Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Addition to the Human race by subtraction

Hamas Terrorist Dies In Gaza Attack Tunnel Collapse

Hani Sami Salah, a member of the Hamas al-Qassam Brigades, joins many compatriots who have died or been injured in Palestinian “Work Accidents”
Posted by William A. Jacobson 

It was reported that a Hamas terrorist died when a tunnel collapsed on him in Gaza. This is one of a long line of so-called Palestinian Work Accidents, where a terrorist is killed through his or his group’s error while preparing to attack Israel.

The Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades posted at their website about the death of Hani Sami Salah in a tunnel collapse (translation via Google Translate)

The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, announced today, Monday, December 6, 2021, the death of Hani Sami Salah during the preparation and preparation.

The brigades said in a statement to Quds Network: “The Martyr Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, wedded to Al-Ula one of its knights, the faithful Mujahid al-Qassam: Hani Sami Salah (28 years), from the “Ard al-Rabat” mosque in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood, east of Gaza.”

She added: “Salah rose after the collapse of a tunnel of resistance, to go to his Lord after a blessed life full of giving, jihad, sacrifice and bonding for the sake of God

Hamas-affiliated Quds News posted the announcement on Twitter with photos of the deceased before and after:

Photos of Salah holding a weapons also quickly circulated:

Jewish Press provides more details:

A Hamas terrorist died as a result of the collapse of a tunnel east of Gaza City on Monday, several sources reported.

The terrorist was said to be Hani Sami Salah, 26, a resident of the Al-Tufah neighborhood in Gaza City.

This incident occurred just days after Maj. Avichai Adraee, the IDF’s spokesman in Arabic, issued a warning to the residents of the Gaza Strip to stay away from Hamas’ tunnels following several landslides in the area, the result of the collapse of Hamas’ terror tunnel network….

It appears that the recent rains have brought to the collapse of the tunnels, many of which are built in the sand, and with cheap and weak materials. Several Gazans working for Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have died in these tunnel collapses in recent years.

According to data collected by the IDF, in 2016, 25 tunnels collapsed in Gaza, killing 21 tunnel diggers from Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other radical organizations. In 2017, nine tunnels collapsed and tens of tunnels were destroyed by the Egyptian army as part of their crackdown on terrorist activity in the Sinai. These incidents resulted in the deaths of 33 members of Hamas and other Islamist organizations in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has built over the years an elaborate underground city running under Gaza. The system in the Strip is meant to conceal Hamas’ military activities and serve as a system from which to fight the IDF.

Israel attacked the vast tunnel complex known as the “Metro” during the May 2021 conflict sparked by extensive Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities. Israel says a large portion of the Metro was destroyed, Hamas claims most of it survived.

The tunnel work continues, preparing for the next fight.

Salah joins many compatriots who have died or been injured in Palestinian “Work Accidents”:
Senior Hamas terrorist Imad al-Alami *accidentally* shoots himself in the head
Hamas explosives chief accidentally blows himself up
Palestinian rocket commander ‘accidentally’ blows himself up
Hamas terrorist killed when attack tunnel collapses on him
Gaza: Two PFLP terrorists killed when rocket they were firing exploded prematurely
Hamas Bomb Expert Blows Himself Up
Hamas Commander killed at Gaza border when ‘hand grenade’ exploded prematurely
Hamas member killed in “accidental explosion during preparation and training”
Hamas tunnel engineer “working on a tunnel underneath his home when it collapsed and killed him”
Reports: “Work Accident” blows up home of senior terrorist in southern Gaza
Gaza: Four Palestinian Islamic Jihad Terrorists Accidentally Blow Themselves Up
Explosives Stored In Gaza Terrorist’s Apartment Accidentally Detonate, Destroying Building and Injuring Dozens
Report: Misfired Hamas test rocket hits Palestininan fishing boat, killing three
Iranian Man Accidentally Sets Himself On Fire While Burning Israeli Flag
Two Hamas Gaza Terrorists Blow Themselves Up Dismantling Unexploded Israeli Ordnance
VIDEO: Palestinian Terrorist Accidentally Ignites Himself While Throwing Molotov Cocktail

It's time to talk about Achdus again

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

THE BIG PICTURE Zoominar continues this Tuesday, b”H. You can register at any time by writing to

IT’S TIME TO talk about achdus again. This is the parsha of the reunion of the entire family after turning around from the brink of collapse. Even the Maftir is about it. So often that is how it works.

We first get wind of the importance of unity when Ya’akov is lying down to sleep the night he dreams of the ladder. He placed 12 stones, obviously one for each of the future tribes, around his head as kind of a security measure. Then he said for some reason, “If these stones become one, then I will know that nothing bad will come out of me.” And miraculously, they did become one.

Clearly the unity of Ya’akov’s family was on his mind even before he married. True, every parent wants their children to get along with each other, and gets pleasure from seeing it happen. But how many think about it so far in advance? Clearly it had been Ya’akov’s intention to build more than family, but what?

Let’s approach that question from a different direction. What would it take to make achdus a reality for the Jewish people? Well, what stands in the way of it? That’s easy, two Jews, three opinions. Two million Jews, three million opinions, etc. That’s a lot of opinions, especially if many of them oppose one another. Somehow people would all have to be of the same opinion, or close to it.

It has been said that a Jew once told an enemy, “If you want to destroy us, just go home. We’ll do it for you through our own in-fighting. But if you want us to band together, then attack us. Then we unify and become stronger.” Two people running for their lives quickly become allies.

Maybe that is part of the hidden agenda of the War of Gog and Magog. It will be against the Jews, even the ones who don’t think it will be against them. In the end, it will be to eliminate the enemies of the Jewish people on the way to the final redemption. But in-between, maybe it will be to create a common cause to unify Jews all over the world. The Holocaust certainly unified a lot of Jews, but is that the way we want to attain achdus?

Shabbos Day
THERE IS A better way to join the thinking of people, and we witnessed it at Har Sinai. That’s when the Jewish people reached the perfect achdus of k’ish echad b’leiv echad—like a single person with a single heart. There was something about the Master of the Universe revealing Himself and talking to everyone there, that made people forget every last selfish desire they had and, to think only about truth.

But even that didn’t last too long. Once the prophecy ended, the Jewish people lost their achdus. The Erev Rav instigated the golden calf. They drew three million stragglers to it, and left the rest of the nation to hide in their tents wondering what was going to happen next.

And even though God imbued Torah with His presence, it wasn’t enough to cause achdus. On the contrary, if anything, Torah has been such an ongoing source of machlokes—argument. Sometimes the disagreements are only technical and do not impact achdus much. Other times they have torn communities apart, resulting in countless break-off groups.

Something is missing.

The question is, what?

It’s like making a cake, sort of. You can have all the ingredients right except for one, and the cake still turns out wrong. It might taste okay, but it is still missing an ingredient (or two) to make it right.

A good chef knows exactly what it is.

Do the Jewish people?

Does anyone really care enough?

We should. After all, the world seems to be coming apart at the seams. True, lots of people prefer this downward direction and, some are spending a lot of money to promote more chaos. But at the end of the day, as protected as they think they are, chaos is bigger and stronger than all of us.

And as much as the chaos promoters may think they are the cause of the chaos, they are not. They are just the means to make it happen or get worse. The chaos is a result of the lack of achdus of the Jewish people, as Ya’akov Avinu understood. He wasn’t just building a nation. He intended to keep Creation in business and, it’s why the future achdus of his family was such a priority for him.

What does one have to do with the other, you may be asking? If you understand the key ingredient to achdus, then the question will answer itself.

Shalosh Seudot
IT’S SUCH A simple word, and yet it means the world to the world. The word is da’as, and simply means knowledge. But there is knowledge, and then there is knowledge, so there is da’as, and there is da’as.

The first da’as refers to the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Ra, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The second da’as refers to the Aitz Chaim, the Tree of Life. The difference between the two is huge. The Aitz HaDa’as caused death, and the Aitz Chaim led to eternal life.

And lest one think that Aitz Chaim refers to all of Torah, and the Aitz HaDa’as to every other kind of knowledge, it’s not true. According to Kabbalah, the Aitz HaDa’as includes anything that deals with good and evil, holy and profane, pure and impure, etc., and that includes most of Torah.

So what does represent the Aitz Chaim in the world? Kabbalah. Why? Because it deals principally with a level of Creation on which evil cannot exist. The root of evil may already be present on this level, but it is still only a potential, and the root is still holy.

It’s like the difference between Yitzchak and Eisav. They both came from the same soul light, but they were worlds apart. Yitzchak was what the light of Gevurah looks like when it is still unaffected by the darkness of this world. Eisav was what this light looks like when it has been blemished by the physical world.

