Monday, March 27, 2017

Of Nerve and Nerves

The overwrought and hyperbolic response of some American Jewish organizations to the series of threats against JCC’s across the country should now be met with apologies of similar passion. The repeated accusations of misconduct and outright Jew hatred leveled against the Trump Administration should now be withdrawn and must engender forthright and unrestrained contrition. For all the talk about dog whistles, faint signals, hints, alt-right, alt-white supremacists and neo-Nazi nationalists lurking outside the Oval Office, well, it turns out that, no, it wasn’t Steve Bannon, after all, calling in bomb threats to Jewish institutions. Imagine that. Who would have thought??

The news that an Israeli-American Jew, probably a tad off, has been arrested in Israel for orchestrating dozens of phony bomb threats to US centers should put American Jews at ease. But of course it won’t, because the narrative of “rampant Jew hatred fomented by the right-wing government” is too precious to abandon. So far, two people have been arrested for this “anti-Semitic” wave: a black supremacist, anti-Trump journalist with ties to left-wing organizations and an Israeli-American Jew. Only in America!

Come on: will the white supremacist, Trump-supporting, flag-waving American from the boondocks of Kentucky who hired both of them please identify yourself and surrender to the authorities? The concern here is that until the narrative is satisfied, Jews of a certain temperament and political persuasion will not move on. But they should, as should we all, and try to recover some semblance of normal political discourse. Like the resident of Chelm who kept looking for the lost object under the street light “because it’s brighter there,” there are Jews who are obsessed with finding Jew haters in America, the Trump administration, the government and everywhere but where they can really be found.

It should have been noted that we are not living in an age of terrorist threats but of terror, period. Today’s terrorists do not warn their victims. Hoaxes, rare as they are, serve to win attention, disrupt lives and upset the daily course of business. The professional terrorist does not warn because the possibility of detection is almost guaranteed and his real aim – terror and mayhem – will thereby be thwarted. Those who warn are usually psychotics who do not mean to cause any real harm but only seek their moment of infamy when they are caught. That is the pattern notwithstanding that it remains prudent and appropriate to investigate every claim and threat. Fortunately, they were investigated and resolved, albeit not in the way that will calm the nerves or serve the interests of Jewish Trump-haters.

What was imprudent and inappropriate, which is not to say unsurprising, was the avalanche of condemnation of the Trump administration, blaming it for the attacks either directly or indirectly, and accusing it of fomenting Jew hatred, being dismissive of Jew hatred, and then labeling Trump’s denunciation of Jew hatred “insufficient,” “too late,” and indicting him for leading an administration that is “infected by the cancer of anti-Semitism.” When Trump suggested, in his inarticulate way, that the threats might be “the reverse,” he was castigated again, and not for the lack of clarity. But he was right, and maybe that’s what he meant. The media and the Jewish establishment primed the pump for an angry, bitter, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, unemployed white man. That was woefully wrong; it was the “reverse.”

Now it turns out that these threats were not at all related to Jew hatred but the product of one sick mind who was trying to win back his Jewish ex-girlfriend and another – a Jew – of equal derangement but unknown causality. In other words, the “reverse” of what people expected. Can we now expect apologies from the Jewish organizations that were so quick to condemn? We should insist on it.

There is something ennobling about accepting responsibility for error. It is mature, cathartic and humbling. It adds credibility when real problems arise. Jewish organizations that cry “anti-Semitism!” too frequently forfeit whatever credibility they still have. America is a country remarkably free of Jew hatred and Jewish life here has been blessed. That is not to say it will always remain so – the exile is the exile – but to pretend it is a cauldron of Jew hatred is false and offensive. Forget the “statistics” and walk the streets, breathe the air, shop in its malls and meet its people. Stop looking under the streetlight. Repetitive, false accusations of Jew hatred against innocent people with whom one has a legitimate political disagreement will eventually foment Jew hatred. To accuse government officials of Jew hatred because of political disagreements is repugnant. It must stop. The promiscuous use of the “anti-Semitism” charge is a sign of weakness, not strength, and whatever potency it had at one time has already been diluted because of the flippancy of its flingers.

Let’s be clear. Are there non-Jews who might not like some Jews? Sure. Even more clear: are there Jews who don’t like some other Jews? Sadly, yes. Neither is “Jew hatred,” the irrational passion that has infested too much of mankind since Sinai. Let us then make sure that those accused of Jew hatred have real animus against Jews. That requires left-wing Jews to reconcile themselves to the reality of President Trump and disagree with him civilly. Without animus. Without unfounded accusations. And without conflating immigration or health-coverage policy disagreements with Jew hatred.

The Coalition for Jewish Values (where I serve as Senior Rabbinic Fellow) earlier this week – even before the arrest in Israel - condemned the specious accusations of Jew hatred being lodged against good Americans. We must realize that politics comes and goes but the Torah’s values are eternal. All Jews need to return to the values of Torah – of respect for others, of a commitment to justice and self-preservation, of the dignity of all people and of a relentless fight against evil.

It is unseemly, disgraceful, immoral and counter-productive to hurl unfounded charges of Jew hatred, and that applies to both liberals and conservatives. Worse, too many Jews have developed the tendency to deny obvious Jew hatred in front of their eyes because the sources of that Jew hatred are favored or fearful groups, or political allies, and, instead, falsely attribute Jew hatred to their political foes in an attempt to score points and diminish their influence. Jews should really stop doing that – both because it is simply wrong and because it is completely ineffective and self-defeating.

A good start would be if all the Jewish organizations that lambasted the Trump administration, whose statements, in the end, did not matter one whit in terms of these particular crimes, would just apologize for overreacting and pledge to be more responsible in the future. If for nothing else, when and if a real white-supremacist Jew hater ever emerges again r”l, their claims will be taken more seriously.

And Jews all over should just calm down and prepare for Shabbat and Pesach.

Video: Is the Palestinian issue a core cause of Mideast turbulence?

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Entire online seminar:

1. Irrespective of - and unrelated to - the Palestinian issue, the Middle East is boiling, firing the 14-century-old Sunni-Shia intra-Muslim confrontation, exacerbating intra-Arab violence in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and threatening to explode in every Arab country. The Arab Tsunami, which has erupted independent of the Palestinian issue, has been leveraged by Iran's Ayatollahs, in order to advance their supremacist, megalomaniacal goal of dominating the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and beyond, notwithstanding the Palestinian issue, which has never played a substantial role in shaping the stormy intra-Arab and intra-Muslim relations and the Middle East agenda.

2. Contrary to Western preoccupation with the Palestinian issue, the Middle Eastern agenda dramatically transcends the Palestinian issue, which is neither the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, nor a crown-jewel of Arab policy-making and nor a core cause of the 1,400-year-old turbulence, violent intolerance, instability, unpredictability, subversion and terrorism in the Middle East. The Palestinian issue is completely irrelevant to the tectonic Arab Tsunami, which has engulfed the Middle East from the Persian Gulf to Northwestern Africa.

