Friday, September 07, 2018

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah

Confidence in the Water Supply

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:105)

Gemara: One who says: “I will drink and leave over” is in violation of the prohibition of following the ways of the Emorites.

Ein Ayah: Drinking is natural for man. It is in fact more pressing a need than eating food, and therefore water is provided in the most complete manner for living beings who need it to survive. It is available for all who need it at most times due to Hashem’s mercy for all of His creations.

This fact and viewpoint helps provide mankind with the light of trust in Hashem within the depths of the internal heart. Unnecessary concern, which is spawned by evil, can remove some of the trust in Hashem, to the extent that one will not have confidence that Hashem will provide him with enough of his necessities. Even if he has plenty water, he will be concerned that he will not have enough in the future. This is a characteristic of leaving Hashem, which causes him to leave by the wayside restfulness, pleasantness, and goodness which should be in his soul and spirit. It is based on this reasoning that the gemara calls one who drinks water and leaves it over, one who follows the ways of the Emorites.

The Will to Destroy All, Including, in Some Ways, Oneself

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:106)

Gemara: One who breaks eggs on the wall in a manner that the live chicks will see is in violation of following the ways of the Emorites.

Ein Ayah: It is a characteristic of evil to want to destroy existence. An evil person continues to exist and to accumulate matters only because he was created with a life power that strives to fulfill the desires of his heart, which are as stormy as a rough sea. However, in essence, he has an embedded hatred of life. The more that civilization and society expand, the more the hatred of evil people increases, even though they function from within the wonderful auspices of society.

The characteristic of destructiveness, which was begun by the generation of the Great Flood, continues in all elements of life due to the inclination toward evil, which dwells within the spirit. The spirit of the evil person looks negatively on all of existence including itself. Just as it perceives that it itself does not deserve to continue to live, so too it extrapolates that nothing else deserves to exist either and that destruction is appropriate.

That is, for example, one of the reasons that castrating animals was popular in connection with idol worship. That also explains the Emorite practice to break the eggs, because the force of proliferation of the species is within the egg. Such a person thus sends a message of hatred of the continuance of the species. He does so in front of those chicks that are already hatched, who are not so easily destroyed. However, the person wants to demonstrate his disdain for life and his goal of having it cease. He shows regret that he did not kill the chick at an earlier stage. He shows that he thinks that it would have been worthwhile had the new chicks ended up with the same fate of destruction.

All of this “narrowness of the eye” (i.e., negative outlook) comes from the nerve center that cannot flow into the ways of Hashem and His goodness, and it is an expression of the ways of the Emorites.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Post-Netanyahu Era: Book Launch and Debate (eng. Subs)

Over 250 people gathered in Tel Aviv to watch a fascinating, deep debate between Moshe Feiglin and former Speaker of the Knesset, Avrum Burg. The future of the State, the Nation and the Land were just the opening words of an extremely rare debate on the Israeli political scene.

Are Bad Thoughts worse than Bad Actions?

by Rabbi Ben Tzion Spitz

You cannot escape the results of your thoughts. Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain or rise with your thoughts, your vision, your ideal. You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration. -James Allen

There is a Talmudic dictum that has bothered me since I heard it. It states that “thoughts are worse than actions.” That somehow, merely thinking about a sin, contemplating it, wallowing in thoughts of desire, are worse than the act of sin itself. That while sinning is of course wrong, carrying the thought of sin in one’s head is worse.

I always felt this a dangerous dictum. It may give some a license to sin. It may justify to someone who was just considering a sin, to go ahead and do the actual deed if he believes it’s not as bad as the thoughts scurrying around in his head.

However, in Rabbeinu Bechaye on Deuteronomy 29:18 (Nitzavim) I found an answer that I’m comfortable with. He explains that sinful thoughts are worse than the actual sin, after the sin. It seems that harping on the sin, after the fact, is worse and carries a greater punishment for the soul than the damage the sin itself did.

This answer resolves the other Talmudic dictum, which I find much more comforting, that there is no punishment whatsoever for sinful thoughts (except for idolatrous thoughts). So, to recap Rabbeinu Bechaye’s view:

Sinful thoughts without sinning carry no punishment (except for thinking of idol worship).

Doing an actual sin carries its prescribed punishment.

Having sinful thoughts after the sin is worse than the actual sin and damages and punishes the soul even further.

Of course, there’s a trump card that absolves all of our bad thoughts and actions: repentance. Our repentance can retroactively cleanse the spiritual ledger. It can wipe the slate clean and allows us to start our spiritual accounting anew, refreshed, rejuvenated.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it’s a good time to clean up our minds and our actions.

Shabbat Shalom and Ktiva Ve’chatima Tova

Sound the great shofar for our freedom.

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

When the Israelites gathered and assembled together, they would sound teki’ot on trumpets: “When the community is to be assembled, the trumpets shall be sounded with a long note [tekia], and not with a series of short notes [teruah]” (Numbers 10:7). By contrast, when they went forth to war, they would blow teru’ot: “When you go to war against an enemy who attacks you in your land, you shall sound a teruah [staccato blasts] on the trumpets. You will then be remembered before the L-rd your G-d, and will be delivered from your enemies” (10:9).

These two sounds, the tekiah and the teruah, allude to G-d’s Kindness and to G-d’s Strict Justice.

The tekiah, with its simple, sweet sound, alludes to G-d’s kindness. On Rosh Hashanah, the teruah and tekiah are joined together. First we hear the tekiah, then shevarim and teruah in the middle, and then another tekiah at the end. This divine music serves to teach us about the way G-d conducts Himself with us. First and foremost, we must know and recognize that everything originates with G-d’s goodwill, for “G-d is good to all and His mercy is upon all His works” (Psalm 145:9), and “His kingdom rules over all” (Rosh Hashanah Shemoneh Esreh). It is true that life in the modern world is complex and fraught with difficulties, and sometimes with sobbing and weeping like the sound of the teruah, but that is only along the middle of the way. At the end of the path we return to the tekiah, to see G-d’s kindness and goodness. Truth be told, in the end, everything will work out for the best. After all, “everything that G-d does, He does for our own benefit.”

On Rosh Hashanah, which the Torah calls “Yom Teruah,” we shall recall that we have been through a difficult year, a year of war. During that year, we have heard the sound of the teruah, the sound of sobbing and weeping amongst our people. Yet we pray fervently that in the coming year we will merit to hear the sound of the tekiah, the sound of goodness and kindness, unity and peace, and that our prayer, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom,” will be speedily fulfilled.

