Monday, December 30, 2019

Family Fight

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

There is no fight as bitter as a family fight. The bitterness and scars remain long after the incident that may have originally sparked it is long since gone and sometimes even forgotten. Many times the bitterness and hard feelings remain even in generations of descendants of the original antagonists, as though somehow genetically transmitted. Yosef and his brothers reconcile in this week’s parsha. But the divisions within the Jewish people then and now are apparently never really healed and forgotten. The commentators point out that the rebellions against Moshe in the desert, that of Korach of the tribe of Levi and Zimri of the tribe of Shimon and Datan and Aviram of the tribe of Reuven, are all part of the residue of the fallout of the tragedy of the disagreement of Yosef and his brothers. So too is the tragedy of the splitting of the Jewish people living in the Land of Israel into two disparate and even warring kingdoms after the death of King Shlomo. In fact, the later commentators opine that all later controversies in Jewish life are but an echo of this original controversy between Yosef and his brothers. The fact that Yaakov in his final words to Shimon and Levi recalls this dispute and its consequences to them only serves to continue the pain and bad feelings that were papered over when Yaakov came down to Egypt. But now that he is gone, the brothers and Yosef remain wary of each other, with the memories of their dispute irrevocably burned into their psyches. Such is unfortunately the way in family disputes. That is why one must go to all lengths to prevent such a dispute to occur, no matter what or how large the seeming cause may be.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that in the dispute with Yosef and the brothers, one side -Yosef - was eventually right and the other side - the brothers - seemingly wrong and guilty. This feeling of guilt and being proven wrong only provokes a greater defensive attitude and a determination not to abandon the blind self-justification that led originally to the divisive incident itself. Contrast this with the disagreements of Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel, numerous and contentious (312 of them) as they were, that never led to any sort of breakup within the society of Israel. There both sides were right, even though as a practical matter, the opinions of Beit Hillel were in the main followed in halachic practice. The Talmud proclaimed that the opinions of both groups were "the words of the living God." By avoiding unnecessary condemnation of Beit Shamai, even though its opinions were not to be adopted and practically implemented, the Talmud guaranteed the harmony of the rabbis and of Jewish society. Within the framework of halacha and tradition there are many varying opinions. Not all of them can be given equal weight and followed but none of them should be the basis of personal dispute and vilification. The lessons of Yosef and his brothers and their controversy should remain for us as a guide in our times and difficulties as well.

The Road from Beit El to Egypt

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l
As the time had come for Yaakov to go down to Egypt, Hashem appeared to him with consolation and inspiration. The midrash (Bereisheet Rabba 94:6) highlights three messages hinted at by the p’sukim (Bereisheet 46:3-4: 1): Hashem is the G-d whom Yaakov knew from his dreams in Beit El. 2) He would be with Yaakov in Egypt as He is with other tzaddikim. 3) Yosef would "place his hands on Yaakov’s eyes." 

The path to redemption, which was completed in Egypt, went through Beit El (literally, the house of Hashem) and it would be based on Yosef’s hands over Yaakov’s eyes. Chazal (Pesachim 88a) tell us that Mt. Moriah was called different things by the different patriarchs. Avraham called it a mountain; Yitzchak called it a field; Yaakov called it a house. Hashem has to be present in all different situations. Not only is Hashem necessary in the beginning, when you need to conquer the Land and all that is there is a desolate mountain. Hashem is not only necessary when there is but a field, with much work needed for cultivation and there is little more than a hut or two. Indeed, even when there are houses, when there is some permanence and success and one is ready to have an independent base for his family, there is still a need for Hashem. 

Sometimes the feeling of material well-being is corruptive. When the business is going well and the family is strong, one can start to think that strict religious observance and heeding the Torah make life too difficult. That is when one needs a reminder that "Yosef will put his hands on your eyes." Yosef’s behavior should be a model for our eyes. Despite the high station he reached in society, he was not embarrassed by his Jewishness. The same man who, when he was in a lowly state, guarded his personal purity and his modesty, which enabled him ultimately to succeed, should be a role model as we go on the "path of Beit El," in building our homes. 

We should know that "if Hashem does not build a house, its builders will have toiled in vain" (Tehillim 127:1). If the family is not built on holiness, which shows that Hashem is part of the home, the negative results will show. Even if there are times when merits will push off the punishment of karet [ed. note – apparently, for lack of compliance to the laws of family purity], still the rules by which Hashem’s deals with the community apply to the individual as well. The home cannot stand with any permanence if it is not a House of G-d. The Divine Presence must be felt in all its rooms, and the life lived within its walls must be holy. 

The midrash (Bereisheet Rabba 95:3) explains that Yehuda’s advanced scouting was, according to some, to build a home to live in and according to others, to make a meeting place to teach Torah. We are required to connect the two ideas. Our homes must be such that words of Torah are heard within. The fact we are having this shiur [ed. note – this address was given during Rav Yisraeli’s first Shabbat as rabbi of K’far Haro’eh] shows that there is a desire we will firmly establish a place of learning. May it be a house that resembles that of Yaakov Avinu – a house that is a Beit El.

All That Hashem Does is For the Good

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

"On that day Hashem will be One and His Name will be One." (Zechariah 14:9) Is this to say that nowadays Hashem is not One? R. Acha b. Chanina says: The world to come is not like this world. In this world, on good tidings one says the bracha of "hatov vehameitiv" (the One who is good and does good), and on bad news one says "dayan ha'emet" (the true Judge). In the world to come, everything is "hatov vehameitiv." (Pesachim 50a)

The commentators explain that in the future, not only will everything be good, but we will also realize that everything for which we had said "dayan ha'emet" in the past, thinking it was bad, was in reality good, as well. We will realize that everything that Hashem does is truly for the good.

The exile of the Jews in Egypt was an event of awesome proportions, and because of this Chazal tried to determine what sin caused such a harsh punishment. One of the possibilities, which bears a relevant message for us, is the severity of "sin'at chinam" (baseless hatred) between the brothers and Yosef. However, in truth, the exile was already predestined at the "brit bein habetarim." Yosef's errand to his brothers at Dotan, the immediate cause leading up to the exile, was guided by Divine intervention to bring about the fulfillment of His master plan. Chazal say that Yaakov should have been brought to Egypt in iron chains, but Hashem had mercy on him and brought him to Egypt in an honorable way to meet his son, the viceroy to the king. He was like a cow that does not want to walk to the slaughterhouse because she subconsciously senses her fate, so her calf is led ahead of her, and she follows it to her death.

In our world, where everything occurs through cause and effect, it is not always possible to discern the Divine plan. Even Yaakov did not discern it, and said to his sons, "Why did you cause evil to me?" (Bereisheet 43:6) To this Hashem responds, "I am making your son a king of Egypt and you say 'Why did you cause evil to me?!'"

In this idea there lies a deeper point. It is obvious that Hashem controls everything that occurs. Moreover, when man tries to counteract Hashem's plan, not only will he be unsuccessful, but also ultimately it will become apparent that the very action is what caused Hashem's plan to be fulfilled. This can be seen from the fact that all of the actions that Yosef's brothers did to counteract his dreams eventually led to the fulfillment of those same dreams. When Yosef said to his brothers, "And now: It was not you who sent me here, but G-d" (45:8), the brothers finally realized their tremendous mistake. Perhaps this is the reason they were unable to answer him, "Because they were left disconcerted before him" (45:3), when they recognized the Divine Truth.

A similar story is recounted in the Gemara in Succah (53a) about two of Shlomo Hamelech's scribes. They were sitting before Shlomo when the Angel of Death sadly approached. Shlomo asked the Angel of Death why he was sad, and he replied, "I was sent to take away these two scribes." Shlomo quickly sent the scribes via demons to Luz, a place where the Angel of Death has no power. When they arrived, however, they died. The next day, Shlomo saw that the Angel of Death was happy. Shlomo asked him why he was so cheerful. The Angel of Death replied, "You sent the scribes to the exact place where I needed them." Shlomo exclaimed, "Man's legs are his guarantors; they bring to the place where he is needed."

Chazal associate the pasuk, "The faith [Emunat] of your times will be the strength of your salvations, wisdom and knowledge; fear of Hashem -- that is [man's] treasure" (Yeshaya 33:6), with the six sections of the Mishna. "Emunah," faith, refers to Seder Zera'im, because belief in Hashem and His laws of nature are necessary before any man will plant. In the planting process, the seed rots, which is seemingly the opposite of the desired effect. Only through faith in G-d does one plant and hope to harvest fruits in the future.