3. The intensifying Arab Tsunami, which erupted in 2010, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands people, the dislocation of millions, and threatens to topple every sitting Arab regime, has exposed the myth of the supposed centrality of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in general, and the Palestinian issue, in particular. None of the recent – as well as past – domestic and regional upheavals in the Middle East has been directly, or indirectly, related to the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Palestinian issue. Contrary to conventional “wisdom,” the Palestinian issue has always been a side – and not a main – dish on the tectonic Middle East menu, which has been dominated by intra-Muslim and intra-Arab explosive ingredients.

4. No Arab country has ever considered the Palestinian issue a top priority, warranting shedding blood, sweat or tears. Arab policy-makers have always talked the talk on behalf the Palestinian issue - in order to divert attention away from critical domestic and regional failures – but have never walked the walk, financially or militarily. They adhere to the Arab saying: “On words one does not pay custom.”

5. The top priority for Arab leaders, personally and nationally, is homeland security and countering-terrorism, in the face of intensifying, clear and present domestic and regional lethal threats. Therefore, they are preoccupied with the Muslim Brotherhood - the largest transnational Islamic terror organization – and additional Islamic terror organizations. The Muslim Brotherhood – not the Palestinian issue - has plagued Egypt since 1928. The Muslim Brotherhood, and its ideology, nurtured the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS and other Islamic terror organizations.

6. Therefore, President Al-Sisi has followed in the footsteps of President Sadat, who resisted President Carter’s pressure to place the Palestinian issue at the center of the 1977-79 Israel-Egypt peace process. Sadat was concerned about the destabilizing impact of a Palestinian entity, as evidenced by the subversive track record of Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt (1950s), Syria (1966), Jordan (1970), Lebanon (1970-1983) and, worst of all, in Kuwait (1990).

7. Moreover, in 2016, President Al-Sisi – just like all pro-US Arab leaders in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States – expands intelligence, counter-terrorism and overall geo-strategic cooperation, operationally and technologically with Israel, a global role-model of counter-terrorism, in defiance of Palestinian opposition. They believe that when smothered by the lethal sandstorms of Islamic terrorism and Iran, one must leverage the mutually-beneficial ties with Israel, rather than be preoccupied with the Palestinian tumbleweed.

8. Iran's policy of megalomaniacal supremacy, terrorism, subversion and hate-education, and its determination to become a nuclear power, are driven by the 2,000-year-old ambition to dominate the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Middle East and beyond, and not by the Palestinian issue.

9. The disintegration of the Arab Middle East, especially Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, is a derivative of the endemic, tribal, religious, ethnic, geographic and ideological intra-Muslim fragmentation, not the Palestinian issue.

10. The next video will connect the Middle East dots.

The Soul

By Rav Uri Cherki
Rav, Machon Meir
Rav, Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem

Just what is the soul of man? There have been many attempts to define it. There are some who try to constrict it into the tiny realm of biomolecules, what is called the “animal soul,” so that when a person dies his soul also disappears. Some even view it as an illusion, leading to the conclusion that man has no soul even while he is alive. As opposed to these approaches, the religious masters insist that the soul is eternal, and that it is a spark of the Divine which can never be destroyed.

This primal question was debated by the disciples of Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias and Themostius. The first one felt that the soul of man is basically identical with the animal soul but that it has a potential, a “readiness,” to become eternal by the study of philosophy if it has merit. The second one felt that the soul is eternal from the beginning but that it has to enhance its perfection. These two approaches were adopted by the Rambam and the Ramban, respectively. Rav Kook put forward an innovative approach, that this describes the difference between the souls of Yisrael and those of the other nations (Olat Re’Iyah volume 2, page 256).

If we look at this matter without any prior opinions, we cannot ignore the fact that there is in mankind a constant tension between two types of identity. On one hand, I am pulled to my natural animal outlook, which is called “dust of the earth” and a “serpent” in the Torah. On the other hand, I encounter within me a personality, a “me” which cannot be reduced to a biological machine, and it constantly thirsts for the metaphysical and for moral values. This can be called “the living soul” or “a part of G-d above.” The encounter between these two elements creates the actual man: “a living soul.”

This leads almost automatically to the division in the levels of the soul that was described by the masters of Kabbalah: Nefesh (soul), Ruach (air), and Neshamah (spirit), which are described by the sages (Bereishit Rabba 14). The nefesh, which is combined with the body (see the Zohar: “body and soul are one”), is identical to the revealed “me,” and it accompanies man from the first moment of his own awareness. The neshamah represents the most noble and ideal dimension of mankind, and it is buried deep within his identity. The ruach represents the changing relationship between the nefesh and the neshamah. This is the least stable element of mankind, where the labors of his life take place. A parallel can be drawn between the triplet nefesh-ruach-neshama and the times: past, present, and future. The nefesh is involved in the past and the neshama is related to the ideal of the future, while the ruach is the present in which man operates.

Who, then, is the man about whom we discuss the nefesh, the ruach, and the neshamah? We cannot allow ourselves to view mankind as nothing more than an assembly of separate parts. We must assume that man has a self-consciousness which precedes these three characteristics. This is what is called: “chayah” – an “animal.” It represents the general life, which is the essence of mankind.

Every soul (neshamah) is an expression of the Divine will and serves as part of the general plan of G-d. We can thus say that every soul is related in some way to infinity – and this is called “yechidah” – a unique unit.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Shabbat and the Holy Temple: A Torah Thought for Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudai

By Moshe Feiglin

“And Moses gathered all the congregation of the Children of Israel and he said to them: These are the things that G-d commanded to do them. For six days you shall work and on the seventh day, it will be holy for you, a Shabbat of Shabbats for G-d, whoever does work on it will be put to death. You shall not burn fire in your dwellings on the day of Shabbat.” (From this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, Exodus 35: 1-3)

The commandment to observe the Shabbat is often woven together with the commandments of the Temple. What is the connection between the two?

The Temple is the royal palace. Its purpose is to make the Creator King over His world. The Shabbat also revolves around recognizing that G-d is King over His world: “It is an eternal sign for for six days G-d made the heavens and the earth.” G-d created man in His image. Man is like his Creator in his ability to create. Man can imagine a reality that does not yet exist and bring it into reality. No living being other than man has this ability. A bird can build a nest, but it is already burned onto its “hard disk.” The bird will never build a triangle nest, or paint it in psychedelic colors. Man imagines a five-pronged fork – something he has never seen – and produces it.

