Friday, April 21, 2017

We Work for G-d: A Torah Thought for Parashat Shemini

By Moshe Feiglin

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” 

(From this week’s Torah portion, Shemini, Leviticus 10: 1-2)

“And when they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.” (From this week’s haftorah, Samuel B, 6:6-7)

It turns out that the holy service of G-d is a very exacting undertaking. Even if you are completely righteous and have only good intentions, it is best to strictly adhere to instructions – and then, after a lot of study and experience – to approach holiness.

The sons of Aaron brought a foreign offering, which G-d did not command them to do. But why did they have to die? Isn’t there more than one way to be a Jew?

And Uzzah? King David also couldn’t understand why he was killed. All that he wanted to do was to save the Ark of the Covenant from falling after the oxen stumbled. He paid for it with his life.

The holy service of G-d is not about personal whims – even if they stem from positive intentions. Today, a person who decides to serve G-d in a way that was not commanded (in other words, to serve himself) has nothing to worry about. No fire will descend from the heavens to burn him. G-d will not suddenly appear and smite him. But the fact that G-d is concealed does not mean that He does not exist. We must always remember that we work for Him, and He does not work for us.

Shabbat Shalom.

When Strategy and Morality Converge

By Moshe Feiglin
As Holocaust Memorial Day approaches, I was thinking about why we, the Jews, criticize the US and Britain for not bombing Auschwitz. The answer is not because they didn’t bomb the death factory. It is because they were flying over the death camp anyway, on their way to bomb other targets. Destruction of the camp did not contradict any American interest. But it also didn’t bother the Americans and British too much. And that is what we rightly criticize.

President Trump did not bomb Syria after the gas attack a few weeks ago because he is a saint. He bombed because the Syrians gave him the opportunity and the moral justification to rectify the foolishness of his predecessor, who removed the US from the area, created a vacuum that Putin hurried to fill and turned the US into a lame duck in the Middle East. Does that mean that there is no moral difference between Russia and the US? Does that mean that morality had no role in the bombing? Of course not. Trump’s bombing of Syria in the aftermath of the gas attack was a quintessentially moral act. Life is comprised of both the physical and the spiritual. Even the most hallucinatory leftist in Israel will not demand that Israel send its commandos to free the prisoners from the camps in North Korea or declare war on China, which murders its prisoners and harvests their organs. That would be policy based entirely on the spiritual component, which would endanger the physical component.

But the opposite is also true. A policy based solely on interests dilutes the spiritual component and ultimately endangers life. In the case of North Korea, China, the genocide in Africa and the like, Israel must condemn those actions and morally negate them. It must initiate and support international condemnation of those heinous acts and apply whatever pressure it can to prevent them. Clearly, for example, Israel must prevent the continued licensing of the Israeli weapons dealers and military apparatus cronies who make large sums of money from the African bloodbath. This is not in line with any Israeli interest and is a terrible moral stain on our country.

Israel must not cross the line that compromises its security or seriously destabilizes its economy or social fabric (attention those who advocate opening Israel’s borders to Syrian refugees).

On the other hand, when there is a convergence of military/strategic interests together with a moral claim, then it is right and necessary to use force – as Trump did in Syria.

General Amos Yadlin was correct when he said that the situation in Syria has created this convergence of interests – strategic and moral – for the State of Israel. Israel’s evasion of the chaotic situation in Syria until now has severely compromised its own security. Because in the Middle East, if you prefer to bury your head in the sand instead of sitting down to the feast, you become part of the menu.

Lessons of the Holocaust

By Moshe Feiglin

I am very ashamed of the Holocaust. How my people were taken, stripped, humiliated, tortured and led to their deaths – before the eyes of the joyous Poles, Ukrainians, French and other offspring of Christian enlightenment; how newborn babies were impaled on pitchforks on the way to the death pits; how millions were led to the factories of death, and suffocated and burned, fertilizing the fields of Poland and Europe with our people’s ashes – with almost no resistance.

I am very proud of the Holocaust. If the German Asmodeus – the most explicit essence of absolute evil ever revealed in history – sees me, the Jew, as its ultimate enemy, then that means that I am on the other end of the scale. In other words, there is something very good about my people. If the German Asmodeus represents absolute evil, then it is very afraid of the absolute good – G-d – that I represent.

There is no way to explain the Holocaust. I know survivors who are not on speaking terms with G-d. I know many who are the opposite. I have no right to go there – and I have neither the ability nor the desire to do so. But irrespective of the theological questions surrounding the Holocaust, one thing clearly occurred in its wake: Jewish history stopped being written in exile and started to be written in the Land of Israel.

For the first time since the First Temple period (!), the majority of the Jewish People are living in the Holy Land. This fact constitutes a spiritual critical mass. Jewish law changes in several realms by virtue of the demographic fact that “most of its sons are on [the land].” The absolute number in the Land of Israel is chilling. Six million.

G-d, Who chose us to be His eternal people and to attest to His existence, has made us a target for extermination by every evil in the world. It is certainly understandable why there are Jews who constantly try to escape this fate. As individuals, this may be possible – an individual may be able to assimilate and rid him/herself of this trouble. But as a people, we cannot escape our destiny. We cannot exist without it.

When the time of national awakening comes, when the gates of the Land open before us but we insist on remaining merely the bearers of religion in exile – the ground burns under our feet. And when we flee to the other extreme, create an alternative Israeli nationalism and shun Judaism and the Torah, then even if we have decided that we are no longer Jews, but only normal Israelis, even if we have established a modern state and hold 200 atom bombs in our nuclear arsenal – we are still six million Jews under the mounting danger of annihilation.

Our obsessive need to maintain international recognition of our normalcy forces us to pay in the hard currency of homeland and security in exchange for the peace process – or in other words, the process of our “acceptance” as a normal people among the nations. There are two historical lessons that we should remember well from the Holocaust:

One is that the armies of Czechoslovakia and France – both much stronger before the war than the German army – went down like dominoes because their leaderships failed to understand the nature of the conflict and based their policies on peace processes.

