Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Articulating Joy

by Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

Joys divided are increased. - Josiah Gilbert Holland

The Egyptian Empire has been pummeled by the devastating ten plagues. In a panic, after the Death of the Egyptian firstborns, Pharaoh and the Egyptian people beg the Israelite people to go; to go to the desert to worship as Moses had been requesting from the first time he confronted Pharaoh.

However, shortly after the Jews depart their homes and Egyptian cities, Pharaoh realizes that this is not a temporary religious excursion. The Jews have indeed headed to the desert, but they have no intention of ever returning to the slavery of Egypt – it was a sham. They have escaped the bondage of Egypt and mean to make way towards their ancestral home, the land of the Patriarchs, the land then known as Canaan. In a frenzy, Pharaoh organizes his army of six hundred chariots and pursues the fleeing slaves.

The Egyptian army traps the Israelite slaves between their mighty chariots and the sea. However, God is not finished with His miracles or pouring His wrath onto the Egyptians. The sea splits, the Jews enter, to come out unscathed on the other side. The Egyptians follow, to find the miraculous walls of water collapsing on them, drowning every single Egyptian soldier. The Jews, filled with joy over the miraculous salvation, break out in song, the famed Song of the Sea.

The very first line of the song states:

“And then they will sing, Moses and the Children of Israel, this song to God, and they said to say.”

The Berdichever wonders as to the repetition of the verb “to say,” and takes the opportunity to explore an aspect of joy. He states that the primary feeling of joy is in one’s heart. Joy is an internal emotional state. Why the need to sing? Why the need to outwardly exhibit this internal feeling?

He explains that there is an added enhanced component to joy when it is articulated. When we voice our joy, the joy itself is expanded. By speaking of our joy, by sharing the feelings of joy with others, the joy itself grows and multiplies beyond the original feeling.

Hence the repetition of the verb “to say.” They multiplied their articulations, their “sayings”; they repeated and expanded verbally expressing their feelings of joy. That formulation, that repeated articulation of joy, was so heartfelt, was so joyous, was so powerful, that it remains an eternal part of our heritage to this day, more than 3,000 years later.

May we always have causes for celebration with dear friends and family to articulate them together and multiply joy.

Shabbat Shalom.

We will Do and We will Listen

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh


On the pasuk: "They said, 'Everything that Hashem has said, na'aseh venishma -- we will do and we will listen'" (Shemot 24:7), the Gemara comments (Shabbat 88a):

R. Elazar said: When Israel said na'aseh before nishma, a Heavenly voice said to them, "Who revealed to My children this secret that the administering angels use," as it says, "Bless Hashem, O His angels; the strong warriors who do his bidding, to listen to the voice of his word" (Tehillim 103:20) -- first "to do," and afterwards "to listen."

Chazal emphasize here the idea of precedence: "When Israel said na'aseh before nishma," as it would have been possible to simply say, "When Israel said na'aseh venishma," i.e., that they promised to listen and to do all that He would tell them.

The simple interpretation of this is to underscore the idea of obedience and discipline. Not only did Bnei Yisrael accept upon themselves to do all that they would be commanded, but even ahead of time -- before they heard the command -- they already committed themselves to fulfill it.

Thus, the Saba M'Novardok writes:

They decided then to begin living based on G-d's command without any compromise ... We are prepared to do the will of Hashem like an angel, without any investigation at all.

This is the secret that the angels use.

In addition, by saying na'aseh before nishma, Bnei Yisrael displayed a fundamental understanding of the mitzvah of learning Torah, which the Beit Halevi addresses in his introduction.

The Zohar states: "We will do good deeds; we will listen to the words of Torah." I.e., na'aseh corresponds to mitzvot, and nishma corresponds to learning Torah.

The goal of learning Torah, at first glance, is in order to know how to observe mitzvot, since, "An ignoramus cannot be a chasid." However, there is also an inherent value to the mitzvah of learning Torah, not merely as a means to the mitzvot. The proof of this is that a woman is exempt from the mitzvah of learning Torah, yet she is still obligated in the blessings of the Torah according to the Beit Yosef (O.C. #47). This is because she is required to learn about those mitzvot that she is obligated in, and her exemption from learning Torah is only from learning for its inherent value, in which only men are obligated.

Based on this, he explains the dispute between R. Yishmael and his nephew, who asked him, "Someone like me, who has learned the entire Torah -- may I learn Greek philosophy?" R. Yishmael answered: "It says, 'You should contemplate it day and night' -- Go and find a time that is neither day nor night, and learn Greek philosophy [then]!" R. Yishmael's nephew thought that the mitzvah of learning Torah was simply a means to the observance of mitzvot, and therefore one who already knows the entire Torah obviously has no reason to continue learning. R. Yishmael responded to him that the mitzvah of learning Torah is of inherent value, even when he already knows the entire Torah. Indeed, Chazal formulated the bracha on Torah as, "la'asok -- to delve in words of Torah," and not as "loda'at -- to know Torah."

When Israel said na'aseh before nishma, they demonstrated that they understood this principle, since when they said, "we will do," they obviously accepted upon themselves to learn, as well, since it is impossible to do without learning beforehand. Thus, when they said, na'aseh, it is as if they already said, "we will listen and we will do." What, then, is the additional commitment, "and we will listen" that they said after na'aseh? This must refer to learning for its inherent value, even after learning for the sake of doing.

This is a secret that the administering angels use, as there is nothing in our world similar to learning Torah, that a person should learn for no purpose other than learning as an inherent value. Thus, only in the upper realm is this secret of the special quality of Torah is known.

This is what is special about the Torah, that involvement in it impacts the person to sanctify him and elevate him. Thus, Rav Kook zt"l writes (Orot Hakodesh vol. I, 1):

The sacred wisdom (Torah) is loftier than any [other] wisdom, in that it changes the will and character of those who learn it ... unlike all worldly wisdoms. Even though they describe lofty matters, beautiful and noble, they do not have that same impacting quality ... [This is] because all sacred matters come from the ultimate source of life ... and the sacred matter has the ability ... to imprint a new and prominent form upon the contemplating person, while all of the general studies do not have this ability ... to make the one who delves in them to a new creature, to uproot him from the essence of his bad traits, and to establish him in the state of a new being.

The Jewish People -- As One Man and Of One Mind

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir


It says, “Israel camped opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). Rashi explains, “As one man and of one mind, but all their other encampments were made in a spirit of resentment and dissension.” The precondition for Israel’s being ready for the Sinai Revelation was their all being as one man and of one mind, without resentment or dissension.

We can derive a lesson from precise analysis of Rashi’s wording: “As one man.” Every individual has numerous limbs and organs and diverse attributes. Yet they all add up to one person, with each limb and organ and every attribute supplementing what is lacking in the others. It is the same with the Jewish People. Every Jew is different, “for neither in mind or appearance do they resemble one another” (Berachot 58). All the same, we are one people marching up through history to our divine destiny, to serve as a light unto the nations.

