Friday, December 08, 2017

Light of Mashiach From Behind the Scenes: A Torah Thought for Vayeshev

by Moshe Feiglin

“And it was at that time, and Judah went down from his brothers.” (From this week’s Torah portion, Vayeishev, Genesis 38:1)

This verse opens the entire story of Judah and Tamar, which took place after Joseph was sold to Egypt by his brothers. Our Sages in Breishit Rabbah have an interesting perspective on the events described in these verses: “The tribes were preoccupied with the selling of Joseph, Joseph was preoccupied with his sackcloth and fasting, Reuven was preoccupied with his sackcloth and fasting, and Jacob was preoccupied with his sackcloth and fasting and Judah was preoccupied with taking a wife and the Holy One, Blessed Be He was busy creating the light of Mashiach.”

Everyone was preoccupied: Drowning in the swamp of their errors, mourning, trying to extricate themselves and not knowing how. The general mood was low; sadness and ambitions prevailed. The brothers did not overcome their jealousy and competitiveness and sold Joseph. Reuven was busy with his ambitions, Judah – busy with his. It looked like the forces of the mundane were poised to overcome the young family of Israel and drag it into the abyss of submission, despair and mourning.

Behind the scenes, though, the King of the World was there, fulfilling His promise to Israel. From amidst all the complications He created the light of Mashiach. Peretz is born to Judah and Tamar. He will become the progenitor of King David and Mashiach, the son of David, in the future.

Sometimes, the truly significant events take place behind the scenes. The challenge is to identify those portentous times and not to miss the truly consequential developments amidst the constant barrage of distractions.

Today, everyone is preoccupied with the complicated situation in Israel. Israel will retreat as a ‘good will gesture’ to the Arabs, Israel will not do so – it is completely insignificant. Since the days of the Rabin government – and actually, even prior to that – the strategy of Israel’s successive governments has been to choke off the settlements as a prelude to their abandonment. A state that is not Jewish in its essence is incapable of holding onto the Land of Israel. Eventually, it loses the legitimacy for its very existence.

Let us progress to a truly Jewish State.

Let us create the light of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Real Palestinian Response to Trump's Jerusalem Speech

by Bassam Tawil

By misrepresenting the poster burning "ceremony" as a reflection of widespread Palestinian rage concerning Trump's policy on Jerusalem, the international media is once again complicit in promoting the propaganda of Palestinian spin doctors. The journalists, including photographers and camera crews, have been handed detailed schedules of events that will take place in different parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • When we sit in our living rooms and watch the news coming out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, let us ask ourselves: How many of these "events" are, in fact, media burlesques? Why are journalists allowing themselves to be duped by the Palestinian propaganda machine, which spews hatred and violence from morning until night?
  • It is high time for some self-reflection on the part of the media: Do they really wish to continue serving as a mouthpiece for those Arabs and Muslims who intimidate and terrorize the West?
  • The "rivers of blood" we are being promised are flowing as we speak. Yet, it is the knife that Arabs and Muslims take to one another's throats that is the source of this crimson current, not some statement made by a US president. Perhaps that could finally be an event worth covering by the roving reporters of the region?
The handful of Palestinians in Bethlehem who were filmed burning pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump on December 6 were made by the media to look as if they were part of a mass protest sweeping Palestinian communities. (Image source: CBS News video screenshot)
A short three hours after US President Donald Trump phoned Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to inform him of his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a number of Palestinian photojournalists received a phone call from Bethlehem.
The callers were Palestinian "activists," who invited the photographers to come to the city to document an "important event." When the photographers arrived, they discovered that the "important event" was a handful of Palestinian "activists" who wanted to burn posters of Trump in front of the cameras.

The Obvious

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

To quote Menachem Begin, “Sometimes the obvious needs to be said.”

That’s the initial reaction to President Trump’s courageous and long-awaited announcement that the United States, after seventy years of indecision, has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Well, of course, it is, and has been since King David designated it as such more than 3000 years ago. Even more, it has been so since G-d decreed that Jerusalem would be the world center of the divine presence and implanted the Jewish people there to safeguard the city and proclaim His word to mankind.

All credit goes to President Trump for overcoming the naysayers in his administration and across the world, fulfilling a campaign promise (something that still shocks the average American) and acknowledging that the declaration “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel” is not just an applause line at a generation of AIPAC conferences. Seventy years of vacillation is a long time. It means that if Choni the Circle Drawer (see Masechet Taanit 23a) had fallen asleep in 1948 with part of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty but with the United States renouncing Israel’s declaration of Jerusalem as its capital so as not to pre-judge final status negotiations, and awakened today with all of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty and the US still rejecting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in order so as not to pre-judge final status negotiations, no one would blame him for wanting to take a sleeping pill and crawling back under his blanket. Nothing would have changed in seventy years, especially the empty rhetoric of diplomats.

So, who would oppose such an obvious iteration of reality? Who would mourn such an historic recognition of Jewish rights to Jerusalem? It seems like almost everybody. Almost.

They fall into several groups. First, those who make a living from fostering a “peace process” that by definition can never end, no matter the facts on the ground and the reality Above. These are the people who supported the catastrophic Oslo surrenders, the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the facilitation of the Iranian nuclear program. They include people who deny Jewish destiny in the land of Israel and would prefer the State of Israel not exist, although it is still considered impolitic (except on college campuses) to state that publicly. They include diplomats from across the world, and most of the pointy heads in Foggy Bottom, who find Israel to be, at least, an international nuisance, and so routinely castigate Israel at the United Nations and global conferences. For them, Israel’s right to exist is always tenuous, and they have determined that Israel should remain the only country on the planet denied the right to designate its capital city. They include the radical Arab world that will never recognize Israel’s existence except as a means to weaken it and then destroy it.

To them, America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has “destroyed the peace process,” which is a lot like saying the NY Giant’s restoration of Eli Manning as starting quarterback has “destroyed” my chances of leading the team to victory this Sunday. There is no “process” and there is no “peace.” If anything, acknowledgment of Jerusalem’s true status shatters some radical Arab fantasies that Israel’s existence is temporary and tentative, that the Jewish presence there will just slowly wither away. If anything, it pours cold water on some Arab dreams and is a wake-up call to Israel’s detractors as to the direction in which history is moving.

The second group consists of those who fear Arab violence in the wake of this decision. These well-meaning people are often inclined to give Arabs a pass for lack of self-control, thereby rationalizing and fomenting such violence. But “three days of rage” have really been “three generations of rage,” if not more, and succumbing to such blackmail is as understandable as it is pathetic. “The eternal people are not afraid of the long road,” as the song goes, and the voices who fear this decision because of the potential consequences would similarly have opposed (and like-minded people did oppose) the declaration of statehood in 1948. A proud, free nation asserts its just rights and privileges, and especially when those rights and privileges are rooted in the Torah, the Prophets and G-d’s eternal promises to His people. A nation of slaves, exiles and dependents lives in fear of the present and future. “Mi she’maamin lo mefached: those who believe are never scared.”

The third group is composed of leftist Jews who have abandoned their connection to Jewish destiny. The dogmas of the left have captured them and any action that strengthens Jewish destiny and our possession of the land of Israel is anathema to them. They have forgotten Jerusalem, their right hand has lost its cunning, their tongues cleave to their palates because they have not lifted Jerusalem above all their delights, especially the joy of hobnobbing with the rich and famous, the donors who sustain their organizations. They have sold their souls for the porridge of the acclaim that is garnered by Jews who turn on their own people, which is not to say that they are not sincere in their misguided beliefs.

The final group? The Trump haters who assume he can do no good and who will long resent that he was the president who recognized Jerusalem, rather than his predecessors (Clinton, Bush and Obama) who promised to do the same but never did. Once you posit that someone can never do anything good, then, by definition, anything done is not good.

To be sure, statements of the obvious are obvious but that does not mean they are not welcome and appreciated – nor do they mean that they come without a diplomatic price or at least a request for one. The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should not produce any demands for good-will gestures or concessions on Israel’s part, which will certainly be the approach of the old hands at State who must be railing against this decision. It should not be used to revive empty negotiations that are only designed to weaken Israel and not be construed as a means to resuscitate the two-state illusion, the Holy Grail of peace processors. Indeed, even President Trump announced his support for two states, “if agreed to by both sides,” which is quite an “if” and thus should not be construed as an endorsement of that chimera.