The second lesson, which pertains directly to us as Jews, is that before physical destruction, a spiritual destruction tales place. Before we are murdered, our dignity is murdered, and we are rendered illegitimate. Der Stuermer always precedes Auschwitz. When you agree to be humiliated, you have not forestalled your end; you have brought it closer. When the state’s leadership lets Biden or Erdogan humiliate us, it sows hope and uncontrollable desire to destroy us. When Ahmadinejad started to talk about Israel’s destruction – it should have been clear that from Israel’s standpoint, he had lost his right to breathe in this world. Since we did not eliminate him, he has been gaining strength. He and his ministers roam freely around the world, while Israel has become a pirate ship that has lost the legitimacy for its existence, its ministers fugitives in European capitals. We have returned to the days of the “Jewish Question.” We are no longer in 2010. It is now nineteen thirty-something.

Whoever warns against a preemptive strike in Iran and prefers to let the world do its work, is behaving just like the Jewish community leaders who denounced anyone who tried to resist the German annihilation machine. It is clear that resistance had a terrible price. But the price of appeasement and cooperation was a thousand times more horrific.

(And God Said…) I am Sorry

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

Every spring, a number of days of commemoration are observed. Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron, established by the government of Israel, are days in which we honor the memory of the fallen – first for the victims of the Holocaust and then for those who gave their lives to create and defend the State of Israel. On these solemn days, we remember the fallen as individuals, just as we attempt to transmit the lessons learned from tragic loss to the next generation. 

Yom HaAtzmaut immediately follows Yom HaZikaron, marking the establishment of the State of Israel and celebrating our continued freedom and sovereignty in our homeland. These three days, clustered together in a very intensive sequence, create a period of national introspection and stock-taking in which we consider, on the one hand, our many achievements and the unprecedented success of the Jewish nation-state, while on the other hand, the extreme sacrifices that were made to achieve our freedom. By creating the juxtaposition between Remembrance Day and Independence Day, this was the underlying message Israel’s founders hoped to convey - a lesson they apparently learned from the juxtaposition of the solemn fast of Esther and the celebratory holiday of Purim: Our victory, our survival, was made possible by almost-unthinkable sacrifice.

Similarly, the darkness of the Holocaust is contrasted with the dawn of the emerging Jewish state – not to insinuate a correlation or “barter” of six million souls for the establishment of the State, but to help us appreciate the contrast between these two eras through their juxtaposition. The Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel should be seen as polar opposites – not only in the political or physical sense, but also, as Rabbi Soloveitchik encouraged us to understand them, in terms of their theological implications.

The Holocaust is an archetypical example of darkness, of the hesterpanim (literally “hidden face”) mentioned in the book of D’varim: “I will surely hide my face on that day…” (31:18). Conversely, the establishment of the modern State of Israel is a revelation of God’s presence and active involvement in Jewish history, a dazzling gilui panim (revelation) in which God’s hand is unmistakable. The contrast between the darkness that we experienced and the emergence into the light and warmth of modern Israel is almost startling. 

In a very real sense, the relationship between God and the Jewish people may be likened to the cycle of the moon, which disappears and then reappears, at first as a sliver, and eventually as a full moon. A brief rabbinic comment regarding the new moon may help us reframe this strange shift from darkness to light from a theocentric perspective: On each holiday, we are commanded to sacrifice a sin-offering, just as a sin-offering is brought on the eve of every new month. However, the biblical passage that describes the sin-offering on Rosh Hodesh – the new moon – differs from all the others. In all other instances, the Torah refers simply to the “sin-offering.” Only the sacrifice brought on Rosh Hodesh is described as “a sin-offering for God” (B’midbar 28:15). The Talmud (Hullin 60b) offers a philosophical explanation for this anomaly: God asks that a sin offering be brought each month to atone for His own sin – the sin of diminishing the moon. 

The implications of this teaching are extraordinary, and they speak to the very core of our reality. The world was created with a delicate balance between light and darkness, between clarity and obscurity, between revelation and hester panim. Presumably, this balance is necessary in order to create an atmosphere in which man can retain free will, which is the very foundation of our independent existence. In a world in which God’s constant, active involvement in human history is always apparent, free will is eclipsed, and man cannot thrive. Ultimately, the periods of darkness, the terrible bouts of existential loneliness, are as spiritually beneficial for us as the periods of light. The waves of hester panim, as they are juxtaposed with gilui panim, sharpen our awareness of the Divine and encourage us to seek out the spiritual message contained in the darkness, in the silence, in the pain that precedes the appearance of that sliver of moon. It is the struggle with the darkness that allows us to grow. 

And yet, God expresses remorse for inflicting upon us the hours, days, even years of darkness and doubt. God takes responsibility for the pain we must experience. “Pray for Me,” He says. “Bring an offering to atone for My sin. Forgive Me.” By commanding us to bring this offering, God says “Forgive Me for the pain you have experienced.” We might consider this the flip-side of the coin of the human condition: We all, unavoidably, sin. When we do, we turn to God, we desperately pray and plead for forgiveness. Once each month, the proverbial shoe is on the other foot, and God seeks our forgiveness for the pain inherent in the human condition. Can we rejoice in the loving reunion that ensues as the light overcomes the darkness and we realize that the pain was an indispensable stage in our spiritual growth? Do we have the moral fortitude to forgive God?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Greatest Success Story

BS”D 
Parashat Shemini 5777
By HaRav Nachman Kahana

After 3500 years of serving as HaShem’s chosen people with a history unlike any other nation – neither in suffering, nor in accomplishments – the time has come to examine if the Jewish nation is a success story or a failure.

We are the only ancient people that is still alive – success. However, the majority of Jews today are not conscious Torah observers – failure. So, at the end of the day, is HaShem “happy” or “disappointed” with us?

I submit:

In our parasha, Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aharon the Kohen Gadol, lost their lives while participating in the ceremony to effectuate the sanctification of the Mishkan. When mortal man enters the holy precincts of the Almighty, he can never be certain of the outcome.

Queen Esther took her life in her hands when she presented herself before the eccentric, capricious king Achashverosh.

Yehonatan, son of King Shaul, and his shield bearer were not far from being suicidal when they attacked the entire Philistine army in order to save the Jewish nation, and the two men succeeded.

All the above acts of admirable bravery have a common feature. They were all one-time events or extended over a limited period of years.

We have an event of heroic proportions that extended for over 1200 years, the sum total of time that the Mishkan and the two Batei Mikdash were standing, when the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would enter the Kodesh Kodashim (Holy of Holies) on Yom Kippur in order to attain forgiveness for Am Yisrael. The Kohen Gadol knew how he would enter but never knew how he would leave.

