Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ahashverosh, Israel and the "Rule of Law"

By Moshe Feiglin

When Sharon introduced his "Disengagement" idea, it seemed like nothing more than a preposterous dream. Nobody understood what the State of Israel would gain from perpetrating this horrible crime against thousands of Israeli citizens. Nobody deceived themselves into thinking that this folly would bring peace; the Arabs of Gaza left no room for doubt. So how did Sharon manage to get his immoral and illogical decision into Israel's mainstream?

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Bizzetha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that ministered in the presence of Ahashverosh the king to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the peoples and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to look on.
(The Scroll of Esther 1:10-11)

After six straight months of drunken feasts, the foolish king had nothing to boast about - except for his wife's beauty. He commands to bring her before all the merrymakers to show the entire nation her beauty, attired in her crown - and nothing else.

Is there a royal decree more foolish than this? True, nobody will be expelled from his home, nobody's life will be shattered and barring Vashti's pride, nothing will be destroyed. Nevertheless, this was a classic case of a patently illegal order, complete with a black flag flying overhead.

But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by the chamberlains; therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
(The Scroll of Esther 1:12)

Vashti refuses to obey the immoral order. We would expect that with no further ado, the king would command to behead her. That is how he handled the murder conspiracy of Bigtan and Teresh and that is what Queen Esther feared would happen to her when she dared come before the king without being summoned. But Ahashverosh understood that he had painted himself into an immoral corner. He realized that his decree would not stand the test of reason and that he was essentially endangering the legitimacy of his leadership and reign on power.

What is the last resort of a criminal and foolish tyrant? How does he restore his legitimacy?

Then the king said to the wise men, who knew the times - for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment; 'What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, for she has not done the bidding of the king Ahashverosh by the chamberlains?'
(Esther 1:13,15)

Suddenly, Ahashverosh remembers the "rule of law." He consults with his legal advisors and defers to the Supreme Court. The Midrash relates that at first, Ahashverosh turned to the Jewish wise men. But they quickly understood that he was not looking for justice, but rather for legitimacy for his immoral decree and for his very leadership. The Jewish wise men evaded his overtures. The Persian Supreme Court, though, was happy to take on the case and found the penultimate creative legal solution to the royal predicament. It did not deal with the question of who was right. It dealt with only one issue - the perpetuation of the existing establishment. And so they wrote in their legal decision:

'Vashti the queen has not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the peoples, who are in all the provinces of the king Ahashverosh. For this deed of the queen will come abroad unto all women, to make their husbands contemptible in their eyes, when it will be said: The king Ahashverosh commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.
(Esther 1:16-17)

In other words, it makes no difference at all if the directive was logical, moral or even legal. Vashti, or Gush Katif, are not part of the equation. All that matters is the perpetuation of Ahashverosh's power. If the queen will not appear before the nation attired in nothing more than her royal crown, the subservience of all the women in the entire kingdom will vanish and the empire will crumble. That makes sense, doesn't it?

It is not the dubious honor of the king that is in question here. It is not even the need to be the darling of the media that lies behind the irrational decree to destroy Gush Katif. It is simply a matter of responsibility toward the perpetuation of the leadership. For if we do not carry out our orders and drive women and children from their homes today, tomorrow nobody will carry out their orders and the state will be destroyed.

In fact, Ahashverosh's kingdom was indeed destroyed in a relatively short amount of time. But it wasn't because of Vashti's refusal to obey orders. On the contrary, it was because the state had lined up with the immoral conduct of its leader.

And Israel? Where are we today after we have collectively hidden our heads in the sand and obeyed the criminal orders of our leaders?

In a symposium on insubordination that was held last week in Efrat, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow surprised the audience when he said that if he had known that the residents of Gush Katif would be treated so poorly after the expulsion, he would have instructed his students to refuse to obey their expulsion orders. When I asked him why, Rabbi Cherlow explained that the outrageous treatment suffered by the residents of Gush Katif was a "crime against humanity."