Even the Aitz HaDa’as is really just the light of the Aitz Chaim after it has descended into this world of filtered divine light. As powerful and aggressive as evil seems, it is really just what happens when good is reduced and a spiritual vacuum results. If you go high enough up in the spiritual realm, the Aitz HaDa’as merges with the Aitz Chaim, and that is the real source of achdus.

That’s why the prophet talks about the Messianic Era in terms of da’as. He mentions that God said that, at that time He will fill the world with da’as, and peace will reign forever. He doesn’t mean that we’re all going to become mathematicians or scientists. He means we’re all going to become kabbalists…like we did at Mt. Sinai to become unified like a single individual. It happens automatically when the revelation of God is intense enough.

It’s not that at Mt. Sinai we all started learning Zohar. We didn’t have to. We were already living the reality that the Zohar tries to help us create post-Sinai. We witnessed the Divine Presence with our own eyes. We heard the Divine Voice with our own ears. We saw the miracles that occurred at that time. We reached the level of Aitz Chaim just by being part of the experience, which is why we regained immortality again.

Chanukah is over, but this is what it tried to give us while it was here. It is access to the Ohr HaGanuz, and that is the light of the Aitz Chaim. Now we’re about to begin Shov’vim with Parashas Shemos, b”H. We will build hopefully, on what we began achieving during Chanukah. More on this next week, b”H.

Melave Malkah
AFTER REEDITING AND republishing The Big Picture, b”H, I decided to do the same to another flagship book, Redemption to Redemption: The Very Deep & Intricate Connection Between the Holidays of Purim and Pesach.

It is now done and in the Amazon store, and for a limited time, It’s available in Paperback, Hardcover, and PDF formats with a 25 percent discount through me at, and in Kindle format without the discount through Amazon. The following is the introduction to the book.

The Talmud has a question. In a normal Jewish year there is only one month of Adar, on the 14th day of which Purim is celebrated. In a Jewish leap year however, an entire month is added called Adar Sheini—Second Adar. The Talmud wants to know therefore in which Adar Purim should be celebrated?

There is an argument for each Adar. First, there is the idea of ain ma’avirin al hamitzvos, which basically means that we don’t like to push off a mitzvah. Mitzvos are too valuable to pass up, so we like to do them first chance we have:

You shall guard the matzos… (Shemos 12:17)

Rebi Yoshia said: Don’t read “the matzos,” but “the mitzvos,” meaning the commandments, as if to say: Just as you must be careful not to allow the matzah to become leaven, so too must a mitzvah not become “leaven” by waiting too long to perform it. If a mitzvah comes your way, perform it immediately. (Rashi)

Why push Purim off until Adar Sheini if you can celebrate it in Adar Rishon, the first Adar?

On the other hand, there is semichas geulah l’geulah, putting two redemptions close together. In a non-leap year, Purim falls out thirty days before Pesach:

From Purim to Pesach is 30 days. (Sanhedrin 12b)

If Purim is in Adar Rishon in a leap year, then Purim will end up being sixty days before Pesach. Why distance the two holidays when they can be kept close together by celebrating Purim in Adar Sheini?

We know from practice what the Talmud decided. Apparently in this case we overlook the seemingly all-important principle of ain ma’avirin al hamitzvos and celebrate Purim in Adar Sheini, keeping it thirty days before Pesach. The question is, why?

The Talmud says something else that, on the surface, seems incidental but which may in fact allude to the answer:

From Purim to Pesach is 30 days. From Purim, one should start learning the laws of Pesach. (Sanhedrin 12b)

Who learns Hilchos Pesach while celebrating Purim? True, the Talmud specifies learning the laws of a holiday thirty days in advance, but couldn’t it be 29 days in the case of Purim? It’s such a busy day…

No, and not only because of the enactment. There is a reason why we want Purim and Pesach close together. They are intricately connected, and to such an extent that properly celebrating Purim is to prepare for Pesach. If anything, the Talmud is indicating, Purim is the threshold to the freedom of Pesach. The starting point to understanding how is knowing that, when it comes to Purim and Pesach, nothing is as it seems to be.

Rav Kook on Parashat Vayigash: The First Exile

The very first exile of the Jewish people, the exile to Egypt, began as Yaakov and his family left the Land of Israel. They intended to spend a short stay in Egypt until the famine passed.

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni Hosea 528) makes a startling observation:

“Yaakov should have gone down to Egypt in chains. Yet God said, ‘Yaakov, My first-born, how could I banish him in disgrace? Rather, I will send his son to go down before him.'”

What did Yaakov do to deserve being exiled in iron chains?

Two Purposes to Exile
We need to analyze the purpose of exile. The Jewish people have spent more years in exile than in their own land. Why was it necessary to undergo these difficult trials? Could they not be punished by other means?

In fact, the Midrash states that the Jewish people are particularly suited for exile. They are called “the daughter of exiles,” since the Avot (forefathers) were sojourners and refugees, subjected to the whims and jealousies of local tyrants (Midrash Eicha Petichta 1 on Isaiah 10:30). 

Exile accomplishes two goals:
  1. The people of Israel were created to serve God. The nation needs a pure love of God, undiluted by materialistic goals. Clearly, people are more prone to become absorbed in worldly matters when affluence and prosperity are readily attainable. In order that the Jewish people should realize their true spiritual potential, God made sure that the nation would lack material success for long periods of time. 
  2. Exile serves to spread the belief in one God throughout the world. As the Sages wrote in Pesachim 87b, “The Holy One exiled Israel so that converts will join them.” Similarly, we find that God explained the purpose of exile and redemption in Egypt, “so that Egypt will know that I am God” (Ex. 7:5). 
The major difference between these two objectives lies in the conditions of the exile. If the purpose of exile is to avoid significant material success over a long period of time — to prepare the Jewish people for complete dedication to God and His Torah — then such an expulsion by definition must be devoid of prestige and prosperity.

If, on the other hand, the goal is to influence and uplift the nations of the world, then being honored and respected in their land of exile will not contradict the intended purpose. On the contrary, such a state of honor would promote this aim.

Yaakov's Exile
Yaakov had spiritually perfected himself to the extent that nothing in this world could dampen his burning love for God. His dedication was so great that he could interrupt the emotional reunion with his beloved son Joseph, after an absence of 22 years, and proclaim God’s unity with the Shemaprayer (Rashi on Gen. 46:29). Certainly, for Yaakov himself, only the second goal of exile was applicable.

Yaakov's descendants, however, would require the degrading aspects of exile in order to purify them and wean them from the negative influences of a materialistic lifestyle. As their father, it was fitting that Yaakov be led to Egypt in iron chains. But since Yaakov personally would not be adversely affected by worldly homage and wealth, he was permitted to be exiled in honor, led by his son, viceroy of Egypt.

(Gold from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Midbar Shur, pp. 233-241 by Rav Chanan Morrison)

Monday, December 06, 2021

Seventy Nefesh

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

One of the principles of Judaism is the unity of the nation of Israel. There are countless statements in the written and oral Torah that deal with this issue. One of them relates to our Parsha: "All the nefesh of Yaakov's household who came to Egypt – seventy." (Bereisheet 46:27) Chazal comment on this (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6):

Esav had [only] six people, yet the Torah calls them: "the members (nafshot) of his household" (Bereisheet 36:6), in plural, since they serve many gods. Yaakov, however, had seventy people, yet the Torah calls them "nefesh" (sing.), since they all serve one G-d.

Chazal extol the issue of unity when they say that even if Israel worships idols, so long as they are united – they will be left alone: "Ephraim is attached to idols; let him be." (Hoshea 4:17) Even when he is attached to idols, still, if he is attached and united – let him be. (Bereisheet Rabbah 38)

Chazal attribute Israel's exile and redemption to the question of division and unity. The Maharal deals with this at length in his work, "Netzach Yisrael," and writes (ch. 4) that on account of this the Second Temple was destroyed, since Yerushalayim and the Temple are the focal point that unite Am Yisrael, and there they are one. When they are divided – they are not worthy of this place, and therefore it is destroyed.

The redemption is also dependent on this. If we will be united, the redemption will come sooner; if not, it will be delayed.

On the pasuk in brit bein habetarim: "[Avraham] took all these to Him; he cut them in the center ... The bird, however, he did not cut up" (Bereisheet 15:10), the Noam Elimelech writes that the bird symbolizes Am Yisrael, in contrast to the other animals, which symbolize the other nations. I.e, the fact that he did not cut up the bird expresses the merit of Am Yisrael, that when they are whole, their merit is unfathomable.

The Maharal explains that Jewish unity is something inherent to them, and therefore they are always called, "nefesh." They went down to Egypt as "seventy nefesh," since, in essence, they are one soul, even though their bodies are separate. (cf. Tanya ch. 32) With this he explains the difference between the roots, ga'al and galah. The meaning of redemption, ga'al, is that G-d gathers them from the four corners of the earth and unites them. Therefore, the aleph is in the middle of the root, since they will be redeemed in the merit of unity. However, in exile they are scattered in the four corners of the earth, which is alluded to by the letter hey, which is composed of a dalet with a yud in the middle, since they are scattered in the four corners of the earth and in the middle; i.e., throughout the entire world. Thus, the aleph in the middle of the root ga'al indicates unity, which leads to redemption, whereas the hey at the end of the root, galah, indicates that although they are scattered, this situation of exile is at the end, and not normal, and will certainly be corrected.