With blessings for a good, sweet year, and a ketivah vechatimah tovah,
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Netzavim: Tying the Knot

Why Hamas Escalated - and Why It Is Winning the Present Round

by Prof. Hillel Frisch

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The accumulated deterrence achieved in the three previous rounds of wide-scale fighting between Israel and Hamas in 2008-9, 2012, and 2014 has come to a temporary halt. Israel must start preparing for a massive fourth round – a round in which Israel will, one hopes, replicate the cumulative deterrence it scored against the Arab States in 1973. This would mean subjecting Hamas to a threshold of pain sufficiently unbearable to induce it to stop fighting Israel altogether.

Continue to full article ->

The King is coming to Town

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

“ This is in order to elevate you today as a people to Him, and so that He may be to you God, as He promised you, and swore to your fathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov. (Devarim 29:12) ”

I LEARN DAILY with an elderly gentleman of British origin. Every year he reminds me of something he feels is a general misunderstanding about Rosh Hashanah. He has heard many people over the years say that Rosh Hashanah is the time we coronate God as our King, which is simply wrong. God is King all year round, he points out, and has been ever since He created “subjects.”

A coronation is what happens when someone goes from NOT being a king to BEING a king. Coronation, from the word “corona,” means “crown.” Since God is ALWAYS king, we do NOT need to coronate Him or proclaim His kingship. Something else has to be happening on Rosh Hashanah.

There are many things that allude to what that “something” is, but the best hint is the change of brochah from “HAKEL HaKadosh,” the “Holy ALMIGHTY,” to a “HAMELECH HaKadosh,” the “Holy KING (in the Shemonah Esrai). We do this for the entire 10 days until the end of Yom Kippur, but not the rest of the year. The question is, why NOT, if God IS the “Holy KING” all year round?

This is tied to another question. A person can and SHOULD do teshuvah all year round, not just during the Aseres Yemai Teshuvah—the 10 Days of Repentance. The Rambam answers this question by saying that, yes, you CAN do teshuvah all year round, but you WON’T. At least not the way you CAN do it from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. Therefore, use the time well.

Of course. The pressure and atmosphere of this time of year tends to bring the teshuvah out in us. All the time we spend in shul praying from machzorim tends to bring the teshuvah out in us. Everyone praying for the same thing and doing teshuvah together, tends to bring the teshuvah out in us. What else do you need to bring the teshuvah “out in us”?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, then you also won’t figure out the answer to the first question, because they are the same. Furthermore, if you don’t know what this “extra” element is, you can miss the opportunity to use it, as so many people do year-after-year. This is why few people change that much after the High Holidays, and the Jewish people as a whole are still very much in exile.

We’ll answer this with an example. A king may rule a very large kingdom, but most of his subjects may never see his face, or at least see him in person. They’ll believe the king is actually there in the palace, and they’ll swear loyalty to him. But, being so far away from the king, they will have difficulty EMOTIONALLY relating to him, and it will affect their reverence and loyalty for him.

What happens though if, one day, the king decides to travel his kingdom and allow his subjects to actually SEE him IN PERSON? Even modern day leaders, as much as we disrespect them, and even abuse them, still draw people out to see them, if only because of the power they represent. Even EVIL leaders, as much as they are to be reviled, also evoke a certain sense of awe because of what they control.

What happens AFTER the people see the leader, even if only from a distance? It changes them. It makes the king more real to them. It actually creates an emotional connection that may not have previously been there. As a result, even after the king leaves, people remain “connected” to him. They may have made fun of the king before, but may feel awkward doing it henceforth.

This is what Elul is about. We add the prayer “L’Dovid Ori” twice a day, and blow the shofar from Rosh Chodesh onward. Elul is the announcement that the King is coming to “town,” and the time to make all the preparations befitting His arrival. When He finally arrives, we want the “town” to be ready, and to have secured a good vantage point from which to “see” Him.

This is what puts the AWE into the “Days of AWE.” We get to glimpse the King, not with our physical eyes, but with our MIND’S eye. We’re able to make a connection to God as King, like at no other time of the year, intellectually AND emotionally.

Without this experience, God is only “HaKel HaKodesh,” the “Holy Almighty” to us. He is hidden from us, and we don’t relate to him the same way emotionally. We don’t maintain the level of awe necessary to call Him “HaMelech HaKodesh,” even if we say the words. We may KNOW it is true, but we don’t FEEL its truth.

This affects our level of teshuvah as well. When people are in the presence of greatness, they sense their OWN potential for greatness, which tends to also point out their weaknesses and shortcomings. If the person is sincere, which they tend to be at this time of year, feeling the “gaze” of God on them, this will inspire them to aspire to more personal greatness. The teshuvah then will take care of itself.

It is far more impactful to confess one’s mistakes out of a desire to be BETTER, than simply because we know we have done wrong. The consequence of punishment, believe it or not, is a far less effective tool of improvement than a person’s desire to be greater. We can rationalize around the belief that we might be punishable. We CANNOT rationalize around a sense of falling short of personal expectations.

The King is coming to town, and He is the GREATEST King ever. It is should inspire a person to be an even GREATER subject.

Rav Kook on Rosh Hashanah: The Music of Teshuvah

What is the significance of the various blasts of the shofar? The shofar is a wake-up call, stirring us to mend our ways and do teshuvah. As Maimonides wrote in the Mishneh Torah, the shofar calls out to us: “Sleepers, wake up from your slumber! Examine your ways and repent and remember your Creator” (Laws of Repentance 3:4). Thus when looking for an explanation of the shofar blasts, we should examine ideas that are connected to this theme of spiritual awakening.

Three Levels

The initial blast of the shofar is a long, constant sound called a tekiyah. This simple call relates to the soul’s inner source of holiness, its innate connection to God. The soul’s inner essence is rooted in an elevated realm that is "infinitely good and infinitely long," musically represented by the long, clear tekiyah blast.

However, this inner holiness should not remain concealed within the soul. Spiritual awakening means that this holiness is expressed in character traits and actions. Therefore the long tekiyah blast is followed by a series of shorter blasts, called shevarim. The fragmented sounds of the shevarim correspond to the process of the inner soul expressing itself in particular character traits. Unlike the broad strokes of abstract concepts, the soul’s enlightened glimpses of Divine ideals, our traits are more defined and specific - kindness and generosity, integrity and resolve, and so on. Thus the shevarim consist of a series of broken blasts, shorter than the tekiyah.

Yet we are not content with only refining character traits. Our spiritual awakening should also elevate our actions and deeds. Therefore the shevarim are followed by even shorter blasts, the staccato beat sounds called teruah. Since actions are even more detailed than traits - specific behaviors that express the qualities of kindness, integrity, and so on - they are audially represented by the rapid trill of the teruah.

In summary: we focus on the soul’s inner essence (the tekiyah) in order to influence and refine the character traits (the shevarim), which in turn guide and elevate the actions (the teruah).

