Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sins of Coercion

Does the Talmudic category of “ones rachmana patrei,” that “the Merciful One exempts [from punishment one who sins because of] coercion” apply to sins that are not forced on us by our enemies or by circumstances beyond our control? This issue has again risen to the fore by the assertion of a well known American-Israeli rabbi that this concept can be applied to deal sensitively with the plight of practicing homosexuals and has been the source of controversy here in Israel. To be clear, my focus here is not on the quandary of the homosexual, a situation that in our world causes great hardship to individuals and families, demands our sympathy and understanding and has been discussed at length. It is rather on the plight of the rabbinate.

What was suggested is not a new idea and was first proposed decades ago. It was posited, according to a straightforward reading of the statement, that the Torah’s prohibition of homosexual contact applies only to a heterosexual who chooses to engage in same-sex behavior, not the committed homosexual whose only desires are in that arena. As he is, purportedly, wired that way, he cannot be held responsible for his actions and, indeed, G-d would not want to deprive him (or her) of the capacity to find love in this world.

Yet, upon scrutiny, the application of “ones rachmana patrei” to this situation is flawed, misplaced and incorrect, and will inevitably lead to a deterioration in observance of any Jews who are influenced by it. There is the considerable likelihood that such contentions will lead Jews astray in every area of life in which they feel they lack self-control on the one hand or seek passionately on the other. It can and will undermine the very notion of commandment, sin, and repentance. In essence, this methodology of “ones rachmana patrei” can be equally misapplied to Shabbat desecration, theft, violence, adultery, gossip, tax fraud, and any other sin, major or minor. Several points deserve analysis.

Firstly, “ones rachmana patrei” is generally applied when one is forced to sin because of some external coercive element rather than a lack of internal control. The motivating factor is always some outside force and not simply an innate desire that cannot be constrained. For example, the anusim (from the same root; Conversos in the vernacular) were forced to convert and engage in Christian practices because of the murderous hostility of 15th century Christian Spain. The proof text for “ones rachmana patrei” is the case of the naarah ha’me’urasa, the betrothed maiden who is violated in the field against her will. “And to the maiden you shall do nothing; she is not guilty of a capital crime” (Devarim 22:26). As the Talmud (Masechet Bava Kama 28b) explains, she is guiltless, compelled to sin because of the brutish acts of her assailant.

Secondly, the classic cases of “ones rachmana patrei” are noted by Rambam (Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah, Chapter 5) under the laws of martyrdom. One who is compelled by hostile enemies on pain of death to commit one of the three cardinal sins – idolatry, sexual immorality, or homicide – is obligated to forfeit his life and not sin, as those three sins are particularly corrosive to the soul. One can save one’s life and violate all other sins except in a time of religious persecution. Yet, if the person instead saves his own life by committing one of the three cardinal sins, “he has failed to sanctify G-d’s name, but because he was coerced, he is not punished” (Rambam, ibid 5:4). Again, “ones rachmana patrei” requires the coercion of an outside party.

Thirdly, it must be underscored that “ones rachmana patrei” only means that there is no criminal punishment of the offender. It does not at all render the act in question permissible in the first instance. So even if it were true that the committed homosexual is an “anoos,” and thereby not liable to judicial punishment, that would not justify the commission of the acts in any event. They remain prohibited, even if there is no longer criminal liability. An article in the recent Tzohar journal (Volume 41, pages 81-101) reiterated the prohibition against people with same-sex attractions even secludingthemselves together; the authors never entertained permitting sinful actions based on “ones rachmana patrei.”

Nevertheless, “ones rachmana patrei” is applicable in many familiar areas to us. We are not liable today for not bringing the Korban Pesach, or one in captivity has not violated the Torah by not eating in the Succa on the 15th night of Tishrei, because circumstances have made it impossible to fulfill those mitzvot. Sadly, a person without arms cannot fulfill the mitzvah of wearing tefillin shel yad like a blind person cannot recite Kiddush Levana. One who will die unless he consumes non-kosher food must eat non-kosher food. All are exempt by G-d from fulfilling these commandments because of the situation forced upon them. A license to sin because of tendencies that cannot be controlled is far removed from this concept.

Indeed, a person is only considered an “anoos” after he has made every possible effort to fulfill a mitzvah or avoid its violation – every possible effort. And even then, if he cannot fulfill the commandment, he has to be overcome with regret and sorrow, much like Moshe was when told he could not enter the land of Israel even though he desired to perform the commandments tied to the land. But wasn’t he prevented by G-d and therefore not obligated in those mitzvot? Yes, and so the Alter of Kelm noted that we learn from Moshe that even an “anoos” has to be distressed about his failure to follow G-d’s will (see Rav Menashe Klein’s Mishneh Halachot 17:189, at the end). Again, this was an inability to fulfill positive commandments; a permanent license to engage in a capital prohibition was never contemplated in the absence of any external coercive element.

There are grounds that support the notion that someone who is mentally ill and cannot control himself is not liable for his actions – because “ones rachmana patrei.” It is analogous to the insanity defense familiar in secular law. But there is no indication that the concept of “ones rachmana patrei” is being employed here in this sense, and, as we know, such an assertion in this context would be the epitome of political incorrectness.

Bringing comfort to troubled souls is one of the essential tasks of the rabbinate but to do so by distorting or fudging the Torah’s prohibitions is self-defeating and ultimately destructive. The Talmud (Masechet Sanhedrin 75a) tells the distressing tale of a man who developed an obsession with a particular woman, such that the doctors said he would die if he did not sin with her. The Sages brusquely prohibited even a private conversation between the two, much less anything more risqué. They did not seek to rationalize his desires because of “ones rachmana patrei.”

To my thinking, a homosexual who cannot alter his behavior but remains chaste because of his religious commitment and faith is absolutely heroic, a role model for all. Perhaps today we lack such role models but at one time we had them. Yosef withstood the blandishments of Potifar’s wife notwithstanding all the good reasons (even some with religious overtones) that rang in his ears, and even though he wound up incarcerated for more than a decade as a result of his demurral. That is strength of character. Yosef is the exemplar of the Jew who is caught in the throes of sensual passion and does not succumb (Masechet Yoma 35b). Boaz refrained from committing any lascivious acts with Ruth, even though it could have been rationalized on some level. And both personalities pale before the superhuman willpower of Palti who did not touch his own wife because of his fear that she was still technically married to David. (I have simplified somewhat; see Masechet Sanhedrin 19b for the details.) Those who can harness the energy of an unquenchable passion and remain faithful to G-d are awe-inspiring. “Let those who love Him be like the powerfully rising sun” (Shoftim 5:31).

Rabbis should be encouraging fidelity to Torah. Rabbis should be teaching Jews about the virtues of self-control and moderation as the keys to faith and happiness. We need not pander to the young generation as if it is hopelessly degenerate and dissolute, as if they can never truly surrender to G-d’s will. Such is the death of Torah and the irrelevance of the rabbinate. Such is the evisceration of the function of Judaism throughout our history. A Jew is called upon to sacrifice; no one was poorer than Hillel (Masechet Yoma 35b) and yet he continued his Torah study in poverty. We would not say “ones rachmana patrei” for Jews who felt compelled to work on Shabbat a century ago (and some even today); commitment to Torah requires sacrifice and that sacrifice is asked of all of us in different ways.

