Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Only Real Commitment of Yisrael Gantz: New Policy of Retreat and Expulsion in the Works


by David Bedein

As the Israel political campaign enters its final weeks, the Israeli electorate has been witnessed to an unprecedented third election campaign in less than one year, during which BLUE AND WHITE leader Benny Gantz has avoided almost any public statement as to where he stands on the issues of the day for the Jewish State.

There is one exception: On February 5, 2019, Gantz expressed his support for the IDF retreat from Gaza and the expulsion of all its Jewish residents, a policy that was carried out in August, 2005.

Gantz described that retreat and expulsion policy as actions that were conducted legally, and that this policy represented a policy that should be emulated.

See: https://tinyurl.com/uul4goh

Since then, Gantz has not spoken about this policy statement, nor has he withdrawn this policy.

Anger, not Apathy

by Victor Rosenthal

The media say that Israeli voters are apathetic. They aren’t – they are furious.

About a third of them aren’t expected to vote at all in the March 2 election, an unprecedented third in 11 months. And polls show that those who will vote will divide up between the two major blocs in almost precisely the same way as they did in the previous two elections, which did not produce a government. This time too, neither bloc appears to have the 61 seats in the Knesset needed. One wants to say that a fourth election is unthinkable, but we said that about the third one.

Recently there have been revelations about possible illegalities involving a bankrupt company called “Fifth Dimension” connected to Benny Gantz, the opposition Blue and White party’s standard-bearer against PM Netanyahu. We’ve also heard about tapes of possibly improper conversations between Gabi Ashkenazi, one of Blue and White’s four leaders, and Avichai Mandelblit, the attorney general who indicted Netanyahu (conversations related to an entirely different ugly scandal around Ashenazi). None of this has even slightly moved the needle of the polls.

The right wing is certain that only a right-wing government will not do something stupid, like agreeing to a sovereign Palestinian state in the territories. It knows that only a right-wing government can be trusted to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley or Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. It is more or less correct in this, although even a Netanyahu government is likely to bend to the winds blowing from Washington, in whichever direction they blow.

The left wing is certain that Netanyahu is destroying democracy in the country, but more importantly they are disgusted by everything about him, especially his greedy wife Sara and loose-cannon son Yair. They think he is a horribly corrupt criminal, an anti-Arab racist, and an embarrassment to the kind of state they would like Israel to be. They are hoping that his trial, which will begin the week after the election, will result in his conviction and a prison sentence.

And here are some facts that almost every Israeli knows:
  • With only a few exceptions, the top leadership of both blocs is both corrupt and untrustworthy.
  • Benny Gantz is a bumbler who is not competent to be Prime Minister, and he and his three partners agree about nothing except that they want Netanyahu out. It’s hard to imagine them governing if they were to attain power.
  • Netanyahu is brilliant and competent (although many hate him). A recent poll showed 45% of those polled saying that he was most suited to be PM, compared to 35% who chose Gantz. Netanyahu is not as bad as the indictments say he is, but he’s not averse to accepting “gifts” from “friends” who are rich people expecting something from the government.
  • All of them prioritize their own wants ahead of the needs of the country.
Polls say that Netanyahu’s Likud will get slightly fewer votes than Gantz’s Blue and White party, but will be unlikely to put together a coalition of 61, just like in the two previous elections. Gantz’s party may get two or three more seats than the Likud, but it will be even farther from the needed 61. The only ways for Gantz to form a government will either be for him to make a coalition with the Arab Joint List – which he will not do, because almost all Arab MKs are outspokenly anti-Zionist – or to create a minority coalition which will stay in power as long as the Arabs agree not to vote against it in a vote of confidence. This would give the Arab bloc a veto over any government actions.

Netanyahu campaigns by talking about his accomplishments, especially those that have come about from his relationship with US President Trump. He continues to remind voters that a Gantz government would need Arab support. Lately he has been talking about Fifth Dimension. Nobody cares.

Gantz campaigns by talking about Netanyahu’s indictments. A recent radio interview with a spokesperson for Gantz went like this:

Interviewer: Isn’t it true that you have no way to get 61 Knesset seats and that the only way you can form a government is with support from the Arab Joint List?

Gantz spokesperson: Maybe, but Netanyahu has three indictments and is going on trial soon.

Nobody cares about this either.

I haven’t mentioned Avigdor Lieberman yet. He could have put Netanyahu (but not Gantz) over the top, but he chose not to. His party leans rightward, and has been part of previous right-wing coalitions. But he found an issue that resonates with his constituents – Haredi draft-dodging – and his stubbornness on this has both helped him get votes and served as an excuse to avoid helping Netanyahu, with whom he is feuding.

The villains are multiple. There is Lieberman, of course. There are the Arab MKs, who do not represent moderate Arab citizens, but insist on espousing Palestinian nationalism, which is perhaps why only about half of Arab Israelis bother to vote. There is Netanyahu, who resisted any attempts to get him to step down in favor of other members of his party, and who has consistently crushed any possible challengers to his domination of the Likud. There are the people who suffer from Bibi Derangement Syndrome, who would rather see a nonfunctional government than one under Netanyahu. There are the right-wing voters who insist on voting for several small parties which are not expected to pass the 3.25% threshold, and therefore whose votes will not be counted at all.

Personally, I believe that a right-wing government under Netanyahu is the best outcome, although I would have preferred that he pass the baton to a successor. Nevertheless, it’s clear that he is extremely competent and able to carry out his duties to a reasonable degree despite the interference of his legal problems. Gantz and the zoo that he leads would be worse. Everything now depends on how effective the parties are in stimulating their voters to turn out, whether the small right-wing parties drop out, and so on.

We are sick of politicians. We are sick of the way their selfishness has prevented us from getting a government that could deal with the many issues facing the nation today, including the most important strategic ones. We are sick of having money removed from programs that actually help people, in order to fund the extremely expensive elections. If there were a button to push that would remove all of our politicians, we would push it.

Israelis aren’t “apathetic,” as the media – which loves the craziness of elections – says. We are furious. We just haven’t found that button.

Islamic renewal? Western challenge!

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Islamic Traditionalists vs. Islamic Reformers
In 2020, a dramatic battle is raging between the traditional, imperialistic school of Islam, which insists on strict adherence to the Quran and Sharia (“divine laws”), on the one hand, and the modernist/reformist school of Islam, which wishes to adjust Islam to the 21st century, by reforming intolerant and violent principles of the Quran, on the other hand.

The traditionalists are led by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar University, the highest authority of Sunni Islamic learning, which was established in 975 CE, and the pan-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic terror organization, which was established in Egypt in 1928. The latter is heavily supported by Turkey’s Erdogan, haunting every pro-US Arab regime and stretching its presence into Latin America and the US.

The modernists – who face a steep uphill battle - are led by Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and the President of Cairo University, Mohamed al-Khosht. They urge Islamic liberalization and modernization.

The January 27-28, 2020 Al Azhar International Conference on Renovation of Islamic Thought, with leading clerics and politicians from 46 Muslim countries, demonstrated the decisive dominance enjoyed by the traditional school of thought in the Arab/Muslim world.

The conference accorded reverence and thunderous ovation to the call by Al Azhar’s grand Imam for the renewal of rigorous obedience to the Quran and Sharia and to his harsh criticism of the modernists. However, there was no applause for the challenging President of Cairo University, who called for replacing some of the traditional Islamic guidelines, which “are suitable for a different age.” The modernists – most notably President Sisi - maintain that adjusting Islam to the 21st century is a prerequisite to de-radicalize Islamic youth, reduce intolerance and violence, curtail regional turbulence and set Muslim societies on a modern path.

Islamic Reality facing Western Democracies
In 2020, the conclusion of the January Islamic Conference highlighted the critical intellectual and national security challenge facing Western democracies, which tend to underestimate the clout of the Quran and Sharia in determining the strategy and policies of various Islamic entities, such as Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey’s Erdogan, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Are these entities driven primarily by economic interests or by the classic precepts of Islam?

Thus, Western democracies were elated to hear the traditionalist Grand Imam of Al Azhar stating that “Jihad [holy war] is not synonymous with fighting…” and that “established Sharia bans antagonism for those who oppose the religion [Islam]….” They tend to ignore his assertion that “renewal is in no way possible concerning those texts, which are irrefutable in their certainty and stability [the Quran and Sharia].”

Moreover, Western democracies tend to sacrifice reality on the altar of well-intentioned hope. Hence, Islam was introduced in the early 7th century in the Arabian Peninsula town of Mecca, took over the entire Peninsula, expanded throughout the Middle East and Turkey, surged to northwest Africa and Spain, and established itself in parts of Asia and Africa. Was such an unprecedented expansion achieved via peaceful persuasion or the power of the sword?

According to historical documentation, Islamic wars have not been defensive, but rather Jihad-driven offensive. The 14 century expansion of Islam has been energized by wars, terrorism, subversion and other forms of intolerant violence toward “believers” as well as “infidels.”

In fact, in 2020, there has been a resurgence of the 7th century Islamic guidelines, as exercised by Islamic regimes such as Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Moslem Brotherhood, ISIS and Turkey’s Erdogan, which pursue global imperialism in accordance with the Quran and Sharia (“divine laws”). This aggressive Islamic strategy is intensified by the education curriculum in Muslim entities, including the Palestinian Authority.

This strategy is a derivative of the precepts of Islam, as prescribed by the Quran and Sharia (Divine Laws).

