Thursday, October 21, 2021

It’s a Tribal Conflict

by Victor Rosenthal

Humans have always arranged themselves into families, extended families, and tribes. After all, they are primates, and many other primate species act similarly. Sometimes tribes clash over a piece of territory. Maybe the ground is fertile or the hunting is good. When that happens, the tribes fight. If there are other tribes nearby, each side may seek allies to help them win. This is the way human beings behave. We think we are different today. We are not.

Usually one tribe is the aggressor and one is the victim. The goal of the aggressor is to take what the victim has: property and land, and sometimes to enslave the useful members of the victim tribe. Some tribes have been very successful in serial aggressions, even building empires as they sweep across the land, employing techniques of aggression that they improve with successive conquests. The Arab conquests of the 7th century and the Mongols of the 13th come to mind.

Sometimes the aggressor wins, and sometimes the intended victim beats the aggressor off, or even destroys him. Sometimes there are repeated conflicts with no clear winner over a long period.

When one tribe achieves a conclusive victory, the other tribe usually disappears. They are killed, enslaved, expelled, females raped, and their genetic material fades into the background noise. The culture of the aggressor becomes the dominant culture in conquered areas. Their language and their religion replace those of the losing tribe.

In modern times tribes have coalesced into nations. Sometimes – rarely these days – a nation is comprised of primarily one tribe or a group of closely related tribes. Such a nation is Japan. Other nations are dominated by one tribe, but have significant national minorities, like China or Russia. Usually the more stable nations are the ones that are homogeneous or the ones whose dominant tribes are solidly in control, which in part explains why China and Russia sometimes behave in ways that are considered oppressive to their minorities.

An example of what can happen when there are large national minorities is Lebanon. Lebanon was an experiment in modern politics in which political structures were built to balance the power of the multiple Christian, Muslim, and Druze factions (i.e., tribes). Great care was taken to ensure that no tribe would be dominant. This, it turns out, is precisely the formula for instability – which was exploited by outside forces like the PLO, Syria, and Iran. Today the nation has been reduced to failed third-world state status, without a functional currency or electric power grid. Worse, it has been made into one massive remote-controlled missile launcher for Iran, and will be forced to absorb even more blows if (when) war breaks out between Israel and Iran.

Muslim minorities in non-Muslim states are particularly destabilizing. This is because Islamic ideology contains several concepts that lead to conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors. Islamic doctrine holds that women and non-Muslims have fewer rights than male Muslims, something that creates friction in modern liberal cultures. And they believe that it is unacceptable for Muslims to live under a non-Islamic regime, which results in noncompliance with laws and rebelliousness. We can see these phenomena in Europe today.

Israel is in a particularly difficult position, with an extremely large national minority of Muslim Arabs (about one in every five Israeli citizens). In addition to the religious factor they have developed a sense of grievance and a narrative of dispossession and loss of honor. This is a formula for trouble, and indeed it has broken out into open insurrection several times; most notably in the two intifadas, and in the “disturbances” (anti-Jewish pogroms) in cities with mixed Jewish and Arab populations this May during the recent war with Hamas in Gaza.

Recently Arab alienation has taken the form of contempt for the laws of the state, with crime rampant in Arab areas – and spreading outside of them. In particular, Israel’s strict laws regulating the possession of firearms are massively flouted, with Arabs obtaining weapons stolen from the army, smuggled across the border from Lebanon, or even manufactured at home. Some illegal weapons also find their way into the hands of terrorists.

Israelis are worried. Even leaving aside the conflict with the Arabs of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza who have been educated by their remarkably evil leaders over the past several generations to incandescently hate Jews, what can be done to preserve the Jewish state with its increasingly restive Arab Muslim minority?

Back in 2006, a group of Arab intellectuals, citizens of the state of Israel, told us what they thought in a document called “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.” The writers were academics, politicians, and social activists, people from the intellectual elite of Arab Israeli society, chosen to represent “different political beliefs and thought schools.” It was a serious project, sponsored by the National Committee for the Heads of the Local Arab Councils in Israel. The final product represented their consensus of opinion.

The document affirms the narrative of Israel as a European colonial project, involving the “Judaization” of the land and the “destruction of Palestinian history.” It asserts that Israel is an “ethnocracy” and not a democracy. The writers demanded that the state “acknowledge responsibility for the Palestinian Nakba” of 1948, and recognize its Arab citizens as an “indigenous national minority” and an essential part of the greater “Palestinian people.” They demanded that the State of Israel redefine itself from a Jewish state into a binational one, with equal political representation for Jews and Arabs, including granting Arabs a veto power over state policies. They demanded “corrective justice … in order to compensate for the damage inflicted on the Palestinian Arabs due to the ethnic favoritism policies of the Jews.” And naturally they called for “Guaranteeing the rights of the Palestinian Arabs in issues obliterated in the past such as the present absentees and their right of return.”

Even much of the Israeli Left was shocked. Such a binational state would in short order make Lebanon look like a success story. Despite the language of human rights that suffuses the document, it represents a demand for the Jews to reverse the outcome of the 1948 War of Independence, and submit to what would quickly become Arab domination. And that in turn – as is normal among primates – would end in murder, slavery, expulsion, and rape, and the final end of the Jewish people in the Middle East and perhaps in the world.

The centrist Zionist position is that it is possible to buy the Arabs off by making it possible for them to have the “good things in life,” like nice cars and fast internet service. After all, they already have the highest standard of living of any other Arab population in the Middle East. In some respects they live better than many Jewish Israelis (compare the large mansions in Arab towns to the cramped apartments of the Jews). But there are some things that we are not prepared to give them: land – they want it all – and their honor, which they believe we took from them in the Nakba. Their honor demands that we become subservient to those whom former MK Haneen Zouabi called “the owners of the homeland,” the Palestinian Arabs. Unfortunately, these are the things they really want, not cars and internet service.

There is no middle ground, just as there is no mutually acceptable “two-state solution” for the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, and no prospect of peace with Hamas. This is a struggle between tribes. And although we are a majority in our state, our tribe is a tiny minority in the region and the world, so it is also a struggle for our continued existence.

This is a kind of struggle that liberal societies are not good at. We want to compromise, to find win-win solutions. There aren’t any here. One side has to win and the other lose. And if we lose, we disappear; so we’d better win.

Looking at History through One Eye

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Friday Night
IN LAST WEEK’S parsha, Sarah told Avraham to have a child through her help maid, Hagar. She had hoped that by Hagar having a child it would change her mazel, and bring an end to her barrenness. The Torah says that Avraham listened to the voice of his wife, and eventually Yishmael was born.

And a big headache too. Since Hagar immediately became pregnant, it made her haughty. This upset the boat and caused Sarah to become angry with Avraham, who then told Sarah to deal with the pregnant Hagar as she saw fit. Sarah made life so difficult for Hagar that she fled to the desert, and might not have returned had an angel not met her along the way and sent her back.

Nevertheless, Sarah had cast an “evil eye” on Hagar and she miscarried. But she soon became pregnant again and gave birth to Yishmael, 14 years before Sarah would give birth to Yitzchak. That must have made for a very interesting family dynamic and shalom bayis, before and especially after the birth of Yitzchak.

Then everything went from bad to worse. After Yitzchak was born Yishmael became jealous of him. Obviously Yitzchak’s birth was the celebrated one, and his mother, the true akeres habayis, the main wife of the house. Given that Yishmael was a pere adam—wild man, it was obvious that he was going to be trouble for Yitzchak, which meant more trouble for Avraham, especially when Sarah finally said, “They have to go.”

But this time Avraham was not prepared to listen to his wife’s voice. By listening to his wife’s voice in last week’s parsha, Yishmael was born and Hagar became an antagonist. Now Sarah wanted to undo the problem by sending them away into no man’s land where they would probably die. How would that look to the neighbors?

So God stepped in and told Avraham that, as counterintuitive it was for him to send Hagar and Yishmael away like that, he had do it. He did, and shortly after beginning their exile, the situation became bad for both of them, especially Yishmael who was sick. They would have died then and there had not an angel come and showed Hagar a well. They survived and continued on to Egypt, more than likely carrying a grudge that was probably shared by her family, the future oppressors of the Jewish people.

True, Hagar returns to Avraham in next week’s parsha, and Yishmael is said to have done teshuvah. But the descendants of Yishmael had already been born, and the die had already been cast. It begs the question: What might history have been like had Sarah not insisted on Avraham fathering a children through Hagar? It was in the merit of his bris milah that Yishmael had control over Eretz Yisroel for 1300 years!

Shabbos Day
NOT MUCH DIFFERENT. Had Sarah not insisted on Hagar joining the family thousands of years ago, the situation today with the Arabs would not be much different. If it hadn’t come about that way, then it would have come out another way and the result would still be the same. God has many messengers, many ways to accomplish the same purpose.