It is disingenuous to claim that Halacha is pluralistic, in the modern sense that there is no one truth. The Talmud characterizes the disputes between the schools of Shamai and Hillel as “Eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim chaim,” “these and those are the words of the living G-d,” but then concludes that a heavenly echo decreed “the law is according to the house of Hillel.” Yes, there was finality, as there is overwhelming decisiveness and consensus in halacha; it is not an intellectual or spiritual free-for-all. “Anything” does not go. The disputes are always along the margins, in the details of some of the laws and customs. The consensus that dominates halachic practice in the laws of Shabbat, Kashrut, Taharat Hamishpacha, Tefila, and other areas is what unites the Torah world. The differences are mostly nuances that have endured for centuries and does at all impinge on our capacity to pray, eat, learn and live together. We can debate how long to wait between meat and milk but not whether a cheeseburger is kosher.

There is a real danger that people will construe themselves as “coerced” by their internal natures – and molest, steal, murder, cheat, gossip and breach all the norms of Torah because, after all, that was the nature with which they were born and, according to modern notions, they are not expected to control and refine. We all are subject to sin, and we all must exercise discretion in not seeking to pry into people’s private lives and judging them accordingly. But it is far better to sin out of lust (and sincerely repent and then stop) than to sin intellectually by writing out of the Torah one or more of its prohibitions. The former is a human being beset by frailties, like all of us; the latter is a heretic.

Similarly, what a rabbi might advise an individual in private is not necessarily appropriate for an entire group or for readers of a newspaper. In fact, sensitivity to the individual is much more important than sensitivity to a group, notwithstanding the modern obsession with “group identity.” It is the individual who deserves our attention, respect, sympathy, not the group with which he identifies or who claims her as an adherent. But our sensitivities and sensibilities should never be projected onto G-d and can never replace the Torah. All we know of G-d’s will is what He told us, and that is what makes the Jewish people special, unique and worthy of His protective hand. We modify, reform or modernize His word and His morality at our peril.

I am saddened by the reality of people suffering with the allure of sin and illicit desire as I am by the implications of a distortion of Torah law. Jews in this situation deserve our sympathy and our help, but also our honesty. And if rabbis do not preach G-d’s values, and do not speak the language of right and wrong, permissible and forbidden, then who will?

The Anti-Semitic Jewish Media

By Bruce Bawer

  • Almost everyone in a position to do something is a coward. Politicians continue to recite the mantra that "Muslims are today's Jews," even though in Europe today Muslims are far more often the tormentors than the tormented, and Jews lead the list of victims of public abuse.
  • Needless to say, the immigrants Trump wants to keep out of the U.S. are precisely the type who, in Europe, are currently Jew-bashing people like Stephen Miller -- and Rob Eshman. But Eshman doesn't want to think about this ticklish fact, which challenges his own simplistic, self-righteous pontifications.
  • Linda Sarsour is the very personification of stealth Islamization and an obvious anti-Semite. But as Davidson himself noted, she's acquired plenty of Jewish allies and defenders, "including Jeremy Ben-Ami, Mark Hetfield, Rabbi Jill Jacobs and Brad Lander."
Stephen Miller, Senior Advisor to the President for Policy, talks to reporters about President Donald Trump's support for creating a "merit-based immigration system", August 2, 2017. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
For years now, Jews across western Europe have been the targets of harassment by Muslims. Police officers stand guard outside of synagogues. Recently, when I stayed in the Jewish Quarter in Rome, I couldn't help notice the presence of multiple police kiosks, each manned by an armed cop. Many Jews in European cities have long since ceased wearing yarmulkes or Stars of David. Jewish kids are instructed by their parents to avoid identifying themselves as Jews at school lest they be beaten up by their little Muslim friends.

Just Get Out of the Way

By Moshe Feiglin

“The Finance and Health Ministries will examine how it is possible to export medical cannabis from Israel,” Israeli headlines recently reported.

This is a very important news item that testifies to a ray of light, logic and hope breaking through government impenetrability.

Israel is home to groundbreaking cannabis research and development. Unique strains of medical cannabis are being developed here all the time for direct treatment of various symptoms.

The entire world is watching and waiting for Israeli cannabis developments. An entire agricultural hi-tech industry could have been established here a long time ago. Besides providing cures for the ill throughout the world, this industry would have catapulted Israeli agriculture into an entirely new era, created tens of thousands of jobs and about 4 billion shekels annually in earnings for Israel’s economy – just for starters.

But all that we are seeing now is a few rays of light streaming through the cracks in governmental impenetrability.

There is no reason to “examine how it is possible to export medical cannabis.” We simply must stop preventing it from happening.

If we adopt the “just don’t get in the way” approach, it will rapidly become clear that 65% of Israel’s government ministries are completely expendable.

Zehut’s platform shows how the government apparatus can be reduced from 30 ministries to 11.

The government has two main jobs:
One: Security and Justice
Two: Don’t get in the way

Rav Kook on Parashat Re'eih: Searching for the Temple Site

Surprisingly, the Torah never spells out exactly where the Temple is to be built. Rather we are instructed to build the Beit HaMikdash “in the place that God will choose”:

“Only to the place that the Eternal your God will choose from all your tribes to set His Name — there you shall seek His dwelling place, and go there.” (Deut. 12:5)

Where is this place “that God will choose”? What does it mean that we should “seek out His dwelling place”?

The Hidden Location

The Sages explained that the Torah is commanding us, under the guidance of a prophet, to discover where the Beit HaMikdash should be built. King David undertook the search for this holy site with the help of the prophet Samuel.

Why didn’t the Torah explicitly state the location where to build the Temple? Moses certainly knew that the Akeidah took place on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, and he knew that Abraham had prophesied that this would be the site of the Beit HaMikdash.1

Maimonides (Guide to the Perplexed III: 45) suggested that Moses wisely chose not to mention Jerusalem explicitly. Had he done so, the non-Jewish nations would have realized Jerusalem’s paramount importance to the Jewish people and would have fought fiercely to prevent it from falling into Israel’s hands.

Even worse, knowledge of Jerusalem’s significance could have led to infighting among the tribes. Each tribe would want the Beit HaMikdash to be located in its territory. The result could have been an ugly conflict, similar to Korach’s rebellion against Aaron’s appointment to the position of High Priest. Maimonides reasoned that this is why the Torah commands that a king be appointed before building the Beit HaMikdash. This way the Temple’s location would be determined by a strong central government, thus avoiding inter-tribal conflict and rivalry.

"Between His Shoulders"

In any case, David did not know where the Beit HaMikdash was to be built. According to the Talmud (Zevachim 54b), his initial choice fell on Ein Eitam, a spring located to the south of Jerusalem. Ein Eitam appeared to be an obvious choice since it is the highest point in the entire region. This corresponds to the Torah’s description that:

“You shall rise and ascend to the place that the Eternal your God will choose” (Deut.17:8).

