Thursday, August 30, 2018

Tycoons and the Open Market

by Moshe Feiglin

Tycoons don’t like the open market. They need the money-government connection. The open market is paradise for the middle class. It assures the greatest income for those with lower incomes (that is why the poor always immigrate to the more open economies) and it provides an opportunity for great wealth for those with high incomes. Surprisingly, the gap between the wealthy and the poor is the smallest in open market economies. Strangely, tycoons don’t like the open market. See this short video to learn more about Zehut’s economic plan.

Give, Serve, Joyously: Parashat Ki Tavo

by Rabbi Ben Tzion Spitz

Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile. -Pierre Coneille

At the beginning of his commentary on this week’s Torah reading, Rabbeinu Bechaye enjoins us to adhere to charitable commandments with an unshakeable belief that God will pay us back, manifold, in this world. We have an obligation to be charitable with our money, but also with our time and our personal talents. God has given each of us some unique trait, strength, talent, something we’re good at or that we enjoy doing. We must make charitable use of those divinely granted gifts for the benefit and well-being of others.

However, this belief that God will “pay us back” in this world may seem counterintuitive to other areas of Jewish faith. God doesn’t typically bargain or make deals. There are commands. You follow them, you get rewarded; you don’t, you get punished. However, reward or punishment is or may be delayed until the afterlife, which may prove either unsatisfactory or a relief to those of us still very much in this world.

But there seems to be a major exception to the above. Rabbeinu Bechaye on Deuteronomy 26:15 (Ki Tavo) brings our attention to the Temple’s first fruit ceremony. In the prescribed liturgy of that rite we call upon God to gaze down upon us, see that we’ve fulfilled our part of the bargain of bringing the first fruits to the Temple, and now it’s God’s turn to bless us, in this world.

In all other cases where the Torah uses the term of God “gazing down,” it’s not good. It’s usually because God, in His attribute of Justice, is “examining” the deeds in question (think Sodom) and getting ready to severely punish the wrongdoers.

But there is a particular power to performing the commandments with joy, and specifically the charitable ones, which gives us the ability to convert God’s attribute of Justice to the attribute of Mercy. We can have the temerity to call on God to gaze down, examine this particularly good deed, performed with joy, and reward us accordingly or even disproportionately.

He adds (on Deuteronomy 28:47) that the command to perform God’s commands joyously is its own separate unique command. Therefore, whoever performs a commandment, but doesn’t do so joyously, while he may have performed a command and gets credit for it, violates the separate all-encompassing commandment to do so joyously and in fact has also sinned.

The bottom line is, be charitable, give of yourself, your time and your resources joyously and feel free to then call upon God to pay up. At least in that department, He’s ready to make a deal.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Right to Carry a Gun is a Basic Human Right

by Moshe Feiglin

Thank you to Internal Security Minister Gilad Ardan and MK Ohana for the new approach to gun licensing. From now on, all former combat soldiers with no criminal record will be allowed to get a gun license. Pictured here is the government ad announcing the new law. It says, “More trained gun license holders, more personal security”. From now, it will not only be hostile or criminal elements who have guns in Israel. Instead, loyal, law-abiding citizens will have them as well. All that is left is for us to internalize that the right to self-defense is a basic human right with which man was created, in the image of G-d. The state can negate the right to carry a gun from those people who endanger the public. But the default mode should be that every citizen has the right to carry a gun, as part of all the human rights that the state should protect. The state does not give us the right to carry guns. We have that already. All that it can do is take that right away.

Left and Right’s Solutions Won’t Work: Welcome the Reality Solution

by Moshe Feiglin

Three major media outlets tried last week to arrange a live debate between me and Oslo architect, Yossi Beilin. Interestingly, their choice of representatives of each side shows that they all reached the same conclusion. The main figure who propelled the Oslo Accords forward and is still in the public eye today is Yossi Beilin. And the main figure who struggled to stop the Accords is yours truly. Beilin vs. Feiglin.

All three attempts to arrange the debate went as follows:

“Hello, this is Channel…”


We are arranging a discussion on the topic of 25 years to Oslo. Would you be willing to participate in the discussion opposite Dr. Yossi Beilin?


In all three instances, we set a date and a place. Everything was arranged – and cancelled at the last minute. At a certain point I understood that Beilin simply was refusing to appear opposite me. He is totally right. It is not that I am a better polemicist or rhetorician than he. It is simply that the situation is approximately the same as bringing the drunken driver who ran over a child to debate against the person who tried everything possible to keep him off the road. What does Beilin need that for?

Yesterday, I was interviewed on Radio 103FM immediately following Yossi Beilin. The following are translated excerpts from that conversation. It is interesting to read what Beilin has to say. And don’t miss his call for American Jews to make Aliyah!

Shalom Dr. Yossi Beilin. What do you say about Trump cutting the aid to the Palestinians?

The fact that the US is going to cut 200 million dollars in aid to the Palestinians is interesting, because it can change the situation. I think it is time to close down the Palestinian Authority. It was supposed to exist for five years, not twenty five. The Palestinian Authority is a comfortable arrangement for both Israel and the Palestinians. We are not paying for their expenses, as we were until the Oslo Accords in 1993. We have very close security coordination with the Palestinians – closer than the two sides are willing to admit. And it gives the Palestinians an autonomous governing body.

If there is no Palestinian Authority, what will there be instead?

If there is no PA, there will be no security coordination. If the US takes away 200 million dollars, they will have to close down the PA. What will happen is that Israel will return to be what it was before Oslo – an occupying force that funds them until some sort of solution can be found.

Won’t there be some sort of administration, a remnant of the PA?

No. I don’t think they will do that. And then it will be urgent to find a different solution.

What is “a different solution”?

There are two alternatives: Dividing the land with an agreement or dividing the land without an agreement. Without agreement means a unilateral withdrawal.

But there are other options. Most of the public thinks we should stay there.

No, no, no, not at all. Look at the polls. The polls show that the majority does not want all of the territory or to annex it. There is a minority – in the Knesset as well- that favors a solution like that. Most of the public is in favor of a two-state-solution, but does not believe it will happen in the near future.

But Mr. Beilin, we saw the results of a unilateral withdrawal.

I didn’t propose that. I was among the heads of those who opposed it. But the annexation solution means a Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority. That is an unsustainable solution. That is why dividing the land is the only solution. And major figures on the Right, from the Prime Minister and down, have reached that conclusion over the last years.

But Netanyahu said he would never evacuate settlements?

That is something else. I am not sure that that is the only solution. Most of the settlements can remain under Palestinian control.

Although you said that the majority of the public prefers a two state solution, the impression is that we are heading toward one state.

No Zionist prime minister will be willing to have one state in which we are the minority. It will not happen because we will never give the Palestinians under our rule voting rights.

But today they have voting rights in the PA. If there was no terror, they would be able to live much better lives. The Right’s solution does not allow for equality. But the Left’s solution is too risky. We saw what happened when we left Gaza. We are not going to take that risk in Judea and Samaria. So the solution is somewhere in the middle. Some sort of autonomy. And if they want to live with us in peace, they will have good lives.

The main thing that interests me in my public life is to ensure that Israel will be Jewish and democratic. We could have an arrangement with Jordan. There could be an arrangement between Jordan and the Palestinians. It is no coincidence that I wrote the London Accords in ’87, which were initiated by Peres. How exactly we divide the land doesn’t interest me. But it is vital to divide it in order to ensure a Jewish majority here. This is a debate between the Center Left and the Center Right since ’37. Since then we have not managed to create a Jewish majority here, west of the Jordan River, unfortunately. If all the Jews in America were to come here, the entire story would be different. But as long as that is not happening, we must divide the land.

Now we have Chairman of the Zehut party with us, Mr. Moshe Feiglin. Good morning.

Good morning.

You see, it never ends. It doesn’t matter that the Hezbollah greatly increased their strength after we retreated, that Gaza turned into Hamastan after we retreated, and that the Arab cities became terror hubs after we retreated from them during the Oslo years. It makes no difference. We are still talking about dividing the land. What is your solution?

Their goal was never peace. The architect of the Oslo Accords, Dr. Ron Pundak, explicitly admitted that in April 2014. He said that the entire purpose of the Oslo Accords was to make Israel a state of all its citizens instead of a Jewish state. Dr. Yossi Beilin is telling us how wonderful things are today in Judea and Samaria. He forgot to say that since Oslo, 6 times more people have been murdered here, 20 times more have been wounded, and the Accords have cost us 1.2 trillion shekels. That is the cost of a free house for every young couple in Israel. The Negev is burning, Tel Aviv is in Hezbollah missile range, our entire country is on its knees before a terror organization and all of that is in the merit of the wonderful Oslo Accords.

