Monday, July 30, 2018

Saudi Arabia and Israel: Know Thine Enemy

by Dr. Edy Cohen

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 899

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel have reached new heights in the past two years, culminating in a recent report that a meeting had taken place between Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israelis should exercise caution, however, before they read too much into this relationship. Riyadh continues to foment hatred of Israel at home.

Continue to full article ->

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mount Sinai and the Golden Calf

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

In this week's parsha, Moshe warns Bnei Yisrael (Devarim 9:4-7):

Do not say ... "Because of my righteousness did Hashem bring me to possess this Land" ... Not because of your righteousness and the uprightedness of your heart are you coming to possess their Land, but because of the wickedness of these nations does Hashem, your G-d, drive them away from before you, and in order to establish the word that Hashem swore to your forefathers ... You should know that not because of your righteousness ... for you are a stiff-necked people. Remember, do not forget, that you provoked Hashem, your G-d, in the Wilderness.

Why was it necessary for Moshe to degrade Israel, and to reemphasize that their inheritance of the Land is not in their merit, and that they are a stiff-necked people that sinned? After all, the generation of the desert all died, so why mention the sins of the fathers to the sons?

In truth, these verses encapsulate the basic tenet of the choice of Israel and of their eternity. Maharal, in Netzach Yisrael, addresses the Ramban's question: Why does the Torah emphasize the righteousness of Noach, that he was a righteous person and that he found favor in the eyes of G-d, whereas regarding Avraham its says: "Go for yourself from your land ... And I will make you a great nation," while nothing is mentioned of his merits?

The Maharal explains based on the Mishna in Avot, that love which is dependent on something, when the reason is gone – so, too, is the love. The Torah intentionally concealed Avraham's righteousness, so that we should not mistakenly think that the covenant was formed with him because of his many merits. This would lead to the conclusion that if, in one of the generations, the descendents would not remain in their righteousness, the covenant is annulled. Therefore the Torah presented the issue in this manner, that the covenant is not dependent and conditional on Israel's righteousness.

Even when they sin, and even with such grave sins as idolatry, they are not rejected, even though they obviously are punished for this. As the Maharal writes, mitzvot and sins "add or detract closeness [to G-d]. However, the very [issue of] closeness is not dependent of the actions of Israel." Chazal say: "Either way they are called sons." The prophet Yechezkel says (20:22-23): "As for what enters your minds – it shall not be! As for what you say: 'We will be like the nations, like the families of the lands, to worship wood and stone,' as I live – the word of the L-rd, Hashem/Elokim – I swear that I will rule over you with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath."

Therefore Moshe emphasizes that Israel does not inherit the land in their merit, because even without merits they would inherit it, in order to fulfill the Divine masterplan as He swore to the forefathers. The proof is that you are a stiff-necked people and sinners, and even so, you are coming to the Land.

The reason for this unconditional choice can be understood from the Gemara Sanhedrin (34a), which addresses the contradiction between two verses. One pasuk says, "You, who cling (deveikim) to Hashem, your G-d" (Devarim 4:4), whereas another verse states: "Israel became attached (vayitzamed) to Baal Pe'or." (Bamidbar 25:3) The Gemara teaches that there is a difference between the words "clinging" and "becoming attached." "Cling" is an absolute bond, which is the relationship between Israel and G-d. On the other hand, Israel "becomes attached" to idolatry, like a bracelet (tzamid) on a woman's hand. In other words, with G-d – they are connected actually, in nature, inherently. However, when they sin with idolatry, this is something casual and external. Therefore, the sin of idolatry, which is casual, cannot abolish the clinging to G-d, which is natural.

With this, we can understand a fascinating passage of Chazal in this week's Haftorah (Brachot 32b):

"Zion said, 'Hashem has forsaken me; my L-rd has forgotten me.'" (Yeshaya 49:14) ...Knesset Yisrael said before G-d: Master of the Universe, "A man who marries a second wife remembers the actions of his first wife, whereas you have forsaken me and forgotten me."G-d said to her: My daughter, I created twelve constellations in the Heaven ... and they all were created only for you, and you say, "You have forsaken me and forgotten me?!" "Can a woman forget her baby (ulah), or not feel compassion (me'rachem) for the child of her womb?" G-d said, "Will I ever forget the olot (burnt-offerings), the rams and first-born (peter-rechem) that you offered before Me in the Wilderness?She said before Him: Master of the Universe, since you do not forget anything, perhaps you will not forget the act of the [golden] calf?He said to her: Even these (eleh) may forget. (I.e., "These are your gods, Israel.")She said before Him: Since there is forgetting before Your Throne, perhaps you will forget the act of Sinai?He said to her: "But I (anochi) will not forget you." (I.e., "I (anochi) am Hashem, your G-d.")This is what R. Eliezer said: What is written, "Even these (eleh) may forget" – this is the act of the [golden] calf; "But I (anochi) will not forget you" – this is the act of Sinai.

This is difficult to comprehend; is there unfair preference here? Why is the golden calf forgotten, but not the act of Sinai? Based on what we said, the issue is clear. Something intrinsic is not forgotten; only something casual and external is forgotten. The sin of idolatry in Israel is not something intrinsic, and is not clinging, and therefore it is forgotten easily and not remembered. Not so, ma'amad Har Sinai, since the Torah is the soul of Israel, and an eternal life that He planted amongst us. Israel cannot exist without the Torah, and therefore – "I (anochi) will not forget you."

Measuring the Commandments

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

Rashi, in commenting on the first word of this week's parsha, employs an interpretation of the word eikev, which in the context of the verse itself here otherwise means "since" or "because." It usually denotes a cause and effect relationship – because you will observe God's commandments, then blessings and physical rewards will descend upon you. Rashi, however, based on midrash, expands the meaning of the word eikev and uses an alternative meaning of the word, meaning "foot" or "heel." He comments that there are commandments and values in Jewish Torah life that the Jews somehow take lightly. They grind them into the dust of everyday life by stepping upon them with their foot and/or heel. It is these, so to speak, neglected commandments and values that are the true key for spiritual success and a good life. Rashi therefore emphasizes to us that the choice of the word eikev in the beginning verse of the parsha is not merely a literary issue of vocabulary. Rather, in the choice of that word, the Torah is teaching us the valuable lesson of life that there really are no small things or inconsequential acts. The rabbis in Avot taught us to be careful with "light" commandments just as we are justly careful with more stringent and weighty commandments. The rabbis emphasize their that one does not know the true effect of the observance of these "light" commandments in the reward and punishment scheme of the judgment of Heaven. So the Torah in effect teaches us to watch our step and actions lest our heel unintentionally treads upon a holy commandment and/or value.

It is difficult for us to measure differing values and the weight and worth of any of the commandments of the Torah. In cases of conflicting values and contradictory instructions, the halachic process resolves for us what our behavior and action should be. Yet, on an intellectual and spiritual plane we are always faced with decisions regarding our priorities of behavior and action. I am attempting to muster some semblance of intent and devotion in my recitation of the prayers when a poor man shoves his hands in front of my face demanding that I give him some money. What shall I do? Shall I ignore the poor man and attempt somehow to regain my devotional intent in prayer or shall I abandon the prayer and grant a coin to the beggar? Which value shall I tread upon with my heel? We are faced with such a type of dilemma on a regular daily basis. Somehow if we can balance our priorities and not subject any of them to be ground under our heels, great things can be accomplished. And even if we are unable to actualize such a balance, the recognition of the potentially conflicting values and actions – the realization that one is not ever to judge God's commandments as being light and heavy, important and less important – is itself a great step towards true spirituality and an understanding of Judaism. In the American Revolutionary War there was a famous colonial flag that proclaimed: "Don’t Tread On Me!" In effect, this is the message of the Torah regarding observance of commandments and our attitude towards Torah and tradition

Just Fear of Heaven? It Depends When

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l

"Now, Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you, just to fear Hashem, your G-d, to follow all His ways and to love Him and serve Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul" (Devarim 10:12). The gemara (Berachot 33b) questions the most surprising part of this pasuk: Is the demand so small that Moshe would say "just"? The gemara says that from Moshe’s perspective it was a small thing. That answer begs a follow-up question: wasn’t Moshe aware that this was not so simple for other people?

Yirat shamayim (fear of Heaven) is the main thing that is not in Hashem’s Hands, but in our own (ibid.). One can then ask: how we can ask in Birkat Hachodesh, "Give us life that contains fear of Heaven and fear of sin" if it is not up to Him?

