Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Rav Kook on Shemot: The Inner Trait of Goodness

When Moses expressed his doubts as to whether the people would believe he was indeed God’s messenger, God gave him a sign to prove his authenticity - but a sign which implied displeasure in Moses’ lack of faith in his people.

What was the sign? Moses’ hand temporarily became white with tzara’at (leprosy). A miraculous sign, to be sure, but tzara’at is an affliction that defiles - a clear indication that Moses was being chastised.

The Sages noted a subtle discrepancy between the Torah’s description of Moses’ hand turning leprous and its subsequent return to normalcy. 

The first time, Moses took out his hand “and behold! his hand was leprous like snow” (Ex. 4:6). Then Moses placed his hand inside his robes a second time, and when he had “removed it from his chest, his skin had [already] returned to normal” (Ex. 4:7).

A careful reading of the text indicates that the two transformations occurred differently. The leprosy took hold after Moses removed his hand from his robe; but his hand reverted to its normal color even before he had taken out his hand, while it was still inside his robe. Why should there be a difference between the two?

From here, the Sages concluded,

“The Divine trait of tovah [goodness] comes more quickly than the trait of puranut [suffering or punishment]” (Shabbat 97a).

What does this mean? Why should one trait be faster or better than another?


Transcending the Limits of Time

There is in fact an essential difference between these two facets of Divine providence. The attribute of tovah is the very foundation of the world. Divine goodness is the goal of all existence; it is united with the very source of life. For this reason, this trait transcends the restrictions of time and place. Even when it descends into our finite world, a reality bound by time and place, we may still sense its elevated, limitless source.

This is the meaning of the Talmudic statement, “The trait of goodness comes more quickly.” The attribute of tovah reveals an inner light, free from the restrictions of time and place. Ezekiel described this phenomenon in his sublime vision of angelic creatures “running and returning, like rapid flashes of lightning” (Ezek. 1:14).

The trait of puranut is a different story. Puranut is not an intrinsic aspect of reality. It is ancillary and transitory. Its value is only to serve the good, to “refine the vessels” so that they will be able to receive the flow of Divine goodness in all of its abundance.

As a result, puranut is subject to the limitations of time and place, and its manifestation is delayed.


The True Nature of Israel

While Divine goodness is integrally connected to the inner essence of life, puranut relates to its superficial aspects. The more we distance ourselves from the true reality, the more our worldview becomes filtered through the lens of puranut. Seeing the world as a place of judgment and suffering is a perception emanating from distortions of the imagination. It does not focus on the true nature of reality, but on its external appearance.

Precisely here - as God taught Moses the true inner nature of Israel, beneath the cloak of outer appearances - the superficiality of puranut was unveiled. Moses’ arm only looked leprous after it was exposed to the outside light. In the realm of true essence, there is no place for suffering and harsh punishments; this trait belongs to the realm of superficial appearances.

Moses’ hand was restored to its original healthy state as soon as he placed it “inside his chest” indicating that the attribute of goodness reflects the inner essence of reality. It is connected to the root of creation, transcending all limitations of the finite universe. Therefore Divine beneficence is not restricted by the framework of time and “arrives quickly.”

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. IV, p. 243)

A Scintillating “Reality Show” by the Press


By HaRav Yisrael Rosen 
Dean of the Zomet Institute

“I am not a man of words... I am slow of speech and with a slow tongue” [Shemot 4:10].

Reality Drama

Lately we have been subjected to a “reality show” run by the press, with the well-known stars Bibi (Netanyahu, the Prime Minister) and Noni (Mozes, the publisher of the newspaper Yediot Acharonot). You can call it, “ Bibi, Noni, and Friends.” It can be assumed that until this article is published, this “little brother” will become more and more dramatic, day by day. This “reality” event, almost-true as it is, recorded and staged, will excite the imagination of all those who enjoy shows full of tension caused by clashes and friction. As is so typical of “reality,” they provide perfect background material for analysis and commentators and commentators on the commentators who spend their lives in the “reality bubble.” In the end, the ultimate judge (which, as is well known, is the press itself), prodded by public opinion, will provide a verdict – and decide who if anybody will be cast aside with the cruelty of a gladiator from the public eye. Perhaps they will all be cast aside, sent out of the arena, accompanied by the wild cheers of an excited audience, “couch potatoes” all.

In case I have bewildered you, my readers, with my extremely complex wording, let us go down a step and speak plainly: My “fondness” for the press is well known. The people who sit there see themselves as all-wise, and they are sure that the entire world is fashioned by their actions. They constantly interview each other. Just check the high level of internal interviews in the media: written, broadcast, on screens, and online. That is how new stars are born, and the “reality” existence is created (as opposed to real life). In their world the people are convinced that they mold public opinion, that they alone build and destroy alternate worlds. For example, they are in charge of “reality” shady plans for “keeping a Prime Minster happy” and allowing him to sleep in peace, since after all they are in “complete control.” They set the daily public agenda, based on daily and nightly news broadcasts.

But I, miniscule as I am, am willing to declare that I have no respect for this mythological world, or for the endless stream of “analyses.” Except for the “media elites,” I am sure, for example, that the vast majority of the public have no interest whatsoever in the complex interactions between Gabi Ashkenazi, Boaz Harpaz, and Yoav Galant, which so occupied the media, confused us no end, and gave work to the best “analysts.” Nobody remembers at all whether this affair is over, and what decisions were made. This is of course only one example out of many more.

Bibi-Noni

As far as I am concerned, all of the above is true of the current hullabaloo about Bibi and Noni. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the public views the material in the same way as the foolish audiences with extra time on their hands who so avidly watch “Big Brother.” This is something of an upgraded version of “This is Your Life.” So Nuni and Bibi said and hinted, “engaged in some horse-stealing,” made secret recordings, traded in public opinion (which they presumably control) and Knesset laws (which they seem to control), and shook hands or put a knife in each other’s backs, whispered in “smooth” language, made advances towards each other in a very ungentlemanly way, threw the “Jinjy” to the dogs, and perhaps even smoked cigars and drank champagne. Well, that is very interesting, full of suspense and super-drama, but it all has absolutely no significance.

We are a democratic country, thank G-d. Public opinion is not the result of coercion, voting in elections does not follow the party line of a newspaper named “Pravda” – just as the pre-election polls in the United States so clearly showed! Our people are healthier than all of the deal-makers who think that they can control the boorish people according to the desires of the media elites.

We can conclude as follows: I propose to the State Attorney and his office, and the police,to ignore this entire affair, which is no more than a “reality show” for simple folks and a “pound of flesh” for the media professionals. The citizens, and even the MK’s, know better than to pay any attention to this matter!

* * * * * *

Moshe, the ultimate leader, had a gift that might be considered anti-media. He was “slow of speech” and had “a slow tongue,” as noted in the quote above. Many commentators, both early and modern, saw this as a lesson to be learned from the one who brought us the Torah – to contradict those who mistakenly claim that the leadership at a time of redemption must have superior oratorical skills.

We also learn from the Midrash that Moshe was not born with this trait (a lack of media skills) but acquired it from the blow of an angel who pushed his hand away from a shiny golden goblet (is this a reference to physical pleasures? – was it filled with whiskey?), and turned him towards a burning coal. This provided a promise of true leadership qualities, not “reality” speech.

