Friday, March 16, 2018

When an old Book meets a changing world

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Brocha

The decision to reprint the volume of “Ha’am ve’ Ha’aretz” (The Nation and the Land) in the “Peninei Halakha” series emerged as a complex challenge * Despite the vision to establish a well-organized doctrine in contemporary matters, as is the case in the rest of the world of halakha, the gap between matters still remains * Since the previous edition thirteen years ago, public discourse has changed rapidly, and required significant changes * Even the welcome change – the expansion of the circle of readers beyond Arutz Sheva followers – requires new clarifications * The new edition relates to new topics, but also explains the logic and morality of the commandments of the Land and the nation, for readers throughout Israel and the world
A New Edition – and Indecision

This week, as part of the “Peninei Halakha” series, a new edition of the ‘Likutim’ (anthologies) series “Ha’am ve’ Ha’aretz” (“The Nation and the Land”) was published, with many important additions, most of which are refinements and broadening of the halakha’s and clarifications that already existed, and some additional halakha’s. I would like to share with the readers the dilemmas that preceded the upgrading of the book.

From beginning, my hope and prayer was that I would be able to publish the halakha’s of ‘Ha’am ve’ Ha’aretz’ in an orderly and comprehensive manner, like the other books in the “Peninei Halakha” series, so as to explain the vision in its entirety, from the general to the details of the halakha’s, regarding the destiny of the Jewish People in its Land; the relationship between Israel and the nations; the order of government, kingdom and democracy; the Rabbinate, Education, and Community; society, and the degree of mutual responsibility of its various components; the order of law concerning laws between Man and his fellow Man, and the laws between Man and his Creator; the responsibility placed on the community and the leadership to determine the Jewish-religious identity of the state. This book, even after it’s updating, is very far from the vision.

On the other hand, there are very important issues relating to the destiny of the Nation and the significance of the Land; the borders of the Land and the order of its settlement; laws of the army, and laws of war; the status of settlement in Judea and Samaria; government regulations, and the status of law and order in the State of Israel.

Facing the Changing Reality

The previous edition, however, was printed thirteen years ago, in 2005, and in practice, most of the halakha’s were written about twenty-five years ago for the “Pinat Ha’Halakha” (the Halakha Corner) on the Arutz Sheva radio station, and were printed in the first ‘Likutim’ of “Peninei Halakha” from the years 1993-1998 (in a colored front cover). During the years since then, a dilemma arose whether to print additional editions, when the incompleteness of the style in the ‘Likutim’ series of books, compared to the rest of “Peninei Halakha” series, became more pronounced – especially because it deals with topical issues, and the writing style of ‘Likutim’ which were rewritten from the radio broadcast ‘Pinat Ha’Halakha’, and were directed at problems during the time of the writing – became less accurate and poignant for public discourse which changes from year to year. National values that were obvious even for some people on the political Left, have now become less understandable; consequently, it was necessary to clarify at greater length the mitzvoth of the Torah, so that its logic and morality would be crystal clear. In addition, the circle of listeners of Arutz Sheva and students of the original books of “Peninei Halakha” were from the group of residents of Judea and Samaria and their supporters. Today, however, the circle of those studying “Peninei Halakha” has expanded to other circles, and have even begun to be translated into four languages: English, Russian, French and Spanish, to the point where the number of books printed in the last thirteen years, is ten times greater than the books printed previously. When I referred to non-Jews or Arabs (in chapter five and eight), it was clear to the people of ‘Yesha’ (acronym for Judea and Samaria) that what I wrote was not written out of hatred of foreigners, but rather, as part of a conflict, a struggle, or a vision of a Jewish state, seeing as all the values of morality, kindness, and peace are also crystal clear. And as anyone who is familiar with reality knows, the settlers generally treat Arab neighbors and workers with respect – above and beyond what is customary in similar conflicts elsewhere. However, readers who live outside of Israel, and are influenced by the anti-Semitic libels broadcast in the media against the settlers, and even more so, those who study the translated books, are liable to understand things in a completely different way.

Suiting “Ha’am ve’ Ha’aretz” to the General Public
Therefore, when a request arose to translate this book into Russian, I asked that they wait until I went over it again, and elaborated on a number of complex topics, with the intent of adding an additional clarification for deep learners, and also, to adapt it to those who are not familiar with the internal discourse of the ‘Beit Midrash’ (the Yeshiva study hall), and the settlers of Judea and Samaria.

In addition, I added more halakha’s that I have clarified over the years, such as the halakha of ‘eshet yaffet to’ar’ (a non-Jewish woman captured in battle), with the explanation of its moral rectification, as well as additional accuracy and broadening in regards to the borders of the Land of Israel, with the help of Rabbi Yair Weitz. I even refined the style – taking it from the spoken style of “Pinat Halakha”, and bringing it closer to written style.

Sample of Additions
In the first chapter I added a few elementary ideas about the Nation, in order to explain that the value of the Nation precedes that of the Land, and even the chapter’s headline was changed to “Nation and the Land.” This is one example of the fact that people who are familiar with the inner discourse, know that the Nation comes before the Land; but people detached from Torah Judaism, mistakenly or maliciously, prefer to claim that our position is that the Land is more important than the Nation.

In Chapter five, I elaborated on the attitude toward the residence of non-Jews in the Land of Israel (5: 1-5), so that it would be understood that these halakha’s are not xenophobic, but rather an expression of the vision of establishing an exemplary state, a light unto the nations, all of whose inhabitants share in the revelation of Godly ideals. At the same time, I also referred in detail to our present situation, and explained the moral solution that the idea of ‘ger toshav’(foreign resident) holds for the dilemmas faced by the peoples of Europe. There was also a halakhic reference to the demolition of houses in Judea and Samaria, in accordance with the decision of the courts (5:13).

In Chapter 6 (7-8), I expanded my point of reference to the civil courts of the State of Israel, both in deepening the criticism towards them, in understanding the need for their existence, and also the role incumbent upon Torah scholars. At the end, a halakha was added regarding electing women as Ministers or Members of Knesset. In Chapter 7, I was more precise in the halachic ruling regarding a captured terrorist (7: 9), and another halakha on the responsibility and guarantee to benefit all human beings (7:10).

The Fulfillment of the Promise to Rabbi Goren

In this book, I also fulfilled my commitment to Rabbi Shlomo Goren ztz”l, who was the President of our Yeshiva in its early years. When I served as the secretary of the ‘Council of Rabbis of Yesha’, he wrote to me long and important answers regarding the Nation and the Land, the prohibition of withdrawal, and refusal of orders. At one point during the time when he was ill and distressed about the rabbis who had omitted his name from the matter of refusing orders, I promised to publish his positions, in order to appease and cheer him up. By the grace of God, I was able to fulfill my promise, and so far the book with his answers has been printed in about 25,000 copies. In the new edition I added a halachic answer written to me that I had omitted, and Rabbi Maor Horowitz had discovered. Indeed, he discovered another answer, but since it deals with a sensitive issue of the law of “rodef” (one who is “pursuing” another to murder him) concerning terrorist leaders, I chose not to publish it in the framework of this book, which is widely studied by the general public.
An Example of Elaboration: Jewish Labor

In the eighth chapter I made a special effort to explain the halacha’s of Jewish labor as a mitzvah, to prefer those close in expanding circles – first family, then neighbors, then people living in the same city, then people from the same nation, and then close countries, until finally, all people of the world – and all this, not as a result of alienation for foreigners. From a halachic point of view, this is what was written in the previous edition; however, a person who did not grow up on the foundations of morality in the Torah, is liable to understand this in a different light.