Why was it necessary for Rashi to add “and of one mind”? Rashi was hinting that it is not enough that the Jewish people possess one “body,” one national framework. That national framework needs a heart -- a human heart -- a center in which the whole Jewish People can be united and draw strength. Indeed, from time immemorial the Jewish People have always had one center, one heart. In the Desert, the Mishkan [tabernacle] was that heart, and in the Land, it was the First and Second Temples. They were the source from which the nation drew its psychological and spiritual strength. When we went into exile for two thousand years, the synagogues and study houses constituted a miniature Temple, and from them the nation drew strength to survive the dark exile.

Now, on our return to our land and to Jerusalem our capital, on the way to building the Third Temple -- may it be soon in our day -- the centrality of the State of Israel for the Jewish People and for all of mankind is being revealed more and more. Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem are becoming the center of Torah on earth, leading to fulfillment of Isaiah’s words: “For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).

Right now, despite all of the political struggles, we must remember and imbue in our hearts that when all is said and done, we are one nation -- as one man, of one mind -- whose purpose is to publicize that the L-rd G-d of Israel is One and His kingdom rules over all. 

Longing forward to complete redemption,
Shabbat Shalom.

Seven Different Names


by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

Yitro is one of the most enigmatic of all of the personages that appear in the Torah. There are many Yitros in Yitro’s life and perhaps this is the reason that the rabbis taught us that he possessed seven different names. Each name perhaps represented a different Yitro at a different point of his life. We meet him at the crossroads of his life’s choices and beliefs. On one hand he is a priest or former priest of paganism in Midian. He has experimented with every form of religion and paganism in the world before coming to the faith of monotheism. He is influenced undoubtedly by his unexpected son-in-law, Moshe. But he is also greatly influenced by the events of the Exodus from Egypt and the visible and impressive miracles that accompanied this event. But there is also an inner conviction that moves him and makes him a monotheistic believer. He states: "Now I know that the Lord is God for He has avenged Himself on the Egyptians in the manner that they intended to destroy the Jews." The Egyptians drowned Jewish children in the Nile and they were therefore drowned themselves at Yam Suf. Thus Yitro is impressed not only by the miracle of the destruction of the Egyptian oppressor but by the manner and method of destruction that the miracle exhibited itself. It is the measure for measure method of punishment that truly fascinates him and leads him to abandon his home and background to join Israel in the desert. Having arrived at his new beliefs by judicial and rational analysis, Yitro then applies that same method in advising his son-in-law Moshe as to the formulation and efficient operation of the Jewish judicial system in the desert. He is consistent in his analytical approach to matters. Perhaps that is why he was so positively influenced by the measure for measure punishment of the Pharaoh and his Egyptian hordes.

Yitro is the ultimate "outsider" looking in to see Torah and the Jewish people. Many times the "outsider" sees things more clearly than the "insider" in a society does. In Yiddish there is an expression that a temporary guest sees for a mile. (I know that this lost something in translation but you get the gist of it.) The Jewish people, especially in our religious world, live a somewhat insular existence. Due to this many times we are unable to see what otherwise can be plain to others. The example of Yitro encourages us to give respect to the insights of "outsiders" in our community. They many times come from different backgrounds and have fought their way through many false beliefs to arrive at Torah and observance of mitzvoth. Their views and experiences should be important to us. The tendency to force the "outsiders" to become exactly like the "insiders" is eventually counterproductive to both groups. Yitro never becomes Moshe but Moshe and Israel benefit from Yitro’s judgment and advice. We can all benefit from insights, advice and good wishes from our own "outsiders."

Towards Nationhood


by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El



THREE ERAS
The sages have divided the history of the world into three eras: Two thousand years of "Chaos," two thousand years of "Torah," and two thousand years of "Redemption." The Torah portion of Yitro represents a transitional segment coming between the two thousand years of "Chaos" and the era of "Torah." Our sages teach that the Torah preceded the world by a thousand years. And yet, the Torah did not actually appear in the world until the two thousand years of "Chaos" had ended. This must mean that the world had to undergo a major period of development in order for it to be ready for the 2,000 years of Torah. It is may thus be instructive to examine the period of "chaos" - and to understand how it paved the way for the next era - the 2,000 years of Torah.

THE WORLD THRIVES ON CHESED
"Olam Chesed Yibaneh" - "Acts of kindness are the building blocks of the World." The world is built upon every individual correcting and perfecting his or her personality traits - in keeping with the principle of "Derech Eretz Kadma L'Torah." - that is: ethical behavior precedes the learning of Torah. The foundation of all ethical development involves nurturing the attribute of showing kindness to others. In fact, the Torah records how the world was indeed built by figures who held a deep appreciation of this value. The world, on its continuous path towards perfection, produced an Avraham Avinu; his whole essence consisted of kindness, a desire to indiscriminately help others. It was an approach that stemmed from his recognition of the Creator of the Universe and his zeal to convey this message to others...

After much effort, Avraham and Sarah give birth to their son, Yitzchak. During his lifetime, Yitzchak manages to perfect his own "Avodat Hashem" - personal service of God; the pinnacle of this dedication comes with his willingness at the "Akeida" to literally sacrifice himself and to negate his own personal interests in favor of God's will. Yitzchak, too, fathers a son, Ya'akov, who channels all of his energies into self-perfection, and in turn, "Tikkun Olam" - the rectification of the world.

Ya’akov's accomplishments go beyond what his father and grandfather achieved; whereas Yitzchak also fathered the wicked Esav, and Avraham -Yishmael, all of Ya'akov's children are Tzaddikim, righteous individuals. The twelve tribes of Israel maintained and cultivated the spiritual treasure bequeathed them by their father...

SEEDS OF A NATION
The family of Ya'akov Avinu was destined from the outset to be the seeds of a nation. To that end, at the conclusion of the Book of Bereishit, the family arrives in Egypt, and eventually settles into Egyptian society. This is the framework in which the people will eventually be "purified" in the "blast furnace" known as Egypt. Just as metal exposed to intense heat ultimately becomes more solid as a result, so too, the nation of Israel was subsequently able to resist the various pressures that sought to weaken and even destroy it: "As they [the Egyptians] oppressed [the nation of Israel] [the nation] grew in numbers and expanded".

Israel was bidden by God to recognize its connection to the Creator of the World, and to understand the extent of Hashem's absolute providence over the world. To foster this awareness, Hashem strikes Egypt with the ten plagues. This was a process that revealed to the Children of Israel and to the entire world that reality is governed by "Hashgacha Pratit" - Divine Providence. It was this very force that was instrumental in freeing the Jews from Egyptian bondage.

WHAT PROMPTED YITRO TO COME?
At the opening of this week's portion, the Torah tells us: "And Yitro heard..." As a result of the report that reaches Yitro - father-in-law of Moshe Rabeinu and former Midianite High Priest - Yitro decides to convert,to link his fate to that of the redeemed Jewish nation.