As admirable as these altruistic acts were, there is the ultimate time-defying act of altruism that is still being played out on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute scale by Am YIsrael.

Thirty-five hundred years ago, HaShem appeared to Avraham Aveinu with an offer to enter into an accord called Brit ben HaBetarim – The Covenant of the Severed Pieces (Beraishiet chapter 15).

Avraham would enter into the treaty in the name of all his future offspring, and HaShem would guarantee His part of the treaty by His everlasting name for all time.

The treaty obligates the Jewish nation to be a “light unto the nations.”

What does this obligation encompass? In the “big picture,” all that is in this world and all the other worlds ranging from the absolute spiritual – the Holy One Blessed Be He of Whom we have no conception – and emanating from Him beyond time and space to all of creation, down to the furthest and absolute opposite of the Creator, the physical, material world of which we are a part.

In Kabbalistic terms, our physical universe can be compared to the bottom of a foot that supports everything above it.

In this lowly world, the name of HaShem must be ever present. If for one minute His presence would not be recognized, then the whole of creation would cease to exist.

The task that was placed upon Avraham and his future descendants in this covenant was, and is, as difficult as it is essential – to guarantee that the presence of HaShem will never be forgotten by humanity.

Without the Jewish nation, the concept of a monotheistic God would have quickly been replaced with beliefs defined as avoda zara (idol worship). Christianity with its trinity, Islam that uses God as a tool to control and subjugate others, Buddhism and all the other faiths developed by the gentiles would not be capable of maintaining the belief in a Creator that cannot be seen or heard.

Within a generation or two, paganism would replace belief in a monotheistic God – just as it happened in pre-Noach time by Enosh who originated and disseminated the initial ideas of idolatry.

In the covenant between HaShem and Avraham, the father of the Jewish nation, Avraham was warned that the task would be dangerous, even life-threatening, with millions of Avraham’s descendants destined to die in the effort to perpetuate and preserve the presence of HaShem against the pagan instincts of humanity.

Avraham was aware of the future role of Am Yisrael, as seen by his reactions.


The Torah states (ibid):

(יב) ויהי השמש לבוא ותרדמה נפלה על אברם והנה אימה חשכה גדלה נפלת עליו:

(יג) ויאמר לאברם ידע תדע כי גר יהיה זרעך בארץ לא להם ועבדום וענו אתם ארבע מאות שנה:

(יד) וגם את הגוי אשר יעבדו דן אנכי ואחרי כן יצאו ברכש גדול:

(טו) ואתה תבוא אל אבתיך בשלום תקבר בשיבה טובה:

(טז) ודור רביעי ישובו הנה כי לא שלם עון האמרי עד הנה:

12) As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.

13) Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years, your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.

14) But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.


Avraham “fell into a deep sleep and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him” when he is told that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land, with all that that implies. This experience was necessary in order to prepare the Jewish people to keep the faith with HaShem in the direst situations, no less heinous than slavery itself.

And the Torah continues:

(יז) ויהי השמש באה ועלטה היה והנה תנור עשן ולפיד אש אשר עבר בין הגזרים האלה:

(יח) ביום ההוא כרת ה’ את אברם ברית לאמר לזרעך נתתי את הארץ הזאת מנהר מצרים עד הנהר הגדל נהר פרת:)

17) When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking furnace with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.

18) On that day, the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt (the Nile) to the great river, the Euphrates”.


Avraham saw that in the fulfillment of guarding and protecting HaShem’s presence in the world, his children would have to undergo days of darkness with “smoking furnaces with a blazing torch” in the galut; with its inquisitions, Christian crusades, pogroms, forced conversions, concentration camps, terrorists, international ridicule and denigration.

Now, after 3500 years of serving and sacrificing, Hashem has thrown open the gates of His Holy Land for His people, and the authentic Jews whose families have survived the onslaughts of the gentiles in the galut have returned to rebuild the Holy Land. Now we can take a deep breath and declare before HaShem, “We have succeeded. Your Holy Name was not forgotten even for one day since the Covenant of the Severed Pieces.”

And HaShem replies, “My children in Eretz Yisrael, you are the masterpiece of My creations. You are the remnants of the few who have experienced the worst that man can deal out to his fellow man and survived. You protected and kept My Name alive while all others were violating you for doing so. Now the time is quickly approaching for the rewards I promised. You will soon be masters over all the Holy Land, from the entire River Prat (Euphrates from Turkey to the Gulf) to the great river of Egypt (the Nile).”

Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael IS history’s greatest success story.

We are quickly approaching the closing of the historical circle that began with our father Avraham and mother Sarah. The final links will be the return of all Jews to the Torah’s boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, the restoration of the Kohanic and Davidic dynasties and the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash on the Temple Mount.

May it occur speedily in our time.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5777/2017 Nachman Kahana

Palestinians: Hunger Strike or Smokescreen?

By Bassam Tawil

  • It is an integral part of the Palestinian strategy to undermine, isolate, delegitimize and destroy Israel.
  • It is not only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who is in trouble. Marwan Barghouti, too, knows better than to air dirty Fatah laundry. What, then, is to be done? The traditional diversionary tactic: Direct the heat towards Israel.
  • Stripped of its Western trappings, Barghouti's "hunger strike" is actually a struggle between Abbas and yet another Fatah pretender to the throne. And once again, Israel -- the state that supposedly so "mistreats" incarcerated Palestinian terrorists -- takes the heat.
The hunger strike declared by jailed Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti (left) is aimed at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right). Barghouti's supporters accuse Abbas and his loyalists of sidelining the jailed Fatah leader and seeking to "bury" him.
Palestinians have an old habit of settling internal scores by diverting their grievances and violence towards Israel. This practice is clear to those who have been monitoring developments in the Palestinian arena for the past decades. It is an integral part of the Palestinian strategy to undermine, isolate, delegitimize and destroy Israel.
Those less familiar with Palestinian culture and tactics, however, have difficulty understanding the Palestinian mindset. Officials in Washington, London, Paris and other Western capitals rarely meet the ordinary Palestinian, the "man on the street" who represents the authentic voice of the Palestinians.
Instead, these officials meet Palestinian politicians and academics from Ramallah -- the "experts" who are actually accomplished con artists. Such Palestinians grasp the Western mindset very well, and use their understanding to twist Western officials any which way they want.