This is what I wrote in the new edition (8: 1):

“When two people ask someone for a loan, and he can lend to only one of them, he should give preference to the one closer to him. As it is said (Exodus 22:24): “When you lend money to My people, to the poor man among you” (in Hebrew, ‘among you’ is ‘imach‘). In other words ‘imach‘, is meant to be understood as ‘close to you’. Therefore, a family relative comes before a neighbor; a neighbor comes before someone who is not a neighbor; a fellow city-dweller comes before someone who does not live in the same city; a person from the same nation, comes before a person from another nation (Bava Metzia 71a).

Similarly, it is said (Vayikra 25:14): “Thus, when you buy or sell [land] to your neighbor, do not cheat one another.” Our Sages said (Sifra) that in the words “your neighbor” (in Hebrew, ‘amitecha’), the Torah intended to instruct that in every purchase or sale, a person should prefer his ‘neighbor’, i.e., the one closest to him – including giving preference to his nation over people of another nation. The novelty of this is that not only in matters of ‘chesed‘ (kindness) and ‘tzedakah‘ (charity) should one give preference to someone closer to him, but also in all economic spheres, one should prefer his relatives.

This halakha is not an expression of boycotting someone who is not a relative, neighbor, or foreigner. On the contrary, it is well-known that all of Israel has a responsibility to rectify the entire world, as God said to Avraham our forefather (Genesis 12: 3): “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” And it was also said to Yaakov our forefather (Gen. 28:14): “All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” Rather, this halakha is intended to express the brotherhood and the great responsibility incumbent upon each person towards his relatives, neighbors, and nation. Apparently, this is also the case for all the nations – that every person should give preference in all matters between man and his fellow man to his relatives, and then his neighbors, and then his nation.

The idea of ​​this general rule is simple and logical: in order to solve all the hardships in the world, and build a good and healthy society, it is necessary to start and correct in order, from the closer circle to the more distant one. Beyond the fact that brotherly love requires this, this principle allows society to rectify itself in a complete manner, with responsibility spreading logically in circles; the closer a person is to his friend, the more familiar he is with him, and knows better how to help him more efficiently. So too in matters of ‘tzedakah’, as well as in matters of labor – that in the long term, neighbors and fellow citizens know how to employ the worker in the most beneficial way for both of them.

The mitzvah to give preference to our fellow Jew, is even when the price he asks for is slightly higher … but when the difference between them is not small, there is no obligation give him preference.

The meaning of this is that there is no intention that the mitzvah of preference will damage the economic considerations of a person or business; rather, the intention of the mitzvah to create a certain preference for a relative, neighbor, or a member of his nation, while maintaining the profitability and worth of the business.

Out of this foundation, I continued in the following halakha’s to explain the parameters of preference for employment.

In Memory of Rabbi Itamar HY”D

During the days of preparation of the book for printing, on the 20th of Shevat, Rabbi Itamar Ben- Gal, HY”D was murdered in the sanctification of Hashem. He was one of the outstanding students of our Yeshiva. In his life, and in his death, Rabbi Itamar gave his heart, soul, and strength to the revelation of the Torah of the Land of Israel, the education of Torah and mitzvot, and the settlement of the Land, on the frontline of settlement in Har Bracha. This book, which deals with the Nation and the Land, is dedicated to the elevation of his soul.
Owners of the Previous Edition

Since the majority of the halacha’s in this book were printed in the previous edition, the people who bought the original edition might feel deprived. Therefore, I asked the publisher to sell the new book for three months at a cost of NIS 15 for anyone who affirms that he had an old edition of “Ha’am ve’ Ha’aretz.” For details and to obtain approval for the purchase, please contact:

The True Face of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

Since the death of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, efforts have been made to vilify his image, and present him as a nefarious fanatic * This character assassination was done deliberately by the secular Left, because he had thwarted their dream of ruling over the state, and society * Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda did indeed influence the borders of the state and the shaping of the image of religious Zionism, but all of this was achieved by means of clarifying ’emunah’ (faith) and love of Israel * There are those among the religious public who believe in this distorted image, adopting a dark and narrow outlook, and claiming that this is the path of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda * However, the evidence of his encounters with anti-religious groups, Reform Jews, and even Catholic priests, proves his openness and breadth of perspective

In honor of the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook ztk”l, it is fitting to recall the luminous figure of the man who merited to successfully continue his great father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook ztz”l, and clarify and establish the Torah of Redemption. As a result, he elevated the exalted virtue of Torah study among the national-religious public, to the point where tens of hundreds of yeshivot, mechinot (army preparatory yeshivas), midrashot and ulpanot (seminaries), for both men and women, were established on account of him and his disciples, and thus, the national-religious public became a major and influential factor in Israeli society, to the extent that it changed the map of the Land of Israel by means of the expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria, and the Golan Heights.

The Deliberate Vilification of His Image

Over the years his character has been tarnished. He was portrayed as narrow-minded, zealous nationalist, who constricted and distorted his father’s broad teachings. True, he was of firm character, but he was also of firm character in his broad-minded perspective and in the love of Israel and of man, and was uncommonly welcoming and generous.

Even so, he was an ideological opponent of the intellectuals on the Left, and in fact, his spiritual efforts disrupted their political plan to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, and thwarted their plot to uproot the Torah and all things sacred from Israel’s revived culture. In the course of his spiritual efforts, he did not have them in mind at all – he was engaged in Torah and ‘emunah‘ (faith) for the sake of ‘Klal Yisrael’(all of the Jewish people), but his actions destroyed their plans for withdrawal and destruction. They knew that if it had not been for him, the State of Israel would have withdrawn from Judea and Samaria, the national-religious public would have remained marginal, and the ideas of ‘emunah’ would have been exploited as a meaningless ornament in the life of Israeli society. As a result, from their point of view, he was their enemy.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda was not adept at organization, but in his Torah greatness he clarified the foundations of ‘emunah‘ and determined the value of the mitzvah of settling the Land within the broad context of the Jewish people’s destiny – to reveal the Torah in all the actual spheres of life of the nation, in both the spiritual and material realms. From this, he determined that one must be ready to sacrifice his life for the settling of the Land of Israel. These fundamentals, after having been profoundly clarified by him, became a crucial factor on the national and international agenda.

Many years after he passed away, the false account of him being narrow-minded and an extremist man began to influence some of the religious society, who believes that Torah truth resides in the narrow-minded Haredi view, and all that needs to be inserted, in their opinion, is merely the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ (the commandment to settle the Land) in its restricted understanding, and nothing more. Today, such people are prone to conduct religious wars in his name. Therefore, it is fitting to go back and take look at his luminous figure, and at the less-known aspects of Rav Tzvi Yehuda to the general public.

His Position against Religious Coercion

From newspaper interviews he gave:

Q: Rabbi, it is known that you were a supporter of the ‘League for the Prevention of Religious Coercion’.

Rabbi Kook: “Correct. I said at the time to the members of the ‘League’ that they were absolutely right: I hate religious coercion. With what sort of justice, and with what kind of integrity can one impose religion on a person? … To my dismay, it later turned out that among the group were some who hated religion … but in the sense of opposing coercion, they are truly righteous, and there was a mutual understanding between us. Some good advice was given to the members of the ‘League for the Prevention of Religious Coercion’ around this table.”

Q: Rabbi, do you think that there is religious coercion in the state?

Rabbi Kook: “I once said that matters in the country are managed by the Knesset. There is no other democratic way to arrange matters. And if laws are passed by them – they should be honored; this is not coercion.”

Q: But nevertheless, as a result of the recent coalition agreement, the polarization between religious and secular has increased.