"What specific details of the redemption did Yitro hear that prompted him to come?" ask our sages. Their answer: "He heard of the splitting of the Red Sea and the war against Amalek." With the splitting of the sea, Hashem's oneness in the world becomes obvious to all; the entirety of reality, it was learned, is geared towards the sanctification of God's name and the revelation of His dominion over the world. The splitting of the sea had a huge impact on Yitro, filling him with the joy of the redemption, trepidation of the manifestation of God's majesty over the world, and with a complete recognition of His unity. All of these emotions are, say our sages, hinted at in the words, "And Yitro rejoiced..." The Hebrew term used in the verse has a double meaning, indicating that he both rejoiced and that he experienced a severe case of "goosebumps" upon hearing the story of the exodus.

In order for Israel to fully grasp that their God will, even in the future, rescue them from any misfortune - and they must therefore place their complete trust in Him at all times, the nation had to undergo various and sundry hardships: a lengthy enslavement in Egypt, a war with Amalek, lack of water and food, moments of nearly complete resignation, etc. In the desert, as a final step before the giving of the Torah, God feeds the nation a new food called manna, a divine, spiritual food, that purifies the body and feeds all 248 of the body's limbs, without producing human waste. Its color is a compound of many different colors, and its taste - comprised of many different tastes. Manna was given to purify the souls of the people, to lay the groundwork for the crucial moment of "Matan Torah".

Our sages explain that in a place called "Refidim" the Children of Israel's hands "slipped away from Torah." (Refidim is understood as containing a compound word - "Rafu Yedehem" - literally: "their hands slipped away.") In order to receive the Torah, they had to extricate themselves from this weakened spiritual state of "Refidim"... Thus, before they reach Mt. Sinai, the Jews must "depart from Refidim.

The Torah was given in the desert. As a place not subject much to human intervention and manipulation, the desert is the most fitting place for man to humble himself before the greatness of Hashem - a mindset essential for the full acceptance of the Torah. With this worldview guiding them, the Jews reach the ideal state referred to by the verse: "And Israel encamped next to the mountain" - "As one man with one heart. (Rashi)

As mentioned above, the splitting of the sea and the war with Amalek are the events that inspire Yitro to accept the God of Israel as his God, too. What aspects of these events contributed to Yitro's decision?

The Zohar teaches that what makes the splitting of the sea so extraordinary relative to the other plagues is that, when the sea split, two opposite goals were achieved: the redemption of the Jewish people, and the destruction of Pharaoh and his army. Aside from the mighty vision of Hashem’s Hand overtaking nature and subjegating it - Yitro understands that, at the very same moment, God can accomplish two opposite results: the destruction of the wicked and the salvation of the righteous. The event also serves as a model for God's interaction with the world as a whole, in which both good and evil are crucial elements in the Divine plan. Yitro's rejoicing and trepidation are a product of his appreciation of the Divine unity revealed by the splitting of the sea.

OVERCOMING AMALEK
Regarding the verse: "And Amalek came and warred with Israel at Refidim," the rabbis explain: (as mentioned above) that the hands of the Jewish people slipped away from the Torah at Refidim. This opened the door for the Amalek-initiated attack. One may ask: How could it be that Israel, a nation that had merited such a high level of prophecy a short time before (The sages said that a maidservant saw more at the splitting of the sea that Ezekiel saw in his vision of the chariot) could plummet from this peak so quickly?

One approach to this question lies in the fact that, even within the "fall" represented by the crisis represented by their battle with Amalek, the Children of Israel were in fact progressing! Amalek is the source of evil in the world. There is no doubt that Hashem would have not permitted this war to develop had He not been certain that the nation could overcome Amalek. If so, the war itself, and the eventual victory over Amalek represents Israel's ability to now truly battle. to eradicate the source of evil in the world.

Thus, Yitro comes to a belief in the God of Israel in response to two events: The splitting of the sea, and the war with Amalek. From the latter, Yitro learns that there is not, and never will be any force that can block the path on which the nation of Israel is headed. With the defeat of Amalek - the nation that most represents forces antagonistic to the redemption of Israel - Yitro comes to the desert, and converts, filled with a renewed confidence in Israel's mission and destiny...

Caring about Justice for All


by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l

based on Siach Shaul, p. 234-235

Bnei Yisrael arrived at Mt. Sinai with an encampment that is famously described as "like one man with one heart" (Rashi, Shemot 19:2). The unity, which was preparatory for the receiving of the Torah, is not just preparation but is the essence of the Torah. Unity in the world and in interpersonal relationships is not just a convenient means. It is the purpose and the essence of life for all that breathes.

That which Hashem is one is not just that He is unique numerically; it is an essential difference from other beings. His name is peace, just as His seal is truth. The self of a physical animalistic being relates to its interest in fulfilling physical desires, even if this contradicts the welfare of others. For us, the self is to be dedicated to that which is good, and this certainly includes active concern for others. It is not just a matter of fighting that which is bad, but of having goodness serve as an innate value.

The whole Torah can be summed up with "Love your friend as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18). That is not only a message for one who has come to convert (see Shabbat 31a). Once a person is inspired to care, even while he is enjoying tranquility, that there is someone in some place who needs him, that is the time that he cannot make due with a life of idolatry, where obtaining what one wants is the focus.

The internal quest for justice will not be satisfied until all the world is full of justice. A person does not want to see himself as an exception in creation, and if he believes in justice, he wants it to be pervasive.

He will want to see how Hashem handles matters of justice, although it is possible "to see Hashem" only from the back (see Shemot 33:23). When we are at the end of a historical episode and we want to check how things were divinely handled, we should be able to find the unity and the great hand of Hashem in it. We saw what happened to the Parohs of the world, to Amalek, Sisra, Sancheriv, and Titus. These were all-powerful people who eventually had to pay the price of their deeds. In historical hindsight we see how even these evil people played a role in what needed to happen in the world. However, we cannot see "Hashem’s face" (see ibid.). We have very limited vision. While we think we now see no justice, at the end we will be able to look back and get a better look at the whole picture.

Sometimes our more noble self dozes off and we see only ourselves and that which we want from the perspective of a lower level. We do not see the unity of creation and the imprint of Hashem within it. We break the world into little pieces in which each one fights for his survival. Human society becomes like that of the animal world. Then we are prone to asking the question, "Is Hashem in our midst or is He not?" The very question shows that the evil of the likes of Amalek, whose essence is that "he did not fear Hashem," exists.

"They journeyed from Refidim"

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

They journeyed from Refidim, and they arrived in the desert of Sinai, and they encamped in the desert, and the Jewish people encamped there opposite the mountain. (Shemos 19:2)

Why did it have to repeat and explain from where they had journeyed? Did it not already state that they were encamped in Refidim? It is known that they journeyed from there. It is to compare their journey from Refidim to their arrival in the Sinai desert. Just as their arrival in the Sinai desert was with repentance, so was their journey from Refidim with repentance. (Rashi)

Annnnnnd, therefore?

Agreed, the information in the verse seems repetitive and requires explanation. But, what does Rashi’s answer tell us? Did it have anything to do with the receiving of Torah that was about to happen, and why connect it to Refidim?Just tell us that before they received the Torah, they did teshuvah, and we would have been satisfied.

Ahhhhh, but that is PRECISELY the point, a really IMPORTANT point, and one that could have been easily overlooked if not for this verse. And that would have been too bad, because it is a REALLY important lesson, definitely one for the ages.