Until now, we had been told that it was wrong to disobey orders to drive the Jews from Gush Katif so as not to destroy the state and the army. Today, we are told that it is permissible to destroy the state and the army if the victims of the expulsion are not properly recompensed.

The moral acrobatics inherent in this type of rhetoric open the eyes of the public to understand that not everyone who holds the title of Rabbi is necessarily the standard bearer of justice or truth. The moral foundation of a rabbi who will instruct his students to obey orders and destroy, G-d forbid, the home of the widow of Second Lebanon war hero Ro'i Klein, HY"D, is no less rotten than the moral foundation of a rabbi whose personal conduct is perverted.

A footnote:
I stood with a few friends on the ruins of the home of Livnat Ozeri. Her husband Nati had been murdered by terrorists just a month before. Now, soldiers and policemen had snuck up on her home on a hilltop outside Kiryat Arba in the middle of the freezing Hebron night. They dragged her five sleeping orphans - in their pajamas and with no coats or shoes - from their beds, and destroyed their home and everything in it. They dumped the widow and orphans onto a Jerusalem street - in the middle of the night. There was no great public outcry. Not even from Yesha. Nati Ozeri was a Kachnik - not "one of ours." Not long after that, we got Gush Katif.

Shabbat Shalom

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We Didn't Even Notice

By Moshe Feiglin

9 Adar 5770
Feb. 23, '10

Israel has stopped representing the Jewish Nation, and we didn't even notice.
The parliament was transferred from the Knesset to the Herzliyah Conference, and we didn't even notice.
The leadership of Israel was transferred from the Prime Minister to the President, and we didn't even notice.

In his recent article, philosopher Ohad Kamin highlighted the connection between International Holocaust Day and Israel's lost status as the representative of the Jewish Nation. International Holocaust Day is a new phenomenon. Until just a few years ago, nobody had heard of it. Until then, it was clear that the mother of the Jewish Nation - the State of Israel - determines its birthdays and memorial days. Nobody would have thought of designating a Holocaust Day other than what the State of the Jews had already designated.

But ex-Chief Justice Aharon Barak has already explained that he does not see the State of Israel as a Jewish state, but rather a state of all its citizens. Israel's President Shimon Peres explained that all we are is a Hebrew-speaking Singapore. Binyamin Netanyahu retreated from his just demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and returned to his "Place Among the Nations." As such, it is rather surprising that it took the world an entire 62 years to understand that Israel really is not a Jewish state and to set its own Holocaust Day - not the one that the Hebrew-speaking Singapore commemorates.

The transfer of prestigious deliberations from the Knesset to the Herzliyah Conference is a symptom of the same process. The parliament of the rabble in Jerusalem has been abandoned to all sorts of marginal and insignificant MKs. The people who really make the decisions try to keep away from the popular representation in the Holy City, preferring to conduct their deliberations in the elitist bubble in hi-tech Herzliyah. To speak there, one has to be a champion of the leftist agenda, or a senior official who is not a Jew or - to pay a lot of money. If you are the Prime Minister, they may allow you to speak, but not necessarily.

And as Hagai Segal explained last week in the Makor Rishon newspaper, the Prime Minister no longer dares to make a move without the backing of the real ruler; the visionary of the Palestinian state, Shimon Peres.

The rug is being pulled out from under the feet of the Jews and not coincidentally - from under the feet of democracy.

The media reported that the man who threw a shoe at Chief Justice Dorit Beinish was severely beaten by security officials - after he was arrested. Isn't the brutal beating of a handcuffed man who is in official custody a more serious crime than the actual throwing of the shoe? But nobody asks any questions. We have already become accustomed to the fact that the rule here is not the rule of the people. By the way, what do you think would happen if an average person would call the police because somebody threw a shoe at him? Would the police show up within seconds and cart off the perpetrator until the end of court proceedings against him?

Israel is not democratic and Jewish. It is democratic because it is Jewish. When we neuter the state of its Jewishness, we neuter its democracy of all meaning. Ultimately, the loss of Israel's Jewish identity brings about the loss of its international legitimacy.