Before Moshe got up to our pasuk that captures the essence of Judaism, he reviewed Bnei Yisrael’s recent history, with its miracles and crises, along with commandments to remember and not to forget what they had seen (see Devarim 7:18; ibid. 8:18). These commands to remember come in two contexts: before the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, when the people could ask how they would succeed; after the success is realized, when people are liable to claim, "My strength and the power of my hand" were responsible. The solution in both cases is to remember. Indeed, the greatest foe of Judaism is forgetting; one who remembers believes and sees. Upon seeing Hashem’s involvement in the past, he does not fear the future and knows how to attribute the success correctly. This is true throughout history. In both times when Hashem’s face is hidden from us and in times when it shines upon us, we must consider the lessons of the past and recognize Hashem’s Providence.

Let us return to answer the questions. At the time of great success, for example, at the time Moshe was speaking, when the people had recently witnessed many miracles and were on the verge of entering the Land, it was relatively easy to fear Hashem. One can see that Hashem "makes battles, has great strength, and is the master of wonders," that He observes all, and arranges all. When terrible events occur, which make one wonder how Hashem could have allowed them to happen, it is difficult to honestly say, "All of this befell us and we did not forget You or belie Your covenant" (Tehillim 44:18).

When we ask for "life that contains fear of Heaven" we are asking for successful times when basic fear of Hashem is easier to come by. While it is always ultimately up to us, we pray that we will not be tested with times when it is harder to accomplishment it.

Chazal speak of a year that is poor in its beginning and rich at its end (Rosh Hashana 16b). This year (5708= 1947-8) was such a year. We began the year like paupers at the doorway, wondering "how will we be able to acquire [the Land]." Miraculously, we did! We received the "life that contains fear of Heaven." Now it is our responsibility to put things in perspective and remember that it is Hashem who gave us the strength to succeed, and use this outlook to reach yirat shamayim under conducive circumstances.

Zehut chairman supports son after call to refuse orders (INN)

 by Tal Polon  (INN)

   Moshe Feiglin

Zehut party Chairman and former MK Moshe Feiglin expressed solidarity with his son, Avi Feiglin, a footsoldier in the Kfir brigade, who said that he intended to refuse orders which endanger the lives of IDF soldiers by attempting to minimize harm to Arab rioters.

Last night, Avi Feiglin uploaded a post to Facebook, in which he related how, several months ago during a brigade educational evening, a ‘Charuv’ battalion commander from the brigade had spoken about an operational “success” over which he had commanded during the period of Operation Protective Edge, near the community of Migdal Oz in Gush Etzion.

The goal of the operation was to identify and capture terrorists who had routinely been shooting at soldiers containing riots in the area. Avi said that, according to the plan, “The soldiers would manage the riot as usual, while snipers would be stationed at the entrance gate of Migdal Oz. When the snipers identified who was shooting at the soldiers during the riot, they would neutralize him with a bullet to the foot.”

Avi blasted the “impotent” plan, concluding, “More than all the injustices in this story, I am enraged by two things: 1) We used soldiers as bait to ‘catch’ a terrorist, not kill him. 2) Standing in front of us is a commander from the Charuv battalion, now a special unit, presenting the events as a war story, as an operational success. That commander’s place is in civilian jail after being booted from the IDF, and so also for the whole chain of command that approved this activity.”

“I am still a soldier in regular service, and any time my blood and the blood of my comrades is abandoned in the name of political correctness and the sad/warped value system of the general staff and the government - I intend to refuse orders every time I am called on to contain a riot, with all the accompanying consequences, until there is change here.”

Moshe Feiglin shared his son’s post to Facebook, commenting, “Most IDF soldiers killed in recent years were killed due to preference for the well-being of a hostile population to the lives of our sons.”

“Instead of warning the population and calling on it to evacuate the area and then obliterate aerially, they send soldiers into alleyways and tunnels.

“Instead of marking a line over which one who crosses is cut down, they send soldiers to deal with civilians and get killed from afar by sniper fire.

“Instead of eliminating launchers of kites, they let the south burn. As a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, I opposed entry into Gaza during Protective Edge. If you don’t have intention to be victorious, don’t play deadly games with our sons.”

Feiglin concluded regarding his son’s decision: “He is now going to get all the friendly fire - my son - but every Hebrew mother should know, that there are brave and responsible soldiers, who act even now to save her sons from the senior command, which is worried about the court in the Hague more than protecting the lives of those it commands.”

“It is irrelevant what they say - I am very proud of you.”

The posts come after two soldiers were recently hit by snipers as they responded to riots along the Gaza border. Soldier Aviv Levi was killed, while the other soldier was moderately wounded near the same location several days later.

The root of our conflict goes deeper than you thought

by Vic Rosenthal

If you read a history book or today’s newspaper, you will see certain kinds of conflicts that repeat themselves, time and again. There are economic conflicts, situations in which one group wants something – land or property – that another group has. And there are ethnic/religious/racial conflicts, conflicts based on the perception of members of a different group as an enemy, simply because they belong to that group.

Very often there is a conflict in which both kinds of motivations are mixed, but it seems to me that the ethnic part brings a special kind of viciousness and persistence that is not found in purely economic conflicts. A purely economic conflict can operate on a rational level, where benefits are weighed against costs, while an ethnic one can escalate through a kind of feedback mechanism so that even suicidal actions can seem justified if they hurt the enemy. And they can go on forever.

Sometimes the leaders of a group will encourage ethnic hatred in order to motivate their people to fight for primarily economic objectives. It’s an effective technique, but sometimes the inter-group hatred gets out of control and conflict continues long after the economic motive is gone.

Ethnic conflicts are found throughout history. I think of the Hebrews and Amalek, the Armenians and the Turks, and of course the Jews and the Arabs in the land of Israel. In fact, it seems to me that nothing is more characteristic of humans than inter-group suspicion, hatred, and aggression.

Human attempts to change this fundamental behavior have consistently failed. The South African reconciliation process was intended to short-circuit the continuation of conflict associated with the end of apartheid by rehabilitating the victims, exposing the abuses, and punishing or in some cases giving amnesty to the perpetrators. While it seemed to have had a certain degree of success, recent events suggest that racial animosity is welling up there again.

In the US, 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the last major legislative achievement of the civil rights movement, feelings of animosity between blacks and whites are as strong or stronger than they were in 1968.

Need I add that antisemitism has reached levels throughout the world unmatched since the period prior to WWII? Or that conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims have broken out almost everywhere there is an interface between them?

It’s time to stop treating this kind of behavior as an aberration and to realize that ethnic, religious, and racial hatred and aggression is normal human behavior, probably biologically based. So how can we act to minimize the damage it does?

The liberal and social-democratic establishment in the world thinks it has a solution: it is to increase diversity; that is, to mix ethnic, religious, and racial groups in every possible environment so that the members of the various groups will get to know each other and understand that they are all humans. Once they understand each other (the theory says), animosity and mistrust will dissipate. At the same time, the economic status of all groups should be improved so that none will be worse off than the others. If people understand each other and don’t envy other groups, the argument goes, there will be no room for conflict.

Unfortunately, this same establishment has also been at pains to promulgate a world-view in which certain groups are defined as oppressed by other groups. They believe that “oppressed” groups should be compensated by being given special advantages over the “oppressors,” or even (as in South Africa) by being given property confiscated from “oppressors.” Naturally, any improvement in relations brought about by diversity is immediately overwhelmed by the resentment this creates – among both the “oppressed” and “oppressor” groups).

There’s a fundamental problem with diversity itself. In a diverse environment, each group tries to maximize its power and ownership of common resources. This expresses itself as political divisiveness along ethnic lines, the situation so familiar to us in the Middle East. These political groups then provide a focus for conflict. Thus the presence of Arab members in Israel’s Knesset doesn’t serve to improve relations between Jews and Arabs, but rather brings about political conflict as those representatives look for issues with which to set themselves apart from the Jewish Knesset members – and become even more extreme in order to distinguish themselves from the other Arabs.

Promoting diversity, in other words, increases tensions, which leads to conflict. But there is an opposite approach, which is to move in the opposite direction from diversity, and reduce conflict by separating antagonistic groups.

How does this apply to the situation of Israel and the Palestinians?

