Friday, October 29, 2021

Rav Kook's Igrot Hare’aya: Improper Criticism of a Rabbi


Date and Place: 26 Shevat 5767 (1907), Yafo

Recipient: Rabbi Yisrael Dov Frumkin, editor of “Chavatzelet” (a Hebrew-language periodical serving the Old Yishuv, especially the Chassidic community).

Body: I would request of you to publish the words of this letter in their exact form in your distinguished newspaper:

Chazal were stringent regarding the punishment for those who hear the disgrace of a rabbi and are silent, as we know from the story of Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon (Bava Metzia 84b). Therefore, I am hereby protesting publicly before the whole nation of Hashem, and especially our brethren who live in the Holy Land and our brethren of the Ashkenazic community of Cairo, Egypt. This is regarding the horrible disgrace that the directors of the Ashkenazic community had the gall to speak about their rabbi, the gaon, Rav Aharon Mendel Hakohen [Baharan], who has been in his position for several years. [He was raised in Teveria and was recruited by the fledgling community. He went on to serve 30 years (most of them, after this incident) so whatever the criticism was, it “blew over,” as he was a very respected rabbi and author.]

I saw all the complaints of those who are struggling against him, which were published in Chavatzelet. Even if they were all true as they are written, it would still only require that some of the elder rabbis and the giants of the generation should discreetly urge him to improve his behavior in the future, so that people should not have grounds for casting aspersions. Heaven forbid, there are no grounds for “spilling his blood” (i.e., ruining his reputation and thereby causing immense embarrassment) or for depriving him of his livelihood, which is an act of cruelty that is not fitting for the Jewish people, who are merciful people, the sons of merciful people. Matters are all the clearer because there is almost no doubt that there is at least some exaggeration in what is being reported. It is enough for there to be slight exaggeration to turn a light mistake, which even a great and upstanding person could have made, into a horrible sin and a blood liable. How our nation is experienced in the matter of false claims against us!

Therefore, I will state openly – it is a great and holy obligation upon the leaders of that community to return their rabbi, the gaon, Rabbi Aharon Mendel, may his light shine, to his honor and appease him appropriately publicly if they desire to fulfill their moral obligation. They should know that Hashem stands up for the honor of Torah scholars. I hope they will accept my recommendation for their own good, for “payment is not pushed off” in matters of desecrating Hashem’s Name.I am certain about the level of goodness and patience of his honor, the great Rav Aharon Mendel Hakohen, the rabbi of the Ashkenazic community of Cairo, that he will forgive he who sinned against him, when he will see their regret on the matter. After all, this is the way of Torah scholars who love peace and increase peace in the world. “When Hashem approves of the ways of a man, even his enemies will make peace with him.” He should stand on his pedestal with the honor due him, as he had until this point, before the storm of this dispute arose. Hashem should spread His canopy of peace over His nation, and “those who are lost in the Land of Ashur and the dispersed in the Land of Egypt shall come to bow down to Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (Yeshayahu 27:13), quickly in our days, Amen. This shall bring peace over Israel and over the Rabbis and those who are involved in communal affairs for the sake of Heaven.

Rabbi Ari Kahn on Parashat Chayai Sarah: A Snapshot of Avraham

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Significance of Sorah's Burial

by Rav Binny Freedman

Of all the experiences I have ever had on Yom Kippur, none have made as indelible an impression on me as the ones I spent in Yeshivat Har Etzion as a young student in Israel.

Har Etzion is a very special type of yeshiva (institute for advanced Jewish studies), known as a Hesder yeshiva, where students choose not only to spend years studying Torah, but serve in the Israeli army as well. Literally with a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other, balancing the desire to grow spiritually with the need to contribute to the community and the country, these young men, veterans of some of Israel’s darkest hours were the role models that ended up shaping my life.

And particularly on Yom Kippur, when alumni come from all over the country to pray and study with each other and with their revered teachers, the experience was very powerful; no words could do justice to the feeling one gets in a hall of over a thousand students whose voices, lifted as one form a roar that echoes through the valleys of the Gush Etzion bloc….

I remember the year my wife Doreet was pregnant with our second child and decided to stay home in our small student apartment rather than risk having to break her fast. She was a little sad that she would be missing the special prayers of Yom Kippur in the Synagogue but ended up following the entire service as the roar of the boys singing from the study hall across the way carried through and could be heard quite clearly in our living room!

All of which is why it was only natural, on that dark Yom Kippur day in 1973, that one of the first places the Israeli army went to gather up troops desperately needed for the reserves, was the Har Etzion yeshiva. After all, if there is ever a day when the entire Yeshiva is present it is Yom Kippur, and in one swoop an entire battalion of soldiers could be recalled to their units….

Sitting late one Yom Kippur night as a second year, nineteen-year-old student, one of the older boys told me the story of that fateful day.

By early afternoon, even though no one in yeshiva was listening to the news on Yom Kippur, everyone knew something was up; the unmistakable sounds of Israeli Air Force jets flying north could be heard every few minutes or so, and the equally unmistakable background noise of semi-trailers carrying tanks on the main highway could be discerned as well.

At about 4 pm, two trucks pulled up in the yeshiva parking lot, and Israeli officer jumped out and ran into the study hall and up to Rav Yehuda Amital, zt”l, one of the two heads of the yeshiva, to tell him that all the battle worthy boys had to grab their gear and jump in the trucks. Rav Amital,zt”l, a legend in his own right who survived the Holocaust and fought in the war of 1948, immediately banged on the lectern, stopping the prayers in mid-sentence and ordered all the boys back to their rooms to grab their gear and go.

It is difficult to describe what that moment must have been like; to interrupt the Yom Kippur prayers was unthinkable, but for the Rosh (head of) yeshiva to order the students to be getting onto trucks on Yom Kippur? That was simply unimaginable.

Of all the details of the story of that day, the one that stands out the most for me was what happened next. Rav Aaron Lichtenstein, zt”l, our other Rosh yeshiva, who until this point had remained absorbed in his prayers, seemingly oblivious to the events around him, or perhaps simply trying to focus his prayers on the boys obviously fighting and dying at that very moment on Israel’s borders, suddenly stood straight, turned, and ran from the room grabbing a few of the remaining boys with him as he ran.

His first stop was the kitchen, where he loaded canned food and can openers, loaves of bread and drinks onto a cart and then wheeled it out to the waiting trucks and began loading them with supplies. He then proceeded to explain to the boys who were now running up to the trucks and climbing aboard with their gear, that even though it was Yom Kippur the most solemn fast day of the year, they were all obligated to eat and drink, as they would soon be defending the country and needed their strength.

I imagine that if anyone else had told them all to eat, they would probably have waited the couple of hours remaining to the fast, perhaps arriving at the front lines with that much less strength, but this was their Rosh Yeshiva….

The last image these young fighters had of their Rosh Yeshiva as their trucks began to roll was of him running back from the Kitchen with two large packages of toilet paper which he threw on the trucks; who else would have thought how much these boys would need toilet paper on Yom Kippur?

Understand, this was and is no ordinary rabbi; son-in- law of Rav J.B. Soleveitchick,zt”l, Rav Lichtenstein, zt”l, is the closest approximation to a living Torah scroll you would have ever met, and his students are absolutely in awe of him. He is the teacher (Rav) of my teachers, and his ability to master the entirety of the Jewish Oral tradition (Talmud, Midrashim, and prophets, never mind the Torah itself) is legendary.