The decision should stand by itself, as “our feet stood firm at the gates of Jerusalem” (Tehillim 122:2). It should be perceived as a reaffirmation of the victory of Chanukah, which, after all, celebrated the liberation by Jews from the Hellenists of the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple that radical Arabs and haters of Israel today (including Arafat and his followers, and UNESCO and their fellow travelers) deny ever had any connection to the Jewish people. That, alone, is an arrow in the eye of Satan.

Those who deem restatements of the obvious are unnecessary most likely do not pray every day or express their love for spouses, parents and children. Those, too, are obvious sentiments, but the sensible and sensitive individual knows that uttering things that we know are true is good for us and good for the listeners. It sets the record straight, and here it attempts to correct an historical absurdity, not to mention an historic injustice. The recognition is even more important than the location of the embassy for it recognizes what is natural and right, and everything else follows from that. It is a proclamation that rivals that of Harry Truman in 1948. With much of the world and the US State Department vehemently opposed to Israel’s declaration of independence (the revered George Marshall threatened to quit if Truman acted and even to vote against him that November), Truman announced that he would recognize the nascent state of Israel.

History eventually came around, more or less, as it will to this announcement. Gratitude is in order. If people clamor for something for years, and then finally are granted their wish, it behooves them to show a little gratitude to the President who kept his word, remained resolute despite the pressures, and who changed the direction of history.

This is a joyous day. The decision should be embraced by all those who love Jerusalem and Israel, and may they be rewarded with the fulfillment of the prophetic vision: “Seek the peace of Jerusalem, those who love it shall find serenity” (Tehillim 122:6).

Pledges and a Pledge

By Professor Stephen Schecter

So much has happened in such a short space of text. After the terrible story of Dinah we learn that Rachel died on Jacob’s way home, giving birth to his youngest son. His eldest then went and slept with Jacob’s own concubine. No sooner had Jacob made his way home than Isaac his father died and Esau came to help him bury him, then left him to dwell in the land of his forefathers. Trouble, however, continued to haunt this family. Joseph, sent on a mission to find his brothers, wound up being sold by them to some Midianite traders who brought him down to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. The brothers, in the meantime, took the multi-colored coat which Jacob had given Joseph, dipped it in goat blood and brought it to their father, who at once jumped to the conclusion that his favorite son had died and sunk into inconsolable grief. Understandably, the reader needs a bit of relief from such high maintenance family drama, and the author provides it in the sidebar of a story of Judah and Tamar. But like all sidebar stories, it has its role to play in the larger saga.

Judah went down from his brethren, the story starts. Considering that he played a crucial role in convincing his brothers to sell Joseph rather than kill him, only to find out later that Reuven had intended to rescue him, Judah must have had enough of his brothers. So he went to seek consolation in a woman’s arms. Consolation and forgetting. He had a friend among his Canaanite neighbors, an Adullamite by the name of Hirah, who hooked him up with a woman who was the daughter of Shua. Judah’s consolation turned out to be more serious than he first thought, for Shua’s daughter bore him three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah. Family duties took over his life, which enabled Judah to keep his distance from his brothers. But family life in this family was never simple, and trouble soon came knocking at Judah’s door, as it had at his father’s and his father’s father’s door before him, not to mention the turbulent domestic front of the very first patriarch of the Hebrews.

Judah’s eldest son came of age and Judah felt obliged to find him a wife by the name of Tamar. But Er, we are told, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord slew him. One wonders what Er must have done to merit a death sentence, and all the more so given the various heinous acts of his uncles about which we have just finished reading. One can only wonder, though the last time the Torah spoke of such wickedness it led to a flood. And so the reader, like Jacob when told by Joseph of his dreams of grandeur, will bear it in mind for another day. Er having died, Judah then gives his daughter-in-law Tamar his second son, Onan, that he may carry out his late brother’s marital duty and give Er’s wife a son who will bear his name. But Onan did not like the idea of having his seed bear his brother’s name and pulled out before coitus could lead to conception. This too was evil in the sight of the Lord, the Torah tells us, and Onan met a fate similar to that of his brother. This left only Judah’s third son, Shelah, to carry out his levirate duty and give Tamar a child who would carry on Er’s name. But Judah balked at the idea of losing his third son as well. Tamar, he felt, brought with her the kiss of death. Let us wait, he therefore told his daughter-in-law, until he shall be of an age to handle his sexuality properly. Otherwise, he too shall commit some injudicious act and perish like his brothers. So Tamar returned to her father’s house to wait until Shelah came of age.

Time passed. Judah forgot his promise to Tamar. More time passed. Shua’s daughter, Judah’s wife, died and Judah had no one to remind him to fulfill his obligation to Tamar and give her his remaining son as a husband. Judah mourned his wife, mourned her enough to be comforted for his loss, it seems, for the Torah tells us that after Judah was comforted he went up to Timnah with his friend Hirah to shear his sheep. When Tamar was told that Judah had gone to Timnah to shear his sheep, she doffed her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and went to sit by the side of the road on the way to Timnah. When Judah passed by and saw her he decided he needed more comfort, and asked her to grant him sexual favors. She asked him what he would give her in exchange. He told her a kid from the goats in his flocks. And the reader thinks: more goats, which seem to accompany this family’s dealings from one generation to the next, announcing trouble. But you have no goats with you, Tamar remarks. They are up in Timnah, the reader understands Judah to answer, whither I am going; I will soon send you payment. In the meantime, what will you give as a pledge? Tamar asks. What would you have me give? Judah answers. Your signet and cord and staff, Tamar replies. Judah readily consents, gives her the pledge requested, takes her and enters her and Tamar finally conceives, not by the son promised to her but by the father who promised and forgot his promise.

After their sexual congress Tamar leaves, doffs her veil and dons again her widow’s garments. In the meantime, Judah, having reached Timnah, sent the kid from the goats as promised with his friend Hirah. But when Hirah goes to the place where Judah had met Tamar, a place called Eynayim, he could not find her. And when he asks the men of the place where the harlot was who sat by the wayside, he was told there was no harlot there, had never been any. Hirah returns with the pledge and the news that no harlot had ever been there. Judah, feeling bad that he could not fulfill his pledge, tells his friend not to make any further inquiries, lest he be put to even further shame for inquiring about a harlot with whom he slept but no one saw.

The reader, of course, thinks otherwise. Thinks the real shame is that he did not fulfill his original pledge to Tamar, the one wherein he promised to give her his son Shelah when he comes of age. Thinks the even greater shame, and more than shame, is that he did not recognize his daughter-in-law even though he slept with her. Judah may claim she was veiled, just as his father may have claimed when he did not recognize Leah the night Laban sent her to him instead of Rachel. And so Isaac may also have claimed about Jacob when he came to him veiled in his brother’s garments. But the reader remains suspicious about all this veiled defense. Jacob, after all, was so close to Isaac that Isaac smelled him and kissed him and touched him. No way, the reader thinks, could the father have not known it was Jacob who stood before him in search of the blessing. Just as no way could Jacob have not known Leah was not Rachel when he took her and entered her the night of his wedding. How close did he have to be to discern that his bride was not the woman whose every step he had followed for seven years? Likewise, how could Judah not have recognized Tamar for the daughter-in-law she was, unless, of course, he too, like his forefathers, was blinded by the urges which drove him, urges as much emotional as sexual, urges that followed the men in this family like a curse down the generations? And what was the curse if not self-deception that passed itself off as deception, allowing them to fob off their own responsibility on forces outside their control? In fact, however, they simply refused to see what was right in front of their noses. And in Judah’s case, the point is further driven home by the name of the place where he met Tamar – Eynayim – which means eyes in Hebrew. In the place where eyes should see he did not see, evoking the line in the psalm that has entered Jewish prayer liturgy: eyes they have, but cannot see. This is the real source of evil, the Torah teaches: cognitive blindness leads to moral turpitude. Then as now. Always. We should bear that in mind, but like Jacob, we forget.