On one hand, the war against Amalek should not have happened. It was the result of a lack of trust in God, and asking, “Is God among us or not?” Rashi even uses an interesting parable to make the connection and the point. If they hadn’t asked, Rashi implies, Amalek wouldn’t have attacked.

On the other hand, why WERE the Jewish people put into a situation of test like that, causing them to ask about God’s involvement in their lives? Like so many times in Jewish history, it almost seems like a setup, as if they were not only tested, but pushed to react as they did so that … What? So that Amalek WOULD attack? Why?

Because, the Jewish people originally were supposed to be in a foreign land for 400 years. They ended up having to leave after 210 years, 190 years earlier. That wasn’t about just cutting their “trip” short. God designated the 400 years for the sake of accomplishing certain spiritual goals, and leaving early meant speeding up the “program.”

Likewise, the Jewish people left Egypt as a former slave nation. Within 50 short days, they had to become a Torah nation. That was not a lot of time to accomplish such a superhuman feat, and that also meant speeding up the “program.”

In Egypt, the history-altering event was the absurdly intensified slavery over the six months between Moshe’s first shot at redemption and his second. It was those, beyond inhumane, conditions that broke the nation, making them “kotzer ruach,” in preparation for their early release.

In the Sinai desert, it was the attack of Amalek that dramatically transformed the nation, tremendously humbling them in preparation for receiving Torah. It gave them someone to hate more than their own brothers, preparing them for reaching the level of “k’ish echad b’leiv echad—like a single person with a single heart” (Rashi, Shemos 19:2), crucial for receiving Torah.

Though this may not have been clear to the Jewish people when they had to fight Amalek, it probably became clear to them when they reached the base of Mt. Sinai. Even if didn’t, the Torah in making this reference to Refidim is teaching us, that we should not fret too much over the bad we suffer today, the battles that entangle us now. The time will come, we are being told, when we will see how even “punishments” prepared us for higher levels of spiritual existence.

We just have to be patient. The answers are forthcoming and will, retroactively, even turn seemingly meaningless “coincidences,” like identical numbers of bank accounts, into meaningful Heavenly direction.

Secretary Pompeo 2019 vs. President Obama 2009

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

The January 10, 2019 Cairo, Egypt speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – which was cleared by the White House - was a course-setting presentation of the US role in the Middle East.

Pompeo’s ideological and operational speech was aimed at bolstering the US’ posture of deterrence and reassuring pro-US Arab regimes. It was diametrically opposed to President
Obama’s vision of the Middle East, which was presented in Cairo, Egypt on June 4, 2009.

In 2009, in Cairo, President Obama introduced his own vision of rejuvenated US relations with Islam and Muslims, highlighting the following guidelines:

“Islam has always been a part of America’s story…. Since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights….

“Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace….

“America and Islam are not exclusive… they overlap and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings…. The interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart…. Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality….

“More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a cold war in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam….

“Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance….”

In 2019, in Cairo, Secretary of State, Pompeo, introduced his own assessments of Middle East reality and bluntly recommended policy guidelines:

“When America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. When we partner with enemies, they advance….

“America has confronted the ugly reality of radical Islamism…. America will not retreat until the terror fight is over…. We remain committed to the complete dismantling of ISIS…. defeating Islamist extremism wherever we find it…. We grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism, a debauched strain of the faith that seeks to upend every other form of worship or governance.…

“We must confront the Ayatollahs, not coddle them…. We withdrew from the failed [2015] nuclear deal…. re-imposing sanctions that should have never been lifted…. The nations of the Middle East will never enjoy security…if Iran’s revolutionary regime persists on its current course…. America’s economic sanctions against [Iran]… will keep getting tougher until Iran starts behaving like a normal country…. Iran may think it owns Lebanon; Iran is wrong….

“[The Middle East] witnessed convulsions [not an ‘Arab Spring’] from Tunis to Tehran as old systems crumbled and new ones struggled to emerge…. In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid in asserting ourselves when the times – and our partners – demanded it….

“Our reluctance to wield our influence kept us silent as the people of Iran rose up [in 2009] against the mullahs in Tehran in the Green Revolution…. Emboldened, the regime spread its cancerous influence to Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon....

“American’s penchant for wishful thinking led us to look the other way as Hezbollah, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime, accumulated a massive arsenal of approximately 130,000 rockets and missiles… aimed squarely at our ally, Israel…. The US fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Iranian regimes’ aggressive adventurism. We will continue to ensure that Israel has the military capacity to do so decisively…. We strongly support Israel’s efforts to stop Tehran from turning Syria into the next Lebanon…. President Trump campaigned on the promise to recognize Jerusalem – the seat of Israel’s government – as the national capital. In May, we moved our embassy there….”

Reviewing both Cairo speeches, one may pose the following questions:

*Is the US war on the 14 century-old relentless Islamic terrorism advanced/undermined by the assumption that Middle East and Western regimes and peoples share similar goals and values?

*Is the long term US counter-terrorism effort well-served by soothing – or militarilycombatting – terrorists?

*Is the US better off combatting Islamic terrorists in Middle East trenches or trenchesin the US?

*While the US military deterrence in the Middle East would be enhanced by a coalition of pro-US Arab regimes, could it be replaced by such a coalition of regimes, which are inherently tenuous as are their policies and alliances?

*Is the US better off reacting to – or preempting – Islamic terrorism?

*Is the long-term US national security, in general, and counter-terrorism, in particular, well-served by Israel’s operational, intelligence and technological experience and capabilities, in addition to Israel’s reliability as an ally of the US?

Sex, Lies, and Judicial Appointments

by Victor Rosenthal

A sex scandal juicy enough to be the plot of a Hollywood movie is currently roiling the Israeli justice system. A powerful man, multiple women, possible involvement in the highest places, and it all came crashing down. It could end well or badly for the nation, although it is definitely going to go badly for those involved. First, some background:

In most democratic countries, judges are appointed by the elected representatives of the people, or even elected directly. Supreme Court Justices in the US are appointed by the President and then confirmed by the Senate. But in Israel, almost every judge from the lowest local magistrate to the Justices of the Supreme Court, are picked by a nine-member Judicial Selection Committee. The committee consists of:
  • The Justice Minister (currently Ayelet Shaked), and one additional minister, chosen by the cabinet members.
  • Two members of the Knesset, customarily one each from the coalition and the opposition, chosen by the Knesset.
  • Two members of the Israel Bar Association, chosen by a vote of the Association’s national council.
  • The President of the Supreme Court, plus two other Justices of the Court.
The Justice Minister chairs the committee. Since 2014, at least one in each of the four categories must be a woman.

The first thing one notices is that there are five members of the legal profession and four politicians. The second thing is that the largest bloc is that of the Supreme Court members. The result has been what is often described as “the Supreme Court appointing itself.” Since legal establishment tends to lean Left, the makeup of the Court has also tended leftward.

Israel doesn’t have a constitution, and in place of one has several Basic Laws. Some of them – in particular the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty – are relatively broad (compared, for example, to the American Bill of Rights), and have been interpreted quite creatively by the Supreme Court. In fact, the court has interpreted the Basic Laws to give itself the power to cancel laws passed by the Knesset, and to intervene in almost every area of Israeli life.

