Friday, September 22, 2023

Igrot Hare’aya – Letters of Rav Kook: A Request for Turkish Protection


Date and Place: 12 Cheshvan 5669 (1908), Yafo

Recipient: The Council (presumably of the city or region that includes Yafo) of the Young Turks. The Young Turks were a nationalistic party that overthrew the Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II.

Body: My distinguished masters, who are important in my eyes and the eyes of everyone who has a straight heart, as is your respected goal and work to bring new life to the Ottoman Kingdom for the success of everyone who lives in their lands, so that they can live lives of tranquility, security, and honor. This increases the value of your ethical standing, which is of the highest order, in the eyes of G-d, who made man, and in the eyes of the entire civilized world. The value of your honor, which sparkles in the aura of the crown of the head of your council, may G-d bless you, moves me to point out to you, distinguished men, a few things, which I hope will suffice according to your lofty wisdom of the heart and the rectitude of your distinguished souls.

A sad and terrifying event happened in our city, in the house of one of the honest and quiet citizens, Mr. Slotzkin, who was attacked by robbers, armed with deadly weapons, who shot from their rifles with the intention to kill. They wounded Mr. Slotzkin, a very old and distinguished man, and his daughter. Only with the mercy of G-d, Who put fright into the hearts of the robbers, were all the members of the household able to escape death at the hands of the evil robbers. This murderous act, which took place on a quiet night, with some degree of light, has caused fear for all of us. We are concerned about the upcoming long, dark winter nights, which are sometimes accompanied by strong rain, thunder and lightning storms, during which a homeowner’s screams will not be heard. G-d knows how many horrible things such robbers can do, if we do not come up with a good plan that will make them fear justice. This can include interrogation of suspects with clear proofs and to put in place, with the power of the proper government, a reliable security force of brave and trustworthy personnel.

I am sure that the security of the life and property of all of the members of the fortunate kingdom, in general, and the citizens of our city, specifically, is in your hearts, which are pure, along with your minds, which are full of honesty. Therefore, I hope that you will not delay in taking care of this important matter, which requires immediate diligence, and thereby see to it to do the good action of quieting things down for the people of our city, in general, and the inhabitants of the suburb of Neve Shalom (the beginnings of Tel Aviv) specifically. They are trembling in fear because of what happened to them. We need them to return to safety with great grace, which will come from your spirit of wisdom and bravery.

I sign off with hope for the best and with great feelings of deep and powerful respect.

Yom Kippur - The Day of Reconciliation

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

“Let the nations praise His people, for He will avenge His servants’ blood. He will bring vengeance upon His foes, and reconcile His people and land” (Devarim 32:43).

Rashi comments on the first part, ‘Let the nations praise His People’ - “Times will come when the nations praise Israel for having clung to G-d and having not left Him despite all the suffering they underwent. Quite the contrary, they recognized G-d’s goodness and praiseworthiness even when they were in the darkness of exile.”

Regarding the last part of this verse, ‘He will reconcile His people and land’, Rashi comments - “G-d will propitiate His land and His people over the troubles that befell them and the things their enemies did to them. And what is G-d’s ‘Land’? His people, the Jewish People. When His people are comforted, His land is comforted.”

Today, we are privileged to be living in Eretz Yisrael at a time when millions of Jews are gathering here from all over the world, and the State of Israel is developing in gigantic strides. All of these are a tangible expression of G-d’s being reconciled to the People and Land of Israel, which are one. As Rav Kook said (Orot 9), “Eretz Yisrael is an independent unit bound by living ties to the nation.”

During these times, days of repentance and reconciliation, and especially on Yom Kippur, the day of reconciliation between man and G-d and between man and man, we must recognize G-d’s goodness and kindness to us. By doing so, we will merit to renew our days as of old, and through us will be fulfilled the words of the prophet, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you” (Yechezkeil 36:25).

Shabbat Shalom,

G'mar Chatima Tova,
Looking forward to salvation,
With the Love of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

Yeshivat Machon Meir- Ha'azinu Hashem's Last Communication to Moshe (video)

The Yishai Fleisher Israel Podcast: Golda, Jonah, and Holy Hiking

SEASON 2023 EPISODE 37: Yishai and Malkah Fleisher discuss the "Golda" movie and prepare for the solemn repentance day of Yom Kippur. Susannah Schild goes "From Southerner to Settler" and helps us hike the Holy Land. Also, Rabbi Shimshon Nadel on the Book of Jonah, and Ben Bresky on the miracle of the Abraham Avinu Synagogue.

We can always go back and become the people we are meant to be

by Rav Binny Freedman

The thundering sounds of artillery fire echoed through the valleys beneath the Golan Heights and across the Sea of Galilee. All across the Northern border with Syria, civilians were huddled in their bunkers and bomb shelters, wondering when this latest round of violence would abate.

On the face of it, this was nothing new; for nineteen years the Israeli citizens of the north had endured an almost daily barrage of shellfire from the Syrian guns perched in the Heights above. In fact, an average of one thousand shells a day fell on the Kibbutzim, towns, and villages within range of the Golan, when the Syrian army had control of the Heights.

But this time it was different. It was June of 1967, and Israel had finally decided enough was enough.

For five weeks, Israel, in response to the Arab armies massed on her borders, had mobilized her reserves, and the economy had ground to a halt; it was a situation Israel could not hope to maintain.

For months now, the radio waves all across the Arab Middle East had been filled with calls for Israel’s destruction, and Egypt’s President Nasser vowed daily that the Arab armies would finally push Israel into the Sea; the entire country was waiting for war.

And so, on June 6, 1967, the six-day war finally began, with Israel’s lightning strike against the Egyptian air force. Catching over eighty percent of the Egyptian air force on the ground, the war was practically won in the first few hours of fighting, as Israel took uncontested control of the skies.

On the third day of the war, a delegation of citizens from the North came to see the Israeli Prime minister, Levi Eshkol. They demanded a solution once and for all, to the constant, unprovoked Syrian artillery barrages stemming almost daily from atop the Golan Heights. Things had gotten so bad, parents didn’t even bother putting children to sleep in their own beds, preferring to tuck them into beds in the bomb shelters, rather than wake them up in the middle of the night when the sirens went off.

Farmers went to the fields in armored tractors, and the fishermen on the lake plowed the waters in armored boats.

Which was why this time the artillery howling down off the Golan was different; it was no longer unprovoked. The Israelis had done the unthinkable; they had decided to take the Golan Heights. Gambling that the Syrians would never expect a surprise attack on such strategically superior positions, the Israelis were climbing the hills in an attempt to remove, once and for all, the Syrian guns terrorizing the citizens of the North.

The battle was not just about a piece of real estate; at stake was Israel’s right to live in peace, and her responsibility to protect her citizens from aggression. Finally, after nineteen years of unremitting terror, Israel had an opportunity to set the north free; there might never be a second chance.

In the northern thrust, the elite Golani brigade was in trouble. Apparently, aerial reconnaissance photos, which had been misinterpreted as pathways across the mountain terraces capable of supporting tanks, proved to be an illusion. The lines were really the marks separating the terraces up the side of the mountain, and were completely impassable to armor, so the infantry found themselves all alone.

Everything came to a head on the slopes beneath the Syrian fortifications at Tel Facher.

The Syrians had spent an inordinate amount of time building this defensive position, as it was clear that this was the gateway to the entire Golan Heights.

The Israelis, caught in an impossibly exposed position, with no armor support, and with quarters too close for real artillery and air support, were being forced into almost single file up the mountain path, as they encountered intense defensive positions including mines and barbed wire.

Tel Facher was dangerously close to becoming the turning point of the war, and the advance up the mountain ground to a halt.

The Syrian artillery was now concentrating on a single three-foot wide stretch of dirt where the Israelis were stuck on the barbed wire, within range of the Syrian machine-gun nests above. The boys from Golani were being cut to pieces.

Enter one David Shirazi. Not even a sergeant, he had already been wounded in the fighting but refused to let the platoon medic evacuate him, insisting on staying with his unit moving their way up the hill. He had spent the better part of three years with these men, and they were more than just members of his unit; they were his brothers.

They say he looked up that hill, and knew there was no way he would make it to the top; the climb was too steep, his wounds were too great, and the merciless hammering of the artillery and machine gun fire meant there was nowhere to go.

The rows of barbed wire, normally such a simple obstacle, were, because of the terrain, proving to be the undoing of the entire Golani brigade. The narrow approach meant only one man at a time could approach the wire, which gave the Syrian machine gunners more than enough time to cut the Israelis apart, one by one.

There is a powerful teaching in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the fathers):

“Be’makom She’Ein Ish, Hishtadel Le’hiyot Ish.”
“In a place where there is no man, try to be that man.”

Someone had to do something, and in that place at that moment, with the Golan and the entire seventh brigade hanging in the balance, Shirazzi was that man.

