Thursday, February 28, 2019

ZEHUT Stands on its own Merit with its own Platform

Intense interview with Moshe Feiglin on Channel 20’s Riklin and Magal Show. 

Shimon Riklin: So you couldn’t care less about the right-wing bloc, Moshe? You don’t define yourself as rightist? 

Moshe Feiglin: Look, if being rightist means losing to the Hamas a few months ago, and then paying monthly protection money to preserve the quiet at least until the elections – if that is Right, then I am not Right… 

Shimon Riklin: In other words, in one scenario or another you may join Gantz. In other words, it depends what they tell you. You are not committed to any bloc. Is that a correct definition? 

Moshe Feiglin: Ultimately, there are no blocs, Riklin. Ultimately, there is the Land of Israel. You know what? You asked about Gantz. So listen to this…Gantz took (Histadrut Chairman) Nissenkorn into his party, right? In the Likud there are three heads of major workers unions, right? So on both sides, both in the Likud and with Gantz, both in this bloc and the other bloc, if you want to use that terminology, what do you have on both sides? Two state solution. Both the Likud and Gantz are talking about the two state solution. 

Shimon Riklin: You were at the head of Zo Artzeinu. You can’t change history retroactively, that if Shamir had won the elections, the same thing would have happened. You know it wouldn’t have happened. 

Moshe Feiglin: You want an answer? Who opened the way to Oslo? Who talked about a strong Palestinian police force, who paved the way and opened the gate? 

Yinon Magal: Begin? 

Moshe Feiglin: Begin. Who went to the Madrid Conference and allowed Arafat to give instructions from backstage? Who? Shamir. And then came Oslo. Along came Rabin, who was a link in the chain. I am saying this to you as a person who fought Oslo more than both of you, with all due respect. So with all due respect, the party that gave up more parts of the Land of Israel than anyone else is the Likud. With the vote for Likud, Begin gave up the entire Sinai. With the vote for Likud, Sharon gave up Gush Katif. With the vote for Likud, Netanyahu gave up most of Hebron. And with the vote for Likud – listen well – with your bloc and your Right, he is going to negotiate over Jerusalem immediately after the elections. 

Shimon Riklin: You are a sophisticated politician. Perhaps you are saying this because you want to be covered, because you know that there is a chance that you won’t pass the voting threshold and the rightist government may fall and then you will say that it doesn’t matter anyway…I said right from the start that I don’t care, so you are protecting yourself from the outset. 

Moshe Feiglin: Ridiculous. 

Shimon Riklin: Ridiculous? Doesn’t it scare you that your votes can bring it down? 

Moshe Feiglin: First of all, ZEHUT is over the threshold in the serious poll of Yisrael Hayom and Ma’agar Mochot. I really don’t rely on polls, even though now they are in my favor. I still don’t rely on polls. I rely on two or three other things… 

Shimon Riklin: On our Father in Heaven. Moshe Feiglin: First of all, on our Father in Heaven. That is clear. There is a very, very serious in-depth analysis that shows that we are talking about way beyond five mandates. That is first. Second is ZEHUT’s platform-book, which became a best-seller. A party platform becomes a best seller in the bookstores. People are snapping them up… 

Shimon Riklin: You know that the Bible is the most sold book in the world, but the Jews aren’t so popular… 

Moshe Feiglin: The third thing is that whoever is on the internet or just researches a bit feels an amazing vibe behind ZEHUT. I am telling you we are on solid ground. I am not running to tell stories. I am running to enter the Knesset. In the Torah it doesn’t talk about Right and Left. The Torah writes about the Land of Israel and I am loyal to the Land of Israel. For that, I don’t need a bloc. 

Yinon Magal: So you are Right. The Land of Israel is Right, isn’t it? 

Moshe Feiglin: We just said that the Right gave up more of the Land of Israel than anyone else. 

Yinon Magal: Listen, I hear you. You are talking about Netanyahu’s political perception. He is dealing with reality as it actually is. There is America, there is Russia, there are the Arabs, there is the sea, there are the territories, there are Palestinians, there is an army…In other words, there is a reality in which we live, and you are talking about a utopia. You are right. Everything that you said is right. Ultimately everything is politics and everyone is talking about two-state and Bibi also made the Bar Ilan speech and Bibi gave suitcases full of money to Hamas. 

Moshe Feiglin: So right after the elections, when Netanyahu will enter negotiations over Jerusalem – and that is what is going to happen – you and Riklin will say that Bibi is realpolitik, we have to divide Jerusalem, there is no choice? 

Shimon Riklin: I heard you saying lately that Bibi will divide Jerusalem with Trump’s Deal of the Century, so admit that what you are saying now is that you will go with Gantz because Gantz won’t do that. Say honestly that you prefer to go with Gantz than with Netanyahu. 

Moshe Feiglin: I am saying honestly that I will go with the ZEHUT platform. As opposed to Gantz and Netanyahu, ZEHUT has a platform and ZEHUT will go with the platform, which includes not only the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. 

Shimon Riklin: Moshe, you will not be putting together the coalition, right? So I am asking you, who will you go with? 

Moshe Feiglin: Whoever will take my platform the farthest. That is who I will go with. Not with who will destroy Jerusalem. And I know that he is going to do that. Not with who doesn’t care about Jerusalem, which is true of the other side, as well. Neither of them interests me. What interests me is my platform. The person who takes my platform the farthest. 

Shimon Riklin: Tell the truth, at night, in your attic, while writing your book about Oslo, you are not afraid that instead of being remembered as a hero – and in my eyes, you are a hero in the period of the opposition to the Oslo Accords – you will be remembered as the person who brought down the rightist government? That doesn’t bother you? Forget all the slogans. In your heart, truly, you are not afraid of that? 

Moshe Feiglin: I am telling you the complete truth. Both sides, Netanyahu and Gantz and Lapid are not my points of reference. ZEHUT stands on its own merit with its own platform and true loyalty to the Land of Israel and not to the bloc. 

Shimon Riklin: Moshe Feiglin, wishing you success 

Yinon Magal: And it was interesting to hear you, as always. 

Shimon Riklin: Nobody can take that away from him. He is interesting.

“Restore our judges as at first.”

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

Moses assembled the entire congregation of Israel by verbally summoning them (see Rashi on Leviticus 35:1). The ability to do so bespeaks the moral/spiritual authority he commanded, rather than any mundane or organizational authority that he could muster. Not only in that generation did Moses assemble all of Israel by employing speech, but throughout history the influence of Moses on the Jewish People has been recognizable. As our sages said:

“In our world, if a mortal prince enacts a decree, whether it will be fulfilled remains to be seen. Yet Moses decreed many decrees and passed many enactments and they continue to endure forever and ever.” (Shabbat 30a).

Moses’s speech and influence, which guide us to follow in G-d’s pathways in accordance with the holy Torah, are the strongest influence on the Jewish People’s conduct down through the generations.

Today, we must distinguish between leaders concerned only with the here and now, who are transient and temporary, and the eternal leadership of the Jewish People, which lives and endures forever.

A leadership that ascends to power by mundane means, i.e., by way of political organization of one form or another, has no power to influence and unite the nation in the long-term. Only a spiritual leadership that derives from the strength of our holy Torah, and that showers some of its spirit on the political, practical leadership of the nation will have the strength and ability to unite the Jewish People down through the generations.