(Written after the end of Shabbat, Torah portion of Vayechi.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Descent of the Nations

BS”D 
Parashat Shemot 5777
By HaRav Nachman Kahana


As we depart from the weekly Torah readings of Beraishiet, one would not be adverse to feeling akin to post-partum depression due to the frustrating imbalance between the book’s beginning and its last chapters. The Torah begins with the overwhelming, mind-challenging phenomena of creation and closes with the death and internment of Yosef, signaling the beginning of Am Yisrael’s subjugation.

The steep descent from the Olympus of HaShem’s creativeness ex nihilo (yesh mai’ain – something out of nothingness) to the denigration of the family of Yisrael is inconsistent, incompatible, and incongruous with HaShem’s ability to fulfill of His promise to our forefathers that their descendants would be His chosen people.

However, what might appear as the rapid descent of HaShem from ultimate Creator to apparent apathy and lack of involvement in “Jewish” affairs as the Children of Israel descend into the cesspool of slavery, is in total error.

The book of Beraishiet begins with HaShem the master creator, and in fact ends with the same aggrandizement, ennoblement, and exaltation of His powers to produce ex nihilo.

At the beginning of the book, HaShem creates matter when there was no dissidents or resistance to His intention. At the end of the book, HaShem continues to create in a more complex set of circumstances.

Here begins the process of creating out of 70 free-will idolatrous coarse, crude, egotistic, narcissistic, self-obsessed, pompous, prideful, self-complacent, vain, murderous nations, one unique nation that will be destined to achieve sanctity over and beyond the level of the heavenly angels.

The creation of this holy nation from out of the 70 gentile root nations is no less dramatic than the creation of matter from nothingness; if only because no human eye witnessed the act of creation, whereas the survival and spiritual evolution of Am Yisrael gathers form in every generation, notwithstanding the efforts expended by the gentiles to challenge HaShem’s declaration at Sinai (Shemot 19,5-6):

ועתה אם שמוע תשמעו בקלי ושמרתם את בריתי והייתם לי סגלה מכל העמים כי לי כל הארץ:
ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש אלה הדברים אשר תדבר אל בני ישראל:
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation.

This week, in Paris, France, representatives of 70 nations gathered to dictate to Am Yisrael the parameters of our future in Eretz Yisrael; what we may or may not do in our own land.

The number 70 is more than symbolic. It is a total replay of humanity’s repeated attempts to revolt against HaShem by degrading and trampling His people Yisrael in the holy land.

HaShem created humanity and all that exists ex nihilo – from nothing – by their hatred toward Am Yisrael, the gentiles will determine their destiny as they revert back into nothingness!


Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5777/2017 Nachman Kahana

The Shamrak Report: The Paris Conference - Another anti-Israel Assault!


Representatives from some 70 countries and organizations have attended the Paris conference, including 40 foreign ministers from many Arab and Western countries. For outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry, this was the last international event he attended before his term ends on January 20. Kerry’s participation in the conference gave Hollande the much-awaited US seal of approval for the conference. (At the same time, Kerry gained even more credit from Iranian and Arab sponsors)
The major international participating players to be concerned about were: the Quartet (United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations), the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Europeans and G20 countries. (The usual bunch of international anti-Semites!)
“It’s a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances,” Netanyahu said. “This pushes peace backward. It’s not going to obligate us. It’s a relic of the past. It’s a last gasp of the past before the future sets in.” (Where anti-Semitism is a concern, the French do not need help from anybody)
US President-elect Donald Trump's advisers told senior French officials during a New York meeting that they object to the very holding of the conference, especially so close before Trump's inauguration. 
Israel decided a few months ago to boycott the conference. Senior Israeli officials slammed the French government and the conference, calling it “futile”, adding that Israel would not consider itself bound by a single word of the closing statement. (The well preconceived anti-Israel concluding statement predictably insists that everything outside the 1967 borders belong to the fake Palestinians. History and international laws are, as usual, ignored)
“France is positioning itself as a principal political player on the global arena, garnering both international and domestic dividends over this conference. But we have seen how the international community operates vis-à-vis Israel; with two anti-Israeli decisions at UNESCO, UN Security Council Resolution 2234 and different decisions by the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. This conference will not advance the two-state solution,” said Israel’s Ambassador to France Aliza Bin-Noun. 
(International powers and minor players do not care about fake Palestinians or their imaginary statehood! They play their global anti-Semitic game to position themselves in the game of global political and economic affiliations, sacrificing the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state in the process!
At the end, they came with the same anti-Israel solutions and condemnations! As Albert Einstein said: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." The nature of anti-Semites will not change, as long as Israel is looking for their approval instead of doing decisively what is right for the future of Jewish people!)

A new Palestinian Authority embassy is to open at the Vatican. The inauguration of the embassy, has be attended by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. The Vatican officially recognized the Palestinian Authority as an independent Arab country a little more than a year and a half ago in a move that was slammed by Israel’s foreign ministry. (Israel must retaliate! There are many options available. Protests do not work against anti-Semites. Cut off the Vatican from their holy sites!)
Food for Thought by Steven Shamrak
Under 'Obama rule' the anti-Semitic world shook off Holocaust guilt and began planning the next one! For quite a while they were waiting for the opportunity to unleash a new assault on Jews. Vilification of Israel, support for fake people is part of the anti-Semitic/Nazi plan! Now American and European schools are dropping Holocaust study, with the excuse it is to avoid offending Muslims Why should Muslims be offended by Holocaust study? They played a minor role in it before 1947. It is the Nazis and all European anti-Semites who did it, with co-operation from the US and the rest of the world! That is why they have never been comfortable with this curriculum.
Housing and construction minister, Yoav Galant - a former IDF general, calls for legislation that would give the interior minister authority to expel families of terrorists and revoke their national insurance benefits: "We need to kill the terrorist, demolish his home and expel his family" (The Israeli anti-Zionist legal fraternity is too busy persecuting Jewish patriots, to care less about changing the law to reduce enemy terror!)
In an interview with i24 News, Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said that: “Peace is not a Palestinian interest, it’s an international interest, and the interest of the world is to put an end to this struggle. I think it’s also an Israeli interest – Israelis should decide whether they are part of the Middle East or an alien body. If Israel is an alien body it should be removed.” (That is why I propose the Sinai Option – Israel’s only peace solution!)
Barack Obama has now enabled Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, to speed ever-closer toward successful attainment of nuclear weapons, approving a secret delivery of roughly 130 tons of uranium from Russia - the uranium could be enriched to enough weapons-grade uranium to build over 10 simple nuclear bombs! (His parting gift to the country, which vowed many times to destroy Israel and the US!)
Moroccan Burqa manufacturers and retailers were issued written warnings this week of their obligation to cease making and/or selling the garment. Representatives of the Moroccan Interior Ministry visited markets to hand-deliver the written notices to vendors and tailors. Le360 published a copy of the notice, which warns: “Based on observations by the authorities, we notice that you sell burqas – and so we call on you to get rid of the products of this outfit within 48 hours and refrain from selling it in the future.” 
Most of the terrorists who used firearms used homemade weapons, which were bought cheaply and easily from Arab dealers. Weapons factories and caches are often built under homes, and use the "lift-the-tile" trapdoor method for entry. As a result of Israel's crackdown on illegal weapons factories in Judea and Samaria and Bedouin caches of stolen weapons, prices for illegal weapons have risen significantly.
Quote of the Week:
“Once and for all, DEFEAT the Jewish enemy! You poor fools are your OWN worst enemy. Jews will never be happy... ever... If you attained dominion over the entire earth (re: “Israel leader of the nations”)and there was no one left to blame for your problems, you'd all just turn on each other. No one of intelligence takes anything you people say seriously.” – Non-PC message from a non-Jewish friend, I guess – I agree: 1) To secure the future of Jewish people and integrity of the Jewish land, Israel must deal with the enemies decisively, disregarding the opinion of international anti-Semites! 2) Unity and self-respect of Jewish people and communities are paramount to our success and survival!