Rabbeinu: “We, thank God, increase love among Jews in our circles; this was the way of Abba ztz”l, which I continue. We need to increase ‘ahava‘(love) and ’emunah‘(faith) …”

Other things he said in an interview with Shivti Daniel (Hatzofeh, 10 Av 5733 (1973), quoted in “Maracha Ha’Tziburit” pg. 61-62):

“From my personal experience I am aware that intellectuals and people of mind and spirit are sending out feelers of ‘teshuva’ … Of course, the turning point doesn’t occur in one day… It is an internal and slow process, but it exists and influences, returning quite a few to the source of the Torah …I believe that the majority of Jews are connected to tradition, including those that seem to be the furthest away … If they saw in all Jews a model of faith and love of Israel, integrity, and benevolence, certainly the rapprochement would be immeasurably greater. Just recently, the Prime Minister (Golda Meir) said that if the tragedy of a split between religion and state occurs, the ultra-Orthodox Haredim from ‘Aguda’ would be guiltier than the secular Jews. To my great dismay, this is the situation: those people, in their narrow, faith-limited ‘Haredi-ism’, pushing for divisiveness – are delaying the return of Jews to Torah and mitzvoth”, from “Maracha Ha’Tziburit” edited by Rabbi Yosef Bramson, pg. 122).
A Principled Position that was Strongly Expressed
Seeing as this is a sensitive issue which must be dealt with precisely, I will bring additional quotes from another book “Mashmiya Yeshua”, written by leading rabbis who were Rav Kook’s students (p. 221):

“The ‘League for the Prevention of Religious Coercion’ was founded after the establishment of the State in order to fight religious coercion. When Rabbi Kook heard about it, he asked to join. He paid a membership fee of one lira – which was not a small sum of money in those times. The first receipt issued, number one, was in his name.

In regards to his participation in the group, Rabbi Kook addressed the issue in a meeting of hundreds of rabbis for the organization and functioning of the Chief Rabbinate as an independent body, he said: “As far as the Torah is concerned, there is no room in our current situation for any religious coercion whatsoever, let alone the Haredi terrorism of personal coercion.”

In another quote: “In internal conversations in the Yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda explained that his membership in the league is based on his fundamental view that one must educate and bring Jews closer to Torah, but one should not force religious matters. After a few years, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda cancelled his membership in the League. He explained why by saying that it functions as a league for anti-religious coercion, and not as a league against religious coercion.”

In other words, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah’s support for the struggle against religious coercion was profound and fundamental, to the point where the first membership receipt to the ‘League against Religious Coercion’ was in his name.

When Rav Tzvi Yehuda Expressed Appreciation to the “Canaanites”

It is further written in the book “Mashmiya Yeshua” (page 221): “The author, Aharon Amir, said: “During the British Mandate, we established the ‘Young Hebrew’s Movement’, which advocated creating a new people in the Land whose outlook was directed to the future, without any connection to the past. A new nation that would influence all countries surrounding it. The resistance to our movement was great. The detractors called us ‘Canaanites’, and slandered us by saying that we danced naked in front of idols.”

“We began publishing a magazine called ‘Alef’, but we did not receive a license to publish it, and other newspapers called for the public to ignore this journal. After we published two issues, one in the year 1959, and the other in 1968, I received a letter from Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, saying that he was interested in meeting me. I arrived at his apartment bareheaded, without a kippa, but from what I saw, my appearance did not affect him, and he received me with great warmth. He explained to me that in our view of the Land of Israel as being a central point, he agreed with us … Rabbi Kook revealed to me an all-embracing worldview, and I, who found great interest in the ideological clarity, began visiting him every two months. On every occasion I came to see him, he received me warmly.”

“These meetings lasted for a number of years, until we stopped issuing ‘Alef’. But my impression of his personality, his broad and deep vision, and his actual and consistent worldview, has accompanied me to this day.”

Rabbi Menachem Froman added: “The members of the Canaanite group were educated people, among them poets, but they were anti-religious extremists … in one of our first meetings, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda described himself as having a certain affinity to the opinions of the Canaanites. I was amazed, because I knew how extreme they were. But Rav Tzvi Yehuda explained his position thoroughly. The fact that they were ‘apikorsim‘ (heretics), he claimed, was not a ‘chiddush‘ (novelty), because there were ‘apikorsim‘. However, the idea that a Jew living in the Land of Israel is completely different from a Jew living in exile, is a very important idea. They, the Canaanites, were the ones emphasizing this important matter of a Jew who lives in his country on his Land, and for this, they are worthy of appreciation.”

A Meeting with Priests in the Yeshiva

Several times, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda spoke in his classes about his meeting with Protestant Christian religious leaders. However, I do not wish to embrace the content of this issue, rather, to address the very openness of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda of holding such a meeting, and sharing it with his students. This is what he said: “A few years ago, I received a letter from the Jewish Agency informing me that a large group of non-Jewish professors from America was about to visit the Holy Land. They wanted to stay in Israel in order to get to know the State of Israel and meet with the residents. They asked me to meet with them. I responded willingly. After a while it turned out that they were professors of religion, Christian theologians and Protestants. I could not change my mind, because I had already agreed. They arrived – hundreds of them! Old and young, men and women. They filled the room in the old building of the Yeshiva, crowded, very respectable people. A friend of mine, Herbert Reinach, a Reform rabbi, served as a translator from Hebrew to English “(Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda”, volume “Am Yisrael”, pg. 167, pp. 167 ff.)

In order to put things in perspective, many of the guests actually served as priests, as Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda mentioned to us several times. After he learned that these were the guests, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda could have moved the meeting to another place. Nevertheless, he held the meeting in the old Yeshiva. He also did not refrain from telling his students that he had a friend – a “Reform rabbi”, who helped him with translating. The contents of the conversation are interesting as well, and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda spoke of universal elements of Israel’s faith. Even when they asked sensitive questions, he answered honestly while respecting their honor, refrained from insulting their religion, and held a friendly atmosphere.

And Nonetheless – Firm in his Position

At the same time, he was firm, as Rabbi Professor Nachum Rakover testified: “At a meeting held at the home of Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim, the son of Rabbi Nissim (Prof. Benayahu) introduced a well-known Kabbalah researcher to Rabbi Yitzchak. At that very moment, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah turned his face away, because of what our Sages said: “One should not look at the face of a wicked person.” The Rabbi Kook responded in this manner because of an item published in a newspaper in the name of that same researcher, who said that he does not believe in God” (‘Mashmiya Yeshua’, pg. 220).

In other words, although Rav Tzvi Yehuda was broad-minded and a loving a person, especially with regard to decent ​​and educated people, when a person engaged in Torah and Kabbalah chooses to publicly announce publicly that he does not believe – such disrespect and wickedness in his position cannot be forgiven. Surely, if he had met him long after that interview, or had heard a nod of remorse from him, he would have welcomed him graciously.

The New Palestinian Jihad to Obliterate Israel

by Bassam Tawil 

  • If and when Hamas is ever removed from power in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) will most likely seize control of the coastal enclave, where nearly two million Palestinians live.
  • PIJ's new "political document" exposes the Palestinian terror group's plan for "real peace" in the Middle East. This "real peace," according to the jihadi group, can be achieved by eliminating Israel after "liberating Palestine, from the river to the sea, and after the original owners of the land return to their homes."
  • This genocidal "peace" plan appears to be shared by other Palestinian terror groups, such as Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and even certain parts of Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction.
Pictured: Members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad hold a parade in Gaza City, August 12, 2005. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group is the second-largest terror group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas. Like Hamas, PIJ does not recognize Israel's right to exist and believes that violence and terrorism are the only way to "liberate all Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River."
Like Hamas, in the past three decades PIJ has carried out thousands of terror attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings.
Recently, the PIJ wished to remind us again of its dangerous and poisonous ideology. This reminder came in the form of a new "political document" published by the Iranian-backed terror group in the Gaza Strip.
The document contains important information about the group's strategy to destroy Israel and provides insight into the role Islam plays in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The Yishai Fleisher Show: Three Rabbis and a Wife

First Yishai speaks with Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Bnai Yeshurun Congregation in Teaneck, New Jersey and discusses the future of American Jewry, of AIPAC, and of the America-Israel relationship. Then in New York City, at the Aliyah Mega Event, Yishai speaks with Rabbi Yehoshua Fass co-founder and director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. Finally a conversation with Rabbi 'Gotch' Yudin, Rosh Yeshiva and Director of Ashreinu - a special yeshiva which came to visit Hebron. Last but not least, Malkah Fleisher joins Yishai for a conversation about the Trump phenomenon and about preparation for Passover.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Perversion of the Torah

The Book of Vayikra – Parashat Vayikra 5778
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

Tractate Makot ends with an incident where Rabban Gamliel, R. Elazar ben Azariya, R. Yehoshua and R. Akiva were viewing the devastation on the Temple Mount. The first three rabbis wept while R. Akiva expressed feelings of gladness. When asked to explain, R, Akiva quoted from the prophets that after the destruction will come eternal peace to the holy city. The rabbis exclaimed, “R. Akiva you have comforted us, you have comforted us”.