Actually we wanted to ask you about how you see the US government’s decision to cut 200 million dollars in aid to the Palestinians.

What is happening with Trump is amazing. Just as the US President forced the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem upon Netanyahu him against his will - now he is forcing him to end the Arab refugee status.

I don’t understand why Netanyahu doesn’t want it.

Israel’s government has no strategy. Israel’s Right has never had any strategy. And so Netanyahu does not want any change. Finally an American president is looking at reality the way it is, and solving the problem.

Now let us look at what is happening in Gaza. After World War II and Israel’s War of Independence, there were 50 million refugees in the world. The only refugees left of all those millions of refugees are the so-called Palestinian refugees.

How do you explain that?

It is simple. The world, particularly the “Israel-loving” Europeans, decided to perpetuate their refugee status and to allow them to bequeath their refugee status from one generation to the next. There is no other example of this in the world. To this end, a special agency for Palestinian refugees, called UNRWA, was formed. Now the US president has come and said “This is the end of the story. You are not refugees."

So where are you going to send them?

Over the recent month of Ramadan, Egypt opened the Rafiah Crossing with Gaza for a few hours and look what happened. Between one third to one half a percent of the Gazan population left Gaza for Europe via Alexandria. The EU must accept them because they have refugee status. That happened in the space of a few hours. What is amazing is that the solution that Zehut has been talking about for years is happening without us.

So what is the solution?

Reality is going to triumph. The Venezuelan solution will triumph. There is going to be hunger in Gaza, because they live from the US aid. As soon as the crossing will be opened, they will leave and all will be well.

Yisrael Hayom Interviews Moshe Feiglin: "Israel is Still Stuck in Oslo”

by Moti Tuchfeld, Yisrael Hayom
Translated from Yisrael Hayom

25 years ago, when the Oslo Accords were signed, Moshe Feiglin became a public figure with his movement, Zo Artzeinu. •Since then, he has challenged Netanyahu in the Likud, left the party, established a new political framework, Zehut – and remains the outsider (and surprisingly, the liberal) of the Right • An interview in honor of his new book.

As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, which have brought with them much more blood and tears than peace and security, Moshe Feiglin is also commemorating his emergence onto the public stage. That happened when he established his first movement, Zo Artzeinu, which grew out of the insane reality of those Oslo days; a reality in which they eyes of respected leaders, experienced officers and astute commentators became blind, could not correctly analyze what was happening and were rendered incapable of identifying the abyss to which they were leading the nation.

The Zo Artzeinu movement was one of the lone voices that managed in those days to crack the wall of imaginary utopia that Israel’s leaders and public opinion chefs created for the enchanted masses. By applying relatively violent methods, such as blocking of traffic and illegal protests, they accentuated the dangers of the Accords in real time.

Feiglin does not feel that he is coming full circle at this anniversary. After he entered the Likud, managing after years to position himself on the Likud Knesset roster, he was ejected and left the party in order to establish a new political framework. Feiglin thinks that his work is not over. That the Oslo Accords are still with us, alive and kicking. And that the religious public, who he calls ‘faith-based’, is beginning to slowly ripen to the idea of national leadership. Not as a crutch for the Likud at the helm of the national camp, but as the head of the camp.

Feiglin’s new book, Israel’s Quixotic Quest for Normalcy, has recently been released. The book describes the path Feiglin has taken from the establishment of Zo Artzeinu until now, from a personal perspective. It reflects the reality of life in Israel over the past 25 years.

What is the book about?

“The book tells about the transformation from the Zionism of existence and survival to the Zionism of destiny. The story is my struggle and the struggle of Zo Artzeinu 25 years ago, from the beginning of Oslo. The story begins with Oslo. But untypically, I did not take our success – our prominence on the public stage following our traffic-blocking protests and more – into the political arena. Instead, I tried to analyze the root of the problem. I understood that the only way to find a solution was to understand the problem at its source.”

Feiglin says that one of the proofs that the other rightist parties did not find the root of the problem is the fact that when Binyamin Netanyahu was elected in 1996, he went and hugged Arafat. “Israel is still caught in the Oslo paradigm,” he says. “One way or another, everyone accepts the idea of dividing the Land. There is no other body that brings a fundamental alternative to Oslo except for the party that I have founded, the Zehut party.”

“There is no Demographic Problem”

But the new party was not Feiglin’s first step into politics. At the beginning of his political path, his ideology was based on the assumption that a true turn-about could only be accomplished by means of the ruling party, the Likud.

“I understood that the solution was not on the accepted axis of Right and Left, but instead, that Israel needed a different kind of leadership, motivated by its Jewish identity. I established Manhigut Yehudit, the Jewish Leadership movement. This movement was meant to create the tools with which to actualize our ideology within the ruling party. When this attempt was exhausted, we established an independent political solution. This book tells a fascinating personal story, enmeshed with the story of all Israelis.”

Feiglin believes that “the IDF is stronger today than ever, but is incapable of dealing with a kite. All of this is the result of the Oslo mentality, which Israeli society and politics – both Right and Left – have adopted. The alternative is to abandon our desire to be a nation like all other nations. This is what the book does. The underlying premise of Oslo was the attempt to determine that Israel is a state of all its citizens and not a Jewish state. Those who consider Oslo to be a solely political or security agreement, and don’t understand the importance of the state’s identity; those who understand Oslo on the simplistic terms of peace, territory, Arabs, settlements – cannot create an alternative. Naftali Bennett, for example, talks about autonomy for Arabs and divides between Area C, which he wants to annex, and Area A, which he wants to turn into an Arab autonomy. But all of this talk is Oslo-speech. There is no difference between Bennett’s autonomy plan and Netanyahu’s curbed autonomy plan."

“The Left knows that Oslo failed, but the Right defines itself only as anti-Left. It has no real alternative. I remember Peres shouting at Netanyhau, when he was the head of the Opposition, “What is your alternative?” Netanyahu remained silent. He did not have an answer. He still does not have an answer. The Right – both religious and secular – has no answers. This book is an attempt to provide answers.”

Let’s print a spoiler. What is the answer?

“The name of the book testifies to Israel’s desire to fit into the Middle East as per the vision of Shimon Peres, who spoke of the need to be normal at any price, and brought us to the least normal reality possible. We must focus on our identity. If we understand who we are, we can establish a society that lives with itself in peace. And from that peace with itself, it can establish peaceful relations with its neighbors.

So what is the solution?

“The solution, of course, is to vote for Zehut,” he laughs. “But seriously, the direct political solution is to erase Oslo. Completely. To restore the military regime to Judea, Samaria and Gaza. When Israel had military control of those areas, our situation was paradise, by any measure, compared with the situation today – both for Jews and for the Arabs. There was freedom of movement throughout Judea and Samaria. We must remember that currently, 95% of the residents of the Gaza Strip hold a UN refugee card, which requires Europe to allow them into its borders.”

“Contrary to what the fear-mongers say, there is no demographic threat. Whoever sees the real numbers knows that there is a solid, growing Jewish majority. When we start to encourage relocation and distribute a generous emigration package to those who leave, the numbers will be even more significant.”


“Already today, there are ghost towns in Judea and Samaria. They are leaving anyway. We just have to strengthen that trend. This is our Land, not their land. Our goal is for the large cities like Gaza to be the Riviera of the Middle East, under the Israeli flag. Those who wish to remain, will get a residency card. There will also be a citizenship track that will include loyalty to the State and military service. Very few will merit that. Obviously, anyone who was involved in terror will not be eligible.”

“The Likud Harmed me Politically”

Look how you change your worldview. For years, you claimed that the only way to make a change was through the ruling party. Today you are running in an independent party. All the years that you were in the Likud, they said that you were an outsider, and today you prove that they were right. What were you doing in the Likud?

“I think that I was right. It was not a mistake to enter the Likud. The Likud was a tool with which to actualize the goal of creating Jewish leadership for Israel. I always ran for chairmanship of the Likud so that no one would doubt that we aimed for the top. When we came to a dead end, there were two alternatives: To stay at the wheel while fooling the public – like a bus driver who forgets to tell his passengers that they have passed their station and keeps driving. Or to think of a different solution, like establishing a new movement. I had my power and status in the Likud. Our activists would have remained. But if I had remained, I would have been fooling them. As soon as I understood that the path to leadership of the Likud was closed to me, I had to resign and create a new political tool, which is what I did.”