Ze’ev Jabotinsky understood the inescapability of ethnic conflict between Jews and Arabs. His solution was that the creation of a Jewish majority and the establishment of Jewish sovereignty should be carried out despite Arab opposition, by force if necessary. Once those things were obtained and it was clear to the Arabs that they would not be given up, it might become possible to reach a modus vivendi with them.

Meir Kahane also understood. But he believed that it was impossible for a sovereign Jewish state to contain a sizeable Arab minority and survive. According to Kahane, coexistence is not an option.

Both Jabotinsky and Kahane disagreed with the liberal conventional wisdom that diversity, dialogue, and economic improvements could end ethnic/religious/racial hatred. Recent history, in Israel and other places, has borne them out.

We must understand that we will never make the Palestinians like us, or even stop wanting to kill us. Understanding won’t help, and neither will generous aid. Separation from them is the best way to reduce conflict.

What that would mean in practice is a hard question. The Left wants us to chop off part of our homeland, find some unspecified magic solution to the security nightmare that this would create, and everything would be fine. Except there is no magic solution, and the nightmare would be a deadly reality.

Martin Sherman has suggested (Part I and Part II, also FAQ I and FAQ II) that we incentivize emigration of the Arabs from the territories to third countries, financially and otherwise. Perhaps the only truly rational answer, and one which would probably produce the least misery for everyone involved, Sherman’s ideas have not gotten any traction among decision-makers in Israel or the US, and certainly not among the Palestinians.

Why do they hate us? It doesn’t matter. It’s not worth arguing about who started it and who’s right or wrong, except as an academic exercise. What is important is that the conflict is not amenable to solutions that don’t involve one or the other party stepping aside.

Let it be them.

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Shabbat Nachamu Like Never Before

by Shmuel Sackett

Tisha B’av is over and the time for comfort has arrived. Since the next fast day is far away, a whopping 46 days (yes, I counted), there’s plenty of time to focus on food, fun and swimming. There’s just one problem; Is that what Isaiah the prophet meant when he wrote “comfort”? Please do yourself a favor and take a minute to answer that question. Put down the T-bone steak you couldn’t eat for nine days and lower the music you missed so badly and focus on what Isaiah meant when he wrote; “Comfort, comfort My people”.

Actually, this is a very easy homework assignment since the answer is in the very next verse. First let me tell you what it does not say. Sorry to ruin your Shabbat Nachamu – and all the fun afterwards – but it does not say a word about hotels, amusement parks, baseball games or all-you-can-eat barbeques. I have no problem with people enjoying those things (especially the all-you-can-eat-barbeque, as long as you invite ME!!) just don’t fool yourself into believing you are doing anything at all connected to what the great prophet had in mind.

Unlike what many people think, these famous words “comfort, comfort MY people” were not said by Isaiah… they were said by Hashem Himself! The complete verse is: “Comfort, comfort My people – says your G-d”. Do you realize what those last 3 words mean? Hashem Himself is telling us that after all the tragedies, after all the sickness, death and destruction – which, due to our sins, we brought upon ourselves – He is still our G-d! He is not the G-d of anyone else… just us! Of all the people in the world – estimated today at 7.1 billion – He chose only the Jewish people – all 13 million of us (0.18%) to be His people, His nation and to live in His land! Do you realize what an honor that is? Words can simply never describe that. Hashem chose YOU over the rest of the world! Simply incredible.

Ok, Hashem tells us to be comforted... but how do we do it? How does a broken nation get up from the dust and out of the ovens of Auschwitz? How can we be comforted when our greatest possession has been destroyed and is now occupied by blood thirsty people? The answer is first and foremost in those three words; “Says YOUR G-d”. Although the pain and bitter memories still exist, Hashem is, was and always will be OUR G-d and will never forget us. We simply need to take comfort in that. We are not alone facing Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS. Hashem is our G-d and – as long as we do what He expects of us – He will always guide our hand and help us defeat our enemies.

But there’s more. Keep reading chapter 40 of Isaiah and you will find other statements made by Hashem Himself, as well as others said by the prophet, on how to be comforted; “Speak consolingly of Jerusalem and tell her that her period of exile has been completed…make a straight path in the desert… ascend upon a high mountain… raise your voice with strength… fear not… Hashem will come with a strong arm… all the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are reckoned like the dust… all the nations are like nothing before Him…”

These words are all from the Haftorah of Shabbat Nachamu and each one of them teaches us exactly how to be comforted. Let’s examine a few of them. “Speak consolingly of Jerusalem and tell her that her period of exile has been completed” – what a powerful verse!! Do you realize what this means? We are being told – again, by Hashem Himself, that the exile for Jerusalem is over! The simple meaning of this is very clear: If “exile” means being “kicked out” then when the exile is over it means it’s time to “come back”!! THAT is how the Jewish nation comforts itself… by returning home… to Jerusalem!! How else do we tell Jerusalem “that her period of exile has been completed”? By sending an email? By making Jerusalem a friend on Facebook?

Dearest friends, you need to read the words and absorb the message. Hashem is talking to you directly. For thousands of years we did not understand the words of that verse but now we do. The time to cry is over while the time to build has begun. Just look at Jerusalem today and the words of Hashem will simply smack you in the face. “Speak consolingly of Jerusalem”… “her period of exile has been completed”… wow! This has happened in our day! Amazing!

But what about our enemies? What about the 150,000 rockets aimed at Israel from Hezbollah? What about Hamas? How can we come to Israel with all that danger? The answer to these questions are in the next few verses. “Raise your voice with strength… fear not… Hashem will come with a strong arm… all the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are reckoned like the dust… all the nations are like nothing before Him…” In these verses it is Isaiah telling us that when we recognize the exile of Jerusalem is over - and return home – then we have nothing to fear. The Romans, Greeks, Assyrians, Babylonians and Germans were much stronger and mightier than a few thugs called Hamas yet Hashem defeated them all. With all their greatness and splendor, where are these mighty empires today? They are like “a drop from a bucket”, says Isaiah the prophet, and are “like nothing before Him”.

These powerful words will be read on the morning of Shabbat Nachamu. They are read because after all the suffering and all the pain – which was a lot more than 3 weeks of not shaving or listening to music – the Jewish nation has returned home! Ask any person who ever stayed a few days in the hospital, what “coming back home” meant. Even though the person is still weak and not totally cured, the fact that they came home is a great motivator… and an even greater comfort.

“Comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d”. Let’s listen to these words and act upon them. Hashem is speaking to each and every one of us. The only thing left for us is courage and action. Therefore, allow me to end this article with an exact quote. It is the bracha that Rav Meir Kahane – a holy Kohen - used to give: “May Hashem give you the wisdom to understand what is right, and the courage to act upon it!” Let’s get to work!

The Believer in Israel Will Deal with its Challenges

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

The Sin of the Spies – The Root of the Destruction

As is known, the Sin of the Spies is the root of the destruction of the Land and the Temple. On the ninth of Av, the generation of the desert chose to believe the Spies, who claimed that Israel would not be able to conquer the land: “The entire community raised a hubbub and began to shout. That night, the people wept. All the Israelites complained to Moses and Aaron. The entire community was saying, ‘We wish we had died in Egypt! We should have died in this desert! Why is God bringing us to this land to die by the sword? Our wives and children will be captives! It would be best to go back to Egypt!’ The people started saying to one another, ‘Let’s appoint a [new] leader and go back to Egypt” (Bamidbar 14: 1). In the wake of their terrible sin, it was decreed that all men of military age would die in the desert and would not be able to see the good Land. Only after their bodies would fall in the wilderness would their sons be able to enter the Land, with Yehoshua Bin Nun and Calev ben Yefunah who did not participate in the sin.

At the same time, the Holy One, Blessed be He, said: ” You have wept without cause: therefore will I appoint a weeping to you for future generations” (Sanhedrin 104b), and it was decreed that the Temple would be destroyed, and Israel to be exiled from their land (Ta’anit 26b; Tanchuma Shelach).
What Sin did the Spies Commit?