However, David subsequently considered a second verse that alludes to the Temple’s location. At the end of his life, Moses described the place of God’s Divine Presence as “dwelling between his shoulders” (Deut. 33:12). What does this mean?

This allegory suggests that the Temple’s location was not meant to be at the highest point, but a little below it, just as the shoulders are below the head. Accordingly, David decided that Jerusalem, located at a lower altitude than Ein Eitam, was the site where the Beit HaMikdash was meant to be built.

Doeg, head of the High Court, disagreed with David. He supported the original choice of Ein Eitam as the place to build the Temple. The Sages noted that Doeg’s jealousy of David was due to the latter’s success in discovering the Temple’s true location.

The story of David’s search for the site of the Beit HaMikdash is alluded to in one of David’s “Songs of Ascent.” Psalm 132 opens with a plea: “Remember David for all his trouble” (Ps. 132:1). What was this trying labor that David felt was a special merit, a significant life achievement for which he wanted to be remembered?

The psalm continues by recounting David’s relentless efforts to locate the place of the Temple. David vowed:

“I will not enter the tent of my house, nor will I go up to the bed that was spread for me. I will not give sleep to my eyes, nor rest to my eyelids — until I find God’s place, the dwellings of the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Ps. 132: 3-5)

David and Doeg

What was the crux of the dispute between David and Doeg? Doeg reasoned that the most suitable site for the Temple is the highest point in Jerusalem, reflecting his belief that the spiritual greatness of the Temple should only be accessible to the select few, those who are able to truly grasp the purest levels of enlightenment — the kohanim and the spiritual elite.

David, on the other hand, understood that the Temple and its holiness need to be the inheritance of the entire people of Israel. The kohanim are not privy to special knowledge; they are merely agents who influence and uplift the people with the Temple’s holiness. The entire nation of Israel is described as a “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6).

The Waters of Ein Eitam

Even though Ein Eitam was never sanctified, it still retained a special connection to the BeitHaMikdash, as its springs supplied water for the Beit HaMikdash. The Talmud relates that on Yom Kippur, the High Priest would immerse himself in a mikveh on the roof of the Beit HaParvah chamber in the Temple complex. In order for the water to reach this roof, which was 23 cubits higher than the ground floor of the Temple courtyard, water was diverted from the Ein Eitam springs, which were also located at this altitude.

Rav Kook explained that there exists a special connection between Ein Eitam and the High Priest’s purification on Yom Kippur. While the Beit HaMikdash itself needs to be accessible to all, the purification of the High Priest must emanate from the highest possible source. Yom Kippur’s unique purity and power of atonement originate in the loftiest realms, corresponding to the elevated springs of Ein Eitam.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Shemu'ot HaRe’iyah (Beha’alotecha), quoted in Peninei HaRe’iyah, pp. 273-274,350-351. Shemonah Kevatzim I:745)

1 After the Akeidah, it says:

“Abraham named that place, ‘God will see'; as it is said to this day: ‘On the mountain, God will be seen'” (Gen. 22:14).

Rashi explains: “God will choose and see for Himself this place, to cause His Divine Presence to dwell there and for sacrifices to be offered here”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Chosen People’s Duty to Choose

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

The Torah says, “You are children of the L-rd your G-d.... You are a holy nation to the L-rd your G-d. The L-rd has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation” (Deuteronomy 14:1-2). Rashi explains, “Your actual holiness comes to you from your ancestors, but in addition, ‘The L-rd has chosen you.’” In other words, not only did G-d choose our ancestors, but us as well, as it says in our prayers, “G-d chooses His People Israel with love.”

Not in vain did our sages declare that the loftiest blessings we recite are the Torah blessings. There we raise up the banner of “G-d’s choosing us from among all the nations and giving us His Torah.” All of us, the whole Jewish People, according to their various streams down through the generations, past, present and future, belong to this holiness and specialness. We were born that way, and it is not a matter of our choosing.

Let us not forget, however, that it is not just a matter of our having been born Jews with a good soul, and our having been chosen by the Creator. We also have a duty to choose the path and deeds with which we will be able to elevate that good soul from the level of potential to practice.

This matter is alluded to by the juxtaposition between the statement of fact that we are “a holy nation” (Deuteronomy 14:2; see Ba’al HaTurim) and the command, “Do not eat any abomination” (14:3). With eating, man’s free choice in being able to put into his mouth whatever he wants finds tangible expression. Not just food to nourish the body is an option for us, but spiritual food, those forms of culture and education which nourish the soul.

Right now, we must come to recognize the fact that we are a chosen people, that G-d chose us lovingly from among all the nations to be for Him a special people. His purpose was for us to shower the whole world with light and benevolence. We have to recognize our own special worth. At the same time, we must know and recognize that we must choose our path and our deeds, following the ways of G-d and keeping His Torah. By such means, the soul of the nation and of every single Jew in its midst will be illuminated. And may we merit to see with our own eyes how “a new light will shine over Zion” (morning prayers), and from Zion, to the entire world.

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Godly Compromise

Parashat Re’eh 5777
By HaRav Nachman Kahana

An authentic time-tested Jewish mantra: If you don’t make Kiddush, then HaShem will deal with you via Havdalah (separation).

Compromise is not only an integral part of human relations, it was included by HaShem into the very fabric of Creation. The Midrash states that HaShem had originally planned to relate to His creations in accordance to the quality of strict justice – You trespass a command of the infinite Creator; You die! However, HaShem saw that humanity would be short lived if judged by the quality of strict justice, so He merged it with the quality of compassion, as we learn from the Talmud Yerushalmi (Makot chapter 2):

שאלו לחכמה חוטא מהו עונשו אמרו להם [משלי יג כא] חטאים תרדף רעה שאלו לנבואה חוטא מהו עונשו אמרה להן [יחזקאל יח ד] הנפש החוטאת היא תמות שאלו לתורה חוטא מה עונשו, אמרה להם יביא אשם ויתכפר לו. שאלו לקודשא בריך הוא חוטא מהו עונשו אמר להן יעשו תשובה ויתכפר לו.
They asked Wisdom, “what is the sinner’s fate?” And Wisdom answered with the verse (Mishlay 13,21), “Wickedness pursues the sinner.”
They asked Prophecy, “what is the sinner’s fate?” And Prophecy answered with the verse (Yechezkel 18,4), “the sinning soul shall die”.
They asked the Torah, and the Torah answered, “let him offer a sin offering”.
They asked the Holy One Blessed be He, “what is the sinners fate?” And HaShem replied, “let him repent and be forgiven”.

All the elements in this midrash – wisdom, prophecy, and Torah, answered appropriately for an ideal society with a few individual sinners, however, HaShem knows that the compulsions of men are evil, and the ways of wisdom, prophecy and Torah would lead to an early demise of humanity. He, therefore, compromised the judgments suitable for a perfect society in favor of a world whose occupants possess evil instincts, but with the potential to repent and return to the path of HaShem,

Another example of Godly compromise is alluded to in the Midrash Tanchuma (Eikev, chap. 11.). The Jewish people know how and when to keep the respective mitzvot to the most minute detail, but even the greatest rabbi cannot explain the essence of any mitzva. Countless numbers of Jews from time immemorial sacrificed their lives in defense of their right to keep the Torah, yet not one knew why shrimp is prohibited, nor why a mikveh drives away tuma, nor why leavened bread causes the dire punishment of Karet on Pesach.