The Final Tekiyah

Each set of shofar blasts concludes with a final tekiyah. Like the first tekiyah, this tekiyah represents the soul’s core holiness. But while the first tekiyah signifies this inner essence as a potential force, the final tekiyah indicates the actualization of its impact on our traits and deeds.

Partial Teshuvah

This explanation describes the complete set of shofar blasts - tekiyah-shevarim-teruah-tekiyah. However, we also blow two partial sets of shofar blasts, with only shevarim or teruah in the middle. What do these series of blasts represent?

Ideally, both our traits and our actions should be guided by the soul’s inner holiness. But there are also situations of incomplete spiritual awakening. Some individuals may behave properly, but fail to refine their character traits. This situation is represented by the set of tekiyah-teruah-tekiyah, since only the teruah blasts (i.e., the actions) are influenced by the inner holiness of the tekiyah.

In other cases, there may be internal or external obstacles that prevent the inner soul from expressing itself in action. Nonetheless, there may still be a refinement of character traits. This situation is represented by the set of tekiyah-shevarim-tekiyah, as only the shevarim (the traits) are influenced by the tekiyah.

Clearly, the optimal situation is when the inner holiness is able to penetrate all levels, encompassing shevarim as well as teruah, both character traits and deeds. This ideal state is expressed in the psalmist’s praise of those who recognize the importance of the teruah and know how to realize their inner holiness in their "walk," i.e., their practical path in life:

“Fortunate is the nation that knows the teruah-blast; O God, they will walk in the light of Your countenance.” (Psalms 89:16)
(Silver from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback). Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. II, pp. 326-327

The Yishai Fleisher Show: No Fear in the New Year

Choose life! Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Rabbi Yishai for a Rosh HaShanna Special where they discuss the chosenness of Israel, the blessings and the curses upon entering the land, and finding joy in times of crisis. Then Malkah Fleisher on preparing for a new year with a tiny voice of truth, crowning the King while being judged, and all the while serving up a great menu!

The Man Who Restored Justice

by Moshe Feiglin

Elor Azaryah restored the dimension of justice that you eliminated from our lives: A reply to Judge Tzvi Segal.

One of the judges of Elor Azaryah, Judge Tzvi Segal (now a former judge) set out his worldview in an interview on Israel Army Radio. This is the only worldview that we hear morning and night in all the media: That Elor Azaryah, who killed a wounded terrorist who had just attempted to murder a soldier, stooped to a bestial level of immorality. The former judge added pathos and eye-rolling over the fact that not one of his friends criticized his act. Judge Segal spoke as the representative of the ultimate guardians of morality. The interviewers made no attempt to challenge the moral foundation at the basis of his claims. Orwellian ideological conformity at its best. As the honored interviewers did not ask, I would like to take their place for a moment and ask his honor:

Let us assume that a time tunnel takes us back, Mr. Segal, and you are now the judge at Eichmann’s trial. Let us assume that the German Satan did not claim that he was just a small cog in the system and that he was obligated to carry out his orders. Let us assume that instead, he decided to honestly set out the Nazi worldview that he had adopted and said the following:

I plan to prove to the honorable court that I do not deserve punishment, but rather, a medal of honor. I intend to bring a long list of historical, scientific and expert proofs that the destruction of the Jews was and remains imperative to save mankind.

How would you respond, honored former Judge Tzvi Segal? Would you allow Eichmann to prove his case in the courtroom?

How could you not do so? Israel is a state of law. The court cannot determine the defense line of the accused for him. Eichmann would bring proofs and evidence and witnesses, explain how dangerous the Jews are and Gideon Housner would refute his claims and bring witnesses to testify that the Jews actually contribute a lot to the world. The conclusion would have been the same – so why not?

We both understand that you would never allow such a line of defense to develop (I hope) for the Nation of Israel’s right to exist is not subject to legal debate. On the surface, it is a given that need not be proved. Our right to live is the foundation that precedes the establishment of the State and its legal system. If you would allow legal debate over the question of the ethicality of the destruction of the Jews, thereby drawing a question mark over the legitimacy of their existence – you would immediately have removed yourself from the parameters of legitimate discourse and turned the legal platform itself into a patently unethical mechanism.

I don’t know how you would solve the legal catch-22, but I am sure that you would find a way out of it. You would not let it happen. That is clear.

Is it really so clear?

Famous philosopher Yeshaya Berlin, along with a glorious list of thinkers from the Brit Shalom organization – among them, Martin Buber, Hugo Bergman, Gershom Schloemm and more – signed a petition to then President Yitzchak Ben Tzvi requesting of him to pardon Eichmann.

That is the banality of evil, Chana Arendt, who covered the trial, claimed. There is no essential difference between the victims and the executor. In the Eichmann trial, they simply switched roles. Those who signed that petition adopted this claim.

Today, all the Israeli elites – from the courts to the Chief of Staff Forum – have adopted Arendt’s approach and IDF soldiers are expected to give their lives (and hundreds have already done so) for the enemy civilian populace. For there is no more enemy and friend, righteous and evil. There are simply those in uniform and those who are not – from both sides. And those in uniform are supposed to die for those not in uniform (General Yair Golan, Atzmonah Preparatory Academy, 2006). The Nazification “processes” that Golan “identified” were summarily adopted by the western intellectual elites, and today, Israel is the new Nazis and the ‘Palestinians’ are their victims.

And you, honored former Judge Segal? Would you have also signed the petition requesting a pardon for Eichmann?

Let us return to Elor Azaryah. He was just a simple soldier. Not Gideon Housner and not Tzvi Segal. But specifically because Azaryah is not a great philosopher like Berlin or Buber, his sense of justice did not atrophy in the intricacies of philosophical equivocation.

One hundred years ago, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook wrote in his book, Orot Hakodesh (Part 2): “Intelligence thinks that it can separate itself from the masses and that by doing so it will be healthier in spirit, more noble in its thought. That is a basic error, an error that does not recognize the healthy side of natural cognizance, natural feelings and natural senses, that were not rectified, but neither were they spoiled by cultural influence. The healthy side of integrity is to be found more in coarse people than in educated, moral thinkers…”

I do not know you, Mr. Segal. It may be that a quote from a rabbi does not mean much to you. So forget about Rabbi Kook and just think for a moment. What is the logic behind the western jury method? Why did the most enlightened of nations decide to add twelve ‘coarse’ people to the intelligent judge? What do those coarse people have, that their royal intelligences are missing?

Elor was just one of those ‘coarse’ soldiers. But his ‘natural cognizance’, his intuitive sense of justice understood what you and your colleagues cannot see. He understood that the terrorist may have been neutralized, but the ideology of destroying every Jew wherever he may be – men, women and children – the ideology that brought that Satan to look for his victim was still alive and kicking and laying at his feet. And no! It should not have its day in court. It must be eliminated here and now! It does not deserve to be heard in court and it is immoral to bring it to court. Those who would bring it to court empower it and bring on the next act of terror.

