Friday, June 23, 2017

The Jewish Power Drive: A Torah Thought for Parashat Korach

By Moshe Feiglin

And they gathered upon Moses and Aaron and they said to them, ‘It is too much for you, for all the congregation is holy and G-d is among them, and why should you lord over the congregation of G-d?’ (From this week’s Torah portion, Korach, Numbers 16:3).

Korach’s struggle against Moses and Aaron was the classic power struggle. A leader rises who is determined and delineates a goal. He is an exemplary role model and leads the people successfully. Nevertheless, some people are dissatisfied and question his authority. “Why should you lord over us?” Korach and his assembly ask Moses and Aaron. “True, you strive for a lofty goal, but your motivation is nothing more than power driven arrogance.” What is wrong with them? Didn’t they see what happened to the king of the only superpower in the world (Pharaoh) when he dared to defy Moses? What did they see that we can’t see?

The answer is simple. They didn’t see anything because they were blinded by the strongest of all human drives: the drive for power.

The uninitiated cannot understand this. A person who has not tasted the taste of power – someone for whom the safety catch on the power grenade has never been pulled – cannot comprehend just how strong this drive is. But people are willing to die for power; they are willing to kill their children and their wives to achieve it. The human race has experienced no stronger drive.

In order to ensure the continuity of life, the Creator embedded the drive for procreation in both humans and animals. And to ensure the continuity of human society, the Creator created an even stronger drive; the power drive. There is no society without leadership and few would be willing to assume the weight of the community on their shoulders without the motivation fostered by this drive. Without the drive for power, human society would return to a state of chaos.

Just as we cannot give birth without the drive to procreate, so we cannot lead without the drive for power. The challenge is not how to eliminate it, but rather, to serve G-d with all our hearts. In other words, to enlist both our good inclination – the aspiration for liberty and responsibility – and our evil inclination – the aspiration for power, to achieve our goals. The good inclination must lead and chart out the course, the framework and the rules, while the drive for power must provide the energies necessary to succeed.

Shabbat Shalom,

Chodesh Tov.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Taking Versus Giving

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

This week’s parashah begins, “Korach took” (Numbers 16:1). Korach’s whole interest in life was in taking. He yearned to take the leadership away from Moses and Aaron. His legendary wealth was the result of taking. He pursued honor and desired to take it away from others, as reflected in his telling Moses and Aaron, “You have gone too far” (16:3), interpreted by Rashi as meaning: “You have taken far too much greatness for yourselves.” 

He generated controversies -- built upon insincere motives -- within the Jewish People, and these controversies brought tragedy upon himself, his family and his company: “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their houses, along with all the men who were with Korach and their property” (16:32).

Moses, as opposed to Korach, was the embodiment of the trait of giving: “I did not take a single donkey from them” (16:16). He was humble, “more so than any man on the face of the earth” (13:3). When G-d sent him to lead Israel in their exodus from Egypt, Moses argued, “I beg you, O G-d, I am not a man of words... I find it difficult to speak and find the right language” (Exodus 4:10). Moses fled from honor, hence honor pursued him.

Right now, we must learn a lesson from the tragedy of Korach and his company. We must not be guided by selfish self-interest either on the personal or national level. Materialism must not stand at the center of our lives, since it leads to the moral breakdown of the individual and the community. Quite the contrary, we must yearn for and educate towards giving, towards altruism and morality, towards benefiting our fellow man, loving him and developing friendship with him.

It is true that we live in a materialistic generation: As Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook wrote:

“We have a tradition that spiritual rebellion will surface in Eretz Yisrael and among the Jewish People at large at the onset of their national rebirth. The material complacence which will beset part of the nation, thinking that they have already arrived at their final destination, will make them less spiritual... The longing for lofty, holy ideals will cease, and spirituality will automatically decline and wane” (Orot, page 94).

Yet the day is not far off when a revolution will transpire in the form of a great movement of repentance which will revive the nation and bring redemption to them and to the whole world. This will be the sort of repentance which stems “from the holy spirit which will proliferate then” (Ibid.). Through this, we will merit with our own eyes to see “a new light shining over Zion” (morning prayers).

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.
Chodesh Tov.

My Conclusion from the Yemenite Children Horror

By Moshe Feiglin
Finally, most of the facts are on the table. Thousands of Yemenite children in Israel were abducted from their parents between 1948 and 1954. Some were sold to adoptive parents in Israel and abroad. Others were even used for medical experiments. On Wednesday, the government finally released some of the protocols regarding the affair, which has been covered up until now.

So now what do we do with the horrifying facts that were revealed? Will it help for state leaders who were not even born in those years to apologize to relatives of the abducted children who are too young to remember what happened? Even if we eventually learn all the hair-raising details, what can we do with the information? Where can we take it? How do we use it to create a formula that will prevent this type of evil from ever rearing its head here in the future? What is the principle that allowed it to happen and how can we eliminate it forever?

When Abraham was asked why he lied about his wife he answered, “There is no God in this place, and they will kill me.” When the government is centralized, when man decides that he is replacing God and takes the authority to run the life of another person – to decide where he will live, what he will believe, where he will work, how much he will earn, etc. – he will eventually also be willing to sacrifice that person’s body on the altar of some lofty ideology.

Where there is no God, there is no God’s image, either. And then there is no difference between man and dog, so why shouldn’t we perform some medical experiments on him? For the greater good, of course. Because where there is no God, the individual is nothing more than biological waste.

My conclusions from the Yemenite Children horror:
  • To keep a healthy distance from centralized government. 
  • To keep a healthy distance from any regime that attempts to control more and more pieces of the lives and liberty of its citizens. 
  • To keep a distance, for example, from a regime that decides that it is fine to torture tens of young boys to produce “evidence” that over one year later has not led to one serious indictment (so that the “country won’t fall apart,” as Bennett justified this recent scandal). 
  • To keep a distance from any regime that decides that it is fine to take biological samples from its citizens for biological marking – to enhance their security, of course. For the greater good, of course. 
Yes, I am talking about the recently passed Biometric Law.   That is how it begins…

Israelis Should Listen to Abbas – to Every Word

Ha’aretz’s May 29 editorial was “Listen to Abbas.” I want to join this call. Listen very carefully. Abbas is very careful to use the term “two states,” but not “for two peoples.” Because the Jews are not a people in his eyes, the two states that Abbas refers to are a national Palestinian state and a country called Israel, to which “the refugees” eventually “will return.” Two countries will be west of the Jordan: one theirs and the other – also theirs.
Abbas knows from experience that it is sufficient to wrap this hostile position in a few terms that have a friendly ring – peace, harmony – so that well-meaning Israelis will hasten to interpret them according to their own wishes, ignoring everything else he says, allowing him to blur the fact that the Palestinians have refused every serious proposal put before them.
Last month, during his visit to India, Abbas spoke of the Nakba – an injustice that, in his words, “began over 100 years ago with the appearance of Zionism with its false vision….Our people will not leave behind the issue of the Nakba until all their legitimate national rights are recognized, without exception – and first and foremost, the right of return.”
If we begin to listen to Abbas, methodically and over time, we will discover that he is not preparing himself for any compromise. 
The writer is a senior lecturer in communications and public policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Korah: The Impure Populist Charade

By Rav Yehuda HaKohen

“Koraḥ son of Yitzhar son of Kehat son of Levi separated himself, with Datan and Aviram, sons of Eliav, and On son of Pellet, the offspring of Reuven. They stood before Moshe, leaders of the assembly, those summoned for meeting, men of renown. They gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon and said to them, ‘It is too much for you! For the entire assembly – all of them – are holy and HaShem is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of HaShem?’” (BAMIDBAR 16:1-3)

Koraḥ – a highly respected Levi and cousin of Moshe – brazenly accused two of history’s greatest leaders of covetously assuming chief positions and elevating themselves above the Children of Israel. In what appeared to be a gallant protest on behalf of the masses, Koraḥ portrayed the Kadosh Barukh Hu’s chosen shepherds as corrupt officials unworthy of their status.