Shouting out one word, “Alai” (“On me”) over and over again, he leapt forward and threw himself on top of the barbed wire transforming himself into a human bridge over which the men could run across and storm the Syrian positions. With tears in their eyes as they trampled over his body, the men of Golani took heart from Shirazi’s example, and reclaimed the Golan Heights.

Only three men eventually reached the top of Tel Facher, but it was enough. On June 12, 1967, the Syrian guns on the Golan Heights finally went silent. Two thousand years after the Roman legions had exiled them, the Jewish people had finally come home to the ancient mountaintops of the Bashan.

One wonders what gives a man the strength to pursue something he knows he will not finish. David Shirazzi, who is memorialized for eternity in the Golani museum at Tsomet Golani, had no illusions that he would ever reach the top of the Golan, yet he kept moving up that hill to get as far as he could, clinging to the belief that he could still make a difference.

This Shabbat, as we do every year on the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we will read the portion of Ha’azinu. The song of Ha’azinu is actually Moshe’s swan song. And while Moshe shares Judaism’s vision of the future with the second generation ready to enter at long last the land of Israel, Moshe himself will not be going with them.

Having appointed Joshua (at G-d’s command) as his successor, Moshe is getting ready to say goodbye.

It is not an accident that this song is always read on Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat preceding Yom Kippur, whose theme is the challenge of ‘return’: the opportunity to go back and become the ‘me’ I always meant to be.

The song of Ha’azinu as well, has as its theme the idea that as a people, no matter what mistakes we make, we can always go back and become the people we are meant to be.

One wonders what gave Moshe, perhaps the most tragic figure in the bible, the strength to go on, knowing he would never get to finish what he had started.

Even more challenging is the fact that next week we will read the Torah’s last portion (Ve’zot HaBeracha), and the Torah will end before the Jewish people even enter the land of Israel.

The Torah speaks so often of “Ki Tavo’u El Ha’Aretz”, “When you will come to the land”, and seems to have as its goal the return of the nation Israel to its homeland, which it had left as the family of Yaakov nearly three hundred years earlier. So why does it end now? Why isn’t the book of Joshua, which sees the Jewish people cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Israel, included in the Torah?

How can we spend so much time preparing for the realization of the dream to be a nation in our own land, and then stop short of seeing it come true?

In truth, Jewish tradition is replete with instances of individuals who do not see their dreams through to fruition, as well as tasks begun but not completed.

Joshua, Moshe’s successor, is given the mission of both conquering the land of Israel (whose borders are defined not by committee but by G-d,) and dividing the land amongst the tribes. But most of the land is neither conquered nor apportioned in his lifetime. In fact, some portions of the land of Israel as defined in the Bible were never conquered!

The Jewish people, prior to entering the land are given the mission of building a Mikdash, a permanent edifice as G-d’s sanctuary, something that does not happen for nearly four hundred years, and King David himself, who dreamed of building this Temple, does not live to see it happen, just as Abraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov do not live to see the birth of the nation of Israel.

And this pattern continues, as with Eliahu (Elijah) the prophet, whose mission to reform the nation of Israel and rid her of idolatry is not only never realized, but may well be described as an abysmal failure, at least within the context of the plain text.

All of which must challenge us to consider the very nature of setting goals in the first place. What does it mean to set goals?

We find ourselves at the beginning of a new Jewish year, with the power of resolutions, goals, and objectives very much on our minds. It has become an accepted truism in our society, that in order to accomplish things one needs to set goals and objectives. But what is the nature of these goals? How does one arrive at goals that are realistic, and is there a system for ensuring that such goals are achieved? And, of course, if one cannot or does not achieve some or all of those goals, does that necessarily imply failure?

There is a fascinating statement in Ethics of the fathers (Avot 2:21) that may shed light on this topic:

“Lo Alecha HaMelacha Ligmor, Velo’ Atah ben Chorin Le’Hibatel Mimenah’”
“It is neither incumbent upon you to finish the task, nor are you free to desist from it.”

Apparently, the Mishnah is suggesting here, that while I cannot ignore projects, challenges, perhaps even mitzvoth that come my way, I am not responsible at all to see such items through to their satisfactory completion.

Which begs the question: why not? Why am I not responsible to complete any and every project that comes my way, especially once I have taken on such responsibilities?

Indeed, what value is there to the enterprise if there is no obligation to attain the goals that have been set?

Perhaps the issue at stake here is not whether we complete our goals and tasks, but rather how we achieve them.

The idea that I can complete something, anything, on my own, stems from the illusion that in this world we are ever really alone.

Imagine setting the goal of climbing Mount Everest this year. Could such a goal ever really be yours to complete alone? So much thought, effort and work goes into the planning for such an expedition. And so many different people have to commit to do so many different things, to see such a project through to its natural conclusion. In fact, perhaps this Mishnah (teaching) in Ethics of the Fathers is suggesting just how valuable a habit it would be to recognize this truth in everything we do.

And of course, when this idea begins to permeate my thought consciousness on a constant basis, it changes the way I look at the world, and everything and everyone in it.

Anyone who has ever built a company will agree, that any successful business venture depends on teamwork. The attitude that the company is ‘mine’ is not just unhealthy, it also isn’t true. And the best way to inspire the people who work with you, is to do away with the illusion that they work for you. The successful surgeon recognizes that all alone in an operating room, he could never be all that he was meant to be. It is only with the nurses and interns, the anesthesiologists and technicians upon whom he or she absolutely depends, that the operation can be a complete success. And however skilled his or her hands are, they too, are in the end, a gift from the ultimate One upon whom we all depend; the only true One.

What an incredible world this could be, if only we could all inculcate this idea. The absurdity of war would be akin to my hand fighting with my foot as to who is really in charge. In the end, if my hands and feet were fighting with each other, I would never be able to get out the door, much less get anything done.

Perhaps this is at the root of the way in which the Torah ends.

When one man accomplishes so much, it is easy to forget how much he still needs to be perceived as part of the team. Moshe, of all the individuals that ever walked the earth, reached a level, according to Jewish tradition, that most people never come close to even comprehending. Moshe somehow achieves the ultimate ‘I-Thou’ relationship, speaking to G-d face to face, whatever that means. And when you get that high, it is easy to forget that you don’t get there on your own.

So the Torah ends before we get into the land of Israel, making the point that for all his greatness, he didn’t do it all; he merely set the stage. Moshe gets the Jewish people out of Egypt, and through forty years in the desert with all the challenges that entails. But in the end, even he can’t do it all, he has simply prepared the way for Joshua to bring the Jewish people home. Moshe alone, without Joshua, would be teaching Torah to a Jewish people still languishing in the desert. The book of Yehoshua, coming as it does after the five books of Moses are completed, sends a powerful message that we are always part of a larger picture.

And in the beginning of this week’s portion, Ha’azinu, we see this idea very clearly.

“Ha’azinu Hashamayim Va’adabera, Ve’Tishma Ha’Aretz Imrei Phi.”

“Hearken heavens, and I will speak, and let the land hear the words of my mouth.”(Devarim 32:1)

The heavens and the earth are a balance, between all that we can do here on earth, and the fact that we on earth, are ultimately in a partnership with heaven. And if we think that we of the earth are doing it all, then ultimately we will not be doing it at all.

“Ya’arof Ka’Matar Likchi, Tizal KaTal Imrati….”
“Let my sayings slice down like the rain, and let my words flow like the dew.” (32:2)

Rainfall is the ultimate reminder that we are not alone. However much we plan, however hard we work in cultivating our fields, in the end, it will depend on the rainfall, which is completely out of our control.

And of course, this is true for all the ‘fields’ we cultivate: Our businesses and projects, our homes and our families; ultimately they are all ‘rain’ from heaven.

“Ki Shem Hashem Ekra, Havu’ Godel Le’Elokeinu.”
“For I will call out the name of G-d; bring greatness to G-d.”(32:3)

Greatest of all, Hashem allows us, even wants us to be His partners, allowing His greatness to be dependent on us.

Our goals this year will become valuable not by virtue of what they are, but rather by virtue of howthey are. If my goals for this year are not just about me, but about all of us, and if even those goals that are about me, are really about the ‘me’ that wants to be there for all of us, then those goals are not just mine; they have the potential to be everyone’s. And what an incredible year that would bring.

For David Shirazi it was never about whether he made it up that hill, and I suspect it wasn’t even about his entire unit, or even his brigade. On that terrible afternoon at Tel Facher, David Shirazi was carrying the entire Jewish people on his shoulders. And while some of us might consider that a burden too heavy to bear, I suspect for Shirazzi it just made it clear that he was not alone. He was leaning on the wellspring of the entire nation of Israel.

Wishing you all a sweet, happy, and healthy New Year, full of Joy and blessing for us all,

Ketivah ve’Chatimah Tovah.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Yom Kippur: Transcendent Purity (video)

Thursday, September 21, 2023

A Jew will forever be a Jew

Parashat Haazinu and Yom Kippur 5784
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

The Tanach in Melachim 1 chapter 20 relates a very telling incident in the life of Achav, King of the ten northern tribes of Israel.