We are told, however, that in the future, "The plowman will meet the reaper" (Amos 9:13), as there will be no time gap between the planting and harvesting. As soon as one plants, he will see the final results of his labor. We will become accustomed to perceive reality from a Divine standpoint, for "Eye to eye they will see, when G-d returns to Zion." (Yeshaya 52:8) Our eyes will perceive as eyes from above, and when we return to Zion we will be "like dreamers," realizing that we have been viewing the past mistakenly. On everything that appeared bad to us we will be able to bless "hatov vehameitiv," and then Hashem will be truly One.

The Pure Flask of Oil and Segulat Yisrael

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

The Greeks attempted to defile all the oils, in other words, to Hellenize the Jews and eradicate the concepts of holiness, but the inner segulah (unique virtue) of the Jewish people remained pure, survived all circumstances, and even illuminated humanity * One of the damages of the defilement: Hellenism caused kedusha (holiness) to be mistakenly regarded as something private, abstaining from physical pleasure, and detached from the world * The segulah of the Jewish Nation was revealed throughout the ages, beginning with our forefathers, in selfless concern and contribution to others * Accordingly, idealistic Jews, even if they are not observant, reveal segulat Yisrael

After the Greeks conquered vast territories including small areas of Judea, for the duration of one hundred and sixty years they ruled the entire area, until everything was Hellenized. Even in Judea, Hellenism spread, to the point where even the Kohanim Gedolim (High Priests) Jason and Menelaus were among the leading supporters of Hellenism – they set up a wrestling stadium near the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple), and the priests preferred to watch wrestling matches rather than perform their sacrificial duties in the Temple. It seemed as if the Jews, like all the other nations, would also be completely Hellenized. However, the inner segulah (unique virtue) of Israel remained pure. As a result, when the Greeks arrived in the village of Modi’in, with the intention of forcing Matityahu the son of Yochanan the High Priest to worship idols, Matityahu rose up and killed the Greek officer and his Hellenized Jewish collaborator. By doing so, he and his sons raised the banner of rebellion against the Greeks and Hellenization.

The Miracle of the Flask of Oil
True, the Second Temple was destroyed and all the political achievements of Hasmonean’s were nullified, but thanks to the miracle of the flask of oil, the virtue of the eternal connection between Israel and the Torah was revealed, which illuminates the darkness above and beyond the laws of nature, and thanks to it, we endured the darkness of the long exile. Over the years, it became clear that the miracle was even greater than we originally thought. Not only did we manage to survive the torrent of Hellenism that inundated the world, but Judaism shattered – through a long and complicated process – most of the pagan foundations of Hellenism. The abstract belief in one God, ethical values, the aspiration to fix the world – all fundamental principles of the Torah – increasingly spread among the nations of the world, eventually becoming, through means both direct and indirect (i.e., via Christianity and Islam), the foundations of all the good and beneficial aspects of human culture. The longer our exile lasted, the longer and brighter the light of Israel and its Torah shone. It will continue to illuminate the world until we merit bringing new and pure oil from the olives of Eretz Yisrael, from which we will light the Menora of the Holy Temple, and the world will be filled with the knowledge of God.

What is this Inner Purity?
Maran HaRav Kook explained: “The Gentiles defiled revealed Judaism with their touch; they touched the sacred oils and defiled them, the stones of the Mizbayach Ha’Kodesh were invalidated. But their holiness remains, the inner secrets hidden and sealed from foreign contact. And precisely the most internal. Because the outward expressions of these secrets have already been desecrated by corrupt thieves” (Orot HaTechiya 63). In other words, not only the external sides were defiled, but also the holy oils, the altar stones, and Torah expressions. For example, the concept of kedusha (holiness) in Christianity is perceived as being related to self-denial, death, and celibacy from life. This concept took root to the point where when Jews try to explain or imagine who is a tzadik (a righteous person), due to this impurity, they picture figures far removed from our holy forefathers, who are portrayed in the Bible and Chazal as brave warriors and achievers, who sanctified life.

However, the root of Israel’s soul cannot be changed or defiled; it is the basis by virtue of which the pure oil was found, from which salvation grew, or as Maran HaRav Kook explained: “This inner spirituality, which is the essence of the Supreme Soul, is permanent in Israel’s neshama ha’segulit (unique soul), and cannot be budged, as long as the connection to the nation as a whole and its character is alive within him; as long as he desires the overall happiness and success of the Israeli nation, even if he does not know how to identify or interpret the secrets of his heart, and even if he errs in his actions and opinions – his inner self is kodesh kodashim (holy of holies).”

The national ambition, which yearns for Israel’s honor and blessing in the ‘Land of Life’, stems from the segulah manifested in the pure oil. All the more so when this national ambition rises to the level of revealing Torat Eretz Yisrael.

Segulat Yisrael
What is segulat Yisrael? The deep desire to demand justice and truth, to add goodness and blessing to the world, and continue rising in this endlessly. When Avraham Avinu opened his tent to guests who looked like idol worshippers, he did not do so because he was commanded to, or hoped for a reward, rather, because he loved humanity. Thus, we find Avraham Avinu and his son Yitzchak Avinu engaged in digging wells, an act of blessing, for from the wells water would be drawn to preserve the lives of many. Thus, we find Yaacov Avinu worked diligently and faithfully in the pasture of flocks even when it was not for his own needs and profits, in order to add prosperity to the world. We also find that Yosef HaTzadik (Joseph the Righteous), the son of Yaacov Avinu, though he had every reason to despair and be disgruntled for being sold as a slave, he did not lose his vitality, and no matter where he found himself, endeavored to better the condition of those around him, until he saved the entire Egyptian kingdom from a terrible famine. Even modern-day Jews, scientists and activists working for the tikun (perfection) of society, their main goal being to contribute to the well-being of humanity, in this way, are following in the path of our forefathers.

When Moshe came out of Pharaoh’s palace and saw an Egyptian officer striking a Hebrew slave, although he knew that if he protected the slave he would risk his life, nevertheless, he struck the Egyptian and saved the slave. As a result, he lost his position as Prince of Egypt, and was forced to flee to Midian to save his life. Even in Midian, when he saw that the shepherds discriminated against Jethro’s daughters, he could not resist. While risking a melee with the locals, he fought for their right to receive their turn in watering the flock from the well. From that, he continued to rise until he was worthy to lead the People of Israel, and receive the Torah at Mount Sinai.

When Ruth the Moabite decided to join her mother-in-law Naomi on her way back to Beit Lechem in the inheritance of Yehudah, it was because she could not leave her forlorn and in terrible grief. Naomi, who was one of the privileged women of Yehudah, was about to return to her homeland defeated, widowed from her wealthy husband, and bereaved of her sons. Ruth felt a moral obligation to accompany her, and stand by her side. Owning to this, her heart opened to faith in God, and she converted and merited to become the mother of the House of David.

Segulat Yisrael Revealed in Idealistic Jews
Rav Kook explained that even when a Jew “erred in his actions and opinions, his inner self is kodesh kodeshim“, so long as “the connection to the nation as a whole and its character is alive within him; as long as he desires the overall happiness and success of the Israeli nation.” Because the best interests of the Israeli nation is to add goodness and blessing, justice and truth.

In a number of letters, Rav Kook gave educational advice to Rabbi Dov Milstein, a wealthy lumber merchant from Warsaw, whose sons left ways of Torah and mitzvot. The father debated whether to support them financially in their studies at the university and their businesses, or perhaps, since they were tainted with minut (heresy) for which there is no repentance, he should distance them, and sit shiva (mourned) over them, as was the advice of his Rabbi, the Admore of Parisov. Maran HaRav Kook wrote to him: “Were your children connected to the people of Israel, at least ideologically, and were for instance Chovevei Tzion or Zionists, it would be easier to bring them back to the steadfast way of God… In any case, even now that they have gone far astray, you should not despair of them completely. In the end, the effect of the light of God, which has appeared for thousands of years through our holy Torah, is that today we no longer have, as in early days, that accursed minut, for which there is no repentance. Today, even the most evil opinions are based on a search for righteousness and truth, which is, indeed, itself the way of the Lord, who commanded Avraham Avinu, of blessed memory, his sons, and his household to do what is just and right… For this reason, it is my opinion that, to fallen ones such as these, one must explain to them that, at its foundation, their goal is truly desirable” (Igrot 1:113).

In other words, although they were not Zionists, since they had good ideals, and as far as they were concerned they did not betray Judaism, rather, thought it to be their positive source of inspiration, their inner segulah remained in them.

Rabbi Ari Yitzhak Shvat looked into the story of these boys’ lives. One became chairman of the Polish National Bank, and after his father immigrated to Israel and became impoverished, he financially supported his father and older brother and family, who were religious and lived in Israel. He himself married a Gentile, and was murdered in the Holocaust. The other son worked in the Polish Foreign Ministry. In his second marriage, he got married in a religious ceremony with a Jewish woman from the Rothschild family. He managed to escape to the United States, and has grandchildren and great-grandchildren connected to Judaism. When the State of Israel was founded, Ben Gurion offered him to be Foreign Minister but he refused, claiming that “God did not designate Jews to grow orchards.”