But Koraḥ’s populist charade was impure. Equality does not necessitate uniformity and Koraḥ’s accusation that Moshe sought to create a hierarchal system to benefit his family over others ignores the distinct roles and functions within Am Yisrael. Any worthy examination of the special tasks within Israel necessitates starting not from the branches but from the actual tree and its roots. Each of us is a unique expression of the collective Israeli soul – Knesset Yisrael – that shines into our world through millions of Jews in space and time, each with a distinctive function within the greater Hebrew mission.

Rather than debate the actual roles and tasks of different tribes, it is important to first understand what Israel is, as well as our unique historic mission. Our equality does not result from being created identical but rather from the fact that we each have equally crucial functions and important roles to play as part of the greater Hebrew mission. Tribesmen of Yehuda cannot be priests and Kohanimcannot be kings. Disastrous consequences resulted from King Uzziah burning the ketoret in the Temple and the Hasmonean priests usurping the throne. Not because one role is superior to the other but because every unique part of the Israeli collective must serve the function he or she was Divinely created for.

A healthy attitude fosters the realization that we are each uniquely fashioned for a very specific purpose and one who tries to negate his or her unique function in an effort to usurp the roles of others will ultimately only miss out on the experience of fully expressing his or her true inner essence.

By posing as a champion of the people, Koraḥ endeavored to incite a mutiny meant to advance himself to power in place of Moshe. And worse – by rejecting the Divine selection of Moshe and Aharon, Koraḥ was in fact rejecting the Torah.

Koraḥ was accompanied in his attempted coup d'état by a number of esteemed national leaders, securing for his campaign a stamp of legitimacy. One of his followers, however, appears conspicuously absent from the narrative following his initial introduction.

On son of Pellet had been one of the original leaders of the attempted mutiny yet he is not mentioned in the later confrontations or in the consequences that follow. The Sages teach (Sanhedrin 109b) that On’s righteous wife successfully persuaded her husband to withdraw from Koraḥ’s group. She said, “What do you have to gain from this? Even if Koraḥ is successful, he will be the High Priest and you will serve him as you currently serve Moshe and Aharon.” She then prevented Koraḥ from coaxing her husband back into the feud by sitting with her head uncovered outside her family tent. As a Hebrew man, Koraḥ would not permit himself to see a married woman’s hair and, as a result, gave up on the idea of recruiting On back to his inner circle. Due to her wise intervention and willingness to publicly shame herself by exposing her naked hair, On’s wife saved her husband from harm and protected her family from terrible catastrophe.

That we do not even know the name of On’s wife is itself a great testament to her modesty and complete identification with the Hebrew collective. Throughout our history, women have often been the source of Israel’s true inner strength. While the spotlight in Scripture generally shines on male figures, many of these heroes are only able to achieve greatness due to the loyal support and self-sacrifice of their wives. Daughters of Israel, who modestly work behind the scenes as silent partners to their husbands, often shy away from honor while providing support and encouragement from the home. The story of On is a perfect example of a man whose righteous wife was able to think clearly and take decisive action for the sake of her family and the entire Hebrew Nation.

Unlike Koraḥ’s wife, whose endless nagging and belittling of her husband had actually provoked his seditious behavior in the first place, On’s wife heroically brought her husband back from the brink of self-destruction. With a wisdom and determination so typical of Hebrew women, she succeeded in keeping On away from meaningless conflict while building a strong Torah home on the foundations of HaShem’s Truth.

With Love of Israel,
Yehuda HaKohen

Holy and Secular in the Redemption of Yisrael

Rav Uri Sherki
Yeshivat Machon Meir
Kehilat Beit Yehuda, Y'lem

The national rejuvenation of the Yisrael, which was expressed in a practical manner by the existence of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, encompasses many different levels, which can be divided into two categories: bringing the secular to life and bringing the holy to life. Rejuvenation of the secular includes returning to all of the realms that we were unable to develop during the bitter days of the exile. This includes political, economic, and military existence, as well as our own culture and the arts.

In the early days of Zionism, religious people objected to having the Zionist Congress concern itself with culture and religion, fearing that this might inhibit cooperation between different sectors of the nation and interfere with achieving the desired political goal of establishing a viable country. Rav Kook was opposed to this approach, and he felt that it was not possible to have an authentic national awakening without a corresponding cultural rejuvenation. This means that it is necessary to become involved in culture in spite of the danger that this might force us to struggle in order to form its proper characteristics (Igrot Re’iyah, 158).

And what constitutes holy rejuvenation? We might have thought that it would consist of returning to traditional religious behavior, which is concerned only with the spiritual fate and the happiness of each individual and not with political rejuvenation – that is, that the nonreligious sector would repent and begin to observe the mitzvot. However, while it is certainly important for every Jew to observe all of the mitzvot, that is not the main focus of the “holy” rejuvenation.

The holy without the secular is weak, and it does not have the power to lift up the lives of the community and of all humanity. Secular living itself contains hidden within it a power of holiness which could not break through during the exile, the “sanctity of nature.” This will be revealed by the process of redemption (see Orot, page 45, and Orot Hakedusha Section 2, 23). This leads us to the conclusion that rejuvenation of the secular is in itself a form of renewal of sanctity and not merely a preliminary step towards the goal.

The denial by religious people of the value of the rebirth of the secular and the view of participation in the Zionist enterprise as a dangerous adventure which is liable to exact too high a price while at the same time raising the banner of religious isolation – all this will lead holiness to become weaker, since it cannot stand alone without the vitality of the secular life. Rav Kook writes:

“In religious circles on the other hand (that is: as opposed to the drying up of the holy sources by the academic secular sector), this can lead to a weakening of force, because of a lack of the secular influence... We must therefore reveal the program of unified spiritual force, since this is our unique secret which will never be revealed to any other nation.” [Igrot Har’iyah, 748].

Religious holiness, which Rav Kook describes as “regular holiness,” is no more than one aspect of true exalted holiness. Exposing the exalted form of holiness, which operates in all realms of life and appears in all its perfection through the combination of the various identities that make up the public face of Yisrael - religion, nationalistic feeling, and a cosmopolitan outlook (see Orot, pages 70-72) - is the mission of the generation of rejuvenation.

“I did not Take One Donkey from Them”

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh
Datan and Aviram accused Moshe of some very serious faults, such as not keeping his promise to bring the people to a land of milk and honey. An even worse accusation was that he took on himself to become “a ruler over us.” [Bamidbar 16:13]. From Moshe’s reply, we can see what they claimed: “I did not take one donkey from them” [16:15]. As Rashi notes, “Even when I went from Midyan to Egypt and put my wife and son on a donkey – when I could have taken one of their donkeys, I only took one of mine.”

Moshe, our first leader, teaches us how to lead the public. This is also what the profit Shmuel said near his death: “Now, behold, answer me before G-d and before his anointed one – whose ox did I take, whose donkey did I take, whom did I defraud, whom did I oppress?” [Shmuel I 12:3, from this week’s Haftorah]. Shmuel’s behavior and his wariness of taking any physical benefits were evidently part of the education he received from his mother.

In the beginning of the book of Shmuel, we are told, “And his mother made him a little coat which she brought to him from year to year” [Shmuel I 2:19]. Evidently the verse is trying to contrast this behavior with what we are told about the corrupt customs of the sons of Eli, who took advantage of their high positions for their own personal benefit. The late Chanan Porat correctly wrote that this little act of giving Shmuel his own personal coat was an act of defiance against the behavior of the sons. It was as if she said: “My son will not benefit from public property, he will not wear a coat that was bought from public funds, even if in a formal sense this would be permitted. My son will not make use of ‘a grandiose government vehicle, added pay for clothing, or free electricity.’ He will not strike to improve his physical benefits. My son will wear his own little coat.”

I remember when I was very young, when an electric refrigerator was still considered a luxury, somebody advertised that he had a refrigerator to sell. Paula Ben Gurion, the wife of the Prime Minister, called the man and asked about the terms. The two of them settled all the details. However, a few hours later she phoned the man to call the deal off, since David Ben Gurion refused to let her buy the refrigerator. He said thst most of the people were still using ice boxes, “and what is good for everybody else is good for us too.”