“By the way, I always said and wrote that on the day that the Likud would turn out to be a tool that cannot bring us to our goal – we have no place there. I always ran for chairmanship of the Likud, even though that harmed me politically.”

When they attacked you, you always said that you are the real Likud. That the others had strayed from the path. That is not how it turned out.

“There is something to that. The Likud was established by Revisionists and Beitar members. It could be that from a truly essential, non-political angle, these ideas could not really mature in the Likud. But what created the political ability of Netanyahu to show me the door was not him, but mainly the settlement proponents who I registered for the Likud – who were not ripe enough for these ideas.”

What do you mean?

There were polls that showed that the Likud could maintain its strength even with me at its head. But there were Religious Zionists who were not ready for that. When we entered the Likud, we registered 22 thousand new members. 12 thousand of them were eligible to vote. These are numbers that nobody else managed to enlist. Minister Chaim Katz reached perhaps a third of that number. Everyone will tell you that with numbers like that, and with the right deals, I could have been chairman of the party. So why didn’t that happen? Because we are used to being a fifth wheel. We can’t lead, all that we can do is influence. When I registered Religious Zionists to the Likud and said that our goal is to be number one – a sizeable portion of them saw that as a way to influence – not to lead.”

“In my opinion, Netanyahu is the most talented prime minister Israel has ever had. I call him Zionism’s Last Mohican. He is busy from morning to night with survival, amazing juggling that maneuvers between Obama, the Arabs, the Ultra-Orthodox, societal rifts. In our last conversation, I told him that I was not in the Likud in order to fight him. Nobody can fight Zionism’s rear-guard war better than he. But it is still a rear-guard war. We can postpone the end, but we cannot prevent it. What can we do? We can no longer claim that we are David against Goliath, when the world sees us as Goliath. Holocaust museum Yad Vashem and the memory of the Holocaust are not enough for the world to justify Israel’s existence. We need vision, not just survival and technology, Arrow missiles against missiles and underground walls against tunnels. We must return the justice of our cause that we lost with Oslo to our hands. Only those who insisted that this is our Land can do so.”

“Not Like Orly Levi”

Feiglin is not satisfied with simply speaking about identity. He aspires to translate the identity issue into a “social statement of liberty in the spirit of the prophets of Israel. The Zehut party boasts a detailed platform not only on diplomatic-security issues, but also on everything that relates to Israeli society. It is a platform that minimizes the burden of the state on the citizen in every possible realm – the citizen can choose the schools to which to send his children, his local police chief, High Court justices, to marry as he pleases and to divorce as he pleases, to smoke cannabis if he wishes, and any or all of the above. This is a great breakthrough. To create a dynamic society with a shared culture, without coercion.”

That is all very nice, but you are far from being elected to the Knesset.

“Not necessarily. There are polls that are purposely not publicized. Galei Tzahal reported that in internal polls conducted in the two major parties, we received 6-7 mandates. Zehut’s message is completely new. Open primaries, a party that is not religious and not secular, a very detailed platform. We are not like Orly Levi, who, when she announces that she is running, people remember her father, David Levi or think that she is a good alternative to Kachlon.”

“Zehut is an unknown. When you begin to explain, you get fantastic results. I don’t know at what level of awareness Zehut will catch the voters come election time. Most of the polls do not include us. And when we are included, it is not with an explanation of who we are. Ultimately people will understand. Zehut will run in the elections. Everyone who threw his vote in the garbage and received the expulsion from Amona and kites in the south, will get a party that will not carry out the policies of the Left.”

If there will be a person who will bring in more votes than you, will you be willing to give up first place in your party?

“I wish. The Knesset is not my cup of tea. I prefer to write books."

Bringing Bikurim to the New Bet HaMikdash

Parashat Ki Tavo 5778
HaRav Nachman Kahana

Our parsha begins with the mitzvah of “bikurim”. A landowner who grew any one of the seven species of flora which are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael: wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive or date, must bring a sampling of the first growth to the Bet HaMikdash starting after the holiday of Shavuot.

The landowner declares his recognition and thanks to HaShem for the bountiful blessings he received as an owner of land in Eretz Yisrael and presents the fruit to a kohen who places it near the altar.

Then the landowner voices a short historical overview of Jewish history, ending with:

(ח) ויוצאנו ה’ ממצרים ביד חזקה ובזרע נטויה ובמרא גדל ובאתות ובמפתים:

(ט) ויבאנו אל המקום הזה ויתן לנו את הארץ הזאת ארץ זבת חלב ודבש:

(י) ועתה הנה הבאתי את ראשית פרי האדמה אשר נתתה לי ה’ והנחתו לפני ה’ אלהיך והשתחוית לפני ה’ אלהיך:

(יא) ושמחת בכל הטוב אשר נתן לך ה’ אלהיך ולביתך אתה והלוי והגר אשר בקרבך:

8 The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great awe and with signs and wonders.

9 And brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;

10 and now I bring the first fruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me. Then place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him.

11 Then you and the Levites and the converts residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.

It is interesting to note that the Bikurim declaration deals with very material agricultural matters while ignoring the bigger implications of the Jewish nation and our great spiritual mission as HaShem’s chosen people. The reason is that at the time of HaShem’s revelation at Sinai, world history was not yet sufficiently developed for the Jewish nation to impact on humanity. The great empires of Persia, Greece and Rome were not yet born, nor had the major religions, which grew out of Judaism, appear on the world stage.

With the blessings of HaShem and the sacrifices of dedicated, loyal Jews in Eretz Yisrael, the Bet HaMikdash will soon ascend above the mountains of Judea and our landholders will bring to it their first fruits. But their declarations will be a bit different than the text of our parasha.

One part of the declaration will be to point out and offer thanks to HaShem for the great material wealth that this land has given forth to those who dwell in it. Riches that will reach the quality and quantity of King Solomon’s legendary monarchy, in which the Talmud states that gold abounded like stones in the street.

Then the declaration will deal with the miraculous survival of a handful of Jews in a world that tried in every way to eradicate our existence.

The declaration’s crescendo will focus on the unbelievable, miraculous, unprecedented establishment of Medinat Yisrael and the return of the Jewish nation from the far-flung corners of the galut. It will deal with the Medina’s destruction, demolition and devastation of the false gods of Islam and Christianity, each one claiming that it replaced the Jewish nation as God’s chosen people, with the proof being the never-ending exile of the Jews from the holy land. Our very return to Eretz Yisrael, regardless of the spiritual level of many here is a devastating rejection, rebuttal, denial, contradiction, repudiation and disavowal of all of their false claims.

The thundering words of the prophet Yeshayahu will be realized, as brought down in the second chapter of Yeshayahu:

1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

2 In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths”. The law will go out from Zion; the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

We Reap What We Sow

However, not every Jew in the world will merit to share in the exhilaration of grandeur that will be part of our nation’s future.

If one does not toil to bring forth the spiritual and material richness of HaShem’s blessed land, preferring to dedicate his energies to foreign lands and cultures, how can he expect to share in the rewards awaiting those Jews who sacrificed so much to sanctify HaShem’s name?

As we approach the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we should all remember that no action or thought is forgotten before the Almighty. Although He is our merciful Father “Avienu”, He is also “Malkaynu” – our King who metes out justice based on “a measure for measure” – what you invest is what you receive in return.

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

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Ki Tavo - Joy

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Rav Kook on Parashat Ki Tavo: A Different Kind of Viduy

Viduy Ma’aser

There is an unusual mitzvah performed twice every seven years. It is called Viduy Ma’aser - literally, “Tithing Confession.” But this is not a confession in the usual sense. The individual ascends to Jerusalem and publicly declares that he has fulfilled all his obligations regarding terumot and ma’aserot - the tithes of agricultural produce that are distributed to kohanim, Levites, and the poor.

We do not find a viduy of this nature for any other mitzvah, where we formally announce that we have discharged our obligation. What is the purpose of this unusual declaration? And why is it performed so infrequently?

Appreciating Our Achievements

If we seek to continually improve ourselves, we need to be aware of the full extent of our moral and spiritual responsibilities, whether this involves helping others, refining our character traits, or performing acts of holiness. Even when we are dedicated to pursuing the path of goodness, we will still be far from completely fulfilling our obligations. This is the attitude of the truly righteous. They see themselves as lacking in good deeds and thoughtfulness. This critical self-image prevents them from becoming pretentious and arrogant, and graces them with a sincere modesty.