The issue of unity also connects the Parsha and its Haftarah. In next week's Parsha it says, "Assemble and I will tell you what will befall you in the End of Days." (49:1) The Midrash says (Bereisheet Rabbah 98:2):

[Yaakov] said to them: All of you be in one assembly. This is what it says, "Now you, Son of Man, take for yourself one branch, and write upon it, 'For Yehuda and Bnei Yisrael his comrades (chaveirav)'" (Yechezkel 37:16) – it is written chaveiro (sing.) – and prepare yourselves for redemption. What does it say afterwards? "I will make them into one nation in the land." (37:22)

It further says in the Midrash (Kohelet 3:7):

"[There is] a time to mend" – as it says, "Bring them close one to the other" (37:17), and what does is say afterwards? "Thus says the L-rd, Hashem: Behold, I am taking Bnei Yisrael from among the nations to which they have gone; I will gather them from all around and I will bring them to their soil; I will make them into one nation in the land." (37:21-22) This is, "a time to mend."

Similarly, it says on the pasuk, "You are all standing" (Devarim 29:9): When? When you will all be in one group ... Similarly, you find that Bnei Yisrael will not be redeemed until they will all be one assembly, as it says, "In those days, the house of Yehuda will walk with the House if Israel, and they will come together..." (Yirmiya 3:18) Chazal also say on the pasuk, "Who ... founded His group upon the earth" (Amos 9:6) – Israel will not be redeemed until they will all be one group. (Midrash Tanchuma Nitzavim #1)

When the branch of Yosef and the branch of Yehuda, "will become united in your hand," Israel will be redeemed: "I will bring them to their soil; I will make them into one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king will be a king for them all; they will no longer be two nations, and they will no longer be divided into two kingdoms, ever again. (Haftarah, Yechezkel 37:21-22)

The Meshech Chochma writes enthusiastically in Parshat Beshalach on this issue, and his words should be seen inside. Amongst them he writes, "Therefore, [even] for the desecration of the Shabbat, which has spread in our many sins, they could then hope that they wound be granted a delay, for they are a community."

Fathers and Sons

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

Approaching the Fathers of the Nation
This week's Torah portion, "VaYigash" depicts the peaceful resolution to the episode of the selling of Yoseph. Recently, a student approached me with the following question: "How does one go about teaching the story of Yoseph and his brothers to youngsters? True, our Torah commentators have given all sorts of interpretations, yet upon sitting down and reading the plain, unadorned text of the Chumash, one receives a most appalling impression of the brothers and becomes very apprehensive of their behavior."

The question, of course, extends far beyond the episode of the selling of Yoseph. There was once a teacher at one of our religious public schools who asked: "How can we even compare the behavior of, say, Rav Yisrael Meir Kagen, the "Hafetz Haim," a personage of outstanding moral stature, with that of..." - It is forbidden to even repeat his words - "Dovid HaMelech." I bring this statement only for the sake of addressing it. In truth it is forbidden to even consider such a comparison. "Dovid HaMelech lives on," says the Talmud . King David composed the Book of "Tehillim," Psalms. Dovid HaMelech was the greatest Torah authority of his generation. The daily practices of Dovid HaMelech are related to us by our Sages: how he constantly poured over the Torah, rose up early in the morning to study Jewish law, and busied himself composing songs of praise to the Creator.

Indeed, one who reads the Scriptures alone, without studying the words of our Sages, runs the risk of understanding things incorrectly.

When dealing with JYseph and his brothers it is important to remember that they were moral giants. The same is true of Dovid HaMelech. The Torah did not find it necessary to teach us this obvious point. Later, though, when the Rabbis detected that the passage of time was giving rise to mistaken impressions, they found it necessary to teach us that, "Anybody who thinks that Dovid HaMelech sinned is mistaken."

The dispute between the brothers was a deep and penetrating one. We are not trying to claim that what took place here was justified, for the Sages themselves inform us that the famous "Ten Martyrs" were put to death as a result of the selling of Yoseph. Still, one must possess the fundamental understanding that we are dealing here with the fathers of the nation . The fact that our nation has managed persevere for so many generations, and with such distinction, is, in itself, testimony to the greatness of the forefathers. "There were," in actuality, "only three forefathers," says the Talmud - Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. After these forefathers came Jacob's sons: the fathers of the Twelve Tribes and the heads of the nation in the wake of the forefathers. The entire nation stems from them. Everything that has transpired, right up until today, goes back to these very roots. The remarkable history of our people teaches us that the roots - the forefathers - were mighty indeed.

The twelve brothers grow up together in Yaakov's house where they lead a deeply spiritual life. Because of this intensely spiritual environment, because of the great ideals and weighty responsibility bound up in it, tension arises between Yoseph and his brothers. Their dispute is the result the great responsibility that they bear - the responsibility to uphold and preserve the spirit of the House of Yaakov.

Understanding the Dispute of the Brothers
a. Yoseph the Idealist
It is possible to approach the dispute between Yoseph and his brothers from a number of different angles. It is possible to see Yoseph is an idealist, dreaming dreams of redemption and salvation, as the Sages teach, "Come and see: All that befell Joseph befell Zion as well... It is written concerning Yoseph, 'And Yoseph had a dream ' (Bereisheet 37:5), and it is written concerning Zion, 'When God will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers '" (Tehilim 126). Yoseph dreamed, for he had great ideals. True, he brings a bad report to his father concerning his brothers, but this is only because he makes such great behavioral demands of them; he feels that they are capable of more. Because of the weighty implications involved he sees no other course than informing his father, Yaakov, concerning the behavior of his brothers. The brothers, on the other hand, take a different approach - they are more realistic, more pragmatic.

It is possible to view this conflict in light of our present-day situation - for, are we not, after all, the great grand children of the forefathers? And just as Yoseph was despised for being a dreamer who longed for the redemption, so too today hatred is often fostered towards those who yearn for the redemption of Israel. They go misunderstood and are often accused of dragging the nation into imminent danger or self destruction. People believe that these dreamers want the unattainable, and the hatred is at times so great that, "They could not say a peaceful word to him" (Bereisheet 37:4).

It is told, in the name of the Vilna Gaon, that all those who exert themselves settling the Land of Israel, reestablishing the Holy City of Jerusalem, and advancing the redemption - those who strive to secure Jewish control over the Land of Israel, possess something of "Mashiach ben Yoseph," the Messiah from the line of Joseph. They continue in the spirit of Yoseph, and they - like Yoseph - go misunderstood. The true validity of their approach goes unrecognized, as it is written, "Yoseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him" (ibid. 42:8),

Yoseph possesses a great and deep vision, and others do not succeed in understanding him. If only they were willing to recognize Joseph's leadership, says the Vilna Gaon, redemption would come immediately.

b. Yoseph the "Internationalist"
Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook explains the dispute between Yoseph and his brothers in a different manner. They disagreed concerning the correct way to spread God's light in the world. Yoseph believed that the best way for the Jewish People to make their impact felt in the world was by creating a "new Middle East", through attempting to influence the entire world. By associating freely with everybody, strengthening our ties with the other nations and overlooking differences, we will, Joseph felt, succeed in bringing everybody close to God. This, of course, does not imply the complete denial of all differences; rather, it means overlooking them for the sake of maintaining good relations. It means not behaving like a "nation that dwells alone," elevating itself above others. The approach ofYJoseph calls on the People of Israel to go out and associate with all the other nations of the world, thus influencing them.

The rest of the tribes - Yehuda at their head - thought differently. Their approach calls on the Jewish People to build themselves up from the inside - to ascend, sanctify themselves, and set themselves apart. Only after reaching a high level perfection, only then, as a unique people standing aloof, are we able to serve as a light unto the nations. Not through proselytizing or through a downplaying our uniqueness, but through banding together, joining forces and striving to attain inner perfection.

In our generation, as well, there exist different approaches when it comes to education. Lubavitch Hasidism teaches that one who knows "alef, bet" should go out and teach "alef bet." If one knows a little, one teaches a little. The more one learns, the more one teaches - whatever you've got: Give! There is another approach, though, that says that before one goes out to influence others, one must himself be full to the brim with knowledge. The more a person is overflowing himself, the greater his capacity to affect others, for his knowledge is not of a superficial character, but deep-seated and genuine.

