Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Justice



By Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

The pursuit of justice is an integral part of Judaism. Righteousness and justice are to be pursued through righteous means. Noble causes supported or achieved by questionable means no longer remain so noble. Since human justice is always tainted and influenced by preconceptions, prejudices, beliefs and societal pressures it can safely be said that there is no human court that can achieve one hundred percent complete true justice. Yet the Torah bids us to pursue that almost unattainable goal. It is the Torah’s policy to fully recognize the frailties of human beings and yet at the very same time not to compromise its spiritual standards for human behavior and values. The Torah sets for us goals and definitions. That we may be incapable of easily achieving those goals does not alter the obligation placed upon us to attempt to reach that goal. True piety, justice and truth are absolutes that defy our systems of relative morality and changing societal norms and behavior. Yet it is obvious that we must have a clear definition of those lofty goals that we aspire to reach. The Torah sets very high standards for us in all areas of human life and behavior. We may not be able to live up completely to those standards permanently but a clear understanding and definition of what those standards are gives us the necessary frame of reference by which we may judge our life’s activities and accomplishments. Ignoring or watering down these standards in order to feel more comfortable with one’s failings and weaknesses is a sure recipe for moral corruption and societal breakdown.

Judges and police - law and order - were to be established in all of the Jewish communities at all times. In most of the period of the long exile from our homeland, the Jewish society was a self-policing one, with or without the benefit of non-Jewish governmental authorization as the case may have been. For most of this long period of time the justice system was entrusted to the rabbis and their courts and decisions. Their verdicts and decisions were enforced by the norms of the society in which they lived. The rabbis respected the law of the land in all cases except where those laws were obviously discriminatory against Jews, opposed Torah laws or were patently unjust and evil. Yet the rabbis opposed having disputes between Jews adjudicated in non-Jewish courts. With the creation of the State of Israel there now exist in our country dual judicial systems - that of the secular court system and of the rabbinic court system. Being courts composed of human beings neither system has proven itself infallible in all instances. Yet for the most part all of us who live in Israel feel that we do live in a country that does aspire to a correct and moral system of law and order in our society. As long as we do not compromise the lofty standards of the Torah regarding true justice we somehow are able to live with our society’s shortcomings vis a vis those standards. The pursuit of true justice will always remain a goal in Jewish life.

Choose Your Fear


By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l 

"[The king] shall read from [his personal sefer Torah] all the days of is life, so that he shall learn to fear Hashem" (Devarim 17:19). There is no amount of time after which we can say that we have learned enough Torah. It requires a concentration of all our time – all our life – no less. Study of how to fear Hashem is a course that requires a lifetime, not just for people on a low level, but even for people on the highest level. 

There are two types of fear, both of which appear in our parasha: one is desirable, the other is undesirable. The fear of Hashem that comes with study of Torah throughout life is obviously desirable. Later on we read about the man "who is fearful and has a soft heart," who has to "go and return to his house" (ibid. 20:8), instead of taking part in the nation’s battle. Just as one has to toil to create the desirable fear, so must one toil to rid himself of the undesirable fear. Furthermore, the two fears are opposed and contradictory – when one possesses the proper fear, it destroys the improper one. 

Yeshaya asks: "Who are you that you fear a person who is destined to die?" (Yeshaya 51:12). Fear is present not only at times of war but even in times of peace. Most of our actions and our energies are actually motivated by mundane fears. We are afraid of what we will have to eat tomorrow and into the future. It seems to be the work of the Satan that a person wants to make shoes that will last him for seven years when he is not sure that he will live more than seven days, so that the Satan can then laugh at us. We are afraid of those who are far away from us and those who are close to us, lest they encroach on our space and take that which we were wanted for ourselves. Why do we work so hard for things that we do not need but are there just to glorify us, such as nice clothes and fancy drapes? All that hard work, which is motivated by a fear of what others will think, is a fear of people who are destined to die.

The Torah teaches us not to bow to pressure, but to realize what it means to be a free person. The Torah says about the king: "He shall learn to fear Hashem," and the Rabbis point out that this is referring to the king who has no one above him other than Hashem (Horiyot 11a). Let us remember that, in essence, all of Israel are the sons of kings (Bava Metzia 113b). If someone lacks fear of Hashem then he will have the fear of every leaf that falls off the tree. Only the significant, positive fear will straighten our spine; lowering our posture before Hashem can straighten our stature when it comes to other people.

The soldier who is fearful and soft of heart, say Chazal, is "one who is fearful because of the sins in his hand" (Mishna, Sota 8:5). This is the one who ‘shoots arrows up at Hashem,’ and kicks with a callous heart everything that is holy and pure, with the chutzpa of one who says that he has no Master. He does not know that when he denies his one Master, he is really creating for himself hundreds of thousands of human masters to fear.

The Palestinian Authority is a Genocidal Terrorist Entity and Should be Treated as Such

By Guy Millière

  • The PLO became the first terrorist organization to have a seat at the UN and diplomatic representation in a Western country.
  • Daniel Pipes suggested measures to move the conflict in a constructive direction without causing major conflagration: require the Palestinian Authority (PA) pay for all damages inflicted by terrorists, including a very high price for each stolen life; burying the dead terrorists without returning them to their families; severely limiting access to West Bank territories ruled by the PA; banning PA leaders from entering Israeli airports if they make inflammatory remarks and each time there is anti-Israeli violence, or even asking them to use Jordanian airports from now on.
  • Why not tell European leaders that the Palestinian Authority is still a genocidal terrorist organization? Why not ask them how they can agree to finance in the Middle East what they claim to reject with horror in Europe?
President Donald Trump told Mahmoud Abbas what no other Western leader dared to say. He knows that there is nothing to expect from the Palestinian Authority and that Jason Greenblatt's mission is destined to fail. Pictured: Trump and Abbas give a joint statement on May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Image source: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
The latest slaughter in the land of Israel took place in Halamish, Samaria, on July 21. A Palestinian stabbed to death a Jewish grandfather and two of his children. The grandmother was injured seriously. Countless similar attacks occurred in Israel in the recent and not-so-recent past.
Once again, thousands of Palestinian Arabs joyfully celebrated the murders. Some handed out candy.
The murderer was praised by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. If he had been shot to death, he would have instantly become a martyr of Islam. A street in Ramallah would be named after him. His picture would be posted in storefronts in the territories occupied by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and his family would be rewarded with a high "salary" for life. 

Quo Vadis the Arab Tsunami (a.k.a. "the Arab Spring")?

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Where is the Arab Middle East heading following the 2010-2017 disintegration of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Sudan; the toppling of several Arab regimes; the estimated toll of 400,000 fatalities and six million refugees, resulting from intra-Arab conflicts; the proliferation of Islamic Sunni terrorism; the unprecedented power-projection surge by Iran's Shiite Ayatollahs; the approaching Sunni and Shiite terrorist machetes to the throat of the House of Saud and all other pro-US Arab regimes; and the intensified squashing of human rights in every Arab country, all ruled by minority-regimes?

The raging Arab Tsunami of the last 6.5 years – referred to by the Western establishment as the Arab Spring – has further destabilized the one-bullet, provisional, Arab regimes, characterized by tenuous policies and uncertain bilateral and multilateral intra-Arab agreements.