Judah too forgot. But Tamar was there to remind him. When Tamar showed up pregnant three months later, the men of the tribe hauled her before Judah and accused her of playing the harlot, seeing as she was with child although Shelah had not yet been given her in marriage. Judah answered that she should be brought forth and burned. But when Tamar was brought forth she brought the signet and cord and staff that Judah had given her as a pledge and said: By the man whose these are am I with child. And for the first time in the Book of Genesis did someone say: I am sorry. Judah recognized his error, acknowledged not only that the insignia were his, but also that he had forgotten his promise to give Shelah as husband to his daughter-in-law. She is more righteous than I, he humbly said. Judah finally saw, which is what apology is all about. To apologize is to see what one has done and admit that it was wrong; and it was wrong because one did not see properly. To see is to know, and to see oneself is to know oneself. It is true for individuals and it is true for nations. The inability to see cascaded down the generations in this family, causing the sins of the fathers to be visited on the sons unto the fourth generation. It continues to cascade down the generations of the Hebrew nation even today, where so many Jews delude themselves about the nature of their enemies and the legitimacy of Zionism. Cognitive failure on the part of Jews and non-Jews with respect to contemporary Israel has resulted in the heinous indulgence of Palestinian gangsters and their lies, the most recent case being most of the western world’s condemnation of the American President’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That the nations of the rest of the world refuse to back Israel is understandable, mired as they are in their kindred dreams of imperial expansion and religious idolatry. That the western nations do not is not only not understandable; it is inexcusable. But they too, the United Kingdom at the forefront, have forgotten their pledge to the Jews and to the democracy and decency to which the Jews and their Torah gave impulse. And they have forgotten that because the road map of the Middle East which they read and have read for a century now is cognitively impaired.

Judah not only forgot his pledges; he forgot his pledge. He redeemed himself by acknowledging it, as President Trump this week redeemed the broken promises of his predecessors. Because Judah acknowledged his own cognitive failure, he could now break his family cycle of pleading ignorance in the face of self-induced calamity. As the story of Joseph and his brothers unfolds, it will be Judah who takes on his father and insists they return to Egypt to redeem the one left behind and, it will turn out, to find the one they had lost. It will also be Judah who takes on Joseph in the most magnificent and stirring apology written in western literature. Thus does Judah’s digression – and Judah went down from his brethren – turn out to be central to the story that will now pick up its thread and turn two parashot hence into its opposite - and Judah came near unto him.

Moshe Feiglin: Israel Must Take Practical Steps to Show Jerusalem is Ours

This is a translated transcript of Moshe Feiglin on the Aryeh Golan Morning Radio Show: KAN

We return to Trump’s historic declaration on Jerusalem yesterday. We are talking with the Chairman of the Zehut party, Former MK Mr. Moshe Feiglin. Good morning to you.

Good morning, Aryeh. The rain fell yesterday mostly in Jerusalem.

The Americans took care of that.
They wanted to shine up the city in honor of the historic declaration.
Trump took care of that for us, also.
Surely you celebrated President Trump’s announcement last night.

As a believing person, I was quick to make the Shehecheyanu blessing for good news, including saying G-d’s Name. It is certainly an historical event, moving, extraordinarily positive – no doubt about it.

Trump, you know, also has the Arab world – he has to worry about Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians. Europe as well. He talked about the two-state solution. It didn’t mar your happiness or the blessing that you recited?
You know, Aryeh, I listened to the original version in English. There was a Hebrew translation that more or less said the opposite, so I went back to the internet and listened to the original version. Trump said that if the two sides will be interested in the two-state solution, the US will support it. That is what he said.

That also appears in the translation, by the way.

In other words, Trump, despite all the constraints that you mentioned, and we must salute him for this – left all the keys in the hands of the government of Israel. The simple, self-evident, right measure for Israel’s government to take now is to move the Government District – the Knesset, the government offices, the High Court – from the western part of Jerusalem to the eastern part.

We already have a Government District in the eastern part of the city. It has been there for many years. It was a decision made by the late Menachem Begin. But no world representatives go there. We have a number of government ministries that are more or less boycotted by the world.

They are boycotted because in practice, our hearts remain in the western part of the city. We have to make the decision that Trump made. First of all, for ourselves. If the Knesset will be in eastern Jerusalem, everybody will go there. Israel has to imbue President Trump’s historic, important declaration with practical content and meaning.

Yesterday, commentators correctly noted that all the symbols of government that he mentioned are in western Jerusalem: The President’s Residence, the Knesset, the Prime Minister’s Office – none of those are in eastern Jerusalem. It is no coincidence. This time he read from a written document, he remained very close to the teleprompter.

Right, right. This morning we also heard that Czechoslovakia is recognizing (Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – ed) but explicitly said only western Jerusalem. Trump, of course did not say that. It is our duty – the duty of the State of Israel and the government of Israel – to create the processes that preserves the unity of the city, its coherence, that the Old City, the city holy to Israel from time immemorial will become entrenched in the world’s consciousness as the city of the Nation of Israel.
Tell me, the Hamas is already threatening. OK, the Palestinians of course are opposed and are threatening. Hamas, though, is threatening even more. It is threatening not only to call for a strike, but to open the gates of hell, and to our great sorrow, we have learned the hard way what this terror organization is capable of doing.

Thank G-d, we have been in existence 3000 years before Hamas, and we will exist many years after it. The Hamas opens the gates of hell primarily for the Arab residents of Gaza and for itself. We must understand that the self-definition of the so-called Palestinian nation is not the establishment of a state for itself, but rather the destruction of the State of Israel. In Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv and in every other place. We do not have to worry too much about that.

Not to worry about that. Also about what Trump said that he is leaving decisions on borders and sovereignty to the sides? That he is not getting involved in that?
Right, and it is mistaken, as some commentators are attempting to explain his words – as if there is some price that he is hinting at that Israel will have to pay and give up in some future negotiations. That is not at all what he said, that is not where he is putting pressure. What he actually said is that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish Nation. Now what you decide is up to you. That is actually what President Trump’s declaration means. If I could give it a more creative illustration: The State of Israel today is like a little boy who is being taken to first grade. Trump is the mother, pulling the hesitant boy into the next stage of his life. It is a shame that the State of Israel did not initiate and lead these moves, but rather the faith-based American –and not only American – world. But now we must assume our historic role.

By the way, the Balfour Declaration was also announced in the merit of a faith-based foreign minister and prime minister in England one hundred years ago. In other words, we see an historic full circle. First, the the nations of the world agreed that the Land of Israel belongs to the Nation of Israel on a physical plane. Now there is a full circle, with the leader of the nations of the world saying that this Land also belongs to the Nation of Israel on a spiritual level - also from the aspect of the message that must emanate from Jerusalem.

I thank you former MK Moshe Feiglin, currently Chairman of the Zehut party, do you plan to run in the elections? There are so many parties on the Right that are stronger. What are the chances that you will succeed in making a comeback?
That is what I intend to do. We are running with all our might, and according to all scales, there is definitely going to be a big, positive surprise for the Nation of Israel.

We will see…Thank you, good morning.

Moshe Feiglin on the Trump Declaration and Zehut's Jerusalem Platform

When I finished listening to President Trump’s declaration I made the blessing on good tidings, Shehecheyanu, complete with G-d’s Name.

The complementary, practical measure that Israel’s government must take is to transfer all the government ministries, the Knesset, government offices and the High Court to Jerusalem’s Old City.

It is a mistake to think that Trump’s declaration is a promo to pressure Israel. True, the embassy is not moving immediately, but the president of the greatest power in the world has said to the Jews – Jerusalem is your capital. Now Israel’s government must fill that declaration with practical meaning.

The following is Zehut's Jerusalem Plan:

Jerusalem – Goals and Policy

But as I come to sing to you today, 
And to adorn crowns to you,
I am the smallest of the youngest of your children and of the last of the poets
(Jerusalem of Gold, Naomi Shemer)

Jerusalem is not just another capital city. Jerusalem is the essence of Jewish national existence. It is a tapestry of the history of three thousand years, of the yearning of two thousand years, of hopes, of sanctity, of the oaths of bridegrooms, of blood, sweat and tears. There can be no Jewish state without Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was Never Divided Among the Tribes

“Of all your tribes – this is Jerusalem, in which all the tribes share” (Avot D’Rabbi Natan)
“Jerusalem was never divided among the tribes of Israel” (Tractate Yoma)

Unlike other cities, Jerusalem is a symbol: the focal point of identity and the horizon of purpose for the State of Israel. Jerusalem belongs to the entire Nation, not to its residents alone. As such, the Nation, by means of its representatives, has the authority and the duty to be involved in its planning and design. Jerusalem's residents understand that living in a city that does not belong exclusively to them exacts a price.

