Friday, February 26, 2016

Why the Extremes?

A Torah Thought for Parashat Ki Tisah
By Moshe Feiglin

It is hard to think of a Torah portion more frenetic than our current portion, Ki Tisah. From the loftiest heights to the deepest low. From the Holy Temple and its holy vessels – the purpose of creation; from the secret of the incense to the secret of Shabbat – the sign of the covenant between G-d and His Chosen People; From these sublime heights to the Sin of the Golden Calf. Could there be a greater collapse?

What is going on here? Why the extremes?

First of all, the closer we come to our goal, the more stretched and sensitive everything becomes. It is like an army that marches forth and conquers, whose supply lines become increasingly longer and more vulnerable. It is specifically the increased proximity to the goal that is fraught with the dangers of a greater and deeper fall.

This equation is distinctly relevant in our generation of rebirth. We have never been closer to our Land, to Jerusalem, to the Holy Temple. But in certain ways, we have never been farther. When in exile, we collectively dreamed of the Holy Temple. Here, very few dare to dream.

On a deeper level, this muddling of extremes is not a mistake. It is the ideal situation. The very essence of this world, the essence of life – is the connection between body and soul. The message of the Torah and the Holy Temple is all about the point of connection between the physical and the metaphysical. It is not the Islamic flight to the body or the Christian flight to the spirit. It is the proper and exact connection between the two.

This message evolves through the Nation of Israel and the Land of Israel to all of humanity. The pendulum swings from one side to the other and does not find its place. All around us, the Arab world oscillates between liberalism and Islam. Nobody knows exactly what will be the outcome, but one thing is clear: They are not headed for calm – most likely just the opposite.

Not only will the Arab world not achieve balance, but concentric circles of humanity are likely to be sucked into the chaos.

The secret of life, the proper connection between the physical and metaphysical; between body and soul, is here, in Jerusalem: In the physical place chosen by the Creator, Who has no physicality or image – for His Holy Presence to dwell.

Shabbat Shalom.

Illustration courtesy of the Temple Institute

Moshe Feiglin: End the "Occupation"

Moshe Feiglin was the speaker last week at Oz VeGaon (a site establlished by Women in Green in memory of the 3 boys murdered last year). His speech was simultaneously translated into English.  Enjoy! 

Roulette in Eilat and at the Damascus Gate

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen 
Dean of the Zomet Institute

"I lavished them with silver and gold, and they gave it to the Baal" [Hoshaya 2:10].

A Huge Sinkhole

That is just what we are missing now – a new casino! It will serve as a site for unhealthy addiction to gambling, a swamp for sexual crime and drugs, and a center of attraction for those who would destroy the world, who do all they can to disturb its peaceful existence. The fact that economic reasoning is used to justify this proposal, as has been publicly announced, makes the deal much worse: The Finance Ministry expects to collect taxes (15%) of more than a million shekels a day! This seems legendary, from a movie plot, way beyond anything we could imagine. This is not a productive industrial area which will yield the fruits of its labors or a fertile high-tech area that will produce profits for the country as a whole, and not even a farmer's market or an arts-and-crafts fair selling the handiwork of its artisans. A million shekels a day, no less, for vain pleasure-seeking and setting up an area of sin! Just think of the dimensions of the "sinkhole" that will be opened up here if this "vision" comes true, heaven forbid. This sinkhole will swallow up huge numbers of youths and adults alike, and there is no way that any selection between Israelis and visitors will be put into effect. And I am really upset, to the point of nausea, in the way this project is being touted as "blooming of the Negev desert." It is interesting to speculate how David Ben Gurion would have reacted to this proposal, as the harbinger of the vision of the Negev and bringing life back to the desolate land!

I assume that even the Prime Minister, who proposed this zany idea, knows that it is not a real proposition, at least for the time being. Can it be that he wanted to please his benefactor, the multimillionaire Sheldon Adelson, and some of his friends, also casino operators? Or perhaps he has decided to remind us that he is, after all, the Minister of Economics, lest we forget this important fact. G-d has the key to all enigmas, but from a practical point of view we can assume that the dander of this proposal will be blocked by Iron Domes, both those made of real metal and those knitted ones (kippot) that religious people wear on their heads! The arguments in favor, based on the fact that there already is a casino ship in the Red Sea, and that everybody who has a yearning for gambling can satisfy his desires anyway through the internet and in dark sites at the margins of the cities of Israel – do not justify giving formal legitimacy and allowing the dancing around the Golden Calf in public. As proof, just see the fact that we do not even consider legalizing the sale and use of addictive drugs in public because in any case it takes place in hidden back yards. We have already rejected the proposal to open brothels under official supervision, for similar reasons, and those who opposed the idea brought as proof the famous words of the author of Akeidat Yitzchak – that the reason it was decreed that Sedom would be destroyed was that it gave formal and legal permission to commit sins and crimes because "they were taking place anyway..." [Torah portion of Vayeira].

From the Jewish point of view, even though gambling is not a direct Torah violation or even a rabbinical prohibition, the sages waged war against it by means of a public ban that was very efficient at the time: "These are the ones who are not accepted (as witnesses): One who rolls dice, one who lends for interest, and one who races pigeons (Rashi: saying, if your pigeon lands ahead of mine, I will give you an agreed-on sum of money)... because these people are not involved in settling the world." [Sandhedrin 24b].

* * * * * *

Terrorism Roulette – An Existential Danger

Somebody has tried to start a cruel rumor – that the Prime Minister wants to get the public's mind away from another type of roulette – the Terrorism Roulette that is taking its toll among us. I do not accept this evil idea, but I do see an association to this death-related roulette which strikes out at us – the daily gamble involved in normal activities, such as going to a mall for shopping, to work, or on a field trip, when you must always be on the alert for a knife wielded against you. I cannot help but remember the words of Daphne Meir, who was murdered at the front door of her home in Otniel: "The situation is not simple. This sometimes feels like Russian Roulette, and we have trouble sleeping." This statement is a true reflection of the morale of half the nation.

Two weeks ago I wrote in this column about the Defense Minister ( written as "sar" with a samech, implying that there is a lack of defense). I received many compliments but also some sharp criticism, both on the contents and on the style of writing. A (former) security expert in Israel came out with the following: " The State of Israel can hold out with an even larger number of weekly killings, and this has already happened in the past. The existing level of terrorism is not an existential threat to Israel." Here is my reply: The current wave of terrorism is indeed an existential threat to Israel, very much so! Our enemies have discovered a weapon against which we have no defense, since the enemy has no specific identity. This weapon will not cease to cause "a breach and wailing in our streets" (see the opposite in Tehillim 144:14), until a Palestinian state will be declared (something that is supported by a quarter of the people). And such a state, which will be formed on a "tray" made from these knives unless we learn to shatter them first, is indeed an existential threat, as is clear to anybody who looks at the previous map of Israel with its "narrow middle section." Afterwards, born on the waves of their victory, our enemies will continue to stab and stab again with the hope of destroying us completely.

The only solution is the destruction of the homes of close relatives of the terrorists and their supporters, in addition to expelling them from our midst and taking over their property. Only such drastic measures will cause others to give us advance information in order to stop these attacks. I have already stated this in the past – there is no other way to fight against this roulette of terrorism!