This has added much fuel to the fire – raging since the 7th century – of the inherently unpredictable and intensely complex, non-nation-state, non-democratic Middle East, which has been systematically misperceived by the Western establishment.

Where is the Arab Tsunami heading? The chaotic intra-Arab roller-coaster may have shifted, temporarily, to a relatively-lower gear, but it is surging on brutally!

While the US has dealt a severe blow to ISIS terrorists in 2017 – without clipping the wings of Iran's Ayatollahs - it has, therefore, provided a tailwind to Iran's entrenchment in Syria, and increasingly in Lebanon. It has advanced the Ayatollahs' domination of the critical area from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, which is a prelude to their megalomaniacal vision of denying the US "modern-day-Crusader" regional and global preeminence.

This could be a repeat of the US toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, when the US elevated Iraq's Shiites to the helm, dumping Iraq's Sunnis, which reinforced the ranks of Sunni terrorism. This paved the way for the Ayatollahs' dominance in Iraq – which intensified anti-US terrorism – and created a clear and present danger for every pro-US Arab regime in the Persian Gulf and beyond.

In 2011, a US-led coalition, toppled Gaddafi's rogue regime in Libya, in spite of the fact that Gaddafi was involved in a ferocious war on Islamic terrorism in Libya and Africa. Moreover, in 2003, Gaddafi transferred his infrastructure of weapons of mass destruction to the US. The toppling of Gaddafi accelerated the disintegration of Libya, transforming the huge country (680,000sqm, three times larger than Texas) into a major safe haven and breeding ground of Islamic terrorism.

While the US military power-projection and posture of deterrence are prerequisites for the western battle against Islamic terrorism – and keeping Islamic terrorism away from the US mainland – a misguided US policy has tolerated the Ayatollahs' imperialism, subversion and terrorism, allowing them to surge on the coattails of the 2015 non-ratified(!) Iran nuclear deal, further destabilizing the Middle East.

For example, tectonic developments simmer below the seemingly stable surface in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. These developments are generated and bolstered by the 60% Palestinian majority (e.g., the 1951 murder of King Abdullah by a Palestinian, the 1970 civil war, the 1980s Hashemite-Palestinian confrontations); the unpredictable Muslim Brotherhood terrorists; the importation of additional Islamic Sunni terrorist sleeper cells; the historical divisiveness between the Hashemite migrants from the Arabian Peninsula and the indigenous Bedouins; the 1.5MN Syrian refugees; the boiling borders with Iraq and
Syria, which increasingly accommodate the anti-Hashemite Ayatollahs.

A volcanic eruption in Jordan could spillover, swiftly, into neighboring Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Arab countries, which are threatened by the Ayatollahs and home-grown terrorists. This would impact the life expectancy of the Khalifa regime in Bahrain, as well as the level of violent Muslim Brotherhood opposition to the General Sisi regime in Egypt.

Where is the Middle East heading? According to Amir Taheri, the veteran Iranian writer, researcher and expert on Islam, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East: "'modernization' is spreading…. I saw a 'modernized' Middle East with armies marching across scorched plains, soldiers and mercenaries cursing in a dozen different languages, the choir of cannons and the choreography of armored cars and tanks. I saw refugees and displace-person camps, barbed wires, watch-towers, loudspeakers spreading the latest version of truth. There were minefields and grieving mothers, naked children and victims of gas attacks and chemical weapons. The skies were dotted with warplanes dropping more bombs on Syria and Iraq than on Germany during WWII. The landscape of ruins, reminding one of Berlin, Warsaw and Leningrad in 1945…. This looked like Europe in 1918 or 1945, only magnified many times over thanks to the superior power of destruction we now have…."

Acquaintance with Middle East "modernization" is a prerequisite for a realistic national security policy, devoid of wishful-thinking and oversimplification-driven hopes.

Acquaintance with Middle East "modernization" highlights the critical role of the posture of deterrence – while avoiding appeasement and retreats in the face of temptations and pressure, which triggers more pressure and terrorism – in shaping homeland and national security policies.

Acquaintance with Middle East "modernization" underlines the unique role played by Israel - as long as it controls the high-ground, rather than withdrawing to the pre-1967 sliver along the Mediterranean - in extending the strategic hand of the US in the face of mutual threats.

Acquaintance with Middle East "modernization" clarifies the nature of the primary threats to regional stability and the survival of pro-US Arab regimes – posed by the rogue Ayatollahs and Islamic Sunni terrorism - and the limited regional role played by the Palestinian issue.

Palestinians: When Suicide Attacks Are Bad

By Khaled Abu Toameh

  • The emergence of ISIS-inspired groups in the Gaza Strip has long been an open known secret. This is the inconvenient truth that Hamas has been working hard to conceal for the past few years.
  • Obstinately holding on to an imaginary dream, some political analysts and journalists have misinterpreted the Hamas document as a sign of "moderation" and "pragmatism," and argued falsely that the Islamist movement is ready to join a peace process with Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar could not be clearer on this point.
  • Hamas, as we all know, is hardly opposed to suicide bombings. Yet when the boomerang returns, suddenly the attacks become "cowardly terror" actions perpetrated by "outlaws" and "intellectually and religiously and morally deviant" terrorists. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and ISIS may disagree on many issues, but targeting Jews and "infidels" is not one of them. On that point, they are in savage agreement.
Hamas is famous for its suicide attacks and hails the perpetrators as "heroes" and "martyrs." Pictured: Masked Palestinian members of Hamas dress as suicide bombers during an anti-Israel rally on June 4, 2004 at the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Ahmad Khateib/Getty Images)
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas is finally getting a dose of its own medicine -- in the form of a suicide bombing targeting its members in the Gaza Strip.
During the past two decades, Hamas was responsible for dozens of suicide attacks that maimed and killed hundreds of Israelis, particularly during the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2006. Hamas is famous for its suicide attacks and hails the perpetrators as "heroes" and "martyrs."
For Hamas, suicide bombings are a noble deed when they are carried out by its members and the victims are Jews.
In their own words, Hamas leaders and spokesmen continue to defend their suicide attacks against Israel as a "legitimate tool of resistance" against Israel.
Recent events, however, may have left a bad taste for suicide attacks in Hamas's mouth.

Jews Misread America’s Cultural Civil War

By Melanie Phillips

The cultural civil war that has now exploded in America is an immensely dangerous moment for the west. It is also perilous for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Yet in both Israel and the diaspora, too many Jews just don’t get it. They are parroting instead the double-dealing and hypocritical pieties of their mortal enemies.

After Charlottesville, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin wrote a letter expressing “support and solidarity” with the American Jewish community “at this difficult time”.

Jewish students in America run a permanent gauntlet of left-wing hate over Israel. Has Rivlin ever expressed his “support and solidarity” with the American Jewish community over antisemitism on campus?

When President Obama denied that the slaughter of Jews in the Hyper-Cacher Paris supermarket in 2015 was antisemitic, did Rivlin express his “support and solidarity” with the American Jewish community then? Hardly, since more than 70 per cent were Obama voters.

When the Democratic National Convention appointed as its deputy chairman Keith Ellison, a man with former close ties to the profoundly Jew-hating, black racist organisation Nation of Islam and who has a history of troubling remarks about Jews, did Rivlin express his support and solidarity with the Jews of America? Of course not – because the overwhelmingly Democrat-voting Jews of America are not only silent about Ellison but doubtless will themselves have nodded along with his nauseating double-speak in claiming that the Trump administration is riddled with white supremacists.