The day is not far off when we will be privileged to see how the spiritual leadership and the political leadership will walk hand in hand, as was in the past, during the times of Kings David and Solomon. At that time, the daily request of our prayers will be fulfilled:

“Restore our judges as at the first, and our counselor s as at the beginning, and remove from us sorrow and sighing” (Shemoneh Esreh). This in turn will lead to, “Return in mercy to your city, Jerusalem, and dwell in it as You promised... and speedily establish in it the throne of David.” (ibid.)

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

Rav Kook on Parashat VaYakheil: Two Layers of Wisdom

Two woven coverings stretched out across the roof of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle designated for worshipping God in the wilderness. The inner covering was a resplendent work of fine linen and colorful wool, dyed indigo, purple, and crimson. The outer covering was a simpler affair, made solely of goat wool.

One might think that the magnificent inner covering was the greater of the two. The Talmud, however, notes that weaving the outer wool covering required greater wisdom.

The Torah describes the women involved in spinning the colorful inner covering as being “wise-hearted.” Regarding the simpler, outer covering, on the other hand, the Torah indicates that the women employed an especially lofty wisdom. They were “women whose hearts uplifted them in wisdom” (Ex. 35:25).

What was this special wisdom? According to the Talmud in Shabbat 99a, the wool was washed and spun - while still attached to the goats!

Abstract and Practical Wisdom

The Sages compared the building of the Mishkan to the creation of heaven and earth. The details of how the Tabernacle was constructed correspond to the configuration of the universe, both physically and spiritually.

Rav Kook explained that these two Tabernacle coverings relate to two spheres of wisdom in the world, the basis of Divine influence and holiness. The first level of wisdom is abstract and general, while the second is practical and detailed. The abstract wisdom shines with brilliant flashes of the intellect and variegated hues of the imagination. This wisdom deals with inner, sublime matters, and therefore corresponds to the colorful inner covering.

Practical wisdom, on the other hand, would appear to be a simpler matter, serving primarily to protect and watch over the abstract concepts of the inner wisdom. But in truth, the practical wisdom of how to apply abstract principles in everyday life is profound and rare. Spiritual abstractions may be revealed through prophecy and Divine inspiration. But the practical Torah of mitzvot could only be revealed through the unique clarity of Moses’ prophetic vision.

“The women whose hearts uplifted them in wisdom” - these women were blessed with the gift of the highest wisdom. By virtue of its profound insight, their “hearts were uplifted,” thus elevating all feelings and emotions, all actions and deeds, all aspects of life. Their wisdom was so great that “they spun [on] the goats.” They were able to elevate the material world - even life’s vexing aspects, as symbolized by a mischievous goat - binding and tying it to the lofty eternal light.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. IV, pp. 245-246)

Fear of the Jews

Parashat Vayakhel 5779
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

The Megillah records that Achashverosh permitted the Jews to defend themselves on the 13th of Adar against their murderous neighbors in the 127 areas under the King’s control. On that day, the Jews killed 75,000 of the enemy in the outlying areas. An additional 800 were killed in Shushan, the capital, in the two days of fighting there on the 13th and 14th of Adar.

75,800 in two days! That number is vastly larger than what we are seeing today in the Arab countries, yet there is no recorded call by the people of his kingdom for Achashverosh’s head or for the end of the monarchy.

Why not?

We can conclude why the gentile of these lands did not rise up from what it is stated in the Megillah (8:17)

ובכל מדינה ומדינה ובכל עיר ועיר מקום אשר דבר המלך ודתו מגיע שמחה וששון ליהודים משתה ויום טוב ורבים מעמי הארץ מתיהדים כי נפל פחד היהודים עליהם:

And in every state and in every city wherever the King’s decree reached, the Jews were happy and joyful feasting and celebration, with many of the gentiles drawing close to Judaism because fear of the Jews was upon them.”

The gentiles undoubtedly wanted the King’s head, but did not dare to challenge the establishment, especially when the Queen was a Jewish daughter; because “fear of the Jews was upon them”.

Fear of the Jew is a mighty weapon. It is alluded to in the Song at the Sea (shirat hayam) recited daily in the morning prayer (Shemot 15:14-16)

שמעו עמים ירגזון חיל אחז ישבי פלשת: אז נבהלו אלופי אדום אילי מואב יאחזמו רעד נמגו כל ישבי כנען: תפל עליהם אימתה ופחד בגדל זרועך ידמו כאבן עד יעבר עמך ה’ עד יעבר עם זו קנית

The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moav will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away. Terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm Eretz Yisrael will be petrified as stone, until your people pass by, LORD, until the people you acquired pass by.”

What are the lessons for our time?

Medinat Yisrael was awarded the rare opportunity of “fear of the Jews was upon them”, when we could do no wrong, and the opportunities for a major leap towards our final redemption was in our hands.

It happened in 1967, as a result of the Six Day War. The world, both Jews and Gentiles, were preparing for the devastating, unspeakable destruction of the nascent Jewish State and the annihilation of all its Jewish citizens. Preparations were being made in the U.S. to save the surviving Jewish children, as if there would have been any Jewish children left to save had we lost the war. I recall reading that funds were being collected to erect a great memorial for the gallant State of Israel which is no more!

Israel at that time was tiny in area with a small population. Our army and air force were a mere shadow of what we have in Eretz Yisrael — today.

The war erupted in the early hours of Monday morning, the 25th of Iyar (June 5th) when Israel made a preemptive attack on all our enemies, destroying the air forces of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan and Saudia.

The ground war commenced, and on the days of that week we liberated Yehuda, Shomron, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and Azza. On Wednesday the holy soldiers of Tzahal liberated the Old City, and for the first time in 2,000 years the Temple Mount was in our possession. Tzahal, with the huge aid of HaShem, did in six days what took Yehushua Bin Nun seven years to accomplish!

The world was aghast; as if they had seen a ghost. For indeed we had emerged from the grave of history to take our rightful place at the peak of God’s miracles.

During those six days and even a bit later we could have removed the desecration of HaShem’s holy Mount by demolishing the Al Aksa mosque and the golden domed building.

And the world would have been silent.

We could have conquered Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and established pro-Israel puppet governments. And the world would have been silent.

We could have transferred all of the alien peoples from our lands and had a totally Jewish country. And the world would have been silent.

We could have expelled the murderous Arabs of Hevron and other potential threats across the Jordan River. And the world would have been silent.

But we did not do any of these justified acts because we were afraid to act like proper Jews. The concept of “fear of the Jews was upon them” did not register with our leaders.

Today Israel is being accused of war crimes. I admit that we perpetrated two similar unforgivable war crimes – in 1948 and again in 1967.

During the War of Independence and the Six Day War we did not expel all our enemies from the country. This is our war crime, for which we, our children and grandchildren might yet have to pay the full price.

We did not learn the real lesson of Purim; that when HaShem performs miracles, it is incumbent upon us to advance the opportunities afforded us and proceed with conviction and courage along the path of Jewish redemption.

The Pasuk (verse) says (Devarim 28:10)

וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה’ נקרא עליך ויראו ממך

And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and — Eretz Yisrael shall be afraid of you.”

And Rabbi Eliezer the Great explains that the object that will instill fear into the hearts of our gentile enemies is the tefillin (phylacteries) placed on one’s head (Tractate Berachot 6a).

The opportunity for “fear of the Jews was upon them” will present itself again, as stated by the prophets.