Timeless Values cannot be measured by Polls

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

“When you take a census of the Israelites to determine their numbers, each one shall
be counted by giving an atonement offering for his life. In this manner, they will not be
stricken by the plague when they are counted” (Exodus 30:11). Rashi explains that countings
fall under the control of the evil eye, inviting plagues, such as occurred in the days of King

The Jewish People possess a magnificent soul. That soul rests within all Jews in all
generations, whatever their affiliations. No attempt to count the Jews individually can meet
with blessing, for “no blessing rests upon something unless it is hidden from sight.” (Ta’anit
8b). When we count people and turn them into numbers or statistics, their personality is
thereby blotted out, and their unique soul, the image of G-d, within, disappears. Indeed the
Nazis, in their desire to degrade the Jews and to wipe them out off the face of the earth,
engraved numbers on their arms.

Therefore, when we set out to count the Jewish People, we do not count heads or
bodies. Instead, we count the half shekel that each Jew contributes to the general fund. With
that money, animals are purchased for communal offerings which will increase the public
merit and add holiness, goodness and light to the world. By such means, the whole Jewish
People are exalted, as well as each individual Jew among them.

Right now, we are not careful to avoid counting the Jewish People. Quite the contrary,
statistics, public opinion polls and plebiscites are.. accepted concepts in Israeli
society, and a genuine danger exists that this approach in society and in politics will harm
our ethical foundations, our eternal values regarding existential topics affecting the Jewish
State and People.

We must learn from the debacle of King David’s census and we must understand that
the Jewish People are not to be counted. Timeless values and our connection to the Jewish
People and the Land of Israel cannot be measured by surveys, polls or plebiscites. “The
Eternal One of Israel does not lie [yishaker]” (I Samuel 15:29). Nor can our eternal values by
measured by polls [yisaker].

Looking forward to complete salvation, 
Shabbat Shalom.

Charisma and Leadership

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

"Look, I have announced the name of Betzalel Ben Uri..." [Shemot 31:2]. This phrase is repeated in the Torah portion of Vayakhel, but there Moshe is speaking and he tells Yisrael, "Look, G-d has announced..." [35:30]. In the Talmud (Berachot), it is written that no official should be appointed to lead the community unless the people are consulted first, as is shown by this second verse. G-d asked Moshe, is Betzalel acceptable to you? He replied, if he is acceptable to you, is it not obvious that I will accept him? G-d replied, in spite of this, go and ask Yisrael. And the people said, if Betzalel is acceptable for you and the Holy One, Blessed be He, isn't it clear that we will accept him too?

Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook explains that a leader in Yisrael must have three characteristics:

(1) Good behavior and a pure heart, righteousness, and honesty. These traits can only be known by G-d, since only He is familiar with the inner workings of the heart.

(2) The deep wisdom that a leader must have. This good trait can be seen by other people, but only if they are unique – very wise people who can see his thought processes. Not everybody knows how to find out about this.

(3) Charisma, external attractiveness, the ability to talk, and the ability to connect to other people. This trait can be recognized by all the other people.

However, there are various levels of all these matters. The leadership will be firmly established only if it is based on the above three traits, and they must appear in the above sequence. That is, the main thing to consider first is the trait of righteousness and piety. Wisdom comes next, and the last element to be considered is charisma. Only in this sequence will the leadership be able to gain the confidence of the people. However, if the sequence is reversed and charisma becomes the most important trait while righteousness is viewed as the least important one, the leadership will be merely a distorted version of the truth.

When the Holy One, Blessed be He, asked Moshe for an opinion about Betzalel, he replied to the specific question that was asked. The question was about Betzalel's wisdom. He replied, "If he is acceptable to You, he must clearly be acceptable to me." That is, the good trait that I can discern is second in importance to the spiritual perfection that only G-d could determine. And then Moshe went to consult with Bnei Yisrael, specifically whether they saw a trait of charisma in Betzalel. They replied in kind: "If he is acceptable to you, he will certainly be acceptable to us." That is, after the Holy One, Blessed be He, testified to Betzalel's honesty and righteousness and Moshe testified about his wisdom, the people also affirmed that they recognized his perfection.

In the end, it is clear that charisma is an important trait for a leader as long as it is combined with the main traits – righteousness, uprightness, honesty, and wisdom. When charisma is disassociated from the other traits and becomes the only trait by which a person is judged, the leadership is doomed to fail.

HaRav Nachman Kahana on Parashat Ki Tisa 5776: Open your Eyes and run to do a Mitzvah

Parashat Ki Tisa 5776
Rabbi Nachman Kahana

Open your eyes and run to do a mitzvah

In many cases, the timing of a mitzva is as meaningful if not more so than the act itself.

1- The tragic events of the Golden Calf and its implications to this very day, erupted from a mistake in timing. Moshe informed the nation that he would descend from Mount Sinai 40 days after his ascent. However, according to the calculations of the erev rav (mixed multitude) 40 days had passed and Moshe had not returned. They concluded that Moshe had died on the mountain, giving rise to their evil influence on the Jews and the transgression of the Golden Calf.

2- Avraham was commanded to offer up his son Yitzchak as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah, a command which was the ultimate test of loyalty to HaShem. The Torah states:

וישכם אברהם בבוקר

Avraham arose in the early morning to begin his trek to Yerushalayim to fulfill HaShem’s will.

Avraham’s conduct serves as the basis for the Halachic principle:

זריזים מקדימים למצוה

One should be diligent and quick in carrying out Halachic obligations.

3- The Gemara (Succa 17a) ascribes the suffering of Yaakov regarding his daughter Dina and the disappearance of Yosef to the fact that when Yaakov returned from the house of Lavan after twenty years of being away, he tarried for two more years in Schem before returning to his father:

משום דאשתהי באורחא תרתין שנין

4- The Gemara (Yevamot 48b) states that many gairim (converts) suffer difficult lives, as a punishment for their indecisiveness and delay in converting.

There is a deeper aspect to postponing or even procrastinating the performance of a mitzva.

5- The Midrash (Tanchuma, Beraishiet) relates that HaShem commanded the prophet Yechezkel to go out to a “bik’ah” (valley), where HaShem would speak to him (Yechezkel 3,22-23). When the prophet entered the valley, he realized that HaShem was already there waiting for him, as the verses state:

כב וַתְּהִי עָלַי שָׁם, יַד-יְהוָה; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי, קוּם צֵא אֶל-הַבִּקְעָה, וְשָׁם, אֲדַבֵּר אוֹתָךְ

כג וָאָקוּם, וָאֵצֵא אֶל-הַבִּקְעָה, וְהִנֵּה-שָׁם כְּבוֹד-יְהוָה עֹמֵד, כַּכָּבוֹד אֲשֶׁר רָאִיתִי עַל-נְהַר-כְּבָר; וָאֶפֹּל, עַל-פָּנָי

And the hand of the LORD came there upon me; and He said unto me: ‘Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there speak with thee.’

Then I arose, and went forth into the plain; and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face.

From here we learn that when there is a mitzva or Divine command to be performed, Hashem precedes the individual in anticipation of the fulfillment of His dictate. And when carrying out the dictate is delayed, and certainly when it is not performed at all, it can have drastic results.

Imagine a first shiduch date when the young lady or man arrives an hour late. That relationship will never be what it could have been had his/her conduct resonated anticipation of the date by arriving in time.