Yoseph views the Jewish People as possessing enough strength to influence the rest of the world. We have nothing to fear by going out, interacting and developing relations with the rest of humanity. They will be receptive to our message, and we will not come out any worse. The truth of the matter is, though, that this is slightly more complicated than it sounds. Rav Kook mentions the passage: "Ephraim amongst the nations assimilates," explaining that the disciples of this approach are not always successful. Sometimes there are failures and crises. It is not uncommon that one goes out with the intention of influencing - and returns influenced. Yet, if a basic inner foundation is firmly established, allowing us to rise up to great and elevated heights, afterwards, it is possible to influence the entire world.

It may appear as if we are simply projecting all sorts of profound ideas upon the dispute between Joseph and his brothers. Yet this is not the case. In the course of our long history we find these tendencies reoccurring in the Jewish People.

The Sages of the Talmud teach us: "Yoseph, for sanctifying God's name in a hidden, private manner, was rewarded by having a letter from God's name (the Tetragrammaton - YHVH) added to his own." The Hebrew Yoseph later became Y'hoseph , an additional 'Heh,' or 'h' being added - taken, as it were - from God's own name. "Yehudah," the Talmud continues, "for sanctifying the name of God openly, publicly, merited receiving a name that was made up entirely of the letters of God's name." The Hebrew Yehudah contains, albeit rearranged somewhat, all of the letters of God's name. The above appears to be in keeping with what we have been saying up till now. Yoseph is an introspective type. He possesses inner spiritual might. He is not afraid to go out and gather followers because he possesses unseen inner strengths. Therefore. Yehudah, on the other hand, sanctifies God's name openly, this is the appearance of the Kingdom of Israel.

Yoseph opens up channels - "gets the ball rolling," so to speak; such is the nature of "Mashiach ben Yoseph." "Mashiach ben Dovid," The Messiah of the house of Dovid, comes along and completes the work. There are those who possess the might, the courage and the bravery to initiate, yet they don't possess the qualities needed to finish the job - this is not their strong point. Such is the nature of Yoseph. Yehudah, on the other hand, represents culmination, completion. These, in essence, are the roots of two distinct approaches that afterwards appear and reappear throughout Jewish history. We are called upon, each one of us, to approach the sons of Yaakov, the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, with an appreciation for their true greatness, and in so doing, to learn whatever possible from the significant courses that they followed.

The Centrality of the "Bet HaMidrash"
The Midrash explains, regarding the words of the Torah, "He (Yaakov) sent Yehudah on ahead of him to make preparations... [in the Goshen district of Egypt]" (Bereisheet 46:20), that the purpose of this mission was to establish a house of gathering so that there be a place for Yaakov to teach Torah, and for his offspring to study, upon their arrival in Egypt. Judah, then, was sent on ahead in order to establish a "Bet-Midrash," a study hall. The first thing that must be done is to secure a Bet-Midrash .

Here in the settlement of Beit-El, this rule held true. When we came to settle Beit-El, more than forty years ago, we lived, initially, in the near-by army base. When we were finally given the land needed in order to build the settlement, even before a city plan was drawn up, we approached an architect with the request that he prepare a blueprint for the building of the Bet-Midrash. His immediate response was, "You can't begin building a thing until you have a city plan. What if your Bet-Midrash turns out to be in the middle of where a road ought to be? First draw up a city plan, then decide where you want to put this study hall of yours." We told him, "It's written in the Shulchan Aruch that the Bet-Midrash has to be situated at the highest point in the city, and so that's where we plan on building it. The roads will have to be planned out according to the position of the Bet-Midrash, and not the Bet-Midrash according to the roads." This we learned from the behavior of Yaakov, our father, when he sent Yehudah on ahead "to make preparations . And that is exactly what we did. We began by building our Bet-Midrash - the first stone structure built in Judeah and Samaria after the Six Day War. The Bet Midrash takes precedence above all else.

"Shema Yisrael"
The Sages teach that when Yaakov finally reunites with Yoseph he cries out, "Shema Yisrael." He had not seen his son for so many years - finally, they meet again. Yoseph hugs his father and kisses him, yet Yaakov recites the "Shema." What sort of a response is that? Could Yaakov find a no more appropriate time for his daily recitation of the Shema prayer?

The truth of the matter, though, is that the moment of Yaakov's reunification with JYseph is a most appropriate time for reading the Shema. That moment of joy and elation is the best of all possible times, for it allows Yaakov to elevate all his joy to its true source.

Many years ago I went to visit my grandfather at his home, and I was told that he went to the shul to daven. I went to look for him there. I entered the shul and my grandfather caught sight of me while in the middle of the recital of the Kaddish prayer. Suddenly I heard his voice rise up above all the others, "Yehe Shmeh Rabbah..." Afterwards, when he met me he told me the reason that he raised his voice so. "I was reminded," he said, "of the story of Yaakov and Yoseph, Yaakov recited the Shema upon seeing his long lost son. The Hassidic Rabbis say that he desired to elevate his joy to its true heavenly source. Therefore, when I saw you, I shouted for joy, in order to infuse my prayer with the personal joy I was experiencing.

It is incorrect to view the forefathers as detached, emotionless types, completely out of touch with the physical world of reality. Rather, existence itself was, for the forefathers, elevated to an altogether higher plane. The recital of the Shema at the precise moment of Yaakov's reunion with Yoseph was an indication of the true content of the joyous atmosphere of the reunion.

The Sages, of course, describe these events according to their own viewpoint and understanding. We, through studying their books and wisdom, see things primarily according to their perspective. We learn how the Sages understood the attitude and behavior of Yaakov: his giving precedence to the Bet-Midrash, his crying out "Shema." We recognize this to be the approach of the Sages. Their outlook, of course, is the result of their greatness of Torah. Whether it was the "Shema" that Yaakov recited or something else - some other type of spiritual elation - is not the point. What interests us is the overall approach, the approach that asks the question: "On what sort of spiritual plane did the forefathers exist?"

We continue this very same spiritual course. This means striving to reach a level on which we exist in a world of Torah that is not detached from day to day life. It means making Torah an essential part of life, part of the spirit of life within, a living and breathing Torah. The wording of the blessing: "For they (the commandments of the Torah) are our life and the length of our days," is not a mere figure of speech that we recite in prayer. These words are the expression of an actual concrete inner reality that resides in the deepest recesses of the Jewish People: The Torah and life are one. May it be God's will that we merit to internalize these lessons, and to walk in the ways of the forefathers.

The Road from Beit El to Egypt

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l
Rosh HaYeshiva, Mercaz HaRav
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemdah
Chaver, Beit Din HaGadol Yerushalayim

As the time had come for Yaakov to go down to Egypt, Hashem appeared to him with consolation and inspiration. The midrash (Bereisheet Rabba 94:6) highlights three messages hinted at by the p’sukim (Bereisheet 46:3-4: 1): Hashem is the G-d whom Yaakov knew from his dreams in Beit El. 2) He would be with Yaakov in Egypt as He is with other tzaddikim. 3) Yosef would "place his hands on Yaakov’s eyes."

The path to redemption, which was completed in Egypt, went through Beit El (literally, the house of Hashem) and it would be based on Yosef’s hands over Yaakov’s eyes. Chazal (Pesachim 88a) tell us that Mt. Moriah was called different things by the different patriarchs. Avraham called it a mountain; Yitzchak called it a field; Yaakov called it a house. Hashem has to be present in all different situations. Not only is Hashem necessary in the beginning, when you need to conquer the Land and all that is there is a desolate mountain. Hashem is not only necessary when there is but a field, with much work needed for cultivation and there is little more than a hut or two. Indeed, even when there are houses, when there is some permanence and success and one is ready to have an independent base for his family, there is still a need for Hashem.

Sometimes the feeling of material well-being is corruptive. When the business is going well and the family is strong, one can start to think that strict religious observance and heeding the Torah make life too difficult. That is when one needs a reminder that "Yosef will put his hands on your eyes." Yosef’s behavior should be a model for our eyes. Despite the high station he reached in society, he was not embarrassed by his Jewishness. The same man who, when he was in a lowly state, guarded his personal purity and his modesty, which enabled him ultimately to succeed, should be a role model as we go on the "path of Beit El," in building our homes.

We should know that "if Hashem does not build a house, its builders will have toiled in vain" (Tehillim 127:1). If the family is not built on holiness, which shows that Hashem is part of the home, the negative results will show. Even if there are times when merits will push off the punishment of karet [ed. note – apparently, for lack of compliance to the laws of family purity], still the rules by which Hashem’s deals with the community apply to the individual as well. The home cannot stand with any permanence if it is not a House of G-d. The Divine Presence must be felt in all its rooms, and the life lived within its walls must be holy.

The midrash (Bereisheet Rabba 95:3) explains that Yehuda’s advanced scouting was, according to some, to build a home to live in and according to others, to make a meeting place to teach Torah. We are required to connect the two ideas. Our homes must be such that words of Torah are heard within. The fact we are having this shiur [ed. note – this address was given during Rav Yisraeli’s first Shabbat as rabbi of K’far Haro’eh] shows that there is a desire we will firmly establish a place of learning. May it be a house that resembles that of Yaakov Avinu – a house that is a Beit El.