I underwent a similar experience where several of my rabbinic colleagues were very agitated in the face of a particular incident. I had the opportunity to mitigate their concerns, basing my words on a chapter of the prophets.

We were all delighted to learn that President Trump had appointed two religious Jewish attorneys to highly sensitive positions – Mr. Friedman as ambassador to Israel and Mr. Greenblatt as the President’s special envoy to the Middle East. When their pictures appeared, we felt a sense of nachas (pride) to see that these gentlemen were wearing very visible kippot. So now there are two visibly religious Jews close to the President’s “ear”.

However, the kippot suddenly disappeared and were no longer to be seen when Messrs. Friedman and Greenblatt entered their respective positions.

Many in my rabbinical circle of friends and others felt insulted by their obvious act of publicly repressing their Jewishness. So now we have two former highly visible religious Jews presently with bare heads.

When my friends aired their negative feelings, a sense of relief came over me, based on last Shabbat’s haftara from Yechezkel 36:

(טז) ויהי דבר ה’ אלי לאמר:

(יז) בן אדם בית ישראל ישבים על אדמתם ויטמאו אותה בדרכם ובעלילותם כטמאת הנדה היתה דרכם לפני:

(יח) ואשפך חמתי עליהם על הדם אשר שפכו על הארץ ובגלוליהם טמאוה:

(יט) ואפיץ אתם בגוים ויזרו בארצות כדרכם וכעלילותם שפטתים:

(כ) ויבוא אל הגוים אשר באו שם ויחללו את שם קדשי באמר להם עם ה’ אלה ומארצו יצאו:

(כא) ואחמל על שם קדשי אשר חללוהו בית ישראל בגוים אשר באו שמה: ס

(כב) לכן אמר לבית ישראל כה אמר אדני ה’ לא למענכם אני עשה בית ישראל כי אם לשם קדשי אשר חללתם בגוים אשר באתם שם:

(כג) וקדשתי את שמי הגדול המחלל בגוים אשר חללתם בתוכם וידעו הגוים כי אני ה’ נאם אדני ה’ בהקדשי בכם לעיניהם:

(כד) ולקחתי אתכם מן הגוים וקבצתי אתכם מכל הארצות והבאתי אתכם אל אדמתכם:

(כה) וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים וטהרתם מכל טמאותיכם ומכל גלוליכם אטהר אתכם:

16 And the word of the Lord came to me:

17 “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions…

18 So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. 20 And wherever they went among the nations they profaned My holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave His land.’ 21 I had concern for My holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.

22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone’.”

The prophet is saying that our forced exile, which resulted from our negation of the Torah, profaned not only ourselves as HaShem’s chosen people but even more so profaned His Holy Name. The exile demonstrated that His awesome and infinite presence had had little influence on us. Furthermore, our more-than 100-generation presence in galut added a dimension to our blasphemous and irreverent conduct by continually showing our gentile neighbors and hosts how we were rebelling against the Almighty.

From the point of view of the Prophet Yechezkel, the sight of a Jew driving his car on Shabbat down 13th Avenue in Boro Park is less a sacrilege of the Holy Name than a Jew on Shabbat with his tallit over his head walking with his 10 “payoted” (sidelocks) sons to the rebbe’s shtiebel, because the Jewishness of the chassid is more visible than the Jew in the car.

Messrs. Freidman and Greenblatt have performed a favorable act by removing their kippot and looking less Jewish. There is less desecration of the Holy Name by observant Jews who continue to live in galut, when the gates of our land are open to every Jew.

The Prophet Yechezkel, who lived through the destruction of the First Temple and the exile to Babylon, felt the intensity of the desecration when the gentiles perceived that God had erred in His choice of the Jews as His chosen people.

The more visible Jews are in the galut – promoting their Jewishness, building larger and more magnificent religious structures and placing kosher labels on a plethora of previously-non-kosher products – the greater the desecration of the Holy Name, especially when the gates to the holy land are open to receive Rachel’s children.

Let me put it simply. What would my six-year-old granddaughter’s response be to the question regarding where the truth of the Torah lies, assuming that all the rabbis, grand rabbis and poskim residing in the galut today were on one side of the scale and the words of the Prophet Yechezkel on the opposite side? She would look at me incredulous and say, “Saba ma kara lecha? (Grandfather, what’s with you?). You know that the words of the Prophet are the words of HaShem!”

The Prophet attacks the presence of Jews in the galut as a desecration of HaShem’s Holy Name (a chillul HaShem), implying that our presence here in Eretz Yisrael is a sanctification of His Holy Name (kiddush HaShem). However, we are witnessing a situation where many Haredi elements have brought the galut way of life here to Eretz Yisrael and with it the elements of chillul HaShem that existed there. The outstanding example is the attitude of certain segments in the Haredi community to army service.

After all the claims are made, their position has more to do with an anti-Medinat Yisrael attitude than loving Torah study. Where one mother waits for her son to come home every night to enjoy her chicken soup, while another mother worries over her son at the border protecting the other boy’s right to eat chicken soup. These Hareidim view the Jewish State as they did the governments of Poland, the Ukraine and Russia. In the eyes and words of the paranoiac Haredi leadership, military service is the Israeli government’s secret policy of secularizing the Haredi youth.

In addition, the pre-Shoah divisiveness of religious life that existed in the galut has been imported here. The examples abound: The split between the Lithuanian and Chasidic communities, and the splits within their own communities; the refusal of Haredim to incorporate Sephardic children into their schools; the use of Yiddish as their natural way of speech rather than Hebrew; the refusal to realize that here everything is different when we have to establish and maintain our own state, and the unsustainable situation where tens of thousands of their children are denied the basic elements of education. It is predicted that by 2030, the majority of school-age children in the country will be comprised of Haredim and Arabs, with disastrous implications.

A Jew in the galut is a chillul HaShem, but galut implanted in Eretz Yisrael is a perversion of Torah and an even more disastrous chillul HaShem.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5778/2018 Nachman Kahana

Arab-Palestinian relations defy conventional wisdom

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Western conventional wisdom has systematically failed in assessing Middle East developments.

For example, in 1978, conventional wisdom turned its back on the Shah of Iran – who was the USA Policeman of the Gulf –providing a tailwind to Ayatollah Khomeini, who transformed Iran into the most critical, clear and present threat to regional and global stability, as well as the homeland security of the USA and Europe. In 1981 and 2007, conventional wisdom aggressively criticized Israel for bombing of the nuclear reactors of Iraq and Syria. Until Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, conventional wisdom considered the ruthless Iraqi dictator an ally of the USA, worthy of intelligence-sharing, dual-use systems and multi-billion-dollar loan guarantees.

In 1994, conventional wisdom awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Arafat, a role model of hate education, terrorism and intra-Arab treachery. In 2010, conventional wisdom misread the volcanic eruption of the anti-Western Arab Tsunami as the Arab Spring, a Facebook and Youth Revolution. In 2012, conventional wisdom turned its back on Egyptian President Mubarak, welcoming the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic terrorist group in the world.