Most Rabbis in such a situation, on such a day, would have wrapped themselves in their Tallit (prayer-shawl) and become completely absorbed in prayer, or they might have given an awe-inspiring sermon or lesson. But how humble must a person be to be in such an illustrious position and think about where to go and get the toilet paper…?

How does a person come by such humility, and indeed, what is the nature and even the value of being that humble?

This week’s portion, Chayei Sarah, contains a rather startling story, a piece of which may allow us a valuable insight into this question.

The beginning of Chayei Sarah is perhaps one of Avraham’s most painful moments: the death of his beloved wife and life’s partner, Sarah. Avraham’s reaction to this difficult event is somewhat surprising in that it has never happened before, or at least this is the first recorded instance of such an experience: Avraham decides to bury Sarah… in the ground.

While this may seem quite natural to us, given that this has been our tradition since that moment, it is certainly worth considering the meaning of this rather strange custom.

Why do we bury our loved ones in the ground? Is this how we show respect to the people whom we held so dear in life? We cover them up with dirt? Dirt?! Wouldn’t it have been nicer to bury them up high, say, in a tree, or on top of a mountain, demonstrating how highly we held them in esteem?

What is the significance of this burial?

Equally interesting is the manner in which Avraham acquires the piece of land in which he will bury Sarah, approaching Efron of the Hittite nation and buying the property. Despite Efron’s initial (sincere?) willingness to sell what seems to be a worthless cave, Avraham will ultimately pay an exorbitant amount of money, four hundred silver pieces, valued today at approximately a quarter of a million dollars, for what amounts to a cave out in a field! And most fascinating of all, is Avraham’s willingness to prostate himself before these Hittites, in the hopes that they will deign to grant his request to pay a fortune for a worthless piece of property.

Remember that this is the same Avraham who had only recently achieved fame as a mighty warrior by defeating in one night, what amounted to the mighty empire of the day. (See Bereisheet (Genesis) chapter 14: the five kings led by K’darlaomer, who had defeated the Amalekites, the Emorites, and S’dom and Amorah….)

He was obviously well-known as is made obvious by the Hittites initial obsequious behavior towards him and their referral to him as a” master and Prince of G- d” (23:6).

So why do we read that Avraham prostrates himself before them?

“Va’yishtachu’ Avraham lifnei am ha’aretz.”
“And Avraham bowed down (to the ground) before the people of the land.” (23:12).

Why must Avraham grovel in the dirt? After all, G-d had promised to Avraham at the beginning of his journey that “his name would be great” (Bereishit 12: 2). Why the need for Avraham to be so humbled? What did the act of Avraham bowing down to the earth represent, and why specifically in the midst of his attempt to bury his wife Sarah in the ground?

Indeed, Avraham’s relationship with the earth runs much deeper. In the midst of his dialogue (nee’ struggle) with G-d over the destruction of S’dom, perhaps in recognition of the audacity of actually arguing with G-d and attempting to influence G-d’s decisions, Avraham says:

“Ve’anochi afar va’efer.” “And I am but dirt (dust) and ash.” (18:27)

Why does Avraham describe himself as being dirt? Isn’t there a point beyond which self-effacement becomes self-denigration and is unhealthy if not dangerous? Granted, Avraham may wish to demonstrate that his decision to argue with G-d is not coming from a place of arrogance, presuming to know more than G-d, but rather from a more humble perspective, and yet, if one of our children, in the midst of a discussion described himself as being ‘dirt’, we would understandably become alarmed, to say the least.

And most interesting of all, is where Avraham gets this idea from: no less than G-d himself!

“Ve’samti et zaracha’ ka’afar ha’aretz…”
“And I will make your descendants like the dust (dirt) of the earth…!” (13:16)

Why does G-d tell us we will be like the dirt?! Who wants to be dirt? And of course, all of this must somehow relate to the birth of humanity, when we are created as

“…Afar min ha’adamah”
“ … dirt (dust) from the ground.” (Bereisheet 2:7)

And when man is expelled from the Garden of Eden he is told:

“ Ki’ afar atah ve’el afar tashuv.”
“For you are dirt (dust) and to the dirt (dust) you will return.” (3:19).

Why all the dirt? And what are we to learn from the fact that Avraham’s decision to bury Sarah in the dirt is a fulfillment of G-d’s promise (command? prediction?) to Adam two thousand years earlier?

Recently, while studying the book of Yehoshua (Joshua), a piece of the story of Joshua provided an unexpected clue regarding this entire question.

Yehoshua has successfully transitioned from being the ever-present servant/student of Moshe to becoming the leader of the Jewish people and amidst the miraculous stopping of the Jordan River, brings them into the land of Israel.

After receiving the blessing at Mount Grizim as promised by G-d (and Moshe) and miraculously conquering the fortified city of Jericho and literally ‘bringing down the walls’ in only seven days, Yehoshua’s name has spread throughout the land (Joshua 6:27), and the Canaanites tremble before the inevitable onslaught of the Jewish people to conquer the land as promised by G-d. Everything seems to be going according to plan, and Yehoshua (Joshua) makes ready for his next mission: the conquest of the town of Ai.

After the splitting of the Jordan River, and the miracles of Jericho, victory seems assured to such an extent that after spying out the city and assessing its strengths and weaknesses it is felt there is no need for the entire 600,000-man army and instead only 3,000 fighters are sent to battle against the much smaller town.

Only this time something goes terribly wrong. Unbeknownst to Yehoshua, one Jew (Achan son of Carmi) has violated the Divine command to take no benefit from the spoils of Jericho, stealing some of the lot instead of destroying it as mandated. So, G-d is not with them on that day, and for the first time in Jewish history, the Israeli army loses a battle, fleeing before the men of Ai, with thirty six men killed.

Yehoshua’s reaction is apparently one of shock and despair (indeed, to this very day, the word one utters in Hebrew when experiencing sudden pain and despair, “ai!”)

“Va’yikra Yehoshua simlo’tav, va’yipol al panav artzah’ lifnei’ Aron Hashem ad ha’arev, hu’ ve’ziknei Yisrael, va’ya’alu’ afar al rosham.” (Joshua 7:6)

“And Yehoshua rent his garments and fell on his face to the ground, before the Ark of G-d until evening; he, and the elders of Israel, and they threw up dirt (dust) on their heads…”

Why are they putting dirt on their heads? Is this the responsible reaction of the legendary military commander who bested the mighty army of Amalek in the desert, with a rag-tag army of former Jewish slaves? Where is the military briefing? Why not immediately gather the commanders and renew the attack with a much larger force?

Why is Yehoshua’s response to put dirt on his head?

It is important to note that at this point, Yehoshua does not know the true reason for their defeat, knowing only that something is wrong and G-d does not seem to be with them. And yet, before he beseeches G-d to help him understand why this is happening (see 7:7: “ …Oh G-d… why have you brought us across the Jordan River just to see us destroyed here by the Emorites (of Ai)…? ”) his first reaction is to fall on the ground and put earth on his head. What must Yehoshua have been thinking in the midst of his despair? What explanation might be the one that immediately makes sense to Yehoshua?

What if Yehoshua’s real fear was not their failure, but their success? Maybe, after such an impressive string of miracles, blessings and victories, Yehoshua suddenly realizes: success has gotten to their heads?