What usually happens then is that man decides that not only is he made in G-d’s image, but that he is god, himself. This danger is more pronounced in developed cultures; the type that produced Mozart and Tchaikovsky. This is where the Shabbat comes in. On this day, we do not produce anything. The 39 root categories of production that formed the daily service in the Temple are forbidden on Shabbat. This is our testimony to the way the world works; Who is the Creator and who is merely created in His image. It is no wonder that the culture that produced Mozart and Tchaikovsky attempted to destroy the Nation of Israel. For he who has already decided that he is the creator, the sanctity of life has no meaning and he can no longer live in a world with a nation that testifies to G-d’s existence.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Palestinians: Abbas's Empty Promises

By Khaled Abu Toameh

  • Notably, these calls in favor of an armed struggle against Israel were coming from the streets of Ramallah and not the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
  • Abbas can make all the promises in the world to the new US envoy. Fulfillment of any of them, however, is a different story altogether.
  • Abbas knows anyhow that he would never be able to win the support of a majority of Palestinians for any peace agreement he signs with Israel. No Palestinian leader is authorized to offer any concessions to Israel in return for peace.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with US envoy Jason Greenblatt (left), in Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (Image source: NTDTV video screenshot)
On the eve of US envoy Jason Greenblatt's visit to Ramallah last week, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in the city, calling on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to resign. The protesters also condemned the ongoing security cooperation between the PA and Israel.
"Listen, listen to us, Abbas; collect your dogs and leave us alone," the Palestinian protesters chanted during what has been described as the largest anti-Abbas demonstration in Ramallah in recent years. They also called for the abrogation of the Oslo Accords with Israel, and denounced Abbas as a "coward" and an agent of the Americans.
It is not clear if Greenblatt had been aware of the large anti-Abbas demonstration, which came in protest against PA security forces' violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Ramallah a few days earlier.

Rav Kook on Parashat VaYakhel: Art and Creation

“Moses informed the Israelites: God has selected Betzalel... and has filled him with a Divine spirit of wisdom, insight, and knowledge in all craftsmanship.” (Ex. 36:30-31)

What exactly were these three gifts of wisdom, insight, and knowledge that God bestowed upon Betzalel? The Sages wrote that the master craftsman was privy to the very secrets of creation. Betzalel knew how to “combine the letters with which the heavens and the earth were created,” and utilized this esoteric knowledge to construct the Tabernacle (Berachot 55a).

We find that King Solomon mentioned the same three qualities when describing the creation of the universe:

“God founded the earth with wisdom; He established the heavens with insight. With His knowledge, the depths opened, and the heavens drip dew. (Proverbs 3:19-20)

What is the difference between wisdom, insight, and knowledge? How do they apply both to the Creator of the universe and to the human artist?

Chochmah, Binah, and Da’at

Chochmah (wisdom) is needed to design the fundamental structure. In terms of the creation of the world, this refers to the laws of nature which govern the universe. The intricate balance of natural forces, the finely-tuned ecosystems of life - this is the underlying chochmah of creation.

In art, chochmah fulfills a similar function, determining the work’s underlying structure. Using wisdom, the artist decides on the overall composition, the balance of light and shade, colors, perspective, and so on.

Binah (insight) refers to the future vision, the ultimate goal. The Hebrew word binah is related to the word boneh (‘to build'). The emphasis is not on the current reality, but on the process of gradually building and progressing toward the final, complete form. Therefore, Solomon ascribed chochmah to forming the earth, and binah to establishing the Heavens. The foundation of the earth - its current physical structure - is based on chochmah. Binah, on the other hand, corresponds to the Heavens, the spiritual content that reflects its final form.

What is binah in art? The spiritual aspect of art is the sense of wonder that a great artist can awaken through his work. Betzalel was able to imbue the Tabernacle with magnificent splendor, thus inspiring the observer to feel profound reverence and holiness. The great beauty of his work succeeded in elevating the emotions, as it projected a majestic image of God’s grandeur.

The third attribute, da’at (knowledge), refers to a thorough attention to detail. “With His knowledge... the heavens drip dew.” The rain and dew were created with da’at. They sustain every plant, every blade of grass, every creature. God created the universe not only with its fundamental laws of nature (chochmah) and spiritual direction (binah), but also with meticulous care for its myriad details - da’at.

Attention to detail is also important in art. The artist should make sure that the finest details correspond to the overall composition and heighten the work’s impact.

Betzalel knew the letters of creation, the secret wisdom used to create the universe. With his gifts of chochmah, binah, and da’at, Betzalel was able to ensure perfection in the Tabernacle’s structure, its vision, and its details. His holy sanctuary became a suitable vessel for God’s Presence, completing the sanctity of the Jewish people by facilitating their special closeness to God.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, pp. 263-264)

Faith in the Sages

By Rav Oury Cherki
Rav, Machon Meir
Rav of Beit Yehuda Congregation, Jerusalem

One of the forty-eight traits by which the Torah is acquired is “faith in the sages” (Avot 86:6). This is usually taken to mean that one of our basic elements of faith is that the Jewish sages do not make mistakes. But it is eminently clear that this interpretation cannot be right, for there is no person on earth who is completely immune from making a mistake. In fact, we have seen many cases where the sages admitted their mistakes. Who is greater than Moshe himself, about whom it is written, “And Moshe heard, and it was good in his eyes” [Vayikra 10:20]? Rashi explains, “He was not ashamed to admit that he had not heard this before.” The following also appears in the responsa literature: “The praise of the rabbis is that they admit their mistakes.” That is, the fact that the wise men admit that they were wrong is to their credit.

The very existence of the tractate of Horayot, which contains a list of mistaken rulings by the high courts, also shows that errors occur. In fact, the Torah has forbidden us to follow a halachic ruling if we are absolutely certain that the court has made a mistake. “We might think that if they tell you that right is left and that left is right that you should follow them. However, it is written, ‘to go to the right and to the left.’ They should tell you that the right is the right and the left is the left.” [Yerushalmi Horayot 1:1]. And when the Sifri instructs us to follow “even though they show you what you have seen in your eyes is right and tell you it is left,” this is referring only to matters of personal discretion.

This position, the feeling that our wise men are never wrong, is dangerous from two points of view. One aspect is simple, and that is that when a person encounters a mistake made by a wise man his entire spiritual world might crumble before his eyes. The second aspect is deeper, in that it attributes to a created entity a characteristic which is only true in reference to the Creator Himself. This is the meaning of what the Rambam wrote: “Only He is the truth” [Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 1:4].

What, then, is the wondrous trait of faith in the sages which is needed in order to gain possession of the Torah? Rabbi Yehuda Ashkenazi explains that it means to believe that the sages are wise. That is, their words are not pronounced in a chance or haphazard way. Therefore, if one thinks that it is necessary to reject their words, the idea that is being rejected must be scrutinized in great depth, because we can be sure that it is based on great wisdom and can teach us a great lesson. If the wise men taught us that “there is nothing that does not have its proper place” [Avot 4:3], this must certainly be applied to the words of the sages themselves.