Next time, in view of the many religious officers and fighters in Tzahal, I am quite certain that we will know how to seize the opportunity to sanctify HaShem’s holy name in Eretz Yisrael.

While in the Purim mode, I would like to conclude with a light story, but with a very serious message.

An Arab once entered a bank in Yerushalayim, just as the automatic mechanism had closed the safe until the following morning. In reply to his demand to receive some cash, the teller told him that the safe was locked and could not be opened until eight o’clock the following morning. The Arab became very belligerent and vocal, and threatened the life of the teller. At this point, the bank manager approached the Arab, picked him up and threw him on the sidewalk outside the bank.

While the Arab was nursing his wounds, the bank teller approached him saying: “Didn’t I tell you that the safe is closed until tomorrow morning?” The Arab turned to the teller and said: “Yes. You told me, but he explained it.”.

There is no rhyme or reason to tell our anti-Jewish enemies of the folly of their ways. They will understand only when it is explained to them, in the spirit of “Fear of the Jews was upon them.”

Shabbat Shalom,
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5779/2019 Nachman Kahana

Palestinians: "No Place for the Zionist Entity in Palestine"

by Bassam Tawil

  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be given credit for their clarity and honesty regarding their ambitions. The two groups are clearly saying that their ultimate goal is to see Israel removed from the region and replaced with an Islamic state. As far as they are concerned, the conflict with Israel is not about a settlement, a checkpoint or even Jerusalem. Instead, it is about the presence of Jews in what they regard as their own state and homeland.
  • What will happen the day after a Palestinian state is established? The answer, according to Hamas and Islamic Jihad (and other Palestinians) is that they will use it to continue the "armed struggle" until the liberation of the supposedly occupied cities of Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Tiberias, Haifa and Ashdod. Under these current circumstances, a Palestinian state will pose an immediate existential danger to Israel.
  • The Islamic Jihad threat to turn Israeli cities into "hell" by firing missiles at them needs to be taken seriously by those who are working on the upcoming US peace plan. Any land that is given to Abbas and his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will be used in the future by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as a base for launching rockets and missiles at Israeli cities. Then, the terror groups will not need accurate, long-range rockets to achieve their plan to destroy Israel's population centers: they will be sitting right across the street from them.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad control nearly two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Each group has its own political leadership , as well as militias that possess various types of weapons, including rockets and missiles. Pictured: Hamas militiamen parade their weapons in Gaza City, on July 20, 2017. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
A Palestinian terror group says that its engineers have developed "accurate and destructive" missiles that can reach the "occupied" cities of Tel Aviv, Netanya and Jerusalem. Abu Hamza, spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Iranian-funded Islamic Jihad organization in the Gaza Strip, threatened that his group's "rocket unit" would turn Israeli cities into "hell."
"There is no place for the Zionist enemy on the land of Palestine," Abu Hamza said. "Either they leave this blessed land, or they will be dealt one painful strike after the other."
Islamic Jihad is the second-largest Palestinian terror group in the Gaza Strip, after Hamas. Neither group recognizes Israel's right to exist. Both say they are committed to the "armed struggle until the liberation of all Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River."
The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad see Israel as one big settlement to be uprooted from the Middle East.

“Did you anticipate redemption?”

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

And he made the washstand of copper and its base of copper from the mirrors of the women who had set up the legions, who congregated at the entrance of the tent of meeting. (Shemos 38:8)

IT IS WELL known that the Talmud says that one of the six questions a person will be asked on their final day of judgment is, “Did you anticipate redemption?” (Shabbos 31a). This is different from the principle of waiting for Moshiach, as mentioned in the “Thirteen Principles of Faith.” Waiting is passive. Anticipating is active.

The Sefer Mitzvos HaKatan (SM”K) explains that this mitzvah, and it IS a mitzvah, stems from one of the most important of all, the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt.” He explains that God is saying to us, through this mitzvah, that just as you have emunah that I took you out of Egypt in mercy the first time, you should have faith that I will take you out of exile in mercy the final time.

Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, famed Mashgiach Ruchani at both the Mir and Ponovezh yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel in the 1960s, says in his “Emunas HaGeulah,” based upon the words of the SM”K, that one who does not properly anticipate redemption does not properly fulfill the first of the Ten Commandments. And, he says very sternly, it also means that their prayers for redemption, in Shemonah Esrai for example, are empty.

That is very heavy. While it may sound like it is not a big deal, it probably doesn’t resonate with many people. We don’t live in concentration camps. We’re not running for our lives. We don’t live in fear of imminent attacks, even here in Eretz Yisroel. We live well, peacefully for the most part, B”H, and this numbs us to the TRUE reality of our lives.

It’s like trying to tell a secular Jew that they are missing out by not keeping Shabbos. They look at you as if you are crazy, and politely tell you, “No thank you, I’m good without it.” But how can they possibly know that the happiness they have now, which they think they will lose by keeping Shabbos, is only a fraction of what they will enjoy if they keep Shabbos?

They can’t. And as long as they believe that what they have already is enough, they won’t believe they have to. The one time a person should NOT be happy with his portion is when he can have a greater SPIRITUAL one. We may not feel the lack now, but we will eventually, and when we do, we will kick ourselves for having accepted complacency as an approach to life.

Sometimes God lets a spiritually complacent person go to their death that way, and let them pay for it later, either in a future incarnation or in the World-to-Come. Other times He removes the reason for the complacency in their current lifetime, allowing the person’s world to just fall apart. This forces them to do THEN what they should have done while life was good: anticipate redemption.

Anticipate redemption? You mean, PERSONAL redemption, right? After all, a person who suffers as an individual usually tends to think in terms of their OWN problems, not those of the nation. Yes, AND no, as we see in this week’s parsha:

And he made the washstand of copper and its base of copper from the mirrors of the women who had set up the legions, who congregated at the entrance of the tent of meeting. (Shemos 38:8)

Jewish women owned mirrors, which they would look into when they adorned themselves. Even these [mirrors] they did not hold back from bringing as a contribution toward the Mishkan, but Moshe rejected them because they were made for temptation [i.e., to inspire lustful thoughts]. The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to him, “Accept [them], for these are more precious to Me than anything because through them the women set up many legions [i.e., through the children they gave birth to] in Egypt.” When their husbands were weary from back-breaking labor, they would go and bring them food and drink and give them to eat. Then they [the women] would take the mirrors and each one would see herself with her husband in the mirror … saying, “I am more beautiful than you.” And in this way they aroused their husbands’ desire, etc. (Rashi)

The mirrors the Jewish women in Egypt used didn’t just reflect their physical beauty. It reflected the spiritual beauty because they reflected their belief in national redemption. Why else would these women insist on building up the ranks of the Jewish people with their exhausted husbands, and during the most horrible of circumstances, if not because they believed that the redemption was coming?