Voices of FaceBook
Most people are disgusted with Israel’s military court, which found Sgt. Elor Azaria guilty. The following is an extract of FaceBook opinions:
Max E: Apparently most soldiers ran away and didn't open fire at this morning Jerusalem ramming attack... It looks like the soldier Azariya verdict did embolden the terrorists! It demoralized and endangered our soldiers and citizens! The left is complaining about morality? Well guess what, there is absolutely nothing more immoral than endangering your own people.
Natalie F: So a TOUR GUIDE eliminates a terrorist, because the military is too afraid to shoot? Is the tour guide gonna be arrested now?! It's like the patients running the damn insane asylum! Houston we have a problem!
Avi A. J. M: I'm not judging the soldiers. I'm judging the commanders, the politicians and the justice system who have instilled in our soldiers to be afraid to shoot! I don't blame the soldiers at all - they are being trained with an immoral code of honour to be afraid to shoot! And I know this because every time I go to miluim we get the same horrible rules of engagement that make us realize that in cases where we shoot, we very much likely will be taken away to a military court!
Eli E: Lets not turn against each other we are all angry and upset. Bless the souls of those who were killed in this senseless attack
Denise D: Terrible, now they can't use their force shame shame too Israel and jurisdiction!
Roger F: I am having a hard time controlling my anger, watching the video and then seeing Arabs celebrating a "victory". Clearly there should be more people shot than the driver.
Nicholas S: It shows how the deranged left destroy the nation by destroying the morale of its armed forces...
Susie F: Elor's a MARTYR, there ought to be a NIL TOLERANCE to any TERRORISTS...
Rebecca R. V.: I'm ready to launch a massive protest in Israel to stop this nonsense. The more leverage the Muslims are given, the less right Israelis have. This is ISRAEL, not the Middle East and I DO NOT want to hear anymore about this freaking "PALESTINIAN" right nonsense either. THEY DO NOT EXIST!!! Why are they not returning to the Middle East? Europe and America should shut their doors on them too. They have their own homeland and it's time they accepted that.
Frank C: Friedman is the perfect choice for Ambassador to Israel. He is savvy, smart, absolutely committed to Israeli American relations and the security and sovereignty of Israel. He will also call out and expose the Kapos of J-Street, and all the other Soros funded and socialist controlled pseudo Jewish groups who genuflect to the Arabs and their anti-Semitic allies.

The Non-Zionist Zionist

By Shmuel Sackett

I attended a lecture recently on the life of the incredible Klausenberger Rebbe, Yekusiel Yehuda Halbertsam ztz”l. The Rebbe lost his wife and all 11 children in the Holocaust plus his mother, sisters, brother and 150 close relatives.

Although he was broken and shattered, he became the leader of the Jews in the DP camps. As unbelievable as it sounds, the Rebbe managed to turn the DP camp of Fohrenwald (in Munich, Germany) into the center of religious life. He created a survivor’s organization called “She’iris Ha’Pletah” (the surviving remnant) which ran Yeshivos in 19 different DP camps! The Rebbe set up a slaughterhouse, built a mikveh, distributed tzizit, tefillin and mezuzot and set up Halachic guidelines for men and women to marry who had no proof of their spouse’s death which enabled them to remarry and start a new family.

I enjoyed this lecture immensely, especially since it was given in Netanya - the very town where the Rebbe built his Chassidus after the war! It’s not every day you learn about a Jewish hero who refused to quit. This unbelievable, holy Yid never stopped serving Hashem with all his might. He remarried, had 7 more children and rebuilt his Chassidus bigger than ever before.

I always knew that the Klausenberger Rebbe settled and built the Kiryat Sanz section of Netanya. What I did not know, however, was that the Rebbe first came to America after WWII (1947) and started rebuilding his Chassidus in Brooklyn. He was quite successful in Williamsburgh although he always dreamed of moving to Israel. In 1958 he established the Kiryat Sanz neighborhood of Netanya and the Rebbe made Aliyah in 1960, with most of his Chassidic followers from Brooklyn. He lived in Israel until his passing in 1994.

His life in Israel was – once again – one of building, growing, inspiring and motivating. He built Yeshivas, Shuls, Mikvehs and the very famous “Laniado Hospital” – which is run 100% according to Halacha. The Rebbe insisted that there be a clause in the contract of all hospital employees forbidding them to strike, which is still in effect to this very day. Not too long ago, a nationwide hospital strike was declared in Israel, and all hospitals shut down… except Laniado! The hospital encompasses two medical centers, a children’s hospital, a geriatric center and a nursing school.

After the lecture was over there was a short time for Q&A and a question came from a woman that absolutely floored me. Although I am certain that she intended the question in a well-meaning way, her five word question stunned me. She asked; “Was the Rebbe a Zionist?”

I certainly knew what the woman meant; Did the Rebbe say “Hallel” on Yom Ha’Atzmaut? Did the Rebbe wave a big Israeli flag? Did the Rebbe serve in the IDF? To all these questions, I am sure the answer is “NO” but – after listening to a one hour lecture of what he did in his life – in my humble opinion, the Klausenberger Rebbe was the biggest Zionist I ever heard of!!

Let’s review for a moment: He was living in Williamsburgh with his new wife and several children. After experiencing the worst 10 years imaginable, his life was finally calm and peaceful. He was returning the Sanz-Klausenberg chassidus to life with new energy and new hope. He, somehow, managed to pick up the broken pieces of his dreams and glue them back together. Yet, the Rebbe was not satisfied. Something was missing and that something was a life in Eretz Yisrael.

In the mid 50’s he sent a few of his chassidim to find a suitable location and after several years the perfect place was found; a large plot of land adjacent to the northern tip of Netanya. These chassidim were instructed to look in non-Haredi locations. He was not interested in building his chassidus in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak or Tzefat. Although the Rebbe loved those places very much, he specifically wanted an area that was not known to be a religious. His dream was to bring Torah to a new place and invigorate it with the soul and spirit of chassidus.

In 1960 he moved to Israel with his entire family and most of his chassidim. And then, after turning an empty plot of land into a major center of Jewish life, he moved on to his next project; the building of a hospital. Please read a translation of the words said by the Rebbe (in Yiddish) at the laying of the cornerstone of the hospital:

“I was saved from the gas chambers, saved from Hitler. I spent several years in Nazi death camps. Besides the fact that they murdered my wife and 11 children, my mother, my sisters and my brother – of my whole family, some 150 people, I was the only one who survived – I witnessed their cruelty. I remember as if it were today how they shot me in the arm. I was afraid to go to the Nazi infirmary, though there were doctors there. I knew that if I went in, I'd never come out alive. … Despite my fear of the Nazis, I plucked a leaf from a tree and stuck it to my wound to stanch the bleeding. Then I cut a branch and tied it around the wound to hold it in place. With God's help, it healed in three days. Then I promised myself that if, with God's help, I got well and got out of there, away from those resha'im (wicked people), I would build a hospital in Eretz Yisrael where every human being would be cared for with dignity. And the basis of that hospital would be that the doctors and nurses would believe that there is a God in this world and that when they treat a patient, they are fulfilling the greatest mitzvah in the Torah.”