Taking Responsibility

by Rabbi Dov Berel Wein

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of Robert Chai ben Myriam

As the story of Yosef and his brothers reaches its climax in this week’s parsha it appears that the common thread throughout the incident is the question of accepting responsibility. Heaven demands responsibility from human beings. Irresponsible behavior is seen as sinful in Jewish life and values. Yosef’s irresponsible behavior in his dealings with his brothers when he was yet young nevertheless returns to dominate his life all of his years. Even after the reconciliation and forgiveness between the brothers and Yosef the brothers still are wary of him as Rashi points out in next week’s parsha of Vayechi. The results of irresponsible behavior and speech always haunt us to the end. The brothers’ irresponsible behavior in selling Yosef into slavery remains an issue not only for them but for all of Israel even millennia later. The paytan of the liturgy of the ten martyrs of Israel in Roman times recited on Yom Kippur in the Ashkenazic rite cites the sale of Yosef by his brothers as justification for their executions. As far fetched as that reasoning may sound it strikes a chord in Jewish memory and Torah values. The rule in Halacha regarding all matters of torts and damages is that a person is always and permanently responsible for the results of one’s actions, behavior and negligence. There is never any legal or moral way to escape responsibility. The definition in Judaism of being a mature and good person is that one is a responsible person. Responsibility entails commitment, loyalty, sensitivity and deep understanding of surrounding circumstances and challenges. It is therefore a virtue not easily attained and requires constant attention.

The hero who emerges from the narrative in the parsha is Yehuda. He now takes responsibility for not only Binyamin and his return to his father but indirectly for the selling of Yosef into slavery as well. "I am the guarantor of Binyamin’s safety," he told his father and now that the moment of crisis and payment has arrived he lives up to his responsibility. It is this sense of responsibility that is recognized by Yaakov when he entrusts the monarchy and leadership of the Jewish people into the hands of Yehuda and his tribe and descendants. The first requirement of leadership is accepting responsibility for one’s actions, policies and words. Wisdom, tact, political skills are all necessary ingredients for successful leadership. Nevertheless, without the overriding characteristic of personal responsibility being present, all of the above ingredients will not suffice to create positive leadership. Yehuda explains to Yosef why he, out of all of the brothers, is stepping forth on behalf of the defense of Binyamin. "I am his guarantor," he tells Yosef. "I pledged myself to safeguard his welfare and return him to his father. I am the responsible party." Only when one develops such a sense of responsibility is one entitled to aspire to roles of command and leadership. In truth, we all occupy such roles in our families, communities, institutions and societies. We cannot avoid the challenge of always being responsible people, answerable to others and to our Creator. That is the essence of one of the great values of Judaism and Jewish life.

Prophecy in the Nation of Israel

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

Prophecy is a revelation of God’s love for his creatures devoted to him * At the revelation at Mount Sinai, all of Am Yisrael merited receiving an exceptionally high degree of prophecy, to emphasize that the virtue of prophecy is unique to the People of Israel in particular * The virtue of prophecy is connected to the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, therefore, prophecy dwells only in Eretz Yisrael, or in prophecies dealing with it

As part of writing the volume on emunah (faith) and polytheism including nevu’ah (prophecy) and ruach ha’kodesh (Divine inspiration), and in contrast, witchcraft and sorcery, as part of my series “Peninei Halakha”, I recently dealt with the matter of prophecy, which is one of the foundations of faith. Two of the thirteen tenets of faith written by Maimonides (Rambam) deal with prophecy. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to share parts of the draft of the book with my readers.

One of the foundations of emunah is that that God, out of His love for His people and human beings whom He created in His image, reveals Himself to the elect of the tzadikim (righteous) who cling to Him. God sends them prophecy from His Divine light in a way they can perceive and understand as best as possible, and the prophets are even able to give expression to this in thought and speech.

Through the prophecy, the prophet’s attachment and devotion to God increases, he is filled with awe and love for God, and from then on for all his life, continues to yearn and long for the revelation of the Divine light and visions of prophecy (Kuzari 4:3-5; 15; 5-22). The prophet will then desire to reveal the image of God within him, to be a partner in the tikun (rectification) and perfection of the world, and arouse his family, friends, nation and all of humanity to adhere to emunah and morality, according to the guidance of the Torah.

By means of prophecy, man is privileged to ascend beyond the limits of the body, connect and cling to God, and as a result, merits receiving a higher consciousness beyond the limits of the human mind. All at once, he sees a complete and complex picture, by means of which he transcends in the understanding of Hashem’s revelation of Divinity, and ways of guidance in the world (Derech Hashem, Vol. 3, 4:6).

Prophecy is absorbed in the imagination, and clarified by way of the mind. The consciousness received is certain and clear, in contrast to consciousness absorbed by intellectual proofs that, by nature, are liable to fall into doubt. Consequently, by means of prophecy, man is able to understand the essence of life and emunah and their meaning, more than by the intellect alone. On the other hand, however, since prophetic consciousness is absorbed with the help of imagination, lacking the mind’s critique of the images of prophecy, man is liable to err in its understanding, and therefore, the prophet’s intellect must be fully developed, and he must be familiar with the various wisdoms (Kuzari 1: 11; 4: 3:11; HaIkarim 3:10; see, Midot HaRaya: Emuna 7).

The Level of the Prophets
There were prophets whose prophecy was intended for themselves, by means of which they were elevated in the understanding of emunah and the meaning of Torah, and as a result, continued to rise in the refinement of middot and good deeds, and had a positive influence on those around them. Most of the prophets, in addition to their personal virtue, were sent by God to announce His word to other people, or to the public. Certain prophets received a momentous prophecy intended for all generations, and these are the words of prophecy included in the Books of the Prophets in the Tanakh. Our Sages said: “Many prophets arose for the Jewish people, numbering double the number of Israelites who left Egypt” (Megillah 14a). However, in the Tanakh, the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah included only the prophecies of forty-eight prophets and seven prophetesses whose prophecy was needed for generations.

Prophecy in the Nation of Israel
The most characteristic feature of Am Yisrael is the desire to add goodness and blessing to the world by revealing God’s word and blessing, through the settlement of the Land of Israel, and by walking in the ways of God in righteousness and justice (Bereisheet 12: 1-3; 18: 18-19). Since prophecy is intended to reveal the word of God and His guidance for the rectification of the world and its redemption, the attribute of prophecy is the talent that most characterizes Am Yisrael. As Rav Yehuda Halevi explained in his book the “Kuzari,” the attribute of prophecy is the unique virtue and segulah (treasure) of Israel, and in reference to this, the verse says: “You shall be My special treasure among all nations” (Exodus 19: 5). This is what Moshe Rabbeinu said: “I only wish that all of God’s people would have the gift of prophecy! Let God grant His spirit to them all!” (Devarim 11:29), and this will take place in the future, namely, that all Israel will receive prophecy, as it is said: “After this, I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Yoel 3:1). Consequently, everyone will enjoy an abundance of light and life and add goodness and blessing to the world, each person according to his own unique level.

The Revelation at Mount Sinai
Accordingly, at the revelation on Mount Sinai, all of Israel – men and women, old and young – merited an unparalleled level of prophecy, and although as a rule only a wise and virtuous person can receive prophecy, at the revelation on Mount Sinai God wished to reveal to Israel their segulah, i.e., that everyone is worthy to be spiritually elevated in wisdom and refinement of middot, and merit prophecy (Kuzari 1: 41-43).

Our Sages said that all the souls of Israel who were to be born in the future, were also present at Mount Sinai, and absorbed the foundations of emunah and Torah. This is what Moshe Rabbeinu said to the future sons of those standing at Mount Sinai, who were not present at the revelation themselves: “God your Lord made a covenant with you at Horeb. It was not with your ancestors that God made this covenant, but with us – those of us who are still alive here today” (Devarim 5: 2-3). Therefore, when parents educate their children to Torah and mitzvot, they are not teaching them something new, rather, evoke something inherent in their soul from the revelation at Mount Sinai, as the Torah says: “But it is not with you alone that I am making this covenant and this dread oath. I am making it both with those who are standing here with us today before God our Lord, and with those who are not yet here with us today” (Devarim 29: 13-14). Our Sages added to this, and said that even the root of the neshamot (souls) of converts to Judaism participated and stood at Mount Sinai (Shabbat 146a).