Consider the divine providence involved. First Sarah had to be barren, and then there had to be famine in the land to force Avraham and his family down to Egypt. After that, despite Avraham’s effort to hide her, the Egyptians had to discover her and praise her to Pharaoh so he would take her into his court. That way Hagar could meet Sarah, witness the miracles that happened for her, and relinquish her royal position to become Sarah’s help maid instead. The rest of the story is in last week’s parsha and this one as well.

The question is therefore, why did this dynamic have to be built into Jewish history? Why does the path to redemption have to pass through the Intifada and a corrupted historical narrative? Is antisemitism just antisemitism, or are there different kinds that vary the impact on the Jewish people and their direction in history?

It’s like a personal injury. Different ones have different effects on us. If you have a sore tongue it may limit what you can eat, but not the kind of exercise you might do. If you have a sore foot, you might not exercise but you can eat pretty much anything you want. The illness God sends to a person depends upon what He wants them to fix.

Over the millennia, the Jewish people have had to contend with different types of mentalities, which has resulted in different types of antisemitism. For centuries European Jews had to cope with the Christians, whose mission it was to destroy Judaism by converting all the Jews. Later, the Nazis came and dropped the conversion part and just tried to wipe out the Jews altogether.

Since then, the Jewish people have had to contend mostly with the Arab world and its supporters. Though the Arab world conspired with the Nazis in the Final Solution during World War II, they did not get a chance to carry out their part of it once the Battle of El Alamein miraculously went in favor of the Allies.

Then came the formation of the State of Israel and the War of Independence in 1948. At that stage, the Jewish homeland was only what had already been partitioned and given to the Jewish people. But that did not make a difference to the Arabs, who initiated an existential war against the ill-equipped Jewish state. Once again, miracles saved the day.

That did not stop the Arabs from trying several times more after. Though they have come close to defeating the Israeli army, the Jewish people have held on, miraculously.

Anyone who can’t see God’s hand in all of this is looking at history through one eye only. They’re turning a blind eye to the odds of such a tiny nation surviving, let alone thriving, in the face of a such a monstrous and ongoing threat. Without God, the math just doesn’t work out.

Shalosh Seudot
THE SO-CALLED plight of the Palestinian people was a later invention. When the Arab world realized they could succeed politically where they failed militarily, they created the Palestinian people. It didn’t matter that these were Arabs whom they once rejected and sent packing. Like Balak and Bilaam, their common cause made them put their differences aside to take land from the Jews.

It was all about leverage. The Arabs could not dethrone the Israelis, but maybe the world could. If somehow they could create a narrative that the Western world could buy, they could undermine Jewish rights to Eretz Yisroel and bring international pressure to bear on an internationally isolated Jewish nation. The Israelis balked at Arab demands, but could they at world demands, even though the Arab world does all the time?

It was an uncharacteristically clever move, which only emphasizes the fact that God was behind it. The fact that it has been so successful underscores God’s involvement. Miracles still abound for the Jewish state showing God’s ongoing support, but the struggles have also increased, showing God’s ongoing testing of the Jewish people.

The Arabs fight for themselves.

The world supports them for suspicious reasons.

But God is the Screenwriter, and everyone else just takes their cues from Him, albeit unwittingly. Our job is to remember that, and to look at history from that perspective. At the end of the day it’s not about the Right of the Left, friends or enemies. It is about using the situation to do what the Torah expects from us, and not getting distracted by convincing but false realities.

Melave Malkah
IT IS CERTAINLY not easy to stay focussed. God has designed such a phenomenally complicated and well thought out “set” that fools people into believing it has a life of its own. Some of the greatest minds have stumbled to the point of believing that God does not exist, that everything happens only as a matter of cause-and-effect.

Even religious people get fooled. We know intellectually that God made everything and runs everything. It is one of the 13 Principles of Faith. But emotionally we act as if God has removed himself from history, and that we can be victims of circumstances we neither created nor control. The “game” is that convincing.

But as we look back at the world thousands of years ago from 5782, that history was already looking ahead thousands of years at us. God told Avraham to go to Eretz Canaan and then created a famine so he’d go down to Egypt, so that Sarah would be abducted by Pharaoh, so that she could be freed miraculously, so that Hagar would be impressed enough to join her retinue, so that a barren Sarah could tell her husband to have a child through Hagar, so that Yishmael would be born and give rise to the same Arab nations that harass us today. When you’re God, you can do all that with pinpoint accuracy thousands of years in advance.

Yishmael, the PLO, Hamas, all of them were always part of the plan. We had to deal with them at the beginning of history, and we have to deal with them again at the end of history. They’re part of the segue to the Messianic Era.

Why them, and why now?

I have my theories, as do many others. I also imagine that the answer is right in front of us in this week’s parsha, and that it will be clear to us once history is over. Until that time, the only thing we can do is make sure we remain true to Torah values and loyal to the Jewish people.

There will be casualties along the way. There always are, and there already have been. The goal is to not be one of them, and the best protection a person has is to remember that only God is the Magen Avraham—Shield of Avraham. He is the Screenwriter, Director, and Producer. Remember that, and you’ll already be head and shoulders above most.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Why Palestinians Cannot Make Peace with Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh
  • The Palestinian Authority, which is largely funded by American and European taxpayers' money, is imprisoning Palestinians for even trying to engage in real estate deals with Jews.
  • The Palestinian public seems generally supportive of the death sentences and extrajudicial killings of suspected "land dealers" and informants. Even Palestinian human rights organizations appear to be extremely careful when they mention such issues.
  • As far as Hamas and many Palestinians are concerned, peace with Israel or any form of "collaboration" with the "Zionist enemy" is an act of treason punishable by death.
  • Mahmoud Abbas is already facing accusations of being a traitor because of the security coordination between the PA security forces and the Israeli authorities in the West Bank.
  • As long as the PA and Hamas punish Palestinians who work with Israel or are willing to sell real estate to Israeli Jews -- frequently by issuing sentences of hard labor or death -- the hope of reviving the "peace process" is, unfortunately, a pitiful waste of time and effort.
  • The verdicts passed against the "land dealers" in the West Bank and the suspected "collaborators" in the Gaza Strip show that Palestinians remain as far as ever from accepting Israel, let alone making peace with it.
  • The verdicts are yet more proof of how Palestinian leaders continue to radicalize their people against Israel -- to the point that no Palestinian who wishes to stay alive would ever claim that he or she seeks to make peace with Israel or recognize all of the land as anything other than totally Palestinian in every way.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which is largely funded by American and European taxpayers' money, is imprisoning Palestinians for even trying to engage in real estate deals with Jews. The Palestinian public seems generally supportive of the death sentences and extrajudicial killings of suspected "land dealers" and informants. Pictured: The PA criminal court in Ramallah, on October 4, 2021. (Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)

The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have again shown that peace with Israel is not only extremely ill-advised and most likely doomed from the start but critically dangerous as well. The two Palestinian parties, both the PA and Hamas, do not want Palestinians to engage in any real estate transactions with Israeli Jews; they also do not want Palestinians to assist Israel in the war on terrorism.

By opposing the sale of properties to Israeli Jews and "collaboration" with Israel, the PA and Hamas are sending a message to the Palestinian public that despite all the talk about a "two-state solution" and the possible resumption of the "peace process," Israel remains the mortal enemy of the Palestinians.

This message does not bode well for the Biden administration's desire to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Continue Reading Article

Avraham’s Generous, Loving Nature

by HaRav Dov begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir


When G-d decides to punish and destroy Sodom, He says: “Shall I conceal from Avraham what I am about to do? Avraham is indeed to become a great and mighty nation, and through him shall be blessed all the nations of the world” (Genesis 18:17). Rashi comments:

“It would not be right for Me to do this thing without letting him know…. I renamed him Avraham, which denotes a father of a multitude of nations. Can I, then, destroy the children without informing the father who loves Me?”

It is true that the people of Sodom sinned heavily, and ostensibly Avraham could have ignored them and cut himself off from them. Yet Avraham had a generous nature. He had a love for the Creator and His creations – even those who had distanced themselves far from Him. Therefore, as is our way with those we love, Avraham strove to speak up in their defense, as when he asked G-d, “Will you actually wipe out the innocent with the guilty?” (18:23). Suppose there are fifty innocent people in the city…. Shall the whole world’s judge not act justly?” (18:23-24). Only when he had finished defending them does it say, “When He finished speaking with Avraham, God left [him]. vbraham then returned home” (18:35). Rashi comments, “When the defender leaves, the prosecutor accuses.”

Today, we, the Jewish People, are Avraham’s descendants. The traits that characterize Avraham are imprinted within the soul of the nation, and the soul of each individual Jew. Foremost amongst those traits is the “good eye” (Avot 5:17), i.e., the generous nature that looks for the good and the positive in everything; the approach that views G-d’s creatures sympathetically, after the manner of Aharon HaKohen, who “loved his fellow man” (Avot 1:12).