The “Bayit Yehudi” Party is a Home without a Mezuzah

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute


In my eyes, the month of Iyar which begins this week is the month of Zionism in general, and specifically religious Zionism. In this month political Zionism is represented by Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Independence Day), and the religious sector reached a new level with the advent of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Liberation Day). This sector, which was put to shame by a marginal scribe in the newspaper Ha’aretz (who was duly followed by the editor), is in fact alive and well, and can often be seen “kicking.” It evidently brings out such emotions as jealousy and even hatred. Religious Zionism is deeply entwined in all walks of life in Israel, except for its basic foundational issue, which is known as “religion and the state.” (Note that I prefer to use the term, “Judaism and the state.”)

Classic Religious Zionism

From my earliest memories, I was educated along the lines of organized religious Zionism, which was the soul of the now defunct Mafdal, a political party which fought to implant a Jewish face on the State of Israel . This was one of its banners, which inspired thousands of youths just like me, above and beyond such issues as nationalism, settlements, integration into all the sectors of the new nation, while taking on responsibility for the nation in terms of leadership, development, and its advancement. The religious youth movement Bnei Akiva was an integral part of the “mother party,” and within it grew ranks of members who were loyal to these ideals.

Personally, all my time has been spent aimed at these goals, ideologically and in a practical sense, in an effort to integrate Judaism and the country. This started with Hesder service in the IDF, in the very beginnings of this religious Zionist enterprise, and continued with my active participation in the Torah circles of the Mafdal, eventually serving on the central committee of the party and on the presidium. More than 40 years ago, I founded the Zomet Institute, which annually publishes “Techumin,” a collection of halachic discussions with the purpose of combining the concepts of “Torah, society, and the State.” (Every year, in the month of Iyar of course, a new volume is published. This year Volume 37 will appear, with G-d’s help.) This “curriculum vitae” is not a matter of personal nostalgia but rather an attempt to give a flavor of the public aspect of my life – “showing confidence in the correctness of the path,” and providing an overview of the religious Zionist outlook.

And now, on the ruins of the Mafdal Party, the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) has risen, and it has burst out of the previous boundaries. I have often expressed my support of the new “Home” and its policies in terms of nationalism, settlement policies, and politics. I also expressed my support for changing the name of the party from “religious” to “Jewish.” I am a member of the leadership committee of the new party and its presidium (I was chosen without any special support group, after I sent a single text message to the voting committee). I assume I was viewed as a representative of the issues of religion and state, or “Judaism and the state,” which could be expected to come up in the Bayit Yehudi Party.

Is this Purposeful Neglect or Indifference?

It is no secret that at present there is room for disappointment. The Bayit Yehudi has now locked its doors and shuttered the windows to block out any mention of such issues. It can be assumed that the reasons for this have to do with electoral considerations: in order not to be branded as a strictly religious party, and also a refusal to take any strong positions and an attempt to avoid discussions about issues pertaining to the Jewish character of the state. Well, it is true that no consensus has been reached on some of these issues, not even within the party itself. But in spite of this, in my opinion, it is unthinkable that a “Jewish Home” party will refuse to take a stand and will not get involved at all in questions which have recently come up, within the category of “religion and the state.” These include the public character of Shabbat, work performed by the government on the public day of rest, areas of prayer at the Western Wall, systems for managing kashrut through the Chief Rabbinate, dual-sex combat units in the IDF, and many, many more.

These issues have been “abandoned” by the masters of the “Bayit” and left to Chareidim on one hand, and to MK’s who are sons and daughters of traditional religious Zionism in other parties, who were chosen specifically to institute liberal innovations in matters of “religion and the state” (I do not say that we must continue everything as it was in the past, but I call for discussions from a modern viewpoint.) The Bayit Yehudi is facing challenges from both sides ... And the “Home” is solidly locked. (Note in passing that the achievements of the Minister of Justice in appointing new judges to the High Rabbinical Courts are by definition not a matter of “religion and the State”).

To summarize: Today there is no political haven for religious Zionism which can be involved in issues of “Judaism and the State” and cooperation between the sectors as a regular agenda. Everybody regularly pays lip service to the ideal of “a democratic and Jewish state,” but we are left with an unanswered question: What has the Bayit Yehudi done for the element of “Judaism?”

Let me finish this article with a postscript to the personal note I wrote near the beginning. On the first of Nissan, a few weeks ago, I sent a letter to a dozen or so ministers and MK’s from the Bayit Yehudi and a few other relevant people, with the following subject: “ Is the Bayit Yehudi Party the right place for me?” Three of the more “religious” people who received this letter responded (with a shrug of their shoulders, more or less). Nobody else felt any need to relate to my letter.

Unnecessary Stringencies

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

"To distinguish between the ritually impure and the pure" [Vayikra 11:47]. The Natziv writes, "Separating between the impure and the pure is a positive mitzva. Thus, if there are any doubts that can be analyzed in order to decide whether to permit something or prohibit it, the Beit Din is obligated by a positive mitzva to clarify the matter. Just as it is wrong to be lenient in a case where it is proper to be stringent... so it is forbidden to be stringent in a case where it is possible to be lenient." [Haamek Davar].

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, the sage of moral teaching in our generation, wrote an entire chapter about this subject in his book "Alei Shur." He writes that " frumkeit" (exaggerated stringency) is an egotistical urge which is not related at all to surrender to a higher power and that it does not lead to a closer approach to the Holy One, Blessed be He. This is because it is clear that the holy Shechina will not be revealed through selfishness, and anybody who bases his or her service of G-d on "frumkeit" is acting selfish. And even if he piles on himself many stringent actions – he will not become a pious person, and he will never reach a level of doing things for the sake of heaven.

The subject of stringency appears in the Talmud. For example, "Mar Ukva said: With respect to the following matter I can be compared to vinegar that was made from wine. When my father ate cheese he would not eat meat for the next twenty-four hours, while I do not eat meat during the same meal but I will eat it in the next meal." [Chulin 105a]. The conclusion is that a person who is not at as high a level as his father was should not be as stringent as his father was.

This issue is discussed in "Pitchei Teshuva" where the author quotes from a book named "Solet LeMincha," that one who wants to be stringent and take on a prohibition that was not accepted by the Amora'im, the rabbis of the Talmud, such as ignoring something prohibited if it is less than one-sixtieth of the total amount of food, is "like an apostate, and his loss outweighs any possible reward for this action" [Yoreh Dei'ah 116:10].