And look what happened. Elor’s single bullet, the moral exclamation point that replaced the question mark that the Satan had drawn over the right of the Jews to exist, immediately halted the wave of terror that had been devouring us for half a year.

Check it out, Mr. Segal. There have always been knife attacks and they will apparently continue. But the wave of attacks every morning, afternoon and evening – that individual Nazism – ended at the moment that Elor Azaryah shot the terrorist.

I do not think that he understood what he was doing. But in the era of inverted values that you represent, in light of the paralysis that you have decreed upon his commanders, Azaryah was the only man in uniform in the arena that acted ethically. He restored the dimension of justice that you eliminated from our lives and saved many people.

A Time to Seek

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

(First published in CBY's "Kehilatenu")

Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Not for hamburger, fries and a Diet Coke or even a salad and mineral water. And not even thirsty for water, although that is closer to the point. “All who are thirsty should go to the water (Yeshayahu 55:1) on which our Sages expounded “water refers only to Torah” (Masechet Bava Kama 82a). We are a hungry and thirsty people, especially when Elul comes and the New Year is about to begin.

The Gemara (Masechet Shabbat 138b) teaches that there will come a time in the future when the Torah will be forgotten from the Jewish people, as the verse says (Amos 8:12): “Behold the days are coming, G-d says, and I will send a famine to the land. Not a famine for bread and not thirst for water but to hear the word of G-d. And people will wander from sea to sea and north to east to seek G-d’s word – and will not find it.” It sounds like a truly desperate state of affairs; people will not even know what is a divine thought or value or what is considered godly behavior. No scholar will be able to answer definitively questions of Halacha. Can that really happen?

That same Gemara concludes with the statement of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: “Heaven forbid that the Torah should ever be forgotten from the people of Israel, as the Torah itself promises “for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their descendants” (Devarim 31:21). What then do the Sages mean when they said that ‘people will wander…to seek G-d’s word and not find it?’ It means that they will not find the practical Halacha and the theoretical teaching in one place.”

If so, doesn’t that also mean that the Torah will be forgotten? How and why does Rabbi Shimon disagree with his colleagues?

Rav Yaakov Shapiro, current Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz Harav, quoted Rav Kook as saying that Rabbi Shimon is correct. It is inconceivable that the Torah will be forgotten from the Jewish people. That is for the simple reason that as long as there are people who “wander about…to seek G-d’s word” then by definition the Torah is not forgotten. We need to be seekers and searchers. That is the purpose of the month of Elul and the Yamim Noraim. Indeed, the very word “Elul” is drawn from the Aramaic root for searching (see Targum, Bamidbar 13:2). We need to overcome our normal complacency, our sense that we have seen it all, heard it all, and know it all, and become hungry and thirsty – for the word of G-d.

On Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moshe was told “carve for yourself” new tablets of the Law – for yourself. The essence of the second set of tablets, the ones that survived, is that they were produced by Moshe’s own hand. They resulted from an inner yearning that he had to come closer to G-d and heal the breach between G-d and the Jewish people. So too, the repentance of this season is always the result of inner arousal – of the sense that something is amiss and needs to be repaired in our relationship with G-d and even with our friends and loved ones. It is the season of seeking. We are all mevakshim.

Thus we say twice daily in Tehillim 27 there is “one thing I ask of G-d, that is what I seek (that I might dwell in the house of G-d).” And we say “I seek your presence, G-d.” I seek Your closeness and Your favor, I seek Your warmth and forgiveness, I seek new opportunities and new challenges, I seek to satisfy my hunger and to slake my thirst – for You.

And isn’t it true that when we sincerely seek G-d then that is when we are most likely to find ourselves – our real personalities and talents, our real commitment, and our real purpose in life? What a blessing to be afforded this opportunity year after year.

“’Seek G-d when He might be found’ – these are the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippurim (Masechet Rosh Hashana 18a).” May our quest begin and we find what we seek, and merit Hashem’s blessings for a year of life and good health, prosperity and peace, friendship and holiness, and complete redemption, for us and all Israel.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Shamrak Report: The US Ends Funding of UNRWA and more....