It is written in the Tosefta about the era of the Second Temple that the people “loved their money.” The Natziv explains that the main problem was with the leaders of the nation, adding, “And this evil inclination is still extant among us.”

You Say You Want a Revolution

By Rabbi Ari Kahn
The time was ripe for a power grab: The frightful report of the spies and the unequivocal sentence handed down were still ringing in the peoples’ ears; the Promised Land never seemed farther away. The strategy was simple: Foment unrest, and stage a takeover. The tactics employed were cynical: Collect the disheartened, and create the facade of a united opposition. The message was populist: “All the people are holy.” (B’midbar 16:3). The results were disastrous: Death and even greater despair. The leader of this uprising was none other than Moshe’s own cousin, Korach.

What may have seemed like a unified revolt was more like a chimera, an impossible confederation between Korach, from the tribe of Levi, a trio of Reuvenites, and a larger group of other men, presumably all firstborn sons who, like the Reuvenites, considered themselves wrongly displaced priests: Until very recently, it would have been the firstborn sons who would have been the kohanim,religious and political leaders who served God in the newly-built Mishkan. Members of the tribe of Reuven, the eldest of Yaakov’s sons, as well as the firstborn sons of other families, forfeited this honor through poor judgment and sin; the Levites were appointed in their stead.

Korach was both power-hungry and an opportunist; in addition, he was a first class manipulator. He was well aware of the heartfelt disappointment of those who had been passed over, and set out to use it to his advantage. In what may have seemed an act of historic reconciliation, he, a member of one of the most illustrious families of the very tribe that had displaced the firstborn, reached out to form a coalition with them. As the new kohanim, and the stewards of the Mishkan, the Levites were more than simply those chosen to replace the firstborn who had sinned; they were actually complicit in what Korach must have described as Moshe’s greatest act of “infamy,” his call to wipe out the perpetrators of the sin of the golden calf. Foremost among those perpetrators were the firstborn; the people who sprang into action and carried out Moshe’s order to kill the sinners were from the tribe of Levi – arguably, even Korach himself had taken sword in hand. To make matters even worse, Korach pointed out, there was one guilty party in the golden calf debacle who had gotten off “scot free:” Moshe’s brother Aharon seems to have benefitted unduly from his family connections; Aharon, then, was the weak link on Moshe’s team.

Korach argues that the firstborn, despite their sin, are still holy. This statement, coming from a member of the privileged clan of Levi, had tremendous impact on those who felt wronged. Charmed by his words and seduced by his apparent sincerity and empathy for their loss, two hundred and fifty men mobilized to shore up Korach’s rebellion.

Yet the two other heads of this three-headed monster cannot be easily reconciled with one another. If Korach himself will become the new high-priest, how does this help the three Reuvenites who stood shoulder to shoulder with Korach? If they are to reclaim the role of the kohanim for their tribe, where does that leave the firstborn sons of the other tribes?

The person who saw through the deception and realized that Korach’s words were no more than demagoguery was the wife of one of the original conspirators, On, son of Pelet - a man who is not only a hapax legomenon but a complete mystery in terms of his disappearance. As the rebellion takes shape, Korach bands together with Datan and Aviram, sons of Eliav, and On son of Pelet - all from the tribe of Reuven. And yet, as the rebellion unfolds, On seems to vanish. In the final act, all the other co-conspirators perish, while On is never heard from again.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 109b-110a) fills in the details of On’s disappearance, and identifies On’s wife as the heroine of this cautionary tale. On’s wife sees that Korach is taking advantage of the feelings of guilt, frustration and loss that are running rife among the firstborn men. She understands immediately that Korach is making cynical use of their anguish, and using them as pawns in his own game. She understands that although Korach, too, feels he has been slighted, allowing him to feign empathy for the others, he will not hesitate to cast his allies aside when his own desires are fulfilled. She sees that the endgame is poorly conceived and unrealistic; the chimera really has only one head, and that is Korach; the others are being played. Mrs. On spells it out for her idealist husband: “You will never be the leader. You have only one choice to make: Will you follow Moshe, or Korah?” “My ‘comrades’ will soon be here to collect me, so that we may march together in protest,” he worries. She gives him a drink, puts him to bed, and says, “I will take care of this.”

Knowing that the battle cry of this revolution is “Everyone is holy,” (16:3) she stands at the entrance to their tent and brushes her uncovered hair. The other rebels arrive; upon seeing a married woman’s uncovered hair, they quickly turn around and walk away rather than cast their eye on such immodesty. These “holy” people were willing to rebel against Moshe, to slander Aharon, to cast aspersions on those chosen by God Himself, and to undermine the faith of the entire nation – but they were not willing to look at a married woman’s hair.

This Talmudic passage gives full expression to Korach’s manipulation and to the tragic gullibility of his followers. Korach convinces them that they are as holy, if not more holy, than Moshe and Aharon. He convinces them that they should be the ones to don the clothing of the kohen. He convinces them to take incense in hand and approach the Mishkan – despite the fact that even bona fide kohanim who brought incense when not specifically commanded to do so had perished in the Sanctuary. And like Nadav and Avihu, the 250 faux-kohanim perish. Korach, Datan and Aviram, who sent their duped followers to their deaths, do not make that mistake. They never put on the clothing of the kohen, nor do they bring incense; they know what the consequences will be.

In fact, for these three men, the entire charade had very little to do with holiness; that was merely the bait they used to lure in their supporters. For Korach, Datan and Aviram, the rebellion had been about leverage and power from the very start. They hoped that Moshe would retire in order to preserve unity. They expected that this modest, selfless public servant would retreat, and take Aharon with him.

Korach, Datan and Aviram had a very different agenda than the other participants in the rebellion, and different fates awaited them. The two hundred and fifty men who joined Korach in a desperate and misguided attempt to serve God had been led astray by a man who sought glory, power, honor – not holiness. This naïve but misguided group truly sought holiness, and like Nadav and Avihu, they were consumed by a fire that came from God. They departed in a blaze, like a sacrifice on the altar. Korach, Datan and Aviram, on the other hand, sunk into ignominy. They fell into a never-ending abyss.

Only one of the conspirators lived through this episode: On, the son of Pelet, was saved by his wife’s keen insight and decisive action. She understood Korach’s strategy, and saw through his tactics. She understood the tragic, warped piety of the firstborn men who joined the rebellion, men who saw themselves as holier than Aharon, holier even than Moshe - so holy that they could be stopped in their tracks by a few strands of hair.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Illiberal Left Attacks Christian Zionists, Again

By Ari Morgenstern

IfNotNow protesters disrupt a Boston Red Sox baseball game on June 13. 
Photo: IfNotNow via Twitter. – Every few years, a young far-left activist discovers Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and they are appalled. The idea of conservative Evangelicals advocating for the Jewish state runs counter to every prejudice about Christians the young advocate was raised to harbor. So the individual scours the internet, desperately hunting for that one item that will confirm their bigotry. And when they come up dry, they ignore, tinker with or amend the facts because they cannot confront a simple reality: They are intolerant of Evangelical Christians.

The latest example of this pattern is provided to us by Benjamin Koatz, who authored an op-ed in the Forward demonizing Christian supporters of Israel in an effort to justify the decision of his group, IfNotNow, to disrupt a pro-Israel church event. The piece does not discuss real policy disagreements with CUFI, but it makes painfully clear just how far gone are the author and his cohorts.

As part of the effort to denigrate CUFI founder and chairman John Hagee, Koatz links to a video produced by the organization We Hold These Truths. On Koatz’s own blog he notes that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) described We Hold These Truths as a “conspiracy-oriented anti-Semitic group.”

It’s not surprising that Koatz finds common cause with the darkest fringe groups on the internet since he believes, “This far-right Evangelical Zionist dominion still reads to me like political conspiracy theory.” Nor is it surprising that Koatz’s attack was published by the Forward which has an unfortunate history in this context.

While not relying on antisemites to substantiate his other claims, the rest of Koatz’s assertions are equally absurd. We’ve heard them all before, and they’ve all been discredited.