In "Chiku Mamtakim," a book published in memory of Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach, a story is told of a student who asked if he was allowed to use thin planks for Sechach in a succah, which was permitted by the rabbis of Jerusalem but which was not approved by the Chazon Ish. Rabbi Auerbach replied that it is permitted, and he added: How can you be stringent? You are only a young student, you are not allowed to be stringent using your parents' money, and you should also not cause extra expenses for your wife by being especially stringent. Rabbi Auerbach taught his students that if they wanted to be stringent they must first study the matter in depth. And they should be stringent only if they reached a conclusion that it was a halachic necessity, but they should never simply imitate somebody else. He said that the GRA was surprised to be considered pious. It is true that a pious man burns his fingernails after they are cut (Nidda 17a), but not everybody who does this (such as the GRA) is necessarily pious.

Rav Amital said that a student once asked him why he was not stringent in a certain matter about which the Mishna Berura writes that a G-d-fearing person should be wary. Rav Amital replied that it is indeed written that a G-d-fearing man should be stringent in this matter, but that it is not written that stringency will lead to a greater fear of G-d.

In a letter to the ultra-religious Badatz organization in Jerusalem, Rabbi A.Y. Kook wrote, "It is important to note how careful we must be when we try to be stringent in matters for which we could be lenient according to the law, so that we will not incur a greater loss than any possible gain."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

France's War to Delegitimize Israel

By Yves Mamou

  • France's financial support goes beyond the French government's November 2016 decision to support labeling products produced in the settlements and instead supports the boycott of such products.
France, while its Ministry of Foreign Affairs is officially claiming the necessity of peace and secure borders for Israel, is discreetly financing organizations and NGOs openly hostile to Israel. Pictured: French President François Hollande (right) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris on January 11, 2015. (Image source: Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
Officially, France prohibits any form of boycott against Israel. In 2015, the Court of Cassation confirmed a 2013 decision regarding the illegality of boycotts and the call for boycotts in France. Under the law, in 2013, BDS France was fined €28,000 (USD $30,000) by a local French court, after a call made in 2010 by 14 activists to boycott Israeli products in a supermarket. In addition, each of the 14 activists was fined €1,000.
However, according to a report recently released by NGO Monitor, the French government continues to fund NGOs openly hostile to Israel and to fund NGOs that support and promote boycott campaigns against Israel.
The French government's financial support for boycott campaigns embraces:

The perplexing Middle East labyrinth vs. Western policy

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Video#40 http://bit.ly/2oxPL9G ;
Entire mini-seminar: http://bit.ly/1ze66dS

1. In the pursuit of peace, alliances and interests, western policy-makers tend to sacrifice perplexing Middle East reality on the altar of oversimplification and wishful-thinking, which has fueled regional fires.

2. According to the Lebanese-born Prof. Fouad Ajami, former Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University (The Arab Predicament, Cambridge University Press, 1990): Middle East reality constitutes “a chronicle of illusions, despair and politics repeatedly degenerating into bloodletting.”

3. Iraqi-born Prof. Eli Kedourie, London School of Economics, one of the leading Middle East historians, wrote in Islam in the Modern World (Mansell publishing, 1980): “Political terrorism in the Muslim and Arab world has a somewhat old history…which would not be easy to eradicate from the world of Islam.”

4. Egyptian-born Prof. P. J. Vatikiotis, from the London University School of Oriental and African Studies, an icon of Middle East history, wrote in Arab and Regional Politics in the Middle East (Croom and Helm, 1984): “The use of terrorism by [Arab] rulers…has been for domestic, regional and international political purposes…. There is an unbridgeable gap between them and all other social and political arrangements… The dichotomy between the Islamic and all other systems of earthly government and order is clear, sharp and permanent; it is also hostile.”

5. The assumption that the Arab Tsunami is a temporary mishap, which could be cured by a constitutional panacea, is detached from Middle East reality. Most of the Arab rage has been directed toward Arabs, and was introduced long before the 2010 eruption of the current Arab Tsunami.

6. Two million Sudanese were killed, and 4 million displaced, during the 1983-2011 genocidal civil war; the West Pakistani massacres in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) totaled 1.25 million in 1971; 200,000 deaths in Algeria's civil war in 1991-2006; one million deaths in the Iran-Iraq war; 300,000 Muslim [Shia and Kurdish] killed by Saddam Hussein; 200,000 Lebanese were killed in internal violence during the 1970s and 1980s; 80,000 Iranians killed during the Islamic revolution; 25,000 deaths in Jordan during the 1970-71; 20,000 killed in 1982 by Hafiz Assad in Hama. The World Health Organization’s estimate of Osama bin Laden’s carnage in Iraq was 150,000.

7. Some 11 million Muslims have been violently killed since 1948, of which 35,000, (0.3 percent) died during the Arab wars against Israel, or one out of every 315 fatalities; and public executions and decapitations are regularly held in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

8. The deep roots of contemporary Mid-East Islamic violence are highlighted by Prof. Efraim Karsh, Head of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at London’s King's College, editor of the Middle East Quarterly and author of Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2006): “In the long history of the Islamic empire, the wide gap between delusions of grandeur and the forces of localism would be bridged time and again by force of arms, making violence a key element of the Islamic political culture.... The result was a legacy of oppressive violence that has haunted the Middle East [from the seventh century] into the 21st century….”

9. A key lesson for US policy-makers was delivered by Prof. P.J. Vatikiotis (ibid): “American choices must be made on the assumption that what the Arabs want or desire is not always – if ever – what Americans desire; in fact, the two desires may be diametrically opposed and radically different.”

10. Western interests and the pursuit of peace would be dramatically enhanced, should Western policy-makers adhere to Middle East reality and heed the teachings of Professors Ajami, Karsh, Vatikiotis and Kedourie, learning from history by avoiding – rather than by repeating – costly errors.

The Shamrak Report: the World doesn't Care about Fake Palestinians!