This was HaRav Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam, the Klausenberger Rebbe. He moved to Israel from Brooklyn… brought hundreds of families with him… took empty land in northern Netanya and turned it into a community with thousands of people. He built schools, shuls, mikvehs and a huge hospital with a nursing school – all in Israel. He lived in Israel from 1960 to the day he died in 1994… and someone actually asked: “But is he a Zionist”???

Dearest friends; when someone does all that – or even half of it! – he is a Zionist, like it or not. He (or she) may not eat blue and white cupcakes on Yom Ha’Atzmaut or know how to shoot an M-16 but he is a Zionist through and through! A Zionist is one who dreams about life in Israel and then pursues that dream, for whatever the reason.

Maybe it’s to join a sister in Ramat Bet Shemesh or to have his children learn in a Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Maybe it’s to enlist in the IDF or to build a Chassidic dynasty in Netanya. Maybe it’s even to save money on Yeshiva tuitions! In all cases, one who gives up on his/her life in America, France or Australia (among other places…) to come to live, build and work in Israel is a 100% Zionist from top-to-bottom. Furthermore, that person can wear a knitted kippa, a streimel, baseball hat or have 3 earrings (and I’m talkin’ about the guys!!) – they are still Zionists! Finally, they can say they’re not or even spit when you say that “dirty” word but a Jew (observant or not) who leaves a foreign country to raise a family in the Promised Land is a 100% Zionist.

All that is left to say is this: Jew come home, and come home now! Once you are here we will figure out what to call you; A Zionist or a Non-Zionist Zionist!!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The War Inside and Outside

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh


There are two ways that the nations of the world fight against Israel. One way is through physical might, by attempting to destroy and annihilate them. The second is through religious and cultural conflict. The Rambam discusses this in his "Iggeret Teiman," and declares that the nations' attempts will not succeed! He interprets in this vein the pasuk in Yeshaya (54:17), "Any weapon sharpened against you will not succeed, and any tongue that will rise against you in judgment, you will condemn," which mentions both the war of the weapon and the word of the tongue. The war of the sword may cause many casualties, but, at least, its intentions are clear and overt. However, the second type of war is fought with a hidden agenda, and since its insidious impact is not immediately noticeable, it can have a more devastating effect, much like the venom of a snake.

The exile began when Yosef was thrown into a pit that had no water in it, "but had snakes and scorpions in it." (Shabbat 22a) A snake bites with intention to damage, as opposed to a scorpion which stings with its tail, without intention. On the other hand, a snakebite is limited because the snake has less venom after it bites, and cannot immediately continue its attack, whereas a scorpion can continuously sting. These reflect the two dangers of exile. The scorpion's sting is much more dangerous, because it operates in an indirect and protracted manner and is harder to take precautions against. This corresponds to the poisonous cultural influences that affect us throughout our stay in galut.

Still, the worst affliction of exile is the "sinat chinam" (baseless hatred) among us, which is the cause for the continuation of our exile. This is what Moshe noted when he saw that there were informers among the Jews: "Indeed, the matter is known!" (Shemot 2:14) I now know the matter that I had wondered about. In what way did Yisrael sin more than other nations to be afflicted with such hard work? Now I see that they deserve it! (Rashi ibid., quoting Midrash)

There are some that believe that in order to lessen the sting of external hatred of Yisrael, we should not express our differences, but should highlight our similarities with the nations. Already in Egypt Bnei Yisrael tried to remove the fence between themselves and the Egyptians by neglecting the mitzvah of Brit Mila, but the outcome was the opposite of their intention, as it says, "He turned their hearts to hate His nation." (Tehillim 105:25) The Netziv comments on the pasuk, "Behold, it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations" (Bamidbar 23:9), that the ideal situation for Am Yisrael is "to dwell in solitude," and through this separation, security will come. However, if Yisrael attempts to mingle with the nations, they will "not be reckoned among the nations" -- Hashem will cause them to be hated. The Gemara says in Sanhedrin (104a): G-d said, 'Thus Israel shall dwell secure, solitary,'" that their solitude will lead to security. But now -- when Yisrael tries to mingle with the nations - "Alas -- she sits in solitude" (Eicha 1:1), against their will they will sit solitary in exile. Therefore, Yaakov and Yosef wanted to settle their family in the land of Goshen, apart from their neighbors, in order to remain free from outside influence.

In order to overcome the afflictions of galut, we must protect our distinct national character and counteract sinat chinam. Yisrael is compared in Tanach to fire, and the nations to water, as the pasuk in Shir Hashirim (8:7) says, "Much water can not extinguish the love [of G-d and Israel]." Water impacts on the fire and extinguishes it, but only when they come into direct contact. If there is a separation between them, however, such as a pot of water on the fire, the opposite occurs -- the fire impacts the water and warms it. Only direct contact between Israel and the nations causes us harm. To counteract the affliction of sinat chinam, we should increase ahavat chinam. The Netziv comments on the phrase, "he shepherded the stone of Israel" (49:4), that Yisrael in exile is compared to dust, and the nations are compared to water which washes away the dust. However, when the individual pieces of dust consolidate to become stone, the water has no affect on it.

"In the merit of four things Bnei Yisrael were redeemed from Egypt: they didn't change their names; they didn't change their language; they didn't speak "lashon hara"; and they did not commit acts of immorality." (Vayikra Rabbah 32:5) In these ways they were careful about loving their fellow Jews, by not speaking lashon hara, and they kept their national character, by not changing their names and language, so as to maintain their distance from the Egyptians.

The Nation of Israel is called, "Beit Yaakov," the House of Yaakov. There are two functions of a house-- to unite the family within it, and to protect the family from outside dangers. When Bnei Yisrael went down to Egypt, "Each man and his household came." (Shemot 1:1) The preparation for exile requires "building houses" -- that is, keeping out the influences of foreign nations, and uniting the family within. Ultimately, in the future, everyone will recognize the value of the house and will say, "Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the House of the G-d of Yaakov, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths." (Yeshaya 2:3)

Is Peace In Israel Possible?

By Elliot Resnick

“Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both,” said Secretary of State John Kerry last month.

In fact, it can. The argument that it cannot is based on the premise that a democratic state must give all residents within its borders the right to vote. But that plainly is not so. The United States currently bars 11 million illegal immigrants in its midst from voting. Does that make it non-democratic? It also denies the franchise to six million prisoners who hold U.S. citizenship. Does that make it non-democratic?

Democracy is a method of governance – nothing more. Under it, members of a society determine their own fate. But that society can be exclusive. If I created a Resnick family club, for example, I would give all club members the right to vote – thus making it democratic – but I obviously would restrict membership to the Resnick family. Otherwise, it wouldn’t exactly be a family club.

Japan operates on similar logic. The country is widely celebrated as a modern democracy, and yet, Japan rarely grants citizenship – let alone the right to vote – to someone who isn’t ethnically Japanese. Indeed, in 2005, former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso proudly stated that Japan is a nation of “one race, one civilization, one language, and one culture.” I don’t remember any U.S. official reacting with horror to that statement.

So yes, Israel can quite easily be Jewish and democratic. What it can’t be is stupid. It can’t ignore what Jewish nationalist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane once called “that most fundamental law of political physics: Two nations, each claiming ownership, can never occupy the same space at the same time.”

The Arabs in Israel believe the Jews stole “Palestine” from them. They want their land back – all of it, including Tel Aviv – and will not stop killing Jews until they triumph. No amount of concessions or goodwill will convince them to abandon land they consider theirs – just like no sane person would yield a portion of his house to a trespasser.