However, we must be careful not to be overly self-critical. We should not let this attitude deny us a sense of joy and satisfaction in our accomplishments. For this reason, the Torah teaches that we should rejoice in our good deeds. In the proper measure, this contentment bolsters our resolve to serve God, to perform mitzvot and acts of kindness. It is proper to feel a measure of satisfaction and well-being, and not always regard our actions as flawed and inadequate when we have acted correctly.

In short: we need set times for regular viduy, to admit our mistakes and faults, so that we may refine our character traits and improve our actions. But we also need set times for a positive viduy, to express our awareness that we have discharged our obligations and attained some of our spiritual goals.

This positive declaration, however, should be less frequent than our periodic soul-searching. We must avoid the sense of self-satisfaction that can lead to smugness and complacency. Thus Viduy Ma’aser is performed only twice in seven years.

Balanced Self-Image

Why did the Torah establish this positive viduy specifically with regard to terumot and ma’aserot? The beauty of tithing is that it encompasses all aspects of the Torah’s obligations. It contains both positive and negative commands: the obligation to distribute ma’aserot, as well as the prohibition not to eat untithed produce. It involves our responsibilities toward others (gifts to the Levites and the poor) as well as responsibilities toward God (the special holiness of terumah). And it reflects both obligations of the individual (the farmer’s obligation to tithe) and society as a whole (our support of the kohanim and their spiritual service for the nation).

Thus, tithing encompasses all of the foundations of our ethical responsibilities. Viduy Ma’aser teaches us that we should not judge ourselves too harshly, but strive for a balanced self-image, with the ability to derive satisfaction from our accomplishments. It allows us to see ourselves more clearly, and it gives us the strength to overcome negative traits and habits. While we are disappointed in our failings, we also take pride in our triumphs.

Despite the importance of this declaration, the Torah sought to impress a measure of modesty. Unlike the loud declaration of Bikkurim (first-fruits), Viduy Ma’aser is recited quietly (Sotah 32b). Furthermore, we demonstrate our reticence at praising ourselves by delaying the viduy until the very last moment – the end of the last day of the Passover holiday.

(Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. II, p. 405)

Rosh Hashanah's Three Important Words

by Shmuel Sackett

When a person loses weight, gets into shape or makes money in a business venture everyone immediately wants to know his secret. Let me save you a lot of time and answer very simply: There is no secret... there's lots of hard work. Losing weight is not easy and neither is giving up smoking. Getting into shape requires lots of sweat and building a business means long hours away from the family. Yes, there are always the people who are the "lucky ones" where the weight melts away and the business turns into a gold mine overnight but those are the exceptions and not the rule. For 99% of us, there's tons of effort, dedication, failure and depression before things start turning around - and yes, it’s not easy. Never was and never will be. Hard work, a focused plan and an attitude that we will not quit until the job is done - no matter what.

All of that is true in the material, physical world, but what about the spiritual world? What about all those things we want to improve in our service of Hashem? Unfortunately, throughout the years I have seen incredible people do stupid things. I have seen people who have risen to the greatest heights, who have overcome the most difficult challenges and who have turned little grocery stores into a chain of supermarkets fall into spiritual traps that they cannot get out of. People who are tigers in a courtroom, lions in a boardroom and ferocious bears taking over Wall Street companies become little kittens in a shul and cute bunnies in their service of Hashem.

What happened to their strength, their tenacity and their energy? Why is it that the same guy who runs a 3 hour marathon cannot sit for more than 10 minutes in a shiur? Why is the man who stood strong - day after day - in breaking his smoking addiction not able to be just as strong when it comes to being quiet in shul? Why is it that a woman can control her diet and lose 50 lbs. in a very serious food program but cannot stop talking lashon hara for more than 5 minutes?

The answer is simple, and I wrote it above. Just like there's no secret to success in the physical world, there's no secret to success in the spiritual world as well. The same hard work, dedication and persistent/consistent effort is needed, day after day, in serving Hashem and being part of the Jewish Nation. Allow me to sum it up in 3 easy, but very deep words: Make It Happen! These are the 3 most important words - right now - in the days before Rosh Hashanah. No, those 3 words are not "Happy New Year" or "Pass the honey" or "Love that shofar". Rather, the words we must engrave on our souls to be ready to serve the Creator are "Make It Happen". Let me explain.

We all know that our shuls need to be quiet. Nobody needs to lecture anyone about that. Yet time-after-time the shuls are more like circuses than places of worship. The reason is because very few people work hard at making it happen. When the person next to you starts talking, turn away, walk away or simply put your finger on your lips in a nice gesture that says, "Not now". Trust me, the guy will get the message. He will probably turn to the person sitting on the other side of him and try his luck there. If Mr. Talker receives the same response, he will start changing his ways. Just like pushing away the cheesecake is necessary to lose weight, pushing away a talking neighbor is necessary to make our shuls quiet again (Hey, great slogan - Make Our Shuls Quiet Again!). In short, you want a quiet shul? Make It Happen.

We all know that Jews need to learn Torah. Once again, nobody needs to lecture us on that. But how many of us dedicate serious amounts of time to that vital part of our lives? What's the solution? Simple! To get into physical shape we join a gym, so to get into spiritual shape we... read a Jewish newspaper on Shabbat??? Come on, brother - get off that couch and make it happen. Go to a shiur, get a chavruta and learn with your children. Shut the TV and open a sefer. Call a few friends together and arrange a weekly night to learn, not just play poker. Hire a Rav to give the shiur - there are hundreds of amazing young Rabbis who will gladly give a weekly shiur in your home for a nominal fee. In short, you want Torah in your life this year? Make It Happen.

I can go on and on with dozens of examples but I think you understand my point. It’s not enough to just want a closer connection to Hashem, you have to work hard at it and make it happen. Watching your weight means being careful what goes IN your mouth while watching your lashon hara means being careful what goes OUT of your mouth. It’s just as hard but far more rewarding! This applies to every aspect of serving our Father and King; from the way we dress (men too, not just women!) to the way we conduct our business dealings. Being a Torah Jew means "Making It Happen" 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. It requires determination, focus and lots of positive energy but it's all worth it because we were chosen for this job above 99% of the world so Hashem knows we can do it.

This coming year - 5779 - let's promise ourselves that we won't just sit on the side. We will accomplish the task we have been given; to be strong, proud and complete Jews as part of the Jewish Nation. This year, we will be Jews who will... Make It Happen!

Shana Tova to one and all.

Bringing Gd in earlier

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

The Egyptians mistreated and afflicted us, and made us work very hard. When we cried out to God, the God of our fathers, He heard our voice, and saw our affliction and poverty, and how we were being oppressed. (Devarim 26:6)

I TRY AND turn life situations into lessons for life. This is especially true when I realize I have done something . . . well . . . not so intelligently. This way I can feel that my ineptitude was not a complete waste, and might even save someone else some trouble.

My most recent example of this began when our kitchen light bulb burned out on Shabbos Parashas Shoftim. Being a halogen bulb, it had been there faithfully for a while, but finally reached its end, on Shabbos of course. And even though I replaced it on Motzei Shabbos with a new bulb that probably would have lasted for another long period of time, I decided it was time to replace it with a LED fixture. They’re more expensive, but it means no more bulbs and less energy draw over time.

I bought my new fixture easily enough, and decided on the following Monday to install it myself. I like doing things like that, and if the wiring is simple enough, I don’t mind doing it. However, I do kind of hold my breath when turning the fuse back on, and only let it out once the light works and the house doesn’t blow up.

I calculated the job to take 30 minutes, all the time I wanted to spend on it. The fixture seemed simple to install, though I don’t know why they labeled the slot for the second live wire “N,” which I took to be “Neutral” at first. Until, that is, the fuse blew twice on me and forced me to change the wires around.

It took me 2.5 hours instead. I had to take two showers during that time because it was hot and I kept sweating so much I thought I might electrocute myself, even though the power was off. What took place was such a comedy of errors that I wish I had filmed it, so I could have uploaded it to some social media and let others enjoy my folly.

I could not lift my arms for the rest of the day, because they were so strained from being held up for so long. One wire went in and the other came out. I put that one back in and the other came out. I attached them in the air and when that didn’t work I tried attaching them below and then attaching them to the ceiling wires.

Then a TINY screw from one the “chocolates” (used for attaching wires together) came out too far and, of course, fell to the floor. I kept a close eye on it while holding the fixture in the air and standing on top of a chair. I saw it bounce once, then twice, and then shoot somewhere else I could not see. I NEEDED that screw.

