Friday, August 31, 2012

Think Before You Act

By Michael Hirsch

With some 74 commandments (out of 613 in the entire Torah), this week's portion is a true "Mitzvah Fest." In addition to which, as we see at the very beginning of the Parasha, we have to look below the surface, at the order in which these Mitzvot are presented, to discover very powerful messages. The first message: THINK BEFORE YOU ACT! Or alternatively, very few unforeseen circumstances are truly unforeseen.
The first commandment in Ki Tzeitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-14) concerns an Israelite male, a soldier, who is enamored by a female captive and wishes to marry her. The Torah delineates all the steps he must follow (all intended as roadblocks, all intended to get him to think with his head, instead of his libido) in order to accomplish this.
Next (21:15-17), we are told that if a man has two wives, one who he loves dearly, one who he abhors, and the latter wife provides him with his first-born ("bechor") son. He may not grant the rights of primogeniture to a son borne by the wife he loves.
Third (21:18-21), the Torah gives us the rules for how to deal with a rebellious son. He mocks his parents, he scorns their way of life, he flaunts his disregard for all their warnings and counsel. We are told to bring him before the Elders of the city, who after hearing all the testimony, and only under extreme circumstances, can sentence this rebel to death by stoning. (The Talmud tells us that court which would hand down such a sentence once in seventy years would be considered extremely harsh in its rulings).
Rashi provides us with the sub-surface message, linking these three seemingly unlinked Mitzvot. To wit—because that soldier did not think before he acted, instead falling prey to his sexual urges, eventually he will come to hate this woman. Thereafter, her son, sensing all the negative feelings between his father and mother (and, in all probability, discovering what unseemly circumstances brought them together in the first place) will rebel, throwing off all parental discipline.
IF you do, you will encounter few truly unforeseen circumstances. 
Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Divine Way to Wage War

By Moshe Feiglin

"When you go out to war against your enemies and G-d will give him into your hands."
(From this week's Torah portion, Ki Tetzei, Deuteronomy 21:10)

This verse is simple in its optimism. Israel goes out to war and G-d gives them victory. Simple as it may be, it is the Divine recipe for victory in war.

First of all, "When you go out to war". War - not a "low intensity conflict" and not "containment." The first condition is to define the situation as war and to invest the resources and fortitude necessary for war.

Secondly, "against your enemies." In a war, there is an enemy. He must be clear and defined. But in order to define the enemy, one must first define himself. If you know who you are, you can know what threatens you, and find the strength and courage to define and defeat it.

When Israel will integrate its Jewish identity into its national life, it will easily define its enemies. And then, G-d promises, He will "give them into our hands."