Liberals who believe otherwise ignore the potency of national pride (perhaps because they themselves do not possess it). The Bible does not. When the ancient Israelites advanced toward the Land of Canaan 3,330 years ago, God ordered them to destroy the seven nations living in it or – at the very least – expel them. Why? One reason was spiritual. God feared the Israelites would adopt these nations’ idolatrous beliefs and practices. Another, more basic, reason, though, had to do with national security. Essentially, the Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites etc. – like the Arabs today – detested the Jews. They believed Canaan was theirs and saw the Jews as interlopers. And so, God explicitly warned the Israelites against making “a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you come, lest it be a snare in your midst” (Exodus 34:11-12). Don Isaac Abarbanel, a 15th-century biblical commentator, explains:

“A treaty with them will not succeed since there is no doubt that they will always seek evil for Israel considering that the Israelites took their land from them. And this is the meaning of the words ‘the land to which you come’ – i.e., since you, Israel, went into that land and took it from its inhabitants, and since they feel oppressed and robbed of it, how will they preserve a treaty of friendship? Rather it will be the opposite; they will be ‘a snare in your midst’ – i.e., when war breaks out they will join your enemies and fight you.”

What then is the solution? Are Israel and her Arab denizens destined to kill each other for all eternity? As matters stand now, the answer is yes. But for those of us who 1) believe God gave Israel to the Jews and 2) are willing to consider politically-incorrect ideas, at least two solutions present themselves. One is for Israel to bomb its enemy into submission. That’s how America ended WWII, and there’s no reason to believe Israel couldn’t utilize this strategy to similar effect. Once the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza surrender unconditionally, Israel could then allow them to live in its midst with personal rights but no national ones – which is more than they had before Zionism came on the scene.

The second solution – which wouldn’t require killing tens of thousands of so-called innocent civilians – lies in separating the two populations. The only question remaining is where each population would live. Liberals believe Israel should establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and expel the 400,000 Jews who currently live there. Israel’s far right-wing camp believes in doing the reverse: keeping the West Bank – which contains such biblical cities as Shechem, Hebron, and Bethlehem – and expelling the Arabs. These Arabs can then create their own state on the east bank of the Jordan River or assimilate into Jordanian society, whose population is already 70 percent Palestinian.

This solution may sound “radical,” but population transfers have actually helped resolve conflicts in the past (e.g., Greece and Turkey, India and Pakistan). Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, journalist John Gunther, and author Israel Zangwill (famous for his play “The Melting Pot”) all supported removing the Arabs from what was then Palestine – as did Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Under-Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, who spoke with Roosevelt about the matter in 1944, wrote in his diary that the president believed “Palestine should be for the Jews and no Arabs should be in it.”

Fully half of Israel’s Jewish population today favor transferring the Arabs out of Israel according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. Amazingly, though, Israeli political parties are legally barred from advocating this solution. MK Rabbi Meir Kahane – the “Donald Trump of Israel” – begged his fellow countrymen in the 1980s to adopt it, arguing that it would save Jewish and Arab lives. His popularity grew immensely during the First Intifada, but Israel’s establishment branded him a “racist” (sound familiar?) and banned his party from running for office. Two years later, in 1990, he was assassinated by a jihadist who is now serving a life sentence for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Rabbi Kahane’s legacy lives on, however, and whenever a wave of Arab violence strikes Israel, one is liable to see fresh “Kahane was right” graffiti throughout the country.

It’s time to remove our heads from the sand. The question isn’t “Jewish vs. democratic.” It’s “Jewish vs. suicidal liberal.” The Arabs in Israel dream of destroying her. The sanest solution is for the two peoples to go their separate ways. Let the Jews live in the Jewish state, and let the Palestinian Arabs live anywhere they wish in the Middle East’s 22 Arab states.
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Elliot Resnick is a writer and editor for The Jewish Press, as well as the author of Movers and Shakers and editor of Perfection: The Torah Ideal.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The View From Above

By HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

1. Tzadikim and Yesharim
2. The Paradox
3. Comparable to the Stars
4. What's in a Name?
5. Everywhere, in Every Situation



TZADIKIM AND YESHARIM
"And these are the names." Rabbi Abahu said: "Any time the Torah uses the term, 'these are' - it intends, in the passage that follows, to draw a line of separation between it and that which preceded it. However, when the Torah uses the phrase, 'And these are,' the personalities or subject matter next mentioned represents a continuation of, and actually an improvement on, the subject mentioned before".

In line with this principle, the verse in the Torah’s account of creation - "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth" - represents a break from the state of chaos that preceded that verse. But when it says in the Torah, "And these are the names," (at the start of the book of Shmot) the Torah is offering additional praise of the seventy souls of Ya'akov's family mentioned earlier, noting that all of them were "Tzadikim" - righteous people.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook notes that our forefathers are referred to in several places as "yesharim" - literally: "straight" or "upright" - people, and notes that the status of the "yesharim" is higher that the status of "tzadikim." This superiority is evident in the verse (elsewhere) that says: "A light is sewn for the Tzadik - and those of an upright heart are joyous." Rav Kook explains that Tzadikim regularly find themselves engaged in internal moral battles in which they struggle with, and eventually overcome, the pull, or inclination, to do the wrong thing. Through this process, Tzadikim succeed in ultimately performing God's will. For the Tzadik, the light is "sewn." This means that, just as a seed planted in the ground, through a path of slow growth, successive victories over tugs in the opposite direction permit the Tzadik to continually improve himself...

The lives of "Tzadikim" are thus fundamentally different than that of the "yesharim"; the latter are blessed with the ability to serve God in response to their strong natural internal desire to do good; they are people who have succeeded in turning their evil inclinations into good ones, who serve the Creator with their good and evil inclinations simultaneously. They have "arrived" in a sense, having already achieved their goal of reaching the state of joy referred to in the verse above. If, then, our forefathers were in fact "yesharim," what more can be said of them? Why must the Torah say, "And these are the names..." and thereby indicate that they were also Tzadikim?

THE PARADOX
Rav Kook explains: Although it is true that the yesharim serve the Creator out of complete, absolute cleaving and devotion, and that this is a wondrous and complete type of service of God - such people paradoxically perhaps, suffer from a lacking; that is, they lack the experience of undergoing spiritual struggles. Put another way, they have little contact with the privilege of serving God through overcoming obstacles. Thus, the Tzadik's service of God has its own special, revered, status: "And these are the names..."

Rav Kook adds that Moshe and Aharon possessed a synthesis of these two qualities - knowledge of God, which is characteristic of the yesharim, and the proper exercise of free choice, which characterizes the Tzadikim. Aharon, for instance, was a Tzadik. The symbol of this quality came in the form of his wearing the "Choshen Mishpat" on his chest; this garment represents the "dayan," the judge, who must possess the ability to properly apply his personal judgement to rule on a particular case. Moshe and Aharon were fit to be the leaders that would help redeem the Jewish people, who would serve as a bridge between the forefathers who were on the level of "knowing" God - as yesharim - and the children, who regularly, as Tzadikim, had to resolve matters through the appropriate use of their free will.

COMPARABLE TO THE STARS
The midrash also notes: "'And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt, with Ya'akov, everyone came with his household...' Israel is comparable to the heavenly hosts: The verse at the opening of Shmot refers to 'names'; 'names' is a term used in reference to the stars, as well, as it says: 'He counts the stars by number, and gives them each a name.' So too, when the Jews descended to Egypt, the Holy One Blessed Be He counted them by number, and like the stars,called them each by name..."