At Charlottesville, the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke ranted in deranged fashion about alleged Jewish power over the media and banking system and about the ”Zionist ethno-state of Israel”. But this vile outpouring is indistinguishable from the antisemitic tropes spewed out by “antifa” groups, of the kind that clashed at Charlottesville, and beyond them the left in general and beyond then too; indeed the trope of Jewish power controlling the world was institutionalised by Mearsheimer and Walt in their book The Israel Lobby, and yet they remain esteemed and even lionised in academia.

In a startling and all-too telling coda to the departure from the White House of Trump’s now ex-chief strategist Steve Bannon, the left-wing HuffPost published a picture of Bannon under the headline “Goy, bye!”

“Goy” is a Hebrew word meaning nation; colloquially, however, it is associated with a contemptuous attitude towards gentiles – and in a further linguistic twist has now been adopted by neo-Nazis to heap further hatred upon Jews.

The implication of the HuffPost headline, therefore, was that the Christian Bannon had been removed by a Jewish cabal. Although HuffPost replaced this headline after eyebrows shot up across social media Jon Cooper, an Obama campaign staffer and chairman of the Democratic Coalition, enthusiastically retweeted it. So it would seem that a ripe piece of antisemitism was manufactured and disseminated by the very people who scream “white racist” at both Bannon and Trump.

There is a simplistic view that because fascism and white supremacism are evil, anyone who opposes them must be virtuous. This utterly false deduction is assiduously promoted by the left to mask its own vicious prejudices and behaviour. Too many Jews fell for this with Soviet communism in the early decades of the last century. Now they’re falling for it again.

“The very idea that in our time we see a Nazi flag – perhaps the most vicious symbol of antisemitism – paraded in the streets of the world’s greatest democracy, and Israel’s most cherished and greatest ally, is almost beyond belief,” said Israel’s President Rivlin.

Well yes, it was indeed dreadful and sickening to see it. And one has to wonder why the Charlottesville authorities apparently allowed the neo-Nazis to parade near the town’s synagogue and shout anti-Jewish insults; not to mention the fact that the police appear to have done nothing to route the two sets of protesters away from each other. But isn’t the way in which antisemitism has become mainstream on the left and is nodded along without protest by respectable opinion the thing that’s really beyond belief?

Aren’t the repeated mass demonstrations, uniting on the streets Islamo-fascists and the left marching behind slogans calling for Israel’s destruction and death to Jews, the thing that’s really beyond belief?

Black Lives Matter, a core antifa group which was at Charlottesville, is said by Alan Dershowitz to have “declared war against the nation state of the Jewish people”. Isn’t the support for BLM by so many American Jewish liberals the thing that’s really beyond belief?

Neo-Nazism has become the trigger for a kind of Jewish blindfold. Such Jews cannot see that the greater danger today comes not from a few thousand Nazi wannabes without political power but from the massed ranks of the left. This danger is far greater because left-wing antisemitism is being given a free pass by those in positions of cultural power and who vilify and smear any who call them out.

As I wrote here, Trump’s initial remarks after Charlottesville were lamentably vague. He said:

“I think there’s blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”

He should have said specifically there is no place for white supremacism or antisemitism in America; and he should also have said specifically that antifa’s behaviour was violent and unacceptable.

However inadequate his response, however, it has been distorted to suggest that he refused to criticise white supremacists at all, or even that he supports them. It is also said that he drew an equivalence between the neo-Nazis and the antifa. That’s also untrue. He said merely there was violence and bad people on both sides. Indeed, the antifa arrived at Charlottesville equipped for violence with baseball bats and sticks.

Those who point this out have found themselves the butt of claims that they would have similarly condemned those resisting fascist marches in the 1930s. This is not just offensive but morally obtuse. In the 1930s, fascists posed an all-too real threat in Europe. Today’s neo-Nazis, by contrast, are a rag-tag bunch of thugs who are not in any position of power (although unforgivably they are being bigged-up by the left who are inflating their importance almost daily; who previously would even have heard of white supremacist Richard Spencer, or relayed every word David Duke uttered as if he was someone to be taken at all seriously?)

Moreover, would those who imply that violence against fascists is justified say violence against an Islamist demonstration would be justified? On the contrary – these people start screaming Islamophobia and racism at anyone who dares utter any criticism of Muslims, let alone take any action against them.

Trump’s real crime was not to defend white supremacists, which clearly he did not do, but to utter the inconvenient truth that elements on the left are also motivated by a violent lust for power.

The antifa have a history of violence, and not just against neo-Nazis. They deem any conservative to be a fascist and therefore deserving of intimidation and suppression. They are also viciously anti-Zionist which serves as flimsy cover for hatred of Jews.

Powerline has noted: “As one prominent antifa thug said of those on the other side of the political spectrum, ‘their existence itself is violent and dangerous, so I don’t think using force or violence to oppose them is unethical.’”

Noting that the casus belli at Charlottesville was the proposal to remove a confederate statue, Trump wondered where all this would end.

“This week it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Well, that’s already developed just as he predicted. A frenzy has taken hold as confederate statuses and monuments are being defaced or torn down across America.

Bishop James E. Dukes of Chicago’s Liberation Christian Centre called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rename Washington Park and remove a statue of the first U.S. president over his ties to slavery.

A confederate statue was toppled in Durham, north Carolina, with chants of “We, we are the revolution!” and “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” Then the vandals took turns kicking it and spitting on it.

Georgian Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has called for the destruction of the Stone Mountain carving of three Confederate leaders.

In this madness, Trump is even being blamed for unleashing the left as well as the far right.

Chicago Alderman Ray Lopez blamed Trump for the vandals who torched a bust of Abraham Lincoln.

“When you have a president who, from his point of moral authority as leader of the free world, condones the actions of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, people who believe in a segregated society – when he refuses to refute what their actions are – you embolden people to continue,” said Lopez.

So by allegedly emboldening neo-Nazis Trump has emboldened… their leftwing opponents. How crazy is this thinking??

What has erupted in America is a madness. It’s not just against Trump. It’s against American history and identity, and it’s a repudiation of reason itself. For sure, white supremacists and their ilk are evil; but they don’t threaten the very fabric of America and the west. The violent, power-crazed, nihilistic, totalitarian left do just that.

This madness explains the related derangement of anti-Zionism and Jew-baiting on the left. Too many Jews can’t put this in its necessary context to see what’s happening for the danger that it is. Instead, they are transfixed by a few thousand aggressive far-right misfits. If even Jews cannot recognise the true threat to society, what hope is there for anyone else?

The Shamrak Report: Muslim Majority is Silent in Support of True Islam and more....