Shabbat Shalom

HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Ki Tetze

Parashat Ki Tetze 
Devarim 22:1-2
לא תראה את שור אחיך או את שיו נדחים והתעלמת מהם השב תשיבם לאחיך:
ואם לא קרוב אחיך אליך ולא ידעתו ואספתו אל תוך ביתך והיה עמך עד דרש אחיך אתו והשבתו לו
If you see your brother’s (fellow Jew’s) ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but return it to its owner. If your brother (the owner) is not close to you or if you do not know who owns it, take it into your home to be with you until your brother seeks it out, then return it (after receiving descriptively signs of description).
A: What is HaShem planning for His people in Eretz Yisrael?
In our unpredictable and erratic world one immutable principle has stood the test of thousands of years with no sign that it will change in the next thousand - that anything of consequence or significance which has occurred has involved, now involves or will involve the Jewish people!
Empires, distant or near in time or space, rose and fell, and will rise and fall because of the Jewish nation. And if we can’t always discern the historical connections of all great historic events with the Jewish people, it is due to our intellectual limitations. But the principle is intact - humanity, and its march in time, revolves around HaShem’s chosen nation just as the planets orbit the sun. And just as each planet revolves in its particular orbit contingent on the gravitational energy exerted on it by the sun, so too do the nations of the world develop in relation to the direct or indirect Jewish influence on them.
The descendants of Eisav and Yishmael have always been closely involved with the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov. Hence, their development is more sophisticated than cultures which were less involved with the knowledge of HaShem, as passed on through the Jewish people.
Numerous studies that have been made into the genealogy of major European leaders found that Jewish blood -from mother or father or a grandparent - flowed freely in their veins.
Eisav and Yishmael as individuals, had a love-hate relationship with their Jewish brothers - Yitzchak and Ya’akov - that they passed on to their descendants. The Christian and Moslem peoples have so much to be indebted to the Jewish nation and our teachings, but the scratch in their brains makes it impossible for them to live with us or to live without us. When we are in the galut, they say "Go back to Eretz Yisrael"; and now that we have returned to Eretz Yisrael they say, "You do not belong there".
I wish to point out three nations in particular: England in Western Europe, Turkey with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, and Iran (Persia) deep in Asia. There is no apparent connection between them, save for one - that aside from the Arab countries, these three are the most anti-Israel nations in the world today.
England is the seat of intellectual anti-Israel feeling. Their universities boycott ours, and every Israeli is in danger of being arrested, which prevents ranking army officers and cabinet ministers from going there. Turkey is regressing into Islamic darkness, with the initiation fee being the severing of its ties with the Jews in Eretz Yisrael. Iran is Shi’ite, removing them from the thought processes of rational people.
But why just these three nations?
I suggest:
They have a common historic experience. At some time in their history, each was an empire with colonial holdings which included Eretz Yisrael; until HaShem’s stopwatch sounded and the Holy Land expelled them. Their insatiable jealousy at losing the site of the fulcrum of human activity leaves them little room for rationality. Their anti-Eretz Yisrael policies will in time be the cause of their destruction as national entities.
The prophets predicted the fall of the great empires of their times: Assyria, Babylon, Egypt and Phoenicia. Were they alive today, the prophets would speak of the downfall of all the nations that are preventing the fulfillment of our God-given obligation to return and rebuild the Biblical lands in our possession.
To return to the question of where HaShem is taking us:
With every passing day, the isolation of Medinat Yisrael from the "family of nations" is becoming a fait accompli. Not only are our enemies becoming more bold in their alienation, but many Jews in the United States - orthodox and otherwise and so fearful of their frail status as accepted equals - compete with the worst of our enemies in mudslinging at our holy Medina.
The prophecy of what our destiny will be in the generation of the Mashiach was delivered by HaShem through the foul mouth of the evil Bil’am, when he said (Bamidbar 23,9):
כי מראש צרים אראנו ומגבעות אשורנו הן עם לבדד ישכן ובגוים לא יתחשב:
From the highest plateau I will view him (the Jewish people) and from the high places I will acknowledge him. A people that shall dwell in isolation and will not regard the (gentile) nations
Herein lies the master plan of the Creator.
As we in Eretz Yisrael are increasingly excluded from international forums designed to delegitimize the Jewish state (i.e., Durban 3 and the various United Nation’s humanitarian committees) we will draw ever closer to the God of Israel.
The evil Bil’am saw the future return of the Jewish nation to HaShem and the Torah. It will be brought about by our non-reliance on foreign "friends", coupled with Hashem’s miraculous intervention paving the way for unprecedented military victories.
The RaMBaM (hilchot Melachim) states that the Mashiach will lead us in our final wars. From here we understand that the Mashiach will have a military background, which puts an entirely new perspective on who will be HaShem’s messenger to redeem His people.
B: The future demography of Eretz Yisrael
This week, my wife and I traveled to the north of the country. The wide expanse of the Golan is waiting for millions of Jews to settle there and infuse the area with Torah life. Yehuda, Shomron, the Negev and Galil, as well as the areas of Biblical Eretz Yisrael waiting to be returned to us, will be settled by tens if not hundreds of millions of Jews returning home.
From where will all these Jews come?
For the answer we have to think "outside of the box".
They will not come from the Jewish community in the United States, which is quickly dwindling through intermarriage, as well as the apathy and antagonism of most orthodox Jews towards God’s greatest miracle of the last 2000 years. And the Jews of Western Europe and South America are following suit.
The 60+ years of opportunity for the Jews in the West is rapidly ending, for the timetable of HaShem waits for no man.
The big numbers will come from the hundreds of millions of Jewish descendants of the Ten Tribes and anusim (Jews who were forced to accept Christianity) who will awaken one day to their Jewish heritage. They are the Jewish nation of the future, as prophesied by Yechezkel (11:17)
לכן אמר כה אמר א-דני ה' וקבצתי אתכם מן העמים ואספתי אתכם מן הארצות אשר נפצותם בהם ונתתי לכם את אדמת ישראל:
Therefore say: ‘This is what the LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’
As MaLBiM רב מאיר לייבוש בן יחיאל מיכל) 1809 - 1879) explains this verse:
שלעתיד יאסוף את עשרת השבטים שהם בארצות רחוקות ולא שבו בבית שני, ונתתי לכם את אדמת ישראל לא כמו שאמרו לנו נתנה הארץ למורשה
"In the future, HaShem will gather the Ten Tribes from faraway lands, those who did not return at the time of the second Temple, and I will give them the land of Israel"
With this in mind, I would like to suggest an additional understanding of the verses quoted at the beginning of this message:
לא תראה את שור אחיך או את שיו נדחים והתעלמת מהם השב תשיבם לאחיך:
ואם לא קרוב אחיך אליך ולא ידעתו ואספתו אל תוך ביתך והיה עמך עד דרש אחיך אתו והשבתו לו
The first verse deals with lost articles that belong to your fellow Jew.
The second verse deals with your Jewish brother who is lost to his people, as follows.
ואם לא קרוב אחיך אליך ולא ידעתו ואספתו אל תוך ביתך והיה עמך עד דרש אחיך אתו והשבתו לו
If your brother Jew is far from you (in the spiritual sense), to the extent that you can no longer recognize any Jewish features in his life, bring him into your home (Eretz Yisrael) until his heart is opened and he begins to seek out his Jewish roots. Then be prepared to return him to those roots.
This is what to expect in the near future. HaShem will awaken millions of our brothers and sisters who are now distant from their roots, and return them miraculously to us in Eretz Yisrael. From these many millions will begin the next stage in the Jewish nation’s march to be reunited with our Father in Heaven.
May it happen speedily in our day.
Shabbat Shalom
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5771-2011 Nachman Kahana