Seemingly, the incident of the Sin of the Spies poses a difficulty: what sin did they actually commit? After all, the spies were sent to explore the land, to see whether the people living there were strong or weak, whether the inhabitants of the country were few or many. And behold, according to their best judgment, they concluded that the Canaanites living in the land were aggressive, the land’s cities were large and well-fortified, and if the Israelites were to try and conquer the land, the men would fall by the sword, and the women and children would be sold as slaves. This was their assessment, so what choice did they have – to sit silently and watch while the people of Israel strode to their destruction? They were morally obligated to warn against the danger! And even if the Spies and the people erred in judgment, should the punishment have been so severe – to the point where all of them would die in the desert, the Jewish nation’s entry into the Land be delayed for forty years, and if their sin was not rectified – on that same day, the two Temples would eventually be destroyed?
When there is No Faith, Excuses Abound

The Spies were punished not for the mistake of judgment, but for the fact that they did not understand the value of the Land and did not love it, as it is written: “Moreover, they despised the pleasant Land, they did not believe His word” (Psalms 24:24). Consequently, they misjudged and exaggerated the power of the Canaanites facing Israel. For that reason, when Yehoshua and Calev tried to save them, they declared at the outset: “The Land is very, very good.” Only afterwards, out of a recognition of the value of the Land, did they call upon the people to strengthen their faith in their ability to defeat the Canaanites (Numbers 14: 9).

A person who does not love the Land abhors the need to fight for it, and subsequently convinces himself that it is impossible to conquer and settle it, and finds a thousand reasons why. However, the main reason is – he simply does not care about the Land of Israel, and all his reasons are merely excuses. No one is willing to invest time and effort in something he does not value. For example, a person who does not value the importance of university studies will be incapable of finding the inner strength to pursue their completion. Someone who does not appreciate the significance of combat service will not be able to find the inner strength to withstand arduous training, preparing him to be a fighter. One who does not appreciate the value of family life will not be able to find the strength to seal a marriage covenant, and establish a family. Each one will find a thousand realistic reasons why the time is not right to study, to enlist in the army, or to get married, but the real reason is – they simply do not want to.

The Position behind the Security Policy
Even today, it is a fact that the main characteristic of most of the leftists who support the withdrawal from Judea and Samaria is that the love of the people and the Land is not central to their lives, and their belief in God is also weak. Like the Spies of old, today they also candidly claim that in order to save the State of Israel, we must withdraw from Judea and Samaria and establish a Palestinian state. They also claim that if we continue to settle in Judea and Samaria, we will endanger the State of Israel because it will lose its Jewish identity, or it will become an undemocratic country that the whole world will distance itself from as a leper, until it can no longer exist. On the other hand, those who believe in God, the Giver of the Torah, and the love of the People and the Land is central to their lives, tend to believe that settlement in Judea and Samaria will strengthen the State of Israel, and any withdrawal will weaken it, and endanger its existence.
Underlying the Debate over Morality

Not only that, but belief and values ​​also influence moral attitudes. The leftists are convinced that expelling Jews from the settlements is moral, but it is immoral to expel Arabs even in return for appropriate compensation. The extremists in the left think the settlement is a crime. On the other hand, the rightists are convinced that the Jewish people have exclusive right over Judea and Samaria, and under certain conditions it is possible to expel Arabs.

In times of war, the leftists tend to oppose serious harm to the Arabs on the assumption that the Arabs’ position is right. On the other hand, right-wingers support severe attacks on them, on the assumption that they are the evil side of the conflict and that they should be punished properly. Moreover, the moral-faith assessment influences the assessment of reality: in the opinion of the leftists, if we deal with the Arab enemy with a hard hand, the security situation will worsen, and in the opinion of rightists, the situation will improve.
The Debate over Numbers

Even concerning the demographic numbers, which seemingly depend on reality, belief and values have an influence. The extreme left (including officers from the Civil Administration) estimates that about five million Arabs live in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip; the moderate leftists believe that they number slightly more than four million (Prof. Della Pergola); right-wingers believe that their number is slightly more than three million (Yoram Ettinger), and extreme right-wingers believe they number about two million. If this is the debate over the numbers of those living today, all the more so the belief-based position affects future assessments. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, left-wing demographic experts have estimated that within twenty years the Arabs will become a majority, and right-wing experts believe that the Jewish majority will grow.

Humorously, the settlers say that it is not worth prolonging arguments with left-wingers, because every half hour the debate grows, the number of Arabs rises by half a million. With the mercy of Heaven, after the debate is over, reality returns to itself and the exaggerated numbers dissipate into thin air…

Redemption in Reality
In reality, it is also possible to make mistakes on the other side – to ignore the difficult problems in reality, and to think that the main thing is to believe that if we really want to settle the country urgently, it will be possible to skip over all the problems and everything will work out miraculously. But this, too, is a grave sin (as the Ma’apilim did after the Sin of the Spies). This is because both reality and nature are Divine creations, and ignoring the problems of reality and natural difficulties is heresy. In other words, those faithful to the People and the Land must recognize reality as it is, not change the numbers and not bias the assessments to suit their faith, aspirations, and hopes. The main purpose of the mitzvah of settling the Land is to reveal the faith within the earthly life, within a rational framework. This is also the goal of the entire Torah, to be fulfilled in the Land, within the framework of the natural laws, without relying on miracles, and thus it will be revealed how walking in the ways of God adds blessing and life. The mitzvot related to the family bring blessings to the family, the mitzvoth related to livelihood and morality lead to economic success, the mitzvoth associated with the nation advance the nation, and so forth in all the areas of life that mitzvot deal with.

Returning to the settlement of the land: Inspired by faith and its guidance, we must seek the real and moral ways to settle the Land even within our complicated reality. Since reality is complex and given to change, in joint efforts we can find the rational ways to settle the Land, and after our plans are completely realistic – we can hope for God’s help.

Redemption Little by Little

Since redemption must come through natural reality, rationally, it develops and progresses gradually, without any skipping over. As the Sages said: “Such will be Israel’s redemption: at first it will be little by little, but the longer it continues it will grow and grow”(Talmud Yerushalmi Berachot 1: 1). In other words, even though everything begins with God, “the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it…”, the goal is that everything be revealed through us, as the verse continues: “…who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it” (Isaiah 42: 5). If the goal was to reveal the faith in God by skipping over all the laws of intelligence and nature, redemption would have to come at once, while scrapping reality. However, the complete faith is revealed in the heavens and in the earth, and in the complete redemption, both the earth and nature are redeemed, the intellect and emotions, and all human qualities are redeemed. To this end, the process of tikkun(correction) is gradually being accomplished through human actions.

This is what was said in the Zohar: “When the Holy One, blessed be He, will raise them up and bring them out of the Exile, then He will open for them a slight, very thin opening of light, and then open a slightly larger opening, until the Holy One, blessed be He opens the Upper Gates to the four directions of the world” (Va’yishlach 170:1 Tirgum). In this way, Israel will be able to absorb the value of Torah and the mitzvah of settling the Land, and to participate fully in its fulfillment, until the entire world is redeemed.

The Tikkun– the Refining of Faith

The Spies denied the process of redemption of the Land; they did not believe that it was possible to act according to the Torah to change the reality for the better. They thought one of two things: Either God will perform a miracle for us and redeem us, or there is no way to overcome the difficulties of reality. The correction of the Sin of the Spies and the redemption of Israel and the world depends on the refining of faith. On the one hand, recognizing the greatness of God in the destiny of the people of Israel and in the significance of the Land. And on the other hand, in the recognition that the word of God must be revealed through rational, natural reality without any skipping over. This is the essence of the commandment to settle the Land, and therefore it is equivalent to all the commandments.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Whoever controls the Temple Mount…

Parashiot Vaetchanan-Aikev
HaRav Nachman Kahana

Devarim 7,12:
(יב) והיה עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה ושמרתם ועשיתם אתם ושמר ה’ אלהיך לך את הברית ואת החסד אשר נשבע לאבתיך:
12 In the wake of your diligence in abiding by these laws and are deliberate in following them, then the Lord your God will uphold His covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors

The word Aikev refers to one’s heel. It is used figuratively to mean “in the wake of” or “consistent”, just as one’s heels follow in cadence while walking.

Rashi comments that the intention here is also to stress the importance of those mitzvot which one might believe to be peripheral and “trample on them with his heel”.

I shall return to this later.

Time and space

The Almighty created for us mortals a two-dimensional world of Time and Space; each independent of the other and each with its own “natural” laws. Time can exist without a spatial entity when a change occurs, and space is not measured by time. HaShem is beyond time because He is at perfect rest and is beyond space because He is infinite.

Shabbat is the absolute, ultimate sanctity of time. It occurs in seven-day cycles independent of all human involvement, contrary to the holy days of the year whose dates are determined by a bet din when declaring the time of the new month (Rosh Chodesh.) The sanctity of Shabbat would be in affect even if there were no Jews to observe it.