(This is an old article, but it is still valid! Have you heard any condemnation of the attacks in Span and Finland from Muslim leaders around the world? By keeping silent all of those, so-called moderate Muslims, are complicit in Islamic terror. The only difference is that with the election of president Trump actual/visible demonstration for support for Islamic terrorism has become less vocal!)
The response of the Muslim world to Islamic attacks in Paris, which lacked clear and unconditional condemnation, was quite mute and inadequate compared to riots that erupted, from West Africa to East Asia, in protest of the latest issue of the French magazine: 
- In Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated against the French satirical magazine, whose 12 staff members were killed by radical Islamists. 
- In Amman, Jordan, around 2,500 protesters set off from the Al-Husseini mosque. Jordan's King Abdullah II also attended the march in protest of Charlie Hebdocartoon. (So much for the best Arab ally of the US in the Middle East!)
- In Algiers, 2,000 to 3,000 marchers chanted "We are all Mohammed," though some shouted their support for the Islamist Kouachi brothers. 
- In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, hundreds poured out of the Grand Mosque and marched across the adjacent square, chanting "Expel the French ambassador. Victory to the Prophet of God!"
- A French flag was also set on fire outside the embassy in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, where 1,000 protesters rallied, denouncing Charlie Hebdo and chanting slogans of praise to the prophet.
Muslim governments also joined the terror supporting chorus:
- Qatar branded as "offensive" the drawing, which was reprinted by several European papers in a show of solidarity with the victims of the attack.
- Bahrain's foreign ministry echoed that, saying publication of such cartoons "will create fertile ground for the spread of hatred and terrorism."
In order to win the war against Islamic Terror, the Western democracies must identify clearly the enemy they are fighting against:
"I don't quibble with labels. I think we all recognize that this is a particular problem that has roots in Muslim communities," Obama said. "But I think we do ourselves a disservice in this fight if we are not taking into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject this ideology."
"When I hear the President of the United States and his chief spokesperson failing to admit that we're in a religious war, it really bothers me," said Sen. Lindsey Graham.
FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
Before WW2 the Western anti-Semites had disallowed Jews from leaving Europe. During the war they knew about extermination of Jews and did nothing to prevent it. After the war they were actively helping Arab/Muslim countries to finish what Nazi couldn’t - during Israel’s war of independence, when armies of seven Islamic countries attacked defenseless newly re-created Jewish state they imposed an arms embargo!
Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) is set to rescind the press credentials of Al Jazeera reporter Elias Karram, an Israeli Arab, due to his purported bias against the Jewish state. (It should have been done a long time ago – “to keep the bastards honest”! All foreign reporters and news agencies, who make biased reports against Israel, must be expelled and lose the right to report from Israel. Have you ever heard/seen fake news deliberately and blatantly reported from Saudi Arabia or even ‘democratic’ Turkey?)
Israeli Temple Mount policemen stopped on SundayArab kids from playing soccer on the Temple Mount only after they were requested to do it by one of the Jewish visitors to the holy site. Soccer games are a common sight on the Temple Mount, according to the report, even though they are explicitly prohibited by the law. (Fake people only claim the Temple Mount as a Muslim holy place to undermine Jews claim!)
“Disproportionate Response” to Terror in Spain
Catalan police reported that they had killed five terrorists wearing suicide belts in a shootout, after they drove their Audi A3 into pedestrians in Cambrils, two hours’ drive south of Barcelona. Six civilians and one police officer were knocked over and injured. One terrorist brandished a knife. The bomb belts were detonated by the police bomb squad. This attack was linked by police to Thursday’s van and restaurant attacks in Barcelona that left 13 dead and 80 injured. (When Israel does it, “neutralising” terrorists, Spain and other western international anti-Semites used to always condemn the Jewish state!)
There is a growing concern in the IDF over the fact that for the third draft in a row there has been decline in the demand from recruits to serve in combat units. The last time IDF combat recruitment was this low was recorded immediately after the 2006 Second Lebanon War. At the same time, in contradiction to both ideas, demand for service in the Border Guard is on the rise. (When government of Israel shows no leadership and lack of interest to defeat enemies the motivation is down! At the same time, army recruits are still strongly motivated to protect the borders of the Jewish state!)
Satellite pictures show Iran building a Scud missile factory in Syria. An analysis of the images indicates that the factory being developed near the Syrian coast bears the same features as the missile factory in Tehran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out that current events were clear proof that the basic assumptions in the nuclear agreement with Iran were wrong in the first place. However, he said, “Israel is not bound by any international agreements signed with Iran, and will continue to act decisively and in a variety of ways to protect itself from such threats as necessary.” 
Israel's education minister, Naftali Bennett, a member of Israel's security cabinet, says any future attack by Hezbollah would be considered a "declaration of war by the Lebanese state" as a whole. He says Israel won't operate "surgically" in the next war with the Shiite militia.

PLO Loves US Money, but not Accountability

PA President Mahmoud Abbas chaired a meeting of the PLO Executive which condemned a move by US senators to slash aid to the Palestinian Authority over its stipends to terrorists and their families, saying the proposed legislation amounted to financial extortion that would curtail Palestinian rights. The Taylor Force Act was passed by a vote of 17-4, the legislation received bipartisan support.
Likud limits party registration options in effort to stop New Likudniks. Party takes down online registration form and blocks options to join up via phone, email or fax as well, forcing activists to arrive in person to Likud offices; New Likudniks: 'We're not planning a coup, nor are we a fifth column. We are here to bring back the Likud's values of old.' A week before, Netanyahu's supporters in the party said they intend to petition to the Likud court against the registration of the New Likudniks. (For years, Bibi has done his best to stop the advance of any ‘leadership material’ in Likud. Now he fears popular dissent of Likud members against his ‘indispensability’!)
With Israeli missions in both Egypt and Jordan evacuated, Jerusalem's ties with its two neighbors is only becoming more estranged. And as the peace agreements we fought and bled for are being forfeited, people of all three nations are caught in the middle. What is clear is that this situation, of a virtual embassy, is convenient for Egypt and Jordan. Things in general are also calmer. No one will organize demonstrations to expel the Israeli diplomats and cancel the peace agreements. (No more pretence! Enemies are advancing on terror and diplomatic fronts.)
Quote of the Week:
“Why is it that the media and liberals only run to defend Jews when they are threatened by Nazis and KKK, while at the same time totally ignore threats from Nation of Islam Farrakhan, threats and violence from Muslim religious and government leaders all over the world, as well as radical leftists, including BLM, and many others. This is astounding double standard.” - Jay Lehman, a FaceBook posting – The Charlottesville incident is another minor, blown out of proportion, diversion from more important issues world is facing today – like nuclear North Korea and Iran, Syria, Chinese military expansion, Islamic invasion in Europe and many more.
The War on Terror - the Containment Plan
by Steven Shamrak. (20/10/2006)
We hear quite often that it is the fault of the West that the Muslim world hates us so much. They claim that it is Western demands for implementation of democracy, perceived as arrogance by Muslims, that are responsible for the escalation of Muslim terrorism worldwide. They say that Muslims feel disrespected and insulted by Western superiority and life style, which the West tries to impose on the Muslim world. The message of hate toward the West is loud and clear!
I am totally sympathetic with their concerns and agree that we, Western countries, must not impose our values on our Muslim neighbours. We must completely refrain from interference in their way of life!
If the governments of Muslim countries and their population do not want to live by and obey the rules of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence with other nations, cultures and religions, we must let them live the way they desire! Therefore, total isolation must be imposed upon them and we have to let them live in complete and total disengagement from us. 
They want to live in accordance with and under Sharia Law, a genuine Muslim life style and in an environment of malignant terror and hate. Let them enjoy it in complete self-containment! The wishes of the countries and peoples who hate us so much should be respected by Western society. We must allow them to maintain their ignorant life style and let them impose terror and hate on themselves only. This is the Containment Plan:
1.      Start active development and implementation of alternative sources of energy, with complete dedication of financial and human resources. 
The benefits: It will make a cleaner environment; political and economic independence from Arab oil; Remove a tool of Arab blackmail; Reduce financing of terror; Engender a positive and healthy economical balance and quality of life.
2.      Intensify the war against drug trafficking from Muslim countries.
The benefits: It will improve public health; reduce the drugs for arms terror trade.
3.      Suspend immigration from Muslim countries and deport the radical and criminal Islamic elements to the countries of their or their parent's origin.
The benefits: It will prevent the deliberate Islamization process of Western society; Stop the spread of locally grown Islamic terrorism; Allow freedom of expression in the Western Muslim communities. 
4.      Stop the sale of advanced arms and technology to Muslim countries.
The benefits: It will prevent the escalation of terror and transfer of advanced technology to the hands of terror fostering Muslim states; reduce the chance of development of WMD.
5.      Reduce political, cultural and trade contacts. So far, those contacts have not encouraged Muslim societies to build democracy. Quite the opposite, hostility toward the West has increased.
The benefits: It will reduce cultural pollution of Western and Muslim societies.
6.      If nothing else works stop all trade, cultural and political contacts with the worst offenders, like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Impose blockades.
The benefits: If their hatred of the West is so great and the West is so bad, they must not enjoy the produce of the "evil"!