What can we say of Jews of standing who convince their disciples to delay the fulfillment of a mitzva? And when they not only convince the disciples to delay the mitzva, but urge them to ignore the mitzva act entirely, what can we say?

And when the disciples number into the thousands and even tens of thousands, then we have before us a tragedy of religious, historic and national proportions.

Tikun Olam

In 1936, Moshe Goldstein, a loyal and devout Chassid of the Rabbe of Munkatz, Hungary published a book called Tikun Olam, where he called for the Jews to refrain from going to Eretz Yisrael. The book opens with the names and letters of an additional 150 leading Chassidic rabbis who endorsed the book’s imperative that Jews were prohibited from returning to Eretz Yisrael until the arrival of the Mashiach.

His (and their) thesis was that the Land is so holy that one is not permitted to relate to it in a secular “this worldly” manner. It is prohibited to farm it or to do anything of normative life there except to learn Torah. He and those who endorsed his position, opposed the creation of new settlements, even religious ones.

Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany in 1933, and his intentions for the Jewish nation were not a secret. Yet, his point of view was supported by the biggest names in the Chassidic world, but I am embarrassed and even ashamed to mention them.

In this week’s parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu replies to HaShem’s offer that He would destroy the iniquitous Jewish people and Judaism would continue through Moshe and his children. Moshe says that if HaShem destroys the Jewish nation, his own name should be erased from the Torah.

Among the Chassidic leaders who opposed coming to Eretz Yisrael were those who escaped the Holocaust by fleeing to Eretz Yisrael. Then there was the illustrious Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman zt”l (he did not endorse the book) who was in the USA at the time and chose to return to his community and yeshiva in Europe to be with them at the time of their martyrdom.

If the above is appalling and shocking – how such wise men could be so wrong in their misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Torah, Jewish history and events of the time – what follows is even more damning.

Did we learn from history?

Apparently, the destruction of 7 million Jews in Europe and the establishment and development of Eretz Yisrael , are not enough to prove that the Munkatscher rabbi and his colleagues were dead wrong. Today, we hear in many Chassidic and yeshiva circles in the USA the very same voices that are repeating the same blind ideologies of yesterday.

They say “No” to Aliya and “No” to realizing that it is not the Jewish way to wait for the Mashiach to bring them on a magic carpet to the Holy Land, while in the interim they can escape the challenges of returning home to create the conditions for the Mashiach’s arrival.

The miraglim (rebellious scouts) and those who danced around the Golden Calf in search of an alternative to historic Torah Judaism are still very much alive among us.

What will it take to open the eyes of the religious leaders in the galut to see that we are in the midst of the final redemption of the Jewish people in our return home? The Shoah was not enough to move these people to leave the “Gan Eden” of the galut. What will come after the Shoah?

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana

Copyright © 5776/2016 Nachman Kahana

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

When Israel had Courage

By Shalva Gozland

Word has it that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a visit to Uganda and Kenya to mark 40 years since the Entebbe raid during which his brother Yoni was killed in the legendary hostage rescue operation, the Jerusalem Post reports.

But the trip signifies more for Israel than merely mending diplomatic relations with African governments; it symbolizes how far we've come from being the courageous, fearless country the world once knew.

In the days of Operation Thunderbolt in Entebbe, Israel had iron clad principles on how to deal-- or NOT to deal-- with terrorists of any kind; principles that gained them reverence and honor; principles that showed the world we were a force to be reckoned with; principles that saved lives.

102 rescued Israelis arrive home safe to Ben Gurion Airport, after being held hostage at the Entebbe International Airport for a week, July 4, 1976.

Rescued Israeli hostages reunite with their families at Ben Gurion Airport following Israel's Operation Thunderbolt, July 4, 1976.

Then Oslo happened. Rabin and Arafat reluctantly shook hands, smiling for the cameras as Clinton proudly looked on. In truth, there was nothing to smile about. For the first time, Israel had recognized the sovereign rights of another group over the Jewish homeland. Ever since, Israel has been in a state of utter confusion and terrifying identity crisis, to say the least.

The agreement deprived Israel of more than just portions of the Holy Land- it blurred our sense of clarity about our claim to the Homeland of the Jewish people; it questioned our conviction for the cause, and tarnished the courage and honor we’d so valiantly gained in the critical eyes of the world.

Like former MK Moshe Feiglin so eloquently puts it, “When you have decided to forget who you are, even your Chief of Staff cannot identify the enemy. And when you cannot identify the enemy, you cannot win. And when there is no victory, the war doesn’t end. And when the war doesn’t end, peace does not begin.”

Peace cannot be achieved with a people who seek to destroy us; there are no ‘negotiations’ to be made with a nation that wants nothing more than to wipe off ours from the face of the map-- at least not the kind of ‘peace’ we’d want to see.

Until 1993, Israel had a principled idea of who they were and what they were to become; when Israeli lives were in danger, Israel didn’t think twice before responding- braver and stronger than ever. But with Oslo, we’ve lost more than part our Promised Land- we’ve lost reason for our cause.

Where is our honor to defend our claim to our homeland? Why are we overcome with guilt and shame for occupying a territory that is rightfully ours? Why do we, a country that has prevailed the unthinkable time and again, succumb to the pressure of those who so blatantly pray for our destruction- as do their diplomatic allies? We’re a country no bigger than the size of New Jersey, yet one that gives back to the world in disproportionate ways; let’s be proud of who we are, where we come from, and all that we stand for. Let us do what we could and should to protect our people and our homeland- as any other sane country would.

40 years ago, Israeli troops raided the airport in Entebbe, deployed by a political leadership with a clear sense of mission, unwavering courage, and unapologetic conviction for the righteousness of its cause- even in the face of adversity. Israel was ready and prepared to rescue her own people that had been taken hostage 6000 miles away. But when Israeli cities are bombarded with thousands of missiles for weeks on, when Israeli children are stabbed in the streets and parents murdered before their very own children by lone wolf killers with kitchen knives, Israel becomes paralyzed by its lack of vision and faith in the justice of its cause, preventing her from a decisive victory for her land and her people. In essence, Israel allows its very own state of mind to be taken hostage- confusion that will take a lot more than even the most daring military rescue operation to undo.

An Open Letter to the UN: What do you stand for?

By Shalva Gozland

Do YOU support terrorism? Then why do you stand by in SILENCE as the streets of Jerusalem are drenched with Jewish blood? Why do you demonize the victims, and sympathize with the perpetrators? Injustice doesn’t happen because evil men do evil, but because good men do NOTHING.

IMAGINE. Imagine not knowing when your playgrounds, coffee shops, and bus stations will turn into the next battleground. Imagine a nightmare of terrorists penetrating your home in the middle of the night, slaughtering your family. Can you imagine? Imagine terrorists digging tunnels under your house to butcher you; zealots, eliminating their time and money to destroy YOU, rather than improving their own lives. IMAGINE this was REAL LIFE.

And how does the international community respond, you ask? With moral confusion that is nowhere more obvious than with the world’s shameful treatment of Israel.

In the past few months, 32 Israelis have been killed, and over 304 wounded in terrorist attacks– and the numbers only continue to rise. Instead of the international community backing all those who defeat militant Islam, we hear outrageous statements about “Excessive Force”, and easing tensions on “Both Sides;” moral equivalency between a people that protects life and liberty, and another that glorifies death and destruction.