Yet it is not enough to be born with good, noble traits. Rather, one has to bring out his full potential through proper education, the way Avraham did with his own children, as it says: “I have given him special attention so that he will command his children and his household after him, and they will keep God's way, doing charity and justice”(Genesis 18:19). The identity and purpose of the Jewish People down through the ages start with the Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and with G-d’s having chosen Avraham, as it says, “You are the L-rd, our G-d, who chose Avraham and brought him forth out of Ur Kasdim and gave him the name of Abraham; and found his heart faithful before You” (Nechemiah 9:8).

And just as G-d chose Avraham, He also chooses the Jewish People, as in the blessing that we recite to “G-d who chose us from all the peoples” (Birkat HaTorah), and as in the blessings recited before the Shema, praising G-d who “lovingly selects His people Israel.” Our duty and task is to learn to educate and to explain what are the identity and purpose of the Jewish People, from the perspective of the Nation’s roots. We must look back at the rock from which we were hewn. By such means we will continue with confidence and joy, marching along the upward path towards complete redemption.

Looking forward to salvation,
With Love of Israel,
Shabbat Shalom.

Yeshiva Machon Meir - Lot and his split character traits (video)

The Shamrak Report: Likud Failed 4 Times with Netanyahu and more..

Likud Failed 4 Times with Netanyahu
by Gil Tanenbaum
Former Health Minister MK Yuli Edelstein announced his intention to run for the Likud leadership against incumbent party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

We have held elections four times, four times the Likud has been the largest faction in the Knesset, and four times we have failed to form a national government headed by the Likud, Edelstein told Channel 12. We will remain in the opposition for many years. Netanyahu should be replaced. With Netanyahu, we failed four times in forming a government, how can we suddenly succeed the fifth time?"

The Likud won the most seats in the Knesset in each of the four elections between April 2019 and April 2021 and it could have formed a new coalition after any of these elections if it were not for the personal animosity held towards Netanyahu by so many.

Three parties in the current Knesset, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett s Jewish Home, Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beitenu and Gidon Sa ar s New Hope would all have joined a Likud led government, but only without Netanyahu serving as the prime minister.

Edelstein said that he hopes to push for new elections for the Likud leadership within the next few months. Israeli parties generally require new elections for their leadership after an election loss.
Yuli Edelstein, 63, was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. He came to Israel at the age of 29. Edelstein has been a member of the Knesset for 22 of the last 25 years, originally serving with the Israel B Aliyah Russian immigrant party. That party merged with the Likud after the election of 2003 and he has been in the Likud ever since.

Edelstein served as Minister of Immigrant Absorption (1996 1999), Minister of Information & Diaspora Affairs, (2009 2013) and Minister of Health (2020 2021). He served as speaker of the Knesset from 2013 2020.

Food for Thought
by Steven Shamrak
The reason the current odd coalition government was formed and still exists is because nobody wants to join the inept and self-absorbed leadership of Netanyahu any more. Hopefully, as soon as he is gone a new Zionist government will be formed.

Biden is Against Jews Living in Judea and Samaria
The United States made clear about its opposition to Israel's building of Jewish communities on land that Palestinian Arabs want for a future state. The Biden administration s position on this issue is a policy shift from the previous administration of Donald Trump. The administration's view is to refrain from actions such as construction of new Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria that could be seen as "provocative" and undermine efforts to achieve the two-state solution . (Why are almost 2 million 'Palestinians' able to live in Israel, but no Jew can live in the heart of the Jewish ancestral land - Judea and Samaria? The proposition of so-called two-state solution that will never happen, is an invention of international anti-Semites with aim to discredit the existence and facilitate the destruction of the Jewish state.)

No Jewish Prayer on Temple Mount Allowed
Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev appears set to maintain government policy on the Temple Mount. Bar Lev said after meeting security officials that it was important that the customary situation on the Temple Mount in place since 1967 in which Jewish prayer is prevented should be maintained. Several activist organizations which advocate for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount expressed concern that Jewish prayer on the site may now be stopped in reaction. (It is long overdue to regain self-respect and change the old customs.)

Exploring 'Plan B' for Iran
US, Israeli and EU officials took a tough line toward Iran and are exploring a Plan B for dealing with it. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said discussions between their two countries have begun on other options should Iran not return in good faith to negotiations to salvage the languishing landmark 2015 nuclear deal. (Is the US plan B surrender, like in Afghanistan? It does not work for Israel.)

Sanctions on Iranian Missile Companies Quietly Removed
Without explanation, the US Treasury Department lifted sanctions on two firms that produced ballistic missiles for the Iranian regime. Both companies were sanctioned in September 2020 for providing support to an entity in Iran s ballistic missile program. The Treasury Department said at the time that Mammut Industries and Mammut Diesel are key producers and suppliers of military-grade, dual-use goods for Iran s missile programs.

Israel Strikes Iranian Military Centers in Syria
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) carried out a strike in the Palmyra area in Syria on Wednesday, killing one soldier and wounding three others. The airstrikes hit the centers of several Iranian-backed militias, including a training center and a communication tower, a few kilometers to the east of T4 airbase. In general, Iran s military build-up in Syria remains a red line for Israel. Israeli leaders have repeatedly declared that they will not tolerate an Iranian threat on its northern border with Syria and will take all necessary measures to ensure that such a menace does not emerge.

NO to US Reopening of Consulate in Jerusalem
No way would Israel agree to have the United States reopen its consulate dedicated to Palestinian affairs in Jerusalem, said Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Saar. His comment comes ahead of a meeting between the two countries top diplomats in Washington. I spoke with (Prime Minister Naftali Bennett) a couple of times on the issue. We are on the same page and we don't see differently, Saar added. Someone said it's an electoral commitment. But for us, it s a generation's commitment. We will not compromise on this. (Fake friends of Israel in the White House are not news. Ending appeasement of enemies and exercising sovereignty by an Israeli government would be.)

Quote of the Week:
"Some Israeli Arabs to this day have not made peace with the way the War of Independence concluded, and continue to undermine the State of Israel. The Arabs are citizens of Israel, for now at least. I yearn for the day when there will emerge from them a leadership that will be a full partner in Israel and will not deny its ethos as a Jewish state - then they will be legitimate partners." - MK Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism party) - Sometimes there is a need for political 'marriage of convenience' to progress and achieve desired result.

The US Has No Plan-B for Iran
by Eli Lake
It appears that President Joe Biden's administration is finally taking no for an answer from Iran. Since the summer, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has signalled that his patience is not infinite when it comes to his offer to re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal. This week, Blinken went a bit further, saying, We will look at every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran.

This formulation is a classic Washington euphemism for the prospect of military action. Former President Barack Obama would use a version - all options are on the table - during his administration s negotiations with Iran. It s meant to placate allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, who worry the US is unwilling to back up its economic war on Tehran with cruise missiles and cyberattacks if Iran gets close to becoming a nuclear threshold power.

Allies and adversaries pay more attention to America s deeds than its words. The most glaring deed in this respect is Biden s withdrawal and surrender to the Taliban in Afghanistan. In that one feckless act, the world saw a superpower humbled by a gang of fundamentalists, because its last two presidents wouldn't leave a few thousand troops in a country to defend an elected government that its blood and treasure made possible.

If the US wouldn't use its military to stave off such a humiliation, would it risk a new war to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons?

The second reason Blinken's talk of every option won't work is because the administration still believes the 2015 nuclear deal thwarted Iran s nuclear ambitions.

While that deal did place strict limits on the quantity and quality of uranium Iran could enrich, most of these limits were set to expire between 2025 and 2030. More important, a library of nuclear plans stolen in 2018 by Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, disclosed the extent to which Iran had concealed military elements of its program during the negotiations with the Obama administration and five other nations.
As a result, the 2015 nuclear deal accounts for only the nuclear sites Iran had declared, and not the ones it hid for years from the international community.

So, at best, the 2015 deal is a partial and temporary constraint on Iran s nuclear program.

The good news for the US is that there is another way to constrain Iran s nuclear ambitions. In fact, it s been in effect for several years now. Israel s Mossad has waged a remarkably successful intelligence war of sabotage and assassinations against Iran s nuclear program with real success.

Some of this success is due to the Central Intelligence Agency s close coordination with the Mossad under the Trump administration. If Biden is serious about a plan B if Iran diplomacy fails, he should instruct his spies to enhance that partnership.

Food Fights

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

The proposed Kashrut reforms in Israel, if implemented, will be disastrous spiritually, financially and socially, none of which seems to concern their proponents. Its sole achievement, such as it is, will be diminishing the Chief Rabbinate into figureheads who do little more than solemnly intone tehillim at public gatherings for Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron. Oh, and they are also expected to validate each person’s version of Judaism as legitimate and acceptable. Seldom has an initiative, especially one being promoted by an observant Jew, been more likely to wreak havoc and destroy the system it purports to save.

Take the simplest issue, cost. The Ministry of Finance itself estimates that the price of kosher food will increase up to 20% if the reforms pass. The reasons are also simple enough: the Chief Rabbinate currently operates on a bare bones budget that subsidizes less than a handful of inspectors, in addition to paying on-site mashgichim who service the establishment or restaurant. Privatizing the system will halt even the modest government subsidies currently provided and those costs will be borne by the companies, who of course will pass them on to the consumer. Additionally, hundreds of additional supervisors will be needed to ensure compliance with even minimal standards – and these costs too will be passed on to the consumer.