Iran and North Korea: Two Peas in a Nuclear Pod

By Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror

Iranian Embassy in Pyongyang, via Wikipedia
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 566, August 22, 2017
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Much separates Iran and North Korea, but the two have plenty in common when it comes to nuclear ambitions. Whenever they move to appease the West, they somehow get closer to realizing their goals, while the world fumbles to curtail them.

Our Enemies

By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

In July 2005, I spent a week in New Orleans, even survived a hurricane that deviated off course at the last minute. Two months later, Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and wrecked the Bush Administration. Six years later, I spent a week in Oslo. Two weeks after I left, a crazed gunman murdered 69 young people. Mayhem has followed my visits to several other cities as well, all coincidences, of course.

Needless to say, exactly one year ago, I vacationed in Charlottesville, Virginia, for two days. The horrific events of last week – the murder, the white supremacist rally, the aggressions of the radical left – were all uncharacteristic of the town, a quaint genteel place typified by traditional Southern hospitality. It seems clear that the demonstrators, rioters and activists were primarily outsiders, and it saddens that Charlottesville will take its place in the list of American cities where senseless, hate-filled violence shattered the calm and robbed the innocent of life.

Much has been made of the appearance of Nazis, white supremacists, and random Jew haters, and their counterparts on the left, including thugs, Black Lives Matter activists, and other random Jew haters, and others, and President Trump’s reaction to all of them. Suffice it to say, the President struggles with his articulation. George W. Bush was known for consistently mangling words and syntax, but Trump makes Bush sound like Lincoln or Churchill. You have to know what he is trying to say to make sense of it.

Most supporters can deduce what he is saying through the plethora of words and images that are being emitted, while his enemies (“opponents” seems to be too tepid a term) fume at his every utterance and isolate phrases or allusions that reflect some esoteric code known only to the coterie of detractors. There is nothing he can say or do that will change their minds, and, I suspect, there is little that he can say or do that will turn his supporters against him. Many of those supporters voted for Trump not as their first or second choice but as their final choice, given the alternative. Given that alternative, he will remain preferable, and American society will continue to fragment amid increasing polarization and intolerance.

Those who deem Trump to be a Nazi sympathizer, or worse, interpret every comment as justification for their conclusions. That contention, certainly, is offensive and baseless, because if it were even possible that there was a Nazi sympathizer in the White House, every sane Jew would be packing his bags and heading for Israel forthwith. And yet, with all the chatter about the increase in Jew hatred in America in the last few years, and the alleged fear of Donald Trump, aliya from the United States is down and yerida from Israel to the US is up. Unless Jews are masochists, and perhaps that can’t be ruled out, then the accusations are crassly political rather than substantive and reality-based.

Should President Trump have denounced the Nazis and left it at that? From the media’s and Jewish establishment’s perspective, certainly. Nazis are the handiest enemy of the Jewish people, an easy and deserved target, and universally reviled by Jews and non-Jews, not least the American public, most of which still remembers entering a war to defeat the Nazis (and Japanese) that cost 500,000 American lives. Everybody hates Nazis, racists, white supremacists, etc., but consider the following.

American Nazis are always seeking to call attention to their venomous ideas, always trying to march somewhere, and their following is infinitesimal, not even a blip on the American radar screen. Even in Charlottesville, their participants, for all the hoopla, numbered in the low hundreds. Their ideas have no traction in American society, even if in the internet era they enjoy wide dissemination. Their right to march has been litigated in the courts and approved on constitutional grounds of free speech and assembly. When the Nazis sought to march in Skokie in 1977-78, President Carter was asked about it at a news conference. Here was the exchange, from January 30, 1978:

Mr. President, there's a group of American Nazis in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago, which is contemplating a march that's in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, and there might be victims there of the Nazi concentration camps from World War II. Do you have any plan to use the moral weight of your office to try to discourage this kind of a march?

THE PRESIDENT. I deplore it. I wish that this demonstration of an abhorrent political and social philosophy would not be present at all. This is a matter that is in the American Federal courts, as you know, and under the framework of the constitutional guarantee for free speech. I believe under carefully controlled conditions the courts have ruled that it is legal and that they have a right to act this way.

We have the same problem, as you know, in other parts of the Nation—in the South with the Ku Klux Klan, and others. And I don't have any inclination to intercede further. I think it's best to leave it in the hands of the court.


Note well what Carter said and didn’t say. He deplored the march, found their ideas abhorrent, but acknowledged the matter is being litigated and that the Nazis have a legal right to march. He declined to intercede further. Trump used very similar language, inelegant in his own way, deploring, condemning, saying such hatred has no place in American society, etc. He even pointed out that the evil white supremacists had a permit for their demonstration – as opposed to their protesters who did not and broke the law. (The withdrawal of the police that led to open violent confrontations and then to the despicable homicide should be investigated fully. That was a horrible failure of government.) But imagine if Trump had merely stated – as Carter basically did – that they have a right to march, and left it at that. He would have been excoriated, accused of winking and encouraging these nuts, or supporting them outright.

The Nazis in 1978 eventually marched in a Chicago park, all… several dozen of them, led by Frank Collin (the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor who changed his name from Cohen. Go figure.) Nothing happened. Back in 1978, I (at the time, young and headstrong; now I am older and headstrong) thought that the Nazis should not be allowed to march and should be violently resisted. The man who would soon become my father-in-law suggested that it would be far better to allow them to march, rant and rave – and just ignore them. No coverage. No media. No reaction. I argued. In retrospect, he was right (all right, hard for me to admit) and I was wrong. Their demonstration received no attention. They crawled back into their swamps after a few minutes. Life went on and they continued marching in obscurity. I wonder if the same approach would work today; perhaps it should be tried.