The video of Palestinian Authority (PA) police officers brutally beating a young Palestinian boy (see below) forces us to once again raise the question: Does the world really care about the Palestinians?
...Imagine had a group of IDF soldiers or Israeli police officers administered this particular beating. A special session UN Security Council hearing, American and European condemnations, and threats of International Criminal Court lawsuits would not be long in coming. To say nothing of the widespread global media attention the incident would elicit.
But the boy wasn’t beaten by Jews. Sure, the effect on him was all the same, but the identity of the criminals is everything. Palestinians beating a Palestinian is nothing. Israelis beating a Palestinian is something.
Which is why we must again ask: Does the world actually care about the well-being of Palestinians? Or is this really all about badmouthing Israel? Is it the treatment and well-being of individual Palestinians that matters, or is it rather the identity of those doling out the abuse, be it real or perceived?
If Israel wasn’t involved, would the Palestinians garner any attention at all? Does the world give any thought to the hundreds and thousands of Palestinians that are routinely abused by Hamas, Fatah and any number of other Palestinian armed groups? (The Arabs, with the help of traditional anti-Semites in the West, created professional refugees after Israel won the War of Independence in 1948. In 1960s, the Soviet Union helped them to become a fake nation – Palestinians. All anti-Semites and enemies of Israel have been using these “useful idiots” against the only Jewish state as a tool of political and moral pressure!)

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FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
WE MUST NOT FORGET! I watched the 9/11 attack live on several US television networks. It was a late night in Australia and it was a quite shocking experience, even in the comfort of my home! But, the disgusting part of it was that after the first plane hit a tower, for over 30 minutes almost all TV news anchors repeated the same idiotic mantra - “accident”. If the West isn’t going clearly identify the enemy, and have the dedication to fight and eradicate them, we have no hope to win this war! Let hope that the new resident of the White House will bring a real change to international politics and how it deals with the Islamic threat to the world!
The Palestinian Authority Education Ministry on Thursday announced it was suspending ties with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over plans by the international agency to reform its curriculum. Proposed changes to textbooks by UN agency, welcomed by Israel, reportedly include revised maps, a ‘balanced representation of Jerusalem,’ and excision of messages seen as incitement. (Professional refugees have no respect for UNRWA or rule of international law. Sometimes Israel needs to learn from them!)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel remained committed to treating war wounded from Syria. Israel has treated more than 3,000 war wounded from Syria in what it describes as a humanitarian gesture.
In defiance of the United States, which is demanding that the Palestinian Authority completely stop financial rewards to families of terrorist “Martyrs” (Shahids), the PA is now raising the payments to the “Martyrs'” families. These PA payments include lifetime monthly allowances to families of suicide bombers, and other murderers of Jews.
Israeli security forces dismantled a monument in Hebron erected in memory of a terrorist who carried out an attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. They also seized seven illegal weapons manufacturing lathes and arrested three suspects for terrorist activities. (Is it a beginning of long over-due clean up?)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman chastised United Nations envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov for not commenting on recent cases of Palestinians being killed in Lebanon and Gaza, saying it showed the “hypocrisy and double standards” the world has against Israel. Five people were killed in clashes at the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, while three were executed by hanging in Gaza by Hamas.
Quote of the Week:
”And (mention, O Muhammad), when Moses said to his people, "O my people, remember the favor of Allah upon you when He appointed among you prophets and made you possessors and gave you that which He had not given anyone among the worlds. O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back (from fighting in Allah's cause) and (thus) become losers. They said, "O Moses, indeed within it is a people of tyrannical strength, and indeed, we will never enter it until they leave it; but if they leave it, then we will enter." – Quran, 5:20-22 – Jews have entered the Holy Land. Therefore, even according to Quran, Muslims must recognise the unique Jewish ownership of the Land of Israel! Jews have always had lived in Eretz-Israel - in spite of Roman, Christian and Muslim persecution. That means the presence of Muslims on Jewish land is disrespectful to the Quran. If they are true Muslims and followers of the words of prophet Mohamed, they must obey writings in their holy book and leave Eretz-Israel – the land G-d had given to Jews - otherwise, they are just another bunch of anti-Semitic, Jew-hating religious hypocrites like the ones that came before Islam!
Eulogy for the Oslo Accords
by Steven Shamrak
On September 28th the world was supposed to celebrate, but conveniently forgot, the anniversary of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, widely known as the Oslo Accords. Three political stooges Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Perez received the Nobel Peace prize for signing this worthless piece of paper, which was based on fake promises made by Yasser Arafat in a letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, Rabin on 9 September, 1993. 
In this letter Yasser Arafat promised: “The PLO considers that the signing of the Declaration of Principles constitutes an historic event, inaugurating a new epoch of peaceful coexistence, free from violence and all other acts which endanger peace and stability. Accordingly, the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.”
It was particularly not convenient to celebrate the dead accord when Mahmoud Abbas came to the UN and put the final nail in its coffin, unilaterally abandoning the principles of negotiation and undermining stability of the peace process. 
Due to enormous political pressure exhorted on Israel by the Clinton administration to sign the agreement, many parts of it were deliberately written ambiguously to make it open to interpretation. Israel was prepared to allowed limited autonomy to the non-Jewish populations of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, but PLO was determined to obtain statehood as the first step towards future territorial expansion with the inclusion of the land of Israel and possibly Jordan, as part of Palestine.
Many promises were made clearly but deceitfully by Arafat and never delivered:
1. Terror attacks on Israel have never stopped.
2. PA regularly sabotaged negotiations, endangering peace and stability by breaking them and calling for international pressure on Israel.
3. Terrorists of FatahHamas and other Islamic organisations have been freely conducting their bloody business. Often, the terrorist actions were coordinated by PA to meet its political aim. (cont. see below)
When the Oslo agreement was signed several important undertakings were promised by PLO, but not delivered by Arafat and Abbas:
1.    Israel is still not legally recognised by the Palestinian Authority or by any major organisations like PLO or Hamas.
2.  New entity is supposed to be a democracy. After the last election, which Hamas won, Abbasillegally retained control of the PA and the next election is long overdue. Therefore, the current PA leadership is not legitimate nor democratically elected representatives of so-called Palestinians.
3.  Article XI, 1: “The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit” - At the moment there are two defactogoverning bodies: PA, Fatah controlled Judea and Samaria and Hamas in Gaza.
4. Terrorist attacks on Israel have never stopped. Israel was forced to build a wall around the West Bank to stop suicide bombers, who were mainly recruited by Fatah. Gaza was sealed due to terror attacks instigated by Hamas.
5.  Article XXII, 2: “Israel and the Council will ensure that their respective educational systems contribute to the peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and to peace in the entire region” - PA has never stopped anti-Israel propaganda! Martyrdom is glorified in the press and in mosques, kindergartens and schools by both Fatah and Hamas. 
The Oslo agreement expired several years ago. It has not brought peace, but exposed lies and treachery. Instead of negotiating peace, the PA regularly walked from the negotiation table in pursuit of hypocritical international support in order to pressure Israel for more concessions, giving nothing in return. 
This agreement was dead on arrival! It must be viewed by Israel as a lesson, which many terror experts insist on: “Never negotiate with terrorists!” So-called Palestinian people are the fake nation which was forged by Arabs and the KGB in 1964 in order to destroy Israel. They are not interested in peace with Israel. They are occupiers of Jewish land!
Israel must realise that the only way to resolve the conflict is to utilise self-reliance and determination to end the occupation of Jewish land by Arabs and so-called Palestinians. The painful experience of the peace process has proven one obvious point - Arabs will never have peace with Israel! Israel has done everything possible to accommodate the peace with this terror infested entity. Any other country or nation would not even bother. Therefore, it is time to reclaim our land, transfer the enemy population to Sinai or to other numerous Arabs states, those who claim to care so much about “poor Palestinians”. (Why not them? - In order to have peace, Israel forcibly removed 8,500 Jews from Gaza. It did not stop terror attacks. The PA insists that all Jews must be removed from Judea and Samaria! So why not remove them from Jewish land instead?) This is the only option Israel has. The alternative is annihilation!
Arabs respect strong opponents. It is integral to their national makeup. When Israel demonstrated its military superiority it was respected not just by Arab states, but by most countries, including the Soviet Union. It is time to stop being “a little ghetto Jew”, end the policy of appeasement of international anti-Semitic bigots who will never be content with Jews, and stand up for our own rights. 
Palestine is the Eretz-Israel - Land of Israel! It is the Jewish ancestral land, which was promised to Jews by G-d and even by resolution of the League of Nation in 1922. It is time to take it back!