The General Mitzvot
It also seems that the lack of understanding the general mitzvot, such as yishuv ha’aretz (settlement of the Land of Israel), the defense of Israel and military service, stems from the influence of the foreign impurity that clung to the superficial side of religion during exile, until the point where kedusha (holiness) is revealed only in the life of the individual, and in all general, national affairs, there is no kedusha and mitzvah, rather, everything is profane. However, the exact opposite is true: the main aspect of kedusha is revealed in Clal Yisrael, and consequently, is drawn into the life of the individual. Clal Yisrael received the Torah and mitzvot in order to fulfill and live according to them in Eretz Yisrael, and only then is it the obligation every Jew, and even Jews living abroad, to fulfill them, so as they would not be new to them when they returned to Eretz Israel.

Even in recent generations, those who saw only the details opposed the mitzvah of aliyah (immigration) to Israel, and because they refused to see the Clal, spread libels as if the Zionist movement caused the abandoning of Torah and mitzvot. However, the exact opposite is true: Although many kofrim (unbelievers) were active in the Zionist movement, and even sought to secularize the public, in fact, thanks to the Zionist movement and its activities on behalf of the mitzvoth of the Clal – yishuv ha’aretz and kibbutz galuyot (Ingathering of the Exiles) – the Jewish nation was saved, both physically and spiritually. Secularism was caused by many reasons, the main one being our difficulty in dealing with the Enlightenment and modern environment. Immigration to Israel was not the cause of the problem, but the solution. Therefore, in all the Diaspora communities, the percentage of assimilated and secular Jews is infinitely greater than in Israel. Those who refuse to see this deny the sanctity of the general mitzvot, and also show a lack of gratitude towards the Jews who worked selflessly within the Zionist movement for the sake of immigration, settlement, and security.

Why They Attack Jews in New York

by Victor Rosenthal

Louis Farrakhan holds a copy of his book, “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews”

Why are blacks and Hispanics attacking Jews?

I have been searching for a coherent statement by an assailant. Most of them don’t get past “f- you, Jews.” But it seems to me that they blame Jews for something, and feel justified in hurting them. The consequences of doing it are not great, so why not?

Blaming Jews is a subset of blaming others, and the feeling that others are responsible for one’s problems is popular today. There is a concept in psychology called locus of control, and individuals can be placed on a scale depending on the extent to which they believe that their success or failure is due to their own actions, or those of other people or “fate.”

On one end of the scale are those with an internal locus of control, people who believe that what happens to them is primarily dependent upon their actions (or lack thereof). On the external side are people who believe that the course of their lives is determined by external factors, and that their own agency has little effect. Here is a simple test you can take to see where you are on the scale.

Everyone knows somebody on the external extreme, the kind of person that always blames others for their problems. If he or she doesn’t get a job or a promotion it’s because somebody screwed them. Nothing bad that happens to them is ever their own fault. These people can be hard to live with. Their negativity is self-sustaining: nothing good happens to them because they do nothing to help improve their situation, because they believe that nothing they do matters; and this just reinforces their belief that “the system” is oppressing them.

Strong external locus of control is also associated with behaviors like smoking and alcohol usage, poor self-control in eating or taking medication, excessive gambling, and so forth. People with internal locus of control are more likely to be good students and to attain high socioeconomic status.

Obviously, sometimes things happen because of external influences. Sometimes you get lucky or unlucky. Sometimes it helps to know someone. Sometimes the deck is stacked against you. But at least in modern Western societies, you usually get what you deserve. A person in the US with an extremely external locus of control is usually misperceiving reality – that is, their actions could influence the degree of satisfaction they derive from life, but they do not believe this, and therefore do not act in a way that maximizes their satisfaction.

But in recent years it has become an article of faith on the Left that the system is structurally biased against “people of color (POC),” a term which includes black people, people whose ancestors came from a place where Spanish is spoken (except Spain), and Muslims with white skin who were born in the US like Linda Sarsour, and excludes Jews of any color and Protestants or Catholics of European origin. It includes East Asians if they are discriminated against, but not if they are successful.

A key word is “structurally.” The idea is that the colorless people (non-POC) who benefit from the bias made the rules in such a way that the system will help them and hurt POC. This is called “structural racism,” because it has been built into the structure of society, and doesn’t require explicitly racist behavior to injure POC. POC who believe this can complain bitterly that their problems are due to “racism” even if they can’t cite instances of blatant racial discrimination.

POC who are convinced that the system is structurally racist will be less likely to believe that their actions can determine the course of their lives. For them, the deck is always stacked. This ideology therefore conditions them to adopt an external locus of control, with all its negative consequences.

But humans like to anthropomorphize their problems. A Devil is more comfortable to the mind than abstract evil. A conspiracy is more comfortable than a complicated historical process. If society is set up to benefit one group more than others, someone must have set it up that way. And who is at the top of the pile in wealth and influence (at least, so you are told)? Do I need to say it?

I don’t, because people like Louis Farrakhan are saying it over and over, day in and day out. And Louis Farrakhan, the “GOAT” (Greatest Of All Time) is one of the most popular personalities in the American black community. According to Farrakhan, the Jews dominated the slave trade, created the Jim Crow system, exploited black talent and creativity to make money while leaving performers in poverty, introduced drugs and sexual deviance into their community, own stores and real estate that exploit POC, and more.

Ironically, Farrakhan’s philosophy calls for blacks to adopt an internal locus of control, and change their condition through action. But at the same time he is telling them that all their problems are someone else’s fault: the Jews.

The idea that a Jewish conspiracy is responsible for the perceived problems of POC in the US is widely believed. The “information bubbles” that surround people today make it possible for what would have been considered extremism in the past to become conventional wisdom within each bubble. If everyone in your neighborhood “knows” the Jews are responsible for its poverty and crime, who are you to deny it?

Just as the Palestinian educational system has produced a generation of young people who will cut a Jew’s throat – even a Jewish child’s – as easily as looking at him, the ideology of powerlessness against a society designed to exploit you, combined with explicit anti-Jewish rhetoric from respected figures, has created an angry young generation.

They are punching, spitting at, robbing, or cursing Jews. They have (mostly) not become murderers like the young Palestinians (yet).

It isn’t enough to discredit explicit Jew-haters like Farrakhan, not that it would be easy to do so. It’s probably also necessary to fight against the epidemic of blame ideology, in which everything bad that happens is someone else’s fault. Those who believe that they are primarily responsible for their own success or failure – a distinctly right-wing belief, by the way – will use their energy to improve their own positions, rather than to strike out at others that they perceive as enemies.

Until Americans figure out how to do that, Jews there will have to study krav maga along with Talmud. Just like Israelis.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Rav Kook's Ein Ayah: Rest Is for those who Work/The Beauty of Dealing with Small Things

Rest Is for those who Work
(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:100)

[We continue with more arguments of Moshe that the angels are not fit to receive the Torah.]

Gemara: “What else is written in [the Torah]?” “Remember the day of Shabbat to sanctify it” (Shemot 20:7). “Do you do work at all that you would need to rest from work?”

Ein Ayah: The characteristic through which man completes and improves the world is revealed through his ability to work and thereby act within creation. He uses the G-d-given power to innovate and create in order to be His partner in creation.

Man’s unique quality, which finds expression through the divine spring of wisdom that enables his physical actions, is evidence of the quality of his spirit and his ethical actions. His ethical actions enable him to improve the natural world. This is the point of Shabbat, which is a cessation of work in the physical realm, which restores the practical powers and returns them to the soul. This allows his internal power of creativity to grow.

Menucha (rest) is a most powerful, lofty creation. It is much greater than the value of increasing and elevating, as a man may do when he is involved, with his wisdom, in the world of physical function. In order to complete the wonderful vision of eternal rest that is a secret of creation, Shabbat is the source of all blessing. It is the flow of innovation and the source of Israel’s unique, sacred life. This is as is written regarding Shabbat, “… to know that I am Hashem Who has sanctified you” (Shemot 31:13). This gives us the power to glorify the whole of existence and increase the power of the world and the light from the spring of life of the lofty blessing. The menucha of Shabbat engenders a special creation upon which the nucleus of Torah is based. It is one with man’s ability to work and produce, which in Israel includes the ability to do Hashem’s work, which continuously elevates the universe.

Angels, though, not only do not do mundane work but are also incapable of innovating and adding to the world. They can only carry out Hashem’s word and keep the world going according to its rules. They do not add glory to lofty elements of the universe that are above creation. Since they do not work, they do not have rest and cessation of work. Therefore, the central tenet of the Torah to refrain from work on Shabbat is inapplicable to them.