While we commonly see a contradiction between admiration and free criticism, our sages have taught us that one of these traits enables the other one. They said, “Let your house be a meeting place for wise men, and you should roll around in the dust of their feet” [Avot 1:4]. Here is how this was interpreted by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin: “the word ‘lehitavek’ is related to the word for a struggle. No student should ever blindly accept the words of his rabbi if he has questions about his approach, and there are even times when the student is right and not the rabbi. But while we have permission to bring evidence to prove our position, we must still maintain an attitude of humility – to be ‘in the dust of their feet.’”

Zionist Chassidism:Torah and Labor

By Rafi Ostroff 
Head of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion

In this week’s Torah portion the human operation of building the Tabernacle begins, following the Divine command in the previous portions. The Rebbe of Husiatyn decided to take advantage of the opportunity to discuss his views on the value of labor and workmanship in general.

The Rebbe felt that it is a direct mitzva to perform labor for the sake of heaven. He commented on the opening verse of the Torah portion: “And Moshe gathered the entire community of Bnei Yisrael, and he said to them: These are the things which G-d has commanded that they be done” [Shemot 35:1]. The Rebbe notes that there are two “things” that follow, the mitzva of resting on Shabbat which introduces the command of the Tabernacle, and the labor performed during the other six days of the week, which is also a mitzva.

* * * * * *

And this is what is referred to in the passage: “Love labor, for just as the Torah was given in a covenant, so labor was given in a covenant. As is written, ‘Labor for six days and do all of your work. And the seventh day is Shabbat, dedicated to your G-d.’ [Shemot 20:9-10].” [Avot D’Rebbe Natan 11a].

And that is what is written in the book “Ma’or Einayim” [written by Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Chernovil, a disciple of the Maggid of Mezerich – R.O.] in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: After 120 years, people are asked, ‘Were you faithful in your business dealings?’ (See Shabbat 31a.) A person is asked about his behavior in business and labor. And this factor is also a facet of holy labor and Torah – to see whether the person studies Torah in order to follow the ways of the Holy One, Blessed be He. For example, if he studies the Mishna which discusses exchanging a cow for a donkey, which is something that is very important to the Creator. And whether a person acts in this way and behaves according to the Torah is very important to the Holy One, Blessed be He. And also in performing labor, if he acts according to the Torah then he is involved in the Torah even while he performs his work.

* * * * * *

The Labor of the Tabernacle and Regular Work

The Rebbe thus teaches us a very innovative concept. We always thought that to study the Mishna about exchanging a cow for a donkey is a mitzva, while to act according to the Mishna is a secular activity, outside the bounds of the Torah. But the Rebbe teaches us that if I actually exchange a cow and a donkey according to the rules of the Mishna, or if I perform any other labor for the sake of heaven while I observe the halacha, then this labor itself is also a mitzva!

And at this point the Rebbe quotes another passage from Avot D’Rebbe Natan:

* * * * * *
In fact, the Holy One, Blessed be He, did not reveal His Shechina to Yisrael until they actually performed manual labor, as is written, “Let them make a Tabernacle for Me, and I will dwell within them” [Shemot 28:8].

* * * * * *
But we might still ask: What connection is there between weekday work and the labors of the Tabernacle? After all, this Midrash quotes the verse about building the Tabernacle to prove that the Holy One, Blessed be He, sends His Shechina within Yisrael only after they have begun to work. But isn’t this verse referring to the labors of the Tabernacle and not mundane regular work?

The Sanctity of the Tabernacle as Part of Practical Life

And therefore, the Rebbe teaches us another lesson from the book Ma’or Einayim. The purpose of giving the Torah to the nation of Yisrael was that they themselves would play the role of a Temple: “And I will dwell within them.” The labors of the nation during weekdays can be compared to the work on the Tabernacle, and the holy service on Shabbat is the secret of the building of the Tabernacle.

* * * * * *
That is what is called the labor of the Tabernacle – making a Tabernacle for the Creator of the entire universe using all thirty-nine types of secular labor. [That is, when work is done during weekdays and all thirty-nine types of labor that are forbidden on Shabbat are performed, a Tabernacle is made for G-d by installing Divine sanctity throughout the world – R.O.] That is, this includes earthly elements that are necessary for living, for it would be impossible for every Jew to spend all of his time learning Torah. As is written, ‘Many people acted in the manner of Rabban Shimon Bar Yochai, and they failed’ [Berachot 35]. [They tried not to do any work but only to learn Torah – O.S.] However, every person who performs his labors faithfully and honestly, with the intention of serving G-d and clinging to Him, is thereby participating in the construction of the Temple.

* * * * * *
I have written before that the Rebbe of Husiatyn draws his entire fund of knowledge from Chassidic writings. But in this case he spreads out before us the principles of “Torah and Labor” which was the motto of religious Zionism as it crystalized in Eastern Europe. He does not mention or even hint at the writings of the originators of these ideas, such as Rabbi Reiness, Rabbi Alkalai, or Shachal (Shmuel Chaim Lando).

Does modern religious Zionism continue on an ideal path of “Torah and Labor” which we see here is founded at least in part in Chassidic roots? Perhaps we should strive for both us and for various modern Chassidic sects to follow this path, which sanctifies weekday labor in order to impart the holiness of the Tabernacle to all segments of our lives.

The Individual and the Community in Yisrael and in the Other Nations

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

In our article for the Torah portion of Tetzaveh (Issue 1664) we discussed the paradoxical phrase, “There is one nation, scattered and dispersed” [Esther 3:8], and the explanation by Rav Kook – that externally the nation appears to bescattered, but that in reality it is one nation internally. In this article, we will discuss how Rav Kook views the essence of the unity of our nation.

Peace is an exalted value even in the eyes of the other nations, but the concept as seen by the nations is very different from our own idea. Rav Kook writes, “Peace is not an independent objective but it is rather a means to achieve what every person desires in his heart.” That is, it is a way to improve the conditions of a person’s life. However, for Yisrael peace has an intrinsic value of its own. We yearn for the appearance of the Shechina, “and G-d will not send the Shechina unless there is peace within Yisrael.” This implies another important difference: For the other nations the concept of peace is mainly relevant in the world of action, while for Yisrael it also refers to thought processes. “Every person must feel love for his brothers in his heart and in his soul.”

And this is the principle that is involved with collecting the Shekalim. A census of the nation was performed by taking half a Shekel from each person. This teaches us about the unity which is typical of Yisrael. In other nations, when individuals gather in the interests of unity, in essence their personal interest remains. When all is said and done, the final goal is to improve the lot of the individual, while the community acts as a “large group of mutual responsibility,” which can be thought of as a large national insurance company. Since it is impossible for every person to directly supply all of his own needs, it is necessary for his own comfort to gather into unified groups. All of this is not true for Yisrael, which in the end does everything it can for the benefit of the nation as a whole. “With respect to all the sanctity of the mitzvot and the service of the Holy One, Blessed be He, performed by Yisrael, the main objective of their labor is to generate justice and praise for the nation as a whole.”