For example, Koatz argues that CUFI’s members and Hagee are antisemites. The opposite, of course, is true. And on the specific assertion regarding Hagee’s sermon on the Book of Jeremiah, that issue was closed nearly a decade ago. In fact, at the matter’s conclusion the ADL wrote a letter to Hagee noting, “We are grateful that you have devoted your life to combating anti-Semitism and supporting the state of Israel.”

In addition, Koatz also goes to great lengths to argue that Christian Zionism is motivated by eschatology. This anti-Christian stereotype has been debunked in a variety of outlets including New York Magazine. In fact, in 2011 Hagee noted the following in the very same outlet that published Koatz’s appalling accusations:

The vast majority of Christian Zionists and Evangelicals do not believe there is anything we can do to hasten the second coming of Jesus. Our theology is clear that we humans are utterly powerless to change God’s timetable. Yes, like many Jews we do believe that the creation of Israel was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. And like our Jewish friends we also search the scriptures to understand what may come next in God’s plans for His creation. But since we are powerless to change these plans, our motives for standing with Israel come from elsewhere.

It’s plain to see that Koatz is dishonest and misguided. But what is far more troubling is that he and his group behave as if Christian Zionists do not deserve the same basic decency accorded to all other people groups.

Reasonable individuals can disagree without behaving unreasonably. Groups like Americans for Peace Now, which often disagree with CUFI’s policy positions, make their case without demonizing Christian Zionists. And CUFI discusses policy on a regular basis with those who hold a different worldview. CUFI has met with leaders that span the political spectrum, from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to Vice President Mike Pence. At times we disagree and at others we find common ground, but never do we denigrate or demonize.

I’m not sure if Koatz and his group genuinely want to effect policy or if they are simply interested in making a spectacle, but either way, barging into a church sanctuary and advancing anti-Christian stereotypes is simply beyond the pale.

Ari Morgenstern is the communications director for Christians United for Israel.

Ahead of Upcoming Britney Spears Concert in Israel, El Al Flight Attendants Lip-Sync US Pop Star’s Hit Song ‘Toxic’

(Ed. Note: Can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing)

On the 55th Anniversary of Our Aliyah

Parashat Korach 5777
By HaRav Nachman Kahana

The Gemara (Bava Batra 74a) informs us that the place where Korach and his followers are being held under ground completes a monthly cycle that brings them near the surface, and they cry out:
משה אמת ותורתו אמת והן בדאין
Moshe is true and his Torah is true and they (Korach and his followers) are liars.
My life too revolves around a cycle, although a daily one. Every morning upon awakening, I recite “Modeh Ani”, and thank HaShem for implanting me and my family in Eretz Yisrael – even after 55 years.

On the 26th of Sivan, Tuesday of this week, my wife and I will celebrate our 55th year since aliyah – 55 incredible years during which we witnessed, and in some way had a part in, the miraculous trek of our nation from galut punishment to Hashem’s embrace and call to Am Yisrael to return home.

Our target time for aliya was June 1962. In December 1961, we were on the east side of Manhattan and passed Ochs Trading Co., the supplier of products for people making aliya. I said to Feiga, “Let’s go in and make our purchases”. She replied, “You mean it’s real?” I answered, “Very real. Here it begins.”

Mr. Ochs greeted us warmly. We bought a fridge, stove and other appliances compatible with the electric current of Israel. We gave the date when we wanted the items to arrive at the then-existing port in Tel Aviv.

As we were arranging the delivery, a couple came to the store to pay for their purchases and Mr. Ochs introduced us. He said that they were from Argentina and were leaving that night for the Bror Chail kibbutz in the northern Negev. I told them how much I envied them.

Six months later, on the morning of our departure, I went to Mr. Ochs to make our last payment. While there, a couple came in to make their purchases for Israel. Mr. Ochs told them that I was leaving that night for Israel. They said to me, “How we envy you.” I answered, “I know the feeling.”

I left the store and the East Side where I had learned for five years in the Rabbi Ya’akov Yosef Yeshiva. I went down into the subway with the joyous feeling that I would most likely never see this place again.

That night, friends and relatives gathered at the airport. The experience was like that expressed by Juliet to Romeo, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” We were sorry to leave family, but that feeling was obscured by the sweetness of a dream come true.

Undoubtedly, leaving one’s parents and family is distressing, in fact, departing from family was one of Avraham’s tests.

By the time of my aliyah, I had already realized that every Jew is a world onto himself, and HaShem expects each of us to fulfill his personal commitment to the ideals of the Torah and to Am Yisrael in Hashem’s Promised Land.

During the years when I taught at BMT (Bet Midrash LeTorah), students would ask me why rabbis remain in the galut if aliya was imperative to Judaism?

I would reply that human beings are born one by one and that even identical twins emerge one by one.

We live essentially one by one. If your head hurts, your mother or wife can give you an aspirin, but it is your head that hurts. In the normal course of events, we die and are buried one by one, and we present an accounting of our deeds before the Almighty one by one. In the world to come, the religious leaders who are now in voluntary galut will have to justify their actions. However, their rationalizations are not yours.

Before we were married, Feiga and I had agreed that we would live our lives in Eretz Yisrael. It was our hope that eventually our parents and family would join us; but even if not, our decision was set in stone and only HaShem could prevent our aliya.

The PA system called for all passengers on the El Al flight to Tel Aviv to make their way to the aircraft.

We said our farewells and parted from the group as we began walking in the night air towards the “eagle” that would take us out of “Egyptian” bondage to freedom in the Jewish homeland.

Our family and friends stood on the overlook where we could see each other as we ascended the stairs to the plane. My most vivid recollection is of my father waving to us.

The plane was a Boeing 707; three seats on each side separated by an isle; tiny in comparison to today’s aircraft.

We had never flown before, so Tehillim were recited very fervently. The plane taxied slowly towards the runway. The engines roared and the plane gained speed as it lifted off over Long Island. Very quickly we were veering left, northward over the ocean. We landed in Paris and then in Rome. Upon takeoff from Rome, the pilot announced that the next landing would be in Tel Aviv. We flew over the eastern Mediterranean as Cyprus slowly disappeared from sight.

It was another two hours before the shoreline of Tel Aviv appeared. The city was quite small, and the desert could be seen not far to the south.

The plane circled to make its approach from the east. It passed over farmland that today is covered with high-rise buildings. It descended, and we finally felt the wheels firmly on the ground. All the passengers began clapping, as Israeli melodies played in the background. I was told that only on flights to Israel do passengers clap on arrival.

The plane came to a halt, the doors opened and I took my first deep breath of the אוירא דישראל – the air of Eretz Yisrael – that is said to make one wise.

We disembarked. Walked four steps on the holy land insuring our place in Gan Eden, and fell on our knees to kiss the ground. Never did I feel as tall as in those few moments when I was prone on the earth of Eretz Yisrael.

The following is a short excerpt from my forthcoming autobiography:

It was the 25th of Sivan in the year 5722 (the 24th year of my life). My wife Feiga and I left from two thousand years of exile to return home to Eretz Yisrael.

As I descended the stairs of my parent’s apartment in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, on the trip to the airport to begin the greatest odyssey of our lives, I looked back at what had been my home for over twenty years. My parents, Harav Yechezkel Shraga and Sara Chana Kahana, were the Rav and Rebbetzin of the community. In their home, I was privileged to see the living Torah applied to many communal and personal matters – marriage, divorce, conversion, financial and social disputes.

“How many challenges will we experience and how many dangers will we endure before I see this special home again?” I asked myself.

I entered the car and drove to the end of the street. My jacket, I left it on the porch. Four left turns and in less than two minutes, I was again standing in front of the house. I ran up the stairs and heard a voice deep within me. “Nachman, you long so much for your home. Go back. Medinat Yisrael will get along just fine without you. A Jew returning to Eretz Yisrael does so with pride and gratitude to Hashem for the privilege. He does not look back.”

I ran down the stairs without looking back.

To this day, we have never looked back.