When costs rise, consumer demand decreases. That means that demand for non-supervised and thus cheaper food will increase and that in turn will reduce the incentive that the casually observant Israeli – the ones who follow kashrut guidelines because, well, they are Jews and this is part of Judaism – will have to maintain this commitment.

Additionally, companies will divide themselves between those who are serious about kashrut and those who are in it for business reasons and will look for supervision on the cheap. The latter will seek out the lowest common denominator – the most minimal supervision with the least on-site supervision possible – and that, in turn, will invariably reduce their share of the kosher consuming market. Two consequences are thus likely: one, companies will nonetheless forced to coalesce around a handful of the more stringent supervision services, which will require more coverage and thus be more costly (again, raising prices on the consumer) or two, other companies will shed the kosher supervisors they deem to be too stringent and seek out even more lenient providers and that will completely turn off the serious kosher consumer and harm the companies even more.

This will devastate the supermarket industry in Israel. One of the joys of life in Israel is that a Jew can enter any of the major supermarket chains, all of which are closed on Shabbat, and know that every product in the store is kosher. That will end, as not all products will be deemed acceptable, and the consumer will be confronted with a variety of names of strangers whose standards are mysteries. Supermarkets will have to maintain their own mashgichim and decide which of the multitude of agencies and individuals are acceptable and which not. Keeping kosher in Israel will become more difficult. Exports of Israeli products will be harmed as the kosher consumer abroad is almost exclusively Orthodox and will not countenance a multiplicity of agencies and individuals of unknown competence and standards who are paid to give their imprimatur. It is not at all unlikely that the big four national kashrut agencies in the United States, for example, will seek to certify products here as well on a larger scale – and that too will increase the cost to the consumer here and abroad.

It will render it even more challenging to eat in people’s homes, as every product will now be suspect. Neighbors will have to assess each other’s level of commitment to ascertain whether they are still taking kashrut seriously or have just given up and accepting everything and anything because someone with a Hebrew name and a title (and earning money from it) says this product is fine, and even if the supervisor might not eat it himself. Rabbis will be asked an infinite number of questions about the reliability of these or those people, and cogent answers will not be forthcoming.

If one would wish to destroy the kashrut system in Israel and undermine the confidence of the kosher consumer in the reliability of what he or she is eating, it is hard to imagine a more efficient way of doing that than by these proposed reforms. Ironically, it is also a very effective way of increasing Haredi influence over the kashrut establishment because most kosher consumers would sooner trust a Badatz than trust some three random rabbis who are providing supervision because the merchant resented the existing guidelines under which he operated and sought more accommodating ones.

It is fascinating that these reforms are being pushed by Minister Matan Kahana, a former fighter pilot. Fighter pilots are renowned for their ability to innovate, to improvise when things go wrong, to maneuver in and out of trouble by flying up and above and sideways and twisting sharply downward in order to avert trouble. One senses that he feels here an imperative to pass these reforms, weaken the Rabbinate, and, come what may, we can always rectify what went wrong at the appropriate time.

Indeed, but sometimes, G-d forbid, the plane crashes, and the pilot is shot down, and in the best of circumstances, ejects and lands safely on the ground – which, in a political context means, having impaired one ministry and its workings, he can be assigned to another ministry in another government because politicians in Israel usually face little accountability for poor job performance or for initiatives that went completely awry. Reform is not a task for politicians but for sober minded and sincere kashrutprofessionals to determine how best to provide kosher food to the Jewish public, as reliably, efficiently and inexpensively as is feasible.

This is a disaster waiting to unfold. It is a classic example of “stage one thinking,” in which people focus only on the immediate gratification provided by a particular action (usually, the attainment of some pleasure; here, the attack on the Rabbinate) and do not contemplate the second and third stages – the long term effects of what they are doing. Such conduct is impulsive, impetuous, devoid of reason and usually the product of some uncontrollable emotion or desire.

While the opposition will reflexively vote against the budget, it is hard to conceive that observant members of the government – from the Prime Minister to other ministers to Knesset members – will facilitate tearing down one of the pillars of a Jewish state – its kashrut establishment. These reforms will make kashrut observance more difficult, more costly, and more divisive to Israeli society.

Other than that, it sounds like a great idea.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Yisrael and Yishmael

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh


Yisrael and Yishmael are the only two nations that contain G-d’s Name, as it says in Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 29):

Bilaam said: Of the seventy nations that G-d created in His world, he did not place His Name in any one of them, other than Yisrael. Since G-d equated Yishmael’s name with that of Yisrael: “Oh! Who will survive in his days,” as it says, “Oh! Who will survive when He imposes these!” (Bamidbar 24:23)

Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer states further:

Why is his name called Yishmael? Because G-d will hear the sound of the [Israel’s] groan from what Bnei Yishmael are destined to do in the Land in the end of days. Therefore, his name is called Yishmael, as it says, “Yishma E-l ve’yaanem” – “G-d will hear and answer them.” (Tehillim 55:20)

Radal (R. David Luria) explains that although the name Yishmael was given because G-d heard the voice of Hagar and the voice of the lad, nevertheless, since the name Yishmael is in the future tense, there must be two meanings, one for the past and one for the future.

Israel’s enemies are the four kingdoms: Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome. The question is, where does Yishmael fit in? After all, it is impossible to ignore this tremendous mass! The Ibn Ezra writes in Daniel (7:14), that indeed Yishmael is the fourth kingdom, whereas Greece and Rome are considered as one kingdom.

The Ramban on Parshat Balak rejects this position, and writes that the Ibn Ezra erred in this, “because their fear fell upon him.” The Maharal also explains that the criteria of the four kingdoms is not only their hatred of Israel, but also the taking away of sovereignty from Israel. They fight against G-d’s Kingdom, which is represented by Israel. On the other hand, Yishmael’s very strength is because Avraham pleaded on his behalf, “O that Yishmael may live before You” (Bereishit 17:18), and G-d granted his request, “Regarding Yishmael, I have heard you.” (17:20)

Yishmael does not come to rebel against G-d’s rule, to add another element to divinity, as Christianity does. They believe in One G-d. Therefore the four kingdoms are compared (in Daniel) to animals, whereas Yishmael, to a person. Yet, a “pereh adam” – “A wild donkey of a man.” (Bereisheet 16:12)

Rav S.R. Hirsch explains that a wild donkey refuses to accept discipline and yoke, but rather is free: “Like a wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness.” (Yirmiya 2:24) Therefore, “His hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him.” (Bereisheet 16:12)

In Hebrew (unlike English), the noun always precedes the adjective, as in “adam gadol” (great man). Thus in the phrase, “pereh adam,” the noun is “pereh” and the adjective is “adam.” The Chafetz Chaim already wrote that since the Torah is eternal, Yishmael will always be wild, and he added, “Who knows what this pereh adam is still liable to do to Israel.”

This idea is expressed in the names Yishmael and Yisrael. Yisrael indicates, “yishar E-l,” that we straighten ourselves in the direction of G-d, to walk in His ways. Yishmael is on account of the fact that G-d heard their voices; they subjugate, as if, G-d for their needs. They think that all of what they do is the Divine will; their wars are Jihad, holy wars, and all of their actions – in the name of Allah.

Not long ago, there was a convention of the Islamic clergy to discuss the question of how to explain the fact that this “infection” of the Jewish state got stuck in the middle of the large Islamic region. Their conclusion was that G-d sent Israel into the midst of the Moslem region in order to make it easier to destroy them, what Hitler was unsuccessful in because of the Jews’ great dispersion.

There are those who explain that this attitude is a form of idolatry. They worship, “the dust that is on their feet,” believing that wherever they go, G-d is with them.

Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 29) relates that Sarah saw Yishmael shooting an arrow at Yitzchak in order to kill him, and said, “The son of that slavewoman shall not inherit with my son, with Yitzchak.” (Bereisheet 21:10) Why does the issue of the inheritance trouble Sarah so much?

The sefer, Minchat Ani (by the author of the Aruch Laner) explains that Sarah that Yishmael did want Yitzchak to inherit together with him, but rather he would inherit everything.

Rav Hutner explains that for this reason Yishmael hates Israel so much, since the children of the concubines received presents from Avraham, whereas Yishmael was chased away. Moreover, all of this was after he thought that he was the only child. Therefore, his disappointment was so great, and he burned with hatred.

Why did Yishmael think that everything was his? The Netziv explains that Sarah was punished by being taken to Avimelech’s house because she laughed to herself and said, “my husband is old.” (Bereishit 18:12) There is an element of quid quo pro here. When she said, “my husband is old,” there was a lack of faith that Avraham was capable of fathering. Her punishment was that the skeptics of the time were given room to say that Yitzchak was actually not the son of Avraham, but rather of Avimelech, and that Sarah became pregnant from him. This was the meaning behind Yishmael’s mocking.