And that is how Rav Kook analyzed the contents of the Grace After Meals. The first blessing was written by Moshe in thanks for the manna, food which gave nourishment to the individual bodies of the people. The second blessing was written by Yehoshua for Eretz Yisrael, based on nationalistic feelings. The third blessing was written by David and Shlomo. David had Jerusalem in mind, the nationalistic spiritual form, while Shlomo thought of the Temple, which has the ability to repair the bad ways of humanity. As Shlomo said in his dedication of the Temple: “... so that all the nations of the world will know that G-d is the Lord” [Melachim I 8:60].

“The common thread throughout all the pathways of the Torah is to connect the whole of humanity to all the individuals, so that the individuals will find their happiness within the whole... Therefore it is fitting that every person in Yisrael must recognize the value of his personal food, which lays down a single stone in the edifice of the world in general.” Even though the act of eating is in essence selfish, when a person from Yisrael starts to eat he sees before him the general need – and by this personal act he contributes his part in building up the edifice of nationalism and humanity in general.

And that is why every person in Yisrael donates the same amount, and that these coins were used to make the sockets in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is an indication of the sanctity of the whole, and the sockets are placed at its foundation, showing that “the desired root of all the individual service of G-d in Yisrael is the success of the whole nation.” Therefore it was established that the foundation of the service of the whole nation would be made up from the half Shekel that every individual from Yisrael contributed.

Light My Fire: Parshiot Vayakhel-Pikudai

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

In the aftermath of the golden calf debacle, in the wake of the destruction and death it caused, and after God agreed to forgive the nation and move forward, Moshe descends from Mount Sinai with a new set of Tablets. At last, Moshe has the opportunity to speak to the people. These same people had stood at Sinai and heard the commandments spoken by God Himself, but had “backslid,” and worshiped the golden calf. Now, Moshe is to transmit everything he learned at the summit of Mount Sinai. Where should he begin? As readers, we might imagine the crackle of expectation in the air: Moshe is presented with an unparalleled opportunity to educate and inspire the repentant nation, to transmit the Torah he has brought down from on high. How should he proceed?

This very particular moment, a moment laden with remorse, tinged with longing for the holiness that had been forfeited, awash in the desire to hear and obey the word of God, is where Parashat Vayakhel begins. Moshe gathers the entire nation, and he begins with Shabbat. Why was this his choice for the first and foremost lesson? The logic behind the selection of Shabbat may be seen from various perspectives: On the one hand, Shabbat may have been used as an antidote to idolatry. The people needed a refresher course, as it were, in Jewish theology, and as a lesson of God as Creator of the universe, Shabbat is an outstanding reminder and teaching aid. Additionally, Shabbat is more than a dry lesson in Jewish thought; it is a powerful and moving experience which, we might conjecture, people had been easily led astray by the thrilling, sensual extravaganza of idolatry: The food and drink and physical pleasure of Shabbat was intended to counter the very powerful experience of worshipping the calf.

We should note that this is not the first, the second, nor even the third time that Shabbat is mentioned in the book of Shmot. The first time was when the manna fell for six days, and desisted on the seventh. The people noticed that a double portion had fallen on the sixth day, and Moshe explained that this is what he had taught them (presumably at Marah) regarding Shabbat: No one was to go out on the seventh day to collect the manna. This was their first experience of Shabbat, and this single prohibition was later included in the larger corpus of the Laws of Shabbat. Indeed, the Torah tells us that there were those who violated Shabbat, even when there was only one single prohibition, going out with basket in hand with the intention of collecting the manna.

In Parashat Vayakhel, as Moshe begins to teach the people Torah, another prohibition is added, a second Law of Shabbat singled out: It is prohibited to light fire on the Sabbath day. Eventually, the corpus of Shabbat Laws will include 39 categories of creative work that are prohibited on Shabbat; these categories are derived from the Torah’s description of the creative work employed in building the Mishkan. These 39 categories are outlined by our sages in the Mishnah, as an extrapolation of the relevant passages from the Torah, with the notable exception of the two categories we have seen singled out and specifically prohibited by the Torah itself, namely: carrying objects between domains, as was specifically prohibited regarding the manna, and the use of fire, as we have seen in this week’s parashah.[1]

In a sense, these two categories of creative work stand at opposite poles on the spectrum of human endeavor; perhaps that is why they are singled out: Neither the kindling of fire nor the transport of objects from one domain to another fits easily into the formal categories that comprise the laws of Shabbat. These two categories represent two extremes as far as human creativity is concerned: Fire is the most elusive of the elements; in the more abstract, conceptual name we use to describe it –energy – it is the very symbol and essence of human creativity and ingenuity. We might say that all of technology is, in one way or another, man’s harnessing of energy, his use of fire for the advancement of humankind. Conversely, carrying objects is the least creative of the categories of “work” that are forbidden on Shabbat, as the object itself undergoes no transformation but is merely transferred from one location to another. However, these two “outliers” may convey a message that is far deeper than meets the eye.

Let us return to the primary discussion of Shabbat, found in the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment, as found in the book of Shmot, reads:

Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. You can work during the six weekdays and do all your tasks…. For God made the heaven and the earth [and] the sea, and all that is in them, in six days, but he rested on the seventh. God therefore blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Shmot 20:8-11)

On the other hand, in the parallel passage in the book of Dvarim, when the Ten Commandments are reiterated, there is a striking difference:

Observe the Sabbath to keep it holy, as God your Lord commanded you. You can work during the six weekdays, and do all your tasks… You must remember that you were slaves in Egypt, when God your Lord brought you out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. It is for this reason that God your Lord has commanded you to keep the Shabbat. (D’varim 5:12-15)

The description of Shabbat in Shmot refers to the Creation narrative as the rationale for Shabbat observance: Through our cessation of creative work on the seventh day, we acknowledge and testify that God is the Creator. In particular, we should not overlook the fact that the very first act of Creation was the decree, “Let there be light.” So, too, according to a rabbinic tradition, mankind’s first foray into creativity was with the discovery and use of fire. In emulation of God, Adam’s first creative gesture was the use of fire when the first Shabbat drew to a close. For this reason, the prohibition against the use of fire on Shabbat is singled out; it is, in essence, the very heart of the matter, the very crux of the story of the Creation of the universe and of mankind’s place within it as a sentient being created in the image of God.

On the other hand, the Ten Commandments recorded in Dvarim memorialize the Exodus from Egypt: As we stress in the haggadah, God took one nation from the midst of another, carrying us out – quite literally, removing us from one domain to another, from the house of bondage to the wide open spaces of freedom.