So, I decided to replace it with the screw from another chocolate, not realizing as I did it that it was ever so slightly larger than the one that had fallen. There I was, up in the air, screwing the final wire into place when, lo and behold, the screw jammed in the hole and the wire came out.

When I finally sorted that part out, it came time to attach the fixture to the ceiling bracket and finally the job. But there was so little space between the bottom of the fixture and the ceiling that the wires were hard to arrange so that it would sit flush on the bracket for attachment.

Once I finally got that done, I realized that I could not see where to put my screwdriver to tighten the fixture to the bracket. The space was too narrow, and I started questioning the brains of the designer who came up with the idea.

After three failed attempts and gravity doing its thing on my arms, I finally felt hopeless. I began to resign myself to the fact that an expensive electrician would probably have to finish the job. Ouch, especially after so much time and effort.

That’s when I finally “lost” it and found myself grunting out loud in frustration. No sooner had I done that when I realized that if I move my chair back a bit, I will change my vantage point and will be able to see the screws for the bracket. I did it, I saw them, I tightened it, and finished the job. I clicked the fuse, the light when on, and the house did not blow up. I gave great praise the Creator of the Universe as I reveled in three hours worth of handiwork.

“If only I had grunted TWO hours ago,” I told my wife.

The moment I said that, albeit in jest, I realized just how true it was. That HAD been my mistake from the beginning. I had not turned to God early on because I kept thinking, “I’ll get it now. I can get this right now.” I didn’t think it was necessary in the beginning to invoke God’s help because I thought I could do the job without it, and THAT is NEVER true.

Apparently we made that mistake in Egypt. The verse says:

The Egyptians mistreated and afflicted us, and made us work very hard. When we cried out to God, the God of our fathers, He heard our voice, and saw our affliction and poverty, and how we were being oppressed. (Devarim 26:6)

Which was a GREAT thing. It also happened after the Jewish people had already been enslaved and suffering for 115 years! And all that time God didn’t see their affliction and poverty, and how they were oppressed?

Of course He did. Their salvation wasn’t dependent upon GOD seeing how bad their situation was. It was dependent upon the JEWISH PEOPLE seeing how bad their situation was, which, as BAD as it was, was not yet bad enough to make them CRY OUT to God.

What had they been doing until that time? Certainly not partying. Coping. Managing. Trying to find ways to deal with the situation on their OWN. So God said, “Okay, go ahead. Do it on your own, and call Me when you finally realize you need My help. I’m sure there were those who, at some point said, “If only we had cried out EARLIER. Perhaps we could have ended the suffering EARLIER.”

The moral of the story? Why wait? Invoke God’s help early, even if you think you don’t need it, or don’t want to bother Him. That’s what God DOES. That’s what God LOVES to do, especially if you remember to say THANK YOU after He has saved you, on whatever level He does.

Raise up many Disciples

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

The Sages had two schools of thought regarding academic entrance requirements to Torah institutions. The first approach insisted on selecting only the best students. Thus, Rabban Gamliel said, “Any student whose inside is not as pure as his outside should not enter the study house.” Likewise, Bet Shammai said, “One should only teach Torah to those who are learned, humble and descended from the Patriarchs.”

As opposed to this there was the approach of Bet Hillel, who said, “One should teach everybody, for there have been many sinners in Israel who were brought close to Torah learning, and from them emerged righteous, saintly and reputable individuals” (Avot DeRabbi Natan).

Such, indeed, was always the practice of Bet Hillel. A thousand individuals would be admitted to study Scripture and from them would emerge a hundred who could teach it. A thousand would be admitted to the study of Mishnah and from them would emerge ten who could teach it. A thousand would be admitted to the study of Talmud and from them would emerge one who could teach it.

Therefore when the Jewish People returned from the Babylonian exile to Eretz Yisrael to rebuild a national home for themselves, the Men of the Great Assembly took active steps towards reestablishing the three most important foundations of that nation: jurisprudence, as it says, “Be deliberate in judgment” (Avot 1:1; see Kahati’s interpretation); education, as it says, “Raise up many disciples” (Ibid.); and upholding the Torah, as it says, “Make a fence around the Torah” (Ibid.).

Now if “raising up many disciples,” i.e., education, was one of the pillars upon which the nation was built during the Second Temple Period, following the seventy year exile, how much more so that the same should apply now, following an exile of almost two thousand years, when we are in a period of rebuilding in preparation for the Third Temple. Indeed, education must stand at the top of our national priorities.

Our own government as well, is aware that the theme of education must be advanced in the list of national priorities, as a central issue towards the continued survival and development of the State of Israel. Indeed, the State invests more than twenty billion shekels in education, and despite everything we are not reaping the desired fruits. Quite the contrary, Israeli society is in a state of moral crisis, especially as regards interpersonal relations. This crisis finds expression in violence within the family, in society, and even within the educational framework itself. It finds expression in the lack of values and ideals, in a materialistic approach to life, etc., etc. It is highly doubtful whether the situation will change after several more billion shekels are invested.

The very heart of the goal of education is to educate the person to goodness, to values.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the major emphasis in education has been on materialism and achievement. It is true that we must prepare quality professionals, engineers, doctors and lawyers, etc. Yet along the way, the human being has been forgotten -- as someone with morals and ethics, a good person who wishes to help and benefit his fellow. We must change the goals of the educational system and place at the top of our priorities not just achievement but also educating the pupil to be a good person. By doing so, we will merit a real change in Israeli society. Then shall be fulfilled the words of Isaiah (60:21): “Your people shall all be righteous. They shall inherit the Land forever. They shall be the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.”

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

You will Go Mad from the Sight of your Eyes

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

We say every day before Shema: "Enlighten our eyes in your Torah." Rabbi Akiva Eiger once asked: How can every Jew request this? After all, there are many ignorant Jews who do not know even the first thing about Torah?! He explained, therefore, that the "eyes of the congregation" that are mentioned in the Torah refer to the great Torah scholars. The request of every Jew is that Hashem should enlighten the eyes of the leaders and the great scholars in Torah, so that they will lead the nation along a true path according to the Torah. This is the request "Enlighten our eyes – the nation's leaders – in your Torah"

Rabbi Akiva Eiger concludes that this is the reason our parsha writes: "You will go mad from the sight of your eyes." (Devarim 27:34) It means that you will panic from the image of the misguided leaders who mislead the community. (From a letter in the book of Rabbi Akiva Eiger on the Torah)

Rav Kook zt"l also addresses the image of a leader in his commentary, Ein Ayah, to the Gemara (Brachot 55a): "A leader is not appointed over the community unless the community is consulted as it says, 'See, Hashem has proclaimed by name Betzalel etc'. Hashem said to Moshe: "Moshe, is Bezalel accepted by you' etc. He said to him: "Even so go consult Am Yisrael, etc." Rav Kook taught there are three fundamental requirements for a leader:

1. Inner virtues and holy character traits, which are revealed to Hashem alone.

2. Wisdom and the ability to lead the public.

3. Perfection in the eyes of the masses, a man of physical stature and oratory skills, who projects a presence and draw an audience with his words.

The value of these requirements lies in their being possessed in the proper order. The main requirement is perfection in the eyes of Hashem; afterwards comes excess wisdom, and finally comes the outward appearance. Therefore, the initial acknowledgement of the leader must come from Hashem, because when it concerns inner matters only Hashem can see the heart. Afterwards, Moshe was asked to give his opinion, since he could tell if Betzalel possessed wisdom. Finally, Am Yisrael were consulted on his ability to relate to the masses, which is something that anyone can evaluate. However, if the final requirement is viewed by the public as equal to the first and decisive one, and they don't pay attention to the first and second virtues – this person is not worthy of being a leader of Am Yisrael.

Some people interpret this pasuk, "You will go mad from the sight of your eyes," about Klal Yisrael, that you shall become enamored with everything you see. This is the desire to imitate everything that they see in the nations of the world, without checking first whether it is something that is appropriate for Am Yisrael. We forget our uniqueness and our destiny. However, it says about Am Yisrael that they are "A nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations." (Bamidbar 23:9) The Netziv writes that Am Yisrael's uniqueness lies in its solitude: "It is a nation that will dwell in solitude." However, if we betray ourselves and aspire to become like the rest of the world then they won't take us into consideration and expel us from among them, despite our attempts to integrate with them. Am Yisrael will then "not be reckoned among the nations" – in their eyes we are not even reckoned as human.