“The child grew and was weaned. Avraham made a great feast on the day Yitzchak was weaned. Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, ... mocking.” (Bereisheet 21:8-9) The Sforno writes: “He was ridiculing the feast, saying that she became pregnant from Avimelech.” “Sarah laughed in herself saying, ... and my husband is old.” (Bereisheet 18:12) Now she saw Yishmael mocking that Yitzchak is not his son.

This is the source of the Yishmaelites contention on our holding of Eretz Yisrael, since if Yitzchak is the son of the Philistine, then Eretz Yisrael belongs to the descendents of Avraham, who are the Yishmaelites.

With this we can understand Chazal’s teaching that Yishmael repented. Their source is from the pasuk, “Yitzchak and Yishmael, his sons, buried him” (Bereishit 25:9), that Yishmael allowed Yitzchak to go before him. What is the proof from this that he repented? Since Yishmael had claimed that Yitzchak was not Avraham’s son, by allowing him to go first, he acknowledged that Yitzchak is, indeed, a son following his father’s coffin.

The Zohar in Parshat Va’era teaches that Yishmael’s angel complained that he was rejected and that Yitzchak was chosen and received the inheritance of the Land, even though he, too, is circumcised. G-d answered that this was to distance Yishmael from the ultimate clinging, and He gave them a share in the Holy Land below. Thus, Yishmael is destined to rule the Land so long as it is empty, and they will prevent Bnei Yisrael from returning to their place, until the merit of the circumcision runs out.

Eretz Yisrael is the land of faith and Providence: “G-d’s eyes are upon it.” (Devarim 11:12) Only believers can dwell in it. So long as it is empty, believers like Yishmael can dwell in it, but when Israel, who are steadfast believers, arrive, their merit expires.

Therefore there is a double obligation to increase our faith in these times, to overcome Yishmael’s right to the Land.

Now we are approaching the end: “A dread! Great darkness fell upon him.” (Bereishit 15:12) “A dread...” – these allude to the four kingdoms; “upon him” alludes to Yishmael, and over them the son of David will sprout, as it says, “His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon him, his crown will sprout.” (Tehillim 132:18) R. Chaim Vital writes that all of the kingdoms wanted to convert us, and only through this came to murder, unlike Yishmael, whose goal is to eradicate Yisrael’s name from the world, and does not suffice with converting faith.

The Rambam writes in Iggeret Teiman that there was no nation worse to Israel than Yishmael, and about them David said, “Woe unto me, for I dwelled with Meshech, I dwelled with the tents of Kedar.” (Tehillim 120:5) Despite the fact that we bear their yoke without complaining, and their subjugation and their lies and falsehoods are more than we can handle, despite all this, we cannot be saved from the magnitude of their evil and recklessness. As much as we chase after peace with them, they chase us with war, as David said, “I am peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” (120:7)

People for Avraham and Angels for Lot

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l
Rosh HaYeshiva, Mercaz HaRav
Rosh Kollel, Eretz Hemdah
Chaver, Beit Din HaGadol Yerushalayim

The same beings that are described, when visiting Avraham, as anashim (people) (Bereisheet 18:2) are described, when visiting Lot, as malachim (angels) (Bereisheet 19:1). In the previous parasha, in the context of Avraham’s involvement in the war between the four kings and the five kings, the latter placed the victorious Avraham on a throne and said to him: "Rule over us; you are a god for us." Avraham responded: "Let the world not be deprived of its King" (Bereisheet Rabba 41:3).

The explanation is that these differences stem from the difference between the Jewish view of Hashem and those of other nations. We believe in the idea of imitatio dei: "Just as He is …, so too we must be that way" (Shabbat 133b). As the Torah says, "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (Vayikra 11:44).
Emulating Hashem is, on the one hand, very demanding; on the other hand, it develops in a person a feeling of great self-recognition and confidence to act. We believe that even if we have slipped, we have the ability to return to the right path, even if a person is at the opening to hell.

Other nations developed outlooks that "protected" them from overly ambitious spiritual aspirations. They did this by making, on the one hand, a great separation between man and the divine. God is very high, and man is very low. This enabled them to have an "exemption" from aspirations and an acceptance of the spiritually low level.

These nations are enamored with great men. They respect them so greatly that it is actually too much. They told Avraham: "You are a god for us." As this was their approach, it is no surprise that Avraham’s noble actions had no impact on the people of Sodom, who continued to act as Sodomites are known to do. Why should one learn from Avraham? After all, they view him as an angel, or even a deity. While we say: "Just like He is, so too we should be," they say, "What He is, we cannot be."

Avraham saw the angels, and they seemed to him like people, for this is the way people should be. Lot saw angels, and immediately he backtracked. He spent the whole night trying to explain to the angels that the people of Sodom were not that bad (see Rashi, Bereisheet 19:4). He argued that the people are not angels, and they cannot therefore be expected to be more than lowly flesh and blood, who give into their temptations.

The Path of Avraham Avinu

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El


SEEKING THE GOOD
Our forefather Avraham was a truly kind man. In this week's Torah portion, we get a glimpse of both his hospitality and his desire to judge even the wicked people of Sodom favorably - by giving them "the benefit of the doubt." In reference to the verse, "You loved righteousness and hated evil," (Tehilim 45:8) our sages explain: "You love to discover your children's positive qualities, and you hate to find them guilty."

Perhaps the plain meaning of this verse is that God desires righteous behavior and despises evil - and therefore comes down hard on evildoers. Yet the rabbis of the Talmud chosen to explain it otherwise: "You love to find the positive qualities of your children - to give the people of Sodom the benefit of the doubt - and hate to find them guilty." Why? Because they are your children, the children of the Creator of the World. In his classic work, the "Path of the Just," Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto says that the quality of "Chassidut," entails judging the Jewish people favorably. The Children of Israel are God's children, and nobody - including Hashem - wishes to hear criticism of His child.

Although our father Avraham wished to give the people of Sodom the benefit of the doubt, the moral situation in Sodom had so deteriorated that God could simply not comply by sparing the town - and so Sodom was ultimately destroyed. Soon after the destruction of the city, our sages tell us, Avraham noticed that the region was empty, that there were virtually no passersby. Avraham knew that his function in the world was to reach out to people and draw them closer to their God. For this reason, he travels to Avimelech, to Grar, to a town whose inhabitants were not exactly known for their moral genius. Far from being discouraged by the situation there, Avraham viewed it as a challenge.

CONFRONTING CHALLENGES
Avraham's behavior teaches us us that we need not fear going even to undesirable places, where the spiritual situation is not ideal - as long as we have the goal of rectifying that which needs to be fixed. There is no need to be fussy, to insist on living only in a very religious, warm neighborhood. In fact, our sages advise us to contemplate whether our deeds "reach the level of our forefathers' deeds." In practical terms, this means that one must be ready to go on educational missions to even out-of-the-way places. One whose actions are idealistically and purely motivated, need not fear the impact of a negative environment on himself or his family.

SOME FAMILY HISTORY
My mother, may she rest in peace, and her sister, grew up in Balforia, a secular town. My late grandfather moved there to take on a position as a Rabbi and shochet. There wasn't a tremendous demand there for a rabbi or a shochet, and previously, the residents had gotten along fairly well without either. Even after my grandfather arrived, locals told him that they didn't need a shochet, and that it was certainly possible to survive without one. Soon after his family settled in, though, local residents stopped eating unkosher food, and began instead placing orders for kosher meat. The reason: my grandfather was an impressive person whose dedication and sincerity commanded respect.

And what of his young children, my mother and aunt? They grew up there along with the secular youth. A veteran resident here in Beit El, Yeshai Michael, recounts what it was like. He tells of how, on Shabbat, a group of teenagers used to travel in a wagon, while the two young girls would walk alongside them in order to avoid desecrating the Sabbath. In one sense, the girls were of the same social group, because there was really no other choice; from another perspective, they were, unlike their friends, observant of Torah and mitzvot. My grandfather was unafraid! Why should he have been?

Over time, he was able to raise his daughters there past their teenage years - and, in fact, until they each got married. Thank God, the sisters built homes completely dedicated to Torah and mitzvot. My aunt married a renowned Torah scholar, who served as the Rabbi of the city of Netanya until his death. My mother too, married a young man from out of town - and together, they built a strong Jewish home.

We need not live in a sheltered, protected reality; it is possible to face the challenges posed by modern society. We have to be courageous and strong; we need not hesitate to swim against the tide. Avraham our forefather, did just that. Obviously, one should not take on such a mission before one is ready. It takes time to build yourself up, to become established, with the goal of eventually having a positive influence on others.

"IGNITING" OTHERS
Some of our students sign up for military service after their fourth year in yeshiva, and I am not always so pleased with the results. I expect that they would eventually return to the yeshiva with some young men from the army. The Chassidim are famous for saying that someone who has not successfully transformed two "Mitnagdim" (religious Jews opposed to the perspective of Chassidut) to "Chassidim," is not a true Chassid! A Chassid must be "on fire" to such an extent that he literally "ignites" everyone around him! His not doing so indicates that he lacks something.