Achav, to be sure, was far from a tzadik. He, Yeravam ben Nevat and Menashe were the three kings who, according to the Mishna in Sanhedrin, lost their inherent places in Gan Eden.

Ben Hadad King of Aram (today’s Syria) threatened Achav with war if he did not deliver to him his gold and silver, his wives, and children. Achav was forced to capitulate and sent to Ben Hadad all that he demanded.

The following day, Ben Hadad sent another demand to Achav. This time Achav was to deliver to him that which was the most precious in his eyes. Achav and all his ministers rejected the demand and agreed unanimously to go to war.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 102b) asks, that after relinquishing his gold, silver, wives, and children, what was left that could be described as the “most precious thing” in Achav’s eyes? And surprisingly, the Gemara answers a “Sefer Torah”.

Why would Achav who totally rejected the Torah, choose to go to war over a Torah scroll?

I believe that despite Achav’s rejection of its spiritual message, the Torah in Achav’s eyes was the universally recognized symbol of the Jewish nation. For him to relinquish the royal Torah scroll to an enemy was tantamount to eliminating the national soul that bound all Jews together. Achav was prepared to die in battle rather than to commit an act of betrayal against the nation and against his own personal “Jewishness”.

This incident defines Achav’s inner character and thoughts. Despite his glaring faults and weaknesses, he can serve as the leading teacher in two areas:

1) There is an immutable connection between every individual Jew to the collective Am Yisrael, even one who is so far from Torah observance.

We learn from Achav that the skeletal infrastructure of every Jew is the undeniable fact that the Creator brought his unique soul to this world when born to a Jewish mother, or converts who were born with a Jewish soul and for some unknown reason had to be born to a seemingly gentile mother. It is for this reason that, halachically a Jew can never cease being a Jew no matter what he does, because one cannot erase his essence.

2) We learn from Achav the great pride there is in being a Jew. He relinquished everything of value – family and wealth – but was willing to die before infringing on his and on his nation’s Jewishness.

A Third Type of Teshuvah
The Rambam in his Laws of Teshuvah discusses two motives for one’s decision to do teshuvah – love of HaShem or fear of divine retribution.

I would like to submit a third motive, one which is unfortunately grossly lacking in the education of Jews in the galut and in some non-observant schools in Israel.

It is not teshuvah purely out of love for HaShem – which is in the realm of a few learned and highly spiritually developed individuals.

It is not teshuvah out of fear of punishment – which is a product of an egotistical mind that is not even close to the spiritual ideal of a “Priestly kingdom and a sanctified nation”.

This third teshuvah is out of pride in being a member of the small, elite group of people who the Creator appointed to be His chosen nation. Pride in being the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov. A descendant of the people who crossed the Red Sea and saw HaShem’s miracle and stood at the foot of Mount Sinai while receiving the Torah from the Creator Himself. Children of a nation 3500 years old whose blessings to humanity have no equal. It is the pride of being a Jew that echoes in one’s soul proclaiming:

I am a prince, a son of HaShem. How can I betray the love and confidence HaShem has lavished upon me, by committing a sin?

How can I betray the 150 generations of my family beginning with the revelation at Mount Sinai, who sacrificed so much that I should be born a Jew today?

It is beneath my dignity as a Jew to act immorally or not in good faith with my fellow man, or to infringe on any of HaShem’s mitzvot.

It is beyond my conception as a Jew to deny or minimize the great miracles HaShem has performed for His people in the last 75 years in Eretz Yisrael.

The Holy Land acts as a magnet for me to return home to be part of HaShem’s master plan for the world and the universe.

The prophet Yeshayahu says (40,15):

הֵ֤ן גּוֹיִם֙ כְּמַ֣ר מִדְּלִ֔י וּכְשַׁ֥חַק מֹאזְנַ֖יִם נֶחְשָׁ֑בוּ הֵ֥ן אִיִּ֖ים כַּדַּ֥ק יִטּֽוֹל

Behold the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and like dust on a balance are they counted; behold the islands are like fine [dust] that blows away.

HaShem revealed to the prophet that the eight billion gentiles in the world pale in comparison to the numerically minuscule Jewish nation.

How can we not burst with pride at the knowledge that we are Jews, in whose veins flow the blood of the righteous of the world – that we are the Jewish nation that was presented by HaShem with the promise of eternal life in the next world and the holy land of Israel in this world!

Jewish Pride
When I still lived in the galut and had not yet made Aliyah, I recall every time I would recite the morning blessing about HaShem not making me a gentile, it would come to my mind that He did not have to make us gentiles. He left it to us to do the job.

We spoke their language and were steeped in their culture. Life was centered around sports, with the great sportsmen our heroes and not the heroes of Jewish history. Entertainment, food, vacations, career – I and my fellow yeshiva students were very much a part of the gentile scene in whose land (unknown then to us) we were considered as non-Christian, unwanted guests, while we felt that we were home. We were devoid of any Jewish pride!

There were many moments in my life when I felt proud, but the one which has left the greatest impression was at the IDF induction center, when I saw myself in the mirror dressed in the uniform of Tzahal. I was now a true son of Eretz Yisrael, prepared to even give my life in the defense of the Jewish people, who with the compassion of HaShem have returned home.

Shabbat Shalom & Gmar Chatima Tova,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5784/2023 Nachman Kahana

Palestinians: Israeli Concessions Are a Sign of Weakness

by Bassam Tawil

  • On the 18th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the Iran-backed Palestinian terror groups are still talking about the need to step up attacks against Israel until the "liberation of all of Palestine," from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • These groups still see Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip not as a humanitarian gift to allow the Gazans to build the "Singapore of the Middle East," as former Israeli President Shimon Peres put it, but instead as the beginning of the Palestine Liberation Organization's 1974 "Ten Point Plan" (also known as the "phased plan") for the "comprehensive liberation" of all the land stretching "from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea" -- a euphemism for the elimination of Israel. The Plan essentially states that the Palestinians should take whatever land they are given and use it as a launching pad for getting the rest.
  • Hamas and other Palestinians never saw the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a sign that Israel seeks to live in peace and coexistence with its Arab neighbors. On the contrary, they saw the withdrawal as an Israeli retreat -- a defeat in the face of a massive wave of terrorism.
  • The message the Palestinians came away with was not that the Israelis had given them land in the hope of peace, but rather: "We were shooting and they ran away, so let's keep on shooting and they will keep on running away!"
  • The Palestinian terror groups are trying to drive Jews out of the West Bank through drive-by shootings, stabbings, rockets and car-rammings. They want to turn the West Bank into another launching pad for attacking Israel the same way they did with the Gaza Strip.
  • To this day, many Palestinians, not only in Hamas, continue to view the Israeli disengagement as a direct result of terrorism. They use the Arabic term indihar -- defeat -- to describe the Israeli withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip.
  • Hamas arch-terrorist Mohammed Def recently reminded everyone that as far as his group is concerned, the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip marks the beginning of the first "phase" toward destroying Israel.
  • For the Palestinians, acquiring the Gaza Strip, was, it seems, merely a taste. In their words, they want the West Bank, Jerusalem and the whole of Israel. They want all "settlers" removed not only from the Gaza Strip, but also from the West Bank, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and all of Israel. In their view, "all of Israel" is just one big settlement.
  • The Biden administration and other international parties that continue to promote the idea of a "two-state solution" are simply empowering Iran's Palestinian proxies and encouraging them to pursue their "phased plan" to increase terrorism, destroy Israel and replace it with yet another Islamist state.
  • The Iranian government recently set up a new airport "for terror purposes " in southern Lebanon, only 12 miles from the Israeli border -- presumably to make it easier for Iran's terrorist proxies there, such as Hizballah, to launch aerial attacks against Israel.
  • If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, the area will, without doubt, fall into the hands of the Iranian regime and its Palestinian proxies.
  • Those who are promoting the idea of a Palestinian state seek to expel Jews from the West Bank through false promises of peace and coexistence. It is time for decision-makers in Washington and other countries to trust what the Palestinians are saying: that they perceive Israeli concessions not as gestures of peace, but as gestures of surrender.
  • The ability of the Iranian regime soon to have unlimited nuclear weapons, funded largely by the Biden administration... will doubtless make their hegemonic vision easier to achieve. Not even a shot will need to be fired to persuade its victims to agree to whatever the mullahs wish; the threat will be enough.
  • No one is stopping them.
  • Creating an Iran-backed Palestinian terror state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip poses a destabilizing and existential threat by Iran not just to Israel but to the entire region and beyond: to Saudi Arabia despite a thaw that may well be temporary; to the Gulf States, Egypt, North Africa, Europe, Latin America and the United States.