"We dreamed of a place in which the new Book of Books would be written as a stage in world redemption, because you are a chosen nation. We had expectations, and look what you have done."
(British academicians explaining to the deacon of Israel's Sapir College why they are so angry at Israel - Makor Rishon).

But poetic justice is alive and well. The glittering speakers who ran away from the Jews in Jerusalem to the cosmopolitan glass walls of Herzliyah now have arrest warrants waiting for them in London.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Third Temple: Third World War or Eternal World Peace?

By Moshe Feiglin
And G-d gave Solomon wisdom, as He promised him; and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and the two made a pact together. (From this week's reading of Prophets, Kings I, 5:26)

This week's Torah portion, Terumah, reads like a user's manual for Sanctuary and Temple construction. Everything in the portion seems to be technical, even "dry:" Pillars, boards and all the other elements of building.

"Let's just make sure that the Temple will not be rebuilt," I once heard a radio broadcaster say. In truth, I understand where he was coming from. If a person looks at the Temple from the purely technical side, if he cannot overcome the dry details, he can easily reach the same conclusion.

But the first verse in this week's Prophets portion is talking about something else; something that Israel's radio broadcasters talk about all the time. Peace. "And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and the two made a pact together."

Strange. The leftists keep telling us that the third Temple will ignite the Third World War. What is peace doing in this verse? Let us examine the verses leading up to this verse:

And, behold, I propose to build a house for the name of the LORD my G-d, as the LORD spoke unto David my father, saying: Your son, whom I will set upon your throne in your room, he shall build the house for My Name. Therefore command that they hew me cedar-trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with your servants; and I will give you hire for your servants according to all that you shall say; for you know that there is not among us any that has skill to hew timber like the Sidonians.'
And when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said: 'Blessed be the LORD this day, who has given unto David a wise son over this great people.' And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying: 'I have heard that which you have sent to me; I will do all your desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of cypress. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea; and I will make them into rafts to go by sea unto the place that you shall appoint me, and will cause them to be broken up there, and you shall receive them; and you shall accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household.' So Hiram gave Solomon timber of cedar and timber of cypress according to all his desire. And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food to his household, and twenty measures of beaten oil; thus gave Solomon to Hiram year by year.
(Kings I, 5: 19-25)

The culture of the Sidonians - Phoenicians - was rich. They engaged in extensive international trade and the ports that they built on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea developed into mighty kingdoms. Hiram was no small time monarch. He had the wealth of America, the culture of England and the artwork of France all wrapped up in Tyre and Sidon. When Hiram hears that Solomon is building a Temple to G-d, he does not respond with war. He is happy that he has the merit to participate in the Divine undertaking.

The secret of universal peace is the Temple in Jerusalem, when humanity will sense that the King has returned to His home. The world will sense His presence in both the spiritual and geographic dimensions. We will ascend to Him on the holidays and visit in the royal courtyard. Non-Jews will also have their role; all the nations send their sacrifices on the holiday of Sukkot. When the Master of the house is home, every nation knows its place in the universal tapestry. Suddenly, there is peace.

Today, the huge pillars of timber that Hiram the king of Tyre sent to King Solomon are strewn about on the Temple Mount. When good Jews managed to smuggle some samples out of the Temple Mount for Carbon 14 dating and botanical examination, it turned out that these are cedars and cypresses from the First Temple era. Any other nation would turn this treasure into a national museum. But on the Temple Mount, the timber is thrown aside. Some of it is used by the Arabs for heating fuel. There is very little left.

The entire world - including those places where anti-Semitism prevails - is waiting for the great proclamation that will emanate from Jerusalem. But the children of the King scorn their inheritance and have abandoned the remnants of Solomon's Temple to the coarse hands of the children of the servant.

And the King is in exile.
And the neighbors fight - between themselves and together, against us.

And peace is nowhere to be found.