One of the most challenging aspects of commanding men on the battlefield is that no matter who else is at fault, in the end, you are responsible. There are few ventures as empirically measurable as the battlefield: you either succeed, or you don’t, you rarely get second chances, and the parents of the boy who dies under your command will never hear your excuses. It is the ultimate measure of ‘the buck stops here’. At the end of the day, even if the mission fails because one of your men deserted the field of battle, that just means you failed as a commander to sufficiently inspire your men….

So, imagine how Yehoshua must feel; imagine how the weight of visiting thirty six families (at least in the literal understanding of the text) to explain to them how their sons died must feel? And all this happens only a few verses after we hear how Yehoshua’s name has spread throughout the land (Joshua 6:27). Maybe Yehoshua is wondering now the natural thoughts of the Monday morning quarterback: why did I send only three thousand men? After all, we have a standing army of six hundred thousand!!

And maybe his natural assumption is that he (and thus the Jewish people) has let success get to their heads. Perhaps they were so confident in G-d’s protection, so assured of victory that they figured sending the men to battle was only a formality. Had they become, perhaps, too cocky? Was there a trace of arrogance in their actions? Indeed, maybe this is why the Torah takes the time to tell us of the sending of three thousand men. After all, after the miraculous story of Jericho, why even mention the army?

(And indeed, there was a certain arrogance of spirit hidden in the assumption that no-one could have dared take from the spoils when forbidden to do so. And when the Torah tells us that Achan stole from the spoils, it describes it as the entire Jewish people stealing, even though it was only one individual, because if there is one person doing something wrong, then we are all, on a certain level, responsible.)

Which is why Yehoshua puts dirt on his head and throws himself to the ground: if the problem is that maybe you have gotten a little too big for your boots and are a little too intoxicated with your success, then the fact that in the end we are all created from dirt, and will one day lie six feet under the dirt, reminds us that we shouldn’t spend too much time thinking how great we are, because it’s not really about us anyway.

And that is why Avraham, when arguing with G-d, ever-conscious of the dangers of such an exalted position, reminds himself that in the end, he is a speck of dirt standing next to G-d.

And yet, there is something very powerful about the dirt. First, in Jewish law, the ultimate form of protection for an object is to bury it in the ground, because earth cannot be destroyed by fire nor the sword, and lies hidden from evil.

But even more, dirt is the vehicle by which life blossoms; nothing can grow in the field without the right soil, and dirt becomes the most important ingredient on the farm or vineyard.

You see, dirt alone is nothing, it’s just dirt with no form. But when I plant, dirt is everything. And so, dirt represents the fact that our value on this earth is completely dependent on whether and how we become good soil for the right things to blossom.

Dirt bespeaks purpose, and the belief that there are things worth planting for the future. And it is precisely when I take the time to bury something in the ground that I make a statement that it has true value.

It is no accident that two thousand years after the fall of Masada, we discovered the ancient scrolls of our people hidden in the ground. Believing that one day there would still be Jews wanting to partake of that same Torah, long after the Roman Empire had become dust; dirt also represents faith.

Lastly, what is the nature of the humility sought by Avraham and Yehoshua and mastered most of all by Moshe?

To be humble does not mean to think you are nothing; that is not humility; If G-d created me, how could I be nothing? I must really be something!

Rather, humility is about recognizing that however great I am, it’s not really me, it’s all a gift from Hashem (G-d); all of it. And whereas arrogance is focusing on what my gifts and skills, my position and wealth can do for me, humility is the true understanding that all these gifts are only given to me as an opportunity to see how I can utilize them for everyone else.

Avraham understands that his exalted position before G-d is merely a tool he needs to utilize to help build a better world, based on ethics, and the same is true for Yehoshua who understands that conquering the land of Israel will only be valuable if it is a vehicle for creating an ethical society to make a better world….

Maybe a person becomes a Rav Lichtenstein by being ever aware that we are here to make a difference, in whatever way we can, and that it’s never about what we have achieved but why Hashem has allowed us to achieve and what we are going to do with it.

Maybe we can all use a little more dirt under our fingernails these days; we certainly have a lot of planting to do…

Shabbat Shalom.

Israel and the Democrats

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

By now, it should have occurred to many American and Israeli Jews that the animosity of the last decade between Democrats and Israel has less to do with the personalities of Obama, Trump and Netanyahu and much more to do with the policy positions of the Democrats and Israel, even consensus positions within Israel. Since the media obsessively and simplistically focuses on elections, horse races and gossip, it was simple to conclude that the problem of the Democrats with Israel was that Netanyahu got along poorly with Obama, publicly opposed him during the negotiations of the disastrous Iran deal, and famously supported (and all but endorsed) Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. That is true but facile and misleading.

The simple truth is that the policies of the Democratic Party towards the State of Israel have tended to be hostile – although not relentlessly or unequivocally so – for more than a decade. Gone are the days of Scoop Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The traditional supporters of Israel in the Democrat leadership – people such as Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer – are anachronisms. They are both octogenarians whose influence rests in their official titles but are increasingly powerless in the face of the young, new Democrat radicals on whom the media fawns. This despite the fact, or perhaps because of it, that some of them dabble quite openly in Jew hatred and Israel bashing.

There are exceptions – New York’s Ritchie Torres is one, the widespread support for Israel’s Iron Dome defense is another – and AIPAC labors mightily to sustain the myth that Israel has bipartisan support in Congress. The myth has some value, as it does remind people of what once was, but it also discourages people from exploring why it is no longer the case. It is especially troubling that the Jew-baiting and Israel-hating that emerges from these young Democrats, almost all from ethnic minorities, is essentially glossed over. There is no price to be paid for verbally attacking Jews and Israel with the most outrageous and repugnant canards.

The proof of the real problem is that even the political demise (temporary or not) of Binyamin Netanyahu has not changed anything. The Bennett government, especially FM Lapid, has put much stock in trying to rebuild relations with the Democratic Party. But nothing has really changed and the real problem should be dawning on every sentient person.

There are Democrats, bad people, who disparage Israel as a racist, apartheid state, in utter contradiction to the truth. (By the way, they don’t think much of America, either.) But there are many more Democrats, not bad people, who perceive themselves as supporters of Israel – but only of a certain kind of Israel. They love the Israel that is docile and doesn’t respond to terrorist attacks and provocations, as if Jewish blood is cheap and Jews must always turn the other cheek. They love the Israel that is always offering territorial concessions, the Israel that embraces the land-for-peace travesty and the two-state delusion. They love the Israel that feels itself subservient to America, as if a sovereign nation surrounded by some hostile countries in an aggressive part of the world always has to ask permission of the United States before it promotes its own interests or defends its citizens. They love the Israel that accepts American assistance and then insists that Israel bends to their dictates. They love the Israel that is not very Jewish in practice or character but in name only, and that acts only on the biblical values that the world endorses but never on the Bible itself.

They do not love the Israel that sees itself as the fulfillment of the divine prophecies of exile, return and redemption. They do not love the Israel that seeks to incorporate all aspects of the Torah into modern governance and statecraft. They do not love the Israel that perceives Judea and Samaria as the biblical heartland of Israel granted by G-d to our forefathers and their descendants, and whose territorial integrity is therefore inviolable. They do not love a proud, defiant, strong, independent Jewish Israel.

That is the root of the dissonance. We should therefore not be surprised when thoseDemocrats, led by Joe Biden who loves theIsrael of his own concoction and has long lambasted the real Israel (in private, and going back to Menachem Begin’s time), demand that Israel not build in Judea and Samaria for Bidenhas determined that the biblical heartland of Israel must be the location of a second Palestinian state. Jews cannot build in Judea, of all places, but Arabs can build in both Arabia and Judea.