Who are we kidding? Imagine what would happen if the Secretary General of the UN asked the French president and ISIS, to act with ‘restraint’ and work to restore calm on ‘both sides’.

The UN has promised to protect life, human rights, and facilitate International peace. But who are we fooling? The UN’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, comprised of Syria– among other severe human rights violators– has yet to name a single terrorist or terrorist organization, because apparently, Hamas and Hezbollah just don’t meet the standards. The U.N. chief declared a moment of silence for terror victims and then checked off the cities hit by terror – except for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv of course. And best of all: the UN sits by and LISTENS as Abbas incites his people with a call to action to spill Jewish blood.

In 58 years, 77 resolutions have been made against Israel, while ONE, yes ONE, has been made against the Palestinians. Never has there been a condemnation against suicide bombers or rockets launched at innocent civilians, because you see, they don’t pose the international threat- we do.

Yet as Israel stands on the front lines in this brave and historic battle, WE are cast as a reason for the PROBLEM, rather than as part of the solution. We are constantly told that Palestinian terrorists are perpetrating these attacks because of the so called occupation, or because there is no peace process. Really?

Palestinians have been murdering Jewish People for nearly half a century before that so called occupation, and for nearly half a century since- even as the peace process was moving ahead. The Oslo Accords, Camp David, and Gush Katif only brought us escalated acts of terror…And you tell us WE are the obstacle to peace?

The Palestinian leadership continues to reward terrorism and promote a culture that glorifies it. In the face of this foolishness, does the International community stand with Israel? No, it BLAMES israel. It labels Israel. It libels Israel.

As Ambassador Ron Dermer so eloquently puts it, “The test for whether the world has really turned the corner in the battle against militant Islam and terrorism ISN’T how it responds to the terror attacks in Paris. It’s how it responds to the terror attacks in JERUSALEM. When I see the Eiffel Tower lit up in Israeli Blue and White after a terrorist attack in Israel, THEN I’ll know that the world finally gets it.”

So, will YOU support terrorism and stand by in silence, as the streets of Jerusalem are drenched with Jewish blood, or will you join us in standing up for moral clarity and speaking up for truth? We will continue the fight against this barbaric terror, will you?

Inspired by Ambassador Ron Dermer’s speech at the ZOA Gala Dinner 2015.

Moshe Feiglin: Intelligence Chief Disregards Outcome of Last ‘Diplomatic Process’

“In the absence of a diplomatic process,” said the IDF’s Intelligence Corps Chief on Monday, “the current wave of terror will intensify.”

“All the Intelligence Chief forgot to add,” said Moshe Feiglin, “was that since the Oslo diplomatic process, when Israel agreed to retreats outlined by ‘experts’ with a political orientation similar to his, we have been at the receiving end of the most horrific terror waves Israel has ever known. The number of murdered and wounded Israelis in the wake of the ‘diplomatic process’ increased five-fold.”

“Would the intelligence Chief also pressure the Cabinet to engage in a ‘diplomatic process’ the result of which would be a declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria?” Feiglin asked.

Our Sages Have it Right: “If someone comes to kill you, kill him first”

By Moshe Feiglin

I have a lot of respect for Chief of Staff Eisencott. He projects the image of the regular soldier from Tiberias who plans to work quietly, get down to the root of problems and do what he understands needs to be done to prepare the IDF for the next war. I have publicly expressed my respect for him quite a few times. But his blunder last week when he negated the value that we learn from our Sages, “If someone comes to kill you, kill him first” will make all his efforts for naught and ruin all his plans.

The truth is that his words did not surprise me. First of all, because Eisencott amplifies the mentality prevalent in all circles of leadership in the State – particularly in the upper echelons of the security establishment. Second, because he already said something similar to me during war.

When Tel Aviv was being bombarded by rockets from Gaza for over a month two summers ago, I asked then Deputy Chief of Staff Eisencott at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee (in the presence of additional MKs):

“Tell me please, “Who is the enemy?”

Today’s Chief of Staff could not give a clear answer.

How can he possibly kill his enemy first if he cannot identify him?

It is impossible to win a battle without the value of “If someone comes to kill you, kill him first”. The words of the Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister do not reflect ethicality, but its very opposite. This is the same Defense Minister who, under pressure from the media, gave the order to torture minors. Now he is sermonizing about moral conduct toward terrorists who come to murder us. As our Sages say, “He who has mercy on the cruel will ultimately be cruel to the merciful”. It looks like our Sages had it right all along…

The grave significance of Eisencott and Ya’alon’s words is that the IDF, no matter how sophisticated it may be, is not capable of winning wars.

For he who has lost his identity – cannot identify his enemy.

And he who cannot identify his enemy cannot defeat him.

And when we don’t triumph, the war does not end.

And when the war doesn’t end – peace does not begin.

It really doesn’t matter how the young Arab terrorist with the scissors is apprehended. She is going to win because we have deposited the value of justice in her hands.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Antonin Scalia: Orthodox Justice

By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

Well, almost, but not quite. But even “almost” is a high praise for a devout and pious Catholic.

The sudden passing of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia leaves a void not only on the Court but in the legal world. Scalia was a revolutionary thinker and, even if there are successors and followers, few have demonstrated the knack of writing with his trademark verve, flair and color. Scalia was born for intellectual and legal combat, enjoyed it immensely and engaged in it without hesitation. There has to be few pleasures in life for legal scholars greater than reading a Scalia dissent – pungent, cogent and forceful. My series “The Law and the Law,” which contrasted Supreme Court decisions with the Torah view on the particular cases at hand (all accessible on this site) occasionally relied heavily on Scalia’s dissents for the most articulate and reasonable expression of constitutional jurisprudence.

But “Orthodox”? Consider.

Scalia was a so-called “originalist” who perceived the role of the Supreme Court as attempting to ascertain the original intent of the Framers of the US Constitution and then applying that interpretation to the matter at hand. As such, he venerated the Constitution (and the legal precedents established in the early years of Supreme Court jurisprudence) in the same way that a religious Jew venerates the Bible. Indeed, an analogy can be made between the way “originalists” approach the Constitution and Supreme Court case law to the way faithful Jews approach the written Torah and the Talmud and Codes. Everything is sourced, the system is self-contained, and what is required at most is the application of traditional principles to new situations.

This is the place where one gigantic “l’havdil elef havdalot” is necessary, as G-d’s Torah must certainly be distinguished from man’s (even enlightened man’s) Constitution. Nonetheless, the analogy is still apt, because the intention of the Framers, as Scalia saw it, was that the Constitution serve as the permanent framework for self-governance and the preservation of individual liberties. If each generation saw fit to tamper with the Constitution and drastically transform it according to the prevailing winds, then that Constitution would not survive and the American republic would also collapse, as have other societies with malleable founding documents. Indeed, many of those other societies crumbled in the wake of sudden loss of personal freedoms that had been guaranteed by charters they later deemed obsolete. Those nations usually wound up in the throes of dictatorship.