We may say, then, that the two formulations of Shabbat, the two rationales for observing Shabbat that are recorded in the two accounts of the Ten Commandments, are reflected in the two prohibitions that were singled out: lighting fire, as a reflection of Creation, and transferring objects between domains, as a reflection of the Exodus. By honoring and cherishing Shabbat, we testify to both of these historic events and strengthen our commitment to our covenant with God. By desisting from creative work, and particularly from the two categories that were singled out, we take advantage of our weekly opportunity to emulate God and tap into the holiness of the seventh day.

The Secret of Zehut's Success

By Moshe Feiglin

​A short time ago, I was a guest co-host on Razi Barkai’s popular morning radio show on Galei Tzahal. Together we interviewed a representative of Former Defense Minister Bogi Ya’alon’s new political party, Oded Ravivi. I assume that Ya’alon tapped Ravivi, who is the mayor of Efrat, for this interview in order to boost his image as a moderate Right politician. After all, there are not many leftist voters anymore.

The interview proceeded more or less as follows:

Me: Mr. Ravivi, please tell us what Mr. Ya’alon is proposing.

Ravivi: He has not proposed anything to me.

Me (laughing): I mean what he is proposing to the Nation of Israel, not to you.

Ravivi: Honest leadership, no infighting, leadership that does not speak in clichés…

Me: But those are clichés! You are representing Ya’alon. Surely you have heard something from him on his economic plan, on education, foreign affairs – is there something you can tell us?

Ravivi: If I only knew, I would tell you…

Me: I have also established a new party. My party presents its proposals over the 312 pages of its platform. Perhaps you can tell me just one idea?

Razi Barkai: OK, we have to stop for the news.

This interview precisely reflected the shallow waters in which Israel’s politics tread. The Zehut party heralds a completely different spirit. Contrary to all the advice of the public relations experts, we do not blur our message. We say everything about everything. And wonder of wonders – more and more diverse sectors of Israeli society are connecting to us – despite the fact that not all of our messages speak to their hearts.

Zehut’s secret is that everyone can find his or her place with us:

The handicapped feel comfortable.

The religious feel comfortable with the secular.

The secular feel comfortable with the religious.

The Right feels comfortable with the Left and the Left with the Right.

The secret that makes this possible is the shared vision. 

In Zehut, everyone feels that they are part of a movement that is greater than the sum of its parts. When you are part of a broad movement that progresses toward a mutual goal, everyone has a place inside. Nobody is a threat to anybody else. On the contrary – everyone understands that we need everybody, that we need the diversity.

It turns out that the secret of unity is not the blurring of identity and the message, but rather, establishing them as the goal.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shemot Draws to a Close

By HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

1. Genesis
2. Torah=Strength
3. Shabbat

The Book of Bereishit (Genesis) examines the creation of the world, in which the Holy One, Blessed-be-He reveals Himself as the Designer and Creator of this, the natural world. This is the story of the forefathers of our nation; their service of God came to them intuitively, prompting them to perform meticulously even rabbinically-ordained commandments. It was through their unique service of God that Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov served as vehicles for drawing God's presence into this world.

With the guidance and inspiration of the forefathers, the private family of Ya'akov became a nation. At the start of Sefer Shmot (Exodus), we read: "And these are the names of the Children of Israel..." The Book of Shmot, as its Hebrew name indicates, is a book that deals with names. A name reveals the inner essence of the bearer of the particular name. As Sefer Shmot opens, we are informed of the name of this nation-in-formation, "Bnei Yisrael" - the Children of Israel - and of the unique name of God: "El Shaddai" that guides them...

In the book of Bereishit, God appears as the ultimate Director of the natural world. This role of God matches the "natural style" in which our forefathers served God. In the book of Shmot, however, God reveals himself to the nation as a whole. It is in this context that a clearer, more explicit type of revelation is needed - a supernatural, miraculous one. The supernatural guidance of the world, unique to the Book of Shmot, starts with the ten plagues meted out to the Egyptians and later intensifies with the splitting of the Red Sea. It is there that even a common maidservant experienced Hashem more clearly than the great prophet Yechezkel did not at the height of his vision of the Divine Chariot. The climax of this acceleration towards the supernatural is no doubt the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. This was an event, our sages teach, during which the People of Israel heard God's voice boom from north, south, east, west, up, down, to the point where they asked, "What is the source of this wisdom?" The Children of Israel, like any other human beings, had until that time only experienced limited, human voices. At the giving of the Torah, God's voice revealed itself as being unlimited by space, direction, even language.

The giving of the Torah had a major impact not only on Israel, but also on the other nations of the world. Our sages teach us that when the gentile peoples heard the voices, the thunder, and the shofar at the time of Matan Torah, they trembled; turning to the sorcerer Bil'am, they asked: "Has God decided to bring another flood?" Does God wish to destroy the world once more? To this, Bil'am replied: "God will give strength to His nation, God will bless his nation with Peace." The term "strength" in this verse connotes Torah. Our sages teach us that when the Megilah states that, after the defeat of Haman, the Jews experienced light and happiness and joy.." - this "light" was actually Torah. The Sfat Emet thus asks why the Megilah did not simply say that the Jews "experienced Torah." His answer: "to teach us that Torah is light." Along the same lines, the verse did not say, "God will give Torah to His people," in order to teach us that Torah is a source of strength for our nation. Torah study and mitzvah performance unite our people, they give us a common goal - the rectification of the world through adherence to the Divine Will. This unity is a source of strength to us, and is esssential to internal, domestic, peaceful relations between Jews.

At the opening of this week's Torah portion, Moshe gathers the nation and commands it regarding the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the observance of Shabbat. >From the juxtaposition of the passages, our sages learn that the 39 creative acts of labor required for the building of the Mishkan are the same ones that are forbidden on Shabbat. The work done during the period of the Mishkan's construction was no mere mundane labor. It was labor designated for a lofty purpose, the holy service of the Tabernacle. From these acts of labor, we derive the prohibition to perform "melachot" on Shabbat; the Sabbath is a Divinely-fashioned reality in which God bestows his beneficence on the world without our having to even lift a finger! Each week, we are bidden to refrain from work on the seventh day, in order to permit God to bestow His holy bounty upon us.

People are used to thinking that the six days of the week during which we work is our "natural state," and that on Shabbat, God prevents us from working. This perspective places the six weekdays as central, and Shabbat as peripheral, as a day in which man leaves his natural state as a worker and "tiller of the soil." This philosophy, however, is not a Torah perspective. In the eyes of the Torah, Shabbat is the culmination and pinnacle of the week, with the other days drawing their strength from it. In several places in the Torah we learn that, for six days of the week, "melacha may be done." In other words, Hashem gives us special permission to work during the week. On Shabbat, melacha is not prohibited to us, but rather the permission granted to engage in creative labors that applies during the week is not renewed for a 24-hour period . Shabbat provides man with an opportunity to just sit back and appreciate that "The Earth and everything in it is the Lord's.