The Midrash relates that when the people sinned with the golden calf, HaShem informed Moshe that He was revoking His decision to give the Torah to Am Yisrael, and Moshe argued that HaShem cannot renege on His promise. So there transpired a colossal tug-of-war. The Midrash explains that each luach (stone tablet) of the Ten Commandments was six tefachim long (a little more than half a meter) and three wide. Hashem held the top two tefachim in an attempt to pull the luchot to Himself, while Moshe held the bottom two tefachim, struggling to bring them to earth, and between HaShem and Moshe the luchot shattered.

What is the meaning of this Midrash?

Initially, it was Hashem’s intention to give to the Jewish people Torah with full understanding of the mitzvot and their spiritual consequences in this and the next world. But in the wake of the Golden Calf, Hashem told Moshe of His decision not to give the Torah to Am Yisrael.

Moshe refused to accept this reversal of world history and thus began the inconceivable struggle between finite man and the infinite Creator, characterized by HaShem grasping the top of the luchot and Moshe, the bottom.

The breaking of the stone tablets symbolizes a compromise agreed upon between the two sides – Am Yisrael would receive the Torah, but without understanding of the profound spiritual nature of the mitzvot. Hence to this day, we keep the mitzvot and have no idea what they mean, and what their consequences are beyond the superficial reasons laid forth for them. Kashrut, para aduma, tuma and tahara, etc., are all mysteries enveloped in an enigma.

Historically, the limits of HaShem’s compromise are reached when Jews consciously act to confine, restrain, restrict, impede, hinder or retard the nation’s advance to our destiny in Eretz Yisrael. The 80% of the nation who refused to leave Egypt died during the plague of darkness; the entire generation of 600 thousand men died when they refused to enter the land because of the Meraglim; the Levites were punished when very few returned with Ezra the Scribe at the time of the second Bet Hamikdash; and the Shoah occurred when the gates of the land were open in the middle of the twentieth century, and only a trickle of Jews returned.

HaShem in his infinite patience suffers the disloyalty of the majority in the merit of the loyal minority of righteous men and women of every generation, but there is an end even to HaShem’s patience. It comes in the wake of the compromise Jews make in galut where they refrain from making “Kiddush” by returning home, so Hashem is now making “Havdalah,” as attested to by the 70% of Jews who marry gentiles in the USA.

Our parasha begins:

ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה
Perceive! I am presenting before you on this day a blessing and a curse.

It would appear from this verse that there are two alternatives – to be blessed or to be cursed. However, there is a third possibility which, in fact, is the most prevalent – to be blessed and cursed at the same time.

Jews in the galut, mostly in the US, are financially successful and get wealthier by the day. But while their material life is blessed, their spiritual nature is being cursed, as attested to by the distance that separates them from any thought of returning to the land that was set aside for the Jewish nation by the Creator Himself.

HaShem has the privilege to make compromises because He is the Creator. However, we as created beings are not so privileged, so we must follow the spirit and letter of the Torah.

Remember: If you don’t make Kiddush, then HaShem will deal with you with Havdalah.

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

Re'eih: There are only Jews

By Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

The use of the verb re’eih by the Torah to begin this week's Torah reading indicates that the seemingly complicated and abstract choices in life regarding faith and doubt, good and evil, right and wrong and life and death are really simple ones. The word re’eih denotes something that can be seen with the naked eye and needs no great thought or judgment to identify it. The Torah implies here that life can indeed be a matter of simple correct choices that in reality are not difficult to make. But how can these simple choices truly be seen and discerned? We are witness to the fact that a great deal of humanity, if not even the majority, makes very wrong choices in personal and national life. War, strife, angst and disputes govern human life and have done so for millennia. All of these are undoubtedly wrong choices but if it is so simple and clear as to what the correct choice should be, then why do humans continue to make wrong and harmful choices? So it is difficult for us to completely understand why the Torah should, almost cavalierly, say that if one but sees with one's own vision, one will unerringly make a correct choice in life. The Torah seems to indicate that the choices in life are stark and clear and that there is very little if any grey area surrounding or encompassing these issues. Would that this would be true. But all of us are aware that there are great complications in life and that easy choices are rare and not very forthcoming.

I think that the "seeing" part of decision-making that the Torah envisions here extends to a knowledge and view of past events and of history generally. The Torah in essence tells us to look at what has gone before us, to see what decisions were made then and what the results of those decisions were, before making any current choices or decisions. Not knowing the past always blinds the present and dims the future. Look at what happened to millions of Jews who abandoned their faith and observances, see their absence of generations and the misfortune that they brought upon themselves and the Jewish people generally. Be aware of those who placed their faith in Western civilization and not in the God of Israel or the destiny of the Jewish people. See how unforgiving history is of wrong decisions and of the pursuit of vanity, the lure of passing political correctness and of the faddish culture of the time. See and understand the fate of those Jews who no longer considered themselves Jewish but were destined to nevertheless be Jewish by the definition of a hateful anti-Semitic society. In the eyes of history and of non-Jewish society there are no liberal or conservative, wealthy or poor, observant or less observant Jews. There are only Jews. This is a clear lesson of history that literally shouts at us and waves itself in front of our eyes. The Torah is therefore completely correct in using the verb re’eih in dealing with the pivotal decisions of life that Jews and Jewish society are always faced with. Good vision and knowledge of the past will always help us find the right path for us and for all of Israel.

Listening for Listening’s Sake

By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l

"The blessing – that you shall listen to the commandments …" (Devarim 11:27). The main blessing is not the external reward that one receives from Hashem but is the listening itself. Fortunate is the person who knows how to feel this, for then his life is like the Garden of Eden. When we make an appraisal of our lives, we will find that most people are not satisfied. Sometimes people think that it is because they are missing this or that, and they aim to obtain it so that they will finally be satisfied. Wonder of wonders – we always find ourselves lacking something, and we always have to toil to obtain it. It is like the edge of the sky in the eyes of a baby. The closer you get to it, the more it seems to be escaping us.

The blessing is to identify the source of blessing, and to realize that we are not at all looking in the right direction. It is easier than we realize to find satisfaction. It is actually in our hands, in what we possess – it is, "that you shall listen."

It is reminiscent of the sorcerer in the story of Ashmedai (Gittin 68a). He searches for his treasure at the edge of the universe and does not realize that he is standing on it. That is what all of us do. We work so hard looking for our treasure, turn our hair white, and ruin our posture so that maybe we will find some satisfaction and happiness. Much of that work is for nothing. You already have the blessing – a daf of gemara, a perek of mishna, Chumash with Rashi. It is not that hard and does not require great exertion.

"The spirit will not be filled" – there is a parable of a simple city dweller who married a princess. If he brings her everything he can find, it will not be important to her, for she is a princess (Kohelet Rabba 6:1). The soul demands its nourishment. Instead, we give it food that it cannot digest because our soul is from above.