To revere the Constitution is to make it the anchor of law and governance, and amended only via a rigorous and deliberate process that fully reflects the wishes of an overwhelming preponderance of the American society. Scalia felt it was a betrayal, and downright bizarre, to impose on the Constitution rights, values, doctrines, penumbras, and personal judgments that were simply not there.

He asked, in effect: how can capital punishment be unconstitutional, when such sentences existed when the Constitution was enacted? How can privacy or abortion be a Constitutional right when the former went unmentioned in the text and the latter was a crime for more than 150 years after ratification? How can same-sex marriage be guaranteed by the Constitution when the Constitution does not mention marriage – any type of marriage – at all?

What offended Scalia was not so much the policy implications (those are personal to each judge) but the notion that laws were not being made by legislatures – the people – but by nine people in black robes, all unelected, and all with but temporal existences. He recognized that, whatever his personal view, states could pass laws allowing abortion, as states like New York, New Jersey and California did years before Roe v. Wade; but there is no Constitutional question that is being raised (except perhaps whether the Equal Protection Clause applies to fetuses). Sometimes the Constitution is just silent on a particular issue. The identical reasoning applied to same-sex marriage or other “social” or “political” issues the Court was called on to resolve. He rightly saw the reluctance of legislators to vote on these matters, preferring the Court to do their dirty work for them, as cowardice that was unworthy of this Republic.

Laws should reflect the will of the people, through their elected officials, in almost every case. The Constitution cannot be transformed, distorted or upended simply based on the whims of nine Justices. It is a powerful argument, not only on the merits but also practically. There is no certainty in law – and there should be certainty in law for society to remain orderly and functional – if the personal predilections of a handful of people are routinely substituted for the judgment rendered by the Founders as to how they sought to form a “more perfect union.”

The other side against whom Scalia warred argued that the Constitution must be a living document that evolves with the times, and that it must always reflect the values of the current generation. That is to say, it should cease functioning as a practical guide to governance and freedom and be relegated to the status of an ancient text trotted out for confirmation of a particular bias but never as a definitive expression of an American virtue, ideal, aspiration or source of law.

That attitude explains the current uproar over Scalia’s replacement, an unseemly spectacle that began before his body was even cold. It underscores the sad irony of a president who has regularly run roughshod over his constitutional limitations and a Congress that has failed to assert itself properly in the scheme of checks and balances. Each group, but certainly the political left for the greater part, is seeking to implant on the Supreme Court another politician in the disguise of a legal scholar, someone who can be relied upon to adhere to certain policy conclusions regardless of their Constitutional propriety. That is not what the Supreme Court is supposed to be, and that is not how Scalia saw his role.

For decades, the Supreme Court has functioned in the exact opposite way to that of the Halachic scholar. The Court is result-oriented, where Halacha is process-oriented. The politicians who sit on the Court have for too long decided what legal conclusion they wish to reach, and then buttressed that conclusion with half-baked Constitutional pseudo-precedents or, more frequently, inventing new ones out of thin air. The Justices do not analyze the sources and reach an objective decision. Jewish law – some notable exceptions aside, such as the bias to free an Agunah – looks at the process, precedents, the facts and circumstances and renders decisions objectively, although not dispassionately. That is why the confirmation process today is so contentious; an impartial justice is not being appointed as much as another partisan politician is being elected for life and given a black robe.

The Scalia approach to the Constitution outlined above is quite similar to the way the Halachic jurist approaches the Torah, and here’s the rub: Scalia’s legal antagonists, those who wish the Constitution to be a “living, evolving” document, find their parallel in the non-Orthodox movements who view the Torah from the identical perspective. They also see a Torah that must evolve with the times, a Torah that must adapt to new values and bend to new and more powerful winds. To them, the morality of the Torah is always subject to change because of the new and allegedly “higher” morality as enunciated by each generation of modern man.

Thus, it astonishes, perplexes and vexes a Scalia-like Halachist that the non-Orthodox routinely embrace new values like pluralism, egalitarianism, feminism and others, force-feed them into the Torah system and emerge with a peculiar amalgam of laws and rituals that seem Jewish but only barely so. When the anchor of Torah is disengaged, what is left is a ship of Judaism that is buffeted by the prevailing winds and navigates unsteadily through the treacherous waters of modernity. It can never guarantee safe spiritual passage for any Jew, as history itself proves. Thus, it is no accident that so many Orthodox thinkers felt such a bond with Antonin Scalia; it was not only the policy but especially the process in which we found the symmetry of approaches.

Lest one exclaim that before anyone idolizes the Constitution we should recall that the Constitution permitted slavery (!), we should recall as well that so did the Torah. Of course, neither document (L’havdil, again) extolled slavery and favored its survival but rather recognized its reality and tried to limit and, over time, eliminate, its inherent excesses and potential for human degradation. (For the Torah view of slavery, see the appropriate section in my book “Tzadka Mimeni: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility” available here or at the top of this page.)

But consider as well that the Constitution contained within it the laborious process by which it could be amended, and in ways that could even contradict the intention of the Framers. An amendment was, in effect, the result of a new Constitutional Convention on one issue. Naturally, the divine Torah has no such provision but the Torah did give the Sanhedrin and the true Sages of every generation the right to make ordinances, and certainly to apply the Torah’s principles to new situations. That is how modern Halachists reckon with electricity on Shabbat, new technology that assists couples dealing with infertility, and sundry other issues – all in compliance with the divine vision. In that way, we adapt modernity to the Torah rather than adapt the Torah to modernity.

I only had the privilege of meeting Justice Scalia one time, and he was as many have described him: warm, gregarious, funny, sharp, and brilliant, and a great raconteur. Read his dissents, if only on the Obamacare cases and in the Obergefell decision to get a true flavor of the man and his mission.

His struggle in the American legal sphere will go on without his mighty pen and intellect. Not surprisingly, our parallel struggle in the Jewish world will go on as well, a struggle that should engage all Jews and in which we hope to reclaim our brethren for the world of Torah and the true service of G-d.