The site of the Bet HaMikdash on the Temple Mount in Yerushalayim is the absolute sanctity of space. It was declared so at the moment of creation. As the Gemara (Yoma 54b and many other sources) points out that the planet earth expanded from a primordial point, which was later to become Har HaBayit – the Temple Mount.

The sanctity of Har HaBayit is eternal and absolute, as the Rambam states (Hilchot Bet Habechira 6,16) that the sanctity of the site is derived from the presence of the Holy Shechina and the Shechina is forever present there.

The magnitude of the sanctity of Har Habayit is so immense that it dominates life itself.

Now come for a little walk from my home in the Old City towards the ultimate sanctity of space in the universe from where the Shechina has never departed – Har Habayit.

What do you see?

An enormous mosque called Al Aksa at the southern end of the Mount and a large-domed building called Kipat HaSela – The Dome of the Rock closer to the center; experts are undecided if it is standing on the place of the Kodesh Kedoshim – Holy of Holies, or on the place of the Miz’bayach [the large altar).

These foreign buildings are there because we were in exile for 2000 years. However, we, with the grace of HaShem, have returned to some parts of Eretz Yisrael including Har Habayit, and are sovereign over all Yerushalayim for the first time in over 2000 years.

A Jewish head and heart would assume, without question, that the foremost place in our consciousness is Har Habayit. That the leading rabbinic figures, especially of the yeshiva world, would demand that every Jew ascend the mountain if not daily, then at the very least, three times a year – Pesach, Shavuot and Succot – after immersing in a mikve and wearing appropriate shoes. And if, for various reasons, we could not demolish these two Moslem abominations, there would be a huge bet knesset on the Mount, housing a yeshiva with the foremost Torah minds of the nation.

That’s what one might assume. However, the bitter reality is far, far different.

Despite the Chareidi rabbinate’s overwhelming negation of everything the Chief Rabbinate of Israel stands for, they are both in agreement in their negative attitude towards Har Habayit.

The great rabbis, who accompanied Rabbi Akiva to Yerushalayim after the Temple’s destruction (Tractate Makot 24a), were devastated when seeing foxes running freely on the Mount and were comforted by Rabbi Akiva only because of the future that he predicted. These same rabbis would rend their clothing and pull out their hair if they knew that, in the future, there would be rabbis who would prohibit Jews from ascending the Mount, while being totally indifferent, passive, blasé, aloof, unmoved, unconcerned, apathetic and phlegmatic to our worst enemies doing as they please in the holiest place in the world. Never a demonstration, never a protest – total and absolute capitulation.

I, and the hundreds of other rabbanim of the dati-leumi persuasion, and the thousands of our adherents who do ascend the Mount, are enraged by the reality of what we see there. The Moslem Wakf (religious council) by consent of the Israeli government, which is empowered by the Chareidi rabbis, are the “masters” of the Mount. A Jew who enters the Mount is identified and checked against a master list of “provocateurs.” Then the Jew is lectured to by a Jewish policeman on the prohibition against praying or even moving one’s lips on the Mount. If he has any religious article on him, i.e. a siddur, he may not enter the Mount.

The Chareidi prohibition does not stem from a fear that one might enter the prohibited area of the Temple compound and be liable for the Karet punishment (severing of the soul’s connection to its Creator). Because even though we do not know the exact place where the Temple stood, we do know where it was not, and we are careful to walk in a wide perimeter near the edges of the Mount.

To put it more succinctly: if one fears transgressing on a Karet violation, than he should not marry nor should he get out of bed on Shabbat, for in both of these issues the chances of Karet are much greater than ascending the Temple Mount.

It appears that in the cosmic competition between Time and Space, between the time of Shabbat and the space of Har HaBayit, Shabbat emerges victorious – probably because the promise of Shabbat is kugel, kishka and cholent, while the promise of Har Habayit is struggle and mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice).

What makes Har Habayit the eternal repository of sanctity?

Our rabbis taught that Moshe beseeched HaShem 515 times to enter Eretz Yisrael, the gematria (number equivalent) of the word va’et’chanan. Moshe did not request a homestead of lush rolling land, nor did he request a palatial home befitting the first king of Israel. What he did request was simply to enter the land for one purpose, as the Gemara (Sota 14a) says: “Was it to eat of its fruit or find pleasures of the Land that Moshe wished to enter? No! It was for one reason. Moshe prayed for the opportunity to keep mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael.”

It would appear that the Gemara is at odds with the Midrash in describing Moshe’s prayer to Hashem.

The midrash relates that HaShem refused Moshe to enter into the Land. Moshe pleaded: “If I cannot enter in a live state, let my body be brought into the land.” Hashem’s answer is no! “Let me enter in the form of an animal so I can tread on the Land.” No! “Then let me enter as a bird without touching the Land.” No!

Now, if according to the Gemara Moshe wanted to enter the Land to keep its mitzvot, why would it satisfy him to enter as an animal or a bird?

We must therefore conclude that there is a spiritual experience that even an animal or a bird can sense. Just being present in the land, even if one does nothing else, is the fulfillment of a mitzva – and this even an animal or a bird can do.

Now, if the Land is so holy that even its air space is sanctified (the Zohar, the classic text of the Kabbalah, says that Eretz Yisrael is directly under the kisay ha’kavod – the Heavenly Throne, and the earthly Yerushalayim is directly under the heavenly Yerushalayim) and influences the spirit of all who are present here, the question arises: How can we live as “normal” human beings, doing the things which people must do in order to maintain our personal and national lives? How do we get up in the morning and go to work, deal in commerce and industry, fix our cars when they break, eat, sleep, and attend to our bodily needs? The whole Land should be as the Kodesh HaKodashim of the Temple, if even an animal is stirred by the sanctity of the Land.

I suggest:

Newly-grown crops in Eretz Yisrael are designated as “tevel” (forbidden to eat unless Teruma and Maaser tithes are separated from them) and no part may be eaten because of their sanctity, the punishment being the termination of one’s life prior to the time allotted to him at birth. The prohibition is annulled by separating the required tithes as stated in the Torah. One of the tithes is “Terumah Gedola” which is given to a kohen. The amount of teruma from the Torah is one grain of wheat from an entire crop. Not being a farmer, I would give a wild guess that there are close to millions of grains in a decent size wheat crop, which would make the teruma gedola totally insignificant in terms of quantity. Nevertheless, this (and the other tithes) are the factors determining if one lives his life through or dies earlier.

We can conclude that this one single grain concentrates in itself the sanctity of the entire crop; for in the spiritual world, size, space, numbers, etc., are irrelevant (the Shamayim – the dwelling place of God and other heavenly beings – has a different set of physics and chemistry).

Accordingly, I suggest that we live and function in Eretz Yisrael despite its inherent sanctity, because HaShem has separated a piece of teruma which concentrates in it the necessary amount of kedusha rendering the rest of the country kadosh, but less than the status of the Holy of Holies.

That “piece” of teruma is Har Habayit – the Temple Mount.

Rambam states that even if the halachic status of Eretz Yisrael in terms of the agricultural laws was changed by the destruction of the Temple, the halachic status of the Temple Mount has not changed since the time of King Solomon; and hence, we may offer up sacrifices even in our times (if we could overcome several halachic obstacles, such as the exact place of the altar and who is an authentic kohen etc.).

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in the Jewish world, and proof of this is what the great Ramban wrote to his son after arriving in Yerushalayim, “Whatever is more holy is more desecrated – Yehuda is more desecrated than the Galil, and Yerushalayim is the most desecrated of all.”

If you are shuddering at the thought of how many “karet” transgressions one performs when ascending the Mount, permit me to fill you in on a little halachic geography.

Har Habayit is made up of two parts. In the center is solid bedrock, which is surrounded by landfill made by Hordus (Herod) when he turned the Temple Mount from a square into a rectangle. The building of the Bet Hamikadash was 100 amot high (50 meters) – equivalent to a 25-story building. Hordus did not build with steel and aluminum but with huge stones, like those in the Kotel (the Wailing Wall); so the sheer weight of the Bet Hamikdash was too heavy to be held up by landfill. This means that even though we do not know where the exact site is, we do know where it is not; and so we tread only on the landfill. Indeed, the Kotel is no more than a supporting wall for the landfill to prevent slippage.