On the 18th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the Iran-backed Palestinian terror groups are still talking about the need to step up attacks against Israel until the "liberation of all of Palestine," from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Pictured: Gunmen from the Hamas Qassam Brigades at a rally in Gaza City on December 14, 2022. (Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

On the 18th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the Iran-backed Palestinian terror groups are still talking about the need to step up attacks against Israel until the "liberation of all of Palestine," from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

These groups still see Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip not as a humanitarian gift to allow the Gazans to build the "Singapore of the Middle East," as former Israeli President Shimon Peres put it, but instead as the beginning of the Palestine Liberation Organization's 1974 "Ten Point Plan" (also known as the "phased plan") for the "comprehensive liberation" of all the land stretching "from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea" -- a euphemism for the elimination of Israel. The Plan essentially states that the Palestinians should take whatever land they are given and use it as a launching pad for getting the rest.

The Plan in brief:

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

A person should return their Soul to God as He gave it to them

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

This week’s parsha is dedicated in honor of a good friend and supporter, Bluma Esther bat Masha. She has a heart big enough for two people, usually more concerned about others than herself. May it be a big merit for her at this time of year when such merits count most.

Friday Night
LAST EREV SHABBOS my chavrusa and I wished each other a good last Shabbos of the year (I’m writing this before Rosh Hashanah), as we signed off from Zoom to continue getting ready for Shabbos. As we did, we reflected on how we lost a friend, zt”l, the previous week whom just last year at the same time we thought would live for years to come. He was exactly my age when he passed away.

Then my chavrusa told me a story about a little boy who died on the last Shabbos of the year around the same place that I live but before I moved in. Originally my area was owned by Arabs and was sold to Jews by everyone except for one holdout who still lived in the area.

Apparently, the little boy had been playing on Shabbos inside a large box, and the son of the Arab, driving recklessly but not knowing the boy was inside, ran over the box on his way out, killing the boy. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for the family of the boy, or the community as a whole that Rosh Hashanah.

According to my chavrusa, the mother recounted at the Shivah how on that Erev Shabbos her son had asked her, “This is the last Shabbos?” She corrected her son, saying, “The last Shabbos of the year.” But the little boy for some reason repeated himself, “This is the last Shabbos?” It didn’t mean that much to her at the time, but it certainly did a day later after she received the horrible news of what happened.

There have been, sadly, many occurrences like this one, but there have also been many that have ended happily. Some people have been on the verge of disaster as the year finished when some last-minute miracle happened to turn the situation around. One day a person can suffer insurmountable pain, and the next day be completely free of it.

None of this is random and most of it may have been decided the previous Rosh Hashanah. The terrorists who carried out 9/11 may have planned their attack for years, but their success and who it would affect was decided in Heaven the previous Rosh Hashanah. Who didn’t feel the reality and heaviness of Unesanah Tokef of Mussaf that year?

But we all live with this sense of, “It only happens to others, not to me,” until it does, God forbid. In the old days, people used to dig a grave and lie in it a bit during Elul to remind themselves, “No, it can happen to me too.” Sometimes, that is what it takes to become real with a reality that we tend to take for granted. Hearing the shofar every day, saying L’Dovid, and later, Selichos, helps, but enough?

If yes, then great. You’re good. But if no, then it helps to know what it is we’re trying to reach on Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, and really unto Succos and Shemini Atzeres. And for that we have an interesting gemora.

Shabbos Day
THE GEMORA SAYS regarding the verse, “And the spirit returns to God Who gave it” (Koheles 12:7) that the words, “Who gave it,” mean, as it was given, that is, a person should return their soul to God as He gave it to them, in purity. Then it provides a story to make its point:

A parable would be a king of flesh and blood who distributed royal garments to his servants. The wise ones folded them and placed them in a box [to protect them], but the foolish ones worked in them. After some time, the king requested that his garments be returned to him. The wise ones returned them to him clean, whereas the foolish ones returned them dirty. The king was happy to greet the wise ones but angry to greet the foolish ones. Regarding the wise ones he said: “My garments shall be given back to the storehouse, and let them go to their homes in peace.” Regarding the foolish ones he said: “My garments shall be given to the launderer, and they (the fools) will be locked up in prison.” The Holy One, Blessed is He, [acts] similarly. Regarding the bodies of the righteous, it says: “He enters into peace, they rest on their beds, etc.” (Yeshayahu 57:2), and with respect to their souls it says, “And the soul of my lord shall be bound up in the bundle of life, etc.” (I Shmuel 25:29). Regarding the bodies of the wicked it says, “There is no peace, says God, for the wicked” (Yeshayahu 57:21), and regarding their souls it says, “And the souls of your enemies He shall sling out in the follow of a sling” (I Shmuel 25:29). (Shabbos 152b)

The goal of life therefore is to use your soul in a way that keeps it “clean.” That means learn Torah, do mitzvos, and perform acts of lovingkindness. At the very least, be the most moral person you can be every conscious moment of your life, given your life’s circumstances. You never know what will be your last day, or if you’ll have the necessary opportunity to do enough teshuvah.

Is this not what we are doing on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? Is this not the basis of our din—judgment? As we present ourselves to the Heavenly Bais Din, it is really our souls that we bare. It is an interim check-in when we show God what we have done so far with the royal “garment” He has entrusted to us. Is it clean from Torah and mitzvos? Is it filthy from sins? Is it spotty from a combination of both?

But even if we don’t give our souls back in the upcoming year, God may still insist on an interim cleaning. In Kabbalah it is called tziruf v’libun, refinement and whitening, but we just call it yesurim—suffering. As the name screams out, it is suffering for the sake of refining and whitening the soul we have but didn’t protect well enough.

The other option is teshuvah. Repentance is more than just saying, “I’m sorry about the past, and I’ll try to be better in the future.” Teshuvah has cleansing power. It is spiritual stain remover, and the more teshuvah a person does, the greater the number of stains it can remove.

Rebi Elazar ben Durdaya taught us that. He wasn’t a rebi at first. On the contrary, he was quite the sinner who happened to wake up one day to the life he was living and decided to turn things around while he still could. He put his entire life into his teshuvah and died while doing it.

But, as the Gemora says, Rebi Elazar not only reversed his spiritual fortune and earned the right to go to the World to Come. Heaven even called him “Rebi” on his way out (Avodah Zarah 17b). In fact, as the Gemora says elsewhere, if done with love, then teshuvah can go even further, transforming the sins into actual merits (Yoma 86b).

But as inviting and easy as that sounds, it isn’t. As to be expected, it takes work, considerable work. A person has to get to the point, like Rebi Elazar ben Durdaya did, where they truly want to do teshuvah. After that, they have to get to a point where it is from love, and that is where this week’s parsha comes in.

Seudas Shlishis
MOSHE RABBEINU BERATED the Jewish people with the following:

The deeds of the Rock are perfect, for all His ways are just; a faithful God, without injustice He is righteous and upright. Corruption is not His; it is His children’s defect you perverse and twisted generation. Is this how you repay God, you disgraceful, unwise people?! Is He not your Father, your Master? He has made you and established you. (Devarim 32:4-6)

Harsh words. And yet, not taken to heart as much as they should be, evident by the fact that they are read each year with minimal to no impact, because they apply to every generation, not just Moshe’s. And they convey the most important message: Before you complain about the bad stuff, know that it does not originate with God, but a result of the world we allowed to develop because of lack of effort to keep it on the right track.

If you let the house get dirty, your clothes will as well. Likewise, if you let the world fall apart, then it will drag you and your soul down as well, making it very hard to return it back to God in the condition with which we received it. People who appreciate this do their part to right the wrongs in this world.

But it is a big world, a very big world. The best of intentions couldn’t right it without unlimited resources and tremendous help. It’s enough to make a person give up and accept their fate that seems to be common to all of mankind. It’s just too hard to swim up current all or most of your life.

But you don’t have to. You just have to want to fix the world. You have to want to stay true to Torah values in a world moving away from them. You have to keep focused on the goals of life vis-a-vis the Torah and do you part to stick to them. That’s what we have to do to warrant Heavenly help and protection from the things we cannot protect ourselves from.

So as we check in during the Aseres Yemai Teshuvah this is the message we want to communicate. We’re trying to tell the Heavenly Bais Din that we’re a team player for Team Torah, and that we plan, in the new year, b”H, to look for ways to actualize that. Nothing catches God attention, or inspires Him to help, more than this.

Ain Od Milvado, Part 66
HOW DOES ALL of this tie into the idea of Ain Od Milvado? Perfectly. Nothing expresses our belief in ain od Milvado than our loyalty to the program for Creation. That loyalty says, “My life is most meaningful when I am serving Your cause, God. I might get distracted by other things and some selfish tendencies, but in essence, it is making myself useful to You that matters most to me, because you are all that counts.”

And it seems to be a two-way street. God always works measure for measure. This means that if a person acts as if there is none other than God, then He will treat the person as if they are the only one that counts. That’s not measured by how much God fulfills our fantasies because we all know that many of them have nothing to do with what is ultimately good for us, just what feels good to have.