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jewish Daily Forward: Moshe Feiglin Seeks to Keep Bibi Right

 Daily Forward: 19 Av 5772 (August 5, '12)
Moshe Feiglin Seeks to Keep Bibi Right

By Nathan Jeffay

TEL AVIV — He's the man who has brought God into Israel's ruling Likud party and is perhaps the most important party insider you've never heard of.
A bearded, yarmulke-wearing settler, Moshe Feiglin sips coffee and says with conviction that he will lead Likud further right and will become prime minister. He doesn't have a Knesset seat, and he talks like a dreamer, but analysts say he may control more than one-fifth of the votes on Likud party committees that select candidates for the Knesset.

"Feiglin and people associated with Feiglin have actually restricted Netanyahu's orientation to the center," said Abraham Diskin, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Feiglin, a resident of the West Bank settlement Karnei Shomron, joined Likud 12 years ago, after years of grassroots activism, with the explicit goal of radicalizing the party from the inside. And in February, after long years of building up support within the party's central committee, he made his strongest bid so far to lead the party that governs Israel. His movement, Manhigut Yehudit, or Jewish Leadership, had recruited about one in 10 of the 100,000 Likud members eligible to vote in the party primary, but his popularity in that election went well beyond these loyalists. In the Likud primary contest that month, he received almost one in four votes.

While this left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firmly in the helm as party leader, his rivalry with Feiglin is far from over. In fact, it may be about to go into full swing.

The decision by the centrist Kadima party to walk out of the ruling coalition on July 17, just 70 days after agreeing to join, has fueled rumors that elections could be in the cards again. If so, this will necessitate a new party primary to select a list of Likud candidates for the next Knesset — a task over which analysts say Feiglin will have significant power.

"He can make a difference by pushing hawkish Likud members up the list, making the ability of Netanyahu to follow policies of the center more difficult," Diskin said. If the Likud is returned to the Knesset with a strong Feiglin contingency, he said, Netanyahu could never repeat the 10-month freeze on the expansion of Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank that he offered the United States in 2009–2010.
During a period in which all meaningful power politics is taking place within the right, Gidi Grinstein, founder and president of the Reut Institute think-tank, believes that Feiglin's effort is currently "splitting Likud" between those willing to discuss territorial compromise and those seeking to drive a stake through any such impulse.