For example:

*Islam is the sole legitimate religion, divinely-ordained to rule the globe;
*“Infidels” must submit themselves to the “believers” unconditionally, peacefully or militarily;
*Jihad (holy war) is a prime commitment to Islam, guaranteeing each warrior 72 virgins in paradise;
*Terrorism is aimed at terrifying “infidel” civilians into defeat;
*Accords with “infidels” are non-binding, temporary ceasefires and truces (sulh, hudna) - not end of conflict – to be abrogated once “believers” regain sufficient fire-power;
*Double-speak and dissimulation (Taqiyyah) are legitimate tactics aimed at misleading and defeating “infidels.”

The Western Challenge
Will Western democracies persist in allowing their hope for Islamic reform to cloud the skillful use of Islamic dissimulation (as was evidenced by the Western embrace of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran’s Ayatollahs; the miscomprehension of the 2010 eruption of the Arab Tsunami; and the misrepresentation of the 1993 Arafat’s supposed acceptance of preconditions for the establishment of the Palestinian Authority)?

Are Western democracies aware of the 1,400 year old supremacy of the precepts of Islam in shaping the policies of rogue Islamic regimes?

Will Western democracies persist in ignoring the centrality of hate-education in bolstering radical Islam, while serving as the most effective incubator of terrorism (e.g., the Palestinian Authority)?

The preservation of Western democracies is jeopardized by the tendency to sacrifice reality and long term interests on the altar of oversimplification, wishful-thinking and immediate gratification.

Tachash Skins in the Mishkan

by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

The uppermost covering of the Mishkan, the mobile Tabernacle of the desert, was made from the colorful skins of the tachash. The exact nature of this unusual animal is not clear. The Sages (Shabbat 28b) were not even sure whether the tachash was a kosher animal. According to Rabbi Meir, it was a unique, multi-colored creature, with a single horn in its forehead. After the tachash made its appearance in the time of Moses, it disappeared from sight.

How could the holy Tabernacle be constructed from an impure animal? What purpose would this serve?

The difference between pure and impure is similar to the difference between good and evil. These distinctions are true and valid, and it is necessary for our moral development to recognize and emulate good, while abhorring evil and corruption. However, these distinctions are really only by way of comparison. Good and evil are in fact relative terms. On a very fundamental level we recognize — at least intellectually — that everything has some ultimate purpose and value. Nothing can exist, nothing was created, which is absolute evil. Everything must relate, on some level, to the underlying good of the universe.

This abstract recognition of the hidden value of evil has no practical application, since morality is based upon the strongest possible feelings of hatred for evil and love for good. Therefore, when it comes to fulfilling mitzvot, which are practical ethical guidelines, it is not appropriate to use impure objects.

The Tabernacle, however, may have been an exception to this rule.

The generation of Jews who lived in the desert for forty years was a special generation. Their spiritual achievements were for all times. They encompassed the essence of all future generations, so that the covenant they made with God — and the Torah which they accepted upon themselves — obligated not only their generation, but all future ones as well.

Like the special generation of the desert, the Mishkan embodied timeless aspects of the universe. The holy sanctuary of the desert was not a matter of specific morality for a particular era, but encompassed the expanse of all times and all things. It reflected the beautiful harmony of the entire universal order, and the divine aim of elevating all of creation. It was therefore possible that its outermost covering was made from an impure animal. The tachash, with its many hues and colors, represented the ultimate value of the many forces in the world, in all their variations. Its inclusion in the Tabernacle, albeit in its outermost layer, enabled an expression of our intellectual recognition of God's essential unity, that nothing exists outside of Him, and that all was created in His Glory.

From "Gold from the Land of Israel", pp. 147-148. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. III, pp. 105-107)

I Will Dwell Among Them

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh


G-d sums up the command to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle) with the following words:

They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them. Like everything that I show you, the form of the Mishkan and the form of all its vessels; and so shall you do. (Shemot 25:8-9) What did Hashem show Moshe on Har Sinai? Rashi explains that He showed Moshe "the form of the Mishkan," and that the command, "so shall you do," refers to the details of the vessels, that if any of them would be lost in the future, they should be remade in the same fashion. According to this interpretation, the verses should be rearranged to read as follows, "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me -- like everything that I show you -- so that I may dwell among them."

From the Beit Midrash of Volozhin, however, comes a different interpretation. What Hashem showed Moshe on Har Sinai was not the architecture of the Mishkan and physical details of its vessels, but the way in which the Shechina rests on the Mikdash. The Sifrei Machshava explain the statement of Chazal, "The Beit Hamikdash of our world corresponds to the Beit Hamikdash of above," to mean that the Mishkan encapsulates the structure and order of all the worlds. Similarly, the Midrash Tanchuma in the beginning of Parshat Pekudei states that the Beit Hamikdash corresponds to the entire creation, and notes a long list of similarities between the two. At the conclusion of the building of the Mishkan, the Torah writes: "All the work of the Mishkan was completed ("vateichel")" (39:32), "Moshe blessed ("vayevarech") them" (39:43), and "He anointed it and sanctified ("vayekadesh") it" (Bamidbar 7:1). This parallels what the Torah writes regarding the creation of the world: "The heavens and earth were completed ("vayechulu")" (Bereishit 2:1), and, "G-d blessed ("vayevarech") the seventh day and sanctified ("vayekadesh") it." (2:3)

Therefore, the Torah says about Bezalel, who built the Mishkan, "[G-d] filled him ... with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft." (Shemot 35:31) The Midrash explains that Bezalel knew how to join the letters that G-d used to create heaven and earth, which were also created with wisdom, insight, and knowledge. This teaches that the creation of the world and the building of the Mishkan are one and the same.

When Hashem told Moshe, "so that I may dwell among them. Like everything that I show you," He showed Moshe the orders of the higher and lower worlds, their interrelationship, and what brings about the presence of Shechina. The Netziv explains, "so shall you do," to mean that those who build the Mishkan shall make it according to the "form" of the corresponding worlds. (Ha'amek Davar) Similarly, Chiram, who built the first Beit Hamikdash, was given wisdom and knowledge, in order to incorporate spiritual intent in building the Beit Hamikdash so that the Shechina would rest upon it. In the second Beit Hamikdash, in which the builders did not know how to incorporate this intent, the Shechina did not rest upon it, even though they knew all the physical details of the Beit Hamikdash.

In Nefesh Hachaim, Rav Chaim Volozhiner adds another dimension, that man is also arranged in this fashion. The Malbim on Parshat Teruma similarly comments that just as the world is called, "a large man," man is called, "a small world," because their powers and parts correspond to each other. Therefore, the presence of the Shechina is founded on man himself, and G-d's presence in the Mikdash is only a result of His presence in Yisrael, as Yirmiyahu says, "They are a Sanctuary of G-d." This is the deeper meaning of Chazal's comment that it does not say, "that I may dwell in it," but rather, "that I may dwell among them," within each and every Jew. Only after the Shechina rest on Yisrael does the presence of the Shechina rest on the Mikdash, and when Yisrael sin and the Shechina withdraws from them, the physical existence of the Mikdash does not help, for it is devoid of spiritual content. The command, "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me ... and so shall you do," means, "and so shall you do" to make yourselves; that you shall make yourselves like the form of the Mishkan, so that the Shechina will be able to rest upon you.

When we pray and ask several times daily, "May it be Your will ... that the Beit Hamikdash be rebuilt speedily, in our days," we should not only intend for the beautiful edifice to be built in Yerushalayim, but rather we should prepare ourselves to be worthy so that the Shechina will rest upon us, and, thereby, the Beit Hamikdash will be built speedily in our days!

The Ark- A Torah Symbol or a National One?

by HaRav Yossef Carmel
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemda Dayanut


Dedicated to the memory of Adir ben Bracha

The aron (ark) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was the first article that Moshe was commanded to make. This is but one indication of its centrality in causing the Divine Presence to dwell in the Mishkan. The Mishkan’s entire status was in fact affected by the aron’s presence or absence. The tosefta (Zevachim 13:19) says that when the aron was missing from the Mishkan, the Mishkan’s halachic status was significantly lowered to that of a bama gedola (great altar). (This was the case from the time the aron fell into Philistine hands at the end of Eli’s life until the Beit Hamikdash was erected.)

The aron and the keruvim (cherubim), which rose out of the kaporet that covered the aron, symbolize the close relationship between the Jewish Nation and Hashem. The Rabbis explain the apparent contradiction on whether the keruvim faced each other or faced outward by saying that when Bnei Yisrael behaved appropriately, the images faced each other to demonstrate love between them and their Maker, and when not, not (Bava Batra 99a). The special mode of communication between Hashem and Moshe also took place from in between the keruvim (Bamidbar 7:89). We can thus say that the situation regarding the aron and keruvim were the litmus test of Bnei Yisrael’s spiritual status at a given time.

Not only were the location and configuration of a stationary aron significant, but its transport also had special significance in regard to the revelation of the Divine Presence. The pasuk that we recite whenever we open our arks to remove a sefer Torah is : "When the aron traveled, Moshe would say: ‘Arise, Hashem, and Your enemies will scatter, and those who hate You will flee from before You’" (Bamidbar 10:35). This opening of the aron represents an attempt to draw Jews closer to Hashem, through public Torah study with an eye toward proper implementation. Yet the pasuk’s simple meaning discusses a different element of Jewish life, which was dormant for 2,000 years- national life. It discusses going out to war, a phenomenon that applies only when there is an independent, Jewish, national entity. The nation asks Hashem to accompany them into battle and smite their enemies, which are, in effect, His enemies (as Tehillim 83: 3-4 alludes to).