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

Rav Kook on Parashat Korach: Holiness in the Midst of the Community

By Rabbi Chanan Morrison

The Need For a Minyan

Judaism has an interesting concept called a minyan, a prayer quorum. Special prayers sanctifying God’s name (such as the kedushah and kaddish prayers) may only be said when ten men are present. An individual may pray in solitude, but without a minyan, certain parts of the liturgy must be omitted.

The Talmud derives the requirement for a prayer quorum from God’s declaration, “I will be sanctified in the midst of the Israelites” (Lev. 22:32). What exactly does the word ‘midst’ mean?

We find the word ‘midst’ used again when God warned the people living nearby the dissenters in Korach’s rebellion: “Separate yourselves from the midst of this eidah (community)” (Num. 16:20). From here, the Sages learned that God is sanctified within an eidah.

And what is the definition of eidah? The Torah refers to the ten spies who brought a negative report of the Land of Israel as an eidah ra’ah, an evil community (Num. 14:26). So we see that God is sanctified in a community of at least ten members.

The requirement for a prayer quorum, and the way it is derived, raises two issues that need to be addressed:
  • Prayer appears to be a private matter between the soul and its Maker. Why should we need a minyan of ten participants in order to pray the complete service?
  • Why is the requirement for a minyan derived precisely from two classic examples of rebellion and infamy - the spies and Korach?

Perfecting the Community

Holiness is based on our natural aspirations for spiritual growth and perfection. However, the desire to perfect ourselves - even spiritually - is not true holiness. Our goal should not be the fulfillment of our own personal needs, but rather to honor and sanctify our Maker. Genuine holiness is an altruistic striving for good for its own sake, not out of self-interest.

The core of an elevated service of God is when we fulfill His will by helping and uplifting society. Therefore, the kedushah (sanctification) prayer may not be said in private. Without a community to benefit and elevate, the individual cannot truly attain higher levels of holiness.

This special connection between the individual and society is signified by the number ten. Ten is the first number that is also a group, a collection of units forming a new unit. Therefore, the minimum number of members for a quorum is ten.

Learning from Villains

Why do we learn this lesson from the wicked? It is precisely the punishment of the wicked that sheds light on the reward of the righteous. If the only result of evil was that the wicked corrupt themselves, it would be unnecessary for the law to be so severe with one who is only hurting himself. However, it is part of human nature that we influence others and are influenced by our surroundings. Unfortunately, evil people have a negative influence on the entire community, and it is for this reason that they are punished so severely.

Understanding why the wicked are punished clarifies why the righteous are rewarded. Just as the former are punished principally due to their negative influence on the community, so too, the reward of the righteous is due primarily to their positive influence. Now it becomes clear that true holiness is in the context of the organic whole. And the kedushah prayer sanctifying God’s Name may only be recited in a minyan, with a representative community of ten members.

(Gold from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback), pp. 258-260. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p. 104.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Of Lies and Alternatives: An open Letter to HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed and Ketzeleh

By Jason Gold

(Ed. note: Within several days of each other last week, articles appeared on INN written by or containing information from HaRav Melamed or Ketzeleh about how the government lied to them about new housing construction and what alternatives exist).

Dear HaRav Melamed and Ketzeleh:

I have read your recent articles/op eds on INN last week and thought I could offer some insights.

HaRav Melamed, you are a tremendous talmud chacham and Rosh HaYeshiva in Beit El. Your shiurim show depth and I look forward to them on a weekly basis.  But are you really so surprised that the government would lie to you? I can only conclude that because you are a tzaddik, an ish emes (man of truthand a yashar (upright) person, that you assume, dan l'caf zechut (judging someone for the best), that the people sitting across from you and promising housing must be honorable as well.  To your way of thinking, they would never lie when it comes to doing what's best for the land and the people. But as you have unfortunately found out, they do lie and quite regularly when it suits them. They don't care about you at all except for one period of time; i.e. election time.  Then they will say anything and promise everything in order to get your vote.  

Ketzeleh, you are a war hero and a wonderful person whom I have admired and respected as you have practically built Beit El with your bare hands.  And you at least have it half right. You identify the problem of Beit El being similar to a battered spouse who takes abuse over and over again and does nothing about it.  You even attempt to identify a solution but again you become that battered spouse and fail miserably.  You identify four other secular candidates in Likud as possible replacements for Netanyahu. Seriously? Do you really believe that any of them, once in power will be any better than Bibi right now? As I mentioned above, they will promise much and deliver nothing.  And I find it equally fascinating that you did not mention Naftali Bennett or Uri Ariel in your candidate wish list. Both are wonderful, good-hearted Gd-fearing people but utterly useless in changing the status quo as they have demonstrated with their failure on Amona and the current housing freeze.

The late great Adir Zik, zt"l, once told me the following when I asked him why the religious zionist settlers don't back someone like Moshe Feiglin.  He said the religious zionist settlers as a group have a built-in inferiority complex and don't believe that someone who looks like them (i.e. a kippa-wearing observant Jew) can ever become PM of Israel.  Also, someone like that would never be acceptable to the goyim. So, content to be second class citizens in their own land, they back failed secular messiah after failed secular messiah, who all have 12 hour planning horizons as Ketzeleh is proposing. And yet Feiglin along with his Zehut party is the ONLY potential PM candidate that actually has a written documented plan to lead the country.  

Gentlemen, it is well past time to realize that failed policies and attitudes are why Beit El and the other settlements are still just settlements and not immovable cities with non-transferable populations like Modi'in and Ma'aleh Adumim.  It is time to realize that only faith-based leadership and not some poseur secular messiah will help not only you but also the other neglected people who get only lip service at election time, like the hungry in J'lem and other cities, the terrified elderly in South Tel Aviv, the drug addict in Be'er Sheva, et al. It goes on and on.  

Continuing on this path is more than just wrong, or battered wife syndrome. It is insanity and as we know the apocryphal definition of insanity as given by Einstein is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A House Full of Sefarim and a Fully Blue Garment

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l

Korach came with two claims against Moshe (Bamidbar Rabba 18:3): Could a house full of holy books require a mezuza? Could a garment that was fully techelet (a shade of blue used in the strings of tzitzit) require tzitzit? Indeed there are two types of complaints that we have been dealing with, generation after generation, and they have broken Israel into splinters and caused discord.

The house full of sefarim is referring to great G-d-fearing Torah scholars, for whom Torah is everywhere they turn and do not go anywhere without being in its proximity. These "holy houses," because of their great connection to Torah, may not feel the value that a little parchment could have, when in truth its great contribution comes from its position at the entrance and exit of the house. These guard Israel at the time they are involved in important affairs. This is a metaphor for the little hints of Torah values, which are found everywhere: in a religious school, in a religious agricultural settlement, in a kibbutz, in classes for youth, in a place where responsible sports are being played without desecrating Shabbat. Each one may be a small thing, but just like a physical mezuza, their location gives them surprisingly great value.

There is also an opposite mistake. People think that a "garment of techelet" can do fine without tzitzit. This can refer to the productiveness and pleasures of life. One is tempted to think that it is enough to infuse simple things with significant content. Indeed, the Chatam Sofer (Sukka 36a) said that working the land in Eretz Yisrael is equal to putting on tefillin because the mundane that is connected to sanctity can be holy itself. Is it so, then, that if the whole garment is techelet, you do not need extra tzitzit (i.e., specifically religious activities)? And if you attach tzitzit, you certainly should not require techelet in the tzitzit! The excitement with the content of the garment (i.e., the totality of life in Israel) takes away from the excitement with specific religious acts.

This too is a mistake. For example, even if the whole nation is holy, Aharon is the "holy of holies" (see Divrei Hayamim I, 23:13). If work in Israel is holy, then activities that would be holy outside Eretz Yisrael are holy of holies in Eretz Yisrael. If plowing is like wearing tefillin, then putting on tefillin is certainly like putting on tefillin! The relative difference between the mundane and holy activities remains the same, just that everything is elevated in Israel. If one does not sense this, then he is like a person who approaches the Temple and desecrates its sanctity (see Bamidbar 17:28).