In 2018, Western conventional wisdom embraces Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate, in comparison to Hamas, highlighting Abbas’ talk, rather than focusing on his walk: intra-Arab subversion, the terror-oriented K-12 education system, generous monthly subsidies to terrorists and their families, and maintaining close ties with enemies and adversaries of the USA.

Western conventional wisdom, on the one hand, and Middle East reality, on the other hand, have constituted a classic oxymoron.

In defiance of Western conventional wisdom, Arab policy-makers are aware of the irrelevance of the Palestinian issue to the turbulence, which has plagued the Middle East since the 7th century, as well as the current (2010-2018) seismic developments, which traumatize every Arab regime from Northwestern Africa to the Persian Gulf and from Syria and Lebanon to Yemen and the Sudan.

Moreover, in contrast to Western conventional wisdom, Arab policy-makers do not consider the Palestinians a crown-jewel, but recognize their intra-Arab subversive, terroristic and unreliable/treacherous track record.

Hence the flood of pro-Palestinian Arab talk, which has never been supported by the Arab walk.

Consequently, every Arab regime - and especially Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt– are not preoccupied with the Palestinian issue, but with the immediate and lethal threats of the Ayatollahs and Islamic terrorism, which could topple them and transform their countries into Iraqi, Syrian, Libyan, Yemeni look-alike traumatic arenas.

For example, from 1979-1989, during the civil war in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia demonstrated its order of national security priorities, investing $1BN annually in the struggle of the Afghan rebels against the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul. This was ten times as much as the annual Saudi foreign aid to the PLO – $100MN.

Moreover, the Palestinian Authority was not among the top ten recipients of the $33BN foreign aid from Riyadh from 2007-2017: Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Niger, Mauritania, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Jordan and Tunisia.

While the total Saudi foreign aid from 1985-2015 was $130BN - according to the Dubai-based daily, Gulf News - Saudi annual foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority was $100MN-$200MN, reflecting the inferior weight of the Palestinian issue in the Saudi order of national priorities.

According to Reuters News Agency, Saudi Arabia assigned to Egypt a $23BN aid package, reflecting the joint Cairo-Riyadh front against a common enemy: Muslim Brotherhood terrorists. The Toronto-based Geopolitical Monitor reported that a $12BN package was extended to Egypt by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, in addition to the $8BN Saudi investment in the Egyptian economy.

While the Palestinian Authority claims that Saudi Arabia has failed to fulfill its commitment to the its limited foreign aid package, Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV reported that Yemen supersedes the Palestinians in the eyes of Riyadh, which has provided the Aden-based regime of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi with $8.2BN aid in the battle against the Sanaa’-based Iran-supported Houthis.

The Palestinians have also taken a backseat to Jordan, when it comes to Saudi national priorities, as documented by the Saudi-Jordanian Coordination Council, which is unlocking billions of dollars to the Hashemite regime.

The relative marginalization of the Palestinians – who benefit from a $100MN-$200MN annual Saudi foreign aid package (whenever it is not suspended by Riyadh) – is gleaned through the CNBC December 18, 2017 report on the House of Saud purchasing a rare Leonardo da Vinci painting for $450MN, an exquisite palace in France for $300MN and a royal yacht for $500MN.

The expanded strategic and economic ties between Israel and the pro-US Arab countries have been a derivative of the Arab order of national security priorities. They have recognized Israel’s unique added-value – militarily and commercially - in their battle for survival against domestic and regional threats and challenges.

Furthermore, the pro-US Arab policy-makers do not forget, nor forgive, Palestinian subversion, in collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt during the early 1950s and in collaboration with Islamic terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula in 2018; the murder of Syrian intelligence officers in 1966; the terroristic attempt to topple their host Hashemite regime in 1970; the triggering of a series of civil wars in Lebanon during the 1970s; and the back-stabbing of the most hospitable Kuwaiti regime, through their collaboration with Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion and the plunder of the Emirate.

Therefore, there was overall Arab sympathy with Kuwait’s 1991 expulsion of some 300,000 Palestinians; and the 2006 expulsion of more than 50,000 pro-Saddam Palestinians from Iraq following the execution of the Iraqi dictator.

Therefore, the Arab countries were reluctant to act, effectively, on behalf of the Palestinians – militarily, economically or diplomatically - during the Israel-Palestinian wars in Lebanon and Gaza, and during the 1st and 2nd Intifada.

In defiance of Western conventional wisdom, Arab policy-makers have been increasingly aware that overcoming the mounting threats to their survival, mandates adherence to reality, which has underlined the secondary/tertiary – and treacherous - role played by the Palestinians in setting the Middle East agenda.

Rav Kook on Parashat Vayikra: Maimonides and Korbanot

Why did God command that we offer korbanot (sacrifices)? What is the purpose of this form of serving God?

Maimonides’ Explanation
Much has been written about Maimonides’ controversial analysis of the Temple service in his Guide for the Perplexed. At the core of Maimonides’ explanation is his recognition of the difficulty in changing human nature. Deeply entrenched habits and beliefs cannot be uprooted overnight. It would have been futile for the Torah to command the Israelite slaves to abruptly discontinue all forms of worship which they had known in Egypt. Such a revolutionary demand would be like a present-day religious leader demanding that we suspend all external displays of worshipping God - no fasts and festivals, no prayers and petitions in times of trouble - just a mental service of God through reflection and meditation, without action or speech.

For this reason, the Torah permitted forms of worship that were practiced in those times. However, the Torah required that all worship be directed toward God alone. In this way, the nation would be weaned from idolatry, without being stripped of those practices they used to express themselves spiritually.

“It is unreasonable to expect that one who grew up as a slave, laboring in mud and bricks, should one day wash his hands from the dirt and straight off [without any preparation] do battle with the giants. Therefore, God did not immediately bring the people into the Land of Israel, and did not lead them [along the direct route], ‘the way of the Land of the Philistines’ (Ex. 13:17). Similarly, it is unnatural for one who is accustomed to many forms of service and practices, so ingrained that they are like unquestionable laws, to abruptly desist from them.” (GuideIII,32)

Nachmanides Objects
Other medieval scholars rejected Maimonides’ approach out of hand. Nachmanides (on Lev. 1:9) in particular vociferously attacked this position. He refuted Maimonides’ explanation with two major arguments:

The Torah describes korbanot as a “pleasant fragrance to God.” This phrase indicates that this form of Divine service has an intrinsic positive value, and is not just a means to wean the people from mistaken beliefs and habits.

We find that long before the idolatrous Egyptians, Noah offered sacrifices to God, and they were accepted: “God smelled the appeasing fragrance” (Gen. 8:21). Similarly, we find that God accepted Abel’s offerings of sheep long before idolatrous practices had spread throughout the world.

To Reform a Prince
And yet it appears that we find support for Maimonides’ explanation in the Midrash. The Midrash explains the purpose of korbanot by way of a parable:

“This is like an uncouth prince who was given to devouring unslaughtered meat. The king said: ‘Let him always be at my table, and he will be reformed on his own.’ So too, since the Israelites were keenly devoted to idolatry in Egypt... the Holy One said: Let them offer their sacrifices before Me at all times.” (Vayikra Rabbah 22:8)

A careful reading of the Midrash, however, indicates an approach quite different than that of Maimonides. The parable speaks of the prince eating all of his meals at the king’s table. Clearly, dining with the king is in itself a great privilege and honor, besides its secondary benefit as a means to reform the prince’s coarse habits.

The parable is describing a situation where the son, due to his inappropriate behavior, does not deserve to dine with the king. Dining with the king is certainly a great honor, but eating exclusively at the royal table is a special measure designed to refine the prince’s behavior. So too, offering korbanot is a lofty form of worshipping God. Through this service, we merit a spiritual elevation, like one who dines with the King Himself, gaining the special favor of the King of the universe.