You can look around and see people who care less but who also seem to get “more.” And even though it might arouse envy, it doesn’t mean that they are getting what is ultimately best for them. Sometimes, they’re just getting paid off in this world so they can’t reap the eternal benefits of their few good deeds in the next world. It looks like a merit now, but it isn’t if it isn’t ultimately beneficial.

As a Jew born with a portion in the World to Come, we want a life that maintains it and even increases it. Material success, as the Gemora makes clear (Brochos 5b), rarely does this, no matter how much tzedakah you plan to give if you win the lottery. Spiritual success does, and that is something only God can determine for a person, and does when they are real with ain od Milvado.

Gmar Chasimah Tovah.

Another Palestinian Reverie

by Raymond Ibrahim
  • On August 29, 2023, Sheikh Issam Amira, a prominent member of the Palestinian Hizb al-Tahrir party, argued that the "liberation" of Palestine is nothing compared to the potentially great conquests that Islam has in store for the rest of the non-Muslim world — including the United States.
  • What crime did these non-Muslim cities, nations, and continents commit against Muslims to deserve being targeted for violent conquest?
  • "The Party of Satan is America, Europe, Russia, and all Western nations, and all infidel [non-Muslim] nations everywhere.... Everyone who opposes Allah and his prophet is to be stricken with disgrace and misery. Not just that, they are to be broken in the here, and sent to the fire in the hereafter." — Sheikh Issam Amira, YouTube, August 29, 2023.
  • Although [Hizb al-Tahrir] means the "party of liberation," and although it pretends its sole interest is "liberating" Palestinians from Israel, when its members get together there seems to be an additional plan, not just for Jews.
  • Palestinian cleric Nidhal Siam made clear that, from an Islamic perspective, for Christians as well, liberation and conquest are one and the same.
  • "Oh Muslims, the anniversary of the conquest [fath/فتح, literally, "opening"] of Constantinople brings tidings of things to come. It brings tidings that Rome will be conquered in the near future, Allah willing." — Nidhal Siam, Jerusalem Post, January 20, 2020.
  • [The Palestinians] seek sympathy from the international community, despite the fact that until 1964, there reportedly were no Palestinians.
  • It also might be helpful to recall that until the seventh century and the birth of Muhammad, there were no Muslims – anywhere – let alone Palestinians.
  • The word Islam means "submission."
  • "Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, nor comply with what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth from among those who were given the Scripture, until they pay the tax, willingly submitting, fully humbled." — Qur'an, 9:29 Khattab translation.
  • Those conquered are given three choices: to convert to Islam; to remain tolerated, second-class citizens, called dhimmis, pay a "protection" tax [jizya], and live according to humiliating rules to remind them of their inferiority, -- such as being allowed to ride a donkey but not a camel or horse. The third choice is to die.
  • It is also helpful to remember that the Qur'an is not made up of "suggestions; Muslims consider it the word of God, similar to the Ten Commandments. One cannot say, "Oh, Allah didn't really mean that." Yes, Allah did...
  • In each of these military engagements, Muslims were the aggressors: they invaded non-Muslim territory and, apart from the Battle of Tours, which they lost, they butchered and enslaved the inhabitants, and appropriated their lands — for no other reason than that they were "infidels" — non-Muslims.
  • Many Palestinians, seemingly without seeing the irony, present themselves as a conquered and oppressed people whose land was stolen, while, in the same breath, they praise former conquests and wish for future ones -- replete with oppression and land-grabbing from other peoples only because they are not Muslim.
  • True, the Palestinians are oppressed, but by their own leaders, whom the international community keeps funding and supporting; not by Israelis, who of necessity respond to violence against them, but do not initiate it.
  • Perhaps the lesson, when all is said and done, is that Islamic notions of "justice" are based on a simple dichotomy: Whenever Muslims conquer, slaughter, subjugate or steal land, that is "just;" whenever they encounter the authority of "infidels," that is "unjust."
  • Hence the hatred for Israel, Rome, Europe, or wherever "infidels" still govern.

On August 29, 2023, Sheikh Issam Amira, a prominent member of the Palestinian Hizb al-Tahrir party, argued that the "liberation" of Palestine is nothing compared to the potentially great conquests that Islam has in store for the rest of the non-Muslim world — including the United States. (Image source: MEMRI)

On August 29, 2023, Sheikh Issam Amira, a prominent member of the Palestinian Hizb al-Tahrir party, argued that the "liberation" of Palestine is nothing compared to the potentially great conquests that Islam has in store for the rest of the non-Muslim world — including the United States:

"What is the Palestinian cause compared to the conquest of Rome, for example? Or the conquest of Latin America in its entirety? Or the conquest of North America?"

Amira went on to say that he personally knows that Australians are "dying of fear" from the nearby Muslim nations of Malaysia and Indonesia, "because they know that one of these days the Muslim armies will come from Indonesia and bring Islam to Australia, like it or not."

What crime did these non-Muslim cities, nations, and continents commit against Muslims to deserve being targeted for violent conquest?

Continue Reading Article

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

John Steinbeck and the Fall and Rise of Israel’s ‘Mount Hope’

by Daniel Greenfield

In 1966, a year before the war that would fundamentally change the country and the region, John Steinbeck arrived.

“I want to see everything in Israel,” he told the press.

Outraged novels of class warfare like ‘Grapes of Wrath’ had once made the author a favorite of the leftist establishment, but Steinbeck had turned to other topics. He considered his life’s work to be ‘East of Eden’, a retelling of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel in California, which touched on his own dark family history that he had followed all the way back to Israel.

Steinbeck’s support for the Vietnam War had infuriated the literary establishment and even though he had won the Nobel Prize and his acceptance speech became one of the most famous of its kind, he continued to be dismissed as an outdated fossil. And the author, prone to an old school literary machismo, who never much liked parties and crowds, dismissed them.

After facing the establishment’s fury over the Vietnam War, Steinbeck was not worried about the leftist reaction to his visit to Israel. And he looked at Israel through the lens of a writer who had chronicled pioneers and messianists, but also a man who had come to see the world caught in a struggle between good and evil, the forces of democracy against those of Communism.

“The Israelis are the toughest and most vital people I have seen in a long time,” Steinbeck wrote to the LBJ administration with which he had developed a close relationship. “Their army is superb. They say that Israel’s secret weapon is ‘No Alternative’. They have no place to go and anyone who will invade them will have to kill them all, men, women and children, and they all go down fighting. Only they won’t go down. Right now with the weapons they have and they command, they could lick the whole Arab League single handed.”

Steinbeck was a little over a year away from being proven right when the Six Day War would see Israel, outnumbered and outgunned, defeat Egypt, Syria and Jordan, not to mention forces sent by Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. But if the American author’s enthusiasm was especially passionate, it might have been because unlike a lot of visitors, his family had left blood here.

“I’ve started for there several times and never made it,” Steinbeck wrote. “I wonder if I have an unconscious reluctance because of what my great-grandfather tried to do there in the 1840s.”

One of his stops in Israel was to ‘Mount Hope’ and the ‘Steinbeck farm’ that his grandfather had left behind after his brother was murdered by the local Arab Muslims. The Grossteinbeck family (the name was later shortened) had joined a Christian mission in the 1850s that was the first to try and build outside Jaffa. But the idealistic farmstead had not taken into account the fanatical Muslim hatred for Christians and Jews who, under Islamic law, had no rights at all.

The Grossteinbecks and other settlers had faced Arab Muslim harassment but what happened in 1858 had international repercussions and brought American military power to bear in Israel.

90 years before Israel, as a Jewish country, had even been reborn.

In January 1858, five Arab Muslim men came to the farmstead under the pretext of looking for a lost cow, convinced Frederick Grossteinbeck, the brother of John’s grandfather, to parley and then fatally wounded him.

Frederick retreated to the farmhouse where he prayed, “Oh ! Father forgive all my sins and help me to bear this dreadful pain” while his wife Mary tried to stop the bleeding from his stomach.

Mary Steinbeck, John’s great-aunt, then only 24 years old, was dragged away and raped by each of the Arab Muslim invaders in turn. “He violated me. Before I had time to rise, another one came ; he violated me and bit my cheek. Then a third one violated me. They then went into the house, and I got up and followed them. I went to Frederick ; I could not feel his pulse,” she testified.

The Muslim colonists also sexually assaulted Frederick’s mother-in-law and robbed the farm.

While the United States had no military presence in Israel (then ruled by the Ottoman Islamic caliphate) and was unused to projecting much force abroad, its leaders were much less feckless than ours when it came to the honor of Americans.

In an account that was included in a report submitted by President James Buchanan to the Senate, the Consul to Egypt, stated that he met the Islamic leadership intending, “to make them feel our power, and the influence of our consuls, it is very evident that every effort must be made in the present case, so to act as that such a case shall never occur again,” he wrote.

American flags were raised to make a diplomatic point despite the protests of the Ottomans.