This idea is expressed in Masechet Sanhedrin (104a): "I said that Yisrael will dwell in safety in solitude, the eye of Yaakov. Now – alas she sits in solitude." Hashem is saying that His desire is that Am Yisrael will remain solitary and not mix with the nations of the world, and then they will be safe. Now that their desire was to be equal to the rest of the world – they have been isolated by them; no nation values them enough to intervene on their behalf. Similarly, on the pasuk, "Scattered among the nations; they desire closeness," the Gemara (Pesachim 104a) teaches: "What caused Am Yisrael to become scattered among the nations? The closeness that they craved from them." In Shemot Rabbah it says that when Am Yisrael was exiled among the Egyptians, they avoided circumcision. They said: "Let us be like the Egyptians." What did Hashem do? He turned their hearts so that they would hate His nation. The Netziv expands on this idea.

In a similar manner, the Ibn Ezra comments on the verses in our parsha: "There you will work for the gods of others – of wood and stone. You will be a source of astonishment, a parable, and a conversation piece." (Devarim 28:36-37) He writes: "There you will work – and it will not avail you. You will only be a source of astonishment and all those who see you will be astonished."

Am Yisrael exchange their dignity in gentile lands so that they will be liked by the nations, but all their groveling will not help them and they will be "a parable, and a conversation piece."

There is only one path for Am Yisrael: "I am a wall and my breasts are like towers, then I am in his eyes like one who found peace." (Shir Hashirim 8:10) The Midrash explains the metaphor, that to the question: "We have a little sister etc'. What shall we do for our sister on the day she is spoken of?" I.e., where will her strength lie on the day that she will have to deal with the nations of the world? Knesset Yisrael answers: "I am a wall" – this is the Torah, "My breasts are like towers" – these are Torah scholars. [Alternatively,] "I am a wall" – this is Knesset Yisrael, "My breasts are like towers" – these are synagogues and study halls. Only then – when fortified with the strength of Torah, Jewish values, and prayer – "I am in his eyes like one who found peace."

Preserve the Torah

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein 

This week’s parsha describes the two very different situations in Jewish life that have been present throughout our long history as a people. One situation is when we inhabited and controlled our own land – the Land of Israel. That is clearly indicated in the opening words of the parsha – ki tavo – when you will come into your land. The second much more difficult situation is outlined again in the parsha in the bitter, lengthy and detailed description of the lot of the Jewish people in exile, scattered among hostile nations and violent hatreds.

Over the many millennia of the Jewish story, we have been in exile far longer than we were at home in the Land of Israel. It is significant that the recounting of the troubles and persecutions of the exile of Israel from its land occupies greater space (and perhaps even greater notice) in the parsha than does the section relating to our living in the Land of Israel.

The Land of Israel carried with it special commandments and rituals as described in the parsha such as various types of ‘Maaser’ – tithing – and ‘Bikurim’ – the first fruits of the agricultural year. The description of the exile posed problems of demographic extinction and continued tension, fear and a constant state of uncertainty. In the words of the parsha itself, the conditions of the exile were capable of driving people into insanity and fostered hopelessness.

Yet the strange, almost unfathomable result was that the Jewish people survived, created and at times even thrived under the conditions of the exile, while our record as a national entity living in our own country was much spottier. Jews are a special people but our behavior is oftentimes strange and counterproductive. We don’t seem to deal too well with success and stability.

By the grace of God we are once again back in our lands. After seeing the words of the parsha, in all of its terror fulfilled, literally, seventy years ago, we have nevertheless restored our national sovereignty, built a wonderful country and an intriguing society, and are engaged in facing great challenges as to our future development here in the Land of Israel.

We would indeed be wise to remember why we failed in the past in our nation building and why, paradoxically, we succeeded in achieving major successes while in exile and under very negative circumstances. Straying from the path of Torah and tradition has always brought us to harm. Adopting foreign cultures and fads that are temporarily popular and extolled is not the way to fulfillment of our national interest and purpose.

Our historical experiences both in the Land of Israel and in the exile have taught us this clear lesson. It would be foolhardy in the extreme to repeat these errors once more. Coming into our land carries with it the challenges of living in holiness and having a special relationship with our Creator. Our efforts should be concentrated in strengthening and broadening that relationship. It may be wise for us to discard the bath water of the exile now that we have returned home. But we must preserve at all costs the baby - the Torah and its values – that has brought us home to the land that the Lord has promised to us.

“You Shall Call Out and Say”

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

The bringing of bikurim (first fruit) to the Beit Hamikdash is accompanied by a unique declaration that the Torah mandates with the command "v’anita va’amarta" (you shall call out and say) (Devarim 26:5). The declaration includes not only a short description of Jewish history from the exile in Egypt, as they were becoming a nation, but also goes back to the roots of the nation at the time of the forefathers ("Arami oved avi"). It is strange that one must make the pronouncement in a full voice, which is halachically unusual. Of course, one does not have to speak loudly for Hashem, who hears the prayers of His nation, Israel, so that He should hear. Did Eliyahu not mock the priests of the Ba’al, suggesting that they speak louder because maybe their god was sleeping? Chana, who provided the prototype of proper prayer, did so with "only her mouth was moving, while her voice was not to be heard" (Shmuel I, 1:13).

All of these points teach us that the declaration is not for Hashem to hear our acknowledgement that it was not our strength and skill that brought us produce. Rather the Torah wants the declarer and the rest of the Jews in his proximity to hear, especially: "for I have come to the Land that Hashem swore to our forefathers to give to us" (Devarim 26:3). They should all realize that the conquest of the Land of Israel did not come by sword but that it was given to the Children of Israel as a present by He who created the world and divided it among the nations. This declaration should give us confidence that we have the moral right to inhabit the Land and not be perturbed by the classic call of the nations: "You are thieves" (see Rashi, Bereishit 1:1).

The Jewish people have three special characteristics: compassion, modesty, and proclivity to help others. Compassion for others is a wonderful trait that can help mold a society based on the values of justice and truth. However, it can also warp logic and cause "national suicide." This is the conclusion we can arrive at after seeing this week the strange alliance in the demonstration on behalf of those who were uprooted from the villages of Biram and Ikrit (Christian Arab villages near the Lebanese border, which were uprooted in 1948). The joint assemblage of holders of the cross and Jews, in theory came in the name of justice, but was based on the old slander that the Jewish settlement of Israel is thievery.

In the bikurim declaration we say that the Aramite went about destroying my father (ibid.:5). The Torah knew that the same people who try to destroy us will also hide their enmity for us. The descendants of those who tried to kill us throughout history until our time now say they just want justice and peace. Since we are susceptible to gullibility in this matter, we are to "call out and say..." As the p’sukim say, Hashem swore to give this Land to our forefathers, and we are not the thieves. Those who removed us from our Land of Heritage are the thieves, and we are just returning to reclaim it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How Trump looks from here

by Vic Rosenthal

After I returned to Israel about four years ago, I found that American politics seemed stranger and stranger to me. I thought it would be interesting to discuss how it looks from here, and what the trends portend both for Americans and Israelis. I’m not offering an analysis of US politics and society – I haven’t been back since I left, and I have to depend on what people tell me and on the mainstream, alternative, and social media. Rather, I’m describing my perceptions as an Israeli Jew who is also a former American. So forgive me if my descriptions of American politics and society are inaccurate. They describe what I see and hear.

The 2016 pre-election period and the election itself seemed to be characterized by a degree of animosity and plain meanness that I wasn’t accustomed to, for all the years that I had lived in the US. And instead of calming down, the past two years have seen an increase, if anything, in the hostility between Right and Left, or rather between pro- and anti-Trump forces. The opposition has mobilized much of the media on its side, a legal web is being woven to entangle Trump, and if the Democrats obtain a majority in the House this November, it’s likely that an attempt will be made to impeach him (although it is almost unthinkable that the necessary 2/3 vote in the Senate necessary to convict and remove him from office could be obtained). Trump, on the other hand, can and does fight back with the considerable powers of the President.

“Moderate Republicans” are mostly extinct and “moderate Democrats” are an endangered species. Hyper-partisanship is the rule, with both sides apparently more concerned with hurting their enemies than solving problems. At the same time, the Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party of the past anymore, not even the party of the Clintons. The progressive wing, empowered by default after Hillary’s loss, seems to be steering the party. There appears to be a more aggressive, take no prisoners attitude toward the present administration. The overall electorate is changing too, with younger people and immigrants gaining the right to vote, and older voters dying off.