The two approaches to whether the pasuk about the aron is related to Torah study or to Bnei Yisrael’s national needs find expression in other places. In the beginning of "Zot Haberacha" (with a similar language used in Devorah’s song) it describes Hashem’s coming to reveal Himself before Bnei Yisrael. Rashi (Devarim 33:2) connects the description to the revelation at Mt. Sinai as the Torah was given. However, Ibn Ezra says that it refers to Hashem "going out" to protect His nation, as we find in the aforementioned pasuk regarding the aron.

In summary, the aron symbolizes the dwelling of the Divine Presence from a spiritual, Torah perspective and from a national perspective. Let us pray for its renewal in both realms.

Changing Our Nature

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

Giving away some of one’s material wealth is never an easy thing. Our instinct tells us that what is mine, earned through my efforts, should always remain mine and in my possession. In the phrase of the rabbis, we have "a jaundiced eye" towards others and we resent their imposing themselves upon us for continued help and financial donations. We do not even think ourselves to be selfish for thinking and behaving in this fashion.

After all there is a rabbinic opinion in Avot that states that what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours and that this viewpoint is a balanced and median one. Yet there is another opinion expressed in that very same mishna in Avot that declares such an attitude regarding one’s possessions to be the trait of the wicked people from the locality of Sodom. This is in line with the Torah’s early description of human nature as "being evil from its earliest youth."

The Torah recognizes human nature for what it is. Man is born as a wild donkey, selfish, screaming, kicking and grasping. The Torah came to adjust human nature to seek higher goals and greater moral and social stature. We cannot completely alter human nature. But we can refine it and direct it towards noble goals and higher purposes.

The Torah recognizes that what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours and yet it points out that this seemingly logical balanced view eventually leads down the slippery slope of Sodomite behavior. One must therefore train one’s self in the art of giving and donating one’s wealth to others, be they individuals in need or worthy institutions and causes such as the Mishkan/tabernacle.

I once spent over a month confined to a sickbed until the infection that I had came under control and I was able to start walking again. The problem was that during that month of complete physical inactivity my back and leg muscles atrophied, so that even though I wished to walk upright and normally again I could not do so without great pain and difficulty. Eventually, I slowly returned to my normal health and my muscles again became reacquainted with bearing my not inconsiderable bulk.

This physical rule applies to charitable giving as well. One who does not give charity regularly will find that the generous hand muscles that sign the check and open the wallet have atrophied so that even when one wishes to give, it is painful and sometimes even impossible to do so. Therefore the Torah places great emphasis in this week’s parsha upon the ability to give freely and voluntarily to the great cause – the holy Mishkan/Tabernacle.

It almost becomes the primary commandment in the Torah, in terms of the attention devoted to it in the holy text itself. This is because most of the other commandments of the Torah require discipline and control, not to give into our base natures, but here the Torah demands that we completely overcome our natural state of what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours.

Here we are required not to merely channel or control our nature but rather to change it completely. And that requires constant effort, training and habitual behavior.

Godly and Earthly

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

Between Heaven and Earth
The sages open this week's Midrash on the Torah portion with praise for the Torah:
"For it is a good teaching which I have given to you; do not abandon my Torah." Do not abandon this possession which I have given to you. It happens that a man purchases an item which contains silver but not gold, or gold but not silver, yet the possession which I have given to you contains both silver - as it says, "The words of God are words of pure refined silver." - and gold - as it says, "Dearer than much gold..." It happens that a man purchases fields but not vineyards, or vineyards but not fields. Yet, this possession contains both vineyards and fields, as it says, "Your field is a vineyard of pomegranate." (Shemot Rabbah, 33:1)

The simple meaning of the above Midrash is that the Torah is comparable to all of the good things which exist in the world: It is as precious as gold, while displaying the distinction of silver; it possesses the blessing of the fields and the sweetness of the vineyard. Yet, the deeper meaning of the Midrash is that there exists an essential unity between all of the world's goodness and the Torah. The Torah is the foundation of the world. Everything can be found in it. The sages teach that God looked into the Torah and thus created the world. Hence, the Torah constitutes the foundation and ultimate source of the existence of this world. This is the deep inner meaning of our Midrash: The Torah is the transcendent source of all the gold, silver, fields, and vineyards which exist. It is the transcendental force which confers life and continuity upon all things, and constitutes the true source for their appearance in the world.

The culmination of this idea can be found in the continuation of the words of the Midrash:
"And you will take an offering for me." Rabbi Barchia opened the discussion with the verse, "To you, God, belongs the greatness and the might... for all that is in the heavens and on the earth belongs to you." We find that all which God created up above he created down below as well. Above - lofty abodes and clouds, as it says, "Look down from heaven and see, from the lofty abode of your holiness," clouds, "and Moses approached the clouds," and as it says, "Does he judge through the clouds;" Below - "Then Solomon said, God said to dwell in clouds," and it says, "Build my house, a house of lofty abode for you."

The Midrash continues, bringing passage after passage, comparing things which belong to the realm of the heavens with their counterparts in our earthly world. 

Here too, the simple understanding of the Midrash is that what we have here is a parable which points out similarities between the upper and lower worlds, and, as is the case with all parables, it comes only to draw similarity between those things being compared; and while this similarity may evidence a type of actual bond, it does not claim outright that there is, in fact, any essential connection between them.

Yet, there exists a deeper understanding, one which sees an intrinsic inner bond between the parties being compared, which sees the heavenly realm as the source of our lower world. Ours is a world which derives and unfolds from the upper world. This upper world descends level after level until finally materializing in our lower world. The Holy Temple in Jerusalem is an earthly revelation of the Holy Temple which exists in the heavens, and so it is concerning everything which one finds in our world.

Down to Earth
At this point the sages of the Midrash present us with a truly unique idea:
"What's more, that which is down below is more dear [to God] than that which is up above. Know, that God departed from that which is above and descended for that which is below, as it says "Make a temple for me, and I will dwell among them."

After it has become clear to us that all which exists in our world evolves from the upper worlds, from higher ideas clothed in and covered in physical garb, we learn that, despite this, God chose to leave the heavens and to reside on earth. It is possible, once again, to explain the words of our sages according to their simple meaning: God removed His Divine Presence, His Shechina , from the upper realms and established it in the world below. Yet, it seems that this was not the true intention of our sages, rather, the sages wished to emphasize that the Almighty is not satisfied with the dwelling of His Presence in the upper realm alone . Though one might be led to view the heavens as the more appropriate place for the dwelling of God's Shechina, the lower world being unfit for His Presence, the truth of the matter is that God loves our world in particular. He refrained from limiting His Presence to the upper spheres alone in order to bring about the dwelling of his Shechina in all levels of creation. This is precisely the purpose of the Holy Temple: to bring about the complete manifestation of the Divine Presence in the world.

A Small Opening Above Jerusalem
We may conclude from the above that when there is no Holy Temple, no Beit Mikdash in the world, the appearance of the Divine Presence remains incomplete, and therefore the Divine abundance which ought to flow out upon the world is lacking. In a similar vein, Rabbi Moshe Sofer, the famed Hatam Sofer , writes that that when the entire nation of Israel resides in the Land of Israel, Israel constitutes a spacious entrance for the manifestation of the Divine Presence in the world, an entrance through which great abundance pours down upon creation. Yet, after the Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled from their land, this opening was reduced in size. At present there exists only a small opening above Jerusalem, above the Holy Temple, through which the entire world is nourished.

When the opening is widened, the light which flows down upon the world from the heavens widens as well. The main significance of this widening is spiritual; it reflects an expansion of the powers of the intellect and the emotion. The sages have taught that with the destruction of the Beit Mikdash, fruits lost of their flavor. True, the fruits continue to grow - abundance is possible even after the destruction of the Temple - yet they lack flavor. They lack the significance which abundance is supposed to bring to the world.

The sages have determined that there are a number of things which give man a feeling of comfort and a sense of meaning. It is possible, though, for one to possess these things and still lack contentment. When the Holy Temple stood on its foundation, the goodness which poured out upon the world served the purpose of instilling all of existence with meaning and faith, an existence in which the light of God shown upon the nation, and, in turn, upon the entire world.

Degrees in the Appearance of Shechina
There are various degrees of appearance of the Shechina in the world. With the Tabernacle which accompanied the Children of Israel in the desert, the Divine Presence appears on earth for the first time since Adam, the first man. Yet this appearance is only temporary and therefore of a lesser degree than the appearance of the Shechina in the Temple itself.

The appearance of the Shechina in the First Temple was the most significant appearance of the Divine Presence ever, and represented a permanent dwelling of the Shechina on earth. In the Second Temple, the appearance of the Divine Presence was of a lesser degree than that in the First Temple.

The sages teach that five things which existed in the First Temple, no longer existed in the Second Temple. Among those things that did not appear in the Second Temple was the Shechina. Yet, the Rambam , Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, in his Mishneh Torah , establishes that sanctity returned to the Second Temple and will return again in the future. What's more, the Rambam gives as the reason for such the fact that the sanctity of the Second Temple evolved from the holiness of the Shechina, and the holiness of the Shechina can not completely disappear. From the words of the Rambam it appears, at any rate, that the Shechina made its dwelling even in the Second Temple. Therefore, we must conclude that there are various degrees in the appearance of the Shechina, and that our sages intended to teach us that the dwelling of the sort which existed in the First Temple no longer existed in the time of the Second Temple. In the Second Temple the Shechinah dwelled to a lesser degree. The sages have taught that even after the destruction of the Second Temple, the Shechina does not leave the Western Wall. In addition the Shechina accompanies the nation of Israel even in the exile. So, we see then, that the Shechina dwells in greater and lesser degrees.