Were it in my power, I would close off the Kotel and hang a big sign on it saying, “All this because of sin’at chinam (baseless hatred),” and then direct the people to Har Habayit.

In the reality of our contemporary religious, geopolitical, and military situation, whoever controls the Temple Mount controls Eretz Yisrael emotionally and religiously, and his “God” is victorious. And religious emotions are the dominant factors here in the Middle East.

Strength in numbers

On the practical level. The reality on the Temple Mount will be decided by numbers. If years ago several hundred Jews ascended the Mount a year the numbers are now in the many thousands. Things will change when the numbers will be in the tens and hundreds of thousands of Jews. At that time the population pressure will force the changes and Jews will be able to pray and perform other religious practices on the Mount.

The Chareidi segment will join, and even lead the great numbers, as they are beginning to change now when they see that the Halachic decisions of the dati-leumi rabbis are the ones which are pertinent for our generation.

The most important mitzva

To return to the beginning of this message.

The most important mitzva in our time is the one that Jews “tread on with their heels” – to ascend the Temple Mount on foot and declare that here we will build the third Bet Hamikdash.

It’s enlightening to recall the words of our leaders at the time of building the second Bet Hamikdash, as recorded in the book of Ezra chapter 4.

(א) וישמעו צרי יהודה ובנימן כי בני הגולה בונים היכל לה’ אלהי ישראל:
(ב) ויגשו אל זרבבל ואל ראשי האבות ויאמרו להם נבנה עמכם כי ככם נדרוש לאלהיכם ולא ולו אנחנו זבחים מימי אסר חדן מלך אשור המעלה אתנו פה:
(ג) ויאמר להם זרבבל וישוע ושאר ראשי האבות לישראל לא לכם ולנו לבנות בית לאלהינו כי אנחנו יחד נבנה לה’ אלהי ישראל כאשר צונו המלך כורש מלך פרס:
1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin (Samaritans and others) heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel,
2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
3 But Zerubbabel, Yehoshua and the other heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel…

When the time comes (may it be soon) for us to rebuild the Bet Hamikdash, the nations of the world will offer the Medina “foreign aid” to be partners in HaShem’s new world. And we shall say to them, as did our fathers, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel.

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

Powerful Mezuza Protection (Vaetchanan)

by Ben-Tzion Spitz

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air. -John Quincy Adams

One of the more recognizable and widely used Jewish artifacts, even in Jewish homes that are not otherwise observant, is the Mezuza. The Mezuza is a small piece of parchment, with two paragraphs from the book of Deuteronomy written on it, in the ancient fashion. Not coincidentally, these are the first two paragraphs of the biblically-mandated Shma prayer, where the commandment of Mezuza is articulated. The Mezuza is typically housed in a simple container (which over the years has evolved into more intricate and beautiful designs) and placed on the upper third of a doorpost, on the right side of the entry to whatever house or room lies beyond the door.

The Mezuza has taken on the status of a talisman, a metaphysical object that conveys some otherworldly protection to those that have it. It is not an uncommon belief that when some tragedy befalls a home that one should check their Mezuzas. Finding an error in the text of the Mezuza is attributed as the cause of the misfortune. However, this misses the point and purpose of the Mezuza.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Deuteronomy 6:9 (Vaetchanan) explains that in ancient days, the nations of the world believed that the fate and well-being of their homes were determined by the constellations. Astrology and horoscopes were the arbiters of success or failure. For that reason, on the outside of the Mezuza scroll, we write one of the names of God, the one in particular that apparently vanquishes any astrological effects and highlights that good and bounty come from God and not from any particular astronomical phenomena.

Rabbeinu Bechaye details what it is about the Mezuza and its two paragraphs that truly make it so important, so powerful. It is not the physical object (though it must be scrupulously written), but rather, the ideas contained within. The Mezuza text talks about God’s Unity, the study of His Torah, reward and punishment and hints at the Exodus from Egypt with all the accompanying miracles. This text establishes three fundamentals of Jewish belief: faith in God; God’s constant renewal and presence in our world; and the truth of prophecy, God’s ability to communicate with man, and for man to be able to hear His call.

It is remembering these principles that gives us power and protection. It is by constantly remembering and affirming these fundamental ideas and beliefs of Judaism which brings us under God’s wing. That is why we have it at the entrance to our homes and rooms. That is the reason many Jews touch the Mezuza on entering and exiting their domicile. There is no commandment to touch the Mezuza. The commandment is to remember and be always cognizant of some of the founding principles of Judaism, part of what makes us merit God’s greater intervention and concern for our lives and wellbeing.

May the ideas and principles we establish in our homes make us worthy of divine protection.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thousands Rally in South Africa’s Capital to Demand Full Resumption of Ties With Israel

(Ed note: Anyone happen to see anything about this in the mainstream anti-Israel media?)

Thousands marched in Pretoria on July 25 urging the full restoration of ties between South Africa and Israel. Photo: SAFI

Thousands of South African supporters of Israel marched through the streets of Pretoria, the capital, on Wednesday, demanding the reinstatement of South Africa’s envoy to Israel, along with an end to the efforts of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to further downgrade diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

Rallying on Wednesday outside Union Buildings — the seat of the South African government — the predominantly Christian marchers, totaling around 5,000 in number, carried placards reading “SA Bless Israel” and “No Cutting Ties With Israel.” South Africa’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, Sisa Ngombane, was recalled to Pretoria on May 14 as a gesture of solidarity with the violent Palestinian demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border.

Political party leaders at the rally included Mosiuoa Lekota of the Congress of the People (COPE) and Rev. Kenneth Meshoe of the African Democratic Christian Party (ADCP), South African news outlet IOLreported. A petition with 41,000 signatures urging the restoration of ties with Israel was presented to the South African presidency’s office.

Rev. Meshoe told the crowd that the ANC’s forthcoming bid in 2019 for the votes of South Africa’s professed Christians — more than 80 percent of the country’s population of 56 million — might be rebuffed if its political and diplomatic campaign against Israel continues.

At its special conference in December 2017 where members of Hamas were honored, the ANC voted to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel to a “Liaison Office.” Over the last six months, the ruling party has stepped up its anti-Israel rhetoric amid the unrest on the Gaza border, further raising the profile of the country’s vocal boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

“The people that are here, the majority of them are Christians who are saying to the ANC, ‘If you don’t listen to these thousands who are here to represent millions of Christians in South Africa, who are saying do not downgrade the Israeli embassy, then next year Hamas, which influences you, won’t be there to vote for you,’” Rev. Meshoe declared.

He added that anyone who advocated cutting ties with Israel was “undermining our faith.”

“Every year, you get thousands of Christians who go on a pilgrimage to Israel and we don’t want that to be undermined by people who are expecting votes from the Christians,” Meshoe said.

In his address, COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota emphasized that the sympathy among South Africans for the plight of the Palestinians was being exploited by activists opposed to Israel. “We cannot support or accept that some of the young people and some of the people who support Palestine now use our country as a platform to attack Israel,” Lekota said.

Watch COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota’s speech to Pretoria rally:

Wednesday’s rally was greeted warmly by South Africa’s embattled pro-Israel organizations.

“This rally was a true representation of what the South African democracy and constitution is all about,” a spokesperson for South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) told The Algemeinerin an email on Thursday. “85 percent of South Africa’s population is Christian, and they strongly believe that a positive relationship with Israel can only be beneficial for this country and its people.”

Many of South Africa’s Christians belong to the Pentecostal churches that have grown at a rate of 800,000 members every year this century, according tolocal researchers. Worship in these churches typically stresses a reverence for the Jewish Bible alongside the Christian Gospels.

Yishai Fleisher: The Israeli Riviera

The Book of (Dvarim) Deuteronomy is a Moses' final talk to the nation of Israel. Rabbi Shlomo Katz joins Rabbi Yishai for commentary on the world's greatest speech including the 10 commandments and the Shema. Then, join Yishai and Malkah on vacation on the Israeli Riviera.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Vetchanan: Five Plus Five Equals Ten

Thursday, July 26, 2018


by Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post

Former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Party launched what it believes will be Israel’s first real open primary at a festive event in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Former Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On had wanted primaries in her party in which every citizen could vote for its Knesset candidates, but her proposal was rejected by Meretz’s governing council.

Instead, Zehut will pioneer implementing the idea. Zehut members have already chosen 15 candidates. Sixty days before the election, an open primary will be held in which all Israeli citizens 18 and over will be eligible to vote online that day and rank them.