Many Israelis on the right side of the spectrum, including myself, find this extremely worrying. Where is democracy, if an unelected elite, especially one that is diametrically opposed to the will of the electorate, is given almost unlimited power to run the affairs of the nation?

Of course, if you ask them they will say that real democracy means following their instructions. It’s that redneck (whatever the Israeli equivalent is) Knesset which is anti-democratic. As philosopher-princes (and princesses), they know better.

Since becoming Justice Minister in 2015, Ayelet Shaked has tried to restore balance in the judicial system in general and on the Supreme Court in particular. Unable to change the system of selection, or (so far) to get a law passed that will enable the Knesset to override the court in some circumstances, she has worked to have somewhat more conservative Justices appointed to the Supreme Court.

But the real problem is the selection system. Not only is it undemocratic and heavily biased in favor of the existing judicial system, but there is a built-in conflict of interest: lawyers have great influence in choosing the judges that hear their cases.

Now for the juicy part. In the past week a scandal has erupted in which the (former) chairman of the Israel Bar Association, Efraim (Effi) Naveh, has been accused of arranging for the promotion of a female judge from a Magistrate’s Court to a District Court in return for sex with her; and also of trying to obtain a promotion for a male judge with whose wife – also a practicing lawyer – he was having an affair. Naveh also allegedly advanced the career of legal interns in return for sex.

Until last December, when Naveh was indicted for smuggling a woman in and out of the country without proper documentation – a story in itself rife with cinematic possibilities – he was a member of the Judicial Selection Committee. Of course, even if he had not been a member, as Chairman of the Bar Association, he had great power to influence it.

Although few details have come out – the police have hobbled the feverish Israeli media with an order not to publish the names of the women involved and other facts (although anyone with access to Google can quickly find out) – it’s beginning to look like these cases are the tip of a very disturbing iceberg, which can destroy confidence in the entire judicial system. Radical surgery will be necessary to rip out every trace of corruption, and we don’t know how deep it goes.

Naveh was a friend of the Attorney General (who had to recuse himself from this case). Worse, he worked closely with Justice Minister Shaked in her project to see fewer activist judges appointed to the Supreme Court. The Left is jumping up and down with glee trying to tar the previously squeaky-clean Shaked with Naveh’s brush. It is inconceivable to me that she could have known about his corruption without taking action, but everyone who could have any information is being called to give information to the police, including Shaked, the President of the Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, and every other member of the Judicial Selection Committee.

Naveh himself is probably going down, although his lawyer claims credibly that his cell phone, which contains incriminating text messages, was stolen and hacked. The female judge involved will likely argue that she was coerced by the powerful Naveh. If she can be convincing enough, she may escape bribery charges. Either way, her career is almost certainly over. The other woman, the male judge’s wife, has noted that her husband in fact was not promoted, despite her affair; hence, there was no crime committed. We’ll see.

The Bar Association, which also provides the Prime Minister with a short list of choices for Attorney General, has far too much power. The Attorney General, for that matter, has too much power and too much independence. These things should change.

It will be a disaster if Ayelet Shaked, who has been considered by some as a possible future Prime Minister, will turn out to have been aware of any of this. Naturally, her enemies – the unelected left-wing elite in the legal establishment and the media – already have their knives out.

But there could be a happy ending to the movie. That would be if the undemocratic selection committee could be abolished for once and for all, and a system for appointing judges that would be more responsive to the will of the Israeli people introduced. It would be a change long past due.

Palestinians' Anti-Semitic Stereotyping of Jews

by Bassam Tawil
  • Abbas and the Palestinian leadership are clearly trying to drag Israel into a religious conflict with all Muslims, not only Palestinians. The Temple Mount has become their favorite platform for disseminating blood libels....
  • If anyone is defiling the sanctity of the holy site, it is Abbas and his representatives in the West Bank.
  • Were Israel to stop a Palestinian from entering a holy site because of his clothing, the foreign reporters based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv would have rushed to the scene to interview the man and tell the world that Israel is violating freedom of worship. This is yet another example of how the media gives the Palestinians a pass and allows them to continue their vicious incitement against Israel.


Palestinian incitement and the cynical exploitation of a holy site to spread lies and blood libels is barely noticed by the mainstream media in the West. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Palestinians are continuing to use the Temple Mount, in Arabic known as the Haram al-Sharif, in Jerusalem, as a platform for incitement against Israel in general and Jews in particular.

This incitement, which began after Jewish tourists were permitted to resume their visits to the holy site in 2014, has since taken various forms. The Jewish visits to the holy site had been suspended for several years during the Second Intifada uprising, which erupted in September 2000.

Since 2014, the Palestinian Authority leadership, including President Mahmoud Abbas, have been waging an unprecedented wave of incitement against Israel and Jews to protest visits to the Temple Mount.

In 2015, Abbas announced that the Palestinians "won't allow Jews with their filthy feet to defile our Al-Aqsa Mosque."

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More Decrees, or Education?

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed

The Previous Column’s Question

In the previous column, I asked a question: Most of the restrictions our Sages instituted regarding the wine of non-Jews to prevent assimilation and the abandonment of Torah and mitzvot are ineffective today because many people consume alcoholic beverages other than wine. The prohibition against drinking alcoholic beverages with non-Jews and at non-Jewish parties is also less effective, since in Israel, the process of abandoning Torah and mitzvot and assimilating occurs via a shift to Jewish secular society, as opposed to that of non-Jews. The question is: given all the halachot and their rationales, is it possible today to issue a gezera(decree) declaring it is forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages in clubs and pubs of secular character, or is it more appropriate not to issue a decree, but rather, to educate against drinking alcohol outside of the context of a mitzvah?
Criticism of the Question

Before I share a few of the responses, there were some people who criticized the question itself. Some did so in a Haredi style: “How can a rabbi consult with the public? A rabbi should lead the public, and not follow them!” Others criticized it in a Torani style: “Rabbi, if the question was to find out what takes place in pubs, or what problematic situations should be restricted – fine; but asking the public whether prohibiting drinking in secular settings should be written as advice or halakha? Since when have we heard the public is a partner in considerations of halakhic rulings?”

First of all, the question was primarily intended to hear different perspectives on the subject. Second, many of the readers are Torah scholars and educators whose opinion is important, as Rambam wrote: “When a court sees it necessary to issue a decree, institute an edict, or establish a custom, they must first contemplate the matter and see whether or not the majority of the community can uphold the practice. We never issue a decree on the community unless the majority of the community can uphold the practice” (Hilchot Mamrim 2:5).

Our Sages said (Avodah Zarah 36a, b) the source for refraining from issuing a decree the public cannot abide by, comes from the verse: “You are cursed with a curse, but you rob Me, the whole nation!” (Malachi 3: 9). In other words, if the entire nation can fulfill the decree – it should be issued; if not – it should not be issued. Rashi explains: ‘You are cursed with a curse’ i.e., the public accepts upon themselves a decree through an oath thus prohibiting them, but consequently ‘you rob Me’ – because, not being able to uphold the decree, the oath is transgressed. Thus, if the Sages issue a decree the public cannot uphold, they cause the public to sin.