"And Moses could not come to the Tent of Meeting, for the cloud rested upon it, and the glory of God filled the Tabernacle." The appearance of the Shechina is so clearly revealed that it appears to be actual, preventing Moses from entering the Tabernacle! We find a similar description after the establishment of the First Temple, "And the priests could not rise to serve because of the cloud, for the glory of God filled the House of God." And so, even after the establishment of the First Temple the revelation of the Shechina was so clear and impressive that it appeared to be tangible, preventing the priests from serving in the Holy Temple.

Yet after the inauguration of the Temple we do not find a similar phenomena. The Raavad , Rabbi Avraham ben David of Posquieres, claims that the sanctity of the second Temple was good in its own day but would not return in the future. He explains that the sanctity of the Third Temple will be completely different from that of the First and Second Temples, constituting an appearance of the Shechina on a much higher level than all previous manifestations. Therefore, claims the Raavad, it is impossible for the sanctity of the Second Temple to remain on the site of the Temple Mount, for in order that this great heavenly sanctification appear, all previous sanctity must be removed. We learn, then, from the Raavad, that the height of the appearance of the Shechina in the world will appear with the inauguration of the third and final temple.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: The Hatred of Those Who Did Not Get a Potential Gift

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:121)

Gemara: One of the rabbis asked Rav Kahana: “Did you hear what the reason behind the name Har Sinai is?” He answered: “The mountain upon which miracles (nisim) occurred.” “So it should be called Har Nisai? Rather, it was the mountain which was a good omen (siman tov).” “Then it should have been called Har Simanai?” He said to him: Why do you not spend more time with Rav Pappa and Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua, who look into aggadic matters, as Rav Chisda and Rabba son of Rav Huna both said: “Why is it called Har Sinai? It is because it is based on this mountain that sina (hatred) has come to the idol worshippers.”

Ein Ayah: There must be a special reason for the fact that Israel received the Torah specifically in the desert at Har Sinai, in a place that was open to all, as opposed to in the Land that was specifically set aside for Israel.

This shows that the impetus to give the Torah only to Israel was not something that was innate in the physical world but was connected to thought and understanding. Hashem wanted to show that really the Torah is something that is fit and even proper for all of the nations who live on the face of the earth. It is not something that is beyond the reach of a human being, but rather something that is suitable for man. Without the guidance that Torah provides, a person is like an evil beast. Torah is compatible with the spirit of the human being, as all of the elevated elements of the human spirit and all the storehouses of sanctity are hidden within the light of the Torah.

Therefore, it was not stressed at Sinai that Israel has a special characteristic that makes them fit to have dominion over nature and contain the divine light in a manner that other creations do not. And so while special miracles were done for Israel, Sinai does not represent that reality.

One can claim that Israel had a siman tov, i.e., special characteristics, which the people of other nations do not have. However, that too is not hinted at in the name of Sinai. If that were the intention, the Torah would have been given in the Land of Israel and likely on the Temple Mount, which would make our lot in the world the sign that the Torah relates to our qualities.

If the very basis of the Torah required that only we could receive the Torah, the nations would have had no basis for hating the Jewish people for keeping the Torah from them. After all, a person cannot be distanced from something to which he could never draw close. Rather, the fact that the Torah was given at Sinai is an indication that the source of the Torah is the fountain of spring water that is appropriate for all of mankind. This is on condition that they are removed from the ways of evil and are not interested in following their tendencies toward evil and destruction. Because the nations harmed their spiritual form, when they distanced themselves from the Torah [by refusing to accept it], their hatred for Israel began at Sinai. That is the reason that Sinai is the mountain’s name until the mountain of Hashem will be raised and will spread its glory over the whole world, which will be healed, as it says (Tehillim 68:18): “Hashem will be in their midst; Sinai is in the sanctum.”

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Mishpatim: Accepting the Torah

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Spirit of the Law and the People it is Meant to Serve

by Rav Binny Freedman

It was the summer of 1935, but even after two years, they still didn’t get it. Germany had begun to gear up for the 1936 Olympics, and Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, had made it is mission to make sure the world would see a Germany that was respected as a leader amongst the nations of the world, so the anti-Jewish laws were being downplayed, and even in Germany’s own press, it seemed as though things might finally be calming down.

David, (not his real name, by request) was a landlord whose family owned properties in some major German cities. One of them, a large building in the heart of downtown Berlin, was leased by a department store that was delinquent in rent payments so, six months earlier he had gone to their main branch to demand payment or threaten a lawsuit. His partner, Chaim, was a lawyer by trade and given the contract they held and their years of experience in the market (this was not the first time over the years they had been forced to confront a recalcitrant tenant) both were confident they would walk away with a sizeable check and avoid a law suit that would have been costly for both sides.

When they arrived at the office however, for the second time, their meeting was abruptly cancelled and the secretary offered no explanation other than a derisive grin. So, with no other recourse they had taken the German Dept. store to court. With clear evidence and a solid contract in hand, they were confident they would emerge from the court case victorious; they simply didn’t get it.

When their case was called Chaim stood up to present his case before the judge and waited patiently while the clerk called out the matter of the case at hand.

The lawyer for the defending dept. store claimed that the obviously Jewish landlord was charging an exorbitant rent and was dishonest to boot. And the judge, ignoring the contract in David’s hand, with a smile, ruled in favor of the defendant, and added the court costs and back-fees of exorbitant rent owed to the verdict.

Incredibly, when a bewildered David started to protest, the Judge, peering down from the bench with a sinister smile on his face silenced him with a raise of is hand and said slowly, his words dripping in sarcasm and hatred: “Perhaps it is time for the Jewish landlord to leave Germany for the Germans? You should get out of Germany; you are no longer wanted here.”

Hearing this story from an elderly gentleman many years later, he recounted that he walked out of that courtroom and finally understood the Jews needed to get out of Germany. But sixty years later the pain of that moment; the injustice of it all, still stung; you could see it in his eyes.


This week we read the portion of Mishpatim, which literally translates as ‘The Laws’; this week, we finally get down to the nitty-gritty. After all the stories and wondrous episodes of the Exodus which themselves followed all the stories of the book of Genesis (Bereisheet) we finally start to read (study) the actual laws given to us at Sinai. Laws of social justice and property, ethics and equality; we begin our journey into what receiving the Torah was all about: making a better, G-d-filled world. Which is what makes the beginning of this week’s portion so interesting.

Rashi notes that the portion oddly starts with the conjunctive ‘and’:

And these are the laws that you shall place before them…” Shemot (Exodus) 21:1).

In order to denote its connection to the previous section of the giving of the law at Sinai and demonstrate that just as the Ten Commandments were given by G-d at Sinai, these laws were also given at Sinai.

Then Rashi makes an additional comment: Noting that the final topic in the previous (last week’s) portion of Yitro was the mitzvah (commandment) to build an altar in the Temple, he explainins its connection to the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and the laws of this week’s portion:

“And why is the section of laws adjacent to the section about the altar? It is saying

to locate the Sanhedrin (the High Court) adjacent to the Temple.”

What does this mean, and why is this so critical a point that the Torah starts the portion of the Law (the only portion in the Torah actually named ‘laws’) with this idea?

It is worth noting that there are different types of laws in Judaism, and the Torah gives them different names. Chukim, for example, are generally understood to be laws whose ultimate rationale we can never fully fathom, though we are meant to try and develop a relationship with them (See Maimonides Hilchot Me’ilah 8:8). Keeping Kosher and the mitzvah of Sha’atnez (the biblical prohibition against wearing wool and linen in the same garment) are two prime examples; indeed, healthy relationships often grow from recognizing we don’t need to fully understand everything asked of us…

But Mishpatim are generally considered laws that do make sense that we might even have come to on our own, such as theft; a healthy society cannot function if there is no respect for each other’s’ property and rights. So one wonders why this particular type of Mitzvah is the category represented as being adjacent to the Beit Ha’Mikdash (the Temple).

What was the commandment to build a temple all about? Why do we need a physical ‘home’ for G-d? Does that even make sense?

The idea of a sanctified space, a Beit Ha’Mikdash, was to create a space where one could so feel the presence of Hashem (G-d) one could not help but be affected. It was meant to be a place of awe and wonder; a place where a person could put aside the mundane and experience the sublime; a place where the barriers that seem to exist between us would naturally fall away.

In the courtyard of the Temple there was no reform, conservative or orthodox section; we were all just… brothers and sisters. The rich and the poor all brought their first offerings in a basket on their shoulders; to be rich or poor in Hashem’s eyes carries an entirely different meaning. Jews were ( and are) meant to make a pilgrimage to the Temple three times a year to remind themselves of what life is really supposed to be about. Spending a week in such an environment was meant to leave one humbled and inspired; a better person. It was meant to remind us to put aside the petty nonsense of life and focus on the things that really mattered.

That, suggests Rashi, is precisely what a court of law should be. Judges in a Jewish court are meant to be towering figures of knowledge and ethics; personalities in whose presence we feel inspired, and experience a sense of awe.

Standing in a courtroom should humble a person and fill him or her with a sense of wonder; it should be a place where the barriers that seem to exist between us fall away.

In a court of law there should be no religious or secular, no rich or poor and no more or less ‘connected’. And the law itself, especially the opportunity to fulfill it freely, in Israel, in the Jewish state we have dreamed of for so long, should fill us with that same sense of awe and inspiration….