“Democratic” Faith or a Faith Revealed to Humans From On High

By Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

Moshe, who is known as a person of limitless patience and tolerance, forgiving to all and the most humble of all humans, reacts apparently in an uncharacteristic manner to the attack mounted against his personal leadership of the Jewish people by Korach. Moshe’s aggressive stance against the rebels reveals therefore a different motive to that attack than mere office-seeking on the part of the rebels. For after all it was Moshe who himself declared that "would all of the people of Israel become prophets." He tells Yehoshua not to be zealous in defense of his personal honor. And yet here with Korach and his followers Moshe adopts such a hard line and an uncompromising stance. The Torah always notes for us behavior of great people that on the surface appears to be uncharacteristic of their nature and past performance. Part of the reason for the Torah’s doing so is to alert us to a deeper issue that lies here and not to be satisfied with the superficial and surface statement of facts. And the deeper issue present here is that Korach wishes to convert Torah and Judaism to a man-made, "democratic" faith from its original and true source as being a faith revealed to humans from on high, a faith and life system ordained in Heaven and revealed to humans. Therefore it is not Moshe and his leadership that is the core issue in this dispute but rather it is the basic definition of Judaism - is it Godly or man-made, revealed or invented? And on that basic core issue of Judaism, Moshe sees no room for compromise or unjustified tolerance. It is not Moshe’s position that is at stake here. It is the understanding and true meaning of Judaism and its future that is now at risk.

Even though the Talmud teaches us that the dispute of Korach against Moshe is not one that is destined to last eternally, it nevertheless in the sense that I have described above, lasted until our very day. The struggle to maintain Judaism as a Godly revealed religion is an ongoing one. There are many forces within and without the Jewish world that have attempted and still attempt to remove the Godly revealed part out of Judaism. In spite of all of Jewish history that indicates the abject failure of such an approach, it still persists in our time. It is not an attack on the Orthodox establishment, so to speak - Moshe - that is present here, though on the surface it may be presented as such. At the root of the dispute is the view of Judaism that it is from Heaven given to earth and not merely a clever invention and artifice of ancient rabbis and scholars. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch once characterized the difference between Judaism and other faiths as being that Judaism was a religion given by God to define man while the other faiths were created by man to define God. God is beyond our meager abilities to define or understand. Therefore He gave us a Torah, the Torah of Moshe, in order to aid us to live as proper human beings and as His devoted servants.

Korach's Fatal Error

By HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Hayeshiva, Beit El

Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

The Challenge
Korach challenges Moshe and Aharon with the following words: "The entire community is holy, why do you pretend that you are superior to the congregation of God?" In other words, "why shouldn’t we all be treated as if we are Kohanim, (priests)?" Why do the Jewish people have to be pigeon-holed into various classes? The Torah was emphatic in telling us that providing Yosef with preferential treatment relative to his brothers prompted a litany of problems, dissension and slander. Isn't equality, then, the key to unity?

Korach’s demands are even more understandable nowadays, when the pursuit of democracy, equality for all - the value of everybody living his life in absolute freedom - is the main theme of modern society. Western civilization views government as the entity that will ensure that citizens don’t infringe on the freedom of their fellow man. In this light, the Talmud in Tractate Avoda Zara says that if it were not for the fear of the kingdom (authorities) each man would "swallow up his neighbor." In democracies, the function of the government is simply to see to it that friction and clashes between citizens are prevented. Western democracies, however, play no significant role in the promotion of positive values and projects. (It is of course true that when the majority of citizens want the government to behave in a particular manner, the government implements the will of that majority; however, here, too, the government is not initiating the positive action, the citizenry is.) This demand for equality was characteristic of Communism as well. That political camp maintained that no one person has greater value than his fellow man.

Individualism and the freedom of the individual, the belief that nobody should interfere with my life, is an approach that in the long run is liable to lead to a certain apathy between neighbors, a lack of mutual concern. This is the warped perspective that has its roots in democracy. It is a point of view that stems from the desire for "simple peace and quiet".

Our Approach to Peace

The view of the Torah, however, is sharply different. For the Torah Jew, democracy does not bring peace. The word "peace" - "Shalom" - is derived from the term "Sheleimut" - or wholeness, completeness, perfection. Completeness means the merging of various parts, each part of which is not whole in and of itself. This wholeness is characterized by a nucleus that connects all the sundry parts, that binds all components of the nation together into one. This dynamic brings sheleimut, Shalom.

It is this Jewish concept with which Korach took issue. Korach erred when he failed to understand the need for one focal point that unites the nation. This nucleus stands above everybody, like a spine, that unites all of the different limbs of the body. This was the job of the Kohen Gadol, who performed his holy service on behalf of the Jewish people.

The great sage Hillel instructs us to be the students of Aharon, who was "a lover of peace a pursuer of peace; he loved people and brought them closer to Torah." Aharon pursued peace not only because this world is one of great divisions and we are each bidden by God to overcome our evil inclinations to make peace. But essentially, says the Maharal of Prague, we should pursue peace because we understand that peace is the world’s natural, ideal state. Thus, Rabbi Hillel does not simply say that we should "pursue peace" but that we should be "of the students of Aharon".

When this kind of oneness permeates all factions of the nation, everyone will come to understand the concept of Hashem’s Oneness, and it will no longer be necessary to "publicize" it. The very appearance of the Jewish people as "One nation in the Land" will drive home the message of "You are One and Your name is One".

Torah Scholars: the True "Peace Camp"
Our sages taught us that "Torah scholars increase peace in the world." On occasion, we may actually doubt the veracity of this statement. It’s enough to just read the announcements and stories signed by great Torah scholars - directed at people whom do not exactly go on their path - to prompt the question: Is it true that Torah scholars really increase peace in the world?

Looking at the matter more deeply, however, we come to realize that it is really the Torah scholars who are bringing peace to the world. Each scholar introduces his own unique part in the wholeness of the Torah, adds his own special quality to the fabric. This is how "sheleimut" increases in the world...

Indeed, when we merit the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin (High Jewish Court), all disagreements will be resolved, but it seems that even at that time, there will be room for an array of perspectives - regarding the intentions associated with various mitzvah actions and customs. It’s not for nothing that the Children of Israel were divided into 12 tribes... Everyone makes his contribution to the building of the nation...

As we have already mentioned, the sin of Korach derived from the failure to understand that there is a nucleus to which all other entities are connected - that there is a root, from which all of the branches grow. One who recognizes the unique level of the Kohen Gadol, in all of his holiness, understands something of the nation of Israel’s holiness, that only from the midst of the nation of Israel could such a holy person be found.

Closeness Engenders Strife
You may have noticed that there are more disagreements and debates between Jews in the Land of Israel than between Jews in the Diaspora. Within Israel, there is more tension within Jerusalem than in Tel Aviv. And in Jerusalem, there are sometimes very harsh exchanges between Jews; it almost seems that this is a city of conflict, not of peace.

A deeper look indicates that the foundation of disagreements lies in friction, and friction is generally found between two similar entities, while between entities that are more dissimilar, this is not the case; in the latter instance, an almost lack of concern is the rule of thumb. Arguments, then, testify to the presence of concern for the fate of one’s fellow man - a striving to correct his behavior. The closer people are to each other, the sharper the disagreements, since the differences between the sides are so insignificant, there is a greater need to sharpen those differences. When we hear accusations like, "There is an element of heresy in his words" - we understand that in the majority of cases, the two sides are close; the harshness just comes to highlight the gap in the case at hand.

Jerusalem is the center of the world, the place in which the perfection of the nation is to be revealed. It is therefore there that each view must be clarified and be permitted its unique quality. In this way only, each approach can play its part in the building the state of perfection of the nation in Jerusalem...

Torah scholars discussing a particular issue at first argue with each other quite harshly - but in the end, "they become beloved to one another." Even if at times it may initially seem that their relationship is distant, fraught with disagreement - in reality, a solid common interest unites them: clarification of the truth.