Within the parameters of the national planning of the city, all the rules of freedom of enterprise and design will be preserved,[1] as will be the case throughout Israel. But unlike other cities, Jerusalem will have a central planning framework and basic laws[2] that will ensure its character as a holy city on the one hand, and a focal point of Israeli sovereignty, on the other.

Strategic Planning

Jerusalem, Israel's capital, still lacks a strategic vision that will restore its role, both as Israel's heartland and as an international focal point for spiritual ascent, as it was in the past.

The flight from and ignoring of Jerusalem, which began with the surrender of the Old City to the Jordanians in the War of Independence[3] and continued after the Six-Day War in 1967 with the transfer of the Temple Mount to the Jordanian wakf, continues until this very day – turning Israel's capital once again into a divided border city.

In fact, after the historic unification of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, the expansion of Jerusalem's municipal line to the east and north and the establishment of the new neighborhoods, for many years almost every visionary strategic development has been shelved and forgotten. The city has effectively been abandoned to natural growth fluctuations and the immediate needs of its residents.[4]

This approach cannot apply to Jerusalem, which is divided between Jews and Arabs, neglected in terms of its infrastructure and at the crossroads of the interests of the entire world. It is time to claim Israel’s ownership of Jerusalem and to conduct our policies accordingly. Any other method is irrelevant. Jerusalem beckons.

Greater Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Metropolis

Zehut proposes a realistic alternative to the artificial attempt to separate Jerusalem from the surrounding Arab population. This has resulted in a massive Arab immigration into the city for fear of separation, and on the other hand has strangled natural development of the city. When Zehut’s Diplomatic Plan is implemented, the war will end and the Arabs remaining in Judea and Samaria will be those who accept the sovereignty of the State of Israel. Under those circumstances, it will no longer be necessary to strangle the city between walls and fences.

Jerusalem is suffocated within its municipal line, and the time has come to expand it, and to allow the creation of Greater Jerusalem, which is already forming. Instead of cutting down the Jerusalem Forest, as proposed by the Safdie plan to address the housing shortage, it is possible to expand and even multiply Jerusalem's urban area to the east and north, and to provide the city with extensive land reserves for new neighborhoods with modern access infrastructure.

The Jerusalem metropolis will include Bethlehem and Gush Etzion to the south, Beit Shemesh and Modi'in to the West, Ramallah to the north and Ma'aleh Adumim and Jericho to the east.

Strategic Infrastructure

“As a rule, the holier the place, the more it lies in destruction. Jerusalem is more destroyed than any place else. Judea more than the Galilee. And even with all its destruction, it is very good” (The Ramban, in his Letter from the Land of Israel, circa 1260)

Metropolitan Beltway

The fast-moving Jerusalem train currently under construction will significantly improve Jerusalem's accessibility to greater Tel Aviv, making it much easier to live in Jerusalem and work in greater Tel Aviv or vice versa. In addition, a large Jerusalem beltway should be built, as is the case in large capitals around the world. The beltway will create and enclose the outer perimeter of the city, and will connect it to the urban centers around it, and them - to each other. The road will surround Jerusalem from Ma'aleh Adumim in the east, through Bethlehem and Gush Etzion in the south, to Mevaseret Zion in the west and on to Givat Ze'ev and Neve Ya'akov via Kfar Adumim.

Internal Landing Strip and International Airport

The internal landing strip in Atarot will be reopened and expanded, and an international airport will be built in the Horkanya Valley east of the city. The airport will serve Jerusalem on an ongoing basis, and in particular will enable it to cope with the peak periods of tourism and pilgrimage, which require a high passenger capacity relative to its routine function.

The need for such an airport is clear. Currently about two million people live in the Jerusalem metropolitan area, similar to the population of greater Tel Aviv. The rule of thumb in city planning is that a population of two million justifies an international airport near the city, especially if it is a city that attracts waves of tourism.

Upgrading the Mountain Road and the Jerusalem-Gush Dan Road

As detailed in the strategic planning chapter in Judea and Samaria, two highways must be upgraded to ease the traffic flow in and out of Jerusalem. Highway 60, north and south of Jerusalem, must be widened and transformed into an interurban road, at least in its section between Ariel and Hebron. Road 45, the paving of which has been delayed for thirty years as a replacement for Road 443 and an alternative to Route 1, must be completed. This will ease the natural growth of the Jerusalem metropolitan area, currently stalled due to outdated access infrastructure.

Roads in East Jerusalem and Access to the Old City

Access infrastructure in the eastern part of the city is extremely deficient and does not allow for development. This is even truer of the Old City, to which vehicular access is nearly impossible. This is not because there is no place to pave roads in the Old City, but because it is currently not a government priority.

This reality stymies the tourism and pilgrimage potential of the Old City and the transformation of its environs into the city's government district. Both of these problems must be resolved.

The Government District

"The temple of the king, the royal city, stand up out of the chaos" - "Lecha Dodi", a poem by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz.
"There shall sit the throne of judgment as the throne of the house of David" - Psalms, 122:2.

Jerusalem is not only a "temple of the king," the holy city and holiness. Jerusalem is also a royal city, the city of Israeli rule and the city of Israeli law. The current location of the government complex, the Knesset building and the Supreme Court in the western part of the city is the result of the fact that the city is divided.

The total separation between the new and modern city and the so-called "Holy Basin" in Israel is not a healthy separation for the State of Israel. Zehut will strive to end this division.

A long-term process of evacuation-compensation of areas adjacent to the Temple Mount will enable the gradual relocation of the government district and symbols of sovereignty to the vicinity of the Old City and the Temple Mount. The Government District was in the Old City/Temple Mount area from the time of King David until King Agrippas the Second. Since this is a quintessential process of Jewish "recovery and restoration, we can expect that the sums required for this project will be contributed to a large extent by the general public – just as the general public contributed huge sums to buy most of the City of David, homes and entire areas in the Old City so far.


Approximately a million and a half tourists visit Jerusalem annually. They lodge in approximately ten thousand hotel rooms in the capital. At the present rate of growth, tourism in the next two decades will at least double.

The development and construction of Jerusalem as a spiritual focal point will double and triple current forecasts and will draw tens of millions of tourists and pilgrims from throughout the world. Jerusalem must prepare to host them. This of course is a major growth engine, which will rapidly return (private) investment in the new and renewed hotel infrastructure.

The Heart of the City: The Temple Mount

“He who rules the Mount rules the Land.”[5] (Poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg)

The Temple Mount is the holiest place on earth. It is the place chosen by the G-d of Israel from which to imbue the world with His Divine Presence. This is the place that connects the physical with the metaphysical, the place where Adam was created and Isaac was bound. It is the place where life and the Nation were molded, the place where our First and Second Temples stood. Just as most of the prophecies regarding the Return to Zion have already miraculously been fulfilled, so the rest of them will be realized. When the time comes, our Third Temple will dwell on the Temple Mount for eternity.

The Temple Mount is the beating heart of the Land of Israel. Famous Israeli poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg accurately described the Temple Mount as the yardstick of Israeli sovereignty in the entire Land. When we lose our hold on the Mount, the heart becomes ill; circulation weakens and the organs suffer. When Israel transfers control of the Mount to the Jordanian wakf, Jerusalem becomes divided once again and Israel's cities become the target of missiles – a scenario that nobody would have imagined just a few years ago.

There is a direct correlation between the abandonment of the Temple Mount and the deterioration of the legitimacy for the very existence of a Jewish State anywhere in the Land of Israel. De-legitimization has reared its ugly head even in the most respected and enlightened states.

When our actions declare that we have no connection to the Temple Mount, the world says the same at UNESCO. And when the world says it, the legitimacy of our hold on the Land is lost. When we lose the legitimacy of our hold on the Land, it becomes legitimate to attack us and illegitimate for Israel to defend herself. Surrender of the Temple Mount does not prevent war; it provokes it.

The "strategy" of Israeli administrations since the Six Day War has been to evade the actualization of Israeli sovereignty on the Mount and to pass on the "problem" to future generations. This "strategy" has brought about a continued depreciation in the status of Jerusalem, to de facto re-division and to the transfer of most of the sovereignty at the heart of Israel's capital – on the Temple Mount – to the Jordanian wakf.