What is the next Jewish holiday?

By Shmuel Sackett

Try this test. Ask 100 fellow Jews the following simple question; What’s the next Jewish holiday? I would imagine that 90 of them will answer “Shavuot” while 9 might say “Lag B’omer”. That comes to 99 wronganswers. First of all, Lag B’omer is not a holiday. While it is a very important day on the Jewish calendar, there is no Hallel and the day itself is really just a big “yahrzeit” for the great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Yes, many people – hundreds of thousands, actually – make their way to his grave in Meron and Israelis all over the country light bonfires, but that does not turn the day into a holiday. Furthermore, outside of Eretz Yisrael, the only ones celebrating Lag B’omer are Lubavitch Chassidim while the overwhelming majority of Jews do little more than skip “Tachanun”.

The real answer to that question – and my guess is that only 1 out of 100 got it right is: Yom Ha’Atzmaut. This year, that very special holiday will be celebrated on May 2nd – just 2 weeks after Pesach. Contrary to what you have learned, this is a major day on our calendar and one must do a lot more than just eat blue and white cupcakes.

I realize that most Rabbis will ignore this day, and some might even talk against it, but please don’t fall into that trap. This is a very special, holy day that we must thank Hashem for. Without a doubt, one must say Hallel on this day. While I follow the opinion that Hallel should be said with a bracha, there is also a Halachic opinion that Hallel should be recited without a bracha, and I have no problem with those who follow that opinion. What bothers me very much are the ones who ignore Hallel completely, because it is not just Hallel that they are ignoring but also all the miracles that Hashem performed for our Nation.

How can we be so stubborn and so blind? How can one not see the prophecies coming true? How can so many religious Jews deny the events of the last 70 years and simply brush them off, like dandruff? How can we be so ungrateful to our Father in heaven?? Simply put, I feel that not recognizing the establishment of the modern State of Israel as a heavenly miracle is one of the greatest desecrations of G-d’s Name ever in history. We were given a gift and we threw it back in G-d’s “face”. Our people experienced a national “revival of the dead” yet we crawled back to the grave. What a horrible thing we did.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that today’s Israel is perfect but I see it as a new baby that was given, after many years, to a childless couple. How many tears did that couple shed? How many prayers did they say? How many dreams did they have and then – finally – after so many years a child is born! What joy! What praises to Hashem! But wait… the child doesn’t walk and he doesn’t talk. He can’t even add 1+1… why are the parents so happy? One word; Potential. The parents thank Hashem for giving them the gift of life and the trust and responsibility that they will turn that life into a loyal servant to the King of Kings. They look at their little baby and see the amazing potential he/she has. With the right education and values, that spitting, diaper-wearing, crying baby will turn into a full-fledged Torah observant Yid who can change the world… and they have been put in charge to make it happen. How can’t they be happy and thank Hashem???

I see the modern State of Israel as the exact same thing – but on a national level. How many tears did our people shed asking, no – begging Hashem for Him to bring us back home? How many prayers were said – when Jews meant every word – to end the bitter exile? And then, that childless nation that cried for 2,000 years, was given the gift of life. A return to Zion! Hashem put His trust in us that we would take His precious gift and turn it into the Land of milk and honey. Hashem knows that we can do it! Yes, this “child” is still an infant (what is 69 years when compared to other countries??) but what an incredible job we have done!

Consider this; there’s more Torah learning today in the State of Israel than ever before in Jewish history!! A new Jewish baby is born in Israel every 4 minutes! Biblical prophecies have come to life! Towns where our forefathers lived such as Hebron, Bet El and Shilo are replete with children, shuls, mikvas and thousands of fruit trees! A Jewish army has been established – the first in 2,000 years – where every base is kosher. A society where 97% of the male babies receive a bris, 80% fast on Yom Kippur, 90% had a seder on Pesach and where 100% of the banks, businesses, stock markets and government offices are closed on all Jewish holidays! Perfect… no, but deserving of praise to our Father who gave us this gift??? Definitely yes!!!

This is why Yom Ha’Atzmaut is a holiday – a real holiday where we dress accordingly and thank Hashem with words of Torah, prayers, song and of course, Hallel. But wait… there’s actually a secondholiday after Pesach and before Shavuos and it’s called “Yom Yerushalayim”. This year, Yom Yerushalayim comes out on May 24th – one week before Shavuos. This year, we will be thanking Hashem for 50 years since His holy messengers – the IDF - liberated the city from the enemy during the Six Day War. In addition, it is also 50 years since we have control of Yehuda and Shomron! 50 years since we liberated the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights! More thanks to Hashem are necessary! Once again, we must say Hallel on this day to praise and thank our King for allowing us to enter more of His palace than before.