Rabbi Dov Berl Wein on Vayakhel/Pikudei

The main lesson of this week's Torah reading, which may possibly be obscured by the wealth of Mishkan detail that appears in these closing chapters of the book of Shemot, is the basic Jewish concept of accountability. Moshe accounts for all of the work that was done in the construction of the Mishkan/tabernacle and for every shekel that was expended in that project. Moshe was troubled when he could not initially account for the one thousand shekels that were apparently missing and that did not allow him to balance the books fully. Only later when he was able to recall that the missing silver was used to fashion the hooks that held the curtains of the structure was his account complete and now fully accurate. In the last analysis of life, accountability is the main challenge and test that faces us. King Solomon in Kohelet informs us that all of our actions and behavior will be accounted for in God's system of justice. It is this concept of accountability that allows the basic axiom of Jewish life, namely, reward and punishment the temporal and eternal, to function. One of the great weaknesses of individuals and societies is that they somehow feel that they are not accountable for their errors, sins, omissions and failures. We live in a world where everyone and everything is entitled to a pass. One of the great weaknesses of our Torah–only educational system is that the older the student becomes and the higher the level and reputation of the institution thay he or she attends, the weaker the demands of accountability become. No system of testing, no realistic goals for scholarship demanded, all lead to the complete lack of accountability, which in the long run is destructive to the individual and the system itself.

In democracies, elections held periodically are meant to hold political leaders accountable. Though in practice this does not always work out, the theory of accountability is at least present in the society and the political system. In a dictatorship there never is any voluntary day of reckoning or demand for accountability. No one likes to be beholden to the judgment of others and therefore we see that in businesses, educational institutions, social agencies and religious institutions that mini-dictatorships abound. The prophets of Israel held the leaders and the people of Israel accountable to the moral teachings of the Torah and to God Himself, so to speak. Thus the prophets of Israel served as the necessary brake to an otherwise dictatorial, all-powerful monarchy. The rabbis of the Talmud were always careful to be aware that they were accountable for their decisions and behavior. Often times that sense of accountability focused on the presence of another individual rabbi to whom one somehow felt accountable. The great Mar Shmuel mourned the death of Rav by saying that the "person that I feared and was accountable to is no longer with us." The idea of accountability stretches over generations. We are all accountable for the past and for the future. And it is in that light that we will certainly be judged and that the accomplishments of our lifetime will be marked and assessed.

Shabbat - Our Personal Visit of the Divine

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Our parasha opens with Moshe telling Bnei Yisrael what Hashem had commanded in regard to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). However, first it reiterates the commandment to refrain from forbidden work on Shabbat. There was a similar linkage between the Mishkan and Shabbat in Parashat Ki Tisa, at the end of Hashem’s commandment to Moshe about the Mishkan (Shemot 31:13), but here Shabbat is mentioned before everything. 

Chazal (cited by Rashi, Shemot 35:2) learn from the linkage that despite the importance of the mitzva to erect the Mishkan, it did not justify desecrating Shabbat for that purpose. We can understand the philosophical significance of this halacha if we take into consideration the basic content of the mitzva of the Mishkan. According to several commentators, including Rashi, the mitzva originated only after the sin of the Golden Calf. The Seforno explains that originally Hashem just commanded, "An altar of earth erect for Me ... to every place that I shall mention My name, I will come to you and bless you" (Shemot 20:21); after the sin they would need kohanim to make the berachot.

Let us put this in broader perspective in the following way. There is a phenomenon of naming a specific place for service of Hashem and a specific tribe to be involved in it, but this was not what Hashem preferred. It would have been better with a simple altar, without gold and silver or special kohanim with their special clothes. Rather, every Jew would be a kohen, the whole Land would be a Mikdash, and Hashem’s blessing would come everywhere. After the sin, everything had to be more specifically chosen.

However, as much as the means through which one reached the goal changed, the goal itself did not, and that is: "and I [Hashem] will dwell in their [the people’s] midst" (Shemot 25:8). All the Mishkan did was to create a point around which they would focus, where they could act and learn how to incorporate Hashem into their lives. The public Mikdash is not to replace the private one. Heaven forbid, one should never think that what he does in the Mikdash protects him from a sinful life that he leads outside of it. That was a real danger that the prophets, including Yirmiyah (7:9-10), warned about.

For this reason, the Torah felt it necessary to stress with the building of the Mishkan the matter of keeping Shabbat. The people must know that Shabbat, the personal spiritual constant that applies to every Jew wherever he is, still fully applies. The building of the Mishkan will not change that. While it was enough for Hashem to mention Shabbat after the commandment of the Mishkan, Moshe was afraid that when telling Bnei Yisrael about the MIshkan, they might get so carried away by the excitement that they would forget what Hashem truly wanted. It is for this reason that the Torah started off with the warning to keep Shabbat.

The Shamrak Report: The Two-State Concept is the Path to War!

By Steven Shamrak.
It looks like Donald Trump has begun playing the same game as all Presidents of the United States before him, since the establishment of Israel.
Apparently, regardless of what he said publicly, he ignores those around him who tried to explain him that a two-state concept is not viable. He is talking now about making a deal, as a way of reviving the two-state solution from death. By doing so, he is setting himself for a failure, as most of the previous ‘ambitious’ occupiers of the White house.
He fails to understand, or pretends to, that the fake Palestinians and their leadership in particular have no intention to have peace with Israel or plans for creation their own state. Because the destruction of Israel is the agenda of the enemies of the Jews and they used the artificially created fake people as a tool to achieve it!
Quite soon, President Trump will learn that the so-called Palestinians will not become rational. They are not going to give up their dream of destroying Israel. Creating a new Arab Muslim state may not even be their intention. They will not submit to his powers of persuasion or will agree with Jared Kushner that Jews have a history and affiliation with the land. They do not care about the concept of sharing the land, and living side by side in peace with anyone. It is not in their blood - Muslims are not even able to do it among themselves, forget about Jews!
Abbas will tell Trump that he wants to live in peace with Israel on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as the capital of a new Muslim state, where Jews will not be allowed to live. He will tell that if Israel agrees to that and to the right of return of millions of fake refugees to Haifa, Jaffa, Safed... there will be peace. 
All parties know that this is lie, and completely unreasonable and unacceptable demands. This would be suicidal for Israel to accept these conditions. But they still play the two-state stupidity game and Israel has continuously been humiliated in the process!
As the first step to self-destruction, Israel has to move over 400,000 Jews out of Judea and Samaria! It has been done before – Jews were removed from Trans-Jordan, to facilitate peace with Arabs in 1922; 8,500 Jews were forcefully removed from Gaza, in the name of peace, in 2005. As a result, there were more assaults from Arab/Muslim states, more wars and thousands of rockets were fired from Hamas controlled Gaza!
The PA is not going to take 300,000 ‘Palestinians’ living beyond the Green Line in Greater Jerusalem of course or 2,5 million Arabs residents of Israel. Why is it out of the question? 
At first they have been playing a victim game, after that a foot-hold is obtained over land which is not under Israel’s control, Gaza. Next step is to make more demands and unleash more terror. If Israel agrees to the PA demands, the Arab population will be eventually used to advance the agenda of Israel destruction through terror and intimidation.
Nobody cares that Abbas does not control Hamas and many other Palestinian terror groups, and that ISIS is moving in. The only thing that restrains them from killing each other is the common hate toward Israel and Jews! 
So far, most presidents have tried to make history, at the expense of the Jewish state, by attempting to create a Palestinian state on Jewish land! This has never worked! It has only created opportunities for a new escalation of violence or war.
Unfortunately, the government of Israel is weak. Netanyahu should unequivocally explain to President Trump that a two state solution is dead end, and is a curtain path to war and not peace. 
Ceding more of Jewish land to enemies is not an option. Israeli must exercise sovereignty over all our land! There are many peace options that can accommodate Palestinian independence ambition, if they have one. But they have not been seriously considered or even acknowledged. We can endlessly talk about them, but the main prerequisite to all of them to work is in the answer to a simple question – Do Palestinians want peace with Israel? At the moment, we can only say “Let wait and see” if he really has intention to “Drain the Swamp”! His first test will be on 2nd of June.