Nor should we be surprised that Biden seeks to reverse the United States’ recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s undivided capital by opening there a Palestinian consulate. Nothing will undermine Israel’s sovereignty there more than the US, followed by dozens of other countries, opening consulates there for foreign entities. It is an insult that is meant to be an insult, something the US would never do to any self-respecting nation. This is not just Biden following the political course he has adopted since taking office –reverse whatever Trump did, even if it is good for America and the world. (Only a clueless Joe could blame OPEC for spiking oil prices by not increasing oil production and ignore his own role in drastically cutting American oil production soon after he took office.) This is Biden acting on his Democratic bona fides, loving a certain type of weakened Israel but sticking it to the real Israel that exists and thrives.

Can the Israel-Democrat relationship be restored? Probably not in the short term and definitely not in the long term. Long-term, the Democratic Party base is shifting to ethnic minorities who are less Western, less Christian, and less white, and who detest Israel as a religious, nationalist, colonialist outpost of white interlopers. Such, of course, is not the reality, but then again, these are the people who maintain that every person or group is allowed to create its own reality. Today’s Democrats prioritize diversity over wisdom, truth, talent, values and aptitude. This might change but it is hard to see how or why it would change.

In the short term, if American Jews and Israelis do not realize one fundamental truth about the United States today, the consequences will be most deleterious: America is not a reliable ally. It has its own interests but even those now routinely change sharply with each new administration. There is no foreign policy consensus in America, only competing views, and some of those competing views are diametrically opposed to each other.

America will speak kindly about its purported allies and friends but then act in its own interest anyway. America can demand that Israel act against its own sovereign interests, but those who think that America will defend Israel when those policies fail should have a talk with the former leaders of Afghanistan and Vietnam. The historian Bernard Lewis said years ago that “America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.” Neither is completely true but there is more substance to this assertion than not. Israel’s response to these American demands should be a resolute and categorical “no.” It need not be a public repudiation but it needs to be a “no.”

Thus Israel should reject – as is our right – the opening of a Palestinian Consulate in Yerushalayim. And if the US in turn threatens to open an embassy in Ramallah (implying recognition of statehood) rather than a consulate in Yerushalayim, so be it. Under current conditions, it is bound to happen anyway in time. Such would be the treachery of a friend. Let their ambassador live in Ramallah.

Similarly, Israel should continue to build in Judea and Samaria, period. And with all the threats of dissolving the coalition coming from Meretz, Ra’am or Labor, it is time to realize that there are enough right-wing members of the government who can also make threats. There is leverage on all sides. The right-wingers should use that leverage or be shunned in the future.

The attempted reconciliation between Israel and the Democrats is a worthy objective per se but should not blind us to the realities that are staring us in the face. This discord is not a clash of personalities. It is a clash of policies, values and world view. We can minimize the effects of the tension but as long as Israel is a sovereign nation, it will not go away. One way to minimize it is by not acting precipitously or fearfully, cognizant that Biden has so much now on his plate that he is unable to manage competently that Israel is not really a priority. That too is Israel’s advantage.

"The L-rd will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance."

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

Avraham said to the Hittites: “I am a stranger and a resident with you. Sell me property for a burial place with you so that I can bury my dead” (Genesis 23:4). Rashi explains: “‘I am a stranger and a resident’: If you agree to sell me the land then I will regard myself as a stranger and will pay for it, but if not, I shall claim it as a resident and take it as my legal right, because G-d said to me (Bereisheet 12:7), ‘To your seed I shall give this land.’”

Two options faced the nations who ruled over the Land -- either to recognize willingly Abraham’s rights over the Land, or to deny those rights. In the latter case, however, Abraham would justly take it from them by force, on the strength of G-d’s promise to him.

"The deeds of the fathers presage those of the sons."

Today, the Jewish People and the Arabs are in a similar situation. The Arabs have two options: They can recognize the exclusive rights of the Jewish People, backed up by the divine promise, “To your seed I shall give this land,” or they can deny our rights to our land. In the latter case we will justly take it, by force, backed up by G-d’s command and by His covenant with us, as did Joshua, King David, Matityahu the Hasmonean, and others...

True, there are some who think that we have to separate from the Arabs and separate from Eretz Yisrael -- G-d forbid -- and hand it over to the Arabs. They think that by such means peace, tranquillity and quiet will come to our land. Yet regarding this it says, “There are many devices in a man’s heart, but it is the counsel of the L-rd that shall endure. The counsel of the L-rd shall endure forever” (Mishlei 19:21; Psalm 33:11).

And what is that “counsel of the L-rd”? “For the L-rd chose Zion. He desired it for His habitation” (Psalm 132:13); “The L-rd chose Yaakov for Himself, Israel for His own possession” (135:4); “The L-rd will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance” (94:14).

To what may this be compared? To a couple in the process of getting a divorce. They argue fiercely over who should get the property. Yet let us suppose that the property belongs to one of the spouses who inherited it from his ancestors and that it is listed as such in the Israel land registry, etc., etc. The second one has no rights to the apartment and all the same he demands the whole apartment for himself and uses force and violence against the one to whom the apartment really belongs. Ultimately, because of the violence, the other spouse is all but ready to concede part of the apartment, if only because he wants to get divorced. Yet the other side wants the whole apartment and will not give in.

They come before the judge who clarifies who really owns the apartment. He determines unequivocally that the apartment belongs to its true owners and he rejects the claims of the violent spouse who wishes to steal what does not belong to him.

We and our government must know and recognize the truth that Eretz Yisrael belongs only to the Jewish People. We must not concede the least bit of our land. If the Arabs wish to separate from us, they can, but without Eretz Yisrael. We can give them gifts, just as Abraham did when he sent away Ishmael. If there are among us some who still think nonsensical thoughts about it being possible to concede part of the “apartment” in favor of the Arabs, and thereby to achieve peace, they are mistaken. Only when the violence reaches their own homes will they recognize their painful error.

Yet the day is not far off when the Arabs, and all the nations of the earth, will recognize that the words of the prophets of Israel, and G-d’s promise to us, are the truth. The Jewish People are arising to rebirth in Eretz Yisrael, and they shall continue to rise up like a lion over the whole length and breadth of our land until we merit the fulfillment of, “The L-rd shall be King over all the earth. On that day the L-rd shall be one and His name One” (Zechariah 14:9).

Looking forward to salvation.
With Love of Israel,
Shabbat Shalom.

Yeshivat Machon Meir Parshat Chayei Sarah - The Messenger and his Mission (video)

Refuting the Narrative and Winning the Tribal War

by Victor Rosenthal

Last week, Elder of Ziyon described an interesting conjecture on the origin of the word “Palestine”: that it is derived from the Greek word for “wrestler,” which is part of the name taken by Jacob when he wrestled – “isra” – with an angel of God, “El.” So “Palestine” means “Israel.”

Is it true? Who knows? But it is ironic in the light of the assertions of the Palestinian Arabs that they are “natives,” an indigenous people that were “colonized” by the European Jews who, according to them, are not even a people but just a religious sect.

This is the heart of the Palestinian narrative that is presented as a justification for their violent struggle to expel the Jews from Eretz Yisrael. The post-colonial ideology that is current today, especially on the part of European former colonialists, demands that colonists turn control of the lands they exploited over to the indigenous residents. If the colonists refuse to do the right thing, then the natives are – if not entirely justified in turning to violence – at least understood and sympathized with. The Palestinians even make the absurd claim that the UN Charter, which permits victims of aggression to defend themselves, approves.