And specifically the Mishpatim, the nitty gritty of the legal system, tends to become so focused on the details and ‘legalese’ we sometimes lose sight of the spirit of the law; the people it is meant to serve.

The high court was meant to be on the campus of the Temple, the Beit Ha’Mikdash, perhaps to remind us that the law is meant to serve the people , and its source is a much higher power than the judges ( or politicians) sitting in the seat of power…

We are not there yet; we have a long way to go. But this week as we read the portion of Mishpatim, perhaps we can all take a step in the right direction.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.

The Divine Wants You to be Happy

by Rabbi Davis Aaron

“And these are the judgments that you shall place before them.” — Exodus 21:1

“You shall place before them, that is, like a table that is set and ready for eating.” — Rashi
“Taste and see that G-d is good.” — Psalms 34

LAWS YOU CAN EAT, ENJOY AND SAVOUR
The job of a teacher of Torah is not to be a philosopher, ethical guide or law giver but rather a gourmet chef. A gourmet chef has the ability to bring the taste out of every ordinary cabbage, every simple bean sprout, as well as present it all in a delicious tantalizing way.

Once, I went to someone’s home to raise funds for my institute. I thought we would have about a ten minute discussion. Instead, we were talking for five or six hours. I hadn’t eaten all day, and I was starving. Finally I decided that instead of asking for a contribution, I would just ask for something to eat. So I said, “Could I just have an apple?”

She replied, “Oh, you must be starving. I’m so sorry!”

My hostess ran to her kitchen and made me a Salad Nicoise — exquisitely arranged. Now, I’m not a big salad eater, but that’s what she chose to prepare for me. Well, I took one forkful, and I have to admit I had never tasted a salad like that in my life. Because this woman was able to bring out its’ true beauty and taste, suddenly I had a whole new appreciation for the vegetable kingdom.

Once I tasted this woman’s Salad Nicoise, I could never be satisfied with lettuce and tomato alone. The job of a Torah teacher is to present the Torah in an appetizing way; to reveal the beauty and flavour of G- d’s laws for all to see and taste.

THE TASTE OF LIFE
The Zohar, which is the Jewish mystical classic, written two thousand years ago, cautions us not to perform G-d’s commandments like cows eating grass. Doing so brings ruins upon us. Let’s try to understand what this means.

Essentially, the cow chews its food, stores it and then chews its cud, thereby re-chewing the food, over and over again. The Zohar is using this metaphor as a symbol for something that is done mindlessly without intention or taste. In Torah tradition there is a concept called taamei mitzvos, which can be described as the “reason for the commandments.” But taamei mitzvos can also mean the “taste of the commandments.” In Hebrew, taam means both “taste” and “reason” — and there is definitely a connection between the two. Without understanding the reason behind Torah living it can become mindless and tasteless.

Imagine a person who observes Sabbath, but it has no meaning to him — no taste. The only thing that keeps him doing it is guilt, or respect for the tradition, or simply habit. Without his understanding the meaning behind the observance, it will eventually stop sooner or later, in this generation or the next.

We can perform the commandments and the traditions like cows eating grass. They chewed before, they chew now, and they’ll chew later because they chewed before — and that’s when it all starts breaking down. That’s when children say to their parents, “Why should I do this? This is not interesting. This is restrictive and meaningless.” And that’s when some parents respond, “You should. You must. You have to.” Rarely do people respond positively to empty demands; instead, they rebel against them. People respond to what they find clear, fascinating, relevant, inspirational and meaningful. Most people do what they want, not what they should.

When the meaning and the taste of G-d’s commandments are lost, then there is no love for it and no joy in it.

When a person whom you don’t like asks you for a favor, it can be the hardest thing in the world because there are no good feelings surrounding it. When a person whom you love asks you for a favor, it is easy to do it, it’s a pleasure.

The Talmud says that when people embraces the commandments with joy and happiness, these feelings are guaranteed to be long lasting.

The Yishai Fleisher Show: Cheeseburger in Paradise



Why does Judaism separate between meat and milk? Rabbi Yishai is joined by Rav Mike Feuer to bite down on a heavenly cheeseburger and chew over the 53 commandments in the Torah-portion of Mishpatim. Then, Malkah Fleisher on Israeli children remembering Gush Katif and on American congressmen in the Judean Heartland.

Declining $20,000 of Jewish Money

BS”D
Parashat Mishpatim 5780
by HaRav Nachman Kahana


The Jewish Federation of Rockland County and the Anti-Defamation League awarded a gift of twenty thousand dollars to Mr. Joseph Gluck for his heroic act of preventing a savage attack in a bet knesset in Monsey, NY, and aided in apprehending the attacker.

However, Mr. Gluck, after consulting with his rabbi, rejected the gift because the two donor organizations are pro Zionist, so they do not represent the beliefs and values of his Haredi community. Mr. Gluck told News 12 Brooklyn, “I was not willing to offer my soul for $20,000. My identity for $20,000 was not for sale.”

Mr. Gluck’s rabbi instead raised that amount from people who were inspired by his actions. Rabbi Dovid Feldman explained to News 12, “the ADL and Jewish Federation were about to issue a statement to encourage and promote the Zionist idea of Jewish self-defense, of fighting back, of fighting our enemies, which happens to be contrary to our tradition,“ as reported by the Jerusalem Post.

The Slave Who Refuses to be Freed
The Creator chose to begin the halachic code of the Written Torah (parashat Mishpatim) with matters pertaining to the master-slave relationship. This was done, I believe, in order to impress upon the newly freed slaves the compassionate nature of the Torah, as opposed to Egyptian cruelty in that particular area, which was the most familiar to the Jews after undergoing two centuries of slavery.

Among other details, the parasha sets down the rules regarding a thief who was sold by the court for nonpayment of the principle of his theft (if he can repay the principle but not the additional fine imposed upon him as punishment for his crime, he is not sold into slavery).

During the time of his servitude, the Torah grants the master the right to couple the Jewish slave with a non-Jewish slave woman for purposes of procreation, as is stated (Shemot 21:4):

אם אדניו יתן לו אשה וילדה לו בנים או בנות האשה וילדיה תהיה לאדניה והוא יצא בגפו
If his master gives him a non-Jewish slave woman and she should give birth to children, she and her children remain slaves when the time for his release arrives

After his six-year period of bondage, he is free to leave. However, if he should choose to remain (with his master’s consent), he is taken to the court where he declares his desire to remain a slave and his right ear is pierced. He then continues to serve until the Yovel (Jubilee Year.) This person is defined in halacha as an eved nirtza, a “pierced slave”.

What does Mr. Gluck, his rabbi and his community have in common with the ever nirtza, the pierced ear slave? Answer: everything.

The eved nirtza lives in a state of virtual reality of his own making, as apparent from his delusional declaration before the court (Ibid verse 5)…

ואם אמר יאמר העבד אהבתי את אדני את אשתי ואת בני לא אצא חפשי
And if the slave says, “I love my master, my wife and my children I will not go free”

Nothing in this declaration is real. The master is no longer his “master,” because the time for his freedom has arrived. The woman is not his “wife”, since there cannot exist a halachic husband-wife relationship where one of the partners is not Jewish. And the children are not halachically his, because, like their mother they are non-Jewish slaves!

This man is living a virtual reality, totally disconnected from actual reality. This is the mentality which renders him fit to remain a slave; a human robot totally enclosed in the bubble of his imagination.

Mr. Gluck and his community, similar to the eved nirtza, live totally disconnected from the reality of the HaShem-Am Yisrael relationship today, including their unfounded belief that the Jewish people in galut may return to the Land only when the Mashiach appears – which has no basis in mainstream Jewish thought. Their beliefs parallel those of the 80% who refused to accompany Moshe Rabbeinu into the desert, and the six hundred thousand men who refused to enter Eretz Yisrael with Yehoshua bin Nun.

Do Not Fear
There are two broadly accepted premises within wide circles in the galut: 1) that the State of Israel is in imminent mortal danger, and 2) that life in the United States or other places in the galut is secure.

This, too, is a bubble of virtual reality that relegates its adherents to being slaves to their personal instincts. For we in Eretz Yisrael are threatened, but are not in danger; whereas, the Jews in the galut are not yet threatened, but are assuredly in mortal danger.

Granted that, on the face of it, we who have returned to Eretz Yisrael and have had to struggle in defense of our Holy Land are threatened. We are the only nation in the world explicitly threatened with nuclear weapons. But in reality, we are the safest place on the planet.

The Torah (Melachim 2 chap. 6) relates a story involving Elisha, the protege of Eliyahu Ha’Navi.

The King of Aram learned that Elisha was in the town of Dotan in northern Shomron and sent a large military force to surround the town with orders to capture Elisha. The force arrived there at night and waited. In the early morning, Gaichazi, the student of Elisha, went outside and saw that the enemy had completely surrounded the town. In desperation, he called out to Elisha, who calmed the young man by saying:

ויאמר אל תירא כי רבים אשר אתנו מאשר אותם:
Do not fear, for there are more on our side than there are on theirs


(ויתפלל אלישע ויאמר ה’ פקח נא את עיניו ויראה ויפקח ה’ את עיני הנער וירא והנה ההר מלא סוסים ורכב אש סביבת אלישע
Surrounding Eretz Yisrael are myriads of God’s angels protecting the righteous of the land.