The Beauty of Dealing with Small Things
(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:101)

Gemara: What else is written in [the Torah]?” “Do not utter the name of Hashem in vain” (Shemot 20:7). “Do you engage in commerce?”

Ein Ayah: Lofty greatness gives light to all the small, dark, individual things in which man is involved during his life. The greatness takes the collection of individual life elements and activities and the speech that accompanies them and gives them spiritual significance and sanctity. When Hashem’s Torah is man’s beacon and Hashem’s name and fear of Him impact on his actions, then the person adorns the whole world.

Fear of oaths, which emanates from the commandments not to use Hashem’s name in vain, straightens out all a person’s path, in both the personal and communal realms. It enables social life to be played out honestly, so that people interact properly even on small matters. This brings a precious light to everything in the world.

This is so special that even angels, which have glorious, lofty lives, are missing the experience of turning little things into opportunities to turn Hashem’s holy name into an expression of truth. The angels, who are not involved in small things such as commerce, are not fit to receive the Torah, which is designed to elevate such things.

A Dangerous Holiday

by Daniel Greenfield

Holidays are a calendar. They mark points in emotional and physical time. They remind of us who we are.

Many celebrate Chanukah as nothing more than celebrations of 'celebration', the rituals and rites of entertainment, a special food, a symbol whose meaning they don't remember and a little family fun.

Chanukah is not a safe holiday. It is a victory celebration in a guerrilla war. It is a reminder that the most recent war on Jerusalem was preceded long before by Antiochus's war on Jerusalem. It is a brief light in a period of great darkness.

As we light the menorah, bringing light out of that darkness, we are called on to remember to treasure the price of that light. It is brought forth through the divine matter of heavenly miracles and the earthly matter of suffering and blood.

Chanukah exists today because a small family, the remnant of a faithful priesthood, saw darkness, where many were blinded by the light of prosperity and progress, and they saw the light in the past, where their Hellenistic cousins saw only darkness.

This most dangerous of holidays does not represent a final victory, but the challenge to see the darkness around us and understand what it will take to summon even a little light.

The trivialization of Chanukah into camp and comedy, an eye roll at the lameness of tradition and the repetitiveness of games and jokes intended for children is its own kind of darkness. Those who would strip away the historical and religious meaning of Chanukah today would have been fighting against the Maccabees. The battle to preserve the meaning of Chanukah is part of the struggle to preserve the Jewish traditions and culture from the universalism of Hellenism.

The Maccabees fought for freedom of religion. They fought against the tyranny of a universalistic mass culture. But they also fought to make faith meaningful again. That is why Chanukah is more than a celebration of victory over what they fought against, as important a component of the holiday as it is, but a celebration of what they fought for, to reach Jerusalem and feel the presence of G-d.

When we light the menorah, we are meant to do more than perform rote ritual, and then on to childish games, but to feel, at least for a moment, the darkness that surrounds us, and aspire to feel G-d.

Chanukah is a dangerous holiday because it asks us to question our comfort zones. Its overt militarism and its dangerous underlying message that a time comes when you must choose between the destruction of your culture and a war you can't win, is too frightening for a comfortable age. The children of a material age are unwilling to consider the dark days in which a doomed war must be fought if the soul of the nation is to survive. It is too alien a notion for most. It was an alien one for the descendants of the pioneers who had struggled and sacrificed to return from exile, only for their descendants to eagerly embrace the gymnasiums and baths, the stadiums and idols of a new empire.

There are worse things than death and slavery, the fate that waited for the Maccabees and their allies had they failed, the fates that came anyway when the last of the Maccabees were betrayed and murdered by Caesar's Edomite minister, whose sons went on to rule over Israel as the Herodian dynasty. Nations can survive the mass murder of their bodies, but not the death of their spirit. A nation does not die, until its soul dies, and the soul of a nation is in its culture and its faith.

The mystery of history is that peoples endure through their willingness to for their people.

Tonight that first candle, that first glimmer of flame over oil, marks the night that the Maccabee forces entered Jerusalem, driving out the enemy armies and their Jewish collaborators, and reclaiming their people's culture and religion.

The light of the flame was a powerful message sent across time that even in the darkest hour, hope was not lost. And G-d would not abandon the people. Time passed the Maccabees fell, Jerusalem was occupied and ethnically cleansed over and over again, and still the menorah burned on. A covert message that still all hope was not lost. That Israel would rise again.

Israel had used signal fires and torches held up on mountain tops to pass along important news. The lighting of the menorah was a miniature signal fire, a perpetuation of the temple light, its eight-day light a reminder that even the smallest light can burn beyond expectation and light beyond belief and that those who trust in G-d and fight for the freedom to believe in Him, should never abandon hope.

That divine signal fire first lit in the deserts by freed slaves has been passed on for thousands of years. Today the menorah is on the seal of the State of Israel, the product of a modern day Chanukah. The mark of a Jerusalem liberated in a miracle of six days, not eight. Six as in the number of the original temple Menorah. And the one on the seal as well.

For those liberals who believe that Jewish identity should be limited to donating to help Haiti, agitating for illegal aliens and promoting the environment; Chanukah is a threatening holiday. They have secularized it, dressed it up with teddy bears and toys, trimmed it with the ecology and civil rights of their new faith. Occasionally a Jewish liberal learns the history of it and writes an outraged essay about nationalism and militarism, but mostly they are content to bury it in the same dark cellar that they store the rest of the history of their people and the culture that they left behind.

Holidays aren't mere parties, they are messages. Knots of time that we tie around the fingers of our lives so that we remember what our ancestors meant us to never forget. That they lived and died for a reason. The party is a celebration, but if we forget what it celebrates, then it becomes a celebration of celebration. A hollow and soulless festival of the self. The Maccabees fought because they believed they had something worth fighting for. Not for their possessions, but for their traditions, their families and their G-d. The celebration of Chanukah is not just how we remember them, but how we remember that we are called upon to keep their watch. To take up their banner and carry their sword.

History is a wheel and as it turns, we see the old continents of time rising again, events revisiting themselves as the patterns of the past become new again. Ancient battles become new wars. And old struggles have to be re-fought again until we finally get them right.

Modiin, the rural center of the old Maccabee resistance, is a revived city today, larger than it ever was. Modiin-Maccabim has some 80,000 people living there. In the ancient days, this was where the Maccabee clan rose against the Seleucid conquerors over religious freedom. Today it is a place that the European Union labels an illegal settlement. A place that Jews have no right to live even though it is within sight of the Maccabees who lived and died there. Over two thousand years after Chanukah, Jews are still not allowed to live in peace in Modiin.

The new Maccabees are farmers and teachers, men and women who build families and homes in the lands of their ancestors, who brave the threats of terrorists and international tyrants to live their lives and raise their children. Knowing that they will not be allowed to live in peace, that everything they stand for is hated by the UN, in the capitals of great empires and even by their own government, they still put flame to wick and mark the first day of many days of the miracle that revived the spirit of a nation and inspires it to this day.

Not only may Jews not live in Modiin, but they may not live in Jerusalem either. And yet they do. They persist, to the eternal frustration of empires, in this quiet resistance of building a future with their buildings, their bodies and their lives. They persist in living where so many would like them to die. And they persist in lighting the menorah when so many would rather that it be forgotten.

The Jew today is called on to forget. To turn his children into bricks in order to construct the utopia of their new world order. To bend to the progressive wheel and wear the social justice chain, and cast his own offspring into the sea of zero population growth. To give up his nation, his land, his faith and his future to toil in the shadow of the pyramids of socialism. To go down to labor in Egypt once more, in South America and Haitian slums, in barrios and villages, in ghettos and madinas, to give up who he is in order to serve others in the new slavery of social justice.

It takes courage to resist physical oppression, but it takes even greater courage to resist cultural oppression. The terms of physical resistance are easy to understand. Force is used against force. Cultural resistance is far more difficult, and by the time the necessity for it is apparent, it can often be too late.The Maccabees had to resist not only physical oppression and armed force, but the cultural oppression of a system that regarded their monotheism, their nationalism, their traditions and rituals as barbaric. A system that much of their own fellow Jews had already accepted as right and proper.

The Maccabees rose up not only against physical oppression, Israel had and would face that over and over again, they rose up against an assault on their religious and cultural identity. The lighting of the Menorah is the perpetuation of that cultural resistance and when it is performed properly then it reminds us that cultural oppression, like physical oppression, is ubiquitous, and that just as the forms of cultural oppression can often go unnoticed, so too the resistance to it can go unnoticed as well.