Today, places in East Jerusalem where Jewish children used to play safely are now void of Jews; it is impossible to build a home in Jerusalem without the personal authorization of the Prime Minister and UNESCO is turning Israel's practical policy into a principled international decision, determining that there is no connection between Israel and the Temple Mount.

The decision to give the keys to the Mount to the Moslems immediately upon its liberation was lauded as diplomatic insight and the "realpolitik" acumen of Six-Day War Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. But the truth is that Dayan's actions were not born of necessity; they were his chosen policy. Prior to that, in the War of Independence, a planned strategy brought about the fall of the Jewish Quarter and the loss of an opportunity to liberate the Temple Mount and Judea and Samaria. Before the Six-Day War, Dayan (and the ministers of the National Religious Party) were opposed to liberating the Old City. Even Paratrooper Division Commander Motta Gur, who conquered the Temple Mount, was sure that it would shortly return to Jordan.

Israeli-ness did not want the "whole Vatican" – in the words of Moshe Dayan. Religious-ness also didn't want the Mount, which restores the Torah from the personal-religion dimension of the Exile to its national-culture dimension. This is the deep reason for today's ultra-Orthodox opposition to the return of Jews to the Temple Mount. There is nothing more anti-"religious" and anti-exile than the Temple and the Temple Mount.

Jerusalem is the essence of the conflict raging in Israel between Israeli identity and Jewish identity. The Mount was abandoned by Israel – and Jerusalem is being divided because the Israeli/Religious identity is fleeing the return to Jewish/cultural identity. The return to the Mount is the connection between those cultures.

The Arabs are not the cause; they are simply the means in this internal conflict. Jerusalem does not appear even once in the Koran. When the Moslems are on the Mount, they bow southward to Mecca and turn their backsides to the Dome of the Rock, the site of the Holy of Holies.

Israel sanctifies the Mount to the Moslems so that it can run away from itself. The result is the loss of the bedrock foundation for the justification of our existence in the entire Land of Israel – and the turning of humanity against us. By sanctifying the Mount for the Moslems, Israel brings war upon itself.

There is no Jerusalem without the Temple Mount. The only sovereign on the Temple Mount will be the State of Israel, by means of the Israel Police Department and a special Honor Guard, similar to the guards of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The police and Honor Guard will preserve the security, order and sanctity of the site. Any foreign entity – in uniform or without – will be distanced from the Mount.

Policies on the Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is "Also" a Holy Site

The Temple Mount will be opened for Jewish prayer and will be placed at the top of the list of Jewish holy sites – a list from which it is currently absent. By virtue of the Law for the Safeguarding of the Holy Places, it will be transferred to the administration of the Chief Rabbinate, which will regulate the visits of Jews to the Mount within the framework of Jewish law. The Rabbinate will demarcate the places on the Mount permissible to walk according to Jewish law. A Jewish synagogue will be built on the Mount, in keeping with the various plans for a synagogue that have been proposed over the years.


The Temple Mount will also be opened for archeological research. Inestimable archeological damage has been wrought by the abandonment of the Temple Mount to the Jordanian wakf. Six thousand tons of archeological dirt from the Temple Mount have been intentionally destroyed by the wakf in the process of illegal construction of underground mosques on the Mount. The ridiculous assertion of lack of remnants on the Temple Mount is a result of the policy that prohibits archeological research on the Temple Mount, forcing the archeologists to dig only in the areas surrounding the Mount.[6]


The Jordanian wakf will lose its official status on the Mount. Israel's Police Department will be permanently stationed on the Mount, and not at the Mount's edge – as is the case today. Visits to the Temple Mount will be allowed at all hours without limit. Security for Israeli citizens on the Temple Mount will be absolute and provided by the police with all necessary forces. Jews will be able to enter the Temple Mount from all its gates. Moslems will be allowed to continue their prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque (which is actually outside of the sanctified original parameters of the Temple Mount) Any attempt to turn the prayer into a nationalist event will be dealt with strictly.

The paths leading to the Temple Mount will be repaired and reconstructed, as befits a place that is the "heart of the world.” The Israeli flag will once again be flown permanently over the Temple Mount as an expression of absolute Israeli sovereignty at the site – and as an expression of the Jewish identity that originates at the Temple Mount, returns to it and is vitalized by it.


[1] See the housing chapter.

[2] A minor example of this is the famous stone cladding law in Jerusalem dating back to the days of the British Mandate.

[3] The bitter result of the fall of the Old City to the Jordanians during the War of Independence was not a matter of lack of choice but of explicit prioritization. Even if it is possible to discuss the difficulties at the beginning of the war and to explain here and there, there is no doubt that there was a practical military option to capture the city at the war's decisive stage.

[4] For example, the Begin Road, the paving of the expansion of Highway 1 and the light rail are examples of coping with immediate life needs, rather than long-term strategic planning. The express train to Jerusalem and Highway 1 to the east, on the other hand, are exceptional, worthy of mention.

[5] This was quoted in Uri Tzvi Greenberg’s name immediately after the Six-Day War, and appears almost in this version in "The Complete Works of Uri Tzvi Greenberg,” published by the Bialik Institute.) Thanks to Yehuda Etzion, who has in-depth knowledgeable of Greenberg’s writings, for this quote.

[6] The same is true, albeit on a lesser scale, of all the archeological sites in Judea and Samaria.

Rabbi Ari Kahn: It's Worse than You Thought

The Yishai Fleisher Show: A Victory for Truth

President Trump's courageous decision to recognize Jerusalem, to respect the will of the American people, and to boldly "acknowledge what is obvious", was an incredible moment in Jewish history.

Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Rabbi Yishai to discuss the victory of truth over lies, and the Torah portion where the Tribes of Israel sell their own brother into slavery and yet, in that darkness, the seed of Messiah is born - indeed a victory for truth!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Illuminating the Darkness

Parashat Vayaishev 5778
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

A Chanuka Story

An Israeli family was spending a year in the US teaching. They rented a house in a gentile neighborhood.

At Christmastime all the houses on the street were lit up with decorations, inside and out, flashing lights and colorful figures; while our Jewish family had a small chanukiah in their front window. Their young son asked his parents why they couldn’t have some impressive flashing electric lights, to which they answered that whenever possible the halacha requires only an oil candle, be it ever so modest!

The following night there was an electric outage in the entire neighborhood, and the only home that had any light was the Jewish one with the chanukiah in the window.

A cute story. However, it is the essence of the civilization that HaShem has created where the Jewish nation stands against the Esaus and Yishmaels of the world. The gentile empires put on an impressive historic showing; huge and powerful armies, vast areas of conquest, and a Reich that would last for 1000 years. However, each one in turn, from Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, the Ottoman empire, the British empire, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, etc., were relegated to the refuse bin of history, while the light of Judaism continues to light up the darkness of lost civilizations.

The Valley of Dothan

Our parasha, Vayaishev, relates that Yosef was sent by his father to seek out his brothers in the city of Shechem, but was informed by a man (or angel) that they had moved on to the Valley of Dothan. When the brothers saw Yosef approaching, they threw him into a pit of serpents and scorpions, and he was sold to Yishmaelites, Midianites, and ultimately to Potiphar of Egypt.

Fast forward in time. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini, spent the World War II years in Berlin with his mentor, Hitler. There the Mufti organized thousands of Moslems to join the Nazi forces, mostly in the Waffen SS.

In return the Mufti requested and received Hitler’s promise that when they would conquer “Palestine”, the Germans would construct a death camp to which all the Jews of the Middle East would be brought and then murdered.

The place they chose for the camp was none other than the Valley of Dothan!

Unknown to the Mufti and his sinister friends this was where the brothers had betrayed their brother Yosef.

By the grace of HaShem, German general Rommel’s troops were defeated at El Alamein in Egypt. The Germans never entered the holy land and the promised death camp was never built.

It is quite clear from our long relationship with the Holy One, Blessed Be He, that we Jews are like the blind groping in the dark, while HaShem protects us at every step to ensure that we do not make any fatal, irreversible mistakes.

A Small Modest Jewish Candle Illuminating the Darkness

Parashat Vayaishev is read on the Shabbat preceding Chanuka, and when there are two Shabbatot on Chanuka, Vayaishev is read on the first Shabbat. Many reasons have been put forward for the connection of this parasha to Chanuka. My suggestion… In the parasha, Yosef was, and later the Jews at the time of Chanuka were, pitted against formidable forces.