The world today is far different, and not only because Jews are slightly more sophisticated. Free speech is under assault. The WSJ recently excerpted a new book by a liberal (a true liberal) Columbia professor who noted that in today’s climate, “class­room con­ver­sa­tions that once might have be­gun, ‘I think A, and here is my ar­gu­ment,’ now take the form, ‘Speak­ing as an X, I am of­fended that you claim B.’ What re­places ar­gument, then, are taboos against un­fa­mil­iar ideas and con­trary opin­ions.” Like it or not, the counter-demonstrations were an expression of violent offense that others have detestable opinions that should not be allowed to be expressed. That is not the United States of America.

There were two troubling subtexts to the Charlottesville riots. The first was that the radical left wing protesters (the antifascists and other groups) set out to deny the free speech rights claimed by the odious Nazis. There was a time when liberals defended that, and here the ACLU did, even if it have been neglectful in other defenses of free speech such as on college campuses. For its efforts, it was lambasted by Virginia’s governor and blamed for the ensuing violence. That is more ominous than Americans recognize because such suppression of speech has become common across the country, and is un-American. Trump alluded to this but not coherently enough. That does not bode well for Jews, who hold some opinions based on Torah morality that are not appreciated by left-wing groups in this era, and those groups are actively trying to repress and even criminalize that speech.

That is true as well about the matter of the Confederate statues, about which I am an agnostic. I understand why it would trouble blacks, as I am troubled by the statues of Titus and Hadrian in Rome and Bogdan Chmielnicki in Kiev. (If NYC wants to remove the plaque honoring Marshal Petain, please also remove the one honoring Charles de Gaulle, who turned out to be a hater of Israel who embargoed weapons for Israel already paid forwhen Israel most needed it in 1967, and that of Peter Stuyvesant, a rabid Jew hater in his own right.) On the other hand, there is something Orwellian about flushing history down the memory hole. It smacks of untruthfulness, even weakness. I stood before the Arch of Titus, and other statues of Roman emperors in the Pantheon or Italian museums, and laughed like Rabbi Akiva at the end of Masechet Mako). I wished that they could all come back to life for a few moments and see what became of their grandiose empire and, conversely, the nation of Israel that they tried to destroy. There are many American blacks who revel in their freedom, in the eradication of slavery and their successes in America, and their triumph over the ideology of the old men on horseback, whose ideology reflected their times, and whose defeat can teach all of us about morality, values and human dignity; if only there were many more in that community. That would also be tolerant, a lost virtue.

The second subtext is one that affects Jews in America and across the world. The Nazi obsession that we have (justified by the ideas uttered but not by the numbers of people uttering them) has rendered Jews blind to the haters on the other side. People are not our friends just because they protest against Nazis, any more than ISIS is our friend because they are fighting our foe, Bashar al-Assad. The Trump reference that set off so many people – the bad people on “many sides” – highlighted the fact that there are haters on the left that hate Jews and Israel as much as the haters on the right. Groups such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the anti-fascists, et al are rife with haters of Jews and Israel. There is no reason to give them a pass. The Nazis and white supremacists are loathed by everyone and are miniscule in number, while the leftist anti-Israel groups have found a comfortable home in one wing of the Democrat Party. They are being mainstreamed, not the Nazis; they are the ones supporting BDS; they are the ones who are being pandered to by the Cory Bookers of the world; they are the ones who deserve our attention.

Yet, President Trump’s clumsy attempt to reference them was roundly denounced. It is fascinating that the reaction here in Israel, official and unofficial, is largely bewilderment at the American Jewish disregard of their primary adversaries and the elevation to prominence of their faux foes. We have reached a stage, on the bizarre landscape of contemporary American Jewry, where support for Israel is no longer construed as being “pro-Israel” and to some people indicates the opposite, while antagonism towards Israel is not perceived as being “anti-Israel.” It will not be the first time that Jews have failed to distinguish between enemies and enemies, and friends and enemies.

Of all the problems facing American Jewry today, the existence of an American Nazi Party is not even in the top ten. Assimilation and intermarriage have robbed us of more Jewish souls than has this pathetic band of losers. That is the problem but it is far easier to denounce Nazis and white supremacists than it is to keep Jews Jewish for positive reasons, have Jews marry other Jews, and embrace the lifestyle that G-d ordained for us. The real enemies of the Jews in America and the world are not “Nazis,” and we are blind not to see that.

Like bad generals who always fight the last war, we are looking backwards and seeing the wrong things. The Nazis are evil, of course, but some of those confronting them are also not our friends and some are real enemies. We will survive them, but we should not deny their existence, nor should we embark on a campaign to turn friends into enemies. Those who do not learn from past are doomed to learn the name of George Santayana. But those who see only the past and look at everything through the prism of the past are doomed to distort the present and will be unprepared to face the challenges of the future.

As the exile winds down, it would be wise and prudent for Jews to assess who are our real enemies and what poses the genuine threats to our future. That has yet to happen, for, to many Jews, it hits too close to home.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Parashat Re'eh: Show me the Money

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

The mitzvah to which we are introduced in Parashat Re’eh helps even out these inequities, leveling the playing field and restoring balance to the financial ecosystem of the Land of Israel. This is a primary form of Jewish social justice.

In this week’s Torah reading, Moshe continues to prepare the nation for their new life in the Land of Israel. He warns them - numerous times - not to follow the practices of the local pagans who worship their deities under “every leafy tree.” Instead, he tells them, they are to create a central place of worship; there, and only there, are they to bring offerings to God. Reading these instructions, we might conclude that our religion is to be practiced only in this centralized place – in the Temple, in a place that we later learn is called Jerusalem. However, the subsequent verses of Parashat Re’eh prove this conclusion to be in error: A new element of holiness is revealed in this week’s parasha, and it is the most decentralized form of holiness we can imagine.

The Torah had already introduced the idea of a sabbatical year, at first very succinctly in Parashat Mishpatim (Sh’mot 23:10-11), and then in a more fully developed manner in Parashat B’har (Vayikra 25). In the sabbatical year, we relinquish ownership of the fields, orchards and gardens of the Land of Israel, and we remind ourselves that this land belongs to God. For six years, we work the land and benefit from its produce, but the seventh year reminds us that we are merely tenants. The “landlord” has set out very specific rules by which we must abide if we are to remain on His land. Indeed, Moshe reminds the nation - quite pointedly - that the Israelites will be inheriting theland not because of their own merit, but because of the gross misbehavior of the nations that have taken up residence there. The current tenants will be banished because they have failed to obey the landlord’s most basic rules; should the Israelites emulate the behavior of these other nations, their own fate will be the same. (Dv’arim 9:4,5)

How, then, do we merit the Land of Israel? We must do more than eschew idolatry; we must create a just society, and the new element of holiness which is introduced in this parashah aims to do just that: “Shemitat kesafim,” the monetary sabbatical, calls for the cancelation of loans at the end of the sabbatical year (Dv’arim 9:15).

In the seventh year, farmers are not to work the land; even produce that grows spontaneously is declared ownerless. This is how we are reminded that the land is not ours. However, a small problem may arise as a result of this cessation of work: survival. The farmer declares his or her fields ownerless; anyone and everyone may come and take whatever produce they find growing there in the seventh year. The economic burden created by observing this commandment, though, falls squarely on the shoulders of the farmer. Even if the sabbatical year was preceded by years of prosperity, when perhaps the farmer might have put aside a “nest egg” to help survive the year without income, a full year of unemployment is most certainly a severe economic hardship.