The job of the month of Elul is to fulfill the pasuk: "If a shofar will be sounded in the city, will the people not tremble?" (Amos 3:6). In other words, we need to shake the heart out of its complacency. Sometimes one is so sure of himself that he has no doubts about his decisions. Elul is there to loosen the nails we have placed around our path, which convinces us that we are always right and our motivations are always complete. Elul awakens doubt. In that way it is an introduction to the Ten Days of Repentance. It is interesting that the introduction is three times as long as the period of repentance itself. If a person does not realize he can be wrong, he does not realize he can sin, and then there can be no repentance. If we remove the wall of self-reliance, we will see the ugly truth … and we will realize for what we need to repent.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is China Intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

By Roie Yellinek

Chinese President Xi Jinping, photo by Michel Temer via Flickr CC
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 558
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: On July 18, 2017, PA President Mahmoud Abbas met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to the media, the meeting was productive. “Beijing will create a dialogue mechanism between Israel and the Palestinians, with China being the mediator, and later this year China will hold a peace conference and try to resolve the conflict”, according to Xi. This sounds good, but Beijing has more pressing priorities. It is not interested in forging deals with little chance of success.

Reality vs. political correctness

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

1. An historical divide exists between short-term convenience and long-term national security. The former adds fuel to the Arab-Israeli fire, as evidenced by the litany of genuine Western (mostly US) peace initiatives – all of them failed, attempting to subordinate reality to oversimplification, frustrating expectations, and therefore intensifying terrorism and injuring Western stature. The only two successful attempts, so far, were Israeli initiatives of direct negotiation with Egypt and Jordan.

2. The appeasement of rogue regimes - Arab, Iranian or North Korean - wets their appetite and radicalizes their policies. While the defiance of rogue regimes entails short terms inconvenience, it serves long term values, principles, and national and homeland security interests.

3. In December, 1988, the US recognized/appeased the PLO, when it was the number one Arab terrorist organization, training terrorists from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, providing a tailwind to international terrorism. In September, 1993, the Oslo Accords snatched the PLO from the jaws of oblivion, when the PLO was losing ground in its own terrorist camps in Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Lebanon. The Oslo accords conferred upon the PLO the misleading appearance of legitimacy. The pro-PLO gestures signaled submission, by the US and Israel, to wishful-thinking, rendering a victory of short-term convenience over long-term and complex reality; thus, dealing a blow to the medium and long-term homeland and national security of both countries. However, the primary victims of the enhanced stature of the PLO have been the Arabs of Judea & Samaria, who have been subjected, since 1993, to the wrath of PLO repression, corruption (e.g., Mahmoud Abbas' nickname is "Mr. 20%…"), subversion and terrorism.

4. Arabs throughout the Middle East are aware of the Palestinian reality. Therefore, they have showered the Palestinians with much talk but no significant walk. While Mahmoud Abbas is welcomed with a red carpet in Western capitals, he is accorded a shabby rug in Arab capitals. Arabs are familiar with the Palestinian record from the 50s', when Arafat and Abbas were involved in subversion and terrorism in Cairo, escaping to Syria. In 1966 and 1970 they fled Syria and Jordan, respectively, because of their subversion and terrorism. In 1975, after plundering South Lebanon, they tried to topple the central regime in Beirut. In August 1990, the Palestinians joined Saddam Hussein's invasion and plunder of Kuwait, which throughout the years had been the most hospitable Arab country to Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and their Palestinian allies, absorbing 300,000 Palestinians and enabling them to rise to top positions. In retaliation, following the war, and liberation by the USA, Kuwait expelled almost all Palestinians from the country.

5. A Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, would undermine regional stability, eroding Western interests. It would provide a decisive tailwind to the current attempts to topple the pro-US Hashemite regime east of the Jordan River. During the Israel-Jordan peace treaty ceremony, Jordanian military leaders pleaded with their Israeli counter-parts to not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the river, lest it would topple the Hashemite regime east of the river. Israel's military intelligence commanders were told by their Jordanian colleagues that Palestinians are known to violate in the evening that which they sign in the morning. The toppling of the Hashemite regime would trigger a tectonic ripple effect into Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, advancing the fortunes of Iran's Ayatollahs and Russia, with destructive homeland security repercussions in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the USA. A Palestinian state would provide Russia, and possibly China and Iran, with naval, air and land bases, which would dramatically upset the current balance of
power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the soft belly of Europe. It would also mean the devastation of the remnants of Christian centers in Judea and Samaria.

6. In order to minimize the volcanic nature of the Middle East, and to remain a net-producer – not a net consumer – of national security, Israel should control the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, serving as a growing geo-strategic outpost of the US, extending the strategic hand of the US, and enhancing its own posture of strategic deterrence. Ceding the mountain ridges of Judea & Samaria, Israel would be squeezed within a 9-15-mile sliver along the Mediterranean, dominated by the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, eroding its military power projection, which would deny the US a unique geo-strategic beachhead, demoting Israel to a strategic burden upon the US.

7. In 2017, Jordan is a positive neighbor of Israel. However, in the context of the intolerant, unpredictable, violent, tectonic Middle East, regimes are provisional, as are their policies, alliances and agreements. Therefore, Israel's most critical and longest border (with Jordan) - which is the closest to Jerusalem, the coastal plain and Ben Gurion Airport - could become Israel's most hostile and dangerous border upon a change of regime in Amman. Hence, relinquishing control of the over-towering mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, would amount to a self-destruct subordination of long-term security to short-terms convenience.

Palestinians: The Honeymoon with the US is Over

By Bassam Tawil

  • The Palestinians have a condition for the US to be accepted by them as a mediator in the conflict with Israel: bias in favor of the Palestinians. This is the Palestinian state of mind: If you are not with us, you are against us.
  • The Palestinian leadership does not wish to talk about improving the Palestinian economy because Palestinians do not perceive themselves as engaged in an economic conflict with Israel: they perceive themselves as engaged in an existential, struggle-to-the-death conflict with Israel. In their view, for Palestinians to thrive, the State of Israel must go.
  • Notably, the Palestinians reject the idea of Israel making peace with its Arab neighbors. They fear that such peace would come at the expense of them achieving political supremacy over Israel.
In his recent meeting with US presidential envoys Jason Greenblatt (left) and Jared Kushner (center) in Ramallah, an enraged Mahmoud Abbas (right) rejected their demand that he halt payments to terrorists and their families. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump's envoys, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, are planning to return to the Middle East soon to discuss ways of reviving the stalled "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. Greenblatt tweeted last week that he was looking forward to returning to the Middle East "as we pursue peace." He added that Trump was "optimistic," but did not elaborate.
Pursuing peace sounds wonderful. Less wonderful, however, are the facts on the ground of "pursuing peace" with the Palestinians.
Not surprisingly, the Palestinians have returned to their old habit of accusing the US of being "biased" in favor of Israel.
As the US envoys prepare to head to the Middle East, Palestinians are saying that they have lost confidence in the Trump administration, as they have done with all previous administrations.