The Palestinian Issue Erroneously Perceived

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Common sense suggests that simplistic and erroneous assumptions produce simplistic and erroneous policies, as has been the case of all US initiatives towards the Palestinian issue, which has been erroneously perceived – by the US foreign policy establishment – to be the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict. 
Hence, the initial US opposition to the 1977 Israel-Egypt peace initiative and the attempt to inject the Palestinian issue on the eve of the 1979 signing ceremony; the 1987 US recognition of the PLO, which rewarded a role-model of – and provided significant tailwind to - international terrorism; the passive US role in the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace initiative; the US endorsement of Arafat as a Nobel Laureate and the embrace of the self-destruct 1993 Oslo Accords; the failure to punish the Palestinian Authority for its hate-education and other systematic violations of the Oslo Accords; and the resounding failure of President Obama’s initiatives, which have highlighted the Palestinian issue.
In contrast to the US foreign policy establishment’s worldview, the first 1948/49 Arab-Israeli War was not launched, by Arab countries, on behalf of Palestinian aspirations. The Arabs launched the war in order to advance their own particular – not Palestinian - interests through the occupation of the strategic area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, the Palestinians blame Arab leaders for what they term “the 1948 debacle." 
Moreover, the 1948/49 War was aimed to prevent the establishment of an “infidel” Jewish entity on a land, which Muslims believe is divinely endowed to the “believers” (Waqf). Thus, during the October, 1947 Pan-Arab Summit, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Azzam, stated: “The establishment of a Jewish state would lead to a war of extermination and momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades…. This war will be distinguished by three serious matters… the shortest road to paradise… an opportunity for vast plunder… avenging the martyrdom of Palestinian Arabs.” 
Jordan joined the 1948/49 War, in order to expand its territory from the east bank of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, as a step towards domination of the Arab World. Egypt harbored a similar ambition, and therefore attempted to foil Jordan’s ambitious strategy, and deployed some of its soldiers to the Jerusalem region to check the Jordanian military moves. Iraq aspired to control the 585-mile-long Iraq-Haifa oil pipeline, extending from the oil fields in Kirkuk/Mosul, through Jordan to the refineries in Haifa. Syria considered the war as an opportunity to conquer some southern sections of “Greater Syria.”
Therefore, at the end of the 1948/9 war, Iraq occupied Samaria (the northern West Bank), but transferred it to Jordan, not to the Palestinians. Jordan occupied Judea (the southern West Bank) and in April 1950 annexed both Judea & Samaria (naming it the West Bank) to the Hashemite Kingdom on the East Bank of the Jordan River. The Hashemite Kingdom prohibited Palestinian activities and punished/expelled Palestinian activists. Egypt conquered the Gaza Strip, imposed a nightly curfew, which was terminated when Israel gained control of Gaza in 1967.  Egypt prohibited Palestinian national activities and expelled Palestinian leaders.  Syria occupied and annexed the al-Hama area in the Golan Heights.
In 1948, the Arab League formed the “All Palestine Government” as a department within the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, dissolving it in 1959.
Independent of the Palestinian issue, the 1956 Sinai War was triggered by Egyptian President Nasser’s megalomaniacal aspirations to rule the Arab World. Nasser concluded a major arms deal with Czechoslovakia and formed a joint Egypt-Syria-Jordan military command against his Arab rivals and Israel. Consequently, he nationalized the British-French owned Suez Canal, supported the Algerian uprising against France, blockaded Israel’s southern port of Eilat, and unleashed Gaza-based terrorism against Israel, aiming to occupy parts of the Negev in southern Israel.
Irrespective of the Palestinian issue, the 1967 (Six Day) War was launched by Israel in response to Egypt’s blockade of Eilat, the oil port of Israel; Egyptian deployment of troops into Sinai, toward Israel, in violation of the 1957 Sinai demilitarization agreement; the Egypt-Syria-Jordan Military Pact aimed at Israel’s destruction; the Syrian shelling of Israeli communities below the Golan Heights; and the Jordanian shelling of Jerusalem.
Unrelated to the Palestinian issue, the 1969-70 Egypt-Israel War of Attrition was conducted along the Suez Canal, as an extension of the 1967 War.

Regardless of the Palestinian issue, and consistent with the goal to advance their national interests and eradicate the “infidel” Jewish state, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq initiated the October 1973 War.

Arabs have systematically and traditionally shed rhetoric, but no blood and minimal financial resources, for the Palestinians. Therefore, the 1982 PLO-Israel War in Lebanon - pre-empting a grand-scale PLO assault on northern Israel -was the first war with no Arab military involvement. The war erupted on June 6, 1982, but the Arab League only convened an emergency session in September, after the PLO had already been expelled from Beirut. Moreover, the Arab oil producing countries – at a time when they controlled the oil market - refused to flex any oil muscle on behalf of the PLO.
Similarly, the 1987-1992 and the 2000-2003 First and Second Palestinian Intifadas were not transformed into an Arab-Israeli war. There was no Arab military or financial walk, only talk, and the US and West European financial aid to the Palestinians dramatically exceeded the Arab aid.

Israel’s 2008/9, 2012 and 2014 wars against the Gaza-based Palestinian terrorism were not top priorities for Arab leaders, most of whom blamed Hamas for the eruption of the 2014 war.

Erroneous Western assumptions that the Arab-Israeli conflict was triggered by the Palestinian issue have led to erroneous policies. It’s time for the “Palestine Firsters” to disengage from over-simplification and reengage with the complex reality of the Mideast.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

France's Relentless Hostility to the Jewish State

By Guy Millière

  • France today is one of the main enemies of Israel -- maybe its main enemy -- in the Western world. France's disregard of the threats faced by Israel is more than simple willful blindness. It is complicity.
  • At a time when Mahmoud Abbas constantly encourages terror and hatred against Israel, and when murders of Israeli Jews by Palestinian Arabs occur on a daily basis, France's anti-Israel relentlessness can only be seen as the latest extension of France's centuries-old anti-Semitism.
  • France's "Arab policy" has gone hand-in-hand with a massive wave of Muslim immigration. France has quickly become the main Muslim country in Europe. More than six million Muslims live in France, and make up approximately 10% of the population. The Muslim vote is now an important factor in French politicians' decisions; the risk of Muslim riots is taken into account.
In 1967, then French President Charles de Gaulle (left), a few months after imposing an arms embargo on Israel, publicly described Jews as an "elite people, sure of themselves and domineering." At right, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hugs then Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the close of nuclear talks in Geneva, Nov. 23, 2014.
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran -- a regime that denies the fact that the Holocaust occurred and does not hide its intention to commit another holocaust -- arrived in Paris for an official visit.
Two days earlier, Rouhani had been in Rome, where the Italian authorities, in a gesture of submission, covered up the nude statues of Rome's Capitoline Museum.
Rouhani thanked Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for his "hospitality". He did not thank President François Hollande for having hosted him on January 27.
No French journalist or politician mentioned International Holocaust Remembrance Day. French journalists spoke only of Hassan Rouhani's "moderation" and "openness," despite Iran's dire human rights violations. Hollande evoked the rebirth of a "fruitful relationship" between Iran and France.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Politics, Prayer and Sovereignty

A Torah Thought for Parashat Tetzaveh 

By Moshe Feiglin

And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and [the Tent] shall be sanctified by My glory.

And I will sanctify the tent of meeting, and the altar; Aaron also and his sons will I sanctify, to minister to Me in the priest’s office.

And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.

And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the LORD their God. 
(From this week’s Torah portion,Tetzaveh, Exodus 29)