You rarely find someone who has it good and who takes geulah seriously. It’s not that God doesn’t look for people who take redemption seriously—He DOES. It’s just that everyone else is too busy enjoying a redemption facsimile. But, though WE may give up on redemption, HE does not. And, this is why He turns the situation around, until our PERSONAL difficulties make us yearn, once again, for NATIONAL redemption.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Shamrak Report: The Anti-Semitic Jew and more.....

by Reuven Efraim (a FaceBook post)
We are seeing, almost daily, a strange phenomena, these days, the appearance of people who make a point of being Jewish, who are making statements, taking positions on issues, and essentially getting publicity for themselves as what might be called anti-Semitic Jews.
Historically, we always saw some Jews who converted to Christianity or Islam who then turned against the Jewish people, whether out of their new beliefs or to prove to themselves what they did was right, some of them becoming more virulently anti-Jewish than the Gentiles around them.
And we always had those Jews who believed that the way to escape the possibility of persecution was to change themselves, discount their Judaism in their own lives, or hide their being Jewish, often adopting various political and social ideologies as their new “religion”, to be part of something that is not part of their Jewish origins.
But today, we have something relatively new, historically. Actually, two new things:
(1) Jews who have excluded most of Judaism from their lives, adopted various ideologies, but who claim to be Jewish still, though they ingratiate themselves (or thinking they do) to their Gentile associates by making a joke of anything that might be Jewish - using some Yiddish word, laughing about Matzo or Gefilte Fish on Passover, or like one US Senator, making a point of showing how he has shrugged over Jewishness by making his favourite meal - meatloaf that is 50% Pork.
(2) And then there is another type – they are either in a mixed marriage or the product of a mixed marriage, who claims some Jewish identity, but knows virtually nothing of Judaism, nor has any real interest in it. Virtually all the Jews who have adopted hostility toward Jewish concerns including Israel.
Look around for yourselves. Look at the so-called Jews in the “Jewish Voice for Peace”, or those who have allied themselves with various left-wing movements, or those who are busy excusing anti-Semitism in American or European politics. Look at their personal lives!
Those of us who care about being Jewish, those of us who are proud of being Jewish, those of us who are concerned about the Jewish future and the welfare of the State of Israel, should seriously consider a not so new idea - HEREM!. The process of choosing to exclude those who turn against us - from the Jewish Nation! Denying them the right to call themselves Jews!
Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak
If Christians suffered persecution in Roman empire, like Saint Valentine and others, and it is clear that Jesus was crucified by Romans, using their favourable method of punishment, why would the Church have been blaming Jews for ‘the blood of Christ’ for almost two millennia, if it is not for creating a scapegoat – Jews – and using anti-Semitism to detract people's attention from the Church’s and Christian rulers’ problems and cruelty? Recently, the Christian anti-Semitic elite, allowed Jihadist migration to Europe, and used them to reignite the anti-Semitic hatred, which is becoming the ugly norm in Europe again and spreading beyond its borders!
Please, read and send to your friends!
When Israeli jail is your best option: More than 15 Palestinians infiltrated into Israel from Gaza since the beginning of 2019, primarily in an effort to escape the grim living conditions in the Strip. Several of the detainees, most of whom are teens aged 14-17, were carrying knives and bolt cutters to ensure they end up in an Israeli prison and therefore remain in the country rather than to carry out a terror attack.
Israel has blocked the United Nations Security Council from sending a delegation to make an official visit to Ramallah. The PA tried to initiate the visit after Israel chose not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). (The presence of the anti-Semitic organization, the UN – ‘Ugly Nazi, must be removed from the Jewish land!)
The House of Representatives voted unanimously to condemn anti-Semitism as well as “all attempts to delegitimize and deny Israel’s right to exist.” Democrats embraced language used by the Republicans, who have been trying to blame them for the sins of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri indicated that his new government would allow terror group Hezbollah to keep its weapons, which it used in a major war against Israel in 2006 and have been frequently used since to threaten Israel.
Israeli airports fend off 3 million attempted cyber attacks a day. The Airports Authority set up a cyber security division four years ago.
Egypt pumps poison gas into terror tunnel from Gaza. The Egyptian army identified the opening of the tunnel on their side and pumped the shaft with poisonous gases. According to Arab reports, 9 Muslim terrorists are missing inside the tunnel after being gassed. Two rescue workers were killed as they searched for missing terrorists inside the terror tunnel.(No warning telephone calls or knocking on the roofs before hitting empty buildingsAnd there is no condemnation from the Jew-hating world!)
Five paintings attributed to Adolf Hitler failed to find buyers at an auction held a week ago amid anger at the sale of Nazi memorabilia. (They just love to hate!)
Quote of the Week:
"A ‘semantical’ issue that needs to be clarified is that there is NO such creature as "Judeo-Christian." Those who claim that there is because Christianity and Judaism share some values, might as well use the term "Christian-Islamic," since the prophet Muhammad who wrote the Koran later adopted some values from it. I wonder how many Christians are willing to adopt that idea." - Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks, FaceBook comment – One of the most important common features of Christianity and Islam is anti-Semitism! Therefore, they are ideologically and theologically much closer to each other than to Judaism.
by Efraim Karsh (July 2012, pp. 319)
The sustained anti-Israel de-legitimization campaign is a corollary of the millenarian obsession with the Jews in the Christian and the Muslim worlds. Since Israel is the world's only Jewish state, and since Zionism is the Jewish people's national liberation movement, anti-Zionism - as opposed to criticism of specific Israeli policies or actions - means denial of the Jewish right to national self-determination. Such a discriminatory denial of this basic right to only one nation (and one of the few that can trace their corporate identity and territorial attachment to antiquity) while allowing it to all other groups and communities, however new and tenuous their claim to nationhood, is pure and unadulterated anti-Jewish racism, or anti-Semitism as it is commonly known.
By any conceivable standard, Israel has been an extraordinary success story: national rebirth in the ancestral homeland after millennia of exile and dispersion; resuscitation of a dormant biblical language; the creation of a modern, highly educated, technologically advanced, and culturally and economically thriving society, as well as a vibrant liberal democracy in one of the world's least democratic areas. It is a world leader in agricultural, medical, military, and solar energy technologies, among others; a high-tech superpower attracting more venture capital investment per capita than the United States and Europe; home to one of the world's best health systems and philharmonic orchestras, as well as to ten Nobel Prize laureates. And so on and so forth.
Why then is Israel the only state in the world whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged while far less successful countries, including numerous "failed states," are considered legitimate and incontestable members of the international community? Because the pervasive prejudice against Israel, the only Jewish state to exist since biblical times, is a corollary of the millenarian (anti-Semitic) obsession with the Jews in the Christian and the Muslim worlds.

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Why the Otzma Party is a legitimate political voice

by Yishai Fleisher

Two-state solutionists plan to kick out Jews from their homes in favor of the newly minted Palestine, which sounds a lot like ethnic-cleansing. These very same people look down from their high horse of moral superiority at a right-wing party that calls to expel terrorists so that Jews can be safe from jihad in their ancestral heartland.

The inclusion of the Kahane-legacy Otzma Yehudit Party into a technical block of the Jewish Home and National Union, and the assistance with the merger by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has unleashed a furor. But while I may not be an Otzma voter, it’s not because I think they are illegitimate.

Like it or not, extreme right-wing and populist parties are a phenomenon in the world. Netherlands’ Party for Freedom to France’s National Rally, Hungary’s Jobbik and Austria’s Freedom Party all have seats at the parliamentary table, with various degrees of success. But none have been outlawed.

The European Populist and far-right parties were formed because a segment of society perceived Islamic migration and the erosion of national identity as an existential threat. Israel’s Otzma is no different, and given the prevalent jihadist mentality that surrounds (and permeates) the Jewish state, its emergence is even more understandable. Indeed, in the last elections, Otzma was only a few thousand votes short of passing the electoral threshold and entering the Knesset with four seats.