The Shamrak Report: True Meaning of Jewish Self-Determination and more......

The leaders of Israel since 1948 have become so hooked on world opinion and approval of the anti-Semitic world. They ask countries to recognize our existence... even the states that are at war with Israel, as well as terrorist groups and organizations! 
Our existence is a FACT - Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel has been established for 3,000 years as a people living in Israel and practicing the Holy Book, the Torah, in the same land of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Our existence in the Land of Israel is a blessed decree from G-d!
The reality in all of this folly, the need to have others recognize our existence, is that we have to first and foremost recognize our own existence as a Sovereign People Living with G-d's Blessings and Commandments in our own Land. 
When Jews do this then there is no need to curry favour for others and beg them to recognize us as a People in Our Land. It does not matter if they do or don't! 
It is not important whether they have an embassy in Jerusalem or no embassy at all. What matters is that we do recognize who we are and this sets the example for others to RESPECT us, even if they not necessarily LOVE us. Love is not important. LOVE is for us to practice respect and self-respect among our own People following the Mitzvah, (Commandment) Ahavot Yisrael (love of our fellow Jews). This is the meaning of SELF DETERMINATION and we should not let OTHERS DETERMINE OUR life and existence!
The world will come to us when they need our superior technological products and systems to better their health and living standards. And we will sell these to them if it does not compromise our security. This trade is the recognition that we have earned from the world as a "light unto the Nations" and anything else is just superfluous. Normal states, companies and individuals will give Israel and Jews respect - others will limit relation to trade only, as a necessity. (I always say “nobody respect those who have no self-respect”!)
FOOD for THOUGHT by Steven Shamrak
Does it really matter who provides a terror-funding scheme? It is just another distraction from the real issue – how to end the Arab-Israel conflict and reunite Jewish land! Not long ago Saddam of Iraq and Saudis did it. Now the PA uses international funds. It can ask for direct payments from Iran, Malaysia, Qatar etc ...and they will oblige! Only by the removal of the enemy population from Jewish land will Israel be able to end internal Islamic terrorism!
A trio of top Trump administration officials - including the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner - will soon travel to the Middle East as part of an ongoing effort to revive the long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A White House official said that President “believes that the restoration of calm and the stabilized situation in Jerusalem after the recent crisis on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif has created an opportunity to continue discussions and the pursuit of peace that began early in his administration.” (Has the PA ceased already all payments to terrorists and their families? So, what the stupid talks about! If they have no new ideas, why bother coming? The only reason is to restrain Israel from dealing with enemies the way any country would have long time ago!)
Israel Police publicized a security video showing footage of the 60-year-old Israeli Arab female terrorist who carried out a terror attack near Jerusalem's Old City. She was walking near the Damascus Gate light rail station when she suddenly draws her knife and attempts to stab a haredi man walking opposite her. After he manages to escape she attacked a 31-year-old Arab man - stabbing him in the shoulder. She was arrested and taken her for questioning. (Will she be qualified for payments from the PA for this terror attack?)
Greek Orthodox church aims to block property sale in Israel. The Greek Orthodox patriarch in the Holy Land announced Saturday that his church will appeal an Israeli court decision that approved the sale of prime church property to companies representing Jews seeking to expand their presence in Jerusalem's Old City. (The same church has been refusing to sell Israel the land where the Knesset is standing! For centuries the Church had been confiscating Jewish properties in Europe. It is time for Israel to re-claim Jewish land in Eretz-Israel!)
It is Safe to Walk in Jewish Neighbourhoods
A vast majority of Israelis - around 85% (93% of men and 77% of women) - feel safe walking alone at night. Jewish neighbourhoods are safe! While Muslim neighbourhoods, have become dangerous no-go zones. It is expected that any Jew entering a Muslim neighbourhood of Israel will be brutally attacked by the Muslims. Instead of condemning Muslims, the Jewish victims are condemned, as being "so stupid"!
For the ninth consecutive year, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will host 1,000 family members of Palestinian “martyrs” for Hajj. The offer comes from the king, because the Palestinian people deserve respect and appreciation due to their great sacrifices to preserve Jerusalem and the land of Palestine, which is an “Arab Islamic land.” This make the much-heralded, Saudi-backed so-called “Arab Peace Plan” look more like a step toward the destruction of Israel, rather than a permanent peace. 
Former IDF soldier Elor Azaria entered prison on Wednesday to begin serving an 18-month sentence for manslaughter. The IDF military court decided Tuesdayto reject Azaria’s request to postpone his entrance to prison, pending a decision on his application for a pardon. There have been numerous such cases in the past - including recently at the Temple Mount, where a terrorist who was shot and assumed to be “neutralized,” lying prone on the ground, and who suddenly rose and resumed firing his weapon at Israeli Police officers who then paid the ultimate price.
Israeli jets struck two Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip hours after a rocket fired from Gaza landed near Ashkelon, in southern Israel. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire out of the strip - even rockets launched by other terrorist groups. Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since the Islamic terror group took control of Gaza a decade ago, most recently in 2014, after 10,000 rockets were fired at Israel. (Isn't it time to remove the enemy population from Gaza and end the perpetual stupidity?)
The Haifa Magistrate’s Court on Sunday revoked the citizenship of an Arab Israeli man convicted of carrying out a combined stabbing and car-ramming attack that seriously injured an IDF soldier as well as three others last year. (Next step: removal of the enemies from Jewish land!)
UN Secretary-General Guterres says Israel must withdraw its forces from Lebanese territory and stop violations of its airspace, angering US Ambassador Haley who responds Israel wouldn’t be forced to act this way if UN peacekeepers prevented the spread of illegal arms to Hezbollah.
S&P held Israel’s debt rating stable at A+, it improved the outlook to “positive” from “stable”. The agency praised the government for “measures that restrain future expenditure growth” which in turn “could enable the government to resist ongoing spending pressures,” even amid recent tax cuts. (Netanyahu should be a financial minister of Israel only – too much personal ambition leads to many problems!)
Quote of the Week:
Thus we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question...” - Vladimir Jabotinsky, "The Iron Wall" – He came to this conclusion in spite of his deep desire to live in peace with Arabs!
Are Enemies Getting Ready for War?
The Hamas organization, which rules Gaza, has accepted a unity deal with the Palestinian Authority's (PA) Fatah party proposed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. The deal stipulates that the PA would be committed to ending the actions it has taken against Gaza since April. (It didn’t take long - Fatah has denied that Egypt presented the proposal)
Jordan's King Abdullah II met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah for the first time in five years. The meeting lasted approximately two hours. Abdullah returned to Jordan immediately after the meeting – he was not scheduled to see Netanyahu!
3. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with a delegation of officials from the Palestinian terror group Hamas. In May, Iran agreed in principle to renew its funding for Hamas. Palestinian Authority officials claimed Iran provided aid to Palestinian protestersdemonstrating against Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount last month. (Was this meeting about Hamas/Hezbollah anti-Israel co-ordination, facilitated and sponsored by Iran?)
4. Jordan has Never been a Friendly Neighbour Jordan is demanding Israel bring to trial an Israeli embassy guard involved in a deadly shooting in Amman last month before it allows Jerusalem to send its ambassador back to the country. The guard, Ziv Moyal, was stabbed by a Jordanian on July 23, whereupon he shot and killed the attacker along with a bystander. (Enemies of Israel do not care about technicalities such as diplomatic immunity or the fact that it was self-defense against a terror attack!)
5. Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Supreme Assembly of North Korea, came to Iran for the inauguration ceremony for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and stayed 10 days in Iran. "There could be very problematic cooperation going on because of the past history and because it makes strategic sense, especially for Iran now," said Emily Landau, a Israeli-based senior research fellow.
6. Iran’s parliament voted to adding $609m to the national missile program and the Revolutionary Guards al Qods budgets. Al Qods is the proactive Guards arm for regional subversion and terrorism. (Has North Korea transferred its ICBM technology to Iran?)