Currently, according to Knesset insiders, between five and 10 of Likud's 27 lawmakers work or strategize with Feiglin. And his strength is thought to have influenced Netanyahu's reluctance to give the green light to the evacuation of the illegal outposts Beit El and Migron, which he eventually ordered for this summer, but only under the pressure of a Supreme Court ruling. Feiglin's influence was also seen in Netanyahu's decision to approve large new building projects in the settlements.

But Feiglin's ambitions go far beyond preventing settlement freezes. He wants to change entirely the way that his party and his country make decisions and present themselves to the world.

Among other things, Feiglin wants to completely end foreign aid to Israel. Accepting it, he says, leaves Israel beholden to other countries, especially America, and constitutes an "immoral act." He believes that if Israel uses Jewish heritage rather than democratic values to determine and justify its policy in the West Bank and Gaza, the world will accept it. He also advocates encouraging the Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as the Arabs who are citizens of Israel, to emigrate, using financial inducements. He doesn't propose revoking citizenship of Israeli Arabs, but says that only Jews should be eligible to receive Israeli citizenship in the future.

"What counts is where we stand ourselves," he said. "The world knows exactly what Israel is about, what it represents and what it's supposed to represent. What we are running away from is what we represent when we're saying, ‘I'm not a Jew, I'm a liberal, I'm just another Anglo-European-American country, a Hebrew liberal whatever.'"

During its four decades of existence, the Likud party, inspired by the right-wing ideology of Zionist thinker Ze'ev Jabotinsky, has promoted settlements and has often been seen as hard-line and even ethnocentric. But it has never been theocentric. Feiglin is changing that. "If you don't believe in God there is no reality," he said. And for him, the political importance of this is clear. "The basic belief of the left is, there is no God and therefore there is no truth."

Arye Naor, Cabinet secretary to Menachem Begin during the latter's premiership and an emeritus professor at Ben-Gurion University, where he researched the Israeli right, is unnerved by the influence of this kind of ideology in the Likud. "The theological element and ethnic extremism just isn't Likud," he said.

An adviser to Netanyahu, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said, "The prime minister believes strongly that Likud is a national and a liberal political movement, and we believe that there are some members who have joined who are not natural members of this movement."

For Feiglin, however, party history means nothing when considered against God's will and the Bible, as he understands them. To Feiglin, Netanyahu lacks the political will that comes from such convictions. The prime minister "could not get the train of Oslo to turn back. He's still on that train." Switching transport metaphors, he describes Netanyahu as "a great pilot, flying nowhere."

"When was the last time you heard a prime minister or even ambassador in London or New York saying these simple words: ‘This is our land'" he asked.

These are the words that propelled Feiglin, now 51, into politics. In 1994 he founded Zo Artzeinu (This is our land), a protest movement opposed to the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians. In the course of his anti-Oslo activism, he was arrested frequently for civil disobedience and indicted for sedition against the state. He was convicted and sentenced to 16 months in jail. This was commuted to six months of community service, which he spent helping in a retirement home.

In 1996, Zo Artzeinu evolved into the Manhigut Yehudit, which Feiglin led into the Likud party four years later. He saw this faction as his launching base for ultimately dominating the party. Feiglin led the campaign within the Likud against the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. Prior to his campaign for party leadership in February, he ran for Likud leadership in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Feiglin claims that it is not too late for Israel to change tack and take the approach it should have taken in 1967. "The world would have cheered" had Israel asserted biblically ordained rights over the West Bank and Gaza and annexed the territories upon capturing them then, after the Six Day War, he claimed. The fact that international opinion took a different turn is Israel's own fault. "You cannot complain to the world if you yourself don't have the belief in what you are doing here, not only in Judea and Samaria, but also in Tel Aviv."

If he ever gets to lead Likud and the country, Feiglin says, he will annex the West Bank and Gaza and give Palestinians residency but not citizenship. In his vision, this would bring about a unilaterally imposed peace. Feiglin has even thought about what he would do with the money saved by this resolution of the conflict.

"With the money that Israel throws [at] building bomb shelters around the Gaza Strip, on building fences, missiles against missiles, [it could be] investing that money on helping these people," Feiglin said, referring to the Palestinians. They are, he claimed, "itching to emigrate" and would do so if given a grant.

"Over 10 years, half a million dollars could be invested in each Arab family in Judea and Samaria to help them find their future where most of them wish," he said.