This parable does not come to explain the concept of korbanot in general, but rather refers to a temporary edict that was in force only while the Israelites sojourned in the desert. For those 40 years, they were forbidden to slaughter meat for their own personal consumption. They were only allowed to eat from the Shelamim (Peace offerings) brought to the Tabernacle (see Deut. 12:20). The Midrash explains that this provisional decree was meant to wean the recently liberated slaves away from idolatrous practices, ensuring that none would continue the idolatrous practices of Egypt in the privacy of his home.

Jeremiah’s Clarification
This may be the true meaning of the verse which Maimonides quoted as a source text:

“For I did not speak with your fathers, nor did I command them when I took them out of Egypt, regarding offerings and sacrifices” (Jeremiah 7:22).

This verse is problematic. How could Jeremiah claim that the Torah does not command us to offer korbanot? We find many chapters in Leviticus devoted to the Temple service. And why does the verse stress, “When I took them out of Egypt”?

The verse cannot be referring to those offerings which are explicitly commanded in the Torah. Rather, it refers to the special situation that existed “when I took them out of the Land of Egypt,” when meat was permitted only when brought as a Shelamim offering in the Tabernacle. One might think that this is the ideal, and we should emulate the actions of that exceptional generation. Jeremiah therefore explained that this abundance of offerings was not an end unto itself, but only a temporary decree of that generation, in order to wean them from the idolatrous practices they had adopted in Egypt.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Midbar Shur, pp. 158-159)

"And Gd called to Moshe": Attaching the “Aleph” to “Vayikar.”

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

As an empath, I can really appreciate the importance of intuition in decision making. Not everything my intellect tells me is appropriate for the situation, and sometimes my intuition overrides it, although rarely has it ever been wrong. This has allowed me on several occasions to avoid disaster, or to stem it when others, less intuitive, might have caused one .

Even though a face often reveals what a person is feeling inside, it can also conceal it. Sometimes a person does not even know what they are TRULY feeling at the moment, and smile as if everything is normal, when it is not. Or, they do know, but have chosen to hide it from others, giving other people the wrong impression and sometimes resulting in hurtful misunderstandings. An empath picks up the TRUE vibes.

This has also helped me tremendously with my writing, b”H. I write, for the most part, intuitively. I KNOW what can be said, but I FEEL how it SHOULD be said. What I start to write intellectually can make perfect sense. But after writing it, I can feel that it lacks a certain added element to best make the point for the reader.

Even non-Empaths use gut feelings a lot in life, often with great results. Intuition plays a major role in many professions, and has often saved people a lot of money, and in some cases, their lives. The intellect is great for making calculations and carrying out technical chores in life, but it is intuition that adds the human element to all of it, and which allows people to access higher levels of truth.

This is why “Artificial Intelligence,” or “AI,” is a problem. As enticing as the idea may be, it is inherently flawed because, quite simply, you cannot mechanize intuition. You can mimic it to some degree, but it cannot be replicated by man, making AI potentially the greatest threat to mankind.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE technology. I LOVE automation. I am ENTHRALLED by innovation. But, there is a limit to how much I am prepared to allow MECHANIZED things to govern HUMAN life. If human logic—which is what would be used to program AI—alone dictated how to deal with humanity, human logic alone would probably eliminate it. It is only because of DIVINE logic that we are STILL here.

That “little” something extra that makes life so non-automated is alluded to in the “little” Aleph at the end of the first word of this week’s parsha. As discussed many times in the past, the small Aleph at the end of the first word, “vayikra,” alludes to the Aleph of “Adam,” and the soul of man. That’s why the Aleph is missing from the word “kisay” at the end of Parashas Beshallach. Amalek tries to cut it off, transforming the word “vayikra” into the word “vayikar.”

Without the soul’s involvement, life becomes quite mechanical. The physical world of the body is very limited. It seems unlimited, especially when it comes to physical gratification. There are SO many ways to give the body pleasure. A person could live an entire lifetime and never experience every PHYSICAL pleasure there is to enjoy.

Nor would a person want to. How many steaks can you eat at one time or even over the course of a single week? How many sweet deserts can you enjoy before your body says, “Please! No more!” Even people with addictions know that they do not derive pleasure from that to which they are addicted. It just hurts too much not to fill it.

In any case, without the involvement of the soul, life just becomes too mechanical. Take prayer for example. Though people show up for minyan on a regular basis, they often forget to bring their soul along with them. Oh, it’s there alright. Otherwise the person would not be alive. But it’s not in their prayer, which is why it looks and feels so mechanical. The “vayikar” is there, just not the “vayikra,” with the Aleph, and that makes any service of God perfunctory.

How does one bring their soul to prayer, or to anything they do? The most important part of our service to God is our hearts. It’s a real shame to go through the motions, actually put the time into a mitzvah, and leave out the most important ingredient of all: kavanah—intention.

We can take advantage of this special Shabbos to answer the question. This Shabbos is “Parashas HaChodesh,” the fourth of the special Maftirs read before and after Purim. Since it happens to be Rosh Chodesh Nissan this Shabbos as well, it is even MORE appropriate that we read about the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh where it first showed up, in Parashas Bo.

A Jewish month is called “chodesh,” from the word “chadash,” which means “new,” because the moon renews itself every 29 and some odd days. Every month the Jewish people announce the upcoming new month on the previous Shabbos, and then celebrate its actual arrival on Rosh Chodesh. How many cultures do that, month after month, year after year, millennium after millennium?

The Jewish people do. We do it because it is a reminder to us as well about the importance of constant renewal. It tells us that the nature of people is to get used to things, and then to lose respect for them. So we need to do that which makes the old new on a daily basis. This is a big portion of our service of God.

There is even an important mitzvah of developing “chiddushei Torah” on Shabbos, as the week ends and leads to the beginning of a new week. On a day that we retreat from the mundane world and contemplate the true meaning of life, we make a point of revealing new Torah ideas that emerge from within old ones.

There is nothing mundane about Torah. There is nothing habitual about the service of God. We may go to the same shul every day, doven in the same minyan each time, but every tefillah is a first. It is built upon all of our previous prayers, but we are different, the world is different, and therefore our prayer should be different as well.

But, and this is important, it doesn’t happen on its own. If people wait for the experience of prayer, or of any mitzvah, to “wow” them, they will wait in vain. Occasionally, as a gift, God will inject a mitzvah with something extra to help us, but for the most part, that is OUR avodah, our service of God. We are the ones who are supposed to attach the “Aleph” to “vayikar.” We have to find our own personal way to “mechadash”—renew—what is already very familiar to us.

This is not something only “spiritual” people do. It is something people do to become spiritual. Fortunate is the person who knows this, works on it, and already enjoys success. THEY are true servants of God, and of themselves, because they will enjoy learning Torah and performing mitzvos, the source of eternal reward in the World-to-Come.

And, as we have said in the past, and will soon say again, b”H, it is this approach to life that is the true source of freedom.