North Korea: The Israeli Connection

Why should Jews globally, and Israelis, care about what’s going on, way over there on the Korean peninsula? Because as good world citizens we should? Because the second largest Jewish community, after Israel, is being threatened in America? Because the North Koreans are Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferators? Because of their aiding Iranian, Syrian, and possibly even Hamas and Hezbollah weapons development? Because we now have a chance to judge how the new American administration deals with a crisis, highly impacting on close allies? Because the latest North Korean ICBM test proves North Korea can hit Israel? If you answered, all of the above, you win the grand prize, an escape card from Nuclear Incineration Island…

By the way, North Korea has never recognized the State of Israel. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the opening up of China, North Korea has continued it’s Cold War rhetoric, calling Israel an “imperialist satellite’’.

North Korea has continuously supported the Palestinian cause. Relations with the PLO began in 1966. Kim Il-Sung - the current North Korean leader’s grandfather - and Yasser Arafat, had a very close relationship. North Korea provided arms and aid to the PLO, PFLP, and DFLP throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. Since Yasser Arafat’s declaration of independence in 1988, North Korea has recognized the “State of Palestine’’. To prove the point, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas recently congratulated North Korea, in honor of the country's Liberation Day. Abbas wished “the Korean people continued stability and prosperity; and that the historical friendly relations between Palestine and North Korea and their two peoples will continue to develop and grow.”

There’s never been a military conflict between Israel and North Korea…

Guess again, during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, North Korea sent 20 pilots and 19 non-combat military advisors to Egypt. They deployed a MiG-21 squadron to Bir Arida to protect Egypt’s south, the first aerial engagement on the Egyptian front, took place on October 6th, when Israeli F-4s engaged North Korean-piloted MiG-21s. On October 19th, the NYT reported that the Soviet news agency TASS disclosed that Premier Kim Il-Sung had met with Egyptian and Syrian ambassadors in Pyongyang, promising “to give material assistance, including military aid” to them.

Over the years, North Korea has supplied various weapons, missile technologies, and NBC - Mass-Destruction – technologies, to several of Israel's enemies, including Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Hezbollah and Hamas. For example, Libya had the same designs as North Korea for a 500-kilogram nuclear warhead missile, before Gaddafi shut down the program.

Because of the Syrian Civil War, the Assad regime has lost a lot of equipment. The North Koreans have replenished them with T-55 tanks (North Korean variants), trucks, RPGs and shoulder-fired missiles. According to North Korean expert, Bruce Bechtol, “if you look at the Syrian army, it is much like the North Korean one, based on legacy Soviet systems from the 1950s and 1960s.”

Syrian-North Korean nuclear cooperation can be clearly seen. On September 6, 2007, when the IAF attacked a target in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria, it was reported that at least 10 North Koreans, who “had been helping with the construction of a nuclear reactor’’ were killed during the airstrike. The Syrian nuclear facility, was nearly identical to that of North Korea’s Yongbyon installation. According to reports, the facility was built by North Koreans and financed by Iran.

North Korea has forged a relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) since 1983. North Korea sends weapons to Hezbollah via the IRGC trafficking network, or transfers them through Syria, or they are shipped directly from North Korea to Hezbollah in Lebanon, paid for by Iran.

Since 2003, North Korean engineers have built underground facilities for Hezbollah, directly into rock, some of which the IDF struggled to target, in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Hezbollah has an entire underground “city” of command and control bunkers and tunnels in southern Lebanon, all built with the aid of the Iranians, who paid the Korean Mining Development Company to do it. North Korean technicians moved into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, pretending to be Chinese domestic workers.

After the 2006 war, 100 Hezbollah fighters traveled to North Korea for a year of training in guerrilla warfare tactics, under a body known at the time as the Reconnaissance Bureau. North Korean advisers have also trained Hezbollah fighters in Iran.

North Korea has thousands of 107mm and 122mm rockets sitting around in warehouses, plus rocket-propelled grenades and SKS semiautomatic rifles. Looking for cash, the North Korean regime has sold many of these arms to Hezbollah.

Hamas, like Hezbollah, has close links with North Korea, which is happy to support groups that are opposed to Western interests in the Middle East. The relationship between Hamas and North Korea first became public in 2009 when 35 tons of arms, including surface-to-surface rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, were seized after a cargo plane carrying the equipment was forced to make an emergency landing at Bangkok airport. Investigators later confirmed that the arms had been destined for Iran, who planned to transfer them to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. In 2014, North Korea and Hamas struck a deal for the sale of 102mm and 107mm multiple rocket launchers. Hamas installed some of these systems on pickup trucks.

North Korea regularly condemns Israeli defensive actions against Hamas, such as during the 2008-2009 and 2014 Israel-Gaza conflicts, and the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid as “crimes against humanity,’’ as well as a threat to the Middle East Peace Process.

The North Koreans have one of the world’s most sophisticated network of tunnels running beneath the demilitarized zone with South Korea. The IDF believes Hamas has used this expertise to improve their own tunnel network in Gaza. For example, the type of cement reinforcement, enabling Hamas fighters to move weapons without detection by Israeli drones, is similar to North Korean tunnels.

And now for Iran; during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, North Korea began selling them Scud B missiles. They also sold Iran artillery, tanks and trucks, Soviet-made equipment from the 1950s and 1960s.

Since then, North Korea has sold Iran Scud B, C, D, extended-range scuds, and played a central role in Iran’s domestic missile development program. They’ve helped Iran build the Safir two-stage missile and the Sejil solid fuel missile. Iran’s Imad and Shihab-3 ballistic missile programs are based on North Korea’s Nodong missile prototype, with an extended range.

North Korea has sent at least two long-range missile parts shipments to Iran in the past two years. Iranian technicians also traveled to North Korea for help in developing an 80-ton rocket booster.

Since the mid-2000s, Iran came up with an ingenious way to avoid US missile nonproliferation enforcement. It built Shihab-3 “factories,” which were actually North Korean-supervised assembly stations, allowing North Korea to smuggle the missiles in pieces. The components are assembled under the supervision of North Korean advisers. The same thing happens with the Scud D missiles in Syria, and with chemical weapons in Syria according to Bechtol.