Moreover, today we are unable to issue a new gezera; rather, the question is, if learners of Torah and the public think the existing decrees should also include drinking alcohol in a secular atmosphere.
Enlightening Comments

From the responses I received, I learned a lot from the personal experiences and different opinions of my readers. I will quote from two similar responses, and then, explain the process of how gezerot (decrees) are issued.

“Rabbi, although you directed the question to young people and I am not so young anymore, and certainly do not spend time in places like bars, clubs, etc., some of my family unfortunately sometimes do. In my humble opinion, the definition should preferably be given as guidance, and not halakha. This way it will be easier for young people to accept. For, in any case, defining it as halakha won’t be very effective because young people will always invent all sorts of arguments why drinking and having a good time is permissible. It is also worthwhile to add reasons why drinking alcohol is bad other than unruly conduct and clowning around, such as the health damages of habitual drinking, and the moral reasons as well, like the fact that drunkenness leads to quarrels, stabbings, and road accidents. Also, to advise those who dodecide to go to bars, to drink small amounts, slowly, and so forth.”

Another response: “In my humble opinion, there is no point at all in writing it is forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages in bars and parties of a secular nature … On the contrary, similar to what you wrote rabbi, sometimes setting extreme restrictions distances people instead of bringing them closer, and in this case, determining it as a prohibition is liable to lead to a disregard for rabbinical writings on this subject altogether. If I were to propose a suggestion, I think it would be worthwhile to be meticulous about the kashrut of food when in a secular environment, and emphasize that the laws of kashrut require special study for those who find themselves in secular environments. Also, to strengthen the fulfillment of mitzvoth, and never forget to recite all blessings, and even recite them out loud, to give emphasis to religious identity.”

The Dispute between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel

“Anshei Knesset HaGedolah” (the Men of the Great Assembly) said three things: “Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence for the Torah” (Avot 1: 1). The fences indeed restrict Jews from violating the prohibitions of the Torah; the question is, is it preferable to institute more fences, or is it preferable to invest in education and guidance, and less in setting prohibitions. On this question, Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagreed. Beit Shammai tended to be strict, believing that additional restrictions and decrees should be established in order to fortify the observance of Torah. Beit Hillel, on the other hand, acted modestly, believing it was preferable to attempt to educate, and minimize issuing gezerot, for adding too many decrees weakens and distances the general public from the observance of mitzvot. Generally, halakha goes according to Beit Hillel who were more numerous, and whose words were more accepted by God and man, as our Sages said: “For three years there was a dispute between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel… Then a bat kol (heavenly voice) issued, announcing: The utterances of both are the words of the living God, but the halakha is in agreement with the rulings of Beit Hillel… because they were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of Beit Shammai, and were even so humble as to mention the actions of Beit Shammai before theirs”(Eruvin 13b).

Once, however, at a very tense meeting in the attic of the house of Hananiah ben Hezekiah, a dispute arose between the students of Beit Shammai and the students of Beit Hillel. When it came to a count, there were more students of Beit Shammai, and eighteen gezerot were decreed that day. Most of the decrees dealt with the addition of restrictions in the laws of tumah (impurity) and taharah (purity), especially in matters invalidating the terumot (heave offerings) that the Kohanim (priests) would eat in purity, but at the same time they also made a decree on the wine, bread, and oil of non-Jews (Shabbat 13b; 17b; Avodah Zarah 35b).

Rabbi Eliezer, who tended towards Beit Shammai, said: “On that day they overfilled the measure” i.e., they set limits in a beautiful and good way, to restrict the people from transgressions. Rabbi Yehoshua, who was from Beit Hillel, said: “On that day they emptied it,” in other words, they decreed too many decrees that were difficult for the public to uphold, and while violating the decrees of the Sages, people are also drawn to violate the laws of the Torah (Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 1:4; Rashi, Shabbat 153b). Before relating what happened to those decrees, I will speak a bit about that meeting.

The Story of the Assembly in the Attic

Concerning Hananiah ben Hezekiah, in whose house the gathering took place, our Sages said: “In truth, that man, Hananiah ben Hezekiah by name, is to be remembered for blessing: but for him, the Book of Ezekiel would have been hidden, for its words contradicted the Torah. What did he do? Three hundred barrels of oil were taken up to him and he sat in an upper chamber and reconciled them.” Apparently, from time to time the Sages came to visit him to discuss words of Torah, and once when important discussions arose, “They took a count, and Beit Shammai outnumbered Beit Hillel, and on that day they enacted eighteen decrees.” Although Beit Hillel usually was the majority, it’s possible that at that meeting some of those from Beit Hillel joined Beit Shammai, perhaps because Hananiah was inclined towards Beit Shammai, and thus the gezerot were decreed according to the opinion of Beit Shammai (Mishnah and Gemara, Shabbat 13b).

It is said in the Yerushalmi: “That day was as difficult for Israel as the day the Golden Calf was made [because of the terrible tension that had arisen and had almost caused bloodshed]… Rabbi Yehoshua taught…the students of Beit Shammai stood below and were killing [an exaggeration] the students of Beit Hillel” (Shabbat 1: 4). In other words, the students of Hillel saw that the students of Shammai outnumbered them and they wanted to leave and thus cancel the assembly before being counted, and the ruling is decided according to Beit Shammai. But the students of Shammai “stuck a sword in the Beit Midrash (study hall)” to express the severity of the matter from their point of view – that no one should leave and no one should enter until a decision was made. The students of Beit Shammai were the majority, and the gezerot were decreed according to their opinions, and among the gezerot they also decreed on wine, bread, and oil (Shabbat 17a, b; Rambam in the commentary of the Mishnayot, Ra’avan, Chatam Sofer ibid. See Yerushalmi Shabbat 1:4, that some are of the opinion that from the outset bread and oil were decreed by agreement).

The Fate of these Decrees

Although Beit Hillel generally was the majority, and this majority expanded over the generations, the Torah scholars of Beit Hillel did not seek to challenge the validity of the decrees determined according to Beit Shammai, since they were accepted decisively, and by means of mesirut nefesh [self-sacrifice] (Avodah Zarah 36a).

However, in practice, following the destruction of the Temple and the cancellation of taharahin Israel, most of the eighteen decrees were terminated in and of themselves. Moreover, it became clear there was room for concern among the Sages of Beit Hillel, since, in practice, many of the Jews did not comply with the decree on the oil: some two hundred and fifty years after the prohibition in the early days of the Amoraim, the Sages probed and found that the gezera of oil had not been accepted by the majority of Jews, and Rabbi Yehuda Nisiah, the grandson of Rebbe, together with his Beit Din (religious court) annulled the decree prohibiting oil. It is further stated in the Yerushalmi (Shabbat 1: 4) that at times the attempt to observe the gezera on oil led to life-threatening situations since oil was in great need, and occasionally Jews would go up Har HaMelech to harvest olives, and the gentiles would kill them.