Stars constitute a world unto themselves; each star is a massive entity. To us, from such a great distance, the star looks rather tiny, but in reality, each star is a giant world. The Jewish people are comparable to the stars. In our eyes, we sometimes look at a Jew and, because we are not particularly impressed by his behavior, ask: "Is he really a Jew?" But the soul of each Jew is so lofty, so profound, that when we look at him, we are really looking at him from a "great distance." As such, each Jew may look rather small, though he is really greater than an entire world. Because of the distance between our ability to perceive and the actual essence of his soul, the soul merely appears less significant...

When our sages compared the Children of Israel to the stars, they were understating their case, by making use of a comparison that is within human perception - the vastness and greatness of the stars; in truth, however, the sages mean to say that the Jewish people are at least as great as the stars. The greatness of Israel, must be measured on a completely different scale, however: We, unlike the stars, possess great spiritual powers.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Just as the stars have names, "He counts the stars by number, each one he gives a name," so too, each Jew has a name: "And these are the names of the Children of Israel..."

Rav Kook points out that in one point in the Torah, the verse states: "He accounts for the hosts by number, and calls them all by a name." The stars have one name that unites them all. Elsewhere, the Torah says: "He calls them all by names." This means that they have many names - each star boasts its own name. Rav Kook explains that the same is true for the Children of Israel: from one angle, the Jews are all part of one nation; it is for this reason that there is one name for all of the Jewish people. From another perspective, though, each tribe, and each individual, has its own independent identity...

Our portion's opening verse literally reads: "And these are the names of the Children of Israel who came to Egypt, with Ya'akov, each came with his household." Regarding this (underlined) phrase, the Zohar asks: "Since it says that the Jews arrived, it did not have to add that they came with Ya'akov, since he is part and parcel - and the leader of - the Children of Israel." The Zohar answers that the Torah is not talking about the Jewish people in the physical sense of the word, but is rather relating to the spiritual aspect of the tribes. The names of the tribes express their common roots, that the souls of their members are connected to the heavenly hosts, to the lofty Divine chariot. When the Jewish people begins its period of enslavement in Egypt, the Shechina (Divine Presence) descends there with them. God's dedication to the Children of Israel parallels his promise to their father, Ya'akov: "I will descend with you to Egypt, and I will ascend from there with you..."

EVERYWHERE, IN EVERY SITUATION
The Shechina accompanies the Jewish people everywhere, in every situation. Even in the most difficult of times, when it seems that God is not with them, He is. Even when the Egyptians are busy drowning Jewish babies, and sealing them into the walls of buildings; when terrible national traumas, even holocausts. befall us - still, and perhaps most intensely then - the Shechina is with us.

The Zohar asks: Why did the prophet Yechezkel reveal everything that he saw in his grand prophecy of the Divine Chariot? The secrets of the Divine chariot are not something that should be made available to everyone!

The Zohar responds by noting that the exile of the Jews to Babylonia was more difficult than their descent to Egypt. Life was difficult before the Egyptian exile - in fact, life in Ya'akov's home was by no means simple: He first had to deal with Lavan, then Shechem, etc. Ya'akov seems to continuously be embroiled in conflicts and struggles!

As a result, the Jews began the Egyptian exile with a wealth of experience in what it means to face challenge and conflict. In contrast, the Babylonian exile began after an extended uplifting Jewish stay in the Land of Israel, a life that surrounded the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) - where the reality of an ongoing set of ten miracles was accepted as a matter of routine! Divine Providence clearly manifested itself through the fire on the altar never waned, the continuous burning of the Ner Tamid, the eternal light. Consequently, the descent into the subsequent Babylonian exile was especially shocking and unsettling for our people.

God thus appears to Yechezkel, making him aware that He is with him in his exile - even though He seemed "hidden." Had the prophet stated that he saw a chariot, without giving details as to what he exactly saw, his words would not have been compelling, and the Jewish people would not have been sufficiently strengthened and encouraged by the prophecy. Thus, says the Zohar, it was imperative that the prophet become privy to - and report on - all the grand images that he witnessed. In a similar way that He relates to the stars - on both the "macro" and "micro" levels - God has tied His destiny to the Jewish people as a whole and to each and every Jew in particular, accompanying us through all the crises and difficulties that each individual must face.

Names by the Jewish People

By Rabbi Dov Beryl Wein

The Torah emphasizes the names of the family of Yaakov in this week’s parsha as it did in even greater detail in last week’s parsha of Vayechi. There may be many varied reasons for this concentration of interest in the names of the tribes of Israel. But whatever the reasons are the Torah obviously feels it to be of great importance. In fact throughout the Torah the names of the tribes are repeated many times. After all, we might ask, what is in a name? But the names of our ancestors are drummed into us by the Torah to provide us with a sense of continuity and tradition. The Jewish people are about to experience centuries of exile and eventual slavery in Egypt. They are certainly in danger of being destroyed both physically and spiritually. The rabbis have taught us that by not forgetting their original names, by not completely becoming Egyptian in name and deed, the hope of the Jewish people to be redeemed and freed never died out. The names of their ancestors reminded them of their past and of the commitment of God to redeem them from their bondage and afflictions. This experience of Egyptian exile imbedded within the Jewish world the importance of remembering our original names. For it was the existence and use of those names that prevented their extinction as a special and eternal people. Thus the introduction to the book of Shmot, the book of bondage and redemption, is the list of names of the sons of Yaakov, the eternal reminder of who the Jewish people really are.

Over the centuries, the Jewish people have continually struggled to retain their identity and sense of continuity through their names. In the Ashkenazic world it became customary to name children after deceased ancestors. This became a deeply emotional bond in families ultimately leading to children being given multiple names to commemorate more than one ancestor. In the Sephardic tradition names are given to honor living grandparents and relatives. But there also the sense of continuity and purpose is stressed in the granting of those names. In more modern times Jews were given secular names as well to be used in general society. However, over the last few decades the use of exclusively Jewish or Hebrew names as the sole name of a person has returned to be in vogue. So apparently there is a great deal involved in a name. Even in the non-Jewish world the use of biblical names remains quite popular and widespread. 

People hunger for a connection to their past and such traditional, biblical, family names seem to provide a sense of immortality and continuity that flashy "cool" names cannot provide. Names can therefore be an anchor to one’s own self-worth and purpose in life. The Torah’s insistence on recording the names of the sons of Yaakov - the eventual tribes of Israel - highlights this important fact of life and family to us. Perhaps this is what Midrash meant when it taught us that one pf the causes of the redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage was "that they [the Jewish people] did not change their names [from Hebrew ones to Egyptian ones.]"

The Less Understandable Request

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Egypt. Hashem told them to tell Paroh that they want to travel for three days into the desert and bring sacrifices to Hashem (Shemot 5:3). Was there a need for Hashem to hide the fact that they were to be leaving permanently and not just bringing sacrifices and returning? Certainly Hashem was capable of getting Paroh to agree to anything. In fact, he even had to harden Paroh’s heart so that he would not agree earlier.

Perhaps the idea was not to use this approach as a way to get Paroh to agree but to teach a lesson. It was important that Bnei Yisrael should be liberated not just as an ethnic group of slaves being freed but that they were being freed as the Nation of Hashem. They also needed to know that Hashem is the one who runs His world. The idea was to break the Egyptian conception of how things are supposed to work. The Egyptian standard of success and their confidence in their civilization had to be broken. Their deities had to be slaughtered as sacrifices to the true G-d. They had to recognize that Hashem’s demands of them were just and that they were prepared to agree to His will. Even Paroh would have to acquiesce to the dictates of the King of kings.