Dearest friends, Jews need to live with their eyes open to see the wonders of Hashem. Today’s modern State of Israel is a living, breathing miracle of the highest order. To not recognize and acknowledge the priceless gift that Hashem gave us is one of the biggest crimes we can commit. I shake when I think of the punishment that will come to those who “return” this gift to the store… Make sure you are not one of those people. On these two days – these two “Yom Tovs” – increase your Torah learning, praise Hashem with Hallel and extra prayers, dress like Shabbos and have a festive meal with wine. In that spirit, may Hashem give us Part II of His amazing gift; the Bet HaMikdash and the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. May it happen soon, in our day!

Why Is the US Still Funding Palestinian Terrorism?

(At Least Close the PLO Office in Washington)
By Shoshana Bryen 
  • Jamil Tamimi, 57, knew that if he committed an act of terror, he would be lionized by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and -- perhaps more importantly -- that, if he were killed or sent to prison, his family would be taken care of financially.
  • "The PLO Commission was new only in name. The PLO body would have the ‎same responsibilities and pay the exact same amounts of salaries to prisoners... PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas retained overall supervision of ‎the PLO Commission." — Palestinian Media Watch.
  • In 2016 Bashar Masalha, who murdered U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force and wounded several others, was hailed on official PA media outlets as a "martyr." A few months later, Abbas said on PA TV, "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.... With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward."
  • The U.S. government should let the PLO and PA know that we are onto their game. Disincentivizing terrorism by closing the PLO office in Washington would be a good first step.
British exchange student Hannah Bladon was stabbed to death on a Jerusalem light rail train last Friday. Her murderer was identified as an East Jerusalem resident who had previously been convicted of molesting his daughter and had tried to commit suicide. Failing at that, he apparently opted for terrorism, on the assumption that the police would kill him. They didn't. "This," the Shin Bet said in a statement, "is another case, out of many, where a Palestinian who is suffering from personal, mental or moral issues chooses to carry out a terror attack in order to find a way out of their problems." 
"Suicide by cop" is not unheard of, but the real incentives need to be spelled out.
Jamil Tamimi, 57, knew that if he committed an act of terror, he would be lionized by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and -- perhaps more importantly -- that, if he were killed or sent to prison, his family would be taken care of financially.

Birth of the Eternal Nation

(ed. Note: Better late than never)
The Pesach Hagadah is dedicated almost exclusively, certainly in the first half, to the redemption from Egypt. Passages that do not quite fit this narrative were not universally recited, like, for example, Dayyenu (yes, that is hard to imagine) or the accounts of the miracles at the Red Sea. But one section seemingly does not relate at all to the Exodus, and yet appears in every Hagadah: V’hi she’amdah. “And this has stood by our forefathers and us; for not only has one enemy risen against us to destroy us but rather in every generation they rise against us to destroy us. And the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.” It is a remarkable passage that should cause us to reflect on the eternity of the Jewish people. Individual Jews, and even large numbers of Jews, have suffered inordinately, but the Jewish nation miraculously endures and thrives. Yet, this passage also does not mention the Exodus at all. So why is it recited – and immediately before we begin our discussion of the events of the Exodus?

Last year, Natan Sharansky celebrated the 30th anniversary of his release from the Gulag after nine years in prison. As reported by the acclaimed journalist, Yedidya Meir, at the dinner of gratitude Sharansky made at the time (as he does every year on the date of his release, Rosh Chodesh Adar) he told the following story. Over a decade ago, Sharansky was invited by President Bush to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, and the speakers that morning – politicians, celebrities, etc. – were asked to relate the event in their lives where they most felt God’s presence. Christians call it “bearing witness.”

All the stories were inspirational, some led to born-again moments in their lives, but all followed the same basic pattern. Some shared a low moment when they felt God’s presence lift them up, and others spoke about a dramatic moment when they felt divine intervention saved their lives. A fighter pilot related that a malfunction caused his engines to fail and he was plunging to earth – and he felt a heavenly force just intervene, restart his engines for no explicable reason, as if there was some superior force above him.

When it came time for Sharansky to speak, he said that Jews look at these experiences differently. We look for God’s presence not in the life of the individual but in the life of the nation, i.e., what God does for us as a people. (Sharansky knew well that not everyone present that morning was a lover of Israel.)

He told the audience that you – all Bible-believing Christians – know of the Jews enslaved in Egypt, and how Pharaoh refused to free them, and the plagues, the miracles, and the Red Sea. It was God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm that redeemed us from Egypt and founded our nation.

But not long ago – just a few years ago – there was a mighty evil empire that intimidated the entire world. And everyone was afraid to challenge them. Nations sought accommodation, détente, some arrangement whereby the world would keep the peace and no one would interfere in the domestic affairs of this evil empire.

There was one small group of Jews who arose, reasserted their Jewish identity and reclaimed their membership in the Jewish nation. It was a small group at first – dozens, then hundreds, then thousands – but small compared to the gargantuan size of their enemy of whom everyone else was afraid. And then Jews across the world heard of them and rallied for them, and pressured governments, and then blow after blow was rained on the Soviet Union until it collapsed from within and the Iron Curtain fell and the Jews were liberated, again.

Everyone burst into applause, and he continued. “For Jews, that is how God manifests His presence – in the life of our nation. He reveals Himself through what happens to the Jewish people.” He then told his audience that night, that this demonstration of God’s presence in the life of the Jewish people was greater than anything anyone of them had ever experienced in their lives as individuals.

“And this has stood by our forefathers and us; for not only has one enemy risen against us to destroy us but rather in every generation they rise against us to destroy us. And the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.” The template for our survival and our eternity as a people was drafted in Egypt. The divine presence stands with us in every generation. In every generation we face enemies who wish to destroy us, not just one generation with one foe, but in every generation. “And God saves us from their hands.” and gives us – and the world – another chance.

That is why V’hi she’amdah must begin our recitation of the events of the Exodus. That is the pattern from that moment and throughout history until today. And every day, but especially every Pesach, we acknowledge it, give thanks for it, and promise to live in a way that makes us worthy of it, so that the day will soon come when we again experience divine wonders such as those that liberated us from the bondage of Egypt and we will again see God’s mighty hand and strong arm on the mountains of Zion and Jerusalem, accompanying the dawn of our redemption.