US State Department cuts financial aid to UNRWA by nearly $300 million, putting an end to decades of support for the UN agency for ‘Palestinian refugees’.
“When we made a U.S. contribution of $60 million in January, we made it clear that the United States was no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA's costs that we had assumed for many years. Several countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Qatar, and the UAE have shown leadership in addressing this problem, but the overall international response has not been sufficient,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
The United States announced in January it would cut some of its funding to UNRWA. Since then, UNRWA has received pledges of $100 million in additional funding from Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, India and France as a means of making up for the aid that was cut by Washington.
(The uncomfortable question can be asked at this moment: “Why has the US, all the previous presidents, provided this financial and moral support to the enemies of Israel for so long?” Mainly 'budgetary' considerations are used as justification payment cancelation - not the fact that UNRWA has been fostering four generation of ‘professional’ refugees, so-called Palestinians, the only ones in the world, who have been artificially maintained for over 70 years because the international anti-Semites oppose the existence of the only Jewish state! The list of international Jew-haters, who are willing to pick up the tab, is still too long!)
Leshana Tovah Tikatev V’tichatem!
Wish you a Happy and Sweet New Year!
The Trump Administration announced that it rejects the long-standing Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for millions of refugees and their descendants to Israel. The “right of return” is one of the key core issues of dispute in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Please, read and distribute!
FOOD for THOUGHT. by Steven Shamrak
I have found an interesting correlation (although not scientifically proven) that people who express anti-Trump sentiments - Jews or ‘traditional’ Antisemites - would, most likely, support creation of a state for the fake Palestinian people (a two-state solution) on Jewish land. They are disregarding facts and do not care that it has never been the real solution, just another step in our enemies’ plan of destruction of Israel, as it was proven so many times since the idea was conceived in the 1990s!
Israeli security services, Shin Bet, documented 255 attacks in July. It is an increase of 15 percent over the previous month. Two Israelis were killed in attacks in July, including a soldier shot dead by a sniper from Gaza. Despite the increase, the figures in July were well below those of May, when 365 incidents were documented. (How many countries endure this and restrain from wiping enemies out?)
Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that five critically ill women from Gaza may enter Israel for urgent medical treatment despite a government decision preventing relatives of Hamas members from doing so. (Madness - They kill Jews, burn Jewish land, do not pay their medical bills! Why not send them to Egypt, Qatar or Iran for treatment?)
Egypt's military says it will host war games with US troops next month for the second straight year. Exercise will run from Sept 8-20. Approximately 800 US troops will participate.
A Jerusalem court upheld the city's right to shutter the Barbour art gallery, enabling it to close the far-left exhibition center after a year of legal wrangling. The gallery was hosting extremist groups such as Breaking the Silence and the building was also is not zoned to serve as a gallery.
The former Jordanian prime minister, who signed the peace treaty with Israel said in a recent interview that his country would “take Haifa by force” if it ever has the military power to do so, despite the 1994 treaty. (They are all - Jordan, Egypt, Iran and Arab states - just are waiting for the right moment to destroy Israel!)
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that Israel is purchasing innovative, high precision rockets. The minister said that the new ground-to-ground rockets of different types, some are still under development and classified, will have a range of 30-150 km. The rockets will employ advanced technologies to adapt them to the modern battlefield.
Senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, said that even if a ceasefire is achieved with Israel, the terrorist organization will continue to "build its capabilities because it has no faith in the Zionist enemy." He further claimed that "the Zionist enemy has reached the conclusion that the Palestinian resistance cannot be eliminated and Israel will see that it made a grave mistake if the truce with Hamas fails. If a ceasefire is achieved, then we will not delay in working on the lifting of the siege and the lifting of the sanctions on the Gaza Strip."
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) blasted Arab lawmakers over their plans to push the United Nations to adopt a resolution condemning Israel’s passage of the Nationality Law. “In any normal country,” Levin said, “there is only one way this would be viewed – as treason. I hope that the justice system puts them on trial.”
Delegates from the Conservative party of Canada, the country’s opposition party, approved during its policy convention a resolution recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. The resolution, which received overwhelming support, endorses the moving of Canada's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if the Conservative party wins the general elections in 2019. (Only if the Conservatives win!)
Abbas is suffering from severe memory problems and at times does not recognize those around him. The PA chairman has been hospitalized several times in the past year. Despite the reports on his deteriorating health, Abbas continues to refuse to appoint a successor to replace him. (It does not matter who will replace him. The violence against Jews, most likely, will increase as new leader have to 'prove' himself!)
The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday issued a dramatic ruling calling to regulate the Jewish settlement of Mitzpe Kramim, by applying the “market ouvert” which allows ownership of the land to be registered to the people who bought it from the state, even if the state was wrong to sell the land in the first place. Rather than dismantling the community and evacuating the Jewish residents - as had been the case in so many past rulings in Judea and Samaria, this court called for the Arab claimants to be compensated for their lost land.(and it is long overdue!)
The 'Palestinian' Lives Nobody Cares about!
An “Action Group for Palestinians” this week released the first figures of Palestinians lost in the seven years of the Syrian civil war: 5,222 dead and missing. A breakdown shows at least 3,840 killed in Syrian bombardments of Palestinian refugee camps and in Bashar Assad’s detention and interrogation centers which are notorious for their brutality. A second list reports that the fate of 1,682 Palestinians is unknown. Some may be still be hidden away in Syrian prisons. This report has drawn no response from PA official bodies including Mahmoud Abbas, nor has the PA ever criticized the Syrian President or his Iranian and Hizballah allies for their mistreatment of Palestinians living in Syria. The UN, 'Ugly Nothing', is silent too!
QUOTE of the WEEK:
I knew that there was a bias against Israel, but I hadn't really put a lot of thought into it, until I attended the first session. And when I saw literally how abusive all of those countries were being to Israel, in a way that was pathetic - really I had no choice but to get up and say this is completely wrong... Now, frankly, they're scared to say anything negative about Israel because they don't want me to yell at them. - Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations.
The Threat of War has Increased!
(Mad dogs are barking in chorus)
1. Iran building a new base in Syria - New satellite images are showing that Iran is building a missile factory at Wadi Ghanam near Masyaf, Syria. The factory will produce surface-to-surface missiles and is expected to be completed in early 2019. It appears similar to the nuclear facility in Parchin, Iran.
2. Iran moves ballistic missiles to Iraq - Reuters quoted three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources, and two Western intelligence sources, all of whom confirmed the transfer of short-range missiles to Iraq over the course of several months. The missiles, of the Fateh-110, Zolfaqar, and Zelzal types, have ranges of 200-700 km, and are able to threaten both Saudi Arabia and Israel.
3. Hezbollah's next target Judea and Samaria - A senior Hezbollah official on Friday told Lebanon's Al Akhbar newspaper that during the next round of conflict with Israel "A small number of well-armed fighters who are familiar with the enemy's defense system can infiltrate and reach the West Bank, and cause great harm," he said. "The battle with Takfiri organizations left us ready to fight the Zionist enemy," the official emphasized. "The war is coming... and we are preparing for conflict..."
4. Hamas Chief: We Will Hit Tel Aviv - According to Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza Hamas is capable today of firing in five minutes the same number of rockets it launched over the 51 days of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. He claimed that “the number of tunnels and waylays prepared by the resistance forces is greater than that faced by the occupation (that’s Israel) in the previous war.

A few questions for our leaders about the next war

by Vic Rosenthal

Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more. – George S. Patton

The idea that a war can be won by standing on the defensive and waiting for the enemy to attack is a dangerous fallacy, which owes its inception to the desire to evade the price of victory. – Douglas Haig

Without a plan, there’s no attack. Without attack, no victory. – Curtis Armstrong


It has recently been reported that Iran is deploying ballistic missiles in Iraq, and is even manufacturing them there. And it seems that every few days we read aboutanother Israeli strike in Syria against a shipment of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. The Russians have in the past said that Iran shouldn’t be allowed to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, but they have recently walked this back and are suggesting that it is legitimate after all. The US is already sanctioning Iran, but has no further leverage short of military intervention, which is highly unlikely.

Military analyst J. E. Dyer arguest hat the new developments are a part of Iran’s strategic plan to obtain a land corridor across Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean that will directly threaten Israel. Of course the ballistic missiles also threaten other Iranian targets, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and American forces in the region.

Iran is trying hard to provide components to convert the 130,000 relatively dumb rockets already deployed by Hezbollah in South Lebanon into precision guided missiles that can hit specific targets in Israel, such as military bases and high-value civilian infrastructure. It is also building factories in Syria to manufacture such missiles.

A Hezbollah attack will not just be rockets next time. They plan to cross the border and kill or kidnap Israeli civilians, and to attack Israel’s offshore gas platforms.

Iran is also helping Hamas improve its fighting capabilities. And it is very carefully and incrementally pursuing the ability to make nuclear weapons.

The Iranians, like the good chess-players that they are, are playing for position. They are careful to stay away from direct clashes, satisfied to get all their pieces into place before drawing their swords. Nevertheless there is no doubt of their objectives: to dominate the region and ultimately create a Shiite caliphate, to push out the remnants of US influence, to gain control of the Mideast oil supply (which can be wielded as a powerful weapon against the West), and to destroy Israel, which is both offensive to their Islamic sensibilities and a practical obstacle to all of their other plans.