Israel, Converts, and Pisulei Chitun (Ineligible for Marriage)
Our Sages said that God rests His Shechinah “upon families of unflawed lineage among Israel”, and not on families that have pisulei chitun (ineligible marriage) who are unworthy of prophecy (Kiddushin 70b). Gerei tzedek (righteous converts) in Clal Yisrael are also worthy of prophecy (Tosefot Rosh and Maharit, ibid). We have also learned that Ovadiah the Ger was a prophet, and merited prophecy because he hid a hundred prophets in a cave, provided for them, and saved their lives (Sanhedrin 39b). Some Torah authorities say that the primary prophecy of gerei tzedek is for the sake of the nations of the world (see, Meshech Chochma, Devarim 18: 15, and perhaps Kuzari 1:115 can concur with this).

Prophecy in the Merit of Israel
Since prophecy is the revelation of the word of God to perfect the world, and for this purpose God chose His people Israel, consequently, when Israel is unable to act straightforwardly for the good of the world and its rectification, prophecy is not revealed. God did not speak even to Moshe Rabbeinu – except in the merit of Israel (Berachot 32a). Our Sages also said that Hillel the Elder deserved receiving prophecy but his generation did not merit it, and consequently, he did not receive prophecy (Sanhedrin 11a).

When Israel is deserving of revelation of the Shechinah on a high level, those worthy receive prophecy on a superior level, such as Moshe Rabbeinu, who lived in the generation of the birth of the Israeli nation and the receiving of the Torah. When Israel is on a lesser spiritual degree, their prophets receive prophecy of a lesser degree as well. Thus, the virtue of the first prophets was higher than that of the latter prophets who lived in the period leading up to the destruction of the Holy Temple (Gra, Yishayahu 1: 1).

The Land of Israel is the Place of Prophecy
Since prophecy is the revelation of the Divine Presence for the purpose of rectifying the world, the primary location of prophecy is in the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, the place intended to reveal the word of God to the world. Thus, in practice, almost all of the prophets lived in the Land of Israel. Jerusalem, the Holy City and abode of the Holy Temple, was the center of prophecy, as our Sages said, that any prophet whose city is not explicitly mentioned is known to be from Yerushalayim (Megillah 15a). In contrast, it is almost impossible to prophesy abroad, as our Sages said: “The Divine Presence is not revealed abroad.” Therefore, when the prophet Jonah wanted to cease prophesying about Assyria – he left the Land, as written (Yonah 1: 3; 10): “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish… he went abroad and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord” (Michilta d’Rebbe Yishmael, Bo; see, Moed Katan 25a).

The prophets who prophesied abroad were connected to the Land of Israel, and therefore, were able to prophesize, as Rav Yehuda Halevi explained: “Whosoever prophesied did so either in the Holy Land, or concerning it”. This was true concerning the first prophecy of our forefather Abraham, who was abroad and received prophecy to go to the Land of Israel. Yehezkel and Daniel prophesied about the Land of Israel, and in addition, they both saw the First Temple and the honor of the Divine Presence “which, for as long as it dwelled in that house, every man who was predisposed from the aspect of segulah (virtue) – would reach prophecy,” thus, their prophecy was drawn from the Land of Israel, and from the Holy Temple. Moshe, Aharon and Miriam who prophesied in Egypt, also prophesied about the Exodus from Egypt, leading to entering the Land of Israel. In addition, the areas in which they prophesied in Egypt were close to the border of the Land of Israel (Kuzari 2: 14; see, Ibid. 4:10; 17).

All Bnei Noach are Worthy of Ruach HaKodesh 
All Bnei Noach are worthy to receive ruach ha-kodesh, as our Sages said (Eliyahu Rabbah 9): “I call heaven and earth to witness: The spirit of holiness rests upon each person according to the deeds that person performs. It matters not if that person be non-Jew or Jew, man or woman, manservant or maidservant.” Rambam also wrote similarly (Yesodei HaTorah 9: 1).

True, prophecy dealing with the clarifications of Torah was given only to Israel, as written: “God will set up for you a prophet like me from among your brethren” (Devarim 18:15), and as our Sages (Sifri) explained, this refers to prophets from Israel in particular. Maran Rav Kook explained that this is so that there will be one center that will preserve and reveal the Emunat HaYichud (belief in the Oneness of God) (Le’Nevuchei HaDor 8; 14: 1). And Rambam in ‘Igeret Teman’ explained that God agreed that a prophecy of prediction of the future would be only in Israel, but a prophecy designed to inspire people to believe in the Torah of Moshe, could be from all nations.

Our teacher and mentor, Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook ztz”l explained that prophecy in general is a level belonging to Israel, while ruach ha-kodesh belongs to Israel, and to all the nations.

A World Without America?

by Victor Rosenthal

I’m worried. But it’s not my own country that I’m worried about. Despite the recent increase in Arab terrorism and crime-as-jihad, despite the real threat of a regional war with Iran and her proxies, and despite the difficulty of obtaining a stable and Zionist governing coalition, I am convinced that Israel will make it through her current tribulations.

I am not so sure about the United States. I am imagining a world without the American superpower, and I don’t like how it looks (one of the notable symptoms of the problem is that many Americans seem to prefer such a world).

What triggered me (sorry) was a recent article in the NY Times (“While Politics Consume School Board Meetings, a Very Different Crisis Festers”). It argues that while parents are up in arms about political issues like “Zionism, Maoism, slavery, freedom, the Holocaust, critical race theory, the illegality of mask requirements, supposed Jewish ties to organized crime and the viral falsehood that transgender students were raping people in bathrooms,” schools are suffering from shortages of vital supplies and workers, an epidemic of vandalism, and a massive increase in mental health problems and even student suicides. I would add to this school shootings, of which there have been 29 so far in 2021.

The NY Times, naturally, wants to minimize the importance of the “political” issues and suggest that parents should just shut up about what some of them think is the utilization of schools (public and private) to indoctrinate students with radical beliefs. But while I believe, unlike the writers at the Times, that the ideological issues are real and critical to the future of the nation, I agree that the day-to-day issues they list are a troubling indicator of systemic failure. And I note that they are related to and derived from the ideological ferment that is gripping the country.

Some people tell me that I am not in a position to comment on social and political trends in the country in which I do not live and haven’t visited for seven years. On the contrary, I think that my vantage point provides me with a global view that Americans, who are boiling in the social pot of the USA like the proverbial frogs, do not have. I obtain information from multiple media and make an effort to include moderate and extreme liberal/progressive and conservative voices, both from “mainstream” and independent sources. My social media consumption is also balanced, and I make an effort to distinguish between the voices of real Americans and various fake personas that are bots or employees of disinformation farms. And I have personal contacts with people of all political stripes. Indeed, because I see it as part of my job, I am probably better informed about what happens in the USA than many of its inhabitants.

And what I see is an accelerating tendency toward violence, extremism of the Right and Left, a dysfunctional educational system from K-12 through the universities, increasing cynicism and distrust of almost every institution from the banking and financial systems to law enforcement, the actual breakdown of law enforcement in many places, governmental incompetence and venality at all levels, and at the very top, a president who is disconnected from reality and whose decisions are being made by unaccountable and unknown others.

I see the government failing at many of its basic jobs, such as maintaining stability of the currency, protecting the country’s borders, maintaining military preparedness, and (as a superpower) keeping the confidence of its allies that it will meet its commitments to them.

I see a movement that is increasingly evident in education, government, and even business, to make personnel decisions on the basis of racial and other categories (“diversity and inclusion”) rather than ability or accomplishment. Although the intent is to compensate for past discrimination, the effect is to a) reintroduce the poison of discrimination and consequent resentment into society, thereby increasing racism, sexism, and so on; and b) to reduce the level of competence in the institutions by lowering standards.

I see a version of history being taught in which the US and the West in general are presented as the greatest of evils. Young people are learning to despise their own country and to want to destroy it, rather than to identify with it and improve it.

I see the increasing popularity of a post-modern concept of truth, in which the idea of “objective truth” has been replaced by competing narratives. In particular, the narratives of groups that are defined as oppressed are considered more valid – more truthful – than those of groups who are defined as powerful, or oppressors.

I see much of the professional media having given up on the goal of ferreting out objective truth, and becoming advocacy organizations for particular groups or ideologies. Sometimes it is because they have adopted the post-modern viewpoint, and sometimes they simply consider their political objectives more important than accurately informing the public.

I see a large segment of the populace, especially educated young people, who have decided that the assertion of subjective, unverifiable, psychic “harm” overrides the right of free expression. Many even equate the expression of certain ideas to violence, and believe that it’s moral to respond to it with real physical violence.

I see a denigration of law enforcement, which has led to an increase in crime by decreasing resources dedicated to police, by causing disrespect for the law itself, and by reducing the quality of law enforcement personnel.

I see a neurotic politicization of what should be scientific questions, particularly those dealing with the pandemic. Indeed, almost every issue that could be controversial quickly is adopted by one side or another as a portion of “religious” doctrine that is immune to refutation by facts.

I see an objectively nonsensical theory of gender and sexuality having somehow obtained the force of social taboo, with the ability to remove “heretics” from their jobs and livelihoods, and even being written into laws enforcing compliance with the tenets of this theory.