Yosef began as the young Hebrew slave against the entire Egyptian establishment. The Egyptians were at a loss at the pending seven years of famine, and in the end, it was the young Hebrew slave that reached the highest point in the social and governmental pyramid available to a commoner. The small modest Jewish candle again burned bright when the darkness filled the gentile night.

On Chanuka, the small militia of Mattityahu was pitted against the might of Greece. Again, our little lights of sanctity burned bright when the Greeks capitulated and were expelled from the holy land.

So too, the Reich that was to last for 1000 years and destroy the Jewish nation fell while the little light of the Jewish people continues to burn bright.

We are now witnessing the beginning of a confederation of nations that seeks to destroy the Jewish state; Syria, Iran, Turkey, and others who will follow. Goyim never learn that against the small candle of the Jewish people all the winds of the world, even all its hurricanes and tornadoes, cannot extinguish the everlasting flame of God’s chosen people.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5778/2017 Nachman Kahana

A Two State Solution for Europe?

(Ed. note: Now ain't that a kick in the head? As some of us have said, the Europeans will get their Palestinian State or Two State Solution. It just won't be where they think.)

by Judith Bergman

  • A poll conducted this summer found that 29% of French Muslims found Sharia to be more important to them than French laws. It also found that 67% of Muslims want their children to study Arabic, and 56% think it should be taught in public schools.
  • A 2016 UK poll showed that 43% of British Muslims "believed that parts of the Islamic legal system should replace British law while only 22 per cent opposed the idea". Another poll from 2016 found that 23% of all Muslims supported the introduction of sharia law in some areas of Britain, 39% agreed that "wives should always obey their husbands," and 52% of all British Muslims believe that homosexuality should be illegal.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron blamed France, not Islam, for the increased radicalization, which he said should lead France to "question itself." According to Macron, then, the parallel Islamic societies of France, have nothing to do with Islam. They are the fault of the French republic. Did the French republic impose sharia and the subjugation of women in the suburbs, described by one female survivor as "hell"? Was the French republic behind the recent distribution of leaflets stipulating "if you meet a Jew, kill him"?
Riot police muster in the northern Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
A French intellectual, Christian Moliner, recently suggested that France should establish a Muslim state-within-a-state that adheres to sharia law, inside the borders of France, to avoid a civil war. Warning against refusing to deal with the problems of Islamism in Europe because of political correctness, he stated:
"Out of the fear of appearing Islamophobic, to satisfy this bustling fringe of Muslims, governments are ready to accept the spread of radical practices throughout the country.... [some] territories are outside the control of the Republic. The police can come only in force and for limited durations... We can never convert the 30% of Muslims who demand the introduction of sharia law to the merits of our democracy and secularism. We are now allowing segregation to take place that does not say its name."
Moliner's solution?

Special Report: Trump Passed the Test. What About Netanyahu?

by Shmuel Sackett

Although I speak and write a lot, I am a man of action FAR MORE than one of words.

I believe that every Jew should live in Israel… so 27 years ago, I took my wife and 4 little kids and moved from Long Island to Netanya.

I believe that the Torah is true and Hashem's instructions are clear… so I keep every commandment and law to the best of my ability.

I believe that the Rabbis are Hashem's messengers… so I follow their guidance and direction.

That's how I live my life and I don't consider myself a hero because of it.

When something is true, I make it happen and make it real. I never let the truth remain as an intellectual exercise.

Why do I mention this, all of a sudden?

Because today marked a historic day when the President of the United States stated a truth which he immediately followed up with an action.

Truth: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Action: Instructing the US State Department to begin the procedure of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Compare that to the Prime Minister of Israel.

Truth: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Action: Jews cannot walk freely in 30% of the city. (If a Jew gets stabbed in the Moslem quarter, the first reaction is always; "What was he doing there??")

Jews cannot pray on the Temple Mount and must present photo ID and be physically checked just to walk there. (This applies to Jews only)

Jews cannot build in Jerusalem. (Over 30 building projects – in Jerusalem – have been put on hold by the present Israeli government)

So, I ask you – what does Bibi Netanyahu mean when he says that "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel"???

Trump was very clear what he meant but I cannot figure out what Bibi means.

His words go to the right but his actions go to the left…

My dearest Prime Minister; Trump passed his test.

Now it's your turn.

Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem – US interest!

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

1. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem - as prescribed by the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act - represent President Trump’s resolve to focus on US interests, defy Arab pressure/threats, and overrule the politically-correct bureaucracy of the State Department.

2. Relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem underscores the resurrection of the US independent unilateral – rather than multinational – action. It distinguishes the US President, Congress and most Americans from the US foreign policy establishment, the UN worldview, and Europe’s vacillation and cave-in.

3. It signals a determination to resurrect the US posture of deterrence, reflecting the realization that succumbing to Arab pressure/threats fuels violence, while defiance of pressure/threats deters rogue elements and advances security, and therefore advances the prospects of peace.

4. Palestinian terrorism and hate-education were fueled by the December 1988 US recognition of the PLO, the 1993 Oslo Accord Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, and the 2005 Israel’s uprooting of Jews from Gaza. On the other hand, the 2011 US veto of a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel’s settlements policy was not followed by anti-US terrorism, contrary to assessments made by the State Department.

5. The non-implementation of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act has not advanced the peace process, but radicalized Arab expectations, forcing them to outflank the US from the maximalist side. It has undermined the US posture of deterrence, which is critical for the US national security and global sanity.

6. Relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem is consistent with the US ethos from the early Pilgrims and the US Founding Fathers until today. It is reflected by the 18 Jerusalems and 32 Salems (Shalem was the original name of Jerusalem) in the US, and by the spelling of JerUSAlem.

7. Relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem reflects a determination to avoid repeated errors, thus bolstering the US posture of deterrence, while complying with the US law of the land, and embracing the state-of-mind of most Americans.

Rav Kook on Parashat Vayeishev: Tamar's Sacrifice

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the story of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar took place after Judah was informed that the young widow had behaved loosely and was pregnant. Judah meted out a harsh punishment for her promiscuity: “Take her out and have her burned” (Gen. 38:24).

Confronted with such a severe sentence, Tamar could have easily pointed an accusing finger at Judah. After all, it was Judah who had made her pregnant, not knowing the true identity of the “prostitute” he had met on the road to Timna. Incredibly, Tamar chose to be silent. Only as she was led out to be executed did Tamar remark enigmatically, “I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles” (Gen. 38:25). When Judah heard that cryptic message, he immediately realized that her pregnancy was not the result of promiscuity, but a form of yibum (levirate marriage), which Tamar had only been able to consummate through deception.

Why didn’t Tamar save her life by openly identifying her father-in-law - and judge - as the person responsible?

The Talmud derives an amazing lesson from Tamar’s selfless act:

“It is better to throw oneself into a fiery furnace than to shame another person in public.” (Berachot 43b)

This remarkable statement raises two questions. First of all, is honor really such an important thing? Did the Sages not teach (Avot 4:21) that the pursuit of honor and fame is an undesirable trait that can ‘drive one from the world'?

Secondly, there are only three crimes - murder, idolatry, and illicit relations - so grievous that it is preferable to die rather than transgress them. Why was Tamar willing to die rather than embarrass her father-in-law?

Superficial Honor versus Inner Worth

To answer the first question, we must distinguish between two types of honor. The first is an illusory honor based on external acquisitions - wealth, position, fame, and so on. Pursuing this type of honor is certainly a negative trait, a mindset which can cause one to lose his way and squander his time on inconsequential matters.

There is, however, a nobler form of honor. This honor is based on our awareness of our true inner worth as human beings created in God’s image. Recognition of our innate dignity, and an aversion to ignominy, has the opposite effect to the pursuit of superficial honor. This awareness is the very foundation of morality. It enables one to value the nobility of a life rooted in ethical and spiritual ideals.

In an essay describing our generation’s need to deepen its appreciation of the spiritual side of the universe, through the study of the Torah’s esoteric teachings, Rav Kook noted a decline in humanity’s awareness of inner values:

“As the world advances in its superficial culture, it simultaneously declines in its inner worth. This deterioration is due to the phenomenon that, with the advance of society’s external values, the eye is increasingly captivated by superficialities and learns to belittle inner awareness. Due to this process, humanity’s true worth continually dwindles. The world’s redemption is dependent upon the revival of our inner perceptions.” (Orot HaKodesh vol. I, p. 96)

Human life has value only when it is accompanied by recognition of one’s inner worth and dignity. It is preferable to forfeit life in this world rather than publicly shame another person, permanently disgracing him and ruining his honor. Such a public defaming will bring about the loss of all value in living, a slow and degrading demise.