Iran is still relying on parts coming over from North Korea. The North Koreans split them up into components – they are harder to detect that way. Without North Korea, Iran’s entire liquid fuel ballistic missile industry would grind to a halt, he said. The Assad regime, too, would lose its Scud missile program.

Bechtol claims the North Koreans helped Iran develop a nuclear warhead for the Nodong missile, and assisted with the Iranian plutonium reactor at Arak. “We know that the head of Iran’s highly enriched uranium program was in North Korea in 2013, likely to observe a uranium nuclear test,” he said.

About the latest crisis between America and North Korea, watch closely. America fought a serious war on the Korean Peninsula in the early 1950’s with North Korea, and has been South Korea’s ally and protector since. They also have had a strategic partnership with Japan, since the 1950’s. As the saying goes, “countries don’t have friends, just interests.” There are close parallels between the US, South Korea and Japan, vis-a-vis North Korea, and the US and Israel, vis-a-vis Iran. So Jews and Israel should be watching closely how the Trump administration “protects” its allies. One can get a picture of just how well America would cover Israel under its “security umbrella,” when pushing Israel to take a “chance for peace” as has been suggested, in any future Middle East peace deal, by watching the Korean crisis unfold. And, it will give a clue as to how much Israel can count on the US in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

Guess what, if you thought the latest ballistic missile tests of North Korea proved they can finally hit Israel, you’re wrong. They’ve been able to hit Israel theoretically, since their 2012 test of the Taepodong-2, or in 2013 with their UnHa-3, which successfully launched a satellite and could have carried a 500-kilogram nuclear warhead. See, satellite launching ability and ICBM nuclear warhead delivery are closely related.

Don’t worry, Israel has its own Jericho-3 ICBM that could hit North Korea, not to mention Iran. Israel’s Jericho-3, is a missile with a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warhead, allowing for more flexibility in targeting and better anti-ballistic missile (ABM) survivability. In fact with Israel’s submarines and aircraft loaded with nuclear tipped cruise missiles, Israel has a nuclear triad, of land, sea, and air delivered weapons, guaranteeing a credible second-strike capability.

And if that’s not enough deterrence, don’t forget Israel’s homegrown multi-tiered missile defense system, including Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and 3, and the Barak-8. The Arrow-3 is not only an anti-ICBM missile, but can be used as an anti-satellite weapon as well. Iron Beam and Drone Dome are laser-interception systems.

Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly, Director of the Missile Defense Agency in the American Dept. of Defense, said in 2009: The design of Arrow-3 promises to be an extremely capable system, more advanced than what we have ever attempted in the US with our programs...This has to do with the seekers that have greater flexibility and other aspects, such as propulsion systems – it will be an extremely capable system. Maybe America can get some Israeli Arrow-3 batteries, to protect themselves against incoming North Korean ICBMs.

The Arrow-3 system was just declared fully operational in January of 2017, but believe it or not, Israel is already developing a concept for a sort of Arrow-4 system, to keep one step ahead of its enemies. Israel’s MAFAT Defense Research and Development Authority of the Ministry of Defense, along with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and other defense firms, are working to evaluate technologies needed to improve the ability to track, target and ultimately destroy future threats, such as massive salvo strikes, sub-munition warheads and multiple reentry vehicles, or MRVs.

About the vulnerable Jews in America, who have used the excuse for years, that “it’s to dangerous to live in Israel;” well, it’s about time for Aliya – to come home to Israel - before it’s too late, no more excuses!

Do you have your Escape Card yet?

Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master's Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.

(c) 2017/5777 Pasko

Friday, August 11, 2017

Parashat Ekev - In God We Trust

By Rabbi Ari Kahn

Everyone has a price, or so we are told. Though we would love to believe that people of integrity do exist, people who cannot be bought, one of the unintended byproducts of capitalism is the subliminal message that everything is subject to negotiation. But is this unfortunate message an unavoidable conclusion of our way of life? Has this cynicism infiltrated our religious life as well? Surely, life within a Jewish community engenders certain real and unavoidable monetary needs: Without resources for building and maintaining Jewish institutions such as schools, synagogues, mikvahs, etc., not to mention the funds necessary to support less-fortunate members of the community, Jewish life as we know it would come to a grinding halt. Yet do these needs become no more than a means for us to cleanse our guilty consciences? Has the Jewish ethic of charity enabled us to simply write a check and consider ourselves fully compliant with Jewish ethics as a whole? Can a donation to the “building fund” cleanse a soul that is otherwise sorely lacking Jewish spiritual and moral vitality? Is our morality - or lack of such - the victim of our cynical use of a checkbook or credit card?

An even more disturbing question is, does God operate by these same rules? Can God be bought? Can He be swayed or manipulated by monetary contributions to the right causes? A verse in this week’s Parasha addresses these questions head-on:

God your Lord is the ultimate Supreme Being and the highest possible Authority. He is the great, mighty and awesome God, who does not give special consideration or take bribes. (Devarim 10:17)

The human mind has a hard time understanding God; the best we can do is extrapolate from human experience. For this reason, it is difficult for us to imagine a God with no needs. One commentary (Bchor Shor) explained this abstract concept in terms much more readily grasped: God “owns” all of existence; therefore, the thought that we can give God something is an absurdity. Similarly, Rashi explains that we cannot give God a monetary bribe: God does not “have a price.” True belief in an infinite God necessarily leads to this conclusion: What can a finite, limited human being possibly give to a God that is beyond space, time and matter? What currency could possibly be used to “pay off” such a deity? Unfortunately, the human mind has trouble processing this paradox; the motto “In God we trust” is meaningful to many people only when it appears on legal tender.

Given the absurdity of “bribing” God, a number of the commentaries (Rambam, Ramban, Seforno) suggest that the bribe mentioned in the verse above refers to a different sort of currency: mitzvot. We may tempted to believe that performing a good deed can cause God to “forget,” or at least to look the other way, when we sin. The reasoning seems to be that because God so values those who follow His ways, a well-timed mitzvah can erase a slew of bad deeds.

To this thinking, the Torah responds: God does not take bribes. The spiritual universe works in a more straightforward manner: We are rewarded for our good deeds, and punished for misdeeds. We cannot “make an arrangement” with God. On the other hand, if we have strayed, teshuva is always possible; regret for past misdeeds, coupled with a commitment to change, is a mitzvah in and of itself. Despite the fact that the Torah’s warning seems stern and somewhat off-putting - “He is a mighty and awesome God who does not give special consideration or take bribes” - the very next verse tempers this foreboding and ominous statement with a clear counter-statement:

He brings justice to the orphan and widow, and loves the foreigner, granting him food and clothing. You must also show love toward the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. Remain in awe of God, serve Him, cling to Him, and swear by His name.
(Devarim 10:18-20)

We are encouraged to emulate God, to partner with God - not because this behavior will erase any negative things we have done or will do, but because moral behavior is kind, and just, and good. God cannot be bribed, but He is happy to take on “junior associates and partners” here on earth, people who are willing to behave in a god-like manner and fill the world with godliness. The more we adopt God’s behaviors, the more we are kind, giving, supportive of others, the more godliness will come into the world – and that is surely no trivial goal.