The Israeli left’s apoplectic reaction to the inclusion of Otzma into a technical block is mysterious. The left calls for a two-state solution through which Arabs living in the West Bank will be sealed behind a wall, never to be seen again in the Jewish state—an idea that sounds kind of racist. Moreover, two-state solutionists seek to kick out Jews from their homes as they have done before in favor of a newly minted Palestine—a concept that sounds a lot like ethnic-cleansing. Now, these very same proponents of removing Jews look down from their high horse of moral superiority at a right-wing party that calls to expel terrorists so that Jews can be safe from jihad in their ancestral heartland.

The Palestinian Authority often calls for a “Day of Rage” in response to events like Jewish visits on the Temple Mount. But the Jewish left thinks that there is no place for Jewish rage at all. When Kim Vinograd is tied up and shot in the head in the Barkan industrial zone by a Palestinian terrorist, there is no rage. When Ori Ansbacher is raped and murdered while meditating in a Jerusalem forest, there is no rage. When rabbis are butchered in a Har Nof synagogue, there is no rage. But when a small ultra-nationalist party wants to get democratically voted in, then suddenly those that feel politically threatened express their misplaced rage.

My own discomfort with Otzma comes from a very conscious decision I have made to distinguish between the Jihad and its various supporters and Arabs generally, many of which want none of it. While I’m a “settler,” I think that the right-wing has the key to Arab-Jewish reconciliation and harmony. Just this week, members of the Hebron Jewish Community took part in an amazing event called the Israeli-Palestinian Economic Forum run by the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The event was attended by Palestinian business leaders, Muslim religious clerics and settlers who all live together in the Israeli heartland. On hand were also innovators from around the world hoping the create joint projects in the fields of tourism, energy and production. U.S. Ambassador David Friedman was there, as well as Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). Not surprisingly, the two-state proponents including Peace Now and the Palestinian Authority were not in attendance.

But Otzma’s rhetoric in the past—and the rage they previously expressed—has not reflected a precise distinction between Jihadist Arab and tolerant Arab. And while I share Otzma’s strong feelings of Jewish defense, and am deeply committed to fighting land giveaway, I still see a future in which Arabs and Jewish communities can exist harmoniously. And I would like my political representation to reflect this. I am hopeful that Otzma will gain political experience and maturity and broadcast a more nuanced message.

However, even with some boorishness, Otzma, an ultra-nationalist Jewish party, certainly has the right to run for representation in the parliament of the Jewish state. Let the people decide who should sit in the Knesset. Moreover, it would be refreshing if the Jewish left would reveal as much rancor as they have shown this week for Otzma, for some members of Israeli Arab Knesset parties who in any other country would be tried for sedition. If Ahmad Tibi, the former assistant to the arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, has a right to be in the Israeli Knesset, then so does Otzma.

The Israeli parliament is all about debate in the great Jewish tradition. Even if you don’t like them, Otzma, like similar European ultra-national parties, represents a legitimate voice and has a right to a seat at the table. Maybe Israel would benefit from debating their ideology from the floor of the democratically elected Parliament.

Holy and Mundane

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

The ten curtains of the Mishkan were attached in a special manner. They did not sew the ten curtains into one large one, nor did they leave any two curtains separate, as it says (Shemot 36:10-13):

He attached five curtains to one another, and five curtains he attached to one another. He made loops of turquoise wool on the edge of a single curtain at the end of one set; so he did at the edge of the outermost curtain on the second set ... He made fifty clasps of gold and attached the curtains to one another with the clasps -- so the Mishkan became one.

The Sforno explains that when the curtains were spread out on the Mishkan, the place where the two sets of curtains were connected with the clasps was directly above the Parochet, which separated between the holy and holy-of-holies. This manner of attachment -- not through sewing, yet no two separate, but rather connection with clasps -- comes to teach that, on the one hand, the holy connects with the holy-of-holies -- "the Mishkan became one." Yet, on the other hand, they did not spread one curtain on the entire Mishkan, to indicate that the holy and holy-of-holies are not one level, but are distinct.

This idea has a deep meaning. There are those who focus on the spiritual realm alone, disregarding material needs. There are also those who submerse themselves in the pleasures of the physical world, and seek to negate spirituality, which, in their opinion, contradicts materialism. The truth is that G-d is one: "The Creator of all is He." So, too, Israel: "One nation in the land," and unity is the basis of its worldview. Israel knows that the mundane, holy, and holy-of-holies are, indeed, distinct in their levels, but they are not detached one from another. The soul is above the body, but connected to it, and needs it, just as every spiritual matter requires a material container.

It says in the Zohar that the Divine Presence does not dwell in a place that is lacking. Therefore, the Mishkan, the dwelling of the Divine Presence, has to unify all the separate elements. Thus, all the various level of holiness are united in it, yet, at the same time, the different levels are recognizable. "Differentiation is not separation," and the definition of the various levels does not necessarily lead to a separation between them.

The Kabbalists compare this relationship to that of the sanctity of Shabbat and Yom Kippur. Shabbat is more sacred than Yom Kippur, since one who desecrates Shabbat is sentenced with stoning, whereas one who desecrates Yom Kippur is punished with karet. Nonetheless, it is a mitzvah to enjoy the Shabbat with food and material things, and on Yom Kippur, whose sanctity is less, there is a mitzvah of affliction. This teaches that self-affliction is not the ideal, only once a year in order to atone for sins, but rather the primary mitzvah is to sanctify the physical life. Thus it says in Parshat Mishpatim, "You shall be holy people to Me." (Shemot 22:30) The Kotzker Rebbe comments that G-d does not lack angels and seraphim, but rather He wants that there be holy people, who live in a mundane world, but are holy.

Thus, G-d Himself commands, "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me -- so that I may dwell among them." (Shemot 25:8) G-d desired that He have a dwelling specifically in the material world.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Shabbat - Our Personal Visit of the Divine

by HaRav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Our parasha opens with Moshe telling Bnei Yisrael what Hashem had commanded in regard to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). However, first it reiterates the commandment to refrain from forbidden work on Shabbat. There was a similar linkage between the Mishkan and Shabbat in Parashat Ki Tisa, at the end of Hashem’s commandment to Moshe about the Mishkan (Shemot 31:13), but here Shabbat is mentioned before everything. 

Chazal (cited by Rashi, Shemot 35:2) learn from the linkage that despite the importance of the mitzva to erect the Mishkan, it did not justify desecrating Shabbat for that purpose. We can understand the philosophical significance of this halacha if we take into consideration the basic content of the mitzva of the Mishkan. According to several commentators, including Rashi, the mitzva originated only after the sin of the Golden Calf. The Seforno explains that originally Hashem just commanded, "An altar of earth erect for Me ... to every place that I shall mention My name, I will come to you and bless you" (Shemot 20:21); after the sin they would need kohanim to make the berachot.

Let us put this in broader perspective in the following way. There is a phenomenon of naming a specific place for service of Hashem and a specific tribe to be involved in it, but this was not what Hashem preferred. It would have been better with a simple altar, without gold and silver or special kohanim with their special clothes. Rather, every Jew would be a kohen, the whole Land would be a Mikdash, and Hashem’s blessing would come everywhere. After the sin, everything had to be more specifically chosen.