At this point, you, dear reader, might be shrugging your shoulders in skepticism and thinking that what HaShem performed for a great tzaddik like Elisha is not necessarily what HaShem is doing for our lowly generation. Wrong!

Whoever thinks that the establishment of the State of Israel, the victories in our impossible wars, and the quality of life we enjoy today are not the result of God’s personal intervention, is simply not thinking.

The angels are being overworked in their defense of the Holy Land. After every war we hear tales of soldiers who swore that angels were driving them on to victory.

By every human standard, the State of Israel should have died in “childbirth” and should certainly not have attained the mature age of 71 years (and most certainly not have the most stable currency in the world, with the dollar dropping daily in favor of the shekel). But we are here in the fulfillment of HaShem’s promise that He will return His children to Eretz Yisrael and — establish a Torah society not seen in the last 2000 years.

This is the “true” reality, as we live now to celebrate the defeat of our enemies and will soon celebrate the modern-day Purim festivals to be established by the Chief Rabbinate.

And what of the reality in the galut, where our fellow Jews view their situation with serenity?

A bit of history:

Upon the establishment of the State of Israel, the gates of the land were thrown open, with the first law to be passed being the Law of Return.

HaShem granted the disbursed of Am Yisrael a period of time to return home, in accordance with Israel’s capacity to absorb the returnees.

In its first years, Israel absorbed over one million desperate Jews from European and Arab and Moslem lands; a feat unparalleled in all history. And all this in the midst of wars.

In these 71 years, the Land has embraced its returning children, so that today the majority of Jews in the world have arrived home. This in itself proves that our generation is the greatest one since the generation that entered the land with Yehoshua bin Nun.

As modern history evolves, we see an increase in the “discomfort level” of Jews in foreign lands.

Today, it is very uncomfortable to be a Jew in Europe, and in many other places in the world. We are all aware that latent anti-Semitism is as close as the Gentile at the next work desk in your office, or behind the gentle Gentile smile on your neighborhood green grocer’s face.

Many Jews claim that the threat of anti-Semitism is irrational, and certainly not in the land where a woman and a black person are presidential contenders.

But the reality of life has taught us that the fabric of society is so thin that it takes very little to turn neighbor against neighbor and friend into foe.

But this thought does not really disturb our brothers and sisters in the galut; because deep in the recesses of the Jewish galut mind is the knowledge that if, God forbid, the situation becomes intolerable, Israel will always be there to take them in. The houses in places like the Five Towns and Lakewood will always be there to sell and finance their return to Israel, if need be.

This, too, is virtual reality.

The Rambam writes in the Laws of Teshuva that HaShem waits for a period of time for the sinner to return; but if he does not return, HaShem creates a situation in his life that makes doing teshuva a very difficult, if not impossible, alternative.

HaShem has given the Jews in the galut a period of time to return to Eretz Yisrael. However, with the passage of time, it will become increasingly difficult to do so, until that tragic moment when HaShem will say AD KAN (no more!) and the gates will be closed.

We pray in the chapter preceding the morning “Shema”

ותוליכנו קוממיות לארצנו
Lead me upright to our land

Meaning: Permit me to return home, not as a poor refugee with only the shirt on my back (as was the case after World War Two), but upright in body and spirit, with self-pride and confidence.

There is still time for those who wish to assure their family’s spiritual and physical future, but who knows for how long!

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5780/2020 Nachman Kahana

Seminary of Fools

by Victor Rosenthal

I belong to a Masorti (Conservative) congregation in Israel. Although most Israelis don’t believe this, the movement is theologically much closer to Modern Orthodoxy than to Reform Judaism. There is a commitment to halacha, albeit somewhat more lenient than in Orthodoxy (but not so much as Orthodox Jews tend to think). The biggest difference is the equal role granted to women and men in every respect, including participation in ritual.

Our rabbi leans a little leftward, at least compared to me, but he is capable of distinguishing politics from religion, and I like him.

Having said that, I am absolutely appalled by the anti-Israel politics rampant in the Conservative seminaries in the US, where most of our rabbis, American and Israeli, are educated.

Recently, a group of 36 rabbinical students from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and the Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studies – about half of the student body – signed an open letter opposing Trump’s “deal of the century” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The letter opposes Trump’s plan and PM Netanyahu’s intention to extend Israeli law to Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria and to annex the Jordan valley:

Each of these proposals flies in the face of decades of diplomatic efforts to achieve a just and peaceful future: Trump’s plan would leave Palestinians with a handful of discontiguous territories surrounded by settlements, and Netanyahu’s would make permanent the status quo in which millions of Palestinians live under Israeli military control without civil rights. Trump’s irresponsible vision and Netanyahu’s objective of annexation will move the region closer to catastrophe and even further from peace.

One would expect rabbinical students to have enough grasp of the facts to know that everything in the paragraph above is wrong. Millions of Palestinians do not live under Israeli military control; they live under the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, or in Gaza under Hamas. To the extent that their civil rights are circumscribed, it is by the PA and Hamas. Only a small number of them live in Area C, where they are under the Israeli military government (and probably have more rights than those under the PA).

The Trump proposal, in fact, “flies in the face” of decades of diplomatic failure to end the conflict based on unrealistic formulas that try to satisfy the insatiable demands of the Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, we should be thankful that none of the previous proposals went far enough to make them happy, because in every case the proposed agreements would not have adequately protected Israel from the terrorism and war that the Palestinians believe they have the inalienable right to wage. Trump’s proposal is the first that recognizes the realities of geography, and the everlasting Palestinian aspiration to end the Jewish state.

The letter continues,

As emerging Jewish leaders, we wish to make clear that any political decision that strips Palestinians of their rights is antithetical to our belief in human dignity. We dream of a democratic Israel that affirms the humanity and agency of all who dwell there, and of a government that honors the shared history of Jews and Palestinians in the land.

The Palestinians do not automatically have a right to a fully sovereign state, or a right of return to Israel for the descendants of 1948 refugees. These are not human rights, and the granting of these wishes would be inconsistent with right of Israeli Jews to live in peace – a real human right.

The reference to the “shared history” of the Jews and Palestinians in the land is most likely a nod to the tendentious Palestinian narrative of an indigenous people dispossessed by non-native colonialist settlers, the awful injustice of the nakba.

The letter continues for several paragraphs of nauseating virtue-signaling. Hashem help future congregants who will be forced to listen to the sermons of these pompous fools! More importantly, it shows an alarming lack of identification with the Jewish Israelis that would suffer the consequences of their desired “vision of a shared destiny with our Palestinian siblings.”

The students suggest that their universalist ethic, in which “human rights for all people,” including people whose greatest desire is to conquer our country and kill or disperse its Jewish residents, represents the “values of Jewish tradition.” But surely personal and collective survival, pikuach nefesh, has a higher priority in Jewish tradition than the aspirations of our enemies.

In addition to their divergence from traditional Jewish ethical principles, these future rabbis fail to understand, or they deny, the importance of the relationship between Hashem, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel that I see as the single most important theme in the Torah.

This is not the first time Conservative rabbinical students have displayed their ignorance and arrogance. In 2017, thirteen students (some whose names also appear on the more recent letter), wrote a similar letter opposing the historic decision of President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I won’t bother to quote it, but it is based on the same virtue-signaling misapprehension of Jewish values.

This phenomenon is partially a result of the attitude that “anything Trump or Bibi likes must be bad,” but it is a lot more than that. Their un-Jewish, I would even say anti-Jewish, morality is identical with the Tikkunism that has become the official philosophy of the Reform movement. Indeed, the Masorti movement in Israel seems to have developed close connections with the Israeli Reform movement, sharing many of its political goals (although not its approach to Judaism). In my opinion, this doesn’t bode well for the future of the Masorti movement, which will have to differentiate itself from Reform if it ever wants to have a hope of attracting native Israelis.

This is painful to me, as someone who finds the misogyny inherent in Orthodox Judaism troubling – and no, I don’t intend to get into an argument about this. I would like to see a truly conservative Conservative Judaism in Israel as well as the US, for that matter. But that is never going to happen if these are the future rabbis that can be expected to carry the flag.

"And these are the ordinances that you shall set before them.…"

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

And these are the ordinances that you shall set before them.… (Shemos 21:1)

THIS SHABBOS IS Parashas Shekalim, because next week is Rosh Chodesh Adar, b”H. We are now heading in the direction of Purim (and Pesach), and these “extra” parshios are designed to help us.

On a simple level, Parashas Shekalim is a reminder of Temple times, when we gave, at this time of year, our yearly contribution for the communal Temple sacrifices. On a deeper level, it is an allusion to something far more personal and personally essential: Da’as.

Da’as just means knowledge. But as it has always been clear, Da’as can vary from person to person. Man’s very first test was with regard to the Aitz HADA’AS Tov v’Ra, and the Talmud says that the illicit eating of it resulted in the origin of Haman (Chullin 139b).

A central mitzvah of Purim is the Mishteh, the drinking feast, during which we are supposed to drink to the point of no longer recognizing the difference between “Blessed Mordechai” and “Cursed Haman” (Megillah 7b). But it is with respect to such drinking that the Talmud says:

Anyone who becomes SETTLED through wine has the knowledge—DA’AS—of his Creator . . . has the knowledge—DA’AS—of the 70 Elders. Wine was given with 70 letters (Rashi: the gematria of yai’in—wine—is 70), and the mystery (of Torah) was given with 70 letters (sod—mystery—also equals 70). When wine goes in, secrets go out. (Eiruvin 65a)

THAT’S profound. It’s one thing to have the “da’as” of the 70 Elders, and that’s ALREADY a very high level of knowledge. But the da’as of GOD? Because a person becomes “settled” from drinking wine? How? Why?