This active approach was typical of Avraham Avinu, who, his entire life, was able to increasingly influence those around him; he was a master at encouraging people to recognize the Creator of the Universe. Avraham, for instance, became famous for encouraging his dinner guests to say Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals); Avraham loved people and thus brought them closer to Torah. When he saw that his town was almost desolate, he went to the corrupt city of Grar, in order to influence its inhabitants. Avimelech was so impressed by Avraham's character, that he sought to strike a convenant with him. Perhaps Avimelech did not accept everything Avraham had to offer, but Avimelech no doubt sensed that his counterpart was dedicated to a belief system and way of life that proved itself as being both moral and productive.

The culmination of this week's Torah portion is the Binding of Yitzchak. Avraham reaches even greater heights with his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son. Thus, just when Avraham seems to have reached a new pinnacle, he takes yet another step up, simultaneously elevating the entire world to a new spiritual height. Avraham also elevated the Jewish people throughout the generations, drawing them closer to God; Avraham also laid the groundwork for the ideal of self-sacrifice that has characterized our people over the generations.

A MODERN APPLICATION
Last fall, I participated in a gathering of the Pikuach Nefesh organization; the group met in Tel Aviv to discuss the need to maintain the territorial integrity of the Land of Israel, and to publicly oppose territorial concessions to the Arabs. Organizing the event were members of Chabad; the late Lubavitcher Rebbe stressed that any territorial concession in Eretz Yisrael is an invitation to danger, and poses a real threat to life. Pikuach Nefesh founders base themselves on the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch's laws of Sabbath; there, the halachah states that the Sabbath can be desecrated in order to help residents of a border town attacked by non-Jews, even when these invaders officially only wish to engage in minor theft. The Sabbath leniency is based on the danger to life that would arise should local residents choose to stand up to the invaders. When the organizers asked me to speak, I noted that it is also forbidden to cede land based on the verse in Devarim (7:2). There, the Torah states that we are forbidden from permanently allowing non-Jews to settle in the land.

Many rabbis have written on the prohibition of selling - during the Shmitta year - lands of Eretz Yisrael, even temporarily, to non-Jews - and even the two top meters of earth. Their reason: It is forbidden to give non-Jews a foothold in the Land of Israel. Opposition to what has become known as the "Heter Mechira" is quite strong in some circles, despite the fact that the sale only involves a layer of the land, and is only temporary in nature. If so, the government's plan to give away entire regions of the Land to the Arabs in a permanent arrangement, is an even greater violation of the Torah! I noted that danger to life was indeed another reason to oppose territorial concessions, but that since many have spoken on that issue, I need not elaborate...

The positions of the religious nationalist public are not always completely grasped in religious circles, and are even more misunderstood in secular circles - especially by the Israeli political left. Nevertheless, we must continue to speak and act in accordance with our beliefs. This is not only our right, but our obligation!

The path we have chosen is that of Avraham Avinu. He was an individual who "swam against the tide"; he was a man, who, in the course of time, was able to attract a following...He and Sarah persevered on a path that resisted popular trends, with an eye to positively influencing others.

Akeidat Yitzhak and the Story of the Jewish Nation: Birth and Sacrifice

by Rabbi Dov Berel Wein

The story of the miraculous birth of Yitzchak to his ninety-year-old mother Sarah is not only one of the highlights of the parsha but it is one of the foundation narratives of all of Jewish history. Without Yitzchak there simply isn’t a Jewish people. The birth of Yitzchak is one of the triumphal moments of Jewish life, a reflection of God’s mercy and guidance in creating His special people.

It is therefore all the more surprising – indeed shocking – that the story of Avraham sacrificing Yitzchak appears in this very same parsha. In effect, this story of the binding of Yitzchak on the altar of Mount Moriah completely negates the miraculous birth of Yitzchak.

Of what necessity or purpose is the miracle of Sarah’s giving birth to Yitzchak if the entire matter will be undone by the succeeding story of Avraham sacrificing Yitzchak? What is the point that the Torah wishes to teach us by unfolding this seemingly cruel sequence of events? Is not God, so to speak, mocking His own Divine Will and plans by this sequence of events, recorded for us in this most seminal parsha in the Torah?

Much ink has been used in dealing with this most difficult issue. It has been the subject of much commentary in Midrash and Jewish thought throughout the ages. Amongst the many mysterious and inscrutable issues that God raises for our analysis in His Torah, this contradiction between the miraculous birth of Yitzchak and the challenge of his being bound on the altar ranks high on that long list of Heaven’s behavior that requires Jews to have faith and acceptance.

But is this not the nature of things in today’s Jewish world as well? After the most negative of extraordinary events of sadistic cruelty that we call the Holocaust, miraculous positive events have occurred to the Jewish people. The old woman of Israel, beaten and worn, was revived and gave birth to a state, to a vibrant language, to myriad institutions of Torah learning and good deeds, to the miraculously successful ingathering of the exile communities to their homeland, to a scale of Jewish affluence unmatched in Jewish history.

In short, the story of the Jewish people in its resilient glory over the last seventy-five years defies rational and easily explained historical logic. And yet the danger and tension of open hostility to the State of Israel, the threats to its very existence, the attempts to delegitimize it and boycott its bounty, all are evident in our current world.

In the story of Yitzchak, the Torah teaches that we have to live in a world of almost absurd contradictions. Logic plays a very small role in the events of history that occur to the people of Yitzchak. Yitzchak is a product of miracles and his very maturation and survival is also a product of supernatural stuff. So too is this the story of the Jewish people in our age. Just as Yitzchak survived and proved successful, so too shall we, his progeny, survive and be successful and triumphant.

The Heter Mechira Today

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha


Today’s economic reality is far better than at the start of settlement in the Land of Israel and is not considered a state of ‘sha’at dachak’ (time of urgency), but the unfortunate fact that the majority of the public is not observant requires us to still use the heter mechira * The individual farmer is unable to compete with growers who do not keep shmitta, therefore for him, it is a sha’at dachak * How the general public of farmers and consumers feel about the sanctity of shmitta can also be defined as a sha’at dachak * In the long-term, the State of Israel must plan an outline in which the entire public is able to observe shmitta without falling into financial distress

Two weeks ago, I explained the halachic foundations of the heter mechira (the sale of Israeli farmland to a non-Jew to avoid the prohibition of working the land in Israel during the Sabbatical [shmitta] year), according to which farmers are permitted in the shmitta year to continue to grow produce, legumes, vegetables and fruits. The primary feature of the heter is based on the fact that while the field is sold to a non-Jew, in the opinion of the majority of poskim (Jewish law arbitrators), there is no obligation of the mitzvot hat’luoyt ba’aretz (Eretz Yisrael-dependent mitzvot), and therefore the laws of shmitta do not apply to it. Although there are machmirim (poskim who rule stringently) who believe that even when a field is sold to a non-Jew the obligation remains, such as Mabit and others, since in the opinion of the majority of poskim, shmitta at this time is d’rabanan (rabbinic), the halakha goes according to the mekelim (lenient poskim).

This, in addition to the fact that in the opinion of some of the Gedolei Rishonim, for two reasons, there is currently no chova (Torah obligation) to keep shmitta at all, and in their opinion, there is also no need at all for a heter mechira. 1) Some poskim say that since the annulment of the Sanhedrin which sanctifies months and the determines Jewish leap years, the obligation of shmitta is canceled even rabbinically, and only because of middat chassidut (a pious/meritorious act), when possible, is shmitta observed (ReZaH, Raavad). 2) The Rishonim differed on the date of the shmitta year. We follow the opinion of the majority of poskim that shmitta is this year, 5782, but according to Rashi and Rosh, shmitta was last year, 5781, and according to Raavad, it should have been in 5779. After taking into consideration all these views, the heter mechira has well-established basis, far beyond the various heterim (halachic permits) used by observant Jews in different situations.

Nevertheless, there are still those who ask: ideally, shmitta should be kept, and the heter mechira is used only in a situation of a sha’at dachak (time of urgency). Are we still in a sha’at dachak today? After all, by the grace of God, our situation today is immeasurably better than the first days of settlement of Eretz Yisrael. The State of Israel is already considered a rich and developed country. Thanks to scientific developments and new machines, today, a small number of people produce a tremendous amount of crops. From a situation where the majority of people made a living from agriculture, we have reached a situation where only about one and a half percent of the population earn a living from farming. The economic importance of agriculture has also declined, and now stands at only about two percent of the national production. In light of all this, is there still room to use the heter?

A: Indeed, we have made great progress on the economic side, but on the other hand, the unfortunate fact that the majority of the public does not keep the commandments appropriately, greatly affects our situation. We will examine the issue from three sides: 1) the individual farmer. 2) The responsibility for the public kashrut system. 3) The State as a whole.