In the larger society, some things stand out. Expressions of Jew-hatred in America, both from the Left and the Right, are increasing. There is the phenomenon of Imams openly preaching against Jews, something which may have always existed but only recently hit the media. The same old neo-Nazis are out there, but it seems that they are less inhibited about public displays of antisemitism. Left-wing Jew-hatred, usually starting as “criticism of Israeli policy” has grown to include traditional themes of Jewish control of media and banks, conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds, and more. Attacks on Israel from the left have become more and more irrational, veering into blood libel territory, as illustrated by the recent statements of an Episcopal bishop. Democrats and younger people are showing less sympathy for Israel and more for the Palestinian Arabs. Support for Israel is becoming more and more a partisan issue.

Frustration with everyday concerns like health care is more and more seen as a political issue, with one side or the other being blamed, depending on the complainer’s political orientation. There seems to be real anger on both sides in connection with immigration policy. I have friends in both camps: the pro-Trump people say that he is doing a good job in a difficult situation, but that the Democratic opposition would wreck the country if they got into power. The anti-Trumpers think he is the Devil, corrupt, a racist, and a danger to democracy who must be removed at all cost. In general, it seems that the Left is more shrill and even fanatic, but that may just be because they are on the outside trying to get back in.

And now the part that will be controversial in America. How does President Trump look from an Israeli point of view? Leaving aside everything else, what effects have his policies had on Israel?

The answer, to the chagrin of many of my American friends, is this: no recent American president has done as much for the Jewish state as Donald Trump.

This was emphasized for most Israelis by the comparison with his predecessor, Barack Obama. Obama gave us a standard of comparison, starting from the days before his inauguration when his staff summoned Tzipi Livni to Washington to tell her that the IDF had better be out of Gaza by Inauguration Day (it was); through eight years of manufactured crises, slights, insults to our PM (who can forget an anonymous administration official calling him a “chickenshit”?); through pressure to refrain from construction in the territories (we did), to release murderous prisoners (we did), and to not bomb the Iranian nuclear project (we didn’t); through the use of Obama Administration consultants and State Department money to try to influence our election against Netanyahu; through a cutoff of supplies in wartime and a ban on flights to our international airport; through the funding of terrorism and the guarantee that Iran would ultimately have nuclear weapons by the Iran deal; and finally, to Obama’s lame duck period when America did not vote against an anti-Israel Security Council resolution for the first time since Jimmy Carter was President. And these are just a few things off the top of my head.

So when Donald Trump finally righted a historic wrong by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and when he proved that he meant it by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, as three previous US presidents had failed to do, Israelis felt a breath of fresh air from Washington. When he withdrew from the Iran deal and re-imposed sanctions, mitigating the damage already done by the previous administration’s cash payments to the terrorist regime, Israelis saw that he understood the danger emanating from the Iranian regime as Obama had not. When he cut funding for the Palestinian Authority when it refused to stop paying terrorists, they saw that he would stop giving the Palestinians a free pass. And when his administration announced that it would no longer accept the unique institution of Palestinian “refugees,” an arrangement created by the Arab states as a multigenerational weapon against Israel and – until Trump – acquiesced to in the West out of a combination of cowardice and anti-Israeli bias, they realized that for the first time in decades, a breakthrough against the stalemate in the region was possible.

And I for one am grateful, like many people here. But sometimes I think that our leadership is assuming that the new situation will continue forever. Trump may be President for the next 6 years, he may remain for only two more, or his political enemies may succeed in cutting his term even shorter, or entangling him in a legal struggle that will prevent him from doing more than defending himself for the remainder of his term. They are certainly trying hard enough.

Here is a scenario: the Democrats win control of the House in November. They immediately vote a bill of impeachment against Trump. Trump, threatened with an avalanche of charges and accusations, resigns. VP Mike Pence takes over; he continues Trump’s policies, but lacks Trump’s charisma (I can hear my liberal friends gagging, but what else is it?) and is defeated in the 2020 election by a progressive Democrat, like Elizabeth Warren or even Michelle Obama. It could happen.

If – when – the opposition regains power in America, there is likely to be a strong reaction against Trump’s policies in every arena. As always, nothing stands out as a target the way we do. A progressive president and administration could be as bad or worse for Israel as Obama was.

Therefore it is important for Israel to take advantage of the present climate to solve as many of its problems as possible. Would it be better to fight Hamas or Hezbollah (or both) with Trump or Michelle Obama in the White House? What about deporting the illegal migrants in South Tel Aviv? Building in strategic parts of the territories? Getting UNRWA out of Gaza? Annexing all or part of Judea and Samaria? For Israel, the implication is clear. It’s unfortunately rare that we have such wide-ranging support from an American administration. Let’s not let it go to waste.

For America, it’s not up to me to tell you what to do. You are still the greatest nation in the world. May you regain the unity and common purpose needed for your republic to survive for another few hundred years.

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: The Power of the Connection to Other Jews’ Desires

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:97)

Gemara: Is it so that whatever remedy that does not have a medical basis is forbidden due to the prohibition of “the ways of the Emorites”? Doesn’t it say in a baraita: For a tree whose fruit are dropping, one should color it with red paint and lean rocks against it? I understand that the rocks are to weaken the strength of the tree (as the fruit fall because they are too robust), but what is the logic behind the remedy of painting it red? The answer is that this is done so that people can see the problem and pray on its behalf. This is similar to the idea that a leper is supposed to call “I am impure, I am impure,” which is an example of letting the public know about one’s anguish so that many will ask for mercy for him.

Ein Ayah: If certain practices have a known need and there is a basis for them in the part of existence that is clear for all to see, then they are not considered peculiar to a certain nation, even though it was a specific nation that developed them. We do not assume that the practice came due to the specific inclinations of the nation, which could make it destructive for Israel.

In contrast, when a practice does not serve a clear, palpable need, even if it might be possible to find one if one penetrated its surface, we still connect the practice to the specific character of the nation that developed it. We are therefore concerned that it might be fit for that nation, yet be illogical and create distortions for other nations. This depends on the sensitivity of each nation. Israel, in particular, has to be very careful about practices with roots from a foreign source.

However, that which brings a lot of good is not assumed to have a hidden, destructive character, as its efficacy makes it something that relates to existence of the world as a whole. This helps us understand why a tree whose fruit are dropping should have rocks leaning on it to weaken its strength.

The influence of the expression of the public’s desires regarding specific objects is legitimate when it is connected to prayer. Even though the efficacy of such a thing is not clear, still it is fine because it relates directly to Israel, who understand how internal matters have influence. This applies both to the individual and to the masses who desire that the light of Hashem shine on all elements of the world (even the ostensibly trivial). This is because Israel’s concern for things that relate to everything in the nation corresponds to Hashem’s desires regarding everything in the world. These divine desires are most felt in things that pertain to the Nation of Israel and most clearly so with things that relate to the bright light of Torah. Therefore, the most specific things in the world are connected to the desires of every specific need of an individual in Israel.

When an individual Jew turns in prayer to Hashem and seeks His great mercy, he is able to influence that which relates to the object of the need. It becomes more powerful when others join in his request. That is why it is significant when a person publicizes his pain so that others pray on his behalf. The interest of others to beseech for the welfare of friends increases the light of life, which strives towards filling in for that which is missing. The connection between people is great enough to impact both the thing of their friend for which they pray and the world in general, even a tree that is suffering due to too much plenty. When many pray, the tree can be brought back to within its capabilities. This is parallel to promoting a leper’s health when he calls out to the masses about his impurity and they pray on his behalf.

Why Modesty in the IDF is Critical

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

In contrast to the insulting claims against religious soldiers that they are afraid to be in the company of women, the Torah teaches a much broader goal meant to protect family and society * As long as the cases of adultery and betrayal are more prevalent among the secular public, the secular have no right to complain about the religious * According to testimonies of men and women soldiers, the religious in the army maintain a gentler and more respectful behavior toward women, thanks to their norms of modesty * If the army does not wake up, and religious leaders as well, there is fear that many in the religious public will not find their place in the IDF – and the rift will harm the entire society

The Issue of Modesty in the Army

The issue of modesty is one of the troubling issues in the army. So it is today, and so it was in the past. As the Torah states in this week’s parsha: “When you go out as a camp against your enemies, you must avoid everything evil… This is because God your Lord makes His presence known in your camp, so as to deliver you and grant you victory over your enemy. Your camp must therefore be holy. Let Him not see anything lascivious among you, and turn away from you” (Deuteronomy 23:10-15).