Had Bnei Yisrael just asked for freedom from slavery, it is possible that Paroh would more easily have found the humanitarian appeal to have logic and merit. Maybe he would have found the moral basis to be gracious. Then there would not have been a theological element to the struggle between Bnei Yisrael and Egypt. It was specifically the theological basis of the conflict that needed to be the driving force in the emergence of the Nation of Israel. The world had to see that Paroh had given in to Hashem in this struggle.

Perhaps the above explains what Moshe meant when he said, amidst a bad start to his mission of freeing the nation: "From the time I came to speak in Your name, the situation for this nation has deteriorated" (Shemot 5:23). Moshe felt that the things he said, invoking Hashem, made things worse. Perhaps asking for freedom on humanitarian grounds would have been better. Paroh cannot accept, "Send My nation and they will serve Me," as this is a contradiction to what he presumed one would view as liberty.

Hashem answered Moshe: "With a strong hand, he will send them" (ibid. 6:1). It is not up to Paroh’s desires; he will be forced. Thus, the less the process of liberation makes sense, the more desirable it is.

The Tragedy of American Jewry

By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Seldom do one op-ed article and three letters to the editor unintentionally reveal the malady that is threatening to destroy American Jewry.

In the Wall Street Journal (December 30, 2016), the writer Andrew Klavan criticized physicist Stephen Hawking for the latter’s now common assertion that the universe can be explained without G-d, the Creator. Hawking: “The laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing.” If science explains everything then G-d becomes unnecessary; of course, science does not explain everything. But they are both wrong in their assumptions. Klavan is wrong because Jews believe the creation did emerge “spontaneously from nothing,” that G-d created the universe “yesh me-ayin,” creation ex nihilo, and doesn’t seem to realize that “the laws of gravity and quantum theory” are merely tools that the Creator, in His will, created, and could have used in creating what He wishes to create. Hawking is wrong because, as Klavan rightly points out, the laws of nature had to originate from something, and to believe the converse (the eternity of the universe and matter) is, well, a belief.

No matter. Klavan’s objective was to re-introduce religion into this discussion by positing the impossibility of explaining creation without a Creator. It was a reaffirmation of his religious faith and a defense of all believers.

On January 5, 2017, Klavan was lambasted in the WSJ by three letter writers for his naïveté, “patent nonsense,” “obvious flaws,” and “obnoxious and erroneous assertions.” All three were diehard seculars, presumed atheists who ridicule the very notion of God’s existence. More on their contentions in a moment.

Here’s the irony: Klavan described himself as being raised a “secular Jew who converted to Christianity,” and is married to a Christian and raising a Christian family. The three letter writers were named Gelb, Fried and Siegal, all obviously Jewish names and all, at least the descendants of Jewish fathers if not mothers as well. Nevertheless, let us assume the three are Jews.

What emerges is that the only person of faith in this whole mix is the Jew who purported to convert to Christianity. The three Jews were the ones who publicly professed their rejection of God and mocked the believer. That is, sadly, quite typical of American Jewish life today, and why the Jewish world, outside the Orthodox community, is suffering sustained and consistent losses of people, prestige, influence and a real connection to the truths of Torah. As every Jewish life is precious – because every Jew is an integral part of the Jewish nation – such losses are devastating to us all and are a cause for mourning, not celebration. But neither mourning - nor celebration - will save one soul for Torah and the Jewish people.

Beyond the tragic irony is the realization that the heretical arguments of the three Jewish letter writers are hackneyed and unsophisticated, such that they could be answered by an educated Yeshiva high school student. The old question “Who created G-d?” is asked, as if it is a credible challenge to the notion of God as First Cause or a refutation of the concept of cause and effect.

It is a shame that intelligent Jews are unfamiliar with Jewish sources and discussions of these very matters among the greatest Jewish minds in history (like Rav Saadia Gaon, Rambam, Ramban et al), and the lack of Jewish education among Jews who are otherwise educated is the real crisis that has eviscerated American Jewry.

Briefly, for this most engaging topic, G-d is an incorporeal Being who transcends time and space and, indeed, created time and space. Nothing preceded Him or follows Him. That is the definition of “eternal.” He always existed and thus was never created.

Moreover, God created cause and effect, as well as the laws of nature that were fixed and finalized when the process of creation stopped with the onset of the very first Shabbat. So to ask “who created the First Cause” is to indulge a non sequitur. The First Cause needs no creation; that is what makes it “First."

Only physical entities need to be created. Only physical entities can be “proven” in a laboratory because a laboratory is equipped to evaluate physical substances based on the laws of nature. Matters that are purely ideational are not subject to “laboratory” proof. This is both obvious - and has a profound practical and moral dimension to it. If G-d’s existence was physically verifiable - as it was, for example, at Sinai - it would impair and undermine the free will of every human being - as it did in the aftermath of Sinai. Free will is the essence of the human personality. Thus, to the person of faith, God’s existence demands study and can be found in creation and His governance of human affairs. To the person of no faith, the fact that a non-physical G-d cannot be demonstrated in a laboratory is supposedly a slam dunk refutation of G-d’s existence. Hardly, and “faith” here does not mean “blind faith” or “irrational faith,” but a faith that is grounded in reason, tradition, and knowledge.

One writer (Siegal) insisted that all he seeks is mutual respect – that Klavan should respect his right of disbelief as he respects Klavan’s right to believe. But this too is misleading, as nothing that Klavan wrote indicates even remotely a lack of respect for the secular viewpoint. What he wrote is that “secularism” is failing Western civilization because it is inherently incapable of dealing with radical Islam and other moral challenges. It is secularism that cannot recognize the tenacity of true faith (of any kind) and how the material world holds less and sometimes no attraction to some believers. For sure, that secular view has engendered the curious disposition that every problem can be resolved, every war can be negotiated to a peaceful conclusion satisfactory to all sides, and that bitter enemies can reconcile without compromising their cherished beliefs. But none of that is true save for extraordinary circumstances. This secular viewpoint is alive and well among one shrinking segment of Israeli society that refuses to characterize attacks on Jews or Israel as elements of a religious war simply because it is inconvenient to characterize it as such or because they refuse to accept that faith (of any kind) can have that power over human beings. But it does.

To ask secular people to reconsider the value of faith is not to disrespect them but to show concern for them. It is merely to point out to them that they are “accidentalists,” and there are perhaps no greater believers today that those who believe that the universe and everything in it, man and his development, are just cosmic accidents.

All these questions have rational answers, and if only Jews would study them before rejecting Judaism or tilling the vineyards of others we would be a different people. How sad that the Jew of faith had to become a Christian to find that faith, while the three Jews with Jewish surnames revel in their pseudo-sophisticated lack of faith. How sad that after almost two millennia of a bitter exile in which so many Jews tenaciously clung to the Torah that, in recent years, millions of Jews have used the freedom of America to reject their faith and heritage. That is the tragedy of American Jewry and why our numbers and commitment are in such steep decline. It can only be reversed through love, tolerance, intensive Torah education and recognition of the historic times in which Jews are now living - having returned to Israel, established Jewish sovereignty there after a lapse of two millennia, and on the verge of the Messianic era.

For sure, there are large pockets of great strength, optimism and dynamism in American Jewry and American Jewish religious life. The thinking Jew should run, not walk, to be part of that people, that process and that destiny.