The oldest indigenous people on the land, and the most legitimate claimants for aboriginal rights, are the Jewish people. The fact that they won their battle – against British and Arab colonists of their ancestral land – does not change that. The fact that Jews may have been a minority in the land on any particular day from biblical times to the present, does not change that. The fact that most of the Jews living in Israel today are descended from Jews that had been living in exile in Muslim countries, Europe, Africa, India, and other places, does not change that.

The Palestinian Arab claim to being an aboriginal people that was invaded and colonized is false in two respects: first, specifically Palestinian peoplehood did not exist to a great extent before the mid-1960s, when it developed in opposition to Zionism. And second, few Palestinian families have a connection to the land that extends more than a couple of generations before the arrival of the Zionists.

Prior to the appearance of Palestinism, which was catalyzed by the KGB-advised PLO in the 1960s, Arabs in the land primarily viewed themselves as members of their extended families or tribes. The land itself was considered “southern Syria,” and there are numerous quotations from Palestinian Arab leaders, as late as 1977, that deny the existence of a Palestinian identity in favor of a pan-Arab one.

There may be Palestinian Arabs that are descended from people that lived in the land during biblical times, or arrived in the Arab conquest of the 7th century. But almost all came no earlier than the invasion of Syria (which included Eretz Yisrael and Lebanon) by Muhammad Ali (not the boxer) around 1830, and many of them migrated from the surrounding countries to take advantage of the economic development of the land by the Zionists and later the British Empire. When the UN defined “Palestinian refugee” in 1948, it included “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948…”, to include numerous recent migrants.

The last time Eretz Yisrael was governed by its indigenous inhabitants was during the Hasmonean Dynasty (140-137 BCE), the folks that gave us Hanukah. Since then, it has been ruled by a succession of invaders, including the Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Turks, and British. Until the advent of the Palestinian Authority in 1993 and the Hamas takeover in Gaza, there has been nothing approaching Palestinian sovereignty anywhere.

A recent NY Times hit-job on Israel inadvertently made the oppositional nature of Palestinism clear. Asmaa Azaizeh, an Arab citizen of Israel and an intellectual, was quoted thus:

“Being a Palestinian is a way of resisting injustice,” she said. If there was nothing to resist, “I wouldn’t care if I was Palestinian or Egyptian or Lebanese or Jordanian.”

Palestinians are Arabs and they share the language, religious beliefs, and customs of Arabs in the surrounding countries. What makes them specifically Palestinian, as Ms. Azaizeh says, is their opposition to Zionism and the Jewish state. It doesn’t need to be said that in comparison, the Jewish people have a unique language and religion, as well as a relationship to this particular piece of land that goes back for millennia. As explained in the Torah, this land is inseparable from Jewish identity.


As I wrote last week, we are engaged in a conflict of tribes over the land. Regardless of the justice of their position, the tribe that prevails will have the land, and the loser will disappear.

The Arabs that call themselves Palestinians understand the importance of the land to their ideology far better than secular Jews do. That is why, with all the divisions and rivalries among them, they can agree almost single-mindedly on their goal of recovering their land and their honor.

One of the biggest mistakes that Israel makes in dealing with Arabs is in failing to understand the importance of maintaining her own honor. In the Middle East, honor is the greater part of deterrence. There is a Bedouin story about a rich man with many animals, several wives, and a number of sons. One day he sees someone steal a goat, and does nothing. He has many goats; maybe the thief is hungry, he thinks. The thief is emboldened and brings his friends. Little by little they take everything the man has. He has lost his honor, and without honor has no rights. Soon he finds his animals gone, his sons murdered, and his wives raped. He is left sitting outside the tent that used to belong to him.

Every time a Jew is humiliated on the street, every time they steal a car, burn a centimeter of land or make us afraid to walk on it, the Arabs move forward, closer to their goal. Every time a Jew moves away from the periphery of the country because of crime and insecurity, we lose ground. When we allow Arabs to shoot at us, or God forbid, kill us, without taking revenge, they gain and we lose.

There is a strategy for us to win in this conflict. It is to push forward in all parts of Eretz Yisrael to fully control the land, to make the Arabs understand that they have no hope of driving us out. It means increasing Jewish presence and control at the Temple Mount, and not the opposite, as has been happening since 1967. It means ending the no-go zones inside our capital. It means adopting a death penalty for terrorist murderers, and meeting Bedouin banditry in the south with overwhelming force. It means crushing the genocidal regime of Hamas, even if it requires a military occupation of Gaza. It means stopping the flow of money from the EU into illegal Arab building in Judea and Samaria, and encouraging hundreds of thousands of Jews to move there. It will probably also mean targeted killings and expulsions.

Life would not be as easy or pleasant for the Jews of Israel as it is now if they take on this task. It would require more military service, and it would cost money and lives. The state would have to become less open, liberal, and democratic. There would be opposition from the Israeli Left, Europe and America. The special position of the Jewish state as “the Jew of nations” ensures that, even if the nations of the world generally went out of their way to intervene on the side of justice, they would not choose our side.

On the other hand, if we don’t do it, if we allow the Arabs to continue their incremental gains and their erosion of our sovereignty, the day will come that we find ourselves outside our tent with no sons, wives or camels. There isn’t another alternative.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have the resources and the ability to win, to assert Jewish dominance over all of Eretz Yisrael. The harder question is this: how can we develop the will and the unity required to do it?

San Francisco State University Prof Says Jewish Pot is Making Black Men Gay

by Daniel Greenfield

(Ed: A probable combination of left coast university psychosis and way too much weed by this "professor" :))

"It is Jewish genius that has helped… to weaponize the weed."

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

Wesley Muhammad believes that the U.S. government and the Jews are using marijuana to make black men gay. The “Pot Plot” is a popular theory in Muhammad’s Nation of Islam cult.

At the Saviours Day Convention in Chicago, an official Nation of Islam event, Wesley Muhammad claimed that, "It is Jewish genius that has helped… to weaponize the weed so that it may effeminize the black male of America. And be clear, it is Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam that is standing in between the total demasculinization of the black man in America.”

Some years back, Wesley Muhammad's lecture, “How to Make a Homosexual: The Scientific Assault on Black America" was canceled at a Philly black beauty expo because of its hateful content. But what wasn't good enough for the 23rd Annual International Locks Conference, a black natural hair expo, is unfortunately all too welcome at San Francisco State University.

It’s not too surprising that a black “wholistic” hair expo has higher standards than the most antisemitic university in America. Or that Muhammad fits in so well at SFSU.

"It is clear that the two most powerful lobbies in America - the Jewish and the Homosexual - are hellbent on the information in this lecture, 'How To Make A Homosexualm (sic)' NEVER makes it to the public's awareness," Muhammad complained on Facebook.

San Francisco State University has however been happy to provide Muhammad with a platform despite no shortage of ethnically Jewish and gay people on the faculty and in the administration.

Wesley Muhammad's bio at the taxpayer-funded university notes that he is a lecturer in the Africana Studies Department of SFSU's College of Ethnic Studies. It mentions his publications in the Final Call newspaper of the Nation of Islam hate group, and his book, "Understanding the Assault on the Black Man, Black Manhood and Black Masculinity" which contains thoughtful chapters such as "Why Saggin is Faggin" and "Birth of the Black Man (God)".