This is also incidentally true for relationships within the family. Brothers argue, and often the tone of argument is fairly intense. However, not too many arguments develop between people who are not close to each other. The reason: you don’t care as much about a stranger as you do a brother; thus, you feel less of a need to reprove him or argue with him. One who has discussed a particular topic with his brother, becomes quite impatient with him. Since the two men are so close, one expects the other to "understand him." When this doesn’t materialize, the brother trying to explain himself gets angry.

The external manifestation of this problem of course must be dealt with - namely, the prevention of disagreements and strife, so that the unity between the various elements of the nation will be complete. The author of Sefer Haredim notes that love of one’s fellow Jew is a branch of the mitzvah of loving God. A flaw in the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael is consequently a poor reflection on God’s oneness, namely, the manifestation of God’s Oneness in this world.

The task of Torah scholars is to unite the nation, to be of the students of Aharon. The difficulty in this role lies in the fact that from one angle, a scholar must be determined to stand up for the correctness of his approach; on the other hand, he must make sure that he does not remain in a state of strife with others. In this regard, we should all learn from our leader Moshe, who in his efforts to avoid strife, invested his time in appeasing Korach’s allies, Datan and Aviram.

When Palestinians are Hopeless, Terror Declines; When Hopeful, Terrorism Increases

By Prof. Hillel Frisch

Passover massacre in Netanya, image via IDF Blog
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 498
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It is a widespread belief that Palestinian hopelessness feeds terrorism and the prospects for peace decrease it. This has always been false. In fact, the opposite is true: when Palestinians feel hopeless, Palestinian terrorism declines; when they are hopeful of gaining the upper hand, Palestinian terrorism increases. An Israeli iron fist is necessary to save both Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Nation of Israel, where are you?

A Torah Thought for Parashat Shelach
By Moshe Feiglin

The Torah portion of Shlach Lecha is the story of the tragedy of the Israeli nation. We are the nation that G-d created to herald a new message to humanity; the message of liberty and faith. “I have created this nation for Me, they will tell my praises.” No more slavery to an idol and its crafter, no more servitude to other people; we are all free under the wings of the One G-d, Who reigns supreme.

Since Abraham, heralding the message and rectifying the world is in our genes. If we are not rectifying the world in the Name of G-d, then we are doing it in the name of Communism, Socialism, Liberalism or Atheism. Jews are always dominant in revolutions, or if you will, in rectifications.

Throughout history, we have been progressing along this journey to liberty. Abraham smashes the idols, leaves the slavery of idolatry for the liberty of faith in the One G-d and goes to the Land of Liberty – the Land of Israel. His descendants, Isaac and Jacob are chosen by G-d to be his successors – those who will continue his work and fashion a nation that bears a message.

Jacob’s family is enslaved in the Egyptian crucible until the time comes to emerge from slavery to freedom and herald the message of liberty. This time, as a nation.

But in the interim stage between the theoretical holy dimension – the desert stage – and the practical dimension, a great crisis takes place. It is the stage where the Nation of Israel had to begin to pour holiness into the mundane, soul into body, to leave the desert and enter the Land of Israel. It is the stage where the Nation of Israel had to begin to create a national life never seen before in the world; a real life with a strong economy, an army, agriculture, industry, politics, transportation, rich and poor. All of this had to be done with G-d palpably in our midst. By developing this type of national life we strive to elevate all the nations of the world to a new experience. But that is precisely where the bubble bursts.

Humanity expects to hear this message from us and is angered when we deny it: “We established a state for you, because we dreamt of a place where the new Book of Books would be written as a preface to the redemption of the world. For you are a treasured nation. We had great expectations, and look what you have done.” (British intellectuals, quoted in Makor Rishon). This denial of our identity and our message is the most deep and elementary reason for anti-Semitism and the never-ending wars.

The Nation of Israel stands at the threshold of the Land of Israel and takes the advice of ten of the twelve greatest men of the generation and chooses what we would call today the ultra-Orthodox way of life. Israel chooses to remain in the holy dimension of the desert and to forgo national sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The punishment is terrible: Total elimination of that generation. Is that fair? What was their sin? Why were they punished more severely than for the Golden Calf? After all, they listened to their rabbis!

The point is that the death of that generation in the desert was not a punishment at all. When they abstained from entering the stage of actualizing their holiness in the Land, they sealed their own fate – just like a driver who insists on going over a cliff. He is not punished; he has simply created a reality in which he cannot continue. When the time comes to continue on to the next stage of actualization of Israel’s destiny, those who deny it become irrelevant and they have no more place in reality (a synonym for G-d).

It did not end with the Sin of the Spies. Historically, every time that the Nation of Israel had the chance to return to the Land of Israel, they chose not to do so. The most obvious example is the invitation of Her Majesty’s government to the Jews in the 1920s to ascend and to establish in Israel a national home on both banks of the Jordan. “Nation of Israel, Where are You?” is the name of the chapter in the historical documentary ‘Pillar of Fire’ that chronicles that era. We are all too familiar with the horrendous result.

Today, most of the Nation of Israel is in the Land of Israel. Where is the next stage of progression toward our destiny? This stage is easy to identify. The threshold of the next stage is the place where most of Israel’s major rabbis oppose the next step. At this stage, terrible fear always grips the entire public: “If we continue on toward our destiny and realize it, there will be a world war here.”

But reality is always just the opposite: Without destiny, there is no existence! Giving up on realizing our destiny costs us dearly. This denial of our progress toward our destiny makes the justification for our existence on the plane that had been previously achieved – extraneous. The State of Israel rapidly loses the legitimacy for its existence and missiles begin to explode in Tel Aviv.

The next stage- for those who did not understand, is the restoral of the Nation of Israel’s complete sovereignty over the Temple Mount. This is the Promised Land, longing for our return – now.

Shabbat Shalom.

Smack Talking the Land

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Israel’s Economy - Persistent Defiance of Conventional Wisdom

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

In defiance of the jagged cutting edge of the Middle East, the inherent regional unpredictability, uncertainty, instability, violence, brutal Islamic intolerance of the “infidel” and the lack of formal diplomatic relations with most of its neighbors, Israel has displayed a unique level of resilience, steadfastness, stability and creativity.

For example:

1. All-time record in tourism to Israel: a 38% increase in the number of tourists in April, 2017 over April 2016; a 28% increase in the number of tourists during January-April, 2017 over January-April, 2016.

2. According to Bank of Israel: Israel’s GDP per capita is $38,400 ($36,300 in Q1/2016); unemployment rate is 4.2% (4.4% in Q1/2016); inflation is 0.7% (0.9% in Q1/2016 and 450% in 1985); public debt-to-GDP ratio declines for seventh straight year to 62.1% (64.1% in Q1/2016 and 80.3% in 2006); external debt-to-GDP ratio reduced to 28.6% (30% in Q1/2016).

3. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (May 18, 2017), Israel’s household consumption per head rose by 5.2% in 2016, overtaking that of the United Arab Emirates, comparable to France and Singapore, but well below the US and UK. “It reflects Israel’s declining unemployment, combined with a higher labor participation rate (in the ultra-orthodox and Arab sectors), an accommodative monetary policy, a strong local currency and falling global prices… helped by relatively high population growth. The number of immigrants entering the country rose in 2014-15 to its highest level since 2003…. Israel has largely overcome relatively low rainfall owing to desalination and sewage-recycling, and is now a major exporter of water technologies…. Israel spends a higher proportion of its GDP on civilian R&D than any other country. Its high spending on military R&D has had positive effects for the civilian technology sector… encouraging high rates of productivity growth. The local workforce is highly educated with more than 50% of the population enrolling in tertiary education….”

4. MizMaa, a Chinese venture capital fund, established in 2016, owned by three affluent Chinese families, and headed by a former Deputy President of J.P. Morgan in Asia, is investing $100mn in 15-18 Israeli startups in the areas of cyber security, autonomous vehicles, FinTech, artificial intelligence, robotics and cloud computing. $20nm were already invested in 6 Israeli startups (Globes Business Daily, June 14, 2017).

5. India is emerging as one of Israel’s leading trade partners, militarily and commercially. Two months following a sale of $2bn missile defense systems to India, a sale of $630mn additional missile defense systems was announced (Globes, May 22).