However, as much as the means through which one reached the goal changed, the goal itself did not, and that is: "and I [Hashem] will dwell in their [the people’s] midst" (Shemot 25:8). All the Mishkan did was to create a point around which they would focus, where they could act and learn how to incorporate Hashem into their lives. The public Mikdash is not to replace the private one. Heaven forbid, one should never think that what he does in the Mikdash protects him from a sinful life that he leads outside of it. That was a real danger that the prophets, including Yirmiyah (7:9-10), warned about.

For this reason, the Torah felt it necessary to stress with the building of the Mishkan the matter of keeping Shabbat. The people must know that Shabbat, the personal spiritual constant that applies to every Jew wherever he is, still fully applies. The building of the Mishkan will not change that. While it was enough for Hashem to mention Shabbat after the commandment of the Mishkan, Moshe was afraid that when telling Bnei Yisrael about the MIshkan, they might get so carried away by the excitement that they would forget what Hashem truly wanted. It is for this reason that the Torah started off with the warning to keep Shabbat.

Shabbat Observance: Public and Private

by Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

Rashi points out that the section of the parsha that deals with the observance and holiness of Shabbat was related to the Jewish people in a public manner with all of the people in attendance. Moshe gathered all of Israel to him to declare the concept of the sanctity of the Shabat. We are taught that almost all of the other precepts, values and commandments of the Torah were taught by Moshe firstly to a select group of his relatives and then to the elders of Israel and then finally they taught the general public the understanding of Torah and the workings of the Oral Law. Apparently this method was deemed insufficient when it came to the core principle of Judaism which Shabat represents. Shabbat needed a public forum and its importance needed to be emphasized in front of the entire gathering of Israel similar to the granting of the Torah itself at Sinai or the final covenant with Israel at the end of Moshe’s life as recorded for us in the book of Dvarim. In my opinion, the Torah alludes in this fashion to the fact that the survival of the Jewish people is dependent not only on the private observance of the Shabbat by every Jew but that Jewish society must recognize and incorporate within itself a public observance of Shabbat as well. It is not only the Jewish home that must be recognizable as being special and holy on Shabat but the Jewish street must also be so recognizable and special on Shabbat as well.

The private Shabbat observance has made positive strides over the past few decades. The public Shabbat however has regressed both in Israel and in the United States. The JCC centers in almost all major Jewish communities in the United States have abandoned the Shabbat. Many of them claim that it is because the majority of their clientele is no longer Jewish. The irony of this excuse is apparently lost on them. The reason that the Jews have abandoned JCC centers is because those Jews also previously abandoned the Shabat. Here in Israel the public Shabat many times is observed mainly in the breach of the existing Shabbat laws rather than in observance and conformity with them. Again, the irony of those who want Israel to be a Jewish state but are not at all supportive of a public Shabbat is exquisite. For it is the public Shabbat more than any other public sign of Jewishness - flag, language, culture, etc. - that defines Israel as being a Jewish state. And its continued erosion by greedy kibbutz shops, city malls, open businesses and nightclubs - by the way it appears that Friday night, leil Shabbat, is the most violent and crime ridden night of the week - have only made our country not only less Jewish but less safe, less civilized, more emotionally unsatisfactory and less secure. Most of the children here in Israel receive no education regarding Shabat, its history and importance in Jewish history and life. That is a sure fire recipe for diminishing our chances to have a Jewish state here in our holy land. The public Shabbat should be strengthened in all ways in order to guarantee a meaningful future for Jewish generations that are yet to come.

Sefer Shmot Draws to a Close

by HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Beit El

The Book of Bereisheet (Genesis) examines the creation of the world, in which the Holy One, Blessed-be-He reveals Himself as the Designer and Creator of this, the natural world. This is the story of the forefathers of our nation; their service of God came to them intuitively, prompting them to perform meticulously even rabbinically-ordained commandments. It was through their unique service of God that Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov served as vehicles for drawing God's presence into this world.

With the guidance and inspiration of the forefathers, the private family of Ya'akov became a nation. At the start of Sefer Shmot (Exodus), we read: "And these are the names of the Children of Israel..." The Book of Shmot, as its Hebrew name indicates, is a book that deals with names. A name reveals the inner essence of the bearer of the particular name. As Sefer Shmot opens, we are informed of the name of this nation-in-formation, "Bnei Yisrael" - the Children of Israel - and of the unique name of God: "El Shaddai" that guides them...

In the book of Bereisheet, God appears as the ultimate Director of the natural world. This role of God matches the "natural style" in which our forefathers served God. In the book of Shmot, however, God reveals himself to the nation as a whole. It is in this context that a clearer, more explicit type of revelation is needed - a supernatural, miraculous one. The supernatural guidance of the world, unique to the Book of Shmot, starts with the ten plagues meted out to the Egyptians and later intensifies with the splitting of the Red Sea. It is there that even a common maidservant experienced Hashem more clearly than the great prophet Yechezkel did not at the height of his vision of the Divine Chariot. The climax of this acceleration towards the supernatural is no doubt the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. This was an event, our sages teach, during which the People of Israel heard God's voice boom from north, south, east, west, up, down, to the point where they asked, "What is the source of this wisdom?" The Children of Israel, like any other human beings, had until that time only experienced limited, human voices. At the giving of the Torah, God's voice revealed itself as being unlimited by space, direction, even language.

The giving of the Torah had a major impact not only on Israel, but also on the other nations of the world. Our sages teach us that when the gentile peoples heard the voices, the thunder, and the shofar at the time of Matan Torah, they trembled; turning to the sorcerer Bil'am, they asked: "Has God decided to bring another flood?" Does God wish to destroy the world once more? To this, Bil'am replied: "God will give strength to His nation, God will bless his nation with Peace." The term "strength" in this verse connotes Torah. Our sages teach us that when the Megilah states that, after the defeat of Haman, the Jews experienced light and happiness and joy.." - this "light" was actually Torah. The Sfat Emet thus asks why the Megilah did not simply say that the Jews "experienced Torah." His answer: "to teach us that Torah is light." Along the same lines, the verse did not say, "God will give Torah to His people," in order to teach us that Torah is a source of strength for our nation. Torah study and mitzvah performance unite our people, they give us a common goal - the rectification of the world through adherence to the Divine Will. This unity is a source of strength to us, and is esssential to internal, domestic, peaceful relations between Jews.

At the opening of this week's Torah portion, Moshe gathers the nation and commands it regarding the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the observance of Shabbat.  From the juxtaposition of the passages, our sages learn that the 39 creative acts of labor required for the building of the Mishkan are the same ones that are forbidden on Shabbat. The work done during the period of the Mishkan's construction was no mere mundane labor. It was labor designated for a lofty purpose, the holy service of the Tabernacle. From these acts of labor, we derive the prohibition to perform "melachot" on Shabbat; the Sabbath is a Divinely-fashioned reality in which God bestows his beneficence on the world without our having to even lift a finger! Each week, we are bidden to refrain from work on the seventh day, in order to permit God to bestow His holy bounty upon us.

People are used to thinking that the six days of the week during which we work is our "natural state," and that on Shabbat, God prevents us from working. This perspective places the six weekdays as central, and Shabbat as peripheral, as a day in which man leaves his natural state as a worker and "tiller of the soil." This philosophy, however, is not a Torah perspective. In the eyes of the Torah, Shabbat is the culmination and pinnacle of the week, with the other days drawing their strength from it. In several places in the Torah we learn that, for six days of the week, "melacha may be done." In other words, Hashem gives us special permission to work during the week. On Shabbat, melacha is not prohibited to us, but rather the permission granted to engage in creative labors that applies during the week is not renewed for a 24-hour period . Shabbat provides man with an opportunity to just sit back and appreciate that "The Earth and everything in it is the Lord's.