None of this is hidden. It is known in Jerusalem, Riyadh, Washington, and everywhere else. J. E. Dyer has been writing about it for years. Benjamin Netanyahu has given dozens of speeches about it, even one to a joint session of the US Congress.

So here are my questions for Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, PM Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman:

How long do you want to wait?

Do you have some intelligence that someone is about to overthrow the revolutionary regime? Do you believe that the real source of power in Iran, the Revolutionary Guards, can be dislodged and Iran converted from an aggressive, expansionist, terror-exporting nation to a peaceful neighbor to the rest of the Middle East?

If not, do you think the regime will be destroyed by the American sanctions? Or isn’t it more likely that it will continue to be able to divert resources from its civilian population to preparations for war indefinitely?

Do you think the US will go to war for us? Donald Trump has been a friend to Israel, but there’s a limit to what you can expect from a friend. Both he and his base, not to mention the opposition, have made it clear that they are not interested in another Mideast war.

Trump isan ally, and we would receive material and diplomatic support from the US in the event of war. But how long will he remain in power? The most vicious political opposition that I’ve seen in America in my lifetime is gunning for him. Maybe he will have a second term, and maybe he won’t finish his first. But one thing that is certain is that when (not if) the other side takes over, there will be a massive backlash against all of his policies, and that includes support for Israel. So do you want to wait for President John Kerry, Michelle Obama, Cory Booker, or Elizabeth Warren?

We know that Iran is preparing the ground for a nuclear breakout. Do you have confidence that we can predict precisely when that will be?

What, if anything, do you think is going to happen in the next months and years that will improve our strategic position against Iran? Or is the balance shifting in Iran’s direction?

Do you want to fight on their terms, at a time of their choosing, or on ours? Do you prefer absorbing a 1973-style sneak attack or would you rather knock out the enemy’s offensive capability in a 1967-like preemptive strike?

Admittedly, that last question is unfair. It’s unlikely that an Israeli preemptive attack today could come close to replicating the success of the one in 1967. The Iranian enemy is far more militarily sophisticated and its assets are better hardened and dispersed. Israel wouldn’t be able do what it did in 1967. But it could dramatically shorten the war and reduce the damage the enemy could do. On the other hand, a sneak attack by Iran and its proxies might be even more traumatic for Israel than 1973. The element of surprise is a great advantage. Why would we give it up to them?

So here is my last question:

Will you cut off the head of the snake before or after it has buried its fangs in our flesh?

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Repentance and Redemption

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

In Masechet Sanhedrin (97b), the Tannaim dispute whether the Teshuva (repentance) of Am Yisrael is a precondition for redemption, or if the redemption is not dependent on Teshuva, and it will come in any case:

R. Eliezer says: If Israel do Teshuva they will be redeemed, and if not, they will not be redeemed.

R. Yehoshua said to him: If they do not do Teshuva, they will not be redeemed?! Rather, G-d will establish over them a king whose decrees are harsh like [those of] Haman, and Israel will do Teshuva.

Ramban and R. Chaim b. Atar (Ohr Hachaim) follow R. Yehoshua. Ramban in Parshat Ha'azinu (Devarim 32:40) writes, "In this Song [of Ha'azinu] there is no precondition of Teshuva and worship." Similarly, Ohr Hachaim writes, "There is a limit to the exile even if Israel will be completely wicked, Heaven forbid." (Vayikra 25:28) In contrast to this, Rambam follows R. Eliezer, and writes: "All the prophets commanded about Teshuva, and Israel will only be redeemed through Teshuva." (Hil. Teshuva 7:5)

R. Yehoshua's opinion requires explanation. First he says that the redemption will come even without Teshuva, yet he concludes that they will be forced to repent on account of harsh decrees.

It seems that the resolution to this apparent contradiction is hidden in our parsha. Our parsha begins with a process of Teshuva, "You will return unto ('ad) Hashem, your G-d." (Devarim 30:2) It then moves on to the beginning of redemption, "Then Hashem, your G-d, will bring back your captivity and have mercy on you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples." (30:3) It concludes, once again, with a process of Teshuva, "When you shall return to (el) Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul." (30:10)

Chazal comment that "unto Hashem" means Teshuva not for its sake - out of fear, whereas, "to Hashem," means Teshuva for its sake - out of love. Similarly, Onkelos translates "You will return unto Hashem - You will return to the fear of Hashem," "When you shall return to Hashem - When you return before Hashem."

According to R. Yehoshua, the first stage of Teshuva will occur out of fear, not for its own sake, when the king that G-d will establish over Israel will pass harsh decrees against them. This will force them to repent. The coercion of the troubles, the pogroms, the anti-Semitism, and other tragedies will arouse the people to Teshuva. This will also be considered Teshuva, even though it is not Teshuva for its own sake.

How will this Teshuva be expressed? Through aliya to Israel! After all, the original sin that caused all of the exiles was, "They despised the desirable land." (Tehillim 106:24) Therefore, Teshuva will be through love of the Land; the exiled Jews will love the Land and will come back to redemption. Thus, the verses that say: "You will return unto Hashem, your G-d ... Then Hashem, your G-d, will bring back your captivity and have mercy on you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples" - deal with the first stage of return to the Land of the forefathers, with aliya to Israel. It will be done by coercion and not willingly; not for its own sake but out of fear. Similarly, Rav Teichtel in "Eim Habanim Semeicha" (p. 109) writes, "Aliya itself is certainly considered Teshuva." Similarly, Yehuda Alkelai writes, "The overall Teshuva ... is that Israel will return to the Land."

Only after the first stage of Teshuva, not for its sake, that Israel will come to Eretz Yisrael, will full Teshuva come: "When you shall return to (el) Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul." This, indeed, is the order in the Book of Yechezkel (36:24-26):

I will take you from [among] the nations and gather you from all the lands, and I will bring you to your own soil.

Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, that you may become cleansed...

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.

Rav Kook zt"l alludes to the process in Orot Hateshuva (17:2):

The arousal of the desire of the nation as a whole to return to its Land, to its essence, to its spirit and its innate characteristic - in fact, has the light of Teshuva in it. In truth, this matter is clearly expressed in the Torah's expression: "You will return unto ('ad) Hashem, your G-d," "When you shall return to (el) Hashem, your G-d."

The return to Israel will draw after it a strengthening of the nationalistic feelings, the first of which is the sense of unity. Therefore, the Torah preceded the portion of Teshuva with the factor of unity - "You are standing today, all of you ... to pass into the covenant of Hashem. Sefat Emet writes:

"You are standing today, all of you" - Because Klal Yisrael are always standing before Hashem, and the worship of each and every individual is to submit himself to the community. This is "today;' it is each and every day ... Based on this all the wicked people could repent, because sin only removes from the wholeness of Israel, and therefore he can return to his roots, as it says, "I am returning to the inheritance of my father."