Feiglin unveiled the super-secure technological program that will be used to conduct the voting at Wednesday’s event at Tel Aviv’s Zionist Organization of America House. It will already be possible to register to vote Thursday and registration will be open through the voting day itself.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Feiglin said the inspiration for the primary system came from the United States, so holding it in the Zionist Organization of America House was appropriate.

“Even though our party has not been elected to the Knesset yet, by holding the first open primary, we are ensuring that ordinary Israeli citizens will have more power,” Feiglin said. “Zehut returns the power from the back rooms to the citizens themselves.”

Every voter will be given six points to distribute among the 15 candidates. Feiglin said the system prevents the deal-making present in other parties.

The 15 candidates include two immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. Zehut members living in the Diaspora have already chosen Uruguay-born Rabbi Ben Zion Spitz as their representative. Hebron Jewish community spokesman and Land of Israel Network host Rabbi Yishai Fleisher, who was born in Haifa but raised in Wayne, New Jersey, was elected to be among the 15, but he has left the party.

Feiglin will be able to reserve slots for additional candidates. MKs from multiple parties have inquired, he said. He also revealed that a Meretz MK told him said she would vote in the primary in order to choose women candidates, because she wants there to be more female MKs.

Asked why Israel needs a Zehut Party, which means ‘identity’ in Hebrew, after last week’s passage of the Jewish Nation-State Law, Feiglin said, “We need to take our identity from what is written on a piece of paper into reality,” he said. “The struggle in Israel is not over territories, peace, the economy or even surrogacy. It is whether we are a Jewish state or a state of all its citizens. This is what divides our people.”

Feiglin said he supported the bill, “even though it’s Swiss cheese and doesn’t have anything in it, because it is still important to say we are a Jewish state, and the truth must be said and made part of the law.”

He said those who wanted the law to be more substantial could feel at home in Zehut.

“The entire issue of Zehut is content,” he said. “No one knows the differences between the existing parties on key issues. We have politics with no content, which creates corruption because it’s about ‘what’s in it for me.’ We can give content and fill the void.”

France Keeps Blackening Israel

by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Relations between France and Israel have been ambivalent and complex for decades, and there have been ample occasions when the French government has set out expressly to blacken Israel. President Emmanuel Macron is seemingly a new type of Frenchman. He reached the presidency without having risen through the ranks of an existing political party. He is a suave, intelligent politician with an excellent education, an international outlook, many ideas, and good public relations. However, analysis has to concentrate on facts, not packaging. Macron is continuing the hypocritical French policy of tarnishing Israel.

Continue to full article ->

The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy about the Golan

by Douglas Murray
  • The armies of ISIS came right up to the villages on the Syrian side along the borders of the Golan. There, they were able to bring that form of peace-through-barbarism which the world has come to know well. If ISIS had triumphed in the Syrian conflict rather than suffering repeated set-backs, would the UK Foreign Office have handed them the territory by way of reparational justice, or victor's prize?
  • The painful irony of this situation should be clear to all observers. If the Israelis did not lay claim to the Golan, there would have been no means to have got the White Helmets and their families out of Syria. Had Israel not made the Golan the peaceful and thriving area it is, it would simply be another part of Syria in which different sectarian groups were slaughtering other sectarian groups.
  • The British Foreign Office will have to back out of its self-imposed corner regarding the Golan at some point and accept the reality on the ground. How much better it would be if it did so now in a spirit of goodwill and reciprocity, rather than later on in a spirit of inevitable and grudging defeat.

Pictured: Family members of Syrian "White Helmets", rescued by Israel, aboard a bus that transported them to Jordan, on July 22. (Image source: IDF)

According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are 'occupied'. They have been 'occupied' -- according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office -- since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course.

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Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: The Relationship between Sacred and Mundane

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:73)

Gemara: The tzitz (plate of gold on the kohen gadol’s forehead) had written on it in two lines: the Name of Hashem on the top and “Sacred for” below [even though it is to be understood as saying “Sacred (kodesh)for Hashem”]. Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yossi said: I saw it in Rome, and it has written “Sacred for Hashem” on one line.

Ein Ayah: From a purely philosophical perspective, the source of sanctity must always have precedence over the sanctity itself. Realize that the foundation of sanctity is in being separate from the mundane. This demonstrates to us that the purpose of the mundane is to enable sanctity. This actually brings us to a higher level of understanding, according to which there is, in essence, no difference between sanctity and the mundane because everything reaches its purpose and the highest level does not ignore any element.

In practice, human morality cannot receive the influence it needs from the realization that there is no difference between the mundane and the sacred. [In other words, one needs to be inspired by that which is outwardly seen as sacred.] However, when he calls out with the concept of sanctity [i.e., the word kodesh], and he thereby intends to remove the mundane from the surroundings, he should know that the name of Hashem [which represents all of existence] is above the definition of matters as sacred. It is possible to distinguish between sanctity and its upper side, which receives its special level and value from the loftiness of Hashem, Who is above everything that is great. In that context, it is possible to distinguish and separate between sanctity and the mundane.

The fact that Hashem is above sanctity, which is a very lofty and deep realization, is greater even than the approach one needs to improve his moral level, [which requires him to focus on clearly recognizable sanctity]. This is the way it should be from the perspective of the highest level of philosophical analysis. However, the world is not on the level to appreciate this truth. We are not able to recognize matters that are beyond our level to use to strengthen our moral foundations. If we try, we can damage the moral basis of our spirit. That is why we need to connect all the levels together, even though we then lose the idea that Hashem is above everything, including sanctity. We practically need to lower Hashem to the same line as sanctity, i.e., the holy emotions that a person can feel with his heart. Indeed, it is necessary to lower the truth in favor of peace, for it is the latter that brings a person his moral success. That is why, in practice, “kodesh laHashem” was written on one line.

New York Times Loses It Over Israel’s ‘Incendiary’ Nation-State Law

by Ira Stoll

(Ed. note: Sad that many of our assimilated liberal brethern, or "asslibs" in the words of the late Steven Plaut, still worship the NY Times. The elites' choice of "avodah zara" for sure.)

Of the many virtues of the Israeli parliament passing a law declaring Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, not least is the entertainment value of observing the New York Timesin what I call full-fledged frothing freakout frenzy mode.

Actually, the front-page, above-the-fold, two-bylines plus a photograph treatment that the Times gave the story has not only entertainment value, but educational value. It’s an opportunity to observe the Times putting all of its worst biased techniques on display to attack Israel. Among those techniques:
  • Adjectives and adverbs. The law’s passage itself is described by the Times as “incendiary,” as if it is the equivalent of the arson kites Hamas is sending over the Gaza border fence. A clause in a draft version in the law is described by the Times not merely as “divisive” but as “highly divisive.” The Times instinct for the superlative is almost Trump-like; the law’s passage is said by the Times to demonstrate “the ascendancy of ultranationalists in Israel’s government.” What is the difference between an “ultranationalist” and a mere nationalist, the Times doesn’t explain.
  • Selective sourcing. The Times article quotes nine responses to the law: Benjamin Netanyahu, Ahmad Tibi, Yael German, Dan Yakir, Adalah, Amor Fuchs, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Avi Shilon, and Shakeeb Shnaan. Of these, Netanyahu is the only one in favor of the law. Since the law passed the Israeli parliament by a 62-55 vote with two abstentions, the Times doesn’t come close to reflecting accurately the Israeli polity’s views of the matter.
  • Lack of links. The Times online can’t be bothered to include a hyperlink to the actual text of the Nation-State law, or even a sidebar with the brief full text of it, perhaps because if it did readers who think independently might be able to read it for themselves and conclude it is basically a statement of the obvious, not worth getting worked up about. Here is such a link.
Sweeping claims unsupported by facts. The Times claims:
“Many North American Jews have grown increasingly alienated from Israel over the Netanyahu government’s hawkishness and coercion by the strictly Orthodox state religious authorities. They remain angry nearly a year after Mr. Netanyahu reneged on an agreement to improve pluralistic prayer arrangements at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, once a hallowed symbol of Jewish unity, and promoted a bill enshrining the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel.”