US peace initiative – a reality test

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
A successful pursuit of peace is preconditioned upon the predominance of reality over well-intentioned eagerness to produce peace. The latter is frequently tainted by oversimplification, short-term considerations and wishful-thinking.

The enhancement of US national security interests behooves the architects of US peace initiatives to recognize the inherent constraints set by the 14 century old Middle East reality since the 7th century emergence of Islam. Middle East reality has been shaped by systematic inter-Muslim and inter-Arab relations, conflicts, back-stabbing, subversion, terrorism and wars. These endemic features have been totally unrelated to the Arab-Israel and the Palestinian-Israel conflicts.

Architects of peace initiatives should be cognizant of the predominance of inter-Arab and inter-Muslim threats and challenges, which have superseded the Palestinian issue. The latter has been showered with much Arab talk, but hardly any Arab walk, militarily and economically. For example, on January 30-31, 2019, the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain convened in Jordan, in order to discuss the clear and present dangers of Iran's Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and additional top Middle East priorities. The absence of a Palestinian representative and the lack of any discussion of the Palestinian issue – while counter terrorism and intelligence cooperation between these six Arab countries and Israel is surging - underlined the fact that the Palestinian issue has never been a top regional priority, nor the crown-jewel of Arab policy makers, nor the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The architects of peace initiatives should pay attention to a Texas colloquialism: "When smothered by sandstorms, while driving in West Texas, don't get preoccupied with the tumbleweeds on the road."

As demonstrated by the Arab Tsunami, which has engulfed the Middle East since 2010, and contrary to conventional Western "wisdom," the Arab-Israel conflict has never been "the Middle East conflict." It has been substantially superseded by inter-Arab and inter-Muslim conflicts.

Peace initiatives must be aware of the supremacy of the following 14 century old fundamentals of inter-Arab, inter-Muslim relations in shaping the Middle East arena, including peace accords: volatility, unpredictability, violence, intolerance (religiously, ethnically, socially and ideologically), absence of peaceful coexistence (locally, nationally and regionally), minority rogue regimes, abuse of civil rights, domestic and regional fragmentation and the tenuous and provisional nature of regimes-policies-agreements. Most importantly for Muslims has been the expected dominance of the abode of the "believers" (Islam) over the "infidel," while allowing for temporary accords (Taqiyya) with the "infidel."

A cardinal rule of Middle East politics stipulates that Middle Eastern leopards don't change their spots, only their tactics.

The well-intentioned pursuit of Israel-Arab and Israel-Palestinian peace must not sacrifice the highly complex, perplexing and explosive Middle East reality on the altar of oversimplification and wishful-thinking.

Peace initiatives must be based on the worst-case-scenario, which is usually consistent with Middle East reality. For instance, a potential toppling of Jordan's Hashemite regime – which should be averted by immense US and Israeli efforts - would transform Jordan into an Iraq, Syria and Libya-like platform of Islamic terrorism, which would threaten the survival of the pro-US regimes in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, transforming the longest, most critical and most peaceful border of Israel into a lethal nightmare, potentially extending the Ayatollahs' posture to the Jordan Valley and beyond.

US peace initiatives should be driven by US national security interests, which would be severely undermined by a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. A Palestinian state would doom the Hashemite regime east of the Jordan River (with its Palestinian majority, entrenched Muslim Brotherhood presence, intra-Bedouin fragmentation, neighboring Iraq, etc.), triggering a domino scenario, which would haunt all pro-US Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf area, according Iran, Russia and China a geo-strategic bonanza, including a land, air and/or sea presence in the newly-established Palestinian state. The nature of the proposed Palestinian state may be realistically assessed based on the track record of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership from their collaboration with Nazi Germany, through their embrace of the Soviet Bloc, Ayatollah Khomeini, international terrorism, Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China and North Korea.

The attempt to minimize Middle East instability and advance the US interest, on the one hand, and establishing a Palestinian state, on the other hand, constitutes a classic oxymoron, adding fuel – not water – to the Middle East fire.

The well-intentioned architects of peace should be aware that all prior US peace initiatives failed to advance the cause of peace and to enhance the US strategic stature, due to the impossibility of subordinating the complex, uncontrollable, tectonic and violent Middle East reality to peaceful intentions, which wish to bypass that reality.

The eagerness to advance the cause of peace must not produce an immoral "moral equivalence" between the intended victim (Israel) and the 100 year old Arab aggression against the existence (not the size) of a Jewish State in "the abode of Islam," nor between an unconditional ally of the US (Israel) and a close ally of enemies and rivals of the US (the Palestinian leadership).

Peace initiatives should not ignore Middle East reality where the submission of a US initiative forces Arabs to outflank it from the maximalist side, and where concessions to rogue and terrorist elements whet their appetite and intensify violence.

US peace initiatives which downplay Middle East reality are doomed to be dashed against the rocks of reality, severely undermining the national and homeland security of the USA.

Does Prayer Need A Change?

by HaRav Eliezer Melamed
Rosh HaYeshiva, Har Bracha

Question Regarding Prayer

I received a question that seems characteristic of the feelings of many religiously observant people, and due to its importance I will quote it in full:

“Rabbi, I try to get up every morning and direct my actions towards ‘tikkun olam’ (making the world better), and feel that my work in the army is very important for the security of Israel; nevertheless, for years I have felt that prayer services are a disturbing factor in my ‘tikkun olam’… instead of rising in the morning and setting out to do important things, I’m forced to ‘waste’ an hour, at the very least, on prayer (including getting ready, etc.). It seems that Rabbi Ilai Ofran was able to express my feelings in words, and I am attaching what he wrote:

‘I am one of those people who tend to think most of the problems we face today are remarkably similar to those of previous generations, and I hold dear the advice of the wisest of men, not to say ‘why were the old days better than these’. Nevertheless, it seems to me that our situation has never been so difficult – prayer, the regular and daily one, the one that halakha demands we pray in public three times a day, is simply dying. This is attested to by the many synagogues that operate only on Shabbat, and the numerous synagogues that on weekdays can barely scratch-up a minyan of kaddish-sayers and pensioners. This is evidenced by the thousands of Shabbat leaflets flooding us, some of them third-rate newspapers, poor in Torah and rich in gossip and advertisements – all tolerable, to relieve the boredom of two hours of prayer. Two hours for which most of the synagogue’s visitors are the only time of the week they come to shul. The tiny babies brought to shul on Shabbat morning with the declared intention of “letting mom sleep” attest to this, out of honest consideration that between the two possible disturbances, the disruption of prayer is the least severe.

If an outsider, an alien or a tourist, had landed in our synagogues at any given time of the year, except Yom Kippur or Independence Day (the only two days that are still really “holy” to us), we would not be able to convince him that what he saw before him is considered prayer. The noise of talk, the piles of newspapers, and the cries of children would make him think they were fooling him.

Most of the teachers, rabbis, and principals I have met (including myself) are perplexed by this issue. It is clear to everyone that it is impossible to stop speaking about and enforcing the subject of prayer, but it is also clear to everyone that it is impossible to continue down this path.