Driving home one night last week after a meeting and lecture with English speaking university students, I searched for a radio station to keep me awake. Much to my surprise, Israel Radio Channel 2 had dedicated an hour to the topic of the Holy Temple. I stayed with them, of course.
The broadcasters were of the opinion that the Temple Mount and Holy Temple are the pre-eminent spiritual center for all humanity and as such, nothing that smacks of sovereignty should be allowed at the site. Two interviewees also joined the conversation. One was veteran Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehudah Glick and the other was an Israeli Moslem intellectual (who also translated the Koran into Hebrew) whose name I do not remember.
First the broadcasters turned to Rabbi Glick in an attempt to extricate from him his agreement to surrender Israeli sovereignty on the Mount. He refused, of course, to adopt the Channel 2 approach, but he did not directly address the claim that negates the integration of territorial sovereignty with universal spirituality.
Next, the Moslem intellectual was interviewed. As opposed to Rabbi Glick, he spoke in the most direct of terms. No Jews, or any other nation, for that matter, have any right whatsoever on the Temple Mount – and not at the Western Wall either, he explained. The entire area, according to him, belongs to Islam.
“We are not talking politics,” begged the broadcasters. “We are talking about spirituality. Don’t you want to see the Jews also praying at the holy site?” Again and again, the broadcasters attempted to extricate from him a hint of separation between politics and spirituality, but for naught.
I found myself laughing at their attempts as I drove along the dark road. The Channel 2 broadcasters with their Western, Christianity-based mentality are incapable of integrating the connection between the holy and the mundane; between the physical and the metaphysical. For them, holiness is absolute (like a Catholic priest who does not marry and connect to life). Their Moslem interviewee absolutely does not understand them. For him, prayer and politics, prayer and sovereignty – are one and the same.
Both sides have severed the connection between the material and the spiritual, the body and the soul. Neither side can be truly connected to the Temple Mount. For the site of the Holy Temple is where the metaphysical touches the physical. Just as it is impossible to bring children to the world by correspondence, so it is impossible to coronate G-d as King without a nation and sovereignty. And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and [the Tent] shall be sanctified by My glory.
The Holy Temple is the tool necessary for the coronation of the Creator of the world over His universe. There is no king without a nation, without a country, without a capital and without a palace. Other nations of the world coronate human kings, enter into servitude for people who are mere flesh and blood and build them grand palaces. But for Israel, the majesty is G-d’s and the Holy Temple is His earthly abode.
This is how liberty is acquired for the Nation and the world. Not one person enslaved to the next. Instead, we are all servants of G-d, exclusively. The first to be enslaved to Him is the human king of Israel, whose entire purpose is the fulfillment of the destiny of the Nation of Israel – to perfect the world in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Shabbat Shalom.

A Prime Minister and a Master of Mysticism in Prison

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

We can have Faith in the Courts

The regular readers of this column know that I have often criticized various levels of the Israeli justice system, with respect to matters related to religion and the state and for many nationalistic issues. These issues are intimately linked to existing viewpoints of the judges, and a common claim in my writings and in the opinion of those who agree with me is that the judges of the High Court and of lower levels in the justice system often promote the religion of personal rights at the expense of other values, such as a nationalistic outlook. It is a mistake to think that legal judgements are "mathematical entities" that are hermetically tied to clauses of the law or to legal precedents. This can be seen, for example, in the controversy among the legal experts about the issue of "judgmental activism" – the legacy of the former Chief Justice of the High Court, Aharon Barak. However, in judgements involving criminal, administrative, and civil law, I have a high degree of faith in the existing judges. In these matters I accept the assumption that judgements are objective, without any favoritism, and based on sincere opinion of the judge about the innocence or guilt of the accused.

I am writing this article in the context of a number of prominent public figures in Israel who have been convicted of public corruption or other prohibited actions, and who have spent, are spending, or will spend time behind bars. To our sorrow, we have two ministers who have been found guilty, a former President who was convicted, and police commanders (but not, it seems to me, any generals, in spite of various accusations). And this week these previous guilty ones are being joined by a Prime Minister who is surrounded by various corruption scandals and from the other side a "Baba" – a master of mysticism – who is rich in dollars and is surrounded by a large number of followers. We can be thankful that no justice of the Supreme Court has been accused of criminal corruption (although to our sorrow a case is being prepared against the previous Chief Rabbi, who also served as a judge in the religious High Court). In all, the war against corruption, distribution of benefits, and exploitation of governmental power – including sexual relationships – is worthy only of praise, encouragement, and support. This war is much more worthy of support when the accused are high-level public and humanistic figures who often served as role models and objects of jealousy.

Problematic Legalistic Elements

In spite of the above, I have a feeling of discomfort, a feeling that there is something missing. It seems to me that virtually all the convictions are based on two elements that are faulty from the viewpoint of the halacha (which is called "Hebrew Law"): state's witnesses and plea bargains. And there are even times when these two elements are used together.

As a rabbi and as one who yearns as hard as can be for the establishment of a Jewish State with all of the traditional laws, and as one who is a partner in the enterprise of "Techumin," an annual publication of which 35 volumes have already appeared full of dozens and hundreds of articles on the subject of timely halacha and the legal system – I find it problematic to see such regular use of these two legal devices to convict a criminal – devices which are not tolerated in Jewish halacha. Everybody understands that at times there is no alternative to make a choice between one person and another, and to convince one of the partners in crime to testify against a more senior member of the team by offering him immunity. Everybody understands that at times it is better to "grab" the opportunity for a plea bargain instead of putting the system through a long and complex court case, which will also be quite expensive. But even so, the use of these tools is no occasion for legal celebration.

It is true that anybody who is even partly familiar with the halachic discussions about "the law of the king" and its connection to the laws of Israel is aware that there is a broad path through which we can indeed accept the laws of Israel and the legal system as an instance of "the law of the king" and "a custom." This concept gives great power to the governmental bodies to make laws and judgmental procedures even without any basis in the Torah, as is written by the Rambam: "Anybody who kills another person without the act being witnessed properly or without having been warned of the punishment beforehand, even if there is one witness, or in the case of a person who hates another one, and who kills him by accident – the King is allowed to have him executed, in order to bring about 'tikun ha'olam' as is necessary for that time... in order to instill fear and to shatter the hands of the evil people in the world. " [Hilchot Melachim 3:10].

Does Office of the State's Attorney have Judicial Status?

Even if there is a dire need to act, I still feel uncomfortable with the fact that such decisions – plea bargains and state's witness agreements – are in the hands of the State's Attorney and his office and are not in the province of high-level judges . The judges are presented with a "fully prepared dish" and all they can do is to change the relative proportions of the spices to a small degree. This gives the legal advisors a status combining trust and the ability to judge. But what can we do, these people have not earned my trust at all. The office is swept by too many winds that are not as pure as they should be. Perhaps at the very least, a change can be made to put these tools in the hands of the judges themselves and not the lawyers!

I am also not happy with the fact that these devices, state's witnesses and plea bargains, are becoming more and more common, almost achieving the status of an a priori optimal choice. I know that this is very easy to say, and that the people whose job it is to "shatter the forces of evil" feel that this is the only way to achieve the desired results. However, I can provide some simple counterexamples from the past week. We could have done without the additional month of prison time for the former Prime Minister in order not to have a need for testimony by his corrupt partner, who in the end revolted against her own boss. On the other hand, I find it very hard to believe deep in my heart that a truly neutral judge would have accepted the lenient plea bargain given to the defendant who is so generous in handing out his many blessings and curses.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Kohen Gadol Among His Brothers

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

The Kohen Gadol's job was to atone for the entire Jewish People and bestow of his benevolent spirit on the entire nation, lovingly. As the kohanim say each day, blessing G-d "who sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron and commanded us to bless His people Israel with love." Indeed, there were two ornaments on his outfit, and they contained the names of all the tribes of Israel. There was the breastplate [choshen], on which were embossed twelve precious jems, each different from the rest, and engraved on them were the names of the tribes. As it says: "The stones shall contain the names of the twelve sons of Israel, one for each of the twelve [stones]. Each one's name shall be engraved as on a signet ring, to represent the twelve tribes" (Exodus 28:21). The breastplate lay on the Kohen Gadol's heart, as it says, "Aaron will thus carry the names of Israel's sons on the decision breastplate over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God" (verse 29).