What is a "Refugee"? The Jews from Morocco versus the Palestinians from Israel

by Alan M. Dershowitz

  • The Arab exodus from Israel in 1948 was the direct result of a genocidal war declared against the newly established Jewish state by all of its Arab neighbors, including the Arabs of Israel... approximately 700,000 local Arabs were displaced.
  • Approximately the same number of Jews were displaced from their Arab homelands during this period. Nearly all of them could trace their heritage back thousands of years, well before the Muslims and Arabs became the dominant population. ...The most significant difference is between how Israel dealt with the Jews who were displaced and how the Arab and Muslim word dealt with the Palestinians who had been displaced by a war they started. Israel integrated its brothers and sisters from the Arab and Muslim world. The Arab world put its Palestinian brothers and sisters in refugee camps, treating them as political pawns — and festering sores —in its persistent war against the Jewish state.
  • The time has come – indeed it is long overdue – for the world to stop treating these Palestinians as refugees. That status ended decades ago. The Jews who came to Israel from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Neither are the relatives of the Palestinians who have lived outside of Israel for nearly three quarters of a century.
The Jews who came to Israel from Morocco many years ago are no longer refugees. Nor are the Palestinians. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
A visit to Morocco shows that the claim of Palestinians to a "right of return" has little historic, moral or legal basis.
Jews lived in Morocco for centuries before Islam came to Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh. The Jews, along with the Berbers, were the backbone of the economy and culture. Now their historic presence can be seen primarily in the hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and abandoned synagogues that are omnipresent in cities and towns throughout the Maghreb.
I visited Maimonides's home, now a restaurant. The great Jewish philosopher and medical doctor taught at a university in Fez. Other Jewish intellectuals helped shape the culture of North Africa, from Morocco to Algeria to Tunisia to Egypt. In these countries, Jews were always a minority but their presence was felt in every area of life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Palestinian Peace Plan

by Bassam Tawil

  • Opposing a peace initiative because you do not like its content is one thing. Opposing a peace initiative designed to improve the lives of your people is another thing entirely.
  • Palestinian leaders do not care about their own people, so why should they care about peace with Jews?
  • They will never accept another plan, even if it comes from Prophet Muhammad.
Not only are Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas wholly shirking their responsibility to their people, they also are prepared to foil any attempt by outsiders, in this case the US, to work towards ending the crisis in the Gaza Strip. Pictured: Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
It is easy to see why Palestinians would be opposed to the US administration's upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East. The Palestinians do not like what they are hearing about the plan, which has not yet been made public.
Opposing a peace initiative because you do not like its content is one thing. Opposing a peace initiative designed to improve the lives of your people is another thing entirely. The latter defies logic and reveals the disappointing aspects of human nature.
Palestinian hatred of the US administration and President Donald Trump is so intense that the Palestinians are prepared to prolong the misery of their people.
Palestinian leaders care nothing for their people's ongoing suffering. Give those leaders jobs, money and power, and their people be damned.
Once again, the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have fallen victim to their leaders' greed, carelessness and idiocy.

Moshe Feiglin: Time has come to annex Judea, Samaria - and Gaza

Ex-Likud MK, Zehut party says Trump admin. open to alternative solutions to conflict, but Netanyahu gov't has failed to propose.

Moshe Feiglin, outside Temple Mount Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Former Likud MK and Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin called for the complete annexation of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip by Israel and the renunciation of the two-state solution.

Feiglin described his three-point plan for Israel to “annex the total territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river" in an interview with radio host Aaron Klein earlier this week.

According to Feiglin, the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has "failed" to propose a viable alternative to the two-state solution.

“The only reason that the Trump government will go to that concept of a two-state solution is because of Israel,” he said. “Not because of Trump. Trump, even before he got into office, he said the two-state solution is not the only solution. He was open to any other solution that the Israelis will bring. You cannot ask Trump to be more Catholic than the Pope. So, I have no complaints with Trump about it. The only problem is that the Israeli right never offered a real solution."

“This is our land,” he asserted, arguing that Israel cannot 'occupy' its own territory. “We are talking about justice and not just realpolitik or pragmatism. … This is our land more than 3,000 years already.”

Feiglin slammed successive Israeli governments for being willing to give up sites and cities with historical and religious significance to Jews, such as the biblical city of Hevron, which contains the burial place of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. He also criticized the decision t grant the Jordanian Waqf authority over the Temple Mount following the Six Day War in 1967.

He called for the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, which was created as a result of the Oslo accords, so that the Arab population of Judea and Samaria will “not be afraid anymore of the terror regime” of the PA.

He stated that "there is no a territory A, B and C. Just as Israel knew in 2002 when [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon had to take over, conquer whole cities of Judea and Samaria again after a whole wave of terror actions, we have to do that again and annex the total territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river.”

“And no one besides the IDF and the Israeli police will be allowed to carry weapons and to have any kind of authority to use force between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River."

Feiglin says Israel should offer three options to the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria.

The first option would be to become legal residents of Israel. Those who choose to do so would first have to declare their loyalty to the State of Israel. They would then be entitled to the same protection by the IDF and Israeli police that Israel's citizens receive, though they would not receive the right to vote in national elections.

The second option would be to receive a generous economic package to encourage them to emigrate. The government would purchase their homes and provide them with additional funds and assistance in navigating the bureaucracy when emigrating to their new homes.

The third option would be a path to full citizenship in the State of Israel. Residents would have to perform army or national service, take Hebrew language and Israeli history proficiency tests, and declare their loyalty to the State of Israel. Afterwards they would become full citizens with all the rights of Israel's current citizens.

Feiglin believes that more Arabs would choose the second option than the other two, as a number of polls have shown that a large percentage of PA residents would emigrate to another country if the option was available to them, and that PA laws proscribing the death penalty for selling land or property to Jews was the main barrier to Arab emigration from the PA.

The Zehut party chief says that his new party appeals to a wide cross-section of Israeli society and will consequently do well in the next election.

"We passed a tipping point in the Israeli conscience. … We are touching Israelis from different segments of Israeli society. We are talking about young Israelis in Tel Aviv. We’re talking about religious. Non-religious Israelis. Men. Women. … Israelis who want this combination. Want the full identity, want the whole country, but with less involvement of the state in their private lives.”

The Notion of a Tzibbur

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

The Ramban, in the beginning of Sefer Vayikra (1:2) distinguishes between two concepts: tzibbur (community) and shutfin (partners). He writes:

If many [people] contribute to bring an olah (burnt-offering) -- it is an olah of partners; what difference is there between two who join in a sacrifice and ten or a thousand who join in it? However, the keitz hamizbe'ach, which comes from the leftover [money], the court stipulates about them, and therefore it is an olah of the tzibbur.

A partnership is nothing more than the sum of all the parts of the partners. Not so a tzibbur -- it is far more than a collection of individuals. A community that is comprised of ten is not just nine Jews and one more. It goes far beyond this. A tzibbur is a living body, a cohesive organism of individuals that are connected, who complement one another and stimulate each other. On the Rambam's statement (Hil. Mamrim 2:4) that it is possible for Beit Din to neglect a mitzvah as a hora'at sha'a (tentative measure), "Just as the doctor amputates one's hand or foot so that the entire [person] will live," the Radbaz writes: "This analogy is only correct if we view all of Israel as if they are one body. Even though the bodies are distinct, since their souls are hewed from one place, they are like one body, since the soul is primary."

The principle of national unity exists only in Israel, as Rav Kook zt"l writes in Mishpat Kohen (#124):

Every nation, the main [purpose of its] gathering is in order to benefit the private individuals, but the group itself has no self-existence. Thus, the notion of a tzibbur for the nations is on the level of partners ... However, in truth, for Israel -- tzibbur and partners are two concepts ... because the tzibbur of Israel has a collective sanctity and existence ... and it stands above division. Therefore, the communal sacrifices have to be from the public [funds].

Similarly, the Ba'al Hatanya writes (ch. 34):

They all match, and all have one Father. Therefore, all of Israel are called brothers, literally, due to the source of their soul in One G-d; just that their bodies are separate.

The Maharal also writes (Netivot Olam, Netiv Hatochacha ch. 2):

All of Israel are guarantors for one another, because they are one nation. You do not find this in any [other] nation, who are not one nation like Israel, who are compared to one person. If there is a wound in one of his limbs, they all feel because they are one body. So, too, when one of Israel transgresses, all of Israel feel the sin, since they are like one person. So, too, they are one nation.

The Meshech Chochmah writes that when one of Israel violates a sin between man and G-d, it is considered a affront between man and his friend, on account of the damage that he causes his friend, due to their being bound and connected one to another.

The Maharal explains in this way the idea of the korban Pesach, which is all a symbol of unity: It is in its first year; it is roasted whole with its legs and innards; it is prohibited to take it apart by breaking a bone; it is cooked specifically by roasting, which causes it to shrink into one body, and not in water, which softens and breaks apart; it is eaten together by the entire house, and only in one house and not in two groups, and not in two places.