The assaults on the Steinbeck family alerted many Americans for the first time to the mistreatment of foreign and domestic Christians in Israel. Bringing justice to the perpetrators came to be seen as a test of American power and the survival of Christians in the region. The Senate report included a description of the massacre of Christians in 1856 in Nablus.

“We had to threaten them with the presence of a squadron to bombard Jaffa,” Consul Edwin DeLeon, a Jewish American diplomat who later worked as the Confederacy’s representative to Europe, wrote. “The expediency and propriety of detailing a war steamer to that coast, as a visible emblem of our power, to reassure the terrified Christians, to averawe [sic] the fanatic savages, who, like wild beasts, now lie in wait for them, and, finally, to insure the effectual punishment of those five bloodhounds of Jaffa we have in bonds, whose brethren else may rescue or bloodily avenge them on the unprotected heads of the Christians and Jews of Palestine.”

Describing his meeting with Ottoman officials, DeLeon rejected all social formalities. “When further asked by the governor whether our countries were not at peace, I promptly responded ‘ No ; we regard murder of men and the violation of women, when permitted and screened by governors, as a declaration of war. You have commenced it, not we.’”

When John Steinbeck visited the ‘Steinbeck farm’, he was conversant with the bloody scenes that had taken place in the rooms and they informed his view of the region. And with his literary imagination, he may have been able to see them as he walked around the quarters.

During his World War II special correspondent dispatches, Steinbeck had described the American soldiers as having “no love lost for the Arabs. They are the dirtiest people in the world and among the smelliest. The whole countryside smells of urine, four thousand years of urine.” He mentioned that the soldiers stayed out of cities because of all the “many little religious rules and prejudices that an unsuspecting dogface can run afoul of.”

But what must have really struck Steinbeck is that the precarious outpost outside Jaffa that his ancestors had labored and bled for was now a neighborhood. The ‘Mount Hope’ settlement has since become known as the ‘HaTikvah’ or the ‘Hope’ quarter of Tel Aviv.

During Israel’s War of Independence, Hassan Salamah, a leader of the Army of the Holy Jihad, had attacked the ‘Hope’ community now populated by Jews. The Muslim attackers were so confident of victory that they brought sacks to carry away the loot and torches to burn the rest.

While the mob fell to looting and burning, 16-year-old Ezra Tzapadiya, a Jewish refugee from Beirut who had smuggled himself into the country at only 15, managed to pick off the attackers by copying their battle cry. (Ezra lost an eye in the battle but went on to have a successful musical career.) The Muslim attackers failed to realize that by burning the Jewish homes they had highlighted themselves against the flames and were wiped out by the Israeli defenders.

Disgraced among his fellow Muslim Jihadis, Salamah had to turn to ex-Nazi volunteers to carry out attacks on the Jews. His son, Ali Hassan Salameh, became the architect of the Munich Massacre, and received CIA protection that allowed him to escape Israeli assassins for 7 years until his entire convoy was taken out in Beirut.

20th century Israelis, like 19th century Americans, meant business, and would not allow the murders of their families to go unpunished.

That is no longer the case. ‘Mount Hope’ or the ‘HaTikvah Quarter’ became a working class Jewish neighborhood, but has since been overrun by African migrants. Some of these migrants made headlines when they recently rioted in a dispute over Eritrean politics back home. Even long before the rioters, residents of the ‘HaTikvah Quarter’ have asked the government to stop the plague of crime, drugs and gang violence that has overtaken their community.

The new conservative Israeli government and its battles over judicial reform arose in part from the difficulty of deporting the tens of thousands of illegal Africans who have taken over parts of Tel Aviv. The leftist Israeli Supreme Court has repeatedly blocked lifesaving measures like amendments to the Infiltration Prevention Law allowing the country to deport the invaders.

Mount Hope, once worthy of its name, has once again become a source of despair, but it is also a reminder of the resilience of history. Steinbeck’s grandfather had left behind Jaffa for America. His father raised the family in Salinas, California: a new promised land. Israeli and American settlers had cultivated fields and changed the world around them for the better.

When Herman Meville, the author of ‘Moby Dick’, had visited the Christian settlement, he had dismissed the idea that there was any possibility of a Jewish return to Israel.

“The idea of making farmers of the Jews is in vain. In the first place Judea is a desert with few exceptions. In the second place, the Jews hate farming. All who cultivate the soil in Palestine are Arabs. The Jews dare not live outside walled towns of villages for fear of the malicious persecution of Arabs and Turks. Besides, the number of Jews in Palestine is comparatively small. And how are the hosts of them scattered in other lands to be brought here? Only by a miracle,” he wrote.

The Jews proved to be excellent farmers and the Jewish villages became settlements, towns and cities guarded by their young men. And Jews came there from around the world.

“You can search the world over and you’lI not find Israel’s equal for a stinking past of heroic proportions. The present is even worse if that is possible- surrounded by enemies dedicated to her destruction, hemmed in between the sea and illiterate compromises of an absent, but quite an innocent, academy of the nations. And the people, the Israelis, the remnants of the trampled, tormented and rejected Jews from 87 nations,” John Steinbeck wrote a year before the war that might have ended Israel, instead helped secure its future and reclaim its territory.

Israel, he summed up, “bears up what I have always felt– that only those people who have nothing to do and no place to go are tired.”

‘Mount Hope’ is not just in Israel, it is where we are too. It is a reminder that no matter how dark the past, we can strive to reclaim the future. Nothing is so hopelessly lost that hope cannot rise from it again as long as we do not despair. Only those who do nothing are truly tired.

There is hope in that truth.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: The Task of an Individual in his Life and the Importance of Yisurin

The Task of an Individual in his Life
(based on Berachot 2:46)

Gemara: My Lord, until I was created I was not worthwhile, and now that I was created, it is as if I was not created.

Ein Ayah: During the infinite time from the beginning of time until I was created, there was nothing in the world for which I was needed, for if there were something in the world for which I was needed, I would have been created at that point. Eventually, the time arose for me to do something to complete an element of the world. If I would have focused my actions for the purpose for which I was created, I would now be worthwhile. However, since my actions are not going toward that good goal, but rather to do that which my heart desires, I have not reached my goal. Thus, I still, as previously, am not worthwhile.

The Importance of Yisurin
(based on Berachot 2:50)

Gemara: When Rebbi Yochanan would complete the Book of Iyov, he would say: “A person is destined to die, and an animal is destined to be slaughtered, and all are destined to die. Fortunate is one who grew in Torah ….”

Ein Ayah: Rebbi Yochanan gave the following solution to the existence of yisurin (torment) in the world. The endpoint of life is death. A person finds his real purpose after the end of his life on earth. If yisurin did not slightly weaken a person’s connection to the material world so that his spirit could separate from it and find a restful respite, then the spirit’s strong connection to the love of the physical world would detract from his spiritual completeness. The spirit would maintain, based on habit, longings for the body and its activities. Therefore, Hashem, in His wisdom, arranged matters so that the spirit would not find full satisfaction in this world. The reason is as Rebbi Yochanan said: “A person is destined to die and an animal, which does not have a spirit with deep feelings, is destined for slaughter. In other words, the animal can die suddenly without being introduced to it with a gradual weakening. It does not need to have its desire for life removed slowly. Since all are destined to die, it was appropriate to give the example of slaughter for the animal, which is a classic case of a sudden death. Even if an animal dies naturally, it does not experience a person's type of trials and tribulations. A person in his old age will find a certain level of comfort for the spirit in his death, which allows him to rest in peace. The fortunate part of passing away is allowing the soul to grasp the true ideas that it was incapable of grasping while still engaged in material pursuit. Therefore, one who grew in the Torah is particularly fortunate.

“You became Fat, Thick, and Corpulent”

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerm B'Yavneh

Rav Kook zt”l wrote in a letter to his father-in-law, the Aderet, who was the Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim:

I will reveal to you, Sir, even though it is probably not new to you, that I am afraid of what it says in Sifre Ha’azinu, “His land was filled,” etc., which is based on the pasuk, “You became fat, thick,” etc., which is three generations before the coming of Mashiach. You understand my thoughts. Nevertheless, G-d will do on behalf of His Name, and hasten the time of His salvation, “and Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.”

Rav Kook refers here to what it says in the Sifre on our parsha, on the pasuk, “Yeshurun became fat and kicked. You became fat, thick, and corpulent” (Devarim 32:15):

When they are satiated, they rebel. You find the same with the people of the generation of the flood, who rebelled against G-d only from food and drink and tranquility...

When Yisrael enter the Land, they are destined to rebel out of eating and drinking, and out of tranquility, as it says, “For I shall bring them to the Land that I swore to their forefathers, which flows with milk and honey, but they will eat, be sated, and grow fat, and turn to the gods of others.” (Devarim 31:20) Moshe said to Israel: When you enter the Land, take care that you do not rebel against G-d out of eating, drinking, and tranquility, as it says, “Lest you eat and be satisfied.” (8:12) What does it say about them, “Your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem, your G-d.” (8:14)...