And, in our times:

Near the footsteps of Messiah, the concept of unity in the nation will increase. (Orot p. 17)

Just as we are assured that all of the destinies will be fulfilled, and not one of them will fail, so, too, we are assured that the last generation - just as it began to repent for the sin of "they despised the cherished Land," and after thousands of years of wandering in the exile, they remembered Yerushalayim and Zion and its callings, and with all the might and enthusiasm they leave the lands of the exile and go up to Zion, and with self-sacrifice they build our holy land - so, too, will arise a fresh and living generation, who will fight also to revive the sacred ... That generation will put on trial its teachers and educators, who led him astray and removed from their mouth their holy food, and will force their ancestors to repent fully. This is what it says: "He will return the heart of fathers on their sons," that through the sons the fathers will repent. We hope that our young generation will be that generation that will shake off its dust and will go spearheading for the observance of Torah and complete Teshuva. (Ma'aynei Yehoshua, Rav Y. M. Charlop zt"l)

The revival of the heart of the fathers on the sons and the heart of the son on their father is impossible to be other than through the air of Eretz Yisrael (B'Ikvi Hatzon, Rav Kook zt"l, p. 114)

Monday, September 03, 2018

Party Line

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

It is not an easy time to be a Jewish Democrat or a Democratic Jew, depending on which facet of identity is considered primary or secondary. For almost a century, most Jews have considered membership in the Democrat Party to be part of their birthright and a natural expression of their Jewishness, and this from a time when Jews were much more knowledgeable and committed to Torah, Mitzvot, Jewish values and Jewish ideas. These days too many Jews just assume that whatever policies or values are espoused by Democrats or the Party platform must (or should) be Jewish, clear and concise expressions of Torah truth.

To be sure, there was some substance to these claims. Jews felt more at home in a political party that encouraged immigrants and minorities, protected personal freedoms and, especially, supported to some extent Jewish national aspirations in the Land of Israel and under President Truman even recognized the nascent State of Israel. The Democrat Party was home to numerous Jews, especially in Congress and in city politics, and Jews drawn to socialism or least socialist instincts were comfortable in the party of unions and the common man that confronted the party of big business.

Of course, many Jews, especially in New York, were Democrats by default because there was no functioning Republican Party (still generally true). But what if today’s Democrat Party no longer represents those fundamental values, embraces doctrines that are antithetical to Torah, vehemently opposes equality of treatment of public and parochial schools (such that families who send their children to Yeshivot are doubly taxed) and, particularly, has joined Israel’s enemies in opposing the State of Israel, supporting BDS or worse, and seeks to undermine its very viability? This is no longer your grandfather’s Democrat Party.

It has been an oft-repeated shibboleth that support for Israel is and should be bi-partisan, and for many decades that has been true. Indeed, one of the greatest and enduring causes that brought together Republicans and Democrats has been support for the State of Israel. Such still is the recurring theme at every AIPAC conference, and rightly so, even if the claim gets more strained every year. It was always heartwarming to see Dems and Reps who disagree about everything else join together on stage and pledge their support for Israel, and not for votes or money but because they genuinely believed that Israel’s cause was just, its alliance with the United States beneficial for both countries, and their shared values good for the world.

Shall we keep saying that it is still true when we know it not to be true?

While support for Israel in Congress remains largely bi-partisan, the winds of change are blowing – and against the Democrat-Israel alliance. Among the rank and file, a recent poll found that 79% of Republicans support Israel in the regional dispute, while only 27% of Democrats support Israel. That is shocking, and eye-opening, and marks a dramatic shift from even twenty years ago, and probably ten years ago. It should not be hard to remember the debacle at the 2012 Democrat Convention in Los Angeles where a voice vote of the crowd clearly and vociferously opposed the plank asserting that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, only to be overruled by a farcical pronouncement of the chairman. (The crowd also voted against G-d, which makes sense in that context.)

In recent years, Democrat politicians have been emboldened to ally themselves with openly anti-Israel policies and positions and, this year, are fielding a number of candidates, some but not all Muslim, who make no attempt to conceal their contempt for Israel. They pledge to oppose any support for Israel, to undermine the US-Israel alliance and routinely refer to Israel as an apartheid, racist state. While Republicans have had their (small) share of anti-Israel and even Holocaust-denying candidates, they have all been repudiated by the Party and are considered extremists on the fringe who are unwelcome in the mainstream Republican Party. Among the Dems, not only are these avowedly anti-Israel candidates not repudiated, they are also no longer considered to be on the fringe. They are becoming the mainstream of the party and are extremely popular. For example, the Reps have marginalized and ostracized David Duke and his acolytes while too many Dems pay obeisance to Louis Farrakhan despite his anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish tirades.

Worse, current office-holders like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York unabashedly appear at anti-Israel and pro-BDS forums, with seemingly no consequences. New Jersey’s own Sen. Cory Booker, who already put party above principle by bowing to pressure and endorsing the Obama Iran deal that provided for an Iranian nuclear weapons capability after ten years (if not earlier), was recently photographed with anti-Israel, BDS activists holding a sign that read “From Palestine to Mexico, all walls have got to go.” His later claim that he did not know what the sign said is risible, calling into question his veracity, his judgment or both, all of which should disqualify him from office.

Obviously, for both of them – and others – it is a wise political move. Since the center of gravity in the Democrat Party has shifted to the far left, that is where the votes, financial support, enthusiasm and the party’s moral compass can be found. In today’s Democrat Party, support for Israel has become a losing issue, a victim of the specious dogma of “intersectionality” that propounds that all “victim” groups, however defined, must make common cause with each other, however absurd the consequences. In this bizarre state of affairs, Arabs are always the victims and Israel – having no inherent right to exist in any form – is always the colonial oppressor. (Thus, rallies of radical feminists always include the waving of Palestinian flags and anti-Israel rhetoric, seemingly oblivious to the reality that these same feminists would be tossed from rooftops in Gaza if they ever tried to hold a rally there.)

It is undeniable that younger Democrat politicians have distanced themselves from Israel and Israel’s base of support exists only amongst older Dems (like Pelosi and Hoyer and others), with Josh Gottheimer a notable exception to this trend. Add to this that the Democrat party has become the proponent of policies and moral norms that cannot be reconciled with the Torah or even traditional Judeo-Christian values, one wonders for how long can this instinctive and unquestioning support for the Democrat Party continue in Jewish life? After all, to be a Democrat today means to embrace income redistribution, open immigration, aggressive affirmative action, a diminution of individual religious liberty, an assault on private ownership, sharply increased taxes on the “wealthy,” drastic limitations on free speech and surrender to coercive speech codes, identity politics and a host of other issues that should give any sentient Jew at least some pause.