The second ornament, the sardonyx stones were on the Kohen Gadol's shoulders, over his apron [ephod]. On them as well were the twelve names of the tribes engraved, as it says, "Take two sardonyx stones, and engrave on them the names of Israel's sons. There shall be six names on one stone, and the remaining six names on the second stone [inscribed] in the order of their birth…. Place the two stones on the two shoulder pieces of the ephod as remembrance stones" (28:9-12). The entire Jewish People, in all their tribes and variations, down to the very last Jew, are engraved on the heart and weigh on the shoulders of the Kohen Gadol as a constant remembrance before G-d. The heart hints at the Kohen Gadol's great love and the shoulders hint at the responsibility resting on the Kohen Gadol.

Already with the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish People had two leaders: Moses, our political leader who led us through the desert, gave us the Torah and judged all Israel. Along with him was his brother, Aaron the Kohen, who bestowed of his benevolent spirit on the people. Aaron "loved peace and would pursue it. He loved his fellowman and would bring him closer to Torah" (Avot 1). During the First and Second Temple periods as well we had high priests some of whom bestowed of their benevolent spirits on the political leadership, i.e., on the kings and on the entire nation.

In our own generation, the generation of national rebirth and the ingathering of the exiles, the further we move along the ascending path towards complete redemption, the more we encounter difficulties and complications from within and from without. Precisely at this time we need responsible, strong and wise political leadership that will know how to lead the nation to the goals and destinations for which purpose it was created. And alongside that political leadership we need moral and spiritual leadership, like the air we breath, which can bestow of its spirit on the nation and its leaders, just as the Kohen Gadol did.

Our generation has been privileged in that G-d, who plants in our midst the souls that each generation needs, planted the magnificent, benevolent soul of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhcak HaKohen Kook, zt"l. He was like the Kohen Gadol of our generation and of the generations to follow. Rav Kook bore the nation upon his heart and his shoulders. He loved our nation infinitely Just as G-d loves Israel, and just as we bless G-d who "chooses His people Israel with love." Rav Kook bequeathed to us the light that illuminates our pathways and our souls, as well as the souls of the generations to come, until the advent of a righteous redeemer, speedily in our day.

The day is not far off when the light of Rav Kook will illuminate the path of the Jewish People, in all their streams and all their variety, and will be revealed for all to see. Then we will be the living fulfillment of, "A new light shall shine over Zion, May we all speedily merit that light."

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Should Israel Legalize Gambling?

By Moshe Feiglin

For some people, the State is the great purifier. If the State gives the order to expel a person from his home and to destroy it, the act becomes ethical and one must carry out the order (for if not, “the roof will cave in upon us and the State will be destroyed”). In other words, the State bestowed its seal of morality on the unethical order. This is also known as fascism.
If the State  prohibits the use of cannabis, then it must surely be true that there is something very unethical about smoking it. If the State arrests and tortures minors and does not bring them to trial, then clearly those minors are sons of the devil himself. And it is a good thing that they are torturing them. And if they confessed as a result of the torture, it shows that we were right all along. If the State organizes gambling and calls it the State lottery, then that is good gambling. But if a private individual organizes it, that is bad gambling. If I peek into your bank account, I am a criminal. But if the State does it, that is perfectly fine.
French psychologist Jean Piaget took note of this phenomenon. During World War II, the German movie theatres would show pictures from the concentration camps. The horrors plainly apparent on the screen did not convince the obedient German citizens that the State was perpetrating evil. Instead, they concluded that if the State was punishing the Jews so severely, they must certainly be monsters… That is what happens when the State becomes an ethical measuring stick, attempting to replace G-d.
Besides providing security and establishing a justice system (according to Maimonides) the role of the State is basically not to get in the way. Laws are not supposed to create culture. They are supposed to express it. It is the citizens who create culture. I believe that Jewish culture and authentic Jewish identity will only develop in Israel through absolute liberty, because liberty is one of our national values. It is in our collective “I”. Just like Michelangelo’s ‘David’ was already in the rock. It was the liberty of the artist that revealed the iconic sculpture.
The State must not interfere in the private lives and values of its citizens – except for extreme cases when there is a clear consensus around a particular value.
There is such an ‘animal’ that is called the values of the nation. There is a collective “I” somewhere there in the rock. A person who walks down the street with no clothing offends that “I”, who also has rights. It is fine to obligate a motorcyclist to wear a helmet (even though he endangers only himself by not wearing it) because the value of preservation of human life in our Land encompasses much more than any incidental majority that can legislate laws to balance various interests.
Even if we do not entertain the question of its influence on its surroundings (let us assume that we can completely neutralize all the negative side effects of gambling) gambling is very bad from an ethical standpoint. All gambling is bad – the State lotteries are just the same as private gambling. But the question is if this is a value of the Nation or my personal feeling.
If 80-85% of the community (in Eilat or any other place) opposes gambling, that is a critical mass that would enable them to prohibit gambling in their city. If we are not dealing with those numbers, the State does not have to allow gambling. It must simply not prohibit it.

Let’s Take Responsibility for our Driving

By Moshe Feiglin

After consulting with the experts in the Transportation Ministry, I put together a proposed bill. And when I was elected to the Knesset, I tried to get it passed.  The Transportation Ministry supported the bill. But it did not pass due to the ‘professional’ opposition of then Justice Minister Tzippy Livni and her ministry workers.  This bill will be one of my first goals when, with G-d’s help, I will be in an official legislative position in Israel.
What does the bill state? Simply that when a driver recklessly injures others, he must compensate his victims from his own pocket.
If a bus driver would know that his insurance will not cover him if he is fiddling with his cell phone, would he continue to do so, or would he focus on the road?
What are we more afraid of? Running a red light, or driving without insurance? Clearly, driving without insurance is more frightening. But driving without insurance does not endanger lives. Ahh, but driving without insurance places all the responsibility for possible injury of others on me. Now that is scary.
Today, when we drive, we don’t see people. We see penalties. Mandatory insurance has eliminated the dimension of responsibility from our driving.
Everyone agrees that lack of responsibility is the main factor causing MVAs. Instead though, we focus on road infrastructure (very important) and on more and more penalties (also important) but do almost nothing to deal with the root of the problem: the dimension of responsibility.
Mandatory insurance is obviously vital. We do not want to find ourselves in a situation in which the guilty driver does not have the means to compensate his victim. But my bill said that for certain road offenses – we can call them highway bullying – (For example: Passing over a white line, entrance into the intersection after the light has been red for more than a second  – and in my opinion, today we must add texting while driving) – for those crimes, the insurance company – after it has paid compensation to the victim – will have the right to sue the offending driver for the money that it paid out.
If you were a bully on the road, then you have made light of human life in a disgraceful manner (texting while driving). If you are caught, you should be punished for breaking the driving laws. But if your bad driving caused an accident and people were injured, you will have to deal with the repercussions just like divorced fathers – your salary will be frozen, you will not be allowed to exit the country and more.
Just as it is clear that a person who brings a new life into this world is also responsible for that life, even more so, the person who causes his victim to make an unplanned exit from this world must be held personally responsible.
Who is responsible? The individual or the state?
Who belongs to whom? The individual to the state or vice versa?
Centralization or liberty?
For the meantime, we will just have to manage with more and more penalties.