The decree on bread was also lessened by Rebbe, the author of the Mishna, and in the wake of his words, pat paltar goy (a gentile baker’s bread) was permitted. Nevertheless, the prohibition on wine remained in place, and our Sages even decreed it forbidden b’hana’ah (all types of benefit), lest it had been poured for avodah zarah (idolatry). They also added a prohibition of drinking alcoholic beverages at a non-Jew’s house, or near his store.

Thus, the conclusion emerging from the words of our Sages over the generations is that the main fence against assimilation they reinforced is wine and alcohol, and consequently, there is room to deliberate drinking in a secular atmosphere. However, we have also learned from this matter to be very careful in adding prohibitions.

The Shamrak Report: Anti-Semitic Travesty of Population Transfer

by Steven Shamrak
In 1922, the British encouraged Arab anti-Jewish riots and were quite eager to implement the transfer of Jews from Trans-Jordan, Hebron and other parts of the PalestinianMandate, which was created for a future Jewish state, but rejected an idea, presented by a Zionist committee, of transferring Arabs to trans-Jordan.
On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly adoptedResolution 181, calling for the partition of what is left of the Mandate into Arab and Jewish states (into ridiculous six triangles). Interestingly, the resolution had a provision of population transfer. Arabs rejected this resolution and waged war against Jews!
Israel's War of Independence began on 19 July 1948 and ended on 20 July, 1949. Less than a month later, on 12 August 1949, the United Nations adopted the Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. All prior Geneva Conventions were adopted before 1949, and were concerned with combatants only!
Just two years earlier, 12 million people were transferred between India and Pakistan to stop the blood bath and resolve the conflict!
Because Israel won the war, which all international anti-Semites were hoping that Jews would lose, against seven well armed Muslim states, the UN deliberately stopped the flood of Arab refugees from Israel! By doing so, the UN has created an unresolvable conflict and persistently has been maintaining it.
Since 1949, “population transfer” has been practiced quite commonly in various forms and names, mostly by the UN, as creation of ‘safe zones’ and refugee resettlement programs! Most refugees from other conflict zones have been resettled, but not the fake Palestinians!
Therefore, immediately after Israel won the War of Independence, “population transfer” - transfer of Arabs from Israel - became illegal, in reality, for Israel only!
Several billion of dollars are spent each year on already the 4th generation of ‘unique’, ‘professional’ Palestinian refugees with one goal only – to undermine the legitimacy and existence of the Jewish state!
My interview with Jewish Australian Community TV program "Shtick"
Subject: "Population Transfer" – to Watch it, Click Here
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
By electing the non-existing state, ‘Palestine’, and non-member of the UN as a head of the important UN group, just because the so-called Palestinians are enemies of the Jewish state, the United Nations confirmed again its deep anti-Semitic nature, which is compliance with its predecessor’s attitude toward Jews. The League of Nations had been pro-actively assisting Nazi Germany in execution of the “Final solution” for Jews, Holocaust, before and during WWII!
Please, read and distribute!
The Palestinian Authority has informed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it will no longer accept any American security aid dollars as of the beginning of February. Under the law, American courts will have the jurisdiction to rule on cases against any foreign party accused of supporting terrorism that accepts US aid. In practice, that means American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks would be able to file lawsuits against the PA and PLO in US courts for compensation - possibly in the hundreds of millions!
A third Qatari cash infusion will be paid out to Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after it was held back by Israel in protest of Palestinian border violence. In November, Qatar began a six-month, $150 million program to fund civil servant wages and shipments of fuel for power generation in Gaza, offering a measure of reprieve to the blockaded enclave under the control of the Hamas terror group. (Government of Israel has been facilitating support for by Gaza population and stability of Hamas regime in Gaza!)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chad’s President Idriss Deby announced the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and Chad, 47 years after they were broken off. Before boarding his plane to Chad, Netanyahu stated he was leaving “on another historic and important breakthrough, to Chad, a huge Muslim country bordering Libya and Sudan.”(Chad must open its new embassy in the capital of Israel, Jerusalem - no more fake diplomacy!)
Almost half of the Palestinians who leave the Strip don't return, with many taking advantage of the permanent opening of the Rafah border crossing to get out via Egypt and search for a better life elsewhere. Some 36,000 people left Gaza between May and September of 2018, just 17,000 returned.(With a little ‘gentle persuasion’ from IDF they will all return to wherever their ancestors came from quite fast!)
The United States has told Iraq that it will not intervene if Israel attacks Iranian targets in the country, Russia Today’s Arabic-language news service reported. The 10,000 troops massed on the Iraqi border belong to a pro-Iran group. This Iraqi force awaits a green light to cross into northern Syria from President Bashar Assad. (Will Netanyahu use the opportunity and decisively defeat enemies?)
The Palestinian Authority allocated NIS 550 million to pay salaries to terrorist prisoners and released terrorist prisoners - no more than a few tens of thousands. The salaries paid to these recipients, among them murderers, ranged from NIS 1,400/month to NIS 12,000/month. In contrast, the PA spent only NIS 605 million to provide financial assistance to 118,000 needy families received payments ranging between NIS 750 to 1,800 per quarter.
In November, Israel’s Foreign Ministry sent a formal letter to all governments with which Israel maintains diplomatic relations, notifying them that honorary consulates would no longer be permitted in the capital. Nearly all countries maintain embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv. Several countries stated that they would “very seriously consider” moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Any self-respecting country would not allow this hypocrisy for so long! Israel must set clear policy and make them to move embassies to Jerusalem now!)
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, draws ire after saying “There are more pressing matters we (Arab countries) must contend with, since the Arab world has dramatically changed." An Egyptian political analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the secretary-general’s “statements are a clear attempt to prepare the ground for the normalization of relations with the Zionist entity." (Fearing Iran, Arab enemies are just playing a political game to ‘recruit’ Israel to act against common foe!)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would press ahead with its campaign against Iranian entrenchment in Syria. Netanyahu mocked claims from Tehran that it did not have a military presence in Syria but only advisers. Netanyahu also accused Iran of using its nascent space program as cover for ballistic missile development.
The World Council of Churches’ Training Camp for Anti-Israel Advocacy), the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a group operating since 2002 under the auspices of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has brought 1,800 volunteers to Judea and Samaria to “witness life under occupation” – something the WCC does not do in any other conflict zone. (It does not matter to them that enemies of Israel discriminate against and kill Christians - anti-Semitic hate prevails!)
Former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who appears to be a leading candidate to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming elections said in 2015 that during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, he risked Golani brigade soldiers for fear of harming the residents of Shuja’iyya. Despite Gen. Gantz’s best intentions, the UN, US, and UN condemned the IDF’s tactics in that battle. (Risking the lives of the solders to position himself for his future political career is immoral!)
Quote of the Week:
“We habitually use international aid funds to dedicate facilities in honor of those who committed massacres, to pay lifetime pensions to the perpetrators of such acts, and to support the families of those who were killed or captured in the attempt. Palestinian culture is all but defined by our devotion to uncompromising opposition to Israel, and that finds it most quotidian expression in the allocation of funds to those heroes and their families for purposes of glorifying their acts. Demands from Norway, the US, the EU, and now maybe even the UN... the institutions or individuals who issue those demands will face unwavering, possibly violent, resistance. You cannot define our culture for us! ...Killing Jews is an ancient element of our culture, and the one thing we should be able to agree on.” - Mustafa Massiqr - Israel must destroy this ‘culture’. Cutting the PA financing is the easiest first step!
The United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of appointing Palestine as head of the group of 77, a coalition of developing nations at the UN, in a move that allows it to act more like a full U.N. member state during meetings in 2019. While 146 counties voted in favour, only three - Israel, the US and Australia - voted against. 15 countries abstained.
The bloc made up of 134 member states designed to leverage its members’ negotiating capacity (and advance anti-Israel resolutions of the UN). The G-77 has recognized Palestine as a member since 1976. The bloc is made up of 134 member states, representing at least 80 percent of the world’s population, though it originally started with 77.