It also notes that Muhammad is a "helper of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan" and a member of the executive council of the Nation of Islam hate group, and mentions his role in Tariq Nasheed's Buck Breaking documentary which claimed that black people were a master race and that white slave owners turned black men gay.

"I thank the Honorable Brother Minister Farrakhan for granting me permission to return to the place that I love, the classroom,” a Facebook account with Muhammad’s name posted. “This Pestilence From Heaven has made it possible for me do the Labor that I love at the Headquarters of my Beloved Nation of Islam AND teach about Black Religion and the Black God in the Africana Studies Department at San Francisco State University."

"All Praises Belongs (sic) To Allah," he concluded.

A course listing shows Muhammad teaching courses on “Black Religion” and “Malcolm X in the Context of Black Nationalism”. The courses are taught online which apparently allows Muhammad, a top official in the Nation of Islam, to teach remotely.

That the Nation of Islam killed Malcolm X only adds another layer to this obscene farce.

By describing the pandemic as a "pestilence from heaven", Muhammad echoed Farrakhan's remarks that the coronavirus was one of Allah's "great plagues". But Muhammad additionally claimed that "we've documented the first area codes that were devastated by coronavirus in America were Jewish area codes" implying that the virus was aimed by Allah at the Jews.

A lecturer celebrating the coronavirus for allowing him to teach remotely and claiming that black gay men are the products of a Jewish conspiracy may seem out of place on today’s college campuses where a Chinese composer was forced out of the classroom for showing an Othello movie and at Yale an American Indian student faced the threat of sanctions for a party invite touting fried chicken, but there are two sets of rules. And at SFSU, the bigots have always enjoyed the second set.

In the 90s, Khalid Muhammad, another Nation of Islam figure, was invited to deliver a speech by the Pan Afrikan Student Union which advertised tickets as being $7 for students and $15 for "Zionists, Uncle Toms and other white supremacists." During his speech Muhammad ranted about "hook-nosed, bagel-eating, lox-eating, perpetrating-a-fraud so-called Jews" and urged his racist audience to "use violence when necessary."

These days though Nation of Islam officials aren’t just SFSU campus speakers, but lecturers.

It’s all part of the ugly atmosphere of antisemitic hatred that has been mainstreamed at the public university where taxpayers pay the bills for the professors and groups that hate them.

SFSU was also where, more recently, Muhammad Hammad, the president of the General Union of Palestine Students, was investigated after making violent threats toward Jews.

San Francisco State University had been ground zero for campus antisemitism. It was where Hatem Bazian, the co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine, the hate group that now has chapters on many campuses, got his start. A column by the coordinator for SF's Jewish Community Relations Council described the scene as "Hatem Bazian and a group of about 25 students storm the offices of the student newspaper, the Golden Gater. They destroy hundreds of copies of that day's edition. They yell anti-Semitic and racist epithets in the newsroom".

Since then not much has changed.

A lawsuit filed more recently in 2017 by Jewish students charged that, "SFSU has not merely fostered and embraced anti-Jewish hostility — it has systematically supported these departments and student groups as they have doggedly organized their efforts to target, threaten, and intimidate Jewish students on campus and deprive them of their civil rights and their ability to feel safe and secure as they pursue their education.”

Earlier this year, SFSU's Rabab Abdulhadi, the faculty advisor for GUPS, took part in a seminar featuring a terrorist airplane hijacker after having already met with that same terrorist during an SFSU funded trip. No wonder that SFSU was one of the universities singled out by the David Horowitz Freedom Center as one of the “Top Ten Schools Supporting Terrorists”.

At San Francisco State University, the question isn’t whether it’s an antisemitic campus, but just how antisemitic it is. And even by SFSU standards, the “pot plot” is a new low. At San Francisco’s premier public university, students can not only interact with faculty who support terrorists, but who believe that the Jews are using marijuana to turn black men gay.

How low can SFSU go? Wesley Muhammad makes it clear that there’s no low too low.

The Persistence of Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories

by Kevin A

Anyone who has spent a fair amount of time on the internet has invariably encountered some form of anti-Jewish rhetoric. In many ways it has become fashionable to hate on the Jews again. It’s a phenomenon that isn’t just on the right or the left, contrary to popular belief, but reaches across the entire political spectrum. The difference now is that it’s no longer relegated to the fringes, but has gone mainstream.

Anti-Semitism is certainly nothing new. In Europe’s Middle Ages, Jews were blamed for everything from the crucifixion of Christ to spreading diseases by poisoning wells. Blood libel accusations asserted that Jews routinely kidnapped children and murdered them to use in their blood religious rituals.

According to historian Walter Laqueur, “Altogether, there have been about 150 recorded cases of blood libel (not to mention thousands of rumors) that resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews throughout history, most of them in the Middle Ages. In almost every case, Jews were murdered, sometimes by a mob, sometimes following torture and a trial.”

A defining feature of anti-Semitism is that it’s often rooted in conspiracy theories. One such conspiracy theory that has persisted in modern times is the belief that Jews control world politics. Much of this belief comes from a book that published in Russia in 1905 titled the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It has since been revealed to be a plagiarism of a French satire against Napoleon III called The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu by Maurice Joly. Despite being a hoax, the conspiracy has persisted.

A related conspiracy theory is Jewish (or Judeo) Bolshevism. Jewish Bolshevism is the belief that Jews are not only the originators of communism but dominate communist movements around the world. It was a belief held by Adolf Hitler who used the Jews as scapegoats to blame for Germany’s many problems. The idea of Jewish Bolshevism is what in part ultimately led to the Holocaust.

Overall, only a small percentage of Jews were Bolsheviks. Most Jews were never communists, and most communists were never Jews.

Neither is Communism distinctly Jewish. It was never based on Judaism or Jewish tradition nor was it ever a Jewish sect. In actuality, Jewish communists intentionally tried to shed their Jewishness to become communists. They abandoned Jewish traditional, religion, and communal life. The Bolsheviks, including the Jewish Bolsheviks, were atheists and hostile to Judaism. They were communists first and foremost and cared little about Jewish concerns.

A prime example of this is the father of communism himself, Karl Marx. Marx was ethnically Jewish, but paradoxically anti-Semitic. In 1856 he wrote an article for the New York Tribune in which he stated:

“We know that behind every tyrant stands a Jew, as a Jesuit stands behind every Pope. As the army of the Jesuits kills every free thought, so the desire of the oppressed would have chances of success, the usefulness of wars incited by capitalists would cease, if it were not for the Jews who steal the treasures of mankind. It is no wonder that 1856 years ago Jesus chased the usurers from the Jerusalem temple. They were like the contemporary usurers who stand behind tyrants and tyrannies. The majority of them are Jewish. The fact that the Jews have become so strong as to endanger the life of the world causes us to disclose their organization, their purpose, that its stench might awaken the workers of the world to fight and eliminate such a canker.”

Anti-Semitism was a common feature of communism and many Jews themselves became victims of communism. There were anti-Semitic purges within most communist parties in the hopes of achieving “national purification.” Many prominent Jews who were a part of the early Bolshevik governments, including Béla Kun, Leon Trotsky, Karl Radek, among others, were either removed from power or murdered.