In practice, however, it seems that one should not take such a drastic step. With time, a life lived fully can heal and restore lost honor. Nonetheless, those with a noble and sensitive soul should feel that their own will to live is weakened if their own survival must come at the expense of another’s public disgrace and humiliation.

For this reason, the Sages did not write, “One is required to throw oneself into a fiery furnace,” but rather, “It is better.” This is how one should feel, even if in practice it does not come to that.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, p. 191)

The disappointing Orthodox response to Hotovely

By Stephen M. Flatow

One of the most important and influential Modern Orthodox Jewish women in the world is under severe attack from Reform rabbis who want her to be denounced, humiliated, and fired from her job. So why aren’t the major U.S. Orthodox groups coming to her defense?

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely is the embodiment of everything that groups such as the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America stand for. She has risen to the senior leadership ranks of the Israeli government without compromising her Orthodox religious observance. She partakes in worldly affairs while remaining true to Jewish tradition. She proudly completed her national service (sherut leumi), obeying the Chief Rabbinate’s ban on women’s army service, and this even though religious girls are not required to serve. She is an alumnus of the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement, one of the jewels in the crown of modern Orthodoxy.

Hotovely is an exemplary role model for young modern Orthodox women. She completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law at Bar Ilan University, served as editor of Bar-Ilan’s Journal of Law, and practiced law with a major Tel Aviv firm before entering politics. And on top of all that, she’s a wife and mother of two young daughters. She is living proof to young Orthodox women that they truly can “have it all.”

Tzipi Hotovely is, in short, one of the most impressive and effective representatives that modern Orthodox Jewry has had in a long time.

Now, when she’s under vicious attack, Orthodox groups should be rallying to her side, not running for the hills.

In a television interview, Hotovely noted Jews in the United States do not face the same kind of dangers that Israeli Jews face. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and some other voices on the left responded with hysteria. They said they were “insulted” and demanded that Hotovely be fired.

A number of prominent writers and thinkers have weighed in. Yossi Klein Halevi said the deputy foreign minister made “a simple statement of fact.” Daniel Gordis wrote: “On the facts, she is indeed correct. Most American Jews do not spend much time dodging rockets. Most American Jews do not have children serving in the American military. And on average, American Jews enjoy an enviable level of socioeconomic security.” And Gil Troy commented: “Many Israeli and American Jewish leaders seem to be suffering from an attack of the stupids.”

All three of these writers did take issue with some aspects of Hotovely’s tone, or her approach. They would have preferred if she had shown more empathy for American Jews. But anyone who listens to the full context of her remarks will see that, in fact, she was quite empathetic.

Among other things, she said: “This is the home of the Jewish people of all streams, all of whom are welcome here to come and to influence Israeli politics. Please, just come! I am even willing to not have a right-wing leadership, in order to have all Jews sharing in this beautiful, amazing place called the State of Israel.”

And in a subsequent clarifying statement, the deputy foreign minister added: “American Jewry is important to us; we are siblings, and siblings are allowed to have an argument within the family. Israel is home to all Jews from all denominations. I view the link between us and the American Jewry as essential. Let me make it clear: There is no argument about the loyalty of American Jews to their country. The use of partial quotes from a full interview only undermines the central message.”

In Israel, Orthodox American olim weighed in. Rabbi Berel Wein wrote: “Recently a government official here in Israel dared to say that the Emperor known as American Jewry has no clothes.” David Bedein titled his article “Save Tzipi from the jaws of Jewish organizations abroad” and former Hollywood screen writer Tzvi Fishman wrote: “She could have, and should have, spoken in far harsher terms.”

But in the USA, only the Coalition for Jewish Values, a newcomer on the American Orthodox scene, spoke up in Hotovely’s defense. A CJV spokesman said, correctly, that “She held up a mirror to much of American Jewry, and some of their self-appointed leaders do not like what they see. Instead of attacking the messenger, they should do some soul-searching, and bring their followers to the love and support of Israel that should be natural for every Jew.” Arutz Sheva published an article strongly defending Hotovely by CJV’s Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer of the Young Israel of Orange County.

I am puzzled by the silence of the other U.S. Orthodox Jewish groups. Are they hesitant about being involved in controversies? Are they worried that their non-Orthodox associates will think badly of them? This is no time for such fears. This is a time to stand up, unabashedly, and speak out for a woman who is such a strong and proud representative of everything that modern Orthodox Judaism stands for.

To Raise the Torah’s Stature and to Increase its Light

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh Hayeshiva, Machon Meir

Down through the generations, starting with Israel’s appearance on the stage of history at the Egyptian Exodus, all the way to our own day, there have been attempts to destroy Israel and the Torah. Some seek to annihilate the Jews like Haman and the Nazis -- may their name be blotted out. Others attack the Jewish People “to make them forget Your Torah and transgress the laws of Your will” (Al HaNissim). These include the Greeks of the Second Temple, and the Communists of the U.S.S.R. during the Stalinist period. Neither group will succeed with their plot. As the Prophet Isaiah said (Isaiah 54:17), “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment, you shall condemn.”

Today, the Jewish People, rising to rebirth in their land, are defending themselves against those attempting to annihilate them. With our own eyes we shall see how all such plots will be foiled. As King David said, “You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9).

It does not suffice to defeat Israel’s enemies on the battlefield. We must also increase the light of Israel -- the light of “love and faith,” the Torah, which is compared to light, as in Proverbs 6:23: “For the mitzvot are a lamp, and the Torah is light.” Against all those plots to “make them forget Your Torah and transgress the laws of Your will” we must increase the quantity and quality of Torah learning amongst the Jewish People, and the return to Jewish roots.

The little Chanukah candles that the Jewish People have been lighting for thousands of years recall the miracles and wonders that G-d did for us in those days at this season. The enemies of Israel have never succeeded in snuffing out those lights, even amidst the darkest exile. From those candles we draw faith and trust in G-d that the day is not far off when we will see with out own eyes how “a new light shall shine over Zion.” May we all speedily merit that light!

With blessings for a joyous Chanukah,
And looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

How Israel Must Deal With the World

By Shmuel Sackett

A few weeks ago we read the portion of the Torah called “Toldot”. I happen to know it well because it is my bar-mitzvah parsha. (I might even know it by heart) And yet, although I am familiar with every word, I totally missed a major message that we need to learn from.

If people would ask you, what Toldot is about, your answer would be simple; The birth of Yaakov and Esav, the dispute that Yitzchak had regarding some wells and the major episode of Yaakov “stealing” (but not really…) the bracha away from Esav. While that is correct, this summary misses a simple but very significant episode in Jewish history.

Avimelech – King of the Philistines in “Gerar” (near the modern city of Ashkelon) - tells Yitzchak to leave. His orders are direct and simple; “Go away from us…” (B’reisheit 26:16). Yet, in that same chapter, that same King Avimelech comes back to Yitzchak! Our father Yitzchak is puzzled and asks; “Why have you come to me? You hate me; you drove me away from you!” (26:27)

Allow me to modernize Yitzchak’s question in my own words; “You threw me out, you condemn me in the UN, you despise me, you are pro-BDS, you are anti-Semitic, you support Hamas… so why have you come to me? What do you want from me?” The answer that King Avimelech gives is nothing less than incredible and I can’t believe I missed it all these years. Here is what he says; “We have indeed seen that G-d is with you…. Let us make a treaty with you… You are the one blessed by G-d” (26:28-29) Yitzchak responds positively to this request, makes them a feast and Avimelech leaves in peace.

What just happened here? Let’s take a moment to analyze this story. A king who hates the Jews comes back asking for a treaty and why??? Not because he recognizes that we are good, decent people or that he suddenly loves Jews. An anti-Semitic king comes running to the Jews because he recognizes G-d is with us!“You are the one blessed by G-d”, says this evil king, and he truly believes that you don’t mess with someone like that. In other words, when the Jewish leader – in this case Yitzchak – lives his life and leads his people with the name of Hashem as his guiding light, the entire world will eventually recognize and accept that fact. The same nations of the world that condemn us daily in the UN and send money to Hamas and Hezbollah will one day run to Jerusalem to make peace with us.