For the Individual Farmer it Clearly is a Time of Urgency
The individual farmer who wishes to keep shmitta, has to compete with farmers who do not. Since the cost of a farmer’s infrastructure is very high today, to cover these costs in six years compared to the seven years of his competitors, he would have to raise the prices of his produce during the six years. In addition, he needs to support himself and his family and save for retirement in six years, while his competitors do so in seven years. If he wishes to exist at an acceptable standard of livging during the six years, he would have to his raise prices; however, if his prices are high, buyers will prefer his competitors. If he sells at their prices, his investments and labor may no longer pay off. The clearest measure of this is asking the farmers themselve, what they would do if they had to stop working in the shmitta year. Today, the majority of them feel that, having no other choice, they would be forced to change professions. This being the case, it is clear that their personal situation is halachically considered a sha’at dachak, and they are permitted to use the heter mechira.

In other words, farmer’s standards of living today, are not measured compared to their standard one hundred and thirty years ago when the heter was established. Rather, it is compared to today’s accepted standard of living. If farmers today reach a state of urgency that would force them to look for another job, it is a clear sign that they are considered to be in a state of sha’at dachak, and it is fitting for them, le’chatchila(from the outset), to use the heter. They should not be criticized, rather, praised for their devotion to the land and growing the holy fruits of Eretz Yisrael, thus fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (the Torah commandment to settle the Land of Israel) which is equal in weight to all the mitzvot. Nevertheless, someone who has the ability to stop working in the shmitta year – ‘kodesh ye’a’mare lo’ (he is called holy), and we should encourage him to do so, and even act to allocate state funds for farmers who stop working in the shmitta year.

The Responsibility for the Entire Kashrut System
Since the majority of farmers are masoratim (traditional) or chilonim (secular), there is no chance they will comply with the demand to stop working completely in the shmitta year. However, because the vast majority of them respect tradition, if they were offered to sell the fields in order to expropriate the obligation of shmitta, they would do so willingly. Consequently, it is a sha’at dachak, and the rabbis should encourage them to sell their fields in the shmitta year, in order to save them from transgression.

In addition, if they do not sell the fields, the fruits they grow will be holy with kedusha of Shivi’it, be distributed throughout the country, and in the interim, the traditional and secular public will transgress the prohibition of engaging in commerce of such fruits, and in neglect of their holiness. Sometimes, observant Jews will also inadvertently falter in theses transgressions. Once more, this is considered a sha’at dachak, because in the present situation of Israel’s society, where those meticulous in observance of mitzvot are a minority, it is impossible to prevent the distribution of the fruits with kedushat Shivi’it, and therefore, it is fitting for rabbis to perform the mechira and expropriate kedushat Shivi’it from the fruits grown, lest the general public misuse them.

Moreover, if in the shmitta year kedushat Shivi’it fruits are distributed without supervision and in contradiction of halakha, the national kashrut system is liable to be breached for all seven years.
The Significance for the State Budget

Although the percentage of agriculture in Israel’s total national product is only about two percent, since we are talking about an entire country, these are huge sums. In other words, if the state wants to finance stopping agricultural work in the shmitta year, it would have to invest about ten billion shekels – in part, to compensate the farmers, and also to cover the state’s coffers’ deficit, resulting from the loss of farmers taxes. Such a cut in the state budget is likened to a sha’at dachak.

True, in difficult years, the State of Israel is forced to make such budget cuts, and even larger ones. Nevertheless, these cuts are painful and difficult, and spread across all government ministries, including areas in which the cuts border on life-saving circumstances. For example: postponing the expansion of hospitals for the reception of patients; postponing the construction of additional operating rooms; delaying the construction of roads; delaying the acquisition of sophisticated weapons, and postponing the establishment of additional police units to deal with crime. The cuts may also require a reduction in benefits for children, the poor, and the elderly, or at the very least, delay planned increases in these budgets. The budget cuts would also harm the education system, including cuts of at least hundreds of millions of shekels in the budget for yeshivas.

The Burden Will Fall Mainly on the Religious and Haredi Public
Furthermore, in the population’s current composition, chances are most of the burden of the cuts will fall on issues important to the religious and haredi public. In other words, mainly at the expense of yeshiva budgets and the religious and haredi education systems. Because, presumably, if the representatives of the religious and haredi public demand that the state fund shmitta, the representatives of the secular and traditional public will demand that most of the cuts be in areas concerning the religious and haredi public. In such a situation, the prominent rabbis would most likely decide it would be better not to swing the sword of cuts and harm numerous undertakings which are all Torah mitzvot, in order to enhance the observance of a mitzvah whose validity today is rabbinic or middat chassidut, and can be preempted by the heter mechira.

The Path to Shmitta Observance
In the long-term, however, the State of Israel’s good economic situation allows us to plan a path to full observance of shmitta, provided it is done gradually with the cooperation of all parts of society. For indeed, in the state budget there are many clauses which do not border on pikuach nefesh, and are intended for the conservation of a decent social life according to the will of the public and its representatives. Seeing as they entered the budget book gradually and in times of prosperity, an effort is made to maintain them even in difficult times. And just as even in difficult times there are almost no cuts in formerly agreed salaries of civil servants and teachers, similarly, stopping work in the shmitta year will be be a benefit Israeli farmers are entitled to, and even in difficult times, will not be harmed.

Already in previous shmittas, certain steps were taken in this direction, and we must strive to strengthen them, and thus, Israeli farmers will attain the blessing of ceasing work in the shmitta year, without their economic status being harmed as a result.

Those Who Boycott Fruits of the Heter Mechira
Some argue that it is forbidden to eat fruit grown within the framework of the heter mechira, however their words run contrary to the rules of halakha, and are based on the sin of humiliating Talmidei Chachamim of the most severe degree. For even when the fruits are grown and tended to in outright prohibitions, in the opinion of the majority of poskim, they may be eaten. And although some poskim disagree and forbid the fruits to be eaten, since the opinion of the majority of poskim is to rule leniently, and additionally, shmittaat this time is rabbinic, halakha goes according to the mekelim (Peninei Halakha: Shivi’it 3:8). Consequently, the machmirim rule contrary to the rules of halakha. Kal ve’chomer (all the more so) when the farmers are not working in a prohibited way, rather, according to the halachic ruling of prominent rabbis, and therefore, there is no reason at all to claim that the fruits are forbidden.

Furthermore, so as to consider the opinions of individual poskim in a mitzvah d’rabanan, these machmirim cancel two great mitzvot from the Torah: 1) the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel), for by means of the heter mechira, we strengthen the settlement of the Land, which is a mitzvah from the Torah equal in weight to all the mitzvot. 2) It is a mitzvah from the Torah to prefer to buy from our Jewish brother, as the Torah says: “Thus, when you buy or sell to your neighbor [ami’techa]” (Leviticus, 25:14), and from this, our Sages learned that when it is possible to buy from our Jewish brother or from a non-Jew, it is a mitzvah to prefer our Jewish brother.

What Fruits are the Most Mehudar to Eat
In conclusion: the fruits of the heter mechira are the most mehudar (highest level) to eat in the shmitta year, since the heter is well-established, and by eating them, one contributes to the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, and strengthens our fellow farmers. (Regarding the fruits of Otzar Beit Din, see “Peninei Halakha: Shivi’it”, Chapter 8, whose cultivation involves halakhic problems of melachot (agricultural types of work) and sechora (commerce) that are forbidden in the opinion of many poskim, and therefore, the fruits of the heter mechira are preferable. Nevertheless, I wrote (ibid 9:3) that fruits grown in the framework of Otzar Beit Dinmay be eaten, and since Otzar Beit Din’s intention is le’Shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven), there is room to strengthen them, provided they are not more expensive than the price of ordinary fruit, for then one enters into the question of the prohibition of sechora).

Sovereign or Satellite?

by Victor Rosenthal

The Biden Administration has made it clear that it intends to reopen its consulate in eastern Jerusalem. The consulate, which in the past served as the unofficial US Embassy to the Palestinian Authority (PA), was closed by President Trump when the embassy to Israel was moved to Jerusalem.

The main function of a consulate is to provide services to residents of the country in which it is located and to citizens of the home country, such as issuing visas, renewing passports, and so on. An embassy, on the other hand, is the official representation of one country to another, contains the office of the ambassador, and is responsible for negotiations between countries (here is a comparison between a consulate and an embassy).

In all but exceptional cases, embassies are located in the capital of a country, and constitute recognition of the capital’s status by the home country. This, of course, is why Trump’s moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv was such a big deal: it was the concrete manifestation of the 1995 decision by the US Congress to recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel.

It is customary to provide consular services in the host country’s capital at the embassy. Consulates are established in other places for convenience. For example, Israel’s embassy to the US is in Washington, but she has consulates in nine other cities. As far as I know, no country in the world has a separate consulate in addition to its embassy in the capital of another country. When the American Embassy was located in Tel Aviv, it was reasonable for there to be a consulate in Jerusalem to provide services in the area; and it also served unofficially as a conduit to the PA. But when the US embassy moved to Jerusalem, there was no justification for a consulate there as well, and so it was closed.