Stalin himself killed almost all of them and his anti-Semitism almost led to a Russian holocaust. In 1948, Stalin organized an anti-Semitic campaign based on a conspiracy called the “doctors’ plot.” Jewish doctors in Moscow were accused of conspiring to murder Soviet leaders. Jews were subsequently dismissed from their jobs and arrested. It is believed the case was intended to trigger mass repressions and deportations of Jews across the Soviet Union. However, when Stalin suddenly died the case was dropped and later declared to have been fabricated.

While Marx is considered the father of communism, his ideas weren’t developed in a vacuum. Marx was influenced by individuals such as Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel among others. The seeds of Communism were essentially born out of European enlightenment thinkers, many of whom were not Jewish. On a side note, some of the greatest intellectual arguments against Marxism came from Jews like Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Arthur Koestler.

Then there’s Friedrich Engels. If Marx was the father of communism, then Engels could be considered its uncle. Engels worked hand-in-hand with Marx to help develop his ideas and was instrumental in getting two of Marx’s final manuscripts of Das Kapital published after his death.

Engels was not Jewish, and neither were many prominent communists that succeeded him, including Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, the Kim family of North Korea, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro among many others.

In summary, the origins of communism can be traced to the non-Jewish philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment. It’s true, however, that many prominent Jews were involved with communism, largely due to the complex social factors of the time. We can certainly judge those Jews by their actions while not eternally condemning all Jews, many of whom had no connection with communism. It also does not make non-Jewish communists any less culpable for their part.

US pressuring Israel – a test of US realism and Israeli leadership

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger

Secretary of State Blinken pressures Israel
Secretary of State, Antony Blinken – the chief architect of President Biden's foreign and national security policy – is pressuring Israel to embrace his (classic State Department) policy on the rogue regime of Iran's Ayatollahs and the Palestinian issue.

*Irrespective of the systematic track record of Iran's Ayatollahs – since their 1978/79 ascension to power with the active support of the State Department and the CIA – Secretary Blinken is leaning on Israel to accept the mindset that the Ayatollahs are amenable to peaceful-coexistence with the neighboring Sunni Arab regimes; ready to abandon their core, fanatic, imperialistic vision; and refrain from regional and global terrorism and wars, in exchange for generous financial and diplomatic benefits. Blinken considers Iran's Ayatollahs to be constructive partners for negotiation, worthy of waiving the US military option, which Blinken believes should be superseded by diplomacy.

*Irrespective of the systematic Palestinian track record and the Arab walk (not talk!) on the Palestinian issue, Secretary Blinken genuinely believes that the Palestinian issue is a core cause of Middle East turbulence, a crown-jewel of Arab policy-making and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Therefore, he considers the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) a prerequisite to peace, in addition to the redivision of Jerusalem (hence his determination to reestablish in Jerusalem a de-facto US embassy/consulate for the Palestinian Authority) and freezing construction in the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria and in East Jerusalem (while encouraging construction in Arab communities). Blinken is urging Israel to retreat to the 1949 ceasefire lines, which were labeled as "Auschwitz Lines" by Abba Eban, who was Israel's very dovish Foreign Minister.

According to Blinken's roadmap – which ignores the impact of the proposed Palestinian state on US interests - Israel should revert back to an 8-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, over-towered by the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, in the stormy, unpredictable, violent, intolerant Middle East, which has yet to experience democracy and intra-Arab and intra-Muslim peaceful-coexistence.

*Secretary of State Antony Blinken takes lightly the frustrating well-documented pasttrack record of Iran's Ayatollahs and the Palestinians, while highlighting a palatable, speculative future track record. He ignores that fact that the land-for-peace theory has yielded a land-for-terror reality, as evidenced by the outcome of the 1993 Oslo Accord and the 2005 Gaza Disengagement. The Palestinian land-for-terror reality also plagued Jordan from 1968-1970, Lebanon from 1970-1983 and Kuwait in 1990.

US pressure on Israel – track record
Is US pressure of Israel consistent with Middle East reality?

Does US pressure of Israel advanced US interests and the pursuit of peace?

Can Israel afford to defy US presidential pressure to refrain from critical, independent national security actions (e.g., in the face of the Iranian clear and present threat), and to withdraw from land, which is historically and militarily critical to the survival of the Jewish State?

A well-documented 1948-2016 track record of US presidential pressure of Israel demonstrates that US pressure was driven by the worldview of the State Department,which has systematically misread the Middle East (e.g., the stabbing in the back of the Shah of Iran, "The US' Policeman of the Gulf," while embracing Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein and Arafat). The US pressure on Israel forced the Arabs/Palestinians to outflank the US from the radical side, intensified Palestinian terrorism, undermined US interests, and failed to advance the cause of peace.
For example,

*In 1948, the State Department – along with the Pentagon, the CIA, the New York Timesand the Washington Post – led the diplomatic, military (embargo) and economic pressure on David Ben Gurion (Israel's Founding Father) to refrain from a declaration of independence and accept a UN Trusteeship. The State Department and the CIA contended that Israel would be an ally of the Soviet Bloc, would be slaughtered by the Arabs ("a second Holocaust in less than ten years"), and would undermine US-Arab relations, risking the US access to Persian Gulf oil. During and following Israel's 1948/49 War of Independence, the US pressured Ben Gurion to retreat from "occupied land" in the Galilee, Negev, the coastal plain and West Jerusalem, accept the internationalization of Jerusalem and absorb 75,000 Palestinian refugees (who partook in the Arab war on Israel).

It was Prime Minister David Ben Gurion's defiance of US pressure which transformed Israel from a burden on – to a unique strategic ally of – the US. In 1950, General Omar Bradley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, recommended that Israel should be considered as a major strategic ally due to its military performance. The recommendation was dismissed outright by the State Department and the White House.

*In 1967, on the eve of the Six Days War, when a concerted military force of Egypt-Syria-Jordan was about to invade Israel, President Johnson warned Prime Minister Eshkol against a preemptive strike: "If you act alone, you shall remain alone…"

However, Eshkol repulsed that US pressure, preempted the Soviet-backed Egypt-Syria-Jordan military assault, which aimed to annihilate Israel and facilitate a pro-Soviet Egyptian hegemony of the Arab World, and topple the pro-US Arab oil-producing regimes, at a time when the US was heavily dependent upon the importation of Persian Gulf oil. Israel's defiance of US pressure resulted in the devastation of Egypt's military, and spared the US a horrifying national security and economic setback. It bolstered the stability of the highly-vulnerable pro-US Arab regimes, and denied the USSR a dramatic regional and global bonanza.

It was Prime Minister Eshkol's defiance of US pressure – to refrain from a preemptive strike, reuniting Jerusalem and establishing Jewish communities in East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria - which transformed Israel from a supplicant to a unique force-multiplier for the US, fulfilling the role of the largest US aircraft carrier, without a single US soldier on board, deployed in a critical region of the world. This has spared the US the mega-billion-dollar necessity of manufacturing, deploying and maintaining a few more real aircraft carriers and a few ground divisions in the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean.

*In 1981, the US brutally pressured Prime Minister Begin against bombing Iraq's nuclear reactor. Had Begin surrendered to US pressure, he would have aborted the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, which spared the US a traumatic 1990-91 confrontation with a nuclear Saddam Hussein. The Begin Preemptive Doctrine was adopted in 2007 by Prime Minister Olmert, who ordered the bombing of Syria's nuclear reactor – with the acquiescence of the US – which spared the world the plague of a nuclearized civil war in Syria.