It is here that the Torah introduces the law of loans and canceled loans. Presumably, the person in need of a loan is the farmer who has no income. We may further presume that the person who is giving the loan does not subsist from agriculture. This “industrialist” has not been hurt financially by the sabbatical year; quite the opposite, he or she has been the beneficiary of free produce throughout the year. As the seventh year wears on and thecity-dweller’s savings add up, the farmer’s savings dwindle. The mitzvah to which we are introduced in Parashat Re’eh helps even out these inequities, leveling the playing field and restoring balance to the financial ecosystem of the Land of Israel. This is a primary form of Jewish social justice: By canceling these loans at the end of the sabbatical year, the burden – and privilege - of shemittah observance is shared equally by all members of society.
We should not overlookthe more subtle message of the commandment of shemitat kesafim, the monetary sabbatical: Just as the Land of Israel and all its produce are holy, and belong, ultimately, to God, so, too, does all wealth. Whether a household subsists on farming or trading, on agriculture or industry, all prosperity comes from God’s hand. Both the commandment to let the land lie fallow and the commandment to extend loans and cancel debts are divine imperatives; both are intended to remind us that all sustenance comes from God.

The underlying message of these laws was not lost on Hillel, one of the greatest sages of the Mishna. In order to preserve the spirit and intent of the sabbatical laws, Hillel enacted an often-misunderstood and therefore much-maligned decree known aspruzbul(Mishna Shvei’t 10:3). At a time in our history when the majority of Jews did not live in the Land of Israel, the sabbatical laws were observed only by force of rabbinic decree; they were not a Torah-mandated obligation (Rashi, Gittin 36a). This being so, the system of loan cancelation was at risk of collapse, and many people declined to extend loans to other Jews. Hillel created a system, based on an existing loophole in the sabbatical laws, which enabled individuals to assign loans to the court for collection; loans assigned to the court are not affected by the sabbatical laws (Mishna Shvei’t 10:2). In this way, lenders were allowed to bypass a rabbinic law (cancelation of loans at the end of the sabbatical year) in order to uphold the Torah obligation to help other Jews in need. In other words, the very same rabbis who instructed lenders to cancel debts also placed limits on the lenders’ “exposure” by relying on Hillel’s pruzbul.

It has become fashionable in our day and age to claim that “when there is a rabbinic will there is a halakhic way.” Cynics of this ilk enjoy nothing more than pointing to the enactment ofpruzbul as evidence that the rabbis can upend the Torah whenever they so choose. Rashi, and many others, would not agree: Hillel’s innovation applied a pre-existing principle of Torah law, and affected the enforcement of a rabbinic statute; it did not have anything at all to say about observance of a Torah-mandated law. In fact, Hillel’s innovative approach had precisely the opposite result: It allowed monies to be returned to their rightful owner, and was motivated by the desire to uphold the Torah law that requires us to extend loans in support of the less-fortunate members of the community.

The Torah’s sabbatical laws are a means of creating social balance: When the financial burden of the sabbatical year is shared by all sectors of the society, the different sectors of society are sensitized to and take responsibility for one another’s welfare. These laws –shemittah and shemitat kesafim – preserve the fabric of our society, and refocus us all on the true secret of our continued survival: The land belongs to God, and our presence and prosperity here is dependent upon God’s benevolence and our own decency.

The Levitical Model of supporting Torah

By HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

The Torah set a goal for Kohanim and Levi’im – to teach Torah, and educate the public * The ideal was for the firstborn to be sanctified, so each household would have a spiritual Torah member, but we have not yet reached that level * The Kohanim and the Levi’im established the model of the ‘garin Torani’: scattered throughout the country, but living in groups * The Israelites supported the Kohanim and Levi’im who studied Torah, and they in turn strove to teach the nation in a suitable manner * Israelites could also teach, supplementary to the stable foundation of the tribe of Levi * In our times, ma’aser kesafim for Torah scholars implements the goal of terumot and ma’asrot


The Continuation of Torah in Israel

Q: Why did the Torah grant special status to the Kohanim (priests) and Levi’im (Levites), and command us to give them terumot and ma’aser rishon (tithes)? Isn’t this discrimination towards the rest of the people?

A: These are not free gifts given to the Kohanim and Levi’im, but rather gifts that are meant to enable them to be Torah scholars and educators among the Jewish nation, as the Torah says: “They shall therefore teach your law to Jacob, and your Torah to Israel” (Deuteronomy 33:10). The Torah also says: “If you are unable to reach a decision in a case involving capital punishment, litigation, leprous marks, or any other case where there is a dispute in your territorial courts, then you must set out and go up to the place that God your Lord shall choose. You must approach the Levitical priests and other members of supreme court that exists at the time” (Deuteronomy 17:8-9).

Kohanim and Levi’im Not Engaged in Torah

Since the goal of terumot for the Kohanim and ma’aser to the Levi’im is to assist them in their spiritual role, it is a mitzvah to give these gifts to Kohanim and Levi’im ‘Talmidei Chachamim‘ (Torah scholars) who study and teach Torah. As King Hezekiah commanded: “Moreover, he commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites that they might adhere firmly to the Torah of the Lord” (Chronicles II, 8-9).

The poskim (Jewish law arbiters) disagreed as to what should be done in a place where there are no Kohanim or Levi’im engaged in Torah: some say that it is forbidden to give priestly gifts to a Kohen who is an ‘am ha’aretz’, i.e., someone uneducated in Torah; the opinion of most Rishonim is that it is indeed a mitzvah to give the priestly gifts to Kohanim and Levi’im who are Torah scholars, but if there aren’t any Torah scholars present, it is a mitzvah to give them to the uneducated Kohanim and Levi’im, and one is not obligated to go out of his way to give them to Kohanim and Levi’im who are ‘Talmidei Chachamim’ (Tosafot, Ramban, Rashba, Ran, Ritva, and Meiri, Tractate Chulin 130b, as well as being codified in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 61:7).

Nationwide Deployment

In order for the Kohanim and Levi’im to be spread throughout the Land of Israel and available for their spiritual task – studying and teaching Torah – the Torah determined that they would not be given an inheritance in the Land, rather, each tribe would allot them cities within their own inheritance. As the Torah says: “God spoke to Moses… give orders to the Israelites, and have them give the Levites residential cities from their hereditary holdings. Also provide the Levites suburbs around their cities. The cities shall be their residence, while the suburbs shall be for their animals, property, and other amenities… the total number of cities that you shall give the Levites shall be 48 cities…more from a larger holding, and fewer from a smaller one. Each tribe shall therefore give the Levites cities in proportion to the hereditary property that it has been given” (Numbers 35:1-8). In other words, the Kohanim and Levi’im received places to live, and even plots for their belongings, but they did not have enough land to grow their own food, but were nourished by the terumot and ma’asrot they received from B’nei Yisrael. As the Torah says: “The Levitical priests and the entire tribe of Levi shall not have a territorial portion with the rest of Israel, and they shall therefore eat God’s fire offerings and their hereditary gifts. Since God shall be their heritage, as He promised them, they shall not have any territorial heritage among their brethren” (Deuteronomy 18:1-2).