The truth is, this is really what Purim was all about. On one hand, it was just exile and redemption. The Jewish people lost the right to remain on the land, so the Temple was destroyed and they were exiled to Babylonia. Eventually the time came for redemption, so Haman arose to compel the Jews to do teshuvah and thus merit redemption, and we celebrate this each year.

On the other hand, there was a certain amount of Divine Providence behind all of it designed to direct the Jewish people in the direction they went, just to get something important along the way. All the events of the exile were set in motion because something had to be added to the nation, and apparently, it is this higher level of Da’as.

It would help to know exactly what Da’as is, because as Shlomo HaMelech wrote, it is not the easiest thing to find:

If you want it like money and pursue it like treasures, then you will understand fear of God, and Da’as Elokim you will find. (Mishlei 2:4-5)

Da’as Elokim? Da’as of the Creator? It’s obviously all the same thing, but what is it? Kabbalistically, it is a sefirah, one of those spiritual entities that God uses to filter His light so that free will can exist. But it is also a sefirah that can ascend and descend based upon what man is doing.

When the Da’as is down low, it is accessible to the Klipos which, in short, are the corrupting influence in the world. They are behind man’s abuse of Creation, behind his ability to use something meant for good for selfish reasons.

When the Da’as is up, it is out of the reach of the Klipos, and man doesn’t think like that. Believe it or not, he gets more pleasure from using the world meaningfully, than meaninglessly or for unnecessary personal gain. He resembles the angels more than he does the animals.

Needless to say, Haman is what the Da’as looks like when it is down among the Klipos. Evil geniuses are still geniuses, inasmuch as they can be very clever about how they plan and carry out their evil. They even learn how to use good stuff for their bad stuff in very innovative ways, making it that much more evil.

Mordechai, of course, was the good Da’as. He looked at the world through God’s eyes, and wasn’t interested in using any aspect of Creation in a distorted manner. He knew what that meant, because he watched how people like Achashveros and Haman raped the world for their own personal gratification. It didn’t interest him in the least, because His da’as was the ultimate Da’as.

Thus, they were worlds apart, Mordechai and Haman. To see them both was to see night and day together. They were clearly cut from completely very different cloths, which is why they were at such odds with each other.

True…and false. Recall that the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Ra, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was only ONE tree. It was, in essence, just an Aitz HaDa’as. It was how a person chose to use its da’as that determined the goodness or badness of the da’as. One da’as, two approaches, two very different people and two very different approaches to life.

This is important to know because people don’t realize how easy it is to slide in the direction of the wrong version of Da’as. They also don’t realize how important it is to work at moving their da’as to higher levels and out of the realm of the Klipos.

So what about Purim, wine drinking, and yishuv hada’as—settled da’as?

A person is the sum total of their da’as, of what they know and what they think. If their da’as is Haman-like, they will be Haman-like inside. If they are Mordechai-like, they will be Mordechai-like at their core. And there is nothing like some wine to reveal on the outside what a person is like on the inside.

If a person reaches a higher level of yishuv hada’as from their drinking, they it reveals their Mordechai-like core. If they become “abusive,” then it reveals that they are more Haman-like inside, even if they act differently while sober. When wine goes in, secrets go out.

The word “shikol,” which shares the same root as “shekel,” means to weigh something. A “mishkal” is a scale, and “shikol hada’as” means to intellectually weigh ideas for the sake of coming to a correct conclusion. A shekel, once upon a time, was the weight of certain coin.

All of this is just to make the point that all of life comes down to one’s da’as, and how important it is to make sure it is da’as tov, and not da’as ra, Da’as Mordechai, which is blessed, and Da’as Haman, which is cursed. because they are just two extremes on a single continuum, making its perilously easy to slide in the wrong direction, as so many Jews had begun to do in Mordechai’s time.

Because, at the end of the day, it is one’s da’as that determines how free they really are. Freedom IS the correct da’as. Just having it is liberating, but getting and refining it is a lifetime project. And now that we’ve entered the four parshios of Purim, we should consider how to up our investment.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

“Increase and fully occupy the Land.”

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir


In this week’s parashah G-d promises Israel that they will conquer the Land, but that the process of conquest will be gradual: “I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you to contend with. I will drive the inhabitants out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and fully occupy the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land's inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you” (Exodus 23:29-31).

Indeed, Joshua bin Nun conquered the Land but not all of it. He left foreign peoples in it, who caused the Jewish People countless problems during the period of the Judges. This went on until the time of King David, who conquered the entire land from the foreigners living in it. Only in the time of his son Solomon were we privileged to rest from our wars, each person sitting under his grave arbor or fig tree.

Today, our own generation is similar and parallel to that of Joshua bin Nun who came up out of the desert to conquer the Land. Our generation as well emerged out of the desert of nations after 2,000 years of exile, to conquer and settle Eretz Yisrael. And just as in Joshua’s generation they did not drive out all the residents of the Land, such that “I will drive out the inhabitants little by little” was fulfilled, so too in our own generation a foreign people still remains in the land of our life’s blood. And just as in the days of the judges, the foreign nations made great trouble for Israel, today as well the Arabs are causing us great problems, threatening the State of Israel’s existence. And just as in the days of the Judges leaders arose who fought Israel’s wars and infused the people with a spirit of valor, such as Gideon, Yiftach, Shimshon and others, in our own day as well we need leaders who can strengthen the nation’s spirit and fight with might and fortitude against our enemies with their evil designs against us. And just as G-d makes our conquering the Land conditional on our first increasing in number, so, too, in our own day, the call of the hour is to increase and multiply, from within and from without. From within, we must have natural population growth. It is well known that families that preserve Jewish tradition often have large families.

Thank G-d, we have been privileged to see more and more people returning to their roots and to tradition. The day is not far off when the entire Jewish People will return to their roots, and the result will be great internal natural growth. We must increase from without as well, by way of much aliyah. There are still millions of Jews in the exile, and the State of Israel must invest enormous effort and large sums of money to encourage aliyah, both in educating towards aliyah and in absorbing new immigrants. By way of this internal growth and a large aliyah we will fill our country with Jews. By such means we will be privileged to be the living fulfillment of the divine promise: “I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river.”

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Rav Kook on Parashat Mishpatim: Legislating Kindness

The Borrower’s Liabilities
Rabbi S. R. Hirsch wrote that the laws governing a borrower are “perhaps the most difficult of all the rules of Jewish civil law to comprehend.”1 I borrowed a pencil from my friend, but it rolled off the table and broke in half. Do I need to pay for a new one?

“If a person borrows something and it breaks or dies... the [borrower] must make full restitution. However, if the owner was with him, he need not make restitution.” (Exod. 22:13-14)

A borrower is accountable for all types of damage or loss - even for completely unpreventable accidents. Even if the pencil I borrowed was swept away in a tornado, I am still obligated to buy a new one for my friend.

This comprehensive liability appears to be unreasonable. If I had not borrowed the pencil, it would still have been lost when the tornado struck. Why should I have to pay? As the Talmud in Baba Metzia 36b puts it: “What difference does it make to the Angel of Death where it is located?”

Encouraging Chessed
Rav Kook explained that the Torah placed extra liabilities upon the borrower, even in cases when the article would have been lost even if it had not been borrowed, in order to encourage people to be helpful and lend to one another. This is similar to the rationale for special rabbinical legislation protecting those who lend money, so that “the door will not be closed for [would-be] borrowers” (Sanhedrin 32a). Since the lender receives nothing in return for his kindness, the Torah sought to counterbalance any selfish thoughts that might prevent him from assisting his neighbor.

Strange Exemption
This overall understanding helps explain the most peculiar aspect of the law of the borrower - his exemption from liability when be'alav imo - when “the owner was with him.” The Torah rules that if the owner was working for the borrower at the time of the loan (whether for pay or just as a favor), the borrower is no longer responsible for damages.

One might think that the Torah is referring to a situation where the owner and borrower were working together with the borrowed object, such as driving a tractor to plow a field together. But the Sages explained in Baba Metzia 95b that it makes no difference what service the owner was performing for the borrower. Thus, if my neighbor was helping me with my computer when I asked to borrow his pencil, I am no longer liable for the pencil’s damage or loss.

Even more surprising, the Sages taught that this exemption takes effect if the owner assisted the borrower at the time of the loan. What the owner was doing when the article broke, however, is irrelevant (Baba Metzia 94a-b).

Why should it matter if the owner was working for the borrower? We could understand that if the owner was present when the object was damaged; the borrower could exempt himself from liability by claiming that the owner was able to check that the borrowed object was used properly. But why should it make a difference if the owner was present at the time of the loan? This exemption is so illogical that one highly-respected authority2 wrote in despair: “This is an unsolved problem which I have taxed my brain to make sense of and find a reason for - but in vain.”

No Need for Extra Measures
The explanation presented above, however, provides a solution to this riddle. The reason why the Torah placed comprehensive liability upon the borrower was in order to encourage kindness and generosity. In the case of be'alav imo, however, we see that the owner assists the borrower to a greater degree than is common between neighbors. The lender’s service for the borrower indicates that they are on friendly terms. In such a case, it is unlikely that the owner will refuse to lend out his possessions. Therefore, the Torah did not see a need to place extra liabilities upon the borrower in order to encourage the loan.