Jewish Education: USA vs. Israel

By Shmuel Sackett

This article will appear in the Aug. 24th edition of The Queens Jewish Link
Israel's school system has received a bad reputation. In my travels across the United States I have had many parents confide in me that that they would make Aliyah but are worried about their children's education. Dozens have even told me how their local Rabbonim told them to stay away from the Israeli educational system. This article is my response to those claims.
Let me begin by saying that we are not perfect. We have had our failures and our missed opportunities but focusing on these cases is like an alien who lands in a hospital. His report back home to Planet X is that everybody on earth is sick and dying. That is simply not the case.

Overall, the Israeli educational system beats American schools hands down. Let's examine it by the three major sectors of religious society: Secular (unaffiliated), Dati (modern Orthodox) and Haredi (including the "Yeshivish" crowd). Normally, I hate these labels but they are necessary for this article.

What kind of Jewish education does an unaffiliated, secular Jewish kid receive in America? The answer is one word: Nothing. He learns absolutely zero about his heritage, his people, his holidays and his culture. His entire academic career is limited to subjects such as math, science, history, reading comprehension and other assorted general studies. By the time he finishes 12th grade and is ready to enter university, he knows biology, has read Shakespeare, knows all about the Civil War and may even speak Spanish. Ask him when Purim is, where you put a Mezuzah and where the Bet Ha'Mikdash stood (and will once again stand very soon!) and he will have no idea at all. On the Israeli side, secular kids attend what is called "Mamlachti" (public) schools. The general studies education is on a super high level (just check out the Israeli hi-tech companies if you don't believe me) and while Jewish studies are weak they definitely have a basic-level knowledge of who they are and where they came from. They come to school a few days before Purim (not Halloween) in full costume, they are off on Chanukah (not Christmas), they make New Year's cards for Rosh Ha'Shanah (not January 1st) and much more. The score is therefore Israel – 1, USA – 0.

How about the Dati/Modern world? This is the world that I grew up in and know very well. For elementary school, I went to a modern Yeshiva in NY, called Yeshiva of Central Queens (YCQ). My high school (YHSQ) was similar. My education in those schools was solid and I appreciated the fact that the Jewish studies teachers in YCQ all spoke in Hebrew. This gave me a rock-solid foundation to be able to speak Hebrew very well and integrate quickly into Israeli society when I made Aliyah. But that was a long time ago. What is happening today? What level are these schools on in 2012? I am not talking about any particular school. I am referring to all of the "Modern Orthodox" world. Ask yourself these questions: By the time your son graduates 12th grade is he still learning Gemara with ArtScroll? How well does your 12th grade daughter know Tanach? Halacha? Be honest with your answer. In order to compare, let's not take the geniuses who excel. Let's take your average high school kid in a Modern Yeshiva day school in America and put him/her against an average high school kid from a "Mamlachti Dati Torani" (religious, Torah based public school) in Israel. I guarantee you the Israeli kid wins 9 out of 10 times in Torah subjects from Mishna and Gemara, to Tefilla and Halacha, to Hashkafa and Jewish history.

Trust me that I know what I'm talking about. I have spoken in 500 Jewish communities in America, Canada and England. I have spoken to tens of thousands of people and see what is happening. The focus today in the Modern Yeshiva day schools in America is getting a top score on the SAT's and being accepted into a good university. Generally, the kids who stay strong in their Jewish observance and learning are the ones who spend a year learning in Israel. Without this extra year, they would have been much weaker and far less serious in their Yiddishkeit. Therefore, when comparing "apples-to-apples"; the Modern/Dati schools in Israel vs the Modern/Dati schools in America, the score goes to 2-0 in favor of Israel.