Much of the social pathology is fed and watered by social media, which by the very nature of the robotic algorithms that animate it, nourishes extremism and exacerbates discontent. These algorithms are designed to keep participants occupied so they will view ads. Unfortunately, what drives engagement turns out to be conflict, so the side effect of the algorithm is to encourage emotions like anger and fear.

The companies that operate the social media systems have in some cases become more powerful than governments, and cannot be controlled by them. Social media is also easily penetrable by the nation’s enemies, who can inject content to amplify these disruptive forces. There is no doubt that this is going on.

The combination of many factors – the size and diversity of the country, the subversive activity of some of its enemies – it has been a target of Russian psychological warfare since the 1930s – the penetration of the universities by Middle Eastern petrodollars since 1973, the built-up anger in its black minority, the antagonisms left over from the Civil War, the economic devastation of blue-collar workers and regions as a result of globalization, the rise of non-productive financial institutions like hedge funds that extract wealth from the middle classes and exacerbate economic inequality, the costly mistakes of some political leaders (e.g., attacking Iraq), and now the catalysis of conflict by social media have all helped bring the nation to its knees.

Is there hope that the nation will pull out of its dive before it breaks apart? I’m not optimistic, because even with better political leadership, many of the forces pulling it apart will remain. And China, Russia, and Iran and are standing by to fill its role as regional, and even world-wide superpowers.

Wayward Journalists

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

It is hard to conceive of a more repugnant editorial than the one published in Friday’s Jerusalem Post entitled “Wayward rabbis” (Apparently the title was deemed so negative that it was changed in the online editions.) The editorial castigates our nation’s rabbinical leadership for its opposition to the proposed government reforms in kashrut supervision and conversion and for good measure lambastes them for adhering to the Torah’s moral standards that are at odds with Western values. Perfect timing, indeed, like editorializing on Chanukah against the Maccabees for their fidelity to Jewish tradition and antagonism to Hellenism.

One might think that the opposition of the leading rabbis in the country to reforms of Jewish law and practice would mute the ardor of proponents of those reforms. After all, who but the rabbis are better situated to opine on such matters, given their dedication, years of study and experience? It is lost on the editorialists that merely being Jewish does not make one an expert on Judaism.

Imagine, for a moment, that the nation’s leading doctors joined together and opposed a particular government edict regarding the Coronavirus. (They probably should, but that is a different topic altogether.) No one would consider condemning those physicians for their opinions or suggest that they be fired, silenced, prosecuted or replaced by more “diverse” and accommodating doctors. In fact, one would be foolish not to strongly consider their recommendations or their resistance to a given approach, seeing that they have studied medicine and others have not. Editorialists have routinely denounced governments across the globe for not following the doctors, the science, or the data.

Why then are doctors’ opinions treated with greater deference than is accorded to the Rabbis? Why do some people value the guidance of physicians but belittle the guidance of rabbis?

The answer is multifaceted. In the worst sense, it reflects the attitude of the heretic (noted in Masechet Sanhedrin 99b) of “Mai ahanu rabanan?” How have the rabbis ever benefited us? But that itself presupposes a cavalier attitude towards Judaism, as if Jewish law doesn’t matter at all and the Torah offered us suggestions but not commandments, suggestions that we can spurn if we don’t like them. And Westerners struggle with obeisance to any authority figure.

More typically, this dismissive posture reflects an approach to Judaism, and often religion generally, as something that lacks real substance or gravitas. To them, religion is meant to be fluff. Feelings count more than do facts or laws, and since we can intuit the right and wrong ways to live, who needs rabbis? So if the Western rejection of traditional morality feels right, that must be Judaism. If people want to join Judaism for whatever reason, they should be allowed to, no questions asked, because that too is Judaism. If a ritual does not speak to one’s sensibility, then abandon it or reform it. Science is real, Torah is not real. As such, we would sound like fools if we laymen offered amateurish opinions on physics or medicine, but Torah? Apparently, everyone can have an opinion and claim it is legitimate, even journalists and pilots. It completely dismisses the rigor, dedication and discipline needed to acquire expertise in Torah.

That conceptual error engenders the view of rabbis as mere functionaries, or in the words of the editorial, “there to provide services.” What a constricted and ultimately embarrassing and uneducated view of the rabbinate! I am reminded of the old school rabbinate whose primary purposes were to be available to Jews to “hatch ‘em, latch ‘em, and dispatch ‘em” (meaning present at the Brit, where actually a mohel but not a rabbi is needed; there to officiate at a wedding, which today’s reformers also want to revise; and present at a funeral, where technically speaking a rabbi is also not required). It was the rabbi as supervisor of life cycle events, called upon to spout a few platitudes to which no one paid much attention, and then to be ushered aside.

But that conception of the rabbinate died decades ago. Its death was hastened by the collapse of the non-Orthodox movements in America whose members, among other things, began to largely tune out their spiritual leaders who responded by supporting every new ideological and immoral fad in the hope of remaining relevant. That failed miserably and the toll it has taken in assimilation and intermarriage is so steep that those who shepherded those catastrophes now extol the virtues of assimilation and intermarriage – and want a seat at the table to plan the Jewish future.

“Who is a Jew,” by conversion or otherwise, is a Torah issue, a rabbinic issue, and not a governmental or journalistic concern. No Jew has authorized the Knesset to determine matters of Jewish law – not to decide Jewishness, move Shabbat to Tuesday or permit the consumption of cheeseburgers. Israel has many Muslim and Christian citizens, and it would obviously be preposterous if the Knesset took it upon itself to liberalize conversion to Islam or Christianity on its own authority. Israel can rightly decide who can be Israelis but not who can be Jews. That is up to the rabbis, and properly so.

Similarly, the definition of sin or mitzvah, right and wrong, moral or immoral is a Torah issue, a rabbinic issue, for which guidance should be sought and accepted. To chastise rabbis for espousing Jewish morality is as absurd as chastising doctors for prescribing antibiotics. Neither pressure nor parades will change that. As faithful Jews perceive it, matters of the spirit are in fact more real than matter of the body, for the former is eternal and the latter temporal.

The narrow minded view of Judaism as just ceremonies, meals and feelings is self-defeating in the extreme. Whether or not Israelis recognize it, our claim to the land of Israel is rooted in the Torah. To the extent that we diminish the Torah, reform or revise it to suit transient trends, we undermine our claim to the land. It is this same mentality that gives rise to the notion of the Kotel as an historical site that should be available for all forms of worship rather than a sacred place of traditional Jewish prayer, in the shadow of the holiest place on earth, the Temple Mount.

It is obvious that matters of Jewish law should remain the province of the authorized decisors of Jewish law rather than politicians or journalists. But rabbis should also be emboldened to speak out more, not less, on public issues that touch on moral, ethical and political matters. (Here’s a good laugh line: the editorial asked “Would we allow a situation in which a Supreme Court justice would openly voice his or her opinion on controversial political issues?” It is as if they never heard of Aharon Barak, who of course claimed that everything was justiciable, not political – as long as it suited his preferred ideological conclusions.)

Rabbis must be wary of being used as mere functionaries. Here is a good example. Rather than recite a chapter of tehillim at the state ceremonies for Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron (which an eight year old can do), wouldn’t it be more meaningful if the Chief Rabbis actually spoke words of Torah – instead of the annual clich├ęs of the President, Prime Minister, Chief of Staff, etc. – about the ultimate meaning of these events, the State of Israel, the prophesies of exilic calamities and eventual return to the land of Israel? That perspective, that analysis, is sorely lacking in these somber events.

What do rabbis do? True, they interpret the Torah in line with tradition, they decide questions of Jewish law, and they guide Jews (and even sometimes Gentiles) through the vicissitudes of life. But primarily, they are to be voices of Jewish morality and reason, especially when they run counter to modern life. They are here, to the best of their abilities, to bring a divine perspective to events and challenges, even if they won’t always agree on every conclusion. The criticism of “how have the rabbis ever benefited us?” was directed at rabbis “who study the Torah and the Mishnah for their own benefit” and never engage in public affairs.

Ironically, these wayward journalists want just that – rabbis who remain in the House of Study, uninvolved with the public, to be trotted out for ceremonies, and then duly criticized for their aloofness. But here is another irony. Today’s Chief Rabbis, for example, engage with the public far more than any Cabinet Minister or Knesset member ever does. They engage daily, teaching, guiding, interacting, and sharing the eternal wisdom of our Creator.

It is a shame that many journalists, wedded to their own agendas, do not see it. If they even tasted it, they would savor the Torah as the elixir of life and the rabbis as purveyors of goodness and wisdom. And together we would build an Israel that is proudly Jewish, awaiting the coming redemption.