Palestinians: A Strategy of Lies and Deception

By Bassam Tawil 

  • Abbas here lied twice. First, it is a lie that he is prepared to return to the negotiating table with Israel. In the past few years, Abbas has repeatedly rejected Israeli offers to resume the stalled peace negotiations.
  • Abbas's chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, claimed this week that his boss was ready to resume the peace talks with Israel in Moscow....Indeed, Abbas had "earlier" voiced his readiness to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow. But Abbas once again outlined his preconditions for such a summit... This means that Abbas has not abandoned his preconditions for resuming the peace talks with Israel. The timing of Erekat's announcement in Moscow is clearly linked to the Paris peace conference. It is part of the Palestinian strategy to depict Israel as the party opposed to the resumption of the peace talks.
  • Abbas has in the past reluctantly condemned some of the terror attacks against Israel. But these statements were made under duress, after being pressured by the US or EU.
  • In fact, his "condemnations" are nothing but political pablum, a sop to the West.
  • The Palestinian terrorist who rammed his truck into a group of young Israeli soldiers last week was doing exactly what his president urged Palestinians to do.
  • The Germans and French should not believe Abbas when he says that he condemns truck terror attacks in their countries. The scenes of Palestinians celebrating carnage in Jerusalem should serve as a wake-up call to the international community. The message of the call? That the overall Palestinian strategy – like the jihad strategy - is built on lies. Both continue to feature terror as one their main pillars.
  • What members of the international community do not seem to understand is that... [t]he terrorist who rammed his truck into a German Christmas market did not carry out his attack in outrage at a German settlement or a checkpoint. The terrorist who mowed down French people celebrating Bastille day was not protesting French "occupation." Abbas and his cohorts, like the terrorists in Europe, are part of just one big global jihad against all "infidels" – including them.
Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas
The Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, still believe that they can fool all of the people all of the time. This has always been the Palestinian strategy: nothing new here. Yet one likes to think that world leaders and decision-makers in the West will eventually - perhaps today? – wake up to the fact that the Palestinians are playing them for fools.
Last week's terror attack in Jerusalem, where a Palestinian tourist rammed his truck into a group of soldiers, killing four and wounding scores of others, rips the mask off of Abbas and his PA leadership in Ramallah. By either failing or consciously refusing to condemn the terror attack, they expose their cowardice, but, equally importantly, that terrorism directed against Jews is just fine by them.
How differently Abbas plays his cards when the blood spilled is not Jewish: seldom has he missed an opportunity to condemn terrorist attacks around the world.

The UN Holocaust: More Lies and Treachery on the Way

By Yves Mamou

  • The launch of this diplomatic attempt to gut Israel will start on January 15, in Paris, at a "peace conference" -- which should immediately be postponed a week.
  • "Led astray from their primary mission, these organizations [such as the United Nations] have become tools of corruption or terrorism, reinforcing global Islamic power... Their latest resolutions do not only confirm the victory of jihadism and illiteracy: they also express the success of the years of effort made by this post-war Europe that continues to destroy, defame and delegitimize the Jewish State in the name of Islamic justice." — Bat Ye'or, prizewinning historian.
  • With a UN now run as if it is the universal caliphate, assisted mostly by dictators and despots, it is hard to see much good ever coming from it. No one has yet been made accountable for the $100 billion "oil for food" scandal, and peacekeepers still dole out food to children in exchange for sex.
  • "The beginning of this long journey dates back to 1967, in France... Europe rushed to adopt the French position in 1973 and, along with the OIC, planned political measures designed to destroy the Jewish State by denying its sovereign rights and its cantonment on an indefensible territory. Resolution 2334 is now the icing on the cake of this policy, which forms the basis for a Euro-Islamic policy..." — Bat Ye'or.
  • All freedom loving nations would be wise to abandon the UN, or, second-best, defund it. Sadly, that is the only language the UN seems to understand. Countries imagining that in Donald Trump they have another pushover, watch out. You will be in for quite a shock.
A vote at the UN Security Council (illustrative). [Image source: U.S. State Department]
Israel, this tiny country in the heart of Middle East, has become the new target of diplomacy-abuse at the United Nations, headed by the Americans, the Europeans (mainly France) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) -- 57 Islamic states plus "Palestine", which at the moment forms the largest bloc at the UN.
On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which effectively sets the boundaries for the Palestinian state at the 1949 armistice lines. The Arabs had previously refused to accept the armistice line as a border, presumably because agreeing to it might preclude the Palestinians from trying to get the rest of "Palestine", defined by them as "from the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean]" -- meaning all of Israel. Just look at any Palestinian map -- It is identical to the shape of the entirety of Israel.

Obama's Betrayal of Israel

By Guy Millière

  • President Obama's decision not to use the US veto in the UN Security Council and to let pass Resolution 2334, effectively sets the boundaries of a future Palestinian state. The resolution declares all of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem -- home to the Old City, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount -- the most sacred place in Judaism -- "occupied Palestinian territory," and is a declaration of war against Israel.
  • Resolution 2334 nullified any possibility of further negotiations by giving the Palestinians everything in exchange for nothing -- not even an insincere promise of peace.
  • The next act is the Orwellian-named "peace conference," to be held in Paris on January 15. It has but one objective: to set the stage to eradicate Israel.
  • In this new "Dreyfus trial," the accused will be the only Jewish state and the accusers will be the OIC and officials from Islamized, dhimmified, anti-Israel Western states. As in the Dreyfus trial, the verdict has been decided before it even starts. Israel will be considered guilty of all charges and condemned. A draft of the declaration to be published at the end of the conference is already available.
  • The declaration rejects any Jewish presence beyond the 1949 armistice lines -- thereby instituting apartheid. It also praises the "Arab Peace Initiative," which calls for returning of millions of so-called "refugees" to Israel, thus transforming Israel into an Arab Muslim state where a massacre of Jews could conveniently be organized.
  • The declaration is most likely meant serve as the basis for a new Security Council resolution on January 17 that would recognize a Palestinian state inside the "1967 borders," and be adopted, thanks to a second US abstention, three days before Obama leaves office. The betrayal of Israel by the Obama administration and by Obama himself would then be complete.
  • The US Congress is already discussing bills to defund the UN and the Palestinian Authority. If Europeans think that the incoming Trump administration is as spineless as the Obama administration, they are in for a shock.
  • Khaled Abu Toameh noted that the Palestinian Authority sees Resolution 2334 as a green light for more murders and violence.
  • Daniel Pipes recently wrote that it is time to acknowledge the failure of a "peace process" that is really a war process. He stresses that peace can only come when an enemy is defeated.
  • Resolution 2334 and the Paris conference, both promoted by Obama, are, as the great historian Bat Ye'or wrote, simply a victory for jihad.
Is Barack Obama planning another betrayal of Israel at next week's Paris "peace conference," organized by French President François Hollande? Pictured: Obama and Hollande in Washington, May 18, 2012. (Image source: White House)
The Middle East is in chaos. More than half a million people have been killed in the Syrian war and the number is rising. Bashar al-Assad's army used chemical weapons and barrel bombs against civilians; Russia has bombed schools and hospitals.
Syrians, Christians, Yazidis, Libyans, Yemenis and Egyptians all face lethal treats. Iranian leaders still shout "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" while buying nuclear equipment with money from lifted sanctions. Turkey is sliding toward an Islamist dictatorship, and unable to stem attacks against it.