Rav Kook on Parashat Yitro: Coercion at Sinai

The Torah describes the remarkable events that preceded the Torah’s revelation at Mount Sinai:

“Moses led the people out of the camp toward God and they stood at the bottom of the mountain.” (Ex. 19:17)

The Midrash interprets the phrase “bottom of the mountain” quite literally: the people were standing, not at the foot of the mountain, but underneath it.


“The Holy One held the mountain over them like a bucket and warned them: If you accept the Torah - good. And if not - here you will be buried.” (Shabbat 88a)

Would it not have been preferable for the Jewish people to accept the Torah willingly? Why does the Midrash teach that they were forced to accept it?



Limits to Free Will

It is essential that we have the ability to choose between right and wrong. It is through our free will that we develop spiritually and refine our ethical faculties. There are, however, limitations to our free will.

Not everything is subject to freedom of choice. Free will itself is an integral part of life and is beyond our control. We are not free to decide whether to choose or not. We must make an ethical choice. We decide what to choose, where to go, which path to take. But the necessity to choose, like life itself, is forced upon us.

If the Torah was simply a manual on how to make good ethical decisions, it would be appropriate for Israel to be free to accept or reject the Torah. The Torah would belong to the realm of free will, and the fundamental decision whether to accept and follow the Torah would need to be made freely, without coercion.

But the Torah is much more than a moral guidebook. The Torah expresses our inner essence. When we violate the Torah’s teachings, we become estranged from our own true selves. For this reason, the Torah needed to be given to Israel in a compulsory act, just as free will is an inherent aspect of our spiritual makeup and was imposed upon us without our consent.

Supporting the World

The corollary to this truth is that the Torah is not the private possession of the Jewish people. Within the inner realm of creation, all is interconnected and interrelated. The universe mandates the existence of the Torah and its acceptance by Israel.

Why did the Midrash use the image of an immense mountain dangling overhead as a metaphor for the inevitability of Matan Torah?

Mount Sinai merited a unique role on that decisive day. The mountain represented all of creation; it became the universe’s center of gravity. Mount Sinai absorbed the quality of universality and was permeated with the force of inevitable destiny. It represented the impossibility of life, or any aspect of existence, without Israel accepting the Torah.

The Jewish people made their stand under the mountain. Like Atlas, they supported the entire universe - a universe that was concentrated within the mountain held over their heads. “If you accept the Torah, good” - for then you will have been faithful to your true essence, the truth of your very existence. “And if not, here you will be buried.” The entire universe will rise up against you, just as you have rebelled against your true selves.


(Silver from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback). Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. IV on Shabbat 88a (9:67).)

Joyfully Bringing The Shechina Home

BS”D
Parashat Yitro 5779
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

Shemot 18:9):

ויחד יתרו על כל הטובה אשר עשה ה’ לישראל – אשר הצילו מיד מצרים

“Yitro was overwhelmed with gladness when hearing of all the good that HaShem had done for Israel; by rescuing him from the hand of the Egyptians.”


Use of the word “him” in the singular would appear to be inappropriate when referring to the nation of “Israel” as a whole. The pasuk should read “… all the good HaShem had done for Israel, by rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians.

We find a similar apparent misuse in the Book of Yirmiyahu (chapter 31:15)

כה אמר ה קול ברמה נשמע נהי בכי תמרורים רחל מבכה על בניה מאנה להנחם על בניה כי איננו

This is what the LORD says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because he is not here”.


Use of the words “he is” in the singular when referring to Rachel’s many children in the galut is apparently incorrect; the pasuk should read “…Rachel is weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are not here”.

We could dismiss these apparent errors with superficial and unsophisticated explanations by saying that the pasuk – “Yitro was overwhelmed with gladness when hearing of all the good that HaShem had done for Israel; by rescuing him from the hand of the Egyptians” – was describing the limitless empathy that Yitro felt for the Jewish nation, as if he himself had been saved by HaShem at the splitting of the Red Sea.

And we can explain the prophet Yirmiyahu’s use of the words “he is” in the pasuk – “… Rachel is weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because he is not here” – as a way of describing Rachel’s limitless love for all the children of Israel. If the time should come when all the Jews in the world will gather in Eretz Yisrael, except for one “Menachem Mendel” who is still out there, Rachel will continue to weep and refuse to be comforted “because he is not here”.

However, I suggest a deeper meaning to the same apparent mistake of using the inappropriate singular term in place of the proper plural term.

In both cases, the singular refers to the one, unitary, almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, the God of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov Who chose their descendants – the nation of Israel – as His own.

And the message is the same.

Rabbi Yanai in Midrash Raba (Shemot 2:5) explains that HaShem appeared to Moshe from a burning thorny bush as if to say that when the Jewish people are in dire distress, HaShem is together with them in their galut and suffering, just as twins feel each other’s pain.

The pasuk says, “Yitro was overwhelmed with gladness when hearing of all the good that HaShem had done for Israel; by rescuing him from the hand of the Egyptians.”

By freeing the Jewish people from galut, HaShem too was now freed from the tuma of the galut.

The prophet Yirmiyahu is echoing the same idea, that “Rachel is weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because he is not here” – because HaShem has relegated himself to be in galut with His children Yisrael.

Each and every Jew is connected to the holy Shechina from Whom he draws the unique sanctity of his Jewish soul.

A Jew in galut, by necessity, draws that spark of Shechina that is his essence to dwell with him in the tuma of the galut. Coming home to Eretz Yisrael is a physical act, but the spiritual implications overwhelmingly overshadow the physical. You bring home that part of the Shechina which is the life energy of your soul. Not to do so is not only a violation of a rudimentary requirement of being an authentic organ in the body of Am Yisrael, it is a denial of the spiritual, metaphysical aspects of Judaism and your connection to them.

This Shabbat, when we hear the first of the Ten Commandments – “I am the Lord your God who has delivered you from the land of Egypt” – keep in mind that the purposes of the deliverance were to reveal the Torah to the Jewish nation and to have it observed in HaShem’s Holy Land.

The commandment does not say: “I am the Lord your God who has delivered you from the land of Egypt, in order that you dwell in other lands of the galut”.


Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5779/2019 Nachman Kahana