the same Trump administration which the liberal Jewish establishment regularly accuses of unleashing anti-Semitism is taking steps to curtail the scourge of academic Jew-hatred.

Last month, for instance, the Education Department sent warning letters to Duke University and to the University of North Carolina after they used federal funds to finance an anti-Semitic conference.

Which brings us to the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. The attacks against the Jews of Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Boro Part are serious and growing more frequent.

Jews walking down the streets are beset by assailants who call them “Dirty Jew” and beat them with sticks and fists. Jews are sideswiped with bricks. Jewish women are assaulted, their head coverings violently removed. Synagogues are vandalized.

The violence against the Jews of Brooklyn is reminiscent of the black community’s violent pogrom against the Jews of Crown Heights in 1991. In August 1991, more than 180 members of the Chabad community were injured in a three-day, four-night pogrom carried out by African and Caribbean American rioters. Yankel Rosenbaum, a visiting student from Melbourne, Australia was brutally beaten and stabbed to death.

One of the main black leaders who incited the pogrom was Rev. Al Sharpton, the self-styled civil rights leader. Despite the fact that Sharpton never apologized for stirring up the mass violence against the Jews and then maintaining it for days after it first began, over the past decade, Sharpton has risen in stature in the Democratic party to the point where Democratic presidential hopefuls make pilgrimages to him in the hope of securing his endorsement. MSNBC gave him a show.

And, in recent months, as the Jews of Crown Heights again absorb blows from their African American neighbors, the Reform Jewish movement has joined Sharpton’s fan club.

On Rosh Hashana, the tony East Side Synagogue honored Sharpton at its service. In May, the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement held a conference in Washington, DC titled “Consultation on Conscience.” They invited Sharpton, whom they touted as a “civil rights leader” to speak.

Rosenbaum’s brother Norman Rosenbaum decried the RAC’s decision to invite Sharpton in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. “Sharpton has never apologized or shown any remorse for his actions during the 1991 Crown Heights Pogrom,” he noted.

“How pathetic it is that the Religious Action Center’s conference is titled ‘Consultation on Conscience.’ That organization, in having Al Sharpton speak, only demonstrates that it has none,” he concluded.

The liberal Jewish leadership’s decision to pretend away progressive anti-Semitism is not unhinged. As a decade of survey data has shown conclusively, their communities are in a state of demographic collapse. With the lowest fertility rates in America, with the majority of non-Orthodox Jews intermarrying and with Jewish literacy at an all-time low, the liberal Jewish establishment seeks to retain its members by embracing their lowest common denominator. That commonality is not Judaism. It is progressivism. Whereas the 2013 Pew survey of American Jews showed that a mere 19% of American Jews believe that observing Jewish law is an essential part of what it means to be Jewish, 56% said working for justice and equality is an essential part of Judaism.

In light of the data, facing mass assimilation and a membership with an increasingly weak sense of Jewish identity, many non-Orthodox Jewish communities now conflate progressive politics with Jewish identity. By serving as a political outlet for their members, the apparent thinking goes, these non-Orthodox communities hope to retain their members.

The problem with this strategy is that with anti-Semitism rapidly becoming a major component of progressive politics, the more strongly liberal Jews embrace progressivism, the less capable they become of defending their Judaism – much less defending their fellow Jews who aren’t progressive. And if nothing changes in the trajectory of progressive politics, sooner rather than later, liberal Jews will be forced to abandon either their Jewish identity or their progressive identity.

For the American Jewish community to survive this clash, the leaders of the community need to begin fighting for their rights as Jews. Unfortunately, at present, there is little reason for optimism.