Am I crazy or do I truly believe what Yeshayahu ha’Navi said? “My House (the Bet Ha’Mikdash) will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Yeshayahu 56:7) These powerful words are said on Rosh Ha’Shanah, Yom Kippur and all fast days before “Shema Koleynu”. It means that the entire world will one day recognize that we are the chosen people, truly blessed by Hashem and they will come to Jerusalem to sing these praises! That’s right – all the Israel bashing nations will stop their hatred and unite their voices in blessing the One and Only G-d! So what do we do in the meantime, sit around and wait??? Absolutely not! If this is what the world is waiting for… let’s give it to them NOW!!! But there’s a problem…

I have spoken in over 500 Jewish communities around the world and the #1 complaint I receive is about Israel’s horrible public relations. “Why can’t you guys do better PR?” or “What do you expect from the world with such lousy PR?” While these complaints are quite accurate, the suggestions people give me are completely ridiculous: “Hire a Madison Avenue PR firm” or “Spend millions on a massive social media campaign with videos, animation and contests that get people informed and excited about Israel”. Nonsense!

Is that what Yitzchak did to change Avimelech’s mind? Hire a great PR firm? Not at all! He simply led his family – the beginning of the Jewish nation – according to Hashem’s direction. Every word he spoke and every action he took was motivated and guided by our Father in Heaven. Simply put; when you looked at Yitzchak… you saw the Name of Hashem “tattooed” across his forehead.

This is the exactly how the great “Judah Maccabee” led his troops into battle vs the mighty Greek army. We are all looking forward to the coming holiday of Chanukah, but how many of us can answer this basic Chanukah question; What was the Maccabees battle cry? Answer: “Whoever is for Hashem, come to me!” Do you realize what that means? They went to war – proudly fighting Hashem’s battle and made sure the Greeks knew this! As a matter of fact, before the very first battle against the Greeks in Bet Horon, Judah Maccabee had just a handful of men and they said to him, “How can so few of us fight against so many? Besides, we have had nothing to eat all day and are exhausted.” Please focus on how he answered them:

Judah Maccabee replied; “Many can easily be overpowered by a few – it makes no difference to Heaven… Victory does not depend on numbers; strength comes from Heaven alone. Our enemies come filled with insolence and lawlessness to plunder and kill us, our wives and our children. But we are fighting for our lives and our Torah. Heaven will crush them before our eyes. You need not be afraid of them.” (from Rabbi Pinchas Stolper’s sefer “Five Glorious Brothers” page 52)

After a startling defeat, the Greeks returned for Round 2. This time, they came with 6,000 mighty warriors and the Jews had less than 3,000, many of whom were not even equipped with swords and armor. Once again, Judah Maccabee led his men with the Name of Hashem; “Do not be afraid of their great numbers, nor panic when they charge. Remember how our fathers were saved at the Red Sea… Let us cry now to Heaven to favor our cause, to remember the covenant of Torah that Hashem made with our fathers and to crush this army before us today. Then all the Greeks will know that Hashem saves and liberates Israel!” (“Five Glorious Brothers” pages 55-56)

I can give many more examples, from King David to Mordechai and Esther, but the point is clear; When our leaders lead us “B’shaym Hashem” (in the Name of Hashem) the world respects us and – eventually – will come to us seeking blessing and guidance. It’s not fancy PR campaigns we need or social media animated videos but true Jewish leaders who live, breathe and guide our nation according to Torah values. Therefore, please don’t get all upset when you see a condemnation in the UN or some worthless activist bashing Israel. They are doing their job because we are not doing ours!

We need a modern day Judah Maccabee whose PR campaign was making sure the Greeks knew about Hashem.

We need a modern day Yitzchak Avinu whose actions led Avimelech to say; “You are the one blessed by G-d”

When we do that – and only when that happens – will there be true peace in the Land of Israel.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

He Sent him from the Depth of Hebron

by Harav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

Rashi, based on the Midrash, comments (Bereisheet 37:14):

He sent him from the depth of Hebron. But Hebron is on a hill! ... Rather, from the deep plan of that tzaddik (Avraham Avinu) who is buried in Hebron, to fulfill what was said to Avraham in the covenant between the pieces (brit bein habetarim), "Your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own."

Clearly, Chazal do not mean that Yaakov knew where this errand would lead. Yaakov very much feared the descent to Egypt, and when he set out to meet with Yosef, G-d had to encourage him, "Have no fear of descending to Egypt." (Bereisheet 46:3) Rather, Chazal hint here to an important principle in Jewish philosophy. The Divine master plan is preordained, just that its implementation is generally carried out by man, through his own free will. Divine Providence often makes use of human actions to advance its plans, and sometimes it even leads man, in a hidden way, so that he will advance its goals.

The exile in Egypt was the result of the hatred and jealousy between brothers. Chazal warn us: "A person should never favor one child amongst the children. Because of two selaim's worth of fine material (for the striped cloak) that Yaakov gave Yosef more than the rest of his sons, his brothers became jealous of him, one thing led to another, and our forefathers descended to Egypt." (Shabbat 10b) Everyone knows, though, that this process does not begin in Parshat Vayeishev, but rather in Parshat Lech-Lecha, in the decree of bein habetarim. We wait to see how the Divine plan will materialize. Indeed, Chazal say that Yaakov deserved to go down in iron chains (i.e., by Divine decree), but G-d had compassion on his honor and brought his son down as King of Egypt, so that Yaakov would descend in honor. They give the metaphor of a cow that does not want to go to slaughter, so a calf is led before her, and she is drawn after it.

Indeed, the tribes complained about the fact that they were involved against their will in the execution of the Divine plan. On the pasuk, "Why Hashem do you let us stray from Your paths, letting our hearts become hardened from fearing You: Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage" (Yeshaya 63:17), Chazal comment: When You wanted to -- you placed love in their hearts; and when you wanted to -- you placed hatred in their hearts. (Bereisheet Rabbah 84:17) The Netziv explains: To love -- in the episode of Dina; and to hate -- in the episode of Yosef. In these two episodes they sinned and were punished, despite the fact that they were not worthy of such action, were it not that Divine Providence desired that it should be so. Therefore, He aroused in their hearts at that time a great hatred and a great love.

Chazal express this idea vividly on our parsha (Midrash Tanchuma Vayeishev #4):

"Yosef was brought down to Egypt." (Bereisheet 39:1) That is what Scripture states, "Go and see the works of Hashem, He is awesome in deed (alilah) toward mankind." (Tehillim 46:9) R. Yehoshua b. Karcha says: "Even the awesome deeds that you bring upon us you bring with a pretext (`alilah)...

What is this comparable to? To a man who wanted to divorce his wife. When he planned to go to his house, he wrote a Get and entered his house with the Get in his hand. He sought a pretext to give her the Get. He said to her, "Pour me a cup to drink!" She poured for him. When he took the cup from her, he said to her, "Here is your Get!" She said to him, "What did I do wrong?" He said to her, "Leave my house, because you poured me a lukewarm cup." She said to him, "Did you know beforehand that I would pour you a lukewarm cup that you wrote a Get and brought it with you?!"

Similarly, it says about Yosef, "His brothers saw that it was he whom their father loved most," etc. G-d sought to fulfill the decree of "Know with certainty," and brought as pretext all these things, so that Yaakov should love Yosef, his brothers would hate him, they would sell him to the Yishmaelites, who would take him down to Egypt, and Yaakov would hear that Yosef is alive in Egypt, and he would go down with the tribes -- and they would be subjugated there.

This indicates that the brothers' hatred was not the cause for Israel's descent to Egypt, but the opposite is true. The need to descend to Egypt caused that the brothers should hate Yosef. "He sent him from the depths of Hebron -- from the deep plan of that tzaddik who is buried in Hebron.

This principle brings us to the difficult issue of the contradiction between Divine knowledge and free choice. Yet, the Netziv writes about this (Ha'amek Davar 3, 14):

This wonder is the famous question regarding knowledge and free choice. The well-known resolution is G-d's statement: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways." (Yeshaya 55:8) Thus, not everything that we find incomprehensible is incomprehensible to Him. It is clear that this is so.