For our final analysis, let's take a look at the more serious Yeshivot; the "black hat" world referred to as either Haredi, Chassidish or Yeshivish. (Did I tell you how I hate those labels? Oh yes, I wrote that already. Moving right along, then). A child in this world goes through 12 years of serious Torah learning and then much more after that. Many people would consider these Yeshivot as a tie between America and Israel. Both are strong and both are serious. A 17 year old young man from Bnei Brak is very capable in his Torah learning but so is a 17 year old young man from Lakewood. So do we have a tie? I am afraid not and here's why; With all due respect to the Lakewood talmid, the Bnei Brak fellow is far stronger in his knowledge of Hebrew. This allows him to learn much better without struggling through a "foreign" language. He picks up original seforim and not the Feldheim translation. Furthermore, he is blessed with the bracha of the great Tanna Eliezer Ha'Kappar (a close friend of Rabbi Yehuda Ha'Nasi) who said; "There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael and no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael." Therefore, while the Lakewood talmid is undoubtedly a serious bochur, he cannot compete with the average bochur from Bnei Brak, Har Nof or Yitzhar. Final score: Israel – 3, USA – 0.

In addition to these 3 examples I must state that all Israeli schools, secular and religious, have classes 6 days per week. True, the school day is shorter than what I was used to in New York but all parents have the option of amazing extra-curricular activities (called "chugim") that have terrific educational and recreational value. Kids can study more Torah, learn how to play an instrument, master the art of swimming or learn how to defend themselves in the martial arts. While these activities all cost extra they do not even come close to the ridiculous amount of money being charged by today's schools in America. Between what Israeli schools charge plus books, trips and extra activities, the average Israeli parent spends no more than 25% of what he/she would have spent on that same child in New York, LA or Chicago.

There is much more to say and write on this subject but this is an article, not a thesis. The few points stated above are key in understanding a very important part in our life: Jewish Education. To a religious parent, educating a child in the right way and giving him/her the right tools is one of the most vital things. We live for our children and they are everything to us. Making sure they receive a solid Jewish education is priority #1 as it should be!

My point is simple: Come Home! There are many reasons why you must do this but this coming Monday, August 27th is the first reason – It is the first day of school in Israel! The summer is over. Forget about Labor Day weekend. Your children need to get back to school and Israel is the place for that to happen. If not for yourselves, come home for your kids. Start working on this today!