*In 1981, Prime Minister Begin applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights – located on the trilateral border of Israel, Syria and Jordan - irrespective of brutal US pressure, which led to the suspension of a vital US-Israel defense cooperation agreement. However, Israel's control of the Golan Heights has benefitted the US, by playing a key role in constraining the maneuverability of Iran, Russia, Syria and Islamic terrorists, and buttresses the pro-US Hashemite regime in Jordan.

*In 1989-1992, Prime Minister Shamir was targeted by a campaign of slanderous pressure by the State Department and the White House, aimed at pushing Israel back to the pre-1967 lines. Had Shamir acceded to US pressure, retreating from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, he would have downgraded Israel from a national security producer for US, into a national security consumer, and a burden upon the US. Israel would have been demoted from a credible "life insurance agent" for the pro-US Arab regimes, into a "life-support" case, fully dependent upon the US military. It would have demolished Israel's posture of deterrence, which has been a critical line of defense for Jordan's Hashemite regime. It has prevented an anti-US avalanche from consuming the pro-US Arab regimes, and a dramatic tailwind for regional and global Islamic terrorism, which would have benefitted Iran's Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, as well as Turkey, Russia and China, at the expense of dire US economic and military interests.

The bottom line
*US pressure has been a leadership-litmus test for Israeli prime ministers, whose challenge has been to overcome – not to avoid – pressure, while adhering to core ideology and strategic goals, refraining from the sacrifice of deeply-rooted ideology and long-term national security on the altar of short-term, tenuous convenience. Genuine leaders are ready to forgo frivolous popularity, while enhancing durable respect.

*On a rainy day, the US prefers a defiant, rather than a vacillating, Israel on its side. At the end of a 1991 meeting between Prime Minister Shamir and Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, Senators George Mitchell and Bob Dole – which I attended - the latter (who was, generally, critical of Israel) said: “Mr. Prime Minister, do you know why the Majority Leader and I absolutely disagree with you, but immensely respect you? Because you’re tough!”

* Simultaneously with the systematic 1948-2016 presidential pressure, and occasional suspension of the delivery of vital military systems, the mutually-beneficial US-Israel strategic cooperation has expanded in a staggering manner. It expanded due to the systematic support of the Jewish State by most Americans and their representatives in the House and Senate, as well as Israel's exceptional reliability and unique technological and military effectiveness, along with the growing realization that Israeli contributions to the US outweigh foreign aid to Israel.

*Will President Biden learn from past mistakes, by avoiding self-defeating pressure on his most reliable, effective, democratic and unconditional ally, the Jewish State?

*Will Prime Minister Bennett follow in the footsteps of Prime Ministers Ben Gurion, Eshkol, Golda Meir, Begin and Shamir, who did not seek popularity and convenience, and defied US pressure, and therefore earned a long term geo-strategic esteem, and catapulted Israel's national security and the mutually-beneficial US-Israel cooperation to unprecedented heights?

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Rav Kook on Parashat Chayei Sarah: The Torah of the Avot

Even the Sages were puzzled why the Torah describes with such detail the story of Avraham’s servant Eliezer and the search for a wife for Yitzchak. Why are so many verses devoted to Eliezer's encounter with Rivkah at the well, as well as his subsequent report of this event to Rivkah's family? The Torah is so parsimonious with its words — important laws are often derived from a single letter. Why such verbosity here?

Due to this textual anomaly, the Sages made a bold claim: “The conversation of the Avot’s servants is superior to the Torah of their descendants” (Breisheet Rabbah 60).

What does this mean? Is their everyday discourse really more important than the Torah and its laws?

The Lofty Torah of the Avot
In fact, the ‘conversations’ of the Avot, the Patriarchs, were also a form of Torah. This Torah was more elevated than the later Torah of their descendants, as it reflected the extraordinary holiness and nobility of these spiritual giants. If so, why did the Sages refer to it as mere ‘conversations'?

A conversation is natural, unaffected speech. The Torah of the Avot was like a conversation, flowing naturally from the inner sanctity of their goals and aspirations. Holy ideals permeated the day-to-day lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to such a degree that these ideals were manifest even in the everyday discourse of their servants.

The Torah of their descendants, on the other hand, lacks this natural spontaneity. It is a thought-out religion based on willed-holiness, a compendium of detailed rules and regulations calculated to govern all aspects of life. This is especially true for the development of Torah law during the long years of exile, when Torah was limited to governing the religious life of the individual.

Torah of Redemption
With our national return to Eretz Yisrael, we also return to the Torah of EretzYisrael. The generation of national rebirth has no patience for the feeble lights of Judaism as it exists in the exile. The people seek lofty ideals and great deeds. They aspire to build a model society, to correct injustice, and restore the Jewish people to a state of autonomy and independence. There is an inner Divine spirit driving their brazenness, as they reject the paltry lights of exilic Judaism, lights that glow faintly, like candles in the brilliant midday sun.

What will satisfy the spiritual needs of the generation of rebirth? They will gain new life from the comprehensive Torah of the Patriarchs. The daily Shmoneh Esrei prayer makes this connection between the Avot and the era of redemption:

“[God] remembers the Patriarchs’ acts of kindness, and lovingly brings the redeemer to their descendants.”

It is the “Avot’s acts of kindness” and their vibrant, natural Torah that will redeem their descendants in the final generation. The Messianic light will shine forth, and out of the darkness of heresy and denial, a supernal light will emanate from the lofty Torah of the Avot, a Torah of authenticity and greatness which will redeem the generation.

The lofty tzaddikim must recognize this secret. Their task is to combine these two Torahs, that of the Avot with that of their descendants. Then they will reveal a Torah crowned with honor and strength, beauty and splendor.

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Orot, pp. 66-67, by Rav Chanan Morrison)

Faith and Courage

Parashat Cha’yei Sarah 5782
by HaRav Nachman Kahana

Our rabbis have taught that Hashem put Avraham Avinu through ten tests. The ninth was the “binding of Yitzchak” (Akeidat Yitzchak) and the tenth, the negotiations between Avraham and the Hittite Council of Elders for the purchase of Ma’arat Ha’machpela as a burial site for Sarah.

Logic dictates that since every succeeding test increases in difficulty, what was the focus of this last test set before Avraham which caused it to be more difficult than the Akeida?

Was it the necessity to deal with worldly matters of “real estate” while in the midst of a profound emotional crisis at the loss of his beloved Sarah? Perhaps! Was it his being taken advantage of by the unscrupulous Efron the Hittite, who charged 400 shekels for a burial site which was not worth nearly that much? Perhaps!

These were indeed aggravating realities, but the real hard core of the test, I believe, ran far deeper into the area which was to impact upon Jewish history.

A fundamental religious principle appears in many of our classical commentaries and responsa:

מעשה אבות סימן לבנים
The actions of the fathers (Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov) guide their children (the Jewish people) along the path to redemption.

The moment of truth came when Avraham, despite the ramifications of what he was presently going to do, stood up before the Hittite council of elders and proclaimed:

גר ותושב אנכי עמכם
I am a stranger and a resident among you

Rashi quotes the midrash which explains what Avraham meant:

אם תרצו הריני גר ואם לאו אהיה תושב ואטלנה מן הדין שאמר לי
הקב”ה ‘לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת’
If you wish [to sell the burial site], I will act as a stranger who recognizes your right of ownership over the area; but if you do not [sell me the burial site], I will implement my right of sovereignty and seize the land by virtue of HaShem’s promise to