6. Bill McDermott, the CEO of Germany’s SAP, the world’s third largest software company: “Israel’s technology market – per size of population - is the most exciting in the globe. The number of Israeli engineers and scientists and the size of R&D investment - per capita - are the highest in the world. SAP will double its focus on Israel.” SAP employs 700 persons in Israel (Globes, June 1).

7. Germany’s Porsche announced its intention to invest a few scores of millions of dollars in Israeli autonomous-car startups (Globes, June 2).

8. Microsoft acquired the three-year-old Israeli cyber security company, Hexadite, for $100mn (Globes, May 25). UroGen, the Israeli developer of urological cancer treatment, raised $58mn on Nasdaq, 20% above expectations (Globes, May 8).

Seeing Through Wine-Colored Lenses

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

It was not supposed to happen this way: A group of scouts was sent to see the Promised Land, presumably to bring back a glowing report that would set the Israelites on their way into the Land of Israel. Instead, the report was devastating, and the people took it in the worst possible way. Rather than preparing to enter the Land, they were now forced to prepare for a new reality: Life in the foreseeable future would be a nomadic existence, and their ultimate goal would remain beyond their grasp.

And then, as the disappointing story of the spies comes to an end, the Torah moves on; new laws are imparted, in a seeming “return to business as usual.”

The interplay between narrative and law in the book of B’midbar is fascinating. Generally speaking, the book as a whole is comprised of narrative (as opposed to Vayikra, which is almost completely devoid of narrative and consists almost entirely of law). However, the laws that do appear in B’midbar are not randomly placed, inserted merely to break up the narrative; the laws in B’midbar actually seem to be part of the story, and in certain cases may provide commentary and insight. Thus, the law that immediately follows the episode of the spies:

God spoke to Moshe, and said: Speak to the People of Israel and say to them: When you come to the homeland which I am giving to you… (B’midbar 15:1-2)

The message is unmistakable: Despite the setback, all is not lost. God is moving forward, and He is speaking about the day the punishment will be over. Despite the sin of the spies and the people’s collusion in that sin, the Land of Israel has not been forfeited; it is still our homeland. Even now, as they suffer through the consequences of their lapse of faith, as they wander the desert, the Land of Israel remains their birthright. The message continues:

You will present fire offerings to God. They may be burnt offerings, or other sacrifices, either for a general or specific pledge, or for your festivals. Taken from the cattle or smaller animals, they shall create a fragrance that is pleasing to God. (B’midbar 15:3)

Despite the bleakness of their present situation, God assures them that they will one day have a Temple in Israel in which they will celebrate, bring offerings, and behave in a manner that will be pleasing to Him. The Torah then provides some very specific information about these future offerings, which will include wheat meal, olive oil, and libations of wine. (15:4-5)

This list of offerings does not come as a surprise to us; the Land of Israel is described as a land that flows with milk and honey, as well as “a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates; a land of oil-olives and honey-[dates].” (D’varim 8:8) Indeed, when the spies arrived in Israel, “they cut a branch and a cluster of grapes, which two men carried on a frame, and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.” (B’midbar 13:23) When they returned to report their findings, they carried the fruit of the land: “We came to the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is its fruit.” (B’midbar 13:27)

The spies saw Israel’s grapes, and they brought back large clusters – so large, in fact, that it took two people to carry each one. Should it have been a surprise that the local inhabitants, whose diet consisted of the oversized fruits of the land, were themselves oversized? Surely, their conclusion should have been that the Land of Israel is indeed a wonderful place. The people should have been thrilled by the knowledge that they, too, would soon be living off the almost magical bounty of the Promised Land, and that their own children would grow big and strong. Instead, the spies looked only at the physical realities their eyes had seen, and gave no consideration to the spiritual aspects of the land and their connection to it. They were guilty of seeing the future through the lens of the present or the past.

Perhaps this is the underlying message of the laws that immediately follow the episode of the spies. The lesson God teaches with these laws is profound: The future that lies ahead is nothing like the reality of the present. It is a future infused with holiness, with spirituality, not bounded by the mundane, physical constructs that limit the present reality. Look toward the future, He tells them; look ahead to an existence of holiness. The offerings they will bring in the Holy Land are made from wine – and not grapes in their present form. The spies saw only the ‘here and now’, the familiar physical realities of the present. They lost sight of the power that holiness has to transform that mundane reality into something far greater. Like wine, that future reality requires a process; it requires time and patience, faith and trust. This is the message God imparts in these laws. He focuses them on a new perspective of the future.

The spies saw grapes; they were alarmed by the oversized fruits and terrified by the oversized people. Instead, God teaches them to turn their gaze to the future and to see the wine and the holy service of the Beit HaMikdash. Had the spies seen the potential, and not merely the “reality,” they never would have sinned. Had they seen the holiness and not only the mundane, the Israelites’ stay in the desert would have been much shorter. Had they maintained their faith in God’s ability to create a new reality, unlike anything they had experienced in the past, they would have immediately embarked upon the short path to realizing that new reality. Instead, they would have to endure a long and challenging process of maturation in the desert.

The lesson of the juxtaposition of these laws with the episode of the spies is as relevant to us as it was to the generation of the desert: What do we see when we look? Do we see “reality” – which is no more than allowing our eyes to refract the future through visions of the past? Or do we see the future as potential? The lesson of these verses is just this: Seeing the future through lenses colored by holiness allows us to see a completely different reality.

On "Knowing the Land"

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

On “Knowing the Land” G-d punished the generation of the desert. Because they “scorned the desirable land” (Psalm 106:24), G-d told them, “Your corpses will fall in this desert” (Numbers 14:29). Yet He treated their children benevolently, as it says, “You said that your children will be taken captive, but I will bring them here, so that they will know the land that you rejected” (v. 31).

Seemingly, He should have said simply, “I will bring them to the Land.” Why did He add the words, “so that they will know the land”? The Torah is teaching us a very important principle about recognizing and knowing the value of Eretz Yisrael. It was lack of such knowledge which led to the failure of both the spies and the generation of the desert.

It is not enough to move to Eretz Yisrael. We must also know what Eretz Yisrael is, what is special about it, what its worth is and what its role is for us and for the whole world. It is on such a background that we must relate to the Land, with reverence and fear of the holy. Only someone who recognizes the Land’s holiness and its divine role in revealing the light of G-d on earth, will risk his life for it and go up to the Land, settle it and fight over every centimeter of it. He will be aware with certainty that through such means he is adding and increasing G-d’s light and glory throughout the world. That is why, when G-d first spoke to Abraham, He said to him, “Go away... to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Gd tells Abraham that He will appear to him there and that there, in Eretz Yisrael, He will “make him into a great nation” (v. 2). Moreover, there Abraham would “become a blessing” (Ibid.), and “all the families of the earth would be blessed through him” (v. 3).

Right now, we have to learn and teach “knowledge of the Land.” We must get to know the Land of Israel, whose purpose is to yield sweet, delightful fruits from which all of mankind will be nourished and sustained. By such means, the divine light emanating from the holy land and the holy people who dwell within the promised borders will show the nations the path.

Indeed, everyone must learn the knowledge of the Land -- from the leaders of the nation to the last of the Jews in the Land and the Exile. All must attain clear recognition of the universal, divine, historic meaning of the rebirth of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, through its full length and width.

Through our knowledge and love of the Land, we will draw enormous strength to face up to and fight for our beloved land, against all those who are rising up to uproot us and to steal it from us, in a vain attempt to extinguish the light of the world. We must likewise strengthen the hearts and hands of those who neither know nor recognize what Eretz Yisrael is, something which truly brings them to weakness.

We know, however, that this weakness is like a passing blemish. The day is not far off when the whole Jewish People will return to themselves and to their land, and through that will return to G-d. Then, we will all know who we are, and what our land is. We will know that we were chosen to increase and strengthen G-d’s glory in the world. All this will come about through our walking in G-d’s path and keeping His Torah in Eretz Yisrael. Through this, we will merit to see with our own eyes how G-d “gives strength to His people and blesses them with peace” (Psalm 29:11).

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.