How Israelis Play Rock-Paper-Scissors

By Tuvia Brodie

If you know the childhood game called, rock-paper-scissors, you know that a rock wins over scissors. When children play this game, there are no disputes over this principle. The rules are immutable; rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper and paper beats rock.
That’s too complicated for Israel. Here, the political version of this game is simpler: Left beats Right.
Is this true? You tell me. Analyze the recent conflicts we’ve seen in Israel between Left and Right. Whether it’s the debate over NGOs receiving foreign money to fund anti-Israel activity within Israel, a debate over a High Court Leftist bias, the uproar over women singing in front of ultra-religious soldiers, the battle over drafting the ultra-religious or women on buses—the conflict always seems to be rock versus scissors, Left versus Right.
Every child knows the outcome. Rock beats scissors; Left beats Right.
Where’s paper? This is Israel. Why do you want paper?
Caroline Glick has recently written about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (The Brotherhood’s useful idiots, June 21, 2012, Jerusalem Post), where she argues that the Brotherhood has outmanoeuvred Egyptian secularists in their unfolding battle to control Egypt. In three short paragraphs, she captures not only the difference between the Brotherhood and the secularists in Egypt, but she might also (for us) clarify the relationship between Israel’s Left and Right. The one difference is, in Egypt, it is the religionist Muslim Brotherhood who wins while in Israel, it is the anti-religionist Left that wins. Here’s her argument:
The difference between the Brotherhood and the secularists is a fundamental one.  The Brotherhood has always had a vision of the Egypt it wants to create. It has always used all the tools at its disposal to advance the goal of creating an Islamic state in Egypt.
For their part, the secularists have no ideological unity and so share no common vision of a future Egypt. They just oppose the repression of the military.
Opposing repression is not a political program. It is a political act. It can destroy. It cannot rule.
In Israel, the Left might not have always had a vision of the Israel it wants to create—but it certainly has one today. Its vision is simple: to de-judaize Israel and to create a ‘State of its citizens’ that is devoid of Judaism but apparently neutral to Islam. If Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, the Left wants no Jewish state. Like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Israel’s Left uses all the tools at its disposal, including a compliant—if not culpable—media, to advance their goal of creating a non-Jewish Israel.
For their part, Israel’s Right has no ideological unity even though all on the Right share a desire to protect Israel. Not only do those on the Right share no agreed-upon vision, those who are Religious on the Right are so divided and sub-divided that they seem to offer no unified vision of anything— despite the fact that religious Jews have an understood vision of a future Redemption. Like the Egyptian secularists, all on Israel’s Right just oppose repressive actions of the government, albeit each for his own reasons.
But as Ms Glick suggests regarding the Egyptian secularists, such near-sighted behaviour when sharing the stage with a clear-visioned opponent can be political suicide. Near-sightedness is not an ideology. It’s a protest-tool. It cannot compete against a coherent dream.
When the Left beats its drum to un-Jewish Israel, the Right and the Religious Right have no answer. They fight. They protest. But they offer no competing vision.
By having no unified vision, the Right has no unity. Without unity, it cannot build a compelling case for itself; without a compelling case, it loses the opportunity to accumulate power; and without power, the Right goes nowhere.  
This is where Moshe Feiglin comes in—and why he is important. He has a clear vision. He gives pro-Israel Jews an antidote for Leftist ideology. When the Left attacks the ‘Jewishness’ of Israel, what’s his antidote? Jewish Israel. When the Left promotes the unJewish, Feiglin promotes the Jewish. This may be one reason his influence grows. People understand his message. He knows what he wants.
“When you know what you want,” Ms Glick writes, “you use all the tools at your disposal to achieve your goals. When you don’t know what you want, no matter what tools you hold, you will fail.”  This may be precisely why the Right and the Religious are weak: they fail to tell us what they want. They object. They cry out. But they present no unified voice. Feiglin, however, has a clear voice. He has built a ‘brand’ voters can identify with. This may explain why his base has grown from three per cent of Likud to thirty per cent of Likud while the rest of the Right remains relatively fractured.
Yes, some on Israel’s Right object to Feiglin. Nevertheless, his power grows because he builds a ‘brand’ people recognize.
For Israel’s Right, Feiglin’s thirty per cent of Likud might actually provide a far more powerful voice than a re-energized but small Party called Bayit Yehudi (which has recently been in the news), just as thirty per cent of an elephant will be far more noticeable than 100% of a gerbil.
Religious Nationalists realize they need to unify. But if reports circulating are correct, some Religious Nationalists associated with Bayit Yehudi appear to have developed a battle-plan that seems more battle than plan: let’s seek unity, the plan seems to suggest, by poaching Moshe Feiglin’s member-base in Likud. Such an effort suggests a desire to pull together by pulling apart. It seems a plan closer to Chelm than Israel. What’s missing here is an understanding of political reality: Israeli voters do not tend to choose their modern leaders from small Parties. Like most first-world countries, the tendency here is to prefer the mainstream; and Likud is not only main-stream; it dominates that main stream.
It is the premier ‘Political Brand’ in Israel.
Religious Nationalists in Bayit Yehudi seek power by draining Rightist power from the biggest ‘Brand’ in Israel? In the simplified Israeli game called political rock-scissors, that’s throwing away the rock to choose scissors. If you understand the rules of the game, then you know this plan is not a recipe for success.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Facts: The Leading Cause of Jewish Death