For this reason, the verse concludes with the law of a rented article: “If the article was hired, [the loss] is covered by the rental payment” (Exod. 22:14). The juxtaposition of these two cases indicates that the borrower - when the owner is working with him - is similar to a person renting an object. What is common to these two cases? In both situations, the lender was the recipient of some benefit from the borrower. Therefore, the borrower is not liable for accidental loss or breakage.

Borrowing a Horse to Rob a Bank
Finally, this reasoning helps clarify the Talmud’s question in Baba Metzia 96a. The Sages debated whether one who borrowed an animal for illicit purposes - say, to rob a bank - is also liable if the animal dies. Why should the purpose of borrowing be a factor in the extent of the liability?

According to the reasoning above, this question becomes clear. If the borrower’s motives are improper, the Torah would not wish to encourage such a loan. It is preferable that the borrower not be made liable in all situations, thus discouraging the owner from lending out his property for improper or illegal purposes.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Otzarot HaRe’iyah vol. II, p. 519 by Rabbi Chanan Morrison)

The Shamrak Report: The Game is Rigged and Israel Stops Playing

by Lahav Harkov
The release of the UN Human Rights Council s blacklist of companies that operate in Judea and Samaria caught Jerusalem by surprise.
The US left the UNHRC in June 2018 due to its anti-Israel slant, with then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley calling it a cesspool of political bias. Israel, which was not a member, cut ties with the body immediately after, but continued contacts with the OHCHR, the professional arm of the UNHRC. Israel freezes ties with UN rights chief after release of settlement blacklist. (Israel should have left leave the Council, and ended its activity in Israel and the territories a long time ago!)
The UNHRC has a permanent agenda item against Israel at each of its three annual sessions. The item calls Israel to immediately end its occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, without any mention of Palestinian terrorism, and expresses concern at the suffering of Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan without any mention of Syrian President Bashar Assad massacring his own citizens. The only mention of terrorism is that by extremist Israelis. Last year, EU member states had enough and voted against the recurring Item Seven, in light of its imbalance.
And now, the OHCHR is publishing this list even though the only support it received for doing so was from the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, South Africa, Venezuela and Cuba. ( Yes, they are the members of the Rights Council!)
The UNHRC has never released a similar blacklist for companies in disputed territories in any other conflict, though there are plenty of others around the world.
Welcome to Shamrak Report!
To achieve Jewish National Goal
Right of Jewish people to live on all Jewish Ancestral Land
We need unity of Jewish people and have true Jewish leadership 
Zionism is Jewish National Independence Movement!
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Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
Zionism is the Jewish national liberation movement! Liberal anti-Semites and self-hating Jews support any 'liberation' movement, even Islamic ones that present clear threats to our democratic values, but not the Jewish one! With President Trump in the White House, an Israeli government must be ready to take decisive steps to realise the Zionist dream of the Jewish people and free Jewish land, Eretz-Israel, from enemy occupation!
Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet leader Mohammed Shtayyeh called on Spain to recognize the State of Palestine and to lead a political move in Europe that will bring about support for Palestinian independence and sovereignty and the two-state solution. Palestinian Arab officials have been pressuring countries to officially recognize Palestine , in a move meant to bypass direct peace talks with Israel. While several European countries have recognized Palestine in recent years, those moves were symbolic ones that have little, if any, actual diplomatic effect. (Have they disclosed a map of the fake stateIs it "from the river to the sea?")
Abbas has abandoned their request for a vote at the UN Security Council on rejecting the US Mideast plan, over a lack of international support. Introduced by Indonesia and Tunisia, the resolution risked not having nine out of 15 votes in its favour, the minimum required for adoption provided there is no veto by a permanent member. ( In the past, they would have no problem with having 14 votes eagerly supporting any anti-Israel resolutionBut they still let him talk!)
Israel has begun confiscating the monthly stipends paid by the PA to convicted terrorists with Israeli citizenship and their families, the first time such action has been taken since Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced the move in December. (Stripping them of citizenship and deporting them, after confiscation of funds and properties to compensate Jewish victims of terror, would be an even better move!)
Israel continued to be targeted with balloon bombs launched from the Gaza Strip, in spite the decision to end the attacks was reached later that day after Egyptian mediation. This comes after the launch of over 35 balloons tied to explosive charges towards Israel!
AIPAC apologized for and removed at least four ads it sponsored on Facebook that slammed radicals in the Democratic Party. ( Disregarding the fact that most Democratic presidential have expressed anti-Israel positions, and the threat from Sen. Elizabeth Warren. who has pledged to reverse US President Donald Trump s decision on Israeli settlements.)
94% percent of Palestinians oppose US peace plan. 64% say US proposal should be met with violent Palestinian uprising. Palestinian support for two states is lowest since the signing of the Oslo Accords. ( Removal of enemies from the Jewish land is the only option to end terror in Israel!)
Parents whose young sons and daughters face daily barrages of rockets and balloon bombs send letter to UNICEF, condemning its 'unforgivable' silence in the face of terror attacks on Israeli children!
A former leader of Iran s Revolutionary Guards has warned that Iran is just looking for an excuse to attack Israel and raze Tel Aviv to the ground. He also said that Tehran has precise information on all US military and civilian activity in the region, from ships to individual soldiers. (Removal of the despotic regime of Ayatollahs and freeing Iranian people from tyranny is long overdue!)
Quote of the Week:
The majority of Arabs, if they want to insult you, they describe you as Zionist, knowing that the most successful project in the past century and the present is the Zionist project, while all projects of the Arabs, especially Arab nationalism, have failed. Before you use the word Zionist as an insult you must first reach the shining sole of Zionism. - Faisal al-Qasim, Al-Jazeera presenter.

Assimilation is a Destroyer of the Miracles.
by Steven Shamrak.
Being a Jewish single guy, I went to a lecture Why marry Jewish? with the over-optimistic hope of meeting a nice Jewish girl. During an hour of a well-prepared speech, the presenter, Doron Kornbluth, mentioned several reasons why intermarriage generally, and for Jews in particular is not a good idea. He offered many non-confrontational ideas of how to keep Jews from marrying out. Suggestions ranged from focusing on Jewish religious education, nudging to financial bribery of the kids.
The fostering of Jewish national pride and Jewish national education were omitted from his speech, most likely, in fear of offending any converts or their offspring in the audience. Why would they be offended, when Jews are talking about preservation of the national, religious, historical and spiritual identity of Jewish people, if they had embraced it? Every day Jews pray for the righteous converts . How many truly righteous converts do you know?
The were no suggestions for teaching kids about the history of the Jewish people, concepts of Jewish unity and Jewish land, famous Jews and their contributions to the cultural, scientific and technological evolution of our planet. Zionism was not even brought up at all!
Contrary to common belief, the idea that being a Jew means just a religious observance is only two hundred years old. It had emerged when the loyalty of the Jews was questioned during the time of Napoleon. Religious leaders at the time, quite justifiably fearing persecution from the megalomaniac French emperor, gave ambiguous answers about who are the Jews, nation or religion.
However, Judaism is quite specific about the national character of the Jewish people. It is written in Torah: and nation was born at Mount Sinai. Several times it is stated that it is obligatory for a Jew to marry another Jew. Nothing has changed and must not be changed just because on the surface modern society looks more tolerant and accepting toward Jews or the need for some elderly Jews, mostly Holocaust survivors, to feel illusionary comfort that their grandchildren are still remaining Jewish.
Quite often we hear: My parents were Jewish or I am not religious, therefore I am not a Jew! The first question parents ask their kids when they hear the heart-breaking news Mum/Dad my special one is not Jewish , is will he/she convert? Conversion, in spite of the fact that, in accordance with Jewish law, marriage must not be the reason for it, has become another convenient supermarket item. Parents use it now to hide their deep inner pain, bitterness, disappointment and fear of losing their kids. Instinctively, they know that their Jewish family flame has been extinguished!
With assimilation rate over 50%, a non-Jewish notion that being a Jew is only a religious obligation, which does not work in a predominately secular society. We are losing people to mixed-marriage, secularisation and ignorance. Most rabbis, Jewish leaders and Israel s officials are under pressure from bogus political correctness. They do not pay attention and promote Jewish nationalism, patriotism and Eretz-Israel , the land of Israel. Jewish people are losing their purposefulness in life to disillusionment and apathy!
There were 4 million Jews, almost 9% of the population, in the Roman Empire two thousand years ago. After the WW2, there were 12 million Jews worldwide. Sixty years later, the Jewish population has increased by only less than 2 million. Most nations during this period have doubled or even quadrupled their numbers. Assimilation is not violent like the Inquisition, pogroms or the Holocaust, but it is deadlier and the damage it brings is irreversible.
One of the miracles of the world is that one nation with its number less than 0.2% of the world population has made a contribution to humanity disproportional to its number. In spite of our achievements we are still fearful to say loudly and openly I am proud to be a Jew! Why are Italians, Greek, Chinese, Russians and other nations unapologetically proud of their national heritage and sense of belonging? But not Jews!
The Jewish concept of the Chosen people is about responsible leadership. It is not about being better than others or putting others down, like many other people do. Jews also have an obligation to self and must have a sense of healthy self-appreciation and respect, especially when it is well deserved and long overdue!
The biggest miracle is that after 3,300 years, the Jewish people still exist. Many great nations have come and gone. But if, in this friendly and politicly correct environment, we do not teach our children and grandchildren Jewishness, not solely religion; if we remain silent while they are marrying out; if we allow people like Prese, Olmert, Barak and other self-hating Jews squash out national spirit from inside There will be no more Miracles!