Every year that we celebrate Chanukah, the left makes another attempt to "desecrate the temple" by destroying its meaning and replacing it with the usual grab bag of social justice issues under the union label of "Tikkun Olam". And each time we push back against their ruthless assault on Jewish history and tradition the same way that the Maccabees did, by reclaiming our sacred places, cleaning away the filth left behind by the occupiers, and lighting the Menorah to remind us of who we are.

Chanukah marks the culmination of the Maccabee campaign for the liberation of Jerusalem. It is the time when we remember the men and women who refused to submit to the perversion of their values and the theft of their land. It reminds us that we must not allow our land to be stolen under any guise or allow our religion, history and culture to be perverted on any pretext. The light of the Menorah reminds us that the sacredness of a nation is in its spirit and that preserving that spirit is an eternal struggle against the conquerors of land and the tyrants of souls.

Chanukah is a Holiday of Resistance. It commemorates the physical and spiritual resistance that is required of us sooner or later in all times. Chanukah takes us back to the armed resistance and the moral awakening that liberated Jerusalem and connected the Jewish people with their G-d once again. And that reminds us to never give up, not in the face of an assault on our bodies or on our culture. The lights go out, but they are lit again, each day, for thousands of years, reminding us to hold on to our traditions and our faith, rather than trade them in for the trendy trinkets and cheap jewelry of progressive liberalism.

To light the menorah on Chanukah is to pass on a signal fire that has been kept lit for thousands of years. From the first holiday of Passover, after which the freed slaves kindled the first Menorah, to the final holiday of Chanukah, that light burns on. The historical cycle of Jewish holidays begins with Moshe confronting Pharaoh and demanding the freedom of the Jewish people. It ends with the Maccabees standing up to the tyranny of Antiochus and fighting for the right of the Jewish people to live under their own rule on their own land.

The lights of the menorah embody the spirit of the Jewish people. A spirit that has outlived the atrocities of every tyrant. In the heart of the flame that has burned for a thousand years lives the soul of a people.

Chanukah: The Light of Love

by Rabbi David Aaron

Most people who have read a little about Kabbalah probably know that this mystical tradition of Judaism talks a great deal about light – what it calls the Endless Light. The Kabbalah teaches that through our actions we draw and increase this Divine Light into the world or diminish its presence.

For a long time, I had difficulty in understanding this Kabbalistic metaphor until one day it all came together. As a way of explaining this difficult concept, let me ask you to imagine for a moment that you have walked into a magic store. And there, they are selling special flashlights equipped with magic lights of different kinds. For example, you can buy the light of science, and when you point that flashlight at your hand, you see not a hand, but cells and blood vessels and tendons and ligaments. Or you can buy the light of art, and you point that flashlight at your hand, you see your hand as if it were a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci – you see form, and color, and texture. And you’re having a lot of fun trying out the different flashlights with the different lights. And then you see one labeled “the light of Chanukah.” What will you see in that light?

It is interesting that according to Jewish law, when we light the Chanukah Menorah we are prohibited from using its light –from reading by it, or doing some other task by it. Instead, we are commanded to simply look at the light. All year long we are looking at what we see in the light, but on Chanukah we are to focus on seeing the light itself. We are to fill our eyes with the light of Chanukah so that when Chanukah is over, we will continue to see our lives in this special light. What is special about the light of Chanukah?

When King Solomon wrote in his famous work, Ecclesiastes, “everything is vanity … nothing is new under the sun” he was talking about what it is like to see the world in the light of the sun, in the light of nature.

But the Zohar, the chief work of Kabbalah, teaches us everything is new when seen in the light beyond the sun.

The light of Chanukah is the light beyond the sun, it’s the light beyond nature, it’s the light of miracles. And what does the world look like in the light of miracles? The world looks like a miracle. In the light of nature nothing is new but in the light of miracles everything is new and novel.

When I point the light of science at my hand I see cells, I see veins. When I point the light of art at my hand I see form, I see shape, and I see color. But when I point the light of Chanukah, I see a miracle. We fill our eyes with the light of Chanukah for eight days, so that when the holiday is over, we see that everything is a miracle, we see that even nature is actually a miracle.

Albert Einstein once said: “There are two ways of looking at the world – either you see nothing as a miracle or you see everything as a miracle.”

The Jews see everything as a miracle. The Greeks saw nothing as a miracle. To the Greeks, a miracle was an absurdity. To them only what is reasonable, logical, and rational can be real. Miracles are illogical and therefore not possible.

The Greeks could never access the light of Chanukah, the light of miracles, because they only believed in the light of reason. To them the world always existed, it never was created. History was an inevitable process – the present linked to the past and the necessary outcome of the past. Nothing unusual can happen, history will march on, a consequence on top of the last consequence. Similarly, their view of G-d, or rather of G-ds, was of super-beings detached from the world, contemplating themselves. Their G-ds didn’t care about man. For the Greeks nothing is new under the sun—what “was” always “will be”. Therefore miracles are impossible.

This is why Judaism irritated the Greeks so much that they decided to wipe it out. Judaism said G-d created the world, cares about man, and invites man to be His partner in making history and perfecting the world. The Greeks assumed that the world was perfect already. Everything was as it should be. The world was eternal, history was inevitable, G-d was impersonal. No expectations of miracles, no hope. Life is a Greek tragedy.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained that the difference between the Jewish perspective of history and the world’s perspective of history is that the world generally sees history as an unfolding out of the past, as if the past is pushing history forward. But Judaism believes that it’s actually the future that is activating history — history is actually being pulled, not pushed, towards the future.

If sometimes — because man has free will as G-d’s partner in making history — history goes off the road, then G-d might interfere for the sake of the future with the natural transition from past into present. Then the present may not be determined by the past, but the present may be determined by the future. That’s when miracles happen.

One key example of that is the survival of the Jewish people which historians have puzzled over for centuries. The Jews should not be here. We broke all the historical rules. No other nation has survived under these kinds of conditions. We are a people of miracles who believe in a G-d of miracles. We believe in a G-d who cares, a G-d who relates to us. And if G-d so wills it, something radical and new can happen at any moment. We have reason to be hopeful.

This is why we light candles on Chanukah and bring the light of Chanukah – the light of miracles – into our lives every year. On Chanukah we are celebrating the light beyond the sun, the light of hope and miracles. We fill our eyes with that light so that we can use that light all year long, once we’ve internalized it within ourselves.

In fact, it is only in the light of Chanukah that we can understand Chanukah at all. It’s only because the Maccabees had the light of miracles already in their souls that they went ahead to accomplish something very unreasonable and very irrational. A small group of weaklings stood up against the warriors of Greece and won. But they knew it was possible because G-d created the world and is free to do as He pleases.

Their victory was a miracle in itself, so why top it off by keeping the Menorah miraculously lit for eight days? It seems most unnecessary. When you think of it, this was a very strange miracle. There are lots of miracles that have happened in the history of the Jewish people, but this seems to be an unnecessary miracle. Okay, the Maccabees reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem from the Greeks and when they went to light the Menorah there was only enough oil for one day. And yes, unbelievably that oil lasted for eight days until more oil could be pressed and brought in. But this doesn’t seem like a very important miracle. If they hadn’t been able to light that Menorah the world would not have fallen apart. So, they would have had to wait another eight days – would that have been so terrible?

But that is the definition of miracle – its unnecessary. Natural phenomena are necessary. If I put a drop of ink into water, it necessarily will dissolve. That’s nature. But a miracle is just the opposite. It doesn’t have to be, indeed in the light of nature it shouldn’t be. But it is because G-d wants it to be. G-d needs no reason to make a miracle. G-d wants to, and G-d does it. That’s why Chanukah is such an incredible holiday of miracle, because it’s the holiday which really celebrates the essence of miracle, the essence of the unnecessary.

When you look at the world in the light of Chanukah, you realize that the world is completely unnecessary. That you’re unnecessary. That everything is unnecessary. And yet the world is here and you are here. Celebrating the unnecessary is really the celebration of love. Because the ultimate expression of love and kindness is not in doing what I have to do, but in doing what I don’t have to do. If I dent your car and then offer to pay for it, that is not an act of love. That is the law which says what I have to do. But if one day I decide to wash your car or buy you a new one, that is an act of love.

Judaism believes that we are here by the grace of G-d because G-d – out of His infinite love – created us. It is a miracle that we are here and at Chanukah, more than at any time of the year, we see that and we marvel. We see ourselves in the light of miracle, in the light of miracle and hope.

Without the light of Chanukah we would be totally blind to the true Chanukah victory— the triumph of G-d’s love. It is only in the light of Chanukah that we are able to see the infinite possibilities of love. In the light of science and in the light of art we see aspects – and only some aspects – of what is there. But in the light of Chanukah – in the light of miracles – we see all that is and all that can be.