In general, the meaning of the Torah’s instruction to the camp to guard against “everything evil” refers to all the transgressions of the Torah, but a special emphasis is placed on prudence in matters of modesty, as it is written: “Let Him not see anything lascivious among you” (see, Avodah Zarah 20b).
Claims of the Secular

Occasionally we hear tough and insulting claims from secular people: Why are the religious so afraid of women? Is it impossible for them to be in the company of women without sinning?! Are they unable to hear them sing without thinking about transgressions?

Just recently, a parachutist female soldier was sent to demonstrate the process of parachuting to paratroopers, and the religious soldiers claimed that the incident was immodest. She could not understand what was immodest about it, and was insulted. Her mother, a senior left-wing media personality, publicized her daughter’s being insulted, and the secular media began attacking religious soldiers. It is worth noting that her father, Aharon Haliva, as a colonel and commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, once said of the Hesder yeshiva soldiers that served under him: “I hate and cannot suffer the Hesder program. I think it carries no value”. He did not apologize. Due to the helplessness of representatives of the religious public, both the ultra-Orthodox and the national religious – in the Knesset, and in the government – he is now a general.

Incidentally, a reservist army rabbi who had undergone a parachute training course told me that indeed, training a parachutist by a woman instructor is very immodest, and the fact that the army assigns a female guide to religious soldiers is a gross lack of consideration.

The Goal of Modesty

The goal of modesty is to safeguard family and social life, to protect the covenant between husband and wife, and to protect society from the multiplicity of adultery, betrayal, and feelings of profound disloyalty, which are among the worst problems that can overwhelm a person. Preventing these terrible troubles is not the only reason, but also to create a more pure social atmosphere that allows for a pleasant and polite relationship between people. For this purpose, the Torah ordered the restriction of relations between the sexes and the maintenance of modest attire, clean speech, and modest social behavior, with respect, politeness, and a certain distance between men and women.

In practice, the boundaries of modesty are rooted in the Torah and the words of the Sages, and their offshoots are found in the customs of the Jewish communities. Sometimes certain customs change and other practices arise, and when the Sages see that no breach is caused, they become accepted in Judaism. The general trend is one: to protect the values ​​of family and society.

In other words, the fear is not that any breach of the norm of modesty will immediately lead to an offense, but rather, the preservation of norms builds the proper framework for a suitable family and social life.

It is worth noting that the sense of modesty is an acquired one. A person who is accustomed to certain norms of modesty feels a jarring shudder in his heart when they are violated, and anyone who is not used to them will feel nothing. The halakha’s goal is for Jews to acquire this trait, and when the sense of modesty is improved, they will feel a shudder when it is violated, and return to proper behavior.
The Secular Have No Right to Preach

If the secular society in civilian life and in the army proved that it is possible to safeguard the family and society even when one does not observe all the norms of modesty accepted in Jewish tradition, their claims would have to be considered, for some of the norms of modesty depend on a custom that is contingent on a specific time and place, and when reality changes, indicating there is no need to observe a certain custom and its continued reality damages other values, with the consent of the Sages it is gradually abolished. However, in practice, when the reality is that the cases of infidelity, adultery and sexual harassment of all kinds are way more prevalent in the secular society than in the religious society, and consequently family values ​​are harmed – by the multiplicity of divorces and children growing up where one of the parents is not significantly present in their lives – the secular public is not morally entitled to demand a change in religious society. On the contrary, the secular public should return to its roots and learn from the Torah and the Sages of Israel how to safeguard the values ​​of the family.

True, even after placing the barriers of modesty, not all members of the religious public are able to maintain family values ​​and proper behavior at all times. On the opposite hand, even without the rules of modesty, not all members of the secular public breach them. But the rules of modesty are those that allow the religious public, in general, to be found in a much better place.
A Personal Story of a Soldier

In this context, a man wrote to me about his experiences in his regular army service: “In our armored company, about a third of the soldiers were religious, mostly yeshiva students. From time to time a female soldier or several female soldiers would come to ask for help or to be accompanied on a certain mission. They almost always asked religious soldiers to come with them.

Later, when we were talking to the platoon commander, one of the yeshiva students asked why the female soldiers were always asking for help from the religious… When the platoon commander began to answer “They prefer the ‘doss’im’ (religious) because…” one of the religious soldiers shouted, ‘Why? I’ll tell you why. They just want to cause us to sin! It’s just not right!’ The officer looked at him in amazement and said: ‘To cause you to sin? They say explicitly that they cannot stand the attitude of the regular soldiers, and they always claim that only the religious soldiers respect them, or at least are ashamed to be so rude to them.”

In other words, despite the fact that there are religious soldiers who behave improperly, and secular soldiers who behave properly, the norms of modesty shape men who act more politely and respectfully.
Why the Challenge is Specifically in the Army

The challenge of modesty in the army is particularly difficult, and therefore the Torah commands Israel to preserve the holiness of the camp with greater rigor, as it is stated: “Your camp must therefore be holy”. Apparently the soldiers, who are under the stress of hard training and danger, seek to release themselves from the pressure, and the easiest way is by light headedness, profanity and lewdness. In addition, the need to fight while risking lives breaches normal frameworks – suddenly a terrible thing such as killing people becomes permissible. All of a sudden, the soldier finds within himself emotional and potent powers that he did not recognize, and if he does not take care to fence himself in, these life forces can deviate in negative directions. Therefore the Torah comes to warn the soldiers to guard themselves from everything evil.

Apart from that, when a person is with his family, he safeguards himself from matters of incest and licentiousness, but when he goes into the army all the usual arrangements are infringed, and the fear of breaching frameworks grows. In addition, there is a fear that soldiers, who are mostly engaged in military matters, training, guard duty, and actions for the people and the country, will come to disregard personal mitzvot, such as guarding their tongues, and thoughts of transgression. Therefore the Torah comes to tell us that the camp of Israel must be holy, and precisely because of its holiness, we will be successful in battle. After war as well, soldiers must build their families, and if they violate their modesty and sanctity, they will inflict psychological harm on themselves and will not be able to fully love their partner, for which modesty and holiness are the basis for building love in the family.

The problems of modesty in the army are not bothersome only for religious soldiers and the wives of army officers. There are quite a few secular soldiers who suffer from the crude talk and the reality of the promiscuous relations between male and female soldiers. At times they also are involved in this, but they admit that it is inappropriate behavior.
Responsibility of the Leaders

In light of all this, it would be appropriate and desirable for society as a whole not to have compulsory recruitment for women, and even if there are women who want to join the army, there should not be mixed field units of male and female soldiers. And if the secular public insists on conscription for women and to create mixed combat units, at the very least, the leaders of the defense establishment must be asked to grant members of the religious public an equal right to serve with all due respect according to their values ​​and beliefs.

In the current situation, the religious public does not receive this, and the responsibility rests with the leaders of the religious and ultra-Orthodox public and their rabbis. And even if the heads of the defense establishment are not convinced of the justness of halakhic values of modesty, their fulfillment must be demanded at least within the framework in which religious soldiers serve.
The Social Danger

I recently participated in the inauguration ceremony of my son who enlisted in the Hesder yeshiva program. It is important to note that the secular male and female commanders did not intend to do anything wrong; on the contrary, their intentions are good and they try very hard to respect, consider, and take into account the religious soldiers. The event as a whole was also exciting – to see the ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’, and the Israel Defense Forces prepare cycle after cycle of soldiers to protect the people and the Land. But I also saw how much the army is involving the mixture of men and women, thus creating frustration among members of the religious-Torah public, for whom halakha is a formative value, and that the mixed framework is not suitable for their way of life.

On the bench behind me sat the father of one of the yeshiva students, and as the female soldiers and officers entered the grounds, he whispered in my ear: “Rabbi Melamed, we lost the battle, the situation in the army is lost.” I knew that if that’s what he had to say, and his heart felt that way, with all the enormity of the mitzvah to serve in the army, if the situation does not change for the better, not only will the ultra-Orthodox public not enlist in meaningful service, but members of the Chardal public will move over to the ultra-Orthodox public, and there will be members of the Torani public who will stop sending their sons for meaningful service in the army.

In other words, this is not only a violation of the honor and faith of members of the Torah public, but a national-social danger, as this situation is liable to cause a wide public to move, out of disappointment and despair, from devoted and idealistic cooperation with members of the secular public, toward the ultra-Orthodox public – including refraining from military service – not to mention sabotaging the recruitment process of Haredi members into the army.