For most American Jews, alienated from Torah and largely assimilated and intermarried, the Democrat Party is their anchor and even their “spiritual” home. While some might balk at the pervasive anti-Israel bias emanating from their ranks, it is more likely that many of these Jews will turn against Israel to avoid the cognitive dissonance of their party v. their people. To a great extent, that has already happened under the transparent and hollow blather of a “split” between American Jewry and Israel because of (take your pick) conversion, settlements, the Kotel, recognition of non-Orthodox rabbis, the two-state illusion, PM Netanyahu or something else that will occur tomorrow or the day after. The painful reality is that the more assimilated the Jew, the weaker will be his or her affinity for Israel or anything Jewish. This is patently clear to all Israelis except the diehard secular ones who share the same grievances. This is what is unfolding in American Jewish life today and why the Dems have shifted so dramatically in the last decade, certainly aided and abetted by the Obama administration that worked hard to weaken the US-Israel alliance.

And what of Jewish Democrats who are not assimilated and are even Torah observant but are comfortable in that party for a variety of reasons – they are liberal, promote a rigid separation of morality and state, tend to support the welfare state or are just perpetually put off by the Republican Party, with or without, before and after Trump?

They have their work cut out for them. In the best circumstance, they can stand athwart history yelling “stop!” to those who have seized control of their party and moved it away from core Jewish interests. That is not easy to do in the current climate but they have few other options. They could also take a look at the reality before them and draw the natural and appropriate conclusions. Certainly, there are many putative Dems who vote for Reps on occasion, for one reason or another, and that might happen as well. But there is something elevating about Israel being the one bi-partisan issue and it would be appropriate to work for the restoration of that situation.

As it stands now, that is a pipedream. Jewish Democrats or Democrat Jews will have to choose which is the noun and which is the adjective.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

An Invitation to the Whole World

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

"All the nations clasp hands, call out to Hashem with the voice of songs of praise" (Tehillim 47:2).

Before we begin the day’s main mitzvah, shofar-blowing, whose purpose is to declare the dominion the King of the World, we invite all of humanity to join us. In every place over the seven seas that Jews find themselves, in shuls, batei midrash, and squalid barracks of DP camps behind barbed wire, we repeat this call seven times. We turn to great and powerful nations who rule over waterways and land masses, and to nations who are preoccupied with trying to raise their crowns over those of other nations. We even turn to hateful, jealous nations, who are busy sharpening their weapons and preparing for yet another war. The Nation of Israel calls them to join us as we coronate Hashem. We urge the clasp of the hand of other nations, obligating them to leave the acts of wickedness and violence. Let them unite under the crown of the exalted King and announce that we all together accept the yoke of His Kingdom.

Unfortunately, we know that our call will, this year as well, be like one who calls out in the desert, echoing in the wind of desolation. We will fulfill, "The volunteers of the nations gathered, the nation of the G-d of Avraham" (ibid. 10). We are the descendants of that wonderful man. We carry the word of Hashem, and for that we are subjected to scorn, hatred, detention camps, and crematoriums. We are the great grandchildren of the first converts, of Avraham the Ivri, the name that hints at the fact that all of the world was on one side and he was on the other. We gathered, we declared, and we heard.

We are not deterred. We blow the twisted ram horn, an instrument with power in its "mouth." Our entire existence and emergence in the world came about through self-sacrifice. We call upon sealed ears: "Hashem came to rule over the nations" (ibid. 9).

Whether or not they want they recognize it, Hashem’s dominion is greater than theirs. His providence determines their fate. Even if they continue to deny it, try to strangle the word of Hashem, make the life of His nation difficult, and even turn the whole world into one big prison, it is "Hashem who is King."

We not only have faith that "He will be King," but that "He did rule." Nothing the nations will do, with deceit and wickedness, will displace Divine Providence in the world. The will of G-d will always prevail! If they shut their eyes, "When the banner over mountains is raised, they will see" (Yeshaya 18:3); if they cover their ears, "When the shofar blows, they will hear" (ibid.).

There is one condition for us. "Hashem sat on the holy throne" (Tehillim 47:9). The Nation of Israel is Hashem’s throne. Sometimes we limp along, but we proceed toward a state of completion. This happens with the blood of millions of their sons and daughters who were slaughtered and with the anguish of those from whom all was plundered. We complete it with thoughts of repentance and by accepting the yoke of His Kingdom at holy moments like Rosh Hashana, when Hashem requests: "Say before Me the p’sukim of Malchuyot so that you can coronate Me over you" (Rosh Hashana 16a).

Let us hear the voice of the shofar, including the one that will be sounded when Mashiach comes. May it be blown soon, so we shall hear and see when Hashem returns to Zion. Amen.

Moshe and Immortality

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

These final parshiyot of the Torah always coincide with the approaching end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. This is in line with the contents of these parshiyot which contain the review of Moshe’s career as the leader of Israel and of his life and its achievements. So too does the end of the year demand of us a review, if not of our entire past life at least a review and accounting of our actions during the past year.

Moshe’s review is really the main contents of the book of Dvarim itself. Though it recalls historical and national events, there is no doubt that Moshe himself is the central figure of the book. He records for us his personal feelings and candidly admits as to his disappointments and frustrations. But he never departs from his central mission of reminding the people of Israel of the unbreakable covenant that has been formed between them and their Creator.

That covenant is renewed again in this week’s parsha. It is no exaggeration to assert that it is constantly renewed and at the year’s end we are reminded of this automatic renewal. That is the essential essence of remembrance that characterizes this special season of the year. For remembrance brings forth judgment and accountability and leads to an eventual renewal of spirit and faith.

Moshe reminds the people that the future is also contained in their remembrance and observance of the covenant. All the generations past, present and future are bound together in this covenant of accountability. And through this process, the mortal Moshe gains immortality, as all of us can acquire this immortality through our loyalty to the covenant.

Moshe at the end of his life has in no way lost his acumen, strength or vision. He leaves this world in perfect health and free of bodily ailments and restraints. Yet he tells us in this week’s parsha that he "can no longer go forth and return." For humans exist by the will of God and when that will decrees the end of life then the human being will cease to function on this earth. Who can claim greater merits in this world than Moshe had? Yet the hand of human mortality struck him down.

Part of the great lesson of Torah is that life continues without us necessarily being present. Moshe sees far into the distant future but knows that he will not be present to see those events actually unfold. He harkens back to the covenant of remembrance as being the instrument of his continuing presence throughout all of Jewish history. As long as the covenant is remembered and observed, Moshe is still present with Israel.

It is this covenant that defines us as a people and even as individuals. Our relationship to it is under constant heavenly review. It should be self-evident that for our part we should enthusiastically renew our allegiance to it at this fateful part of our life and year.