Via PayPal (including credit cards)  $10,  $18,  $36,  $72,  $100,  $180,  $260
FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
Before and after Israel removed Jewish families, using force, from Gaza there were no international objections and condemnations, although Israel was violating the Fourth Geneva convention which forbids “population transfer” under any circumstances! Since then terror attacks from Gaza escalated. Let be honest about the situation, so-called Palestinians are not victims - they are perpetrators of terror against the Jewish state. They are occupiers of Jewish land - it is time to end this travesty! 
Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria on Friday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon's Hezbollah, and that the Jewish State would do the same again if necessary. "When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it. That's how it was yesterday and that's how we shall continue to act," he added.
The head of the United Nation’s West Asia commission, which comprises 18 Arab states, resigned, after what she described as pressure from the secretary general to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted on the withdrawal of the report, UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said. “Based on that, I submitted to him my resignation from the United Nations,” Khalaf told a news conference in Beirut.
Israeli police shut down an office in East Jerusalem allegedly used by the PA to monitor land sales to Jews by Arabs. The office operated on behalf of the Palestinian security services in Ramallah, compiling the names of East Jerusalem residents suspected of selling their properties to Jews. 
Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett consented to a request from Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) to postpone a vote in the Ministerial Legislative Committee on imposing Israeli law on the city of Ma’ale Adumim, some 4 miles east of Jerusalem in Judea and Samaria. Bennett made clear that the postponement is only for one week, and not, as Bitan originally requested, three months.
A survey shows that one third of Palestinians believe that the occupation will continue for at least another 50 years, 64% believe that Mahmoud Abbas should resign and 51% oppose the two-state solution, but despite the pessimism, the majority believe that God is standing with them. 37% believe that armed resistance is most effective means of achieving an independent state. (Israel must end occupation of Jewish land - only by removing enemy population from Jewish land will Israel be able to end the terror and prosper!)
The world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker Intel Corporation is purchasing Mobileye, an Israeli technology company that develops vision-based advanced driver assistance systems providing warnings for collision prevention and mitigation, for an estimated $15 billion.
The Egyptian army has destroyed six underground tunnels connecting the Sinai to the Gaza Strip, from Feb. 21 to March 13. In 2014, Egypt established a buffer zone along its border with the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, to prevent it from collaborating with ISIS-affiliated Islamist gangs which have been attacking Egyptian army and police in the Sinai. (It is not just Israel having problems with ‘Palestinians’ - Nobody cares if Muslims kill other Muslims!)
A UN agency report published on Wednesday accused Israel of establishing an "apartheid regime" targeting Palestinians, prompting outrage from Washington. Israeli officials swiftly decried the report "The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie," said Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon. (It is ridiculous that an UN agency which has Syria and Sudan as members preaches morality to the State of Israel - the only democracy in the Middle East!)
Terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, notorious for leading the brutal massacre of 37 Israelis in 1978 is lauded by PA leaders as a role model, on the March 11 anniversary of the most lethal attack in Israel's history. Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub presents honorary plaques and praised terrorist Mughrabi as "prime among" female "Martyrs," and suggested that Palestinian Arab women of today let themselves be inspired by Mughrabi and the female plane hijacker Laila Khaled. (Israel must stop negotiating with terrorists - most self-respecting nations don’t!)
Quote of the Week:
“If the world isn’t furious at Israel, Israel is failing to protect itself. The world bitching about the rotten Israelis is a good thing. Being unpopular is a pretty small price to pay for staying alive, especially when you’d be unpopular anyway. I hope Bibi and the rest learn from this. Strength is the only thing the world respects, or fears!” – a FaceBook comment.
by Smadar Perry
(So far, Israel has been used as a ‘ball’ in the global international anti-Semitic game. Let wait and see if Trump is different! The test will be on 2nd of June – will he sign another six months extension, as all his predecessors since 1995 or let the US law prevail and move the embassy to Jerusalem?)
In his belated first phone call with the Palestinian leader, the new US president sent out a clear message: If you really are committed to peace, stop running around international institutions, do your part and I'll handle Netanyahu.
The first conclusion: The new US administration managed to exasperate Abbas. The Palestinian Authority insisted on keeping score: 49 days since entering the White House, Trump has called Netanyahu twice and warmly welcomed him to Washington, with the two of them looking like a couple of lovebirds. Trump has also called all of the other players in the region, who are keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at arm's length: Jordan's King Abdullah II, with whom the American president also met, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Saudi King Salman and the three rulers of the Persian Gulf kingdoms. Abbas found himself last on the list...
The second conclusion: Until further notice, we can expect only meaningless platitudes. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed reports that Trump invited Abbas to Washington very soon. Meanwhile Palestinian officials described the phone call as "excellent" and "serious and pleasant," while the Palestinian leader said he was looking forward to work with the new president. 
This was only a short phone call, with both sides saying only what is expected of them: Trump claims he made a decision to restart the talks without trying to impose solutions, while Abbas stressed he would be committed to any effort that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. 
In other words: Trump kicked the ball to Ramallah's court. Abbas wants a Palestinian state? Ahlan Wasahlan, no problem. Come to Washington, you'll be welcomed with a red carpet, and we'll think together how to restart the process. This, on the condition you realize in advance that not all of your demands will be met. Just don't try to sell me tales about the Palestinian public opinion...