The Times provides no evidence for these “many…increasingly alienated…remain angry” claims. In fact a 2017 American Jewish Committee pollf ound 72% of American Jews agreed that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” A 2018 poll found 70% agreed with that statement. If there are materially significant declines in American Jewish tourism to Israel or Israel-related philanthropy related to this supposed anger or alienation, they’ve gone largely unreported. Netanyahu’s critics sometimes claim these things, but such claims deserve to be subjected to the same sort of critical, evidence-based analysis that the Times purports to apply to the claims of “ultranationalist” politicians.

Extreme comments
As usual in stories having to do with Israel, the reader comments section is a swamp, demonstrating the extreme anti-Israel audience that pays the Timesreporters’ salaries. One “reader pick,” with “recommend” upvotes from 416 Timesreaders, describes Netanyahu’s leadership as “perverse.” Another, with 542 upvotes, advocates cutting all American aid to Israel: “It’s time Israel has to go it alone. I am disgusted that a people who were once the subject of persecution worldwide could so easily turn around to become the persecutor.” A comment describing the Israeli law as “racist” was awarded a “NYT Pick” gold medal by Times moderators.

Rav Kook on Parashat Va'etchanan: Cleaving to God

“You, who remained attached to the Lord your God, are all alive today.” (Deut. 4:4)

What does it mean “to be attached to God”? As the Talmud (Sotah 14a) asks, is it possible to cleave to the Shechinah, God’s Divine Presence, which the Torah (Deut. 4:24) describes as a “consuming fire”?

The Sages answered:

“Rather, this means you should cleave to God’s attributes. Just as God clothed the naked [Adam and Eve], so too you should cloth the naked.
Just as God visited the sick [Abraham after his circumcision], so too you should visit the sick.
Just as God consoled the mourners [Isaac after Abraham’s death], so too you should console the mourners.
Just as God buried the dead [Moses], so too you should bury the dead.”

This explanation on how one may cleave to God is the very essence of the Kabbalistic study of the sephirot. What is the point in studying the intricacies of God’s Names and His manifestations in holy sephirot? We learn about God’s divine attributes so that we may aspire to imitate them. These studies enable us to follow in God’s ways and in this way cleave to Him.

This idea - that we can only attach ourselves to God by imitating His attributes - is a fundamental concept in Judaism. Any other understanding of cleaving to God implies some degree of anthropomorphism or idolatry.

The very existence of ideals, holy aspirations, and ethics in the world and in the human soul mandates the existence of a Divine Source. From where else could they come? Our awareness of the Source of these ideals elevates them, revealing new wellsprings of light and pure life.

(Gold from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback), pp. 297-298. Adapted from Musar Avicha, pp. 118-119)

Rabbi Pinchas Winston on the Parasha: Spiritual Beings, Physical Clothing

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

And I pleaded to God at that time,“God, you have begun to shown Your servant Your greatness, and Your strong hand . . .” (Devarim 3:23-24)

IT IS POINTED out that the gematria of the word, “vaeschanan,” which means “I pleaded,” is 515. This is to allude to the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed to God 515 times to change the decree against him and allow him to enter Eretz Yisroel. That’s a LOT of times to pray for something.

Why not 516 times? Because God stopped Moshe, telling him, “If you ask ONE MORE TIME, I will have to fulfill your request!”

Really? Moshe Rabbeinu would have actually been able to annul such a Divine decree through prayer? Remarkable. Perhaps more remarkable however is that he didn’t carry through and cancel the decree! Why did he stop short?

The Midrash explains that God showed Moshe Rabbeinu what the future would have looked like had he lived and crossed the Jordan river into his beloved Eretz Yisroel. He may not have become the leader again, but he would have been Moshiach nonetheless, and built the Temple that Shlomo HaMelech eventually built, making the question even stronger.

“But,” God told Moshe, “if YOU build the Temple as Moshiach, it can never be destroyed. When the Jewish people sin and become worthy of destruction, which they still can do, what will I take in their place if the Temple is indestructible?” So, Moshe did not ask that one final time, to guarantee the future of the nation he loved so dearly.

This is why he tells them in this weeks parsha:

However, God was angry with me because of you . . . (Devarim 3:26)

“Because of US?” the Jewish people could have asked him. “YOU were the one who hit the rock instead of talking to it! It’s YOUR fault you cannot enter Eretz Yisroel!”

Moshe would have answered them, “That used to be the case. But I could have prayed to enter one more time, and would have been granted my request. The only reason I didn’t was because entering the Land would have led to your destruction. So I repeat, because of YOU I cannot enter the Land!”

There is another dimension to this discussion which I only recently learned about from a friend. He shared with me his Dvar Torah he is planning to give over at his son’s Bar Mitzvah celebration. It is such a beautiful idea that I decided to include it here.

The Ibn Ezra asks a seemingly simple question: Why couldn’t Moshe Rabbeinu take “no” for an answer that he prayed no less than 515 times to enter the Land? The Ibn Ezra’s answer: Moshe Rabbeinu was making a point to the nation, regardless of whether or not God would listen to him. He was showing them how incredibly valuable Eretz Yisroel was to him, and SHOULD BE to them.

After all, it was the Spies who ruined everything by rejecting Eretz Yisroel. It was Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe who chose the east side of the Jordan over the west side of the Jordan. If the Jewish people did not properly value Eretz Yisroel then they would abuse it, and eventually lose it, as they did.

You will arise and show Tzion mercy, for the time to favor her, for the appointed time has come. For your servants have CHERISHED HER STONES and FAVORED HER DUST. (Tehillim 102: 14-15)

Redemption, at least a MERCIFUL one, Dovid HaMelech wrote, depends upon the Jewish people’s love of, and longing for Eretz Yisroel. When one Gadol was asked, my friend told me, after finally making aliyah what he missed most from his life in the Diaspora, he answered, “longing to live in Eretz Yisroel.”

Isn’t this what Tisha B’Av is all about? It was the Spies’ lack of longing for Eretz Yisroel that led to Tisha B’Av, as the Talmud states (Ta’anis 29a). Obviously it is the longing for Eretz Yisroel that rectifies their sin and triggers redemption.

Thus it is perfect that Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos of consolation after Tisha B’Av, begins with Moshe Rabbeinu’s GREAT longing for Eretz Yisroel. It’s as if it tells us, “You want to be consoled from all the destruction of the past, and avoid any future disasters? Long for life in Eretz Yisroel! Cherish her stones! Favor her dust!”

The rabbis of the Talmud did. The last few pages of the Talmud Kesuvos is filled with discussions about the importance and centrality of Eretz Yisroel. Important rabbis did menial things just to help others enjoy Eretz Yisroel. This was even during the times they lacked control over the Land and often had to fight for religious survival.

Is it any coincidence then that, as history winds down, Eretz Yisroel has become such a central issue? Don’t be blinded by shortsightedness. Don’t become weighed down by the politics. An inheritance is only an inheritance if there is someone to receive it. Moshe Rabbeinu’s longing for Eretz Yisroel is ours, but only if we are willing to inherit it.

Sha’ar HaGilgulim: However, know that the person himself is the spiritual [element] within the body. The body is only “clothing” for the person and is not the person himself, as it says, “Do not anoint on the flesh of man” (Shemos 30:32), and as it is mentioned in the Zohar, Parashas Bereishis, page 20b.

Commentary: THIS MAY SEEM obvious, but in reality it is not. In truth, we live as if we are primarily physical beings capable of spiritual acts, and deal with other people the same way. When we interact with one another we do so as bodies, not as souls, our ESSENTIAL selves.

This is why the Torah, when discussing the prohibition of using the Temple anointing oil for a personal purpose, does not simply say, “Do not anoint a man.” Instead, it specifically mentions “on the flesh of a man,” distinguishing between the physical aspect of a person—the flesh—and their essential self, referred to here as the “man.”

When a person realizes that they are essentially a spiritual being, they can choose a spiritual path in life. A soul implies God, and God means Objective Truth, making Torah morality an imperative and the only true path to human perfection.

If a person rejects the idea of a soul, or even just forgets that it is their essence, they tend towards material priorities. Eventually it can even lead to hedonism, as happened to Noach’s generation. This eventually resulted in their being washed away by the Great Flood.

This has been the central struggle of man throughout his existence, ever since leaving the Garden of Eden. All that has gone wrong in history has been the result of societies for whom satiation of their physical bodies was the main objective. It has driven them to do the most unGodly of acts, all in the name of bodily conquest.

Human nobility, on the other hand, has always been the result of people for whom spiritual growth was their main priority. They too have had the same bodily desires, but they were made secondary to their “need” to live spiritually refined.