With this Rav Kook zt"l explains the argument between the Sadducees and the Perushim, whether an individual can dedicate and bring the daily sacrifice. The Sadducees did not understand the special kedusha that Klal Yisrael has, and thought that Israel is like all the other nations. The tzibbur is only many partners, and therefore even individuals can bring communal offerings. The Perushim emerged victorious, that there is a collective kedusha to the tzibbur. Therefore, a communal offering may come only from public funds.

Vital Clear Communication

by Ben-Tzion Spitz

It is still not enough for language to have clarity and content... it must also have a goal and an imperative. Otherwise from language we descend to chatter, from chatter to babble and from babble to confusion. -Rene Daumal

There is a great biblical mystery, that for thousands of years Rabbinic commentators have been unable to agree as to its solution. It has to do with the sudden, Divinely-enacted execution of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron the High Priest, brother of Moses.

To recap, at the consecration ceremony for the Tabernacle, Nadav and Avihu, of their own initiative, decide to offer what the Torah describes as a “strange” fire. The response is instant and fatal. The verse is short and cryptic: “And a fire came from God and consumed them and they died in front of God.”

The commentators have a spectrum of opinions as to why they were killed. It ranges from them having been drunk, to choosing not to marry, to wishing Aaron and Moses dead already so they can take charge, to the arrogance of bringing an offering nobody commanded.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Leviticus 1:7 brings a simple yet chilling opinion. He says they were killed because they misunderstood the instructions. God instructs: “And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar.” Nadav and Avihu interpreted that they should bring fire from outside. They didn’t think or bother to ask Moses for clarification (perhaps out of arrogance). That mistake proved fatal.

Based on this Rabbeinu Bechaye elaborates on the Talmudic dictum of being punctiliously careful with the words we say and especially when repeating the words of our sages. If Nadav and Avihu, whom after Moses there was nobody of their stature, could make such a grave error of misunderstanding with such dire consequences, how much more so must we, simple mortals, be careful in the clear transmission of information? He further warns that whoever changes or alters holy words, even one letter or the order of the words, is changing the very intention of God and will be cast off.

Hence, the Talmudic practice of the Rabbis repeating what they heard from their own teachers verbatim and getting into major debates if there were even minute differences in their traditions.

May we bear messages worth transmitting and may we do so clearly.

Shabbat Shalom,

From Purim to Pesach

by Shmuel Sackett

When people think of “great Jewish holidays”, Pesach is – unquestionably - towards the top of the list. However, our Rabbis have taught us something that contradicts that statement. In the future, when Mashiach arrives, every Jewish holiday will be discontinued except for Purim. Some Rabbis state that Chanukah will also remain, although everyone holds that Purim will definitely endure and continue to exist. No more Pesach??? (What about my yearly Seder in Cancun or Greece?? Heaven help us…)

To get right to the point, allow me to ask a simple and fundamental question. What does Purim have that Pesach does not? The Slonimer Rebbe, in his classic work “Netivot Shalom”, writes that Purim accomplished something that had never been done before: Jewish unity of historic proportions. The Rebbe writes that it can all be found in 5 simple words. When Mordechai was dressed in sackcloth, Esther did everything she could to change his mind from the pessimistic outlook he had, yet nothing helped. Mordechai was convinced that the fate had been sealed and that absolutely nothing could overturn the tragic decree. The Megilah states that the decree was signed with “the seal of the King” – which the commentaries point out means by Hashem Himself. Had it stated that it was signed by “King

Achashverosh”, things could have been changed but Mordechai pointed out that it was signed by “The King” – a reference to the King of Kings, whose decrees cannot be overturned. Queen Esther understood Mordechai’s point and then she said the 5 words that changed Jewish history forever. She uttered 5 simple words which immediately ended Mordechai’s mourning and began the redemption process we so desperately needed. These 5 words were not said by Chanukah, nor any other Jewish holiday, and it is these 5 words that the Rebbe says are the reason that Purim will last forever.

What did Esther say? “Gather all the Jews together” (Book of Esther, 4:16) She instructed Mordechai that as horrible as this decree was – and even though it was signed and sealed by Hashem Himself – it could still be overturned and eradicated if all Jews, every single one, would come together in the nearly impossible 72 hour fast. All Jews would be needed; not just the religious ones. Not just the Rabbis or the holy students who learn Torah, but every single Jew in Shushan. Yes, the Jewish men who had tattoos, plus the Jewish women who wore pants and the Jewish teenagers who shaved their heads must all come together with the Jewish men who wore black hats and the women who covered their hair together with the teenagers who haven’t left the Beit Medrash!! Queen Esther said that we need all these Jews… together as one! And what happened? Mordechai followed her command and every Jew united - resulting in the end of Haman and his evil plan. A decree “sealed by the King” (Hashem) was overturned because of the incredible power of something we laugh at in today’s modern world; Jewish unity!!!

Chanukah did not have this unity. Matityahu cried “Whoever is for Hashem, come with me” and only a handful of Jews began the battle vs the Greeks. A handful. No other holiday had this secret ingredient. Even Pesach – the holy, incredible holiday we love so much – saw just 20% of the Jews leave Egypt while 80% perished because they preferred to stay behind. Only Purim had this winning formula of “gather all the Jews together” and it is due to those 5 words that Purim will endure forever.

I think about this all time, especially when I look at our fragmented nation. Everybody rushes to put Jews into different compartments although what we need to do is the total opposite; to look for ways to bring ourselves together. We have become experts at dividing Jews and separating one from another. We need to understand that Jewish unity is not simply a “good idea” but the only real way to end the problems we are facing as a nation. “Gather all the Jews together” – Let this be our banner and our guiding force because when Jews truly stand as one, no Haman or Hamas can stand against us. ISIS and Hezbollah are powerless and so is Iran when – and only when – the Jewish nation stands together as the strong and proud nation we were meant to be!

Will Votes for Zehut Bring Downfall of Right? Interview with Moshe Feiglin on Radio Moreshet

(Ed. note: Once again the pathetic Right drags out the canard that voting for an outsider like Feiglin will destroy the Right. They must be very nervous about something.  I hoped for something better from someone like Uri Ariel.)

(Translated excerpts from an interview with Moshe Feiglin on Radio Moreshet on Sunday, 24 Adar/March 11, ’18)

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said that voting for Zehut would split the Right vote and be its downfall. What do you say to that?

The established Right wants everything political to be under its auspices. In the days of Zo Artzeinu, the only truly effective protest against Oslo, the Yesha Council also opposed our enterprise.

Nevertheless, there is a vote threshold. If you get 90,000 votes, still not passing the vote threshold, the damage to the Right will be significant.

The polls that were conducted for Zehut and the polls that were conducted for the large parties showed that Zehut will get 12 Knesset mandates. In a live interview on Galei Tzahal a few months ago, the interviewer said that he had seen the polls of the large parties and that Zehut will enter the Knesset with double digits. So what does it all mean? Nobody knows. As for the essence of the matter, the established Right has never done more than damage control – damage wrought by the Left. The established Right still speaks the Oslo-speak and simply tries to incur fewer damages. It has never emerged from Oslo-consciousness to create a vision and goals of its own.

Politics is the art of compromise. If you want it all, you may end up with nothing.

Only the Right compromises. For example, when there was talk of uprooting an Arab village, all the heads and intellectuals of the Left threatened a civil war. As a result, nobody makes any such proposals today. But uprooting settlers has become perfectly acceptable. The Right is incapable of going to battle for its principles. That is because it has no vision that will take us outside of the consciousness that the Left has created. Zehut is offering Israel a true vision and the tools to accomplish it. We have managed to connect with significant numbers of people in all sectors of Israeli society. Should we cease and desist now and not bring new hope to Israel?