Another interpretation, “You became fat, thick, and corpulent,” These are the three generations before the era of the Mashiach, as it says, “Its land became full of silver and gold ... its land became full of horses ... Then its land became full of false gods.”

The Sifre refers to what is said in the beginning of Yeshaya (2:7-9):

Its land became full of silver and gold, with no end to its treasures; its land became full of horses, with no end to its chariots. Then its land became full of false gods; each one of them bows to his own handiwork, to what his fingers have made. Humankind will have bowed and man will have humbled himself.

There are three stages in this moral decline. The first stage is when the land is full of money, wealth and economic boom. The second stage is the excessive and exaggerated use of money; there is no end to the horses and chariots, the cars and other luxuries. In the end comes the third stage, the most awful of all, “Its land became full of false gods,” when the silver and gold become society’s god. It is bowed down to and worshiped. These will be the three generations before the coming of the Mashiach. This is what frightened Rav Kook zt”l, because, as described in the Sifre, this was the root of sin already from the days of the flood – the chase after luxuries and love of money.

Chazal also saw this as the root cause of the destruction of the Second Temple:

Why was the first Temple destroyed? Because of the idolatry, adultery and murder that was in it. However, the latter one, we know that they toiled in Torah ... why were they exiled? Because they loved money and hated each other. (Tosefta, end of Menachot)

“One who seeks his lust will separate.” (Mishlei 18:1) One who is full of lust, loves himself. One who loves himself finds it hard to love his friend, because it always seems to him that his friend is encroaching upon him, and deprives him of what he deserves. Therefore, a lustful person separates from others and causes enmity.

The Netziv writes about this in the beginning of Sefer Devarim (4:17), “This was the love of money in the Second Temple, and it is still rampant among us.”

Yet, the conclusion of Rav Kook’s letter is optimistic: “G-d will do for His Name and hasten the time of His salvation, ‘and Hashem will be exalted alone,’ speedily, soon,” because the prophet Yeshaya also concludes this way: “Humankind’s haughtiness will be humbled and man’s arrogance will be brought down; and Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.” (2:17) In the end, everyone will understand how perverse this path of chasing after money is, and “On that day man will throw away his false gods of silver and his false gods of gold, which they made for him to prostrate himself.” (2:20)

Rav Kook on Yom Kippur: Triple Measure of Ketoret

A Cloud in the Kodesh Kedoshim
The Kohen Gadol was only permitted to enter the inner sanctuary of the Beit HaMikdash on one day of the year — on Yom Kippur.

“Tell your brother Aharon that he may not enter the sanctuary behind the partition at any time... so that he may not die, for I appear over the Aron cover in a cloud.” (Vayikra 16:2)

What exactly was this cloud inside the  Kodesh Kedoshim? In Yoma 53a, the Gemara explains that this was a cloud of ketones smoke. The ketoret played a central role in the special service of Yom Kippur. Only after burning the ketoret inside the  Kodesh Kedoshim was the Kohen Gadol allowed to enter, as it says:

“Then he shall take a fire pan full of burning coals... together with two handfuls of finely ground incense... so that the cloud from the incense will envelop the Ark cover.” (Vayikra 16:12-13)

What is this special connection between the ketoret and the Yom Kippur service? And why did it need to be finely pulverized to a greater degree than the incense that was offered on other days? 

Beyond Time
Once a year, the kohanim would produce enough ketoret for the entire year. They would prepare 368 portions of ketoret — one portion for each day of the year, plus an extra three portions for Yom Kippur. Why did the service on Yom Kippur require an extra three measures of ketoret?

The central theme of Yom Kippur is teshuvah and kapparah. What is remarkable about these concepts is that they allow us, in a sense, to rewrite the past. Teshuvah is not just about attaining forgiveness for past misdeeds. The Sages taught (Yoma 86b) that there is a level of elevated teshuvah through which “sins are transformed into merits.” They further explained that עיצומו של יום מכפר — the very day of Yom Kippur, even without the Temple service, provides atonement (Yoma 85b). What gives Yom Kippur this unique ability to transcend time and change history?

The inner essence of the entire year is contained within Yom Kippur. The Torah employs an unusual phrase to describe Yom Kippur: אחת בשנה — “once in the year” (Vayikra 16:34). Yom Kippur has a singular quality that illuminates during the entire year. Thus the paradox: the special nature of Yom Kippur appears achat — once a year, within the framework of time - but at the same time, it is ba-shanah — it influences and elevates the entire year, transcending the normal boundaries of time.

We may distinguish between three aspects of Yom Kippur and its special relationship to time:
  1. The special nature of the day itself — עיצומו של יום — with its own unique holiness.
  2. Its ability to repair and redeem the previous year.
  3. Its potential to influence and uplift the coming year.
Since Yom Kippur affects time in three directions — present, past, and future — the Yom Kippur service requires three extra measures of ketoret, in addition to the regular daily quota.

Extra Fine
Why did the ketoret of Yom Kippur need to be finely pulverized when it was prepared on the day before Yom Kippur?

Despite the fact that the scent of incense engages our most refined sense,1 the daily ketoret is offered within the framework of time and thus relates to our physical reality. But on Yom Kippur, the incense needs to be dakah min hadakah. It is returned to the mortar and pounded until it becomes a fine powder. The ketoret of Yom Kippur must match the singular holiness of the day. It must be extraordinarily refined, unfettered by the limitations of physicality and material needs. Only then will the ketoret correspond to Yom Kippur’s lofty goals of pure thought and holy aspirations.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, pp. 139-141 by Rav Chanan Morrison)

1"What is it that the soul enjoys and not the body? It is fragrant smells” (Berachot 43b).

Nature's Testimony

by Rabbi Dov Berel Wein

These last chapters of the Torah, culminating in this week's reading, are all a very serious and have an almost fearsome quality and tone. Heaven and earth are called upon to be the ultimate witnesses regarding the covenant that the Lord has made with Israel for all time. Rashi points out to us that human witnesses and even historical tradition within families, tribes and other groups are insufficient to uphold the veracity of the covenant between God and Israel. Human beings, by their very natures, can only see things superficially, and remember things selectively and often with a bias and/or agenda.

This is not the case with nature that always does the will of the creator and has no independent opinion or understanding of events on its own. We will see later in Jewish history that the prophet Isaiah will also invoke Heaven and earth in repeating the outlines of the covenant, justifying the rewards and punishment that observance or disregarding the covenant always brings with it.

The concept that nature itself, with all its wonders, unpredictability, and beauty, is itself the greatest source of testimony regarding the covenant between God and Israel. It is one of the truly unique ideas and interpretations that Moshe teaches us in this final part of his valedictory oration the Jewish people.

Heaven and earth are eternal in this world and have fixed laws and patterns that are to never be altered. So too, is the covenant between God and Israel. It also is unchangeable, reliable, consistent. and predictable, and serves as an example and witness to the covenant that has bound us for millennia and remains in force in our current world as well.

The rabbis of the Talmud have often used nature and its attendant animal world as a source of instruction as to how human life should be conducted. The Talmud tells us that we could learn cleanliness from the feline species, monogamy from the ant, and other such values that are present in the great natural world that we inhabit. Nature in the world that surrounds us is one of wonder and inspiration, but at the very same time, one of possible danger and trepidation.
Volcanoes and earthquakes are also present when we view the beauty and inspiration that snow peak mountain ranges present before us. If one stands in the shadow of a great, tall mountain, every human being experiences the trepidation that the gigantic rock formation provokes.

So, too, is the nature of the covenant between God and Israel. It is a thing of wonder and beauty, of soaring visions, rich in mystery and inspiration. It invokes within us a sense of wonderment. But it also awakens within us the fear and anxiety that make our lives uncertain and bestows upon us feelings of danger. Our only choice is to observe the covenant and to realize that, in so doing, we guarantee our eternity in partnership with the natural world in which we live.