By Tuvia Brodie

We Jews think we’re smart. We believe we can use facts to defend ourselves. We think facts will protect us. The more accurate the fact, we believe, the better off we will be.
But we’re wrong. Facts do not protect Jews. Facts kill.
Think about your world: when anti-Zionists declare, ‘For world peace, destroy Israel,’ do you think that a reply of, ‘the League of Nations made us legal!’ will make them change their tune? When a Jew-hater shows you a map of a new ‘Palestine’ in place of Israel, do you think they’ll destroy that map when you point out, ‘that map is factually wrong’?
Of course not. If anything, your ‘facts’ will probably just enrage them.
Facts have never been kind to Jews. Remember Eve? How was she seduced? With 'facts'.
We should have learned something from her story. But we didn’t. We’re stupid. After we had been redeemed from slavery in Egypt, how did we show our gratitude?  We cried to G-d that He had taken us out of Egypt to let us die in the desert. What facts did we give Him? Cucumbers. That’s right—cucumbers. Look it up. G-d redeemed us and we complained we no longer had cucumbers to eat.
Obviously, there’s more to this story. But the fact is (pardon the pun) our ancestors missed their veggies  They complained. They collected their facts like stones and used those stones against G-d.
How did the Biblical spies get us into trouble with G-d? Facts (aliyah into Israel was too difficult).
Our Sages teach that G-d had wanted the return to Israel during the time of Ezra to be the Final Redemption, but that didn’t work out. Why? Facts (living in Babylonia was easier; the Torah there was better than in Israel).
Ze’ev Jabotinsky practically begged Jews in Eastern Europe--before World War Two began—to come to Israel because, as he put it, there were super-pogroms coming. He failed. Why? Facts (our world is stable; no one harms us).
Jewish history is littered with dead Jews because we love fact. We live our lives being analytical—which means, of course, we are so obsessed with the tree, we ignore what’s happening to the forest. For us, only the tree counts.
The Arab, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in trees—or facts. He understands that facts will get him nowhere in his quest to replace Israel with ‘Palestine’.  So how did he come so close at the UN to pulling off his request for statehood? He ignored fact; and by doing that, he almost succeeded (and he isn’t finished trying).
Look at it this way: Yishmael the Arab is our cousin. He has received great merit because of that relationship. Indeed, the land of Israel is so precious to G-d, He will reward greatly anyone who desires this land with a passion. Right now, Yishmael desires this land with that passion. Right now, Yishmael wants this land more then we—and he certainly wants it more than the anti-religious and ultra-religious among us. Perhaps because of that passion Yishmael’s star—not ours-- rises before the nations.
G-d tells us repeatedly that He loves the land of Israel. Read, Eretz Yisrael in the Parasha, Moshe D. Lichtman, Devorah publishing, Jerusalem, 2006. Our texts teach that G-d loves Israel and the children of Israel; but mostly, He loves the children of Israel in the land of Israel, obeying His Torah. It’s a package deal, like (in some cases) buying a factory-installed GPS system for your new car: you can’t get the GPS unless you order leather seats.  You cannot split up the GPS-seats package just as you cannot split up the Torah observance-land package. But in their own ways, both the anti-religious and the ultra-religious may be rejecting their G-d by rejecting all or part of that package.
Torah is not optional; neither is the land. Free will might mean we have the option to choose as we please. But it does not mean we are right whatever we choose. When Jews make a wrong decision, we do not become introspective. We do not question our decision. Instead, we work extremely hard to collect facts to prove we are right. This is why Jews listened to the Biblical spies--and why they did not listen to Jabotinsky: their precious facts.
Today, we know they were wrong to replace faith with fact.
We must also know that we continue their mistake because we continue to use fact to justify turning against G-d. We use ‘fact’ to avoid aliyah [Torah-learning in Israel is poor]; and ‘fact’ to reject religion [religion will destroy our democracy]. Unfortunately, our life is not about fact. Our survival is not about fact. It’s about belief—in G-d and the land.
Yishmael knows that. That may be why he’s so strong.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jewish Jigsaw

By Michael Hirsch

There is a Talmudic concept: Every Jew is responsible for every other Jew. The exact word used to express this responsibility is "ahreiv," which if precisely defined means a guarantor, a co-signer. Think of the concept, if you will, as a business-related issue—Every Jew must act as a guarantor for every other Jew. Not just family, friends, and business associates; no, you must be prepared to co-sign a loan for someone who might be a complete stranger to you, as long as he/she is a fellow Jew!
Can it be any clearer than that?? We are all linked one-to-another. We are all pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle; our raison d'etre only comes about through the entirety of the picture. What gives meaning to our lives is the totality of the Jewish People; period!
Why this mini-dissertation as a prelude to discussing this week's Parasha, Shoftim? Because a careful reading of the closing segment in the Torah portion highlights this concept. The Parasha closes with the famous story of the "Eglah Arufa," the axed heifer. If a stranger's dead body is discovered inter-city, the elders of the city determined to be located closest to the corpse bring the axed heifer as a "sin" offering. Some commentators define the sin as allowing an environment in their locale in which total strangers can be wantonly murdered.
But others define the sin as having failed to fulfill the precept of responsibility to fellow Jews. Did the elders see to it that he had somewhere to eat, to sleep? Did they find someone to accompany him on his way, so that he would not be the victim of this heinous act? Did they act as his guarantor, his co-signer?
No, and for that reason, they must repent. The closing verse says it all: "And you shall remove the innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right/just in G-D's eyes (Deuteronomy 21:9)." Such as acting responsible for every other Jew!!