The US and the Iranian Octopus (part 2)

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Since the 1978/79 revolution against the Shah of Iran, the Ayatollahs regime has adhered to its mega-goal of global Shite domination, developing mega-capabilities (nuclear, ballistic technologies and worldwide terrorism), aiming to remove/subordinate its mega-obstacle, the USA.

During 1962-1970, then anti-US Egypt was involved in the Yemen civil war, as a springboard to topple the pro-US regime in Saudi Arabia and, subsequently, all other pro-US Arab regimes in a most critical region to global trade, oil and security, the Arabian Peninsula.

Since 2011, Iran's anti-US Ayatollahs are deeply involved in the Yemen civil war on the side of the anti-US Shite Houthis ("Soldiers of Allah") – via Iranian and Hezbollah manpower, military supplies, training and intelligence – as a springboard to oust the pro-US Sunni House of Saud (bordering north Yemen), and subsequently, all other pro-US Sunni regimes in the Arabian Peninsula.

In February, 2021, the US removed Yemen's Shite Houthis – who are Iran's proxy – from the list of terrorist organizations, courted Iran's rogue Ayatollahs, terminated US support of the pro-US Saudi military offensive against the anti-US Houthis, and pressured Saudi Arabia on account of human rights violations. However, in November, 2021, the Houthis stormed the US Embassy in Sanaa, holding a few of the local staff hostage, demonstrating – once again - that Islamic/Arab terrorists bite the hands that feed them.

Yemen's geostrategic importance for the US
The limbs of the Iranian octopus extend from the Persian Gulf and Central Asia to the whole Middle East, Europe, Africa, South, Central and North America, including Yemen, where Iran's Ayatollahs outflank the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, playing a decisive role in fueling the civil war, as a dagger aimed at its Sunni arch-rival, the pro-US Saudi Arabia.

Iran's Ayatollahs are aware of the geo-strategic significance of Yemen - regionally and globally – and its impact on the national security, homeland security and economy of the US, "The Great Satan," which they consider the most critical obstacle on their way to global domination.

The gravely underdeveloped Yemen plays a key role in the survival of the highly-vulnerable House of Saud, in particular, and all other pro-US oil-producing, strategically-situated Arab regimes in the Arabian Peninsula, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

Yemen shares 1,458 and 288-kilometer-explosive borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman respectively, and could serve as a land-sea-air base of Iran's rogue Ayatollahs.

Yemen is an epicenter of regional and global Islamic terrorism and a platform for the 1,400-year-old intra-Muslim Sunni-Shia conflict, inherent intra-Sunni conflicts and intra-Arab tribal fighting.

Yemen shares a maritime border with the inherently unstable, unpredictable and non-democratic Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia in the strategically crucial Horn of Africa, controlling the Bab el Mandeb Strait ("Gate of Tears"), which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, and facilitating the European-Asian trade. Bab el Mandeb is critical to global energy security, in general, and the supply of Gulf oil to Europe, in particular, as well as the functioning of the Suez Canal, the economic stability of Egypt and the safety of the prominent Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah.

Yemen's prominence as a hub of critical shipping routes, and a site of actual and potential naval bases, is derived from the highly-strategic Yemen ports of Aden, Mukalla, Mocha, Al-Hudaydah and the Yemen islands of Socotra (Arabian Sea), Perim, Zuqar and Hanish (southern Red Sea).

While the US is the world largest oil producer, approaching energy-independence, the price and supply of oil still largely depend upon Middle East oil, which accounts for 27% of world production and hinges on the safety of the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the southern part of the Red Sea.

Iran's military involvement in Yemen
Iran's intervention in the Yemen civil war on the side of the anti-US, anti-Saudi Shite Houthis minority against the Saudi-backed highly-fragmented Sunni majority, shifted into high gear in 2011, after the eruption of the Arab Tsunami (superficially known as "the Arab Spring"), which triggered the current turbulence, which is raging throughout the Middle East.

The significance of Iran's (and Hezbollah's) involvement has been evidenced by the recent successful Houthi military offensive, solidifying their control of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, coalescing their domination of western and northern Yemen (along the border of Saudi Arabia), and their progress in the battle over Yemen's oil and natural gas-producing area of Marib.

These Houthi gains have been made possible by Iranian finance, manpower, training, intelligence and the supply of rockets, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and ammunition.

Also, the anti-US Houthis have employed the Iran-supplied drones and missiles to strike Riyadh, additional Saudi cities, Saudi oil installations, airports and other civilian targets.

The Iran-US bottom line
Iran's aggressive intervention reflects the imperialistic, fanatic vision and global policy of Iran's Ayatollahs, which – contrary to the worldview of Western foreign policy and national security establishments - are not driven by despair, humiliation, economic deprivation, or local border disputes; are not amenable to compromise, compliance with agreements, peaceful-existence, human rights and democracy; and are not limited to the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, but encompass the entire world, including South and Central America.

Iran's Ayatollahs are energized by the apparent US shift of paradigm from military to diplomacy, the US rejection of the regime-change option, and the US tendency to accommodate and appease – rather than confront and crush – the rogue regime in Teheran.

Biden's Doppelganger for the UN

by Amir Taheri

  • [W]hen you lack a foreign policy, why not pretend that you have one by holding an international summit?
  • To start with, what does Biden mean by democracy?
  • Biden's invitation excludes at least 20 long-standing allies of the United States.
  • ... Obama went around the UN and its agencies on a number of issues, including the "nuclear deal" with the mullahs of Tehran, the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, and the public-relations hoax known as "saving the planet".
  • The doppelganger may furnish the emptiness for a few days and furnish a rudderless administration with a few favorable headlines. But it will provide no answer to problems the world faces today, problems that cannot be tackled without the participation of all nations within the framework of a world order based on law, not ideology.

When you lack a foreign policy, why not pretend that you have one by holding an international summit? US President Joe Biden has certified 109 countries as "democracies" by inviting them to a virtual "Summit for Democracy." What does Biden mean by democracy? Biden's invitation excludes at least 20 long-standing allies of the US. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

What do India, Iraq and the Solomon Islands have in a common?

The answer is that US President Joe Biden has certified all three as "democracies" along with 106 other countries, by inviting them to a virtual "Summit for Democracy" on December 9-10, 2021.

Biden's move reminds me of one of my favorite French phrases: Furnishing the emptiness.

In this case, when you lack a foreign policy, why not pretend that you have one by holding an international summit?

And what is the summit going to discuss?

Well, three objectives have been set: Defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting human rights. Something else forgotten -- maybe motherhood and apple pie?

The trouble is that the entire project, a hasty and poorly thought-out public relations gimmick, is built around concepts that are never defined.

To start with, what does Biden mean by democracy?

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Sorry, Everyone, Hamas is Still a Terrorist Group

by Khaled Abu Toameh
  • First, the document reportedly depicting Hamas as a moderate group that accepts the "two-state solution" is a bluff intended to dupe the international community.
  • As Mashaal himself explained, even if Hamas accepts a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, that does not mean that it would ever recognize Israel's right to exist.
  • Second, Hamas has not renounced violence and terrorism. In fact, it intends to continue the "resistance" and jihad (holy war) against Israel after the establishment of the Palestinian state with the purpose of "liberating all of Palestine."
  • Third, the new document did not cancel or change the content of the Hamas charter, which, according to Hamas leaders, remains valid and relevant to this day.
  • Hamas's representative in Iran, Khaled Qaddoumi, confirmed.... that the talk about Hamas accepting a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem was in the context of a plan to destroy Israel in phases. "There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad." — Hamas charter, Article 13.
  • Hamas, of course, never misses an opportunity to remind its followers and the rest of the world that it remains faithful to the words of the prophet Mohammed, who said: "The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!" — Hamas charter, Article 7.
  • Days after the decision was announced, the Hamas leadership leader said...: "Palestine - all of Palestine - from its [Mediterranean] sea to its [Jordan] river, is for the Palestinian people, and there is no place or legitimacy for strangers over any inch of it." —, November 29, 2021.
  • The statements of Hamas leaders show that they dissemble less than many of their own apologists in the West, who claim that they understand Hamas better than Hamas understands itself.

The document reportedly depicting Hamas as a moderate group that accepts the "two-state solution" is a bluff intended to dupe the international community. As Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (pictured) explained, even if Hamas accepts a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, that does not mean that it would ever recognize Israel's right to exist. (Photo by Mohammed Saber/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the arguments that is being raised against the British government's recent decision to designate Hamas an extremist terrorist organization is that the Gaza-based movement, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, has changed and now supports the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel.

Opponents of the UK's decision claim that in 2017 Hamas "softened its stance on Israel by accepting the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel in the six-day war of 1967."

The purported change, they argue, was included in a new document announced by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal at a press conference in Doha, Qatar. Mashaal was quoted as saying:

"Hamas advocates the liberation of all of Palestine, but is ready to support the [Palestinian] state on 1967 borders without recognizing Israel or ceding any rights."

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