Why Are Palestinians Fleeing the Gaza Strip?

by Bassam Tawil
  • These Palestinians are running away because they can no longer tolerate life under the Islamist movement of Hamas. They are not fleeing because of Israel.
  • "I know I'm risking my life, but I want to leave, dead or alive. At least I will find a dignified life abroad. People want to leave because of the oppression and injustice we see here [in the Gaza Strip]." — Sfouk AlSheik,, September 10, 2023.
  • Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been controlled by the Iran-backed Hamas terror group, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization. Instead of working to improve the living conditions of the two million Palestinians living under its rule, Hamas has since invested millions of dollars in manufacturing weapons and building tunnels from which to attack Israel. Hamas had an opportunity to turn the Gaza Strip into the "Singapore of the Middle East," but its desire to destroy Israel has brought only war and death to the Palestinians. To achieve its goal of murdering Jews and eliminating Israel, Hamas appears ready to sacrifice endless numbers of Palestinians.
  • Hamas evidently does not care if hundreds of Palestinians are killed and injured in wars instigated by its rocket attacks against Israel. Hamas does not even hesitate to use Palestinians as human shields during its wars with Israel. Members of the terror group have endangered the lives of thousands of their own innocent civilians by firing rockets from residential areas close to schools and hospitals.
  • "Despite their exposure to the risks of drowning, loss, and death, Palestinians fleeing the Gaza Strip see that Turkey and Europe are their hope and future." — Mahmoud al-Raqab, Palestinian political analyst,, September 10, 2023.
  • Needless to say, Abbas, in his speech, completely ignored the plight of the young Palestinians fleeing the Gaza Strip. For Abbas, promoting hate against Israel and Jews is more important than addressing the economic and humanitarian crisis he helped create, through his sanctions in the Gaza Strip.
  • Hamas leaders, for their part, continue to pretend that in the Gaza Strip everything is fine. They are also continuing to incite Palestinians to carry out terror attacks against Israel. Notably, the Hamas leaders are making these statements from their five-star hotels and villas in Qatar and Lebanon.
  • The international community, meanwhile, continues to ignore the wretched conditions of the Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, choosing instead to lay all the blame on Israel.
  • As Palestinian leaders continue to suppress the people of the Gaza Strip, Israel has increased the number of work permits for Gazans. In July, at least 67,769 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were allowed to cross the Israeli-controlled Erez border crossing -- up to 90% of them for jobs that pay well in Israel. Six per cent of the exits were for patients needing medical treatment in Israel or the West Bank.
  • It seems that Israel is doing more to help the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip than the Palestinian Authority, Hamas or any Arab country. However, because this news does not fit the anti-Israel agenda of many newspapers and foreign journalists, it is highly unlikely to make it into the mainstream media in the West.

Thousands of Palestinians are continuing to flee the Gaza Strip in search of a better life in other countries. They are running away because they can no longer tolerate life under the Islamist movement of Hamas. They are not fleeing because of Israel. Pictured: Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 15, 2021. (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of Palestinians are continuing to flee the Gaza Strip in search of a better life in other countries, including Canada and the European Union.

In the past few weeks, several videos of Palestinians leaving the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt have surfaced on social media. Other Palestinians have been documented queuing outside the Gaza offices that issue visas for Turkey to obtain a visa to emigrate. These Palestinians are running away because they can no longer tolerate life under the Islamist movement of Hamas. They are not fleeing because of Israel.

"We want to live in dignity," said a young Palestinian man in one of the videos. "All those who are seeking to emigrate want a dignified life. The young men are risking their lives, they are prepared to die."

Another young man said:

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Sunday, September 10, 2023

US-Israel relations: deterioration or enhancement?

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Notwithstanding the current tension between the Administrations of the US and Israel, and while there is an erosion in Israel’s high favorability among Americans (according to Gallup: Israel’s favorability – 68% compared to 71% in 2022; Palestinian Authority’s – 26%), the US-Israel defense and commercial cooperation keeps expanding.

This expansion responds to mutual threats and challenges, such as Iran’s Ayatollahs, Sunni Islamic terrorism, the vulnerability of all pro-US Arab regimes, and the need to bolster the US’ global, technological competitive edge. Facing these threats and challenges, the US is leveraging Israel’s unique defense and commercial capabilities, which have contributed to the US economy and defense – in dollar terms - more than the annual US “foreign aid” to Israel.

The mutually-beneficial US-Israel partnership has been a derivative of the following factors:

1. US-Israel relations transcend the reality of international relations, in general, and US foreign relations, in particular. US foreign relations are usually determined by the State Department establishment and the “elite” media, streaming in an up-bottom manner to the public.

However, in the case of the US policy towards Israel, the direction of the policy has been determined by the general public’s state-of-mind – which has prevailed since the Early Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers - streaming in a bottom-up manner to elected officials in the House, Senate and White House. Moreover, US elected officials are accountable to their constituents, who expect them to faithfully represent their worldview (including their pro-Israel sentiments), or “we shall remember in November.”

2. While the White House tends to adopt the State Department’s worldview – which opposed the establishment of Israel in 1948, and has criticized Israel since then – both chambers of Congress (which are the most authentic representatives of the US constituency in the 435 Districts and 50 States) welcomed the newly-established Jewish State in 1948, and have always favored enhanced US-Israel cooperation. Furthermore, the US Congress is the world’s strongest Legislature, co-equal and co-determining to the President, capable of blocking, altering and initiating policy, as demonstrated by a litany of precedents, such as:

*Congress overruled Nixon and Reagan, ending the US military involvement in Southeast Asia (1973), Angola (1976) and Nicaragua (1984);
*Congress prevailed over Nixon (1974), forcing the USSR/Russia to allow free emigration;
*Congress overrode Clinton, Obama and Trump (1996-97, 2011, 2013, 2017), imposing sanctions on Iran, Egypt and Russia;
*The Senate did not ratify the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran (JCPOA), which enabled Trump to withdraw from the accord;
*Congress substantially expanded US-Israel strategic cooperation, in defiance of the Bush/Baker opposition (1990-1992);

3. The roots of Israel’s favorability among most constituents – and therefore among most legislators – are linked to the legacy of the Founding Fathers, who were inspired by Moses and the Exodus in shaping the Federalist Papers, the US Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Federal system (e.g., separation of powers and checks and balances).

They considered the colonies and the emerging USA as “the modern day Promised Land” and “the New Israel.” Hence, the bust of Moses facing the Speaker of the House of Representatives; statues and engravings of Moses and the Tablets in the halls of the US Supreme Court; over 200 monuments of the Ten Commandments throughout the USA; and Biblical names of well over thousand sites in the US, such as Jerusalem, Salem (the original name of Jerusalem), Shiloh, Bethel, Zion, Boaz, Moab, Gilead, Pisgah, Canaan, Rehoboth, Sharon, Hebron, Bethlehem, Joshua, Hephzibah, etc. While the attachment to the legacy of the Founding Fathers is waning, it is still consequential among most constituents and legislators.

4. The dramatic, demographic transformation of the US through waves of immigration from Latin America, Africa and Asia has eroded the attachment to the legacy of the Founding Fathers. For example, in 1990, there were 20 million Americans, who were foreign born; the number surged to 45 million in 2023. This dramatic demographic transformation has yielded cultural, ideological and political transformation, increasingly distancing the US population from the legacy of the Founding Fathers, adversely impacting the appreciation of Israel; thus, facilitating presidential pressure on Israel.

5. Presidential pressure on Israel – which has been fended off on many critical occasions - has been a frequent feature of US-Israel relations since 1948, when Truman and then Eisenhower attempted to force Israel to withdraw from areas within its pre-1967 boundaries, including the whole of West Jerusalem. Presidential pressure on Israel, as currently exercised by the Biden Administration, clouds US-Israel relations whenever the State Department dominates foreign policy making, irrespective of its systematic failure in the Middle East at-large. The aim of the current pressure is:

*To prevent a large scale Israeli military operation, intended to obliterate the infrastructure of Palestinian terrorism, which is also a potential threat to every pro-US Arab regime;

*To forestall an independent Israeli military assault on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which is a clear and present danger to the “Great American Satan” and every pro-US Arab regime;

*To induce Israel to retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state, while ignoring the volcanic nature of the Middle East and the rogue Palestinian intra-Arab track record, as well as the lethal impact (of the proposed Palestinian state) on the pro-US Hashemite regime in Jordan, and the devastating ripple effect on the oil-producing, pro-US Arab regimes, as well as on the US economy and national security.

However, simultaneously with 75 years of presidential pressure on Israel, the mutually-beneficial US-Israel strategic cooperation has surged to a startling level.

6. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the US does not extend foreign aid to Israel, but makes an annual investment in Israel, which yields to the US taxpayer an annual Return-on-Investment of several hundred percent.

For example, Israel has served as the cost-effective, battle-tested laboratory of the US defense and aerospace industries, sharing with them operational lessons, which have been integrated as upgrades into the US products; thus, sparing the US mega-billion-dollars of research and development, enhancing US competitiveness in the global market, which results in mega-billion-dollar exports, and expanding the employment base.

The US commercial industries benefit in a similar way through some 250 research and development centers in Israel, owned by US high-tech giants, and leveraging Israel’s brainpower for the benefit of the US commercial industries.

The Israeli battle-tested laboratory has also contributed to the battle tactics of the US armed forces, as has the flow of Israeli intelligence (worth five CIAs according to former Chief of Air Force Intelligence, General George Keegan), which exceeds the intelligence shared with the US by all NATO countries combined. Israel has been “the largest US aircraft carrier,” which does not require any American on board, deployed in a critical area for the US economy and defense. If there were not Israel in the Middle East, then the US would have to manufacture and deploy a few more real aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, in addition to several ground divisions, which would cost the US taxpayer $15-$20 BN annually.

7. The mutually-beneficial US-Israel two-way street is shaped by shared history, values and geo-strategic interests, much more than by the worldview of the State Department.