Once, a generation or two ago, or even three, obedience, loyalty, and commitment to something which one did not connect to were the cultural language, not only of prayer and of the religious world but of all spheres of life. People married a partner chosen by a matchmaker and not necessarily the one they loved, they worked in family businesses and not necessarily in the profession they dreamed of, and enlisted in the unit to which they were sent by the screening officer at the induction center and not the one they wanted to serve in.

We, unlike previous generations, seek a connection. The profession that passed through the family from one generation to the next has given way to what interests a person and leads to his self-realization. Even in the army, a preference questionnaire already exists, a trial period, and the question “in what division would you like to serve?” A person who grew up in a world where one is encouraged to seek out connection and affinity, attraction and realization in every field, is likely to seek it in the religious sphere as well. He was never accustomed, in any domain of his life, to absolute obedience – “Do it because I told you, and that’s it!”

The difficulty of feeling connected in daily prayer, as well, is not a new phenomenon. Rabbi Eliezer already said that “He who makes his prayer a fixed task, is not genuine supplication,” all the same, our Sages tried to deal with the frustration of the daily murmur of a text that does not necessarily speak to me: they added songs to the prayer – Pesukei D’Zimra and Shirat Hayam, Birkat HaShir, and Shir Shel Yom – all these are not part of the prayer itself, rather an attempt to add to it a dimension of connection and experience through song and melodies. Our Sages solved the lack of supplication described by Rabbi Eliezer by setting Tachanun at the end of the prayer and tried to flavor the unique atmosphere of Shabbat through the hymns and liturgical poems of Kabbalat Shabbat.

But what have we done to all these? We turned them into an ambiguous murmur. “Lechu neranena” (‘come let us sing’) has become “Lechu nemalela” (come let us mutter), Shirat Hayam has long not been a song of praise, rather a murmur, difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea. In saying the long Tachanun on Mondays and Thursdays, there is not much of a plea to God, except for the pleas that this long section will end already. Additions intended to safeguard prayer from its shortcomings has become the greatest challenges it faces. Even the mitzvah of reading the ‘Shema’ has turned from a loud open call to just another reading from the prayer book.

I often pray in educational institutions – mechinot (army preparatory schools), yeshivot and schools, youth congregations, and youth movements, and every time it’s very upsetting. The situation is regretful and worrisome, and I fear we are approaching an unsettling dilemma beyond compare – if there is a significant change in the nusach (style), or in the minhagim (customs) of our prayers, we may, God forbid, harm, or even lose an important and ancient Jewish tradition. Paradoxically, if such a change does not occur without delay, we may, God forbid, harm and lose that important and ancient Jewish tradition.”

Preface to the Answer

Engaging in the issue of prayer is important and challenging, and the penetrating words of Rabbi Ilai, Rabbi of Kvutzat Yavneh, provoke discussion. Admittedly, the discussion is not an open one – in the end, we cannot decide to fundamentally change the order of prayer.

Critics of this kind of discussion call it apologetics, that is, reasoned arguments in justification of the masoret (tradition), which does not attempt to clarify the objective truth, but rather, assumes that it is correct. Indeed, we believe that the masoret is just and beneficial to those who guard it, and that we are required to delve into the takanot (major legislative enactments within halakha) of tefillah and its minhagim (customs), and reveal the many meanings hidden in it, which are brought to light from one generation to the next, according to the special character of each generation. In light of this, sometimes according to the rules of halakha, emphasis change, and usually minhagei reshut (optional customs) have become chova (obligatory), but sometimes minhagei chova have become reshut, or were canceled altogether. For indeed, tefillah is made up of obligatory d’oraita (from the Torah) foundations, encircled by takanot Chachamim (rabbinic enactments), and then enclosed by minhagim accepted by all of Israel or in certain ethnic communities; the halakhic weight of each and every part is different, and when necessary, each part can be judged according to its importance.

Topics for Discussion Concerning Prayer

First, we must diagnose the situation: 1) has the status of prayer in our times weakened compared to the distant past in the days of our Sages? 2) What percentage of communities fit Rabbi Ilai’s painful description? 3) What is the process taking place in our generation in relation to prayers – apparently, some people are getting stronger, while others are weakening. What characterizes both of these groups?

From there I will proceed to deeper questions: 4) Is compulsory prayer in a minyan too long for today’s observant Jew, and comes at the expense of other important values such as Torah study, a worthy job, and quality time with the family? Or, in other words, according to the situation today, is our Sages concern and warning against “tircha d’tzibbur” (wasting people’s time) being violated? 5) For people today, many of whom are learned, is it difficult to have kavana (intention) while reading quickly all parts of the prayer? 6) Do young people, whose brains have become accustomed to the flow of visual information at a fast pace due to heightened use of electronic means, find it harder to concentrate on prayer, and what is the correct solution? 7) If necessary, what prayers can be shortened? 8) Do people today find it particularly difficult to pray in a minyan, and for those who do, how should they act according to halakha? 9) Is it preferable for prayer to be held in educational institutions, or should children pray under the guidance of their parents?

The State of Prayer and Minyan in the Days of our Sages
I will begin with the first section. Apparently, throughout the generations, the issue of prayer was challenging, as our Sages said, “These are the things of supreme importance which nevertheless people neglect” (Berachot 6b). Rashi explains: “Such as prayer that ascends to Heaven.” This also emerges from the words of our Sages, who enacted to read on Monday’s and Thursday’s the beginning of the week’s Torah portion, in order to prepare the public for the parsha, but since there were many Jews who did not pray in the minyan all week long, and were called “yoshvei kranot” (literally translated as people who hang out on street corners and are ignorant of the law), our Sages also enacted that the following week’s Torah portion be read in the Mincha prayer on Shabbat (Baba Kama 82a, according to Rashi and Rosh).

We have also learned (Megillah 2a) that many of the inhabitants of villages did not come to the synagogue even on Purim, and so that they could fulfill the mitzvah of reading the megillah, our Sages enacted that it be read to them on the Monday or Thursday close to Purim, days on which, in any case, they would come to sell their wares. We also learned (Megillah 21b) that there were Jews who were so late for Shabbat morning prayers that they never heard the beginning of the Torah reading and the blessing, and therefore our Sages had to enact that every person called-up to the Torah would recite a blessing beforehand, so that everyone knew a blessing is recited before reading the Torah. And then there were Jews who, every Shabbat, weren’t able to stay until the end of the prayer, and left before the end of the Torah reading, and so they would know that a blessing is recited after reading the Torah, our Sages enacted that every one of the seven called-up to the Torah would recite a blessing at the end of his portion of the Torah reading.

The Situation in the Last Generation

Regarding questions 2 and 3, I must note that according to my personal experience, the state of prayer is reasonable. In the places where I lived – in Jerusalem, Beit El, and Har Bracha, many attend synagogues all week long (Har Bracha has six morning minyan’s on weekdays). Still, some of the regular worshipers complain about the length of prayers, and the difficulty in having kavana. Likewise, there are synagogues where people are in the habit of chatting during Shabbat services.

Apparently, there are different communities, and it is important to examine the processes taking place in various synagogues in recent decades. The examination should be done in neighborhoods where the religious community has resided for some time, so that the synagogue emptied or filled, not because of shifts in population, but rather, due to internal processes occurring within the hearts of the congregants. I would be grateful to anyone who could send me information about the situation in his synagogue.

Next week, God-willing, I will address the fundamental question.