In the light of Chanukah we see that everything is a miracle and only love is real. Anything is possible– so never lose hope.

“If you had been there then, you would have joined as well!”

by Rav Binny Freedman
Many years ago, a fellow walked into a class I was giving (in a co-ed Jewish outreach program) with his girlfriend, and something about him immediately caught my attention. The class was on the Holocaust and the challenge of our relationship with G-d in a post Holocaust world; halfway through the class he raised his hand and when he spoke I realized what it was that had caught my attention: he was German, with a strong German accent.

He was not Jewish, though he had a Jewish girlfriend who had joined him, and they ended up signing on for a three week program we were running in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Eventually, I found out his story: He was from Munich and was in Israel on a summer volunteering program. A year earlier he had been going through a box in his grandparents’ home and accidentally found his grandfather’s Nazi membership card. This led him to an eventual confrontation with his grandfather. And the response his grandfather gave him was what sent him on his journey of self-discovery:

“If you had been there then, you would have joined as well!”

Subsequently the boy asked me a question for which I had no answer:

“Would I have joined the Nazi party? How do I know I wouldn’t have?”

As a result of his confrontation with his grandfather he began to try and understand why the Germans had hated us so much…

This story reminded me at the time, of a similar discussion in the Gemara (Talmud; tractate Sanhedrin 102b):

Rav Ashi, in a dream, takes a harsh view of the wicked King Menashe (son of the righteous king Chizkiahu). Menashe reigned for fifty five years and the Book of Kings (Sefer Melachim; Kings II 21:16) shares how his actions “were evil in the eyes of G-d” and how he led the Jewish people astray to follow the path of idolatry from which they never quite recovered. (Jewish tradition attributes the ultimate fall of the first Jewish commonwealth and the subsequent destruction of the first Beit Ha’Mikdash (Temple) to the evil inspired during his reign…)

In response to this critique, wicked King Menashe says to Rav Ashi:

‘Had you been there, you would have … run after me to serve
those idols!’

How do we avoid the unhealthy patterns of behavior that so often surround us in society? What steps can we take to make sure that we will be better; that we will avoid the pitfalls of the mistakes of our predecessors?

There is a fascinating question in this week’s portion of Miketz:

Twenty years after throwing Yosef into a pit and watching him sold as a slave, the brothers are forced to come down to Egypt in search of food during the devastating famine gripping the Middle East. Clearly, the guilt of the story of Yosef is still very much on their minds (Bereisheet (Genesis) 42:21-22). Yet when they are brought before Yosef, who is now the Viceroy of the Pharaoh, he instantly recognizes them, but they are totally oblivious as to the true identity of the ruler who sits before them. (ibid. 42:8-9)

Yosef (Joseph) seems to be doing everything but drop a hammer to see if the brothers will recognize him after all these years, yet they don’t seem to get it!

He enquires about their father and asks if they have a younger brother. And then he demands that same younger brother’s presence (ibid. 42:20) before any more food will be sold to them! Aren’t they curious as to why he is bothering with them?

Even when the money they have paid mysteriously ends up back in their bags (ibid. 42:27-28) they still don’t figure it out! And when they come back to Egypt months later to replenish their food supply, fearful due to the money they never actually paid, Joseph’s minister invites them all to a banquet in their honor in the palace while claiming to already have been paid (ibid. 43:20-23) and they still don’t get it! Why is this Viceroy playing with them?

And it continues: Yosef keeps enquiring after their Old father’s health (ibid. 43:27), and even seats them in order of their birth (ibid. 43:33) which causes the brothers to “wonder in amazement”! But they still don’t put two and two together, not even when Binyamin is given an additional portion! (ibid. 43:34)

It almost seems that no matter what Yosef does the brothers just cannot see that something is going on; don’t they consider the possibility that this is really Yosef? Is his appearance that different? He was only in his thirties (ibid. 41:46) and he was after all, their brother, yet absolutely none of them recognize him; why?

Rashi, quoting the Talmud (Tractate Yevamot 88a) suggests (ibid. 42:8-9) that Yosef recognized the brothers because they had beards when he left home (i.e. they were already bearded; their appearance has not changed all that much…) But they did not recognize Yosef because back then he had no beard, implying his appearance had significantly changed.

But… really? All ten (eventually eleven) of them did not recognize Yosef because now he had… a beard? Perhaps there us something else at play here.

It is interesting to note that Rashi could have just said they did not recognize Yosef for now he had a beard. Instead, Rashi employs a much lengthier verbiage describing both the fact that Yosef back then did not have a beard and that the brothers did. Perhaps the reason the brothers did not, indeed could not recognize Yosef, was because the Yosef they were thinking of no longer existed.

A bearded, aged, mature man is really a person who has come of age, established his behavior patterns and is most often set in his ways. He has a particular view of the world which is part of what maturity is all about. And for most of us, once we become set in our ways, it becomes very hard to change.

Their negative view of Yosef had not changed; in their minds he was the spoiled brat who preened himself vainly in the mirror (ibid. Rashi 37:2 quoting Bereishit Rabbah 84:7). Perhaps they could not imagine this spoiled teenager who had been easily thrown in a pit, to now be the ruler essentially responsible for the welfare of the civilized world?

But it is so much more than that: At the heart of the conflict between Yosef and his brothers is the question of dreams.

Yosef dreams of their sheaves bowing down to his, and stars bowing down to his star. And he innocently (naively?) shares them with his older brothers who mock him and become incensed. Why do the dreams of a vain teenager so upset them? Perhaps this is the core of the issue. What indeed to dreams signify?

As Rav Weinberg suggests in his Frameworks, perhaps the brothers see these dreams as reflective of Yosef’s flawed personality with images of grandeur and aspirations to rule divorcing him from reality. Indeed, Freud made a career based on the idea that our dreams are a window deep into our personalities: Essentially, what we dream is who we are. And if this is who Yosef is, then something is very wrong.

But Yosef understands dreams to be a message from Hashem (G-d) and a prophecy foretelling the future: dreams, especially if they recur, are shedding light on what is yet to come. They are less about who we are than about where we are going.

Perhaps this is why the brothers are blinded from recognizing Yosef for the man he is; they are too stuck on the flaws of who he was. Indeed, it may be no accident that the brother held captive by Yosef is Shimon, the brother most responsible for not believing the people of Shchem could change, slaughtering them after their communal circumcision, in the story of Dinah… (ibid. 34:25-31)

Dreams tell us what we need to work on now, and with all that work, mired in the flaws of today, it becomes difficult to consider the possibility of a different tomorrow. But dreams also tell us that tomorrow can be different; that if we do the work on ourselves today, we can become the person we dream of becoming. Perhaps that was a lesson Yosef needed to share with his brothers; that we all have the capacity to change and to be different; we are not mired in the circumstances of today; we can change everything to create a better tomorrow.

Not by chance is this week’s portion called Miketz which means ‘at the end of’, representing the point a person can decide to climb up out of the pit of his circumstances be they as tragic as the pain of having conspired to kill a brother, or as simple as the desire to change a habit that is bringing us down…

And not accidentally does this story always appear for us on the Shabbat of Chanukah: when the desire of the few to bring light back into the world overcame the seemingly inescapable darkness of a world ruled by the Greek Empire.

We can all change, and when we change ourselves, we can change one little wick at a time…

Shabbat Shalom and happy Chanukah from Yerushalayim.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Beinart’s Complaint

by Victor Rosenthal

A recent news item indicates that among the candidates for seats in the World Zionist Congress – founded by Theodor Herzl in 1897 – are Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben Ami.

To tell the truth, when I see the petulant babyface of Peter Beinart, I experience a feeling of nausea. A misozionist and tikkunist*, Beinart was one of the more successful figures at monetizing his brand with his 2010 article “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” It was followed by a book which expanded on his thesis that established American Jewish organizations were “failing” young liberal Jews because they were not sufficiently sensitive to the “fact” that Israel was viciously oppressing Palestinian Arabs.

Beinart continued to write and speak on this theme, and as often happens, as time passed he became more and more extreme in his anti-Israel expression. Nevertheless, he continues to insist that he is a Zionist. For someone like myself, who believes that the survival of the Jewish people everywhere depends on a strong Jewish state, the hypocrisy of a comfortable American Jew telling Israelis to commit suicide is infuriating.

The mention of hypocrisy immediately brings to mind the organization J Street, which was midwifed in 2007 by a large infusion of cash from groups connected to George Soros (an infusion that J Street lied about until it was exposed). J Street, which also took money from individuals connected to Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia to lobby the US Congress, claims to be “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” but its consistently anti-Israel actions have proven it to be neither. Like Beinart, J Street appeals to American Jewish progressives and liberals, who either don’t see or don’t care that the objects of their support are enemies of the Jewish state.

J Street is led by Jeremy Ben Ami, who is himself a study in hypocrisy (or psychopathology of another sort). His father, Yitzhak Ben Ami, was a member of the etzel, the underground army organization led by Menachem Begin that fought the British and the Arabs to create the state of Israel. He came to America during the Holocaust as part of the “Bergson Group,” in an attempt – scuttled by the liberal Jewish establishment of the time – to mobilize support to rescue the doomed Jews of Europe. Thus, Jeremy is on the opposite side of his father’s struggle.

Beinart and Ben Ami are two of a type that has begun to flourish in recent decades: Jews that make a career for themselves – either for money, academic advancement, fame, or all of the above – by exploiting the fact that they have Jewish parents to give them an aura of authority with which to attack the state of Israel. Although they have no personal stake in the consequences of their advice, they give it with a pretense of great moral weight.

Beinart’s complaint (unfortunately) no longer makes sense. In recent years, many “establishment” Jewish organizations in the US – the ADL, Hillel International, the Federation system, the Union for Reform Judaism, and others have moved farther and farther away from supporting Israel. In some cases the reason is simply practical fund-raising: they would like to be acceptable to a new group of donors who are less pro-Israel than their parents, a consequence of the concentrated anti-Israel indoctrination they have received in American universities. In other cases, like the ADL, the dominant personalities in the organizations have been replaced by political operatives with a leftist (and anti-Israel) orientation.

I think that the Obama Administration also had much to do with this, providing support for J Street as their go-to Jewish group, as well as generating a continuous flow of propaganda against the Netanyahu government. The theme was “we love and support Israel, but Netanyahu is making it a racist theocracy.” Liberal American Jews seem to have been very susceptible to this approach.

The change stood out for me when I reread Beinart’s seminal 2010 article. I don’t think that today he would be able to say that the “American Jewish establishment” univocally supports Israel. Indeed, the truth is closer to the opposite. And the “establishment” has been joined by groups like J Street and If Not Now; even Jewish Voice for Peace is being treated as a legitimate representative of a segment of the Jewish population. None of this is an accident: a great deal of money has been expended by anti-Israel foundations like the Ford Foundation and Soros-connected foundations in order to accomplish this. And Beinart himself has been a tireless soldier in this campaign.


The World Zionist Congress consists of delegates from all over the world, in proportion to the Jewish populations of various countries. An election will be held to select them this January, and American Jews can vote for one of several slates of candidates. One is ironically called “Hatikvah”; its platform is a politically-correct compendium of left-wing causes, and its slate contains Beinart and Ben Ami, as well as the full panoply of American Jewish virtue-signalers and opportunists. For those Liberals/Progressives who can’t quite stomach Beinart or Ben Ami, there is a very slightly less aggressively left-wing platform and slate provided by the Union for Reform Judaism.

With due respect for Herzl, I think that the World Zionist Organization and its Congress have outlived their usefulness now that the Jewish state has been reestablished and is thriving. Israel does not need financial contributions from the diaspora, and it needs advice and political pressure even less. The WZO should dissolve itself and turn over whatever resources it has to the true Zionist entity in the world (just ask the Iranian regime), the State of Israel.

For now, I recommend that American Zionists vote for the Herut Zionists, which – unlike “Hatikvah” and the Reform slate, does espouse true Zionist goals like the ingathering of exiles and the development of all of Eretz Yisrael.

* Misoziony (pronounced mis-OZ-yoni) is the extreme and irrational hatred of the Jewish state. It is antisemitism raised up one level of abstraction, although almost all misozionists are antisemites as well. Tikkunism is the ideology that replaces the traditional mitzvot of Judaism with an imperative to engage in left-wing social action.

Publicizing HaShem's Miracles

Parashat Mikeitz-Chanukah 5780
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

Excerpt from my forthcoming book “Reflections From Yerushalayim”

Pirsumei nisa, our duty to propagate HaShem’s miracles, constitutes a major element in many mitzvot. When reading the Megillat Esther, we publicly proclaim that HaShem saved us from Haman and Achashverosh. At the Pesach Seder, we lean in comfort as we consume our matzah and drink wine to proclaim that we were freed through HaShem’s great miracles in Egypt. Yet there is no mitzvah in which pirsumei nisa is as emphasized as it is at Chanukah.

With other mitzvot, our Sages established the obligation of pirsumei nisa on a single level, whereas regarding the Chanukah candles, they established three levels:
  • The most rudimentary one involves the head of the household lighting a single candle in his home each night.
  • The mehadrin level, for those who want to do more, involves every member of the household lighting one candle each night.
  • The mehadrin min hamehadrin level, for those who wish to do the maximum to publicize HaShem’s miracles, involves each participant lighting an additional candle each night, starting from one on the first night, leading up to eight candles on the eighth night.
Why did our Sages see fit to emphasize pirsumei nisa precisely regarding Chanukah?

I suggest:

The miracle of the flask of oil occurred in a place where only the Kohanim had access – in the Kodesh, the area in front of the Kodesh Kodashim or Holy of Holies. The point was to signal to the Kohanim who initiated and led the war against Hellenism that, despite the painful sacrifices the Jewish people had suffered, HaShem viewed the Maccabees’ rebellion favorably.

A year later, the nation’s spiritual leaders ordained the observance of Chanukah, requiring every Jewish man and woman to declare fealty to the national/religious effort to banish Greece from the Land of Israel and to restore the Torah to its former glory. A single level of publicizing HaShem’s miracles would not have sufficed to express the greatness of that moment when HaShem informed the people that He (and not an angel) stood behind the holy priests. What was required was precisely on the level of mehadrin, or even mehadrin min hamehadrin, in order adequately to express the depths of our gratitude for the grandeur of the miracle.

The most eloquent, articulate speaker could not describe the depth of Yosef’s emotions as his jeering brothers lowered him into a pit swarming with snakes and scorpions, or the helplessness he felt during his years in the Egyptian dungeon, or the suffering of his father during the years he believed that Yosef was no longer among the living.

By the same token, no one could describe the profound despair felt by Yehudah Maccabee and his soldiers when they observed from their mountain perch the thousands of Greek soldiers moving forward in phalanx formation – each phalanx made up of 256 soldiers arranged in a 16 by 16 quad, every soldier wielding a spear 7 meters long – all of them marching together as one entity.

A senior officer in the IDF told me that, in his youth, he studied at the military’s Command and Staff College. There, the instructor drew on the blackboard a formation of two armies at the onset of battle. He repeated the exercise three times, each time with different data but, in any event, it was clear that one side was stronger than the other. The results of the battles were a foregone conclusion to all the officers present. After everyone agreed that the stronger side would win, the instructor divulged that his sketches depicted the three fateful battles of the “weak” Maccabees against the “strong” Greeks and, in all three, the Maccabees won. The instructor, who was not a Torah observant man, raised his hands and cried out, “Without God, the Jews could never have won!”

To the same extent, we must conclude that, if not for Divine Providence, Yosef would never have emerged from the pit alive, and if not for Divine Providence, the Jewish people would long ago have been pushed off the stage of history together with all the other ancient nations. If not for Divine Providence, the State of Israel would never have arisen, neither would it have survived so many attacks by mightier nations.

Yet how many Jews in the galut acknowledge this fact?!

Were there a halachic body possessing the requisite authority, I would recommend passing an ordinance forbidding the celebration of Chanukah in the Diaspora. Why? Because in the awareness of galut Jews the miracle of Chanukah is nothing but stories from the past with no bearing on reality. And one who denies the miracles taking place before his very eyes certainly does not believe in the miracles that were supposed to have occurred to our people thousands of years ago! So why observe Chanukah at all?

Unlike the Jews of the Diaspora, the people who dwell in Zion today have a sense of common nationhood. The Jews of the Diaspora don’t share Israel’s problems or dangers. Their primary language is different, and they rise for the national anthem of a foreign country, not the HaTikvah which expresses the hopes and aspirations of the Nation of Israel. Neither are they ready to lay down their lives for their brothers and sisters.

I learned a powerful lesson from an Egyptian on the day that the Sinai War broke out in 1956. Together with two other yeshivah students, I was attending New York University night school; at the end of the lecture, a man approached me and my yeshivah colleagues (all of us wearing kippot) and asked, “What do you intend to do about the war?” I answered that there was nothing we could do. He then said that he was an Egyptian exchange student and he was about to return to Egypt to fight for his country against Israel. Indeed, we never saw him again.

That individual deeply influenced me. He was a faithful son of his land and a devoted brother of his people, whereas I was no more than a step-brother to the Jews who were fighting at that moment in the Land of Israel. What shame I felt! Truly a strange person to have for a teacher, but his influence upon me was enormous.

And that brings me to the crux of the matter:

Despite what had been done to him in the past by his brothers, when Yosef saw that Leah’s son Yehudah was ready to sacrifice himself for Rachel’s son Binyamin, he understood that there had been a turning point in how the brothers related to one another. Going beyond their maternal loyalties and divisions, they were truly brothers now, and it was then that he embraced them.

Similarly, the ability of the Maccabees to enlist Jews who would be willing to sacrifice their lives in an almost hopeless war derived from the sense of brotherhood of the Nation of Israel dwelling in the Land of Israel. This is what moved HaShem to work miracles for them at Chanukah.

This is what we need now.

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5780/2019 Nachman Kahana

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Chanukah - More than a festival of lights

The Shamrak Report: The Two-State Solution - End The Delusion

Gideon Sa'ar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's sole challenger in the upcoming Likud party leadership race, said that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is an illusion, and attacked the premier for giving the notion credibility over the last decade.
Throughout the world they say that a two-state solution remains the path to an agreement, Sa ar said, speaking at a conference. I have to say to you, this is not a position that helps anyone. Two-states is an illusion. ("Delusion" would be more precise and appropriate definition!)
Sa'ar said this had been shown through decades of negotiations based around two-states that had failed to bring peace. He also blamed the Palestinians for never being able to agree to a compromise, despite very generous offers.
Sa'ar castigated Netanyahu for perpetuating the idea that two-states was the only solution, accusing him of making endless concessions .
Sa'ar appeared to be trying to outflank Netanyahu from the right ahead of the Likud party leadership vote, set for December 26. However, Netanyahu has in recent years also moved away from tacit support for a two-state solution and has, over the last few months, been promising to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if re-elected. ( Why hasn't he done it by now? It was just the fake election promise!)
Sa'ar argues that Netanyahu is divisive and has proved he cannot put together a coalition, after failing to muster a governing majority following two national elections in April and September. Israel will go to polls again on March 2. (During the years of his realm and control of Likud, Netanyahu has deliberately pushed Zionist-minded leaders away from LikudMany members also have left in disappointment!)
On behalf of Shamrak Report, I would like to wish you
Happy Chanukah!
This week we celebrate the Jewish national struggle for freedom!
May the spirit of Maccabees inspire the government of Israel to free all Land of Israel from Arab occupation by ending the perpetual war!
Zionism is Jewish National Independence Movement!
Support Shamrak Report!           
Presented by                             
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
I would like to point out that all of these tools of Islamic terror suicide bombers, knife attacks and ramping people by vehicles were first perfected by enemies of Israel. Al Queda and IS have been using their expertise! British, Europeans and other nice international Anti-Semitic governments are supporting the PA and Hamas financially, morally and politically, but quietly accepting help from Israel in fighting their domestic Islamic terror!
The British government confirmed it will proceed with banning local councils from boycotting Israel, as the Conservatives promised in their election manifesto.
When will IDF Win the War?
1. More than 150 residents of Kedumim in Samaria have approached the Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and asked for his intervention to curb the riots carried out each weekend by the residents of neighboring Kafr Kadum. "We, the residents of Kedum, have experienced almost a decade of rioting on the part of Kedum. We are strengthening the security forces, the military and the police, and ask that they take unequivocal action to curb these riots which are supported and funded by radical leftist organizations, endanger soldiers and those who live in many neighborhoods in Kedum, polluting the air with tire smoke and tear gas and damaging the quality of life. When will the IDF win in Samaria? Enough of the riots, and enough of this containment." (This is not reported by international anti-Semitic press, and not condemned by the 'Ugly Nazi!)
2. Rocket from Gaza fired at Sderot , intercepted by Iron Dome. In response to the rocket fire, IDF fighter jets struck a Hamas weapons manufacturing site in the northern Gaza Strip. (Here we go again - new 'cycle of cease-fires'Why not destroy all weapons Hamas and other terrorists have, and remove enemies from Gaza ?)
Some 50 terrorists linked to a cell operated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have been arrested in the Ramallah area of Samaria by the Shin Bet.
Three Jewish Israeli men - two of whom are Israel Defense Forces soldiers - have been indicted for praying at Jerusalem s flashpoint Temple Mount compound last year.
A PA resident was arrested on suspicion of breaking into the Jewish cemetery on Mount Olives and using old tombstones to build a public staircase in his village. During the Jordanian rule (1948-1967), the Mount Olives Jewish cemetery suffered systematic damage to gravestones and tombs. As early as the end of 1949, Israeli observers stationed on Mount Zion reported that Arab residents began uprooting tombstones. In the late 1950s, the Jordanian army used tombstones to build military camps. If such a thing had happened in Europe it would have opened all the news editions, but on Mount Olives it barely generates a yawn.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda believes Israel is committing war crimes in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, and has opened an investigation into the matter. The ICC has been turned into a political weapon in the fight against Israel, Netanyahu said. "They want to twist the fact that Jews live in Israel in their homeland into war crime. This is absurd. Israel has said that the ICC does not have the jurisdiction to sue Israelis for war crimes at the request of the fake Palestinians, as the fact that the PA is not a sovereign state and does not have sovereign power over those territories. (When Jews are defending themselves, it is a war crime to the ICC!)
According to Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman, Blue and White and the two Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, have already agreed to partner in forming a coalition government following the March 2, 2020 elections. MK Ofer Shelah, a Blue and White spokesman, told Reshet Bet radio that the Likud s loyal partners inside the right-wing 55 seat bloc have been experiencing buyer s remorse and regret their blind following of Netanyahu. (Anything goes! Even the major 'ideological' platform is forsaken just to win election.)
Qatar is to contribute $20.7 million to support 445,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria. With this contribution, the total support provided by Qatar to UNRWA during the year 2019 amounts to $40 million. Created in 1949, UNRWA supplies aid to more than three million of the five million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and territories assigned to the Palestinian Authority. (If Arab states love fake Palestinians so much, why don t they take them and grant equal rights?)
Speaking at an event inaugurating a new Brazilian trade office in Jerusalem, Eduardo Bolsonaro son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tells PM Netanyahu that Brazil will be moving its Israeli embassy to the capital in 2020 and will declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. (It was said before! Why does it take so longIsrael must make moving embassies to the capital of the Jewish state, Jerusalem, compulsory!)
Representatives of the Arab community are demanding an inquiry into how almost 200 babies born to Israeli Arab mothers were flown to Sweden for adoption during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. (As usual, it is Israel's fault, but the lack of maternal instinct, love and greed among Israel Arabs is not?)
The Israel Electric Company (IEC) has stepped up its actions against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and has cut power to various areas in the PA for three hours over the PA s unpaid bills, about $500 million. (Israel collects tax funds on behalf of the PA. Why aren't bills for electricity, water and compensation to victims of terror, as well as cost of military containment paid directly from those funds?)
Quote of the Week:
"Our future does not depend on what the Goyim will say. It depends on what the Jews will do!" - David Ben Gurion.
Bibi is not Zionist - a Globalist
FacaBook post (strong language, but soft talks have not worked!)
A moronic reporter said that Bibi is 'strangling the Palestinian national idea'. Damn, the anti-Zionist lefties actually believe this crap! Unfortunately, the Zionist righties believe that Bibi is for them.
Bibi, the man who pledged to end Oslo but then 5 minutes after he was elected changed his mind and continued it;
Bibi, the man who single-handedly could have stopped Sharon's Expulsion but chose to allow it to happen;
Bibi, the man who turned over 99% of Hebron to those who wish to annihilate us;
Bibi, the man who ousted his only Likud rival who was loyal to the Land of Israel from the Likud;
Bibi, the man who has cut housing starts for Jews in J&S to 20% of the levels that the leftist Olmert had maintained;
Bibi, the man who calls to create the state of Fakestine even though even Rabin didn't go this far left.
Bibi is doing the work of the lefties, but they are too blinded by their hatred because he's a globalist and not a communist; and the righties simply project onto him what they want him to be even though it has no basis in reality. They want him to be a Jewish nationalist patriot, when in reality, he's simply a globalist.
We are so, so stupid. We are so screwed. We need to wake up - Right now! ( For the sake of the future of Israel and Jewish people, it is time for Bibi to move on and let true Zionists to take control!)
Right-wing bloc hits 60 seats in latest poll - if Gideon Sa'ar leads Likud. Far-left Meretz party fails to cross electoral threshold. If Likud MK Gideon Sa ar defeats Netanyahu in next week s Likud leadership election, Blue and White would win 34 seats when running against Sa ar, while the Likud would fall to 30 seats, down from its current 32 and the right-wing bloc would rise to 60 seats just one short of an absolute majority in the 120-member Knesset thanks to the Jewish Home-National Union clearing the electoral threshold. (There is still room for improvement!)