And this is exactly what B’nei Yisrael did in the days of Yehoshua, as it is stated: “And the children of Israel gave to the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the Lord, these cities and their pasture lands…” (Yehoshua 21:3). Over the generations, the leaders of Israel designated additional cities to the Kohanim and Levi’im as needed, for example, the cities of Nov and Anatot.

The Vision of the Firstborn: A Kohen in Every Family

Initially, all bechorim (first-borns) were meant to be Kohanim, so that each extended family would have a distinguished member – firstborns – whose task was to engage in Torah, teach, and serve in the Temple, and thus, the entire nation would be connected to the worship of God and spiritual matters. But after the firstborns participated in the Sin of the Golden Calf as well, they fell from their exalted level, and in their stead, the tribe of Levi who did not participate in the sin, were chosen and sanctified. One can learn from this that the idea of ​​the birthright of the firstborn is still too lofty for us, and therefore, instead of the firstborn Kohanim influencing the public at large, the secular life of general society would have an influence them, and annul their spiritual uniqueness. In order to create a group of Torah scholars and educators responsible for religious observance among the nation of Israel, they need to belong to a tribe that is entirely engaged in matters of holiness. This became apparent in the Sin of the Golden Calf when the firstborns participated in sin, whereas the Levi’im, members of Moshe Rabbeinu’s tribe, stood in the breach against the sinners.
The Model for ‘Garinim Torani’im’

It is possible to learn from the Levite cities scattered throughout the country, an example and precedence for the ‘garinim Torani’im’(Torah-based groups of idealistic, religious individuals and families, who settle in underdeveloped communities to help build up and strengthen the community through social and religious programming) which, on the one hand, should be scattered throughout the country, while on the other hand, needs to preserve themselves as a group, in order to strengthen each other in their sacred work, which at times can be difficult and fraught with trials and tribulations.

Parenthetically, an important piece of advice for the heads of the ‘garinim Torani’im’: in addition to educating towards Torah and mitzvot, they should set a goal for themselves to attract first-rate mathematics and English teachers to the schools under their influence, because these subjects are beneficial for acquiring respectable professions, and thus, their contribution and influence will be well-rounded, and will find pleasure in the eyes of both God, and man.

The Privilege to Choose a Kohen and Levi

Every Jew had the privilege to choose which Kohen and Levi he would give his gifts to. This privilege created a personal connection between the Israelites and the Kohanim and the Levi’im, and compelled the Kohanim to devote themselves to their sacred work among their communities, so that the members of the community would want to give them their gifts. Thus, a Kohen or Levy who went out of his way to teach Torah to children and adults, and the members of his community benefited from his good advice and resourcefulness, was given preference in receiving their gifts. On the other hand, a Kohen or Levy who alienated himself from the community – belittling those who worked for a living, claiming everyone should study in kollel, or refused to recite a “mi she’berach” (a public prayer or blessing for an individual or group, most often recited in synagogue when the Torah is being read) for young men enlisting in the army, or were lazy and did not teach Torah – they received similar treatment at the time of distribution of the gifts.

Nevertheless, there was no fear that the Kohanim or Levi’im that the public loved and respected for their wisdom and dedication would become overly wealthy while their friends would starve, because the gifts were food, and after the Kohanim and Levi’im received all their needs in abundance, there was no point in giving them more gifts that their family could not eat. In such a situation, it was preferable for the owner of the fruit to seek out other, more available Kohanim and Levi’im to create a spiritual and educational bond with those to whom they choose to give gifts. Thus, a continuous relationship was established between all Israelites and all the Kohanim and Levi’im, with the devoted Kohanim and Levi’im given preference in receiving all their needs abundantly, while those who were less affable, failing to make an effort to teach the students well, received fewer gifts. And in difficult years when the crops were scarce and there wasn’t enough gifts to sustain all the Kohanim and Levi’im, those who did not serve the members of their communities properly, suffered from scarcity.
Did Israelites also Teach?

In addition to the fact that the tribe of Levi was chosen to be responsible for Torah study and teaching in Israel, any Israelite also wishing to do so was of course entitled to devote his life to Torah – to study, and to teach (Rambam Shemittah and Yovel 13:13). Israelites wishing to do so had to curtail work in their fields and live modestly in order to have time to study Torah. Most probably, those choosing to do so possessed outstanding talent, diligence and virtue, and consequently, merited attaining higher levels of Torah knowledge, above and beyond the average member of the tribe of Levi, and as a result, many of them served as members of the courts and the Sanhedrin. Occasionally, their families would assist them with their livelihood, similar to the agreement between Zevulun and Issachar, and sometimes the public paid them unemployment benefits so they could dedicate their time to teaching or sitting in judgement. Nonetheless, the important role of the tribe of Levi remained, for they were given the overall responsibility for Torah observance in Israel, educating the young and older children, setting times for classes with adults, establishing peace between man and his fellow neighbor, and between husband and wife, providing emotional relief to the needy, and rehabilitating murderers and criminals. Beyond this solid foundation, the Israelites who devoted themselves to the Torah added an important element of magnifying and enhancing the Torah, in case law, in education, and in the enrichment of social life in all fields in which the members of the tribe of Levi were involved.

‘Ma’aser Kesafim’ – The Continuation of Tithes

In the distant past, more than 90% of the GNP was from agriculture and cattle, and as a result, terumot and ma’asrot from vegetation, first born animals, the zeroah, le’chaim, and keyvah (foreleg, cheeks, and maw of all non-sanctified, ritually slaughtered domestic animals), and reshit HaGez (the first shearing of the sheep’s wool) sustained Israel’s Torah scholars and educators. In the course of time, Israel’s livelihood expanded to industry and commerce, and other fields as well, and then, just as the Torah stipulated that Israelites give gifts in the sum of between 10% (ma’aser) to 20% (chomesh) to the Kohanim and Levi’im, our Sages determined the setting aside of ‘ma’aser kesafim’ (giving one-tenth of one’s wealth to tzedakah) as a medium measure, and ‘chomesh’ from one’s wealth as a good measure.

The Purpose of ‘Ma’aser Kesafim’

The main purpose of ‘ma’aser kesafim’ is to support Torah scholars and educators. In other words, the halakha is that in normal circumstances most of one’s ma’aser should be directed to supporting Torah scholars who study in order to teach and guide the people in the ways of Torah and mitzvot, morality, and derech eretz (common decency). However, in times when many poor people are in need of bread and clothing, the majority of one’s ma’aser kesafim should be allocated for the needs of the poor, and in such a situation, it then serves as a substitute for the mitzvot of ‘leket, shikhhah, and pe’ah’ (gleanings, forgotten produce, and the corners of the field), ma’aser ani (the pauper’s tithe), and tzedaka (charity).

It can be said that ideally, ma’aser is given as a preventive medicine. By way of the teachings and guidance of the Torah, the value of work and proper economic planning becomes common practice – young adults learn a viable profession, people work diligently and resourcefully, and as a result, blessing increases, there are less poor people, and thus, funds from tzedaka above and beyond ma’aser kesafim would be adequate for them. But when preventive medicine is ineffective, and Torah scholars fail to educate the public to work diligently and develop the economy properly, the majority of ma’aser must be devoted to the less fortunate themselves – namely, the poor, sick, and the rest of the needy.