Both PM Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have publicly expressed their strong opposition to the reopening of the consulate, and say that they made it clear to American officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Opening a diplomatic mission to the PA in Jerusalem sends a message that the administration views Jerusalem as the PA “capital.” And this interpretation is shared by the PA, as Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch notes:

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh stated that the move is “important” for Palestinians because “the message from this [Biden] administration is that Jerusalem is not one [united Israeli] city and that the American administration does not recognize the annexation of Arab Jerusalem by the Israeli side. We want the American Consulate to constitute the seed of a US embassy in the State of Palestine.” [Facebook page, PA PM Muhammad Shtayyeh, Sept. 14, 2021]

Knesset Member and former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat noted that “[t]here is no other capital where America has a consulate and embassy serving two nations. It would be tantamount to dividing Jerusalem.” In opposition, the Biden Administration wants to promote a version of the “two-state solution” in which Jerusalem would be divided, with the eastern part becoming the capital of “Palestine.”

The official Israeli position is that Jerusalem is only the capital of Israel and no other state, and must not be re-divided, as it was prior to 1967. If the US wants an embassy to the PA, it should be in Ramallah, where the PA has its seat.

The rules that govern the establishment of consulates and their functions are found in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which almost every country in the world is a party, and which constitutes binding international law. Article 4 states that the consent of the host country is required for the establishment of a consulate, or any change in its location or status. A unilateral act to reopen the consulate would therefore be a breach of international law.

It would also arguably violate American law. The Jerusalem Embassy act of 1995 – which was finally implemented in 2018 by President Trump after decades of inaction by three US presidents – states that it is US policy that “… Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected [and] Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel…”

There is a report in Israeli media that Foreign Minister Lapid – although he categorically denies it – promised American Secretary of State Blinken that the US could reopen the consulate. He supposedly received a promise in return that the US would wait until after the somewhat shaky Israeli government had passed its budget. There is a law that a government must pass a budget by 4 November, or it will be automatically dissolved, so its members want to avoid anything potentially destabilizing until then. The report also says that the Americans were “surprised” and “disappointed” when officials representing PM Bennett told them that the government was opposed to the reopening at any time. Blinken indicated that he intended to move forward with the plan.

Public opinion in Israel is strongly opposed to allowing it to happen. I am relatively sure that if the government announced that it had given permission to the US to establish an “Embassy to Palestine” in our capital, that would be the end of that government, before or after the passage of the budget. New elections would shortly follow. But on the other hand, I doubt that the Biden Administration is prepared to blatantly violate international law by doing it in the face of Israeli refusal to grant permission.

So what I expect to happen is that the US will ratchet up pressure on Lapid and Bennett. If they give in, they will try to suggest that it was a unilateral American decision; the Americans will say as little as possible, in order not to embarrass their puppets in Jerusalem. But if Lapid and Bennett continue to stand firm, and both publicly and privately insist that they will not allow this to happen, then I think the Americans will back down, or at least put the idea on the back burner and hope for a more compliant Israeli government the next time.

Sovereign or satellite? We’ll find out in the next month or so.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Jewish Victory, from Start to Finish

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir


Two world wars are mentioned in the Bible. One occurred during Avraham’s day, between the four kings and the five. That was a war between two coalitions of evildoers. On the one side were a number of kings including Amrafel, a.k.a. Nimrod, who had rebelled against G-d. On the other side was Bera King of Sodom, who, like his name, was evil [ra] to G-d and evil to man (Rashi on Bereisheet 14:2).

The other world war will occur in the end of days, that of Gog and Magog. At first, the nations of the world will fight against one another: “Every man’s sword shall be against his brother” (Yechezkeil 38:20); “On that day, a great panic from the L-rd shall be among them, and each of them will lay hold on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbor” (Zechariah 14:13; Rashi, Malbim).

With both of these world wars, the Jewish People ultimately achieve a resounding victory.

In the first of the two, Avraham defeats Chedorlaomer and the kings with him, and as he returns from the war, the King of Sodom and MalkiTzedek, King of Shalem go forth to Emek Shaveh, the valley of the king, and they bless Abraham (Bereisheet 14:17). Rashi explains why it is called “Emek Shaveh” [lit., “level valley”]. It is because all the nations were rendered equal [hushvu] there and they crowned Abraham over them as a prince of G-d. They treated him with royal honors and appointed him leader of the nations. They did this not just due to his wisdom and reliability, but because they saw with their own eyes his military might and fortitude.

As noted above, during the other Biblical world war, that of Gog and Magog, described by both Yechezkeil (38-39) and Zechariah (14), the nations of the world will fight one another. In the first stage, the conflict will be betweenYishmael and Edom (Malbim and other sources), and in the second stage, they will all fight against Israel with the intention of conquering Jerusalem. Even so, they will suffer a terrible defeat, and Israel will enjoy an enormous victory:

“Jerusalem shall dwell in security…. The L-rd shall be King over all the earth. On that day, the L-rd shall be one and His name One…. It shall come to pass that everyone that is left of all the nations who came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the L-rd of hosts, and to keep the festival of booths” (Zechariah 14:11,9,16); “Then I will magnify and sanctify Myself, and I will make Myself known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the L-rd” (Yechezkeil 38:23).

As is known, in the Kaddish recited by Jews for thousands of years, with the words, “May G-d’s great name be magnified and sanctified,” we have to have in mind also Israel’s being victorious against its enemies, for through this G-d’s name is magnified and sanctified in the world.

Today there are war clouds over the earth. It is a war between Islam, on the one hand, and the western world, under the aegis of the United States, on the other. In the background is the Jewish People, rising to rebirth in the State of Israel. Our ancestors’ deed presage our own. In the first war of history, the nations appointed Avraham to be their president and leader, and gave him the honor of kings. So too in the final war, the war of Gog and Magog, only a resounding victory by Israel over its enemies seeking to banish it from its land and to conquer Jerusalem, like today, will cause the nations of the world to treat Israel with respect:

“All the inhabitants of the world will realize…. That the kingdom is Yours, and to all eternity You will reign in glory…. The L-rd shall be King over the all the earth. On that day [the day of victory], the L-rd shall be One and His name One” (Aleinu prayer).

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Lech Lecha: Leaving Terach

Rav Kook's Igrot Hare’aya: Starting a New Yeshiva in Yafo

#59 – part II

Date and Place: 17 Shevat 5667 (1907), Yafo

Recipient: Rabbi Yosef Rabi, Rav Kook’s brother-in-law. As the letter indicates, he was living in poverty in chutz la’aretz and was interested in moving to Eretz Yisrael if he could find an appropriate position.

Body: [Last time we saw Rav Kook’s interest in starting a high-level yeshiva in Yafo that integrated some modern elements, but that in the meantime the basic job of religious education was being fulfilled by the simple, G-d-fearing education provided by the Sha’arei Torah religious elementary school.]

The question is how to establish the new yeshiva. The financial situation at Sha’arei Torah is difficult, and there is not an amount of money we can reach and know that it will suffice for it. Therefore, if we add more meshulachim (fundraisers in the Diaspora), everything will go into the old account, and from where will we take money for new expenses (apparently, Rav Kook saw it as natural that the new yeshiva would grow out of the existing one)? After all, the institution, like all institutions in the Holy Land, is dealing with great debt, and if and when there is an influx of income, the directors want to first lighten the burden of debt. They always come with claims that are correct from a financial perspective. This is how I understand the situation before having tried to take real steps forward.

However, there is one remedy to the situation – to stipulate from the outset that the money that the new meshulachim will bring in will not be given to the people in charge of the old accounts, and their expenses will be the responsibility of the yeshiva in formation. This will create for us a new financial burden, as Sha’arei Torah’s directors will not want to give from the account of the school for the formation of something new. Only Hashem knows if we will succeed, with the help of meshulachim, to increase the income to the point that we can support a significant group of yeshiva students. Even if it starts with only ten high-quality students, it will still cost close to 100 rubles a month, and the salary of the instructor will be at least 40 rubles a month. We have to think, because even if we put in a lot of effort, we are likely to fall short of such a budget.

Therefore, I do not see any alternative other than patience and to wait in the meantime. If you know of candidates for proper meshulachim, please tell me their names, give information about them, and identify where they could work, in places that our existing meshulachim have not yet made it to. We would have to wait several months from the beginning of their work, and when we would see that we have what to depend on, then we could, with Hashem’s help, start to work on forming the yeshiva. That would entail assembling a certain group of worthy students, who would have to be of a significantly higher level than those children who are already learning gemara with Rashi and Tosafot with a prominent teacher, who teaches the basics with sharpness. Even those students are on an average level, and we will not be able to give them the distinguished stature of “yeshiva students.” (Remember that in those times, the established yeshivot – Rav Kook had learned in Volozhin – were elite institutions for the most capable students.) I very much hope that if we succeed in getting this project going, it will develop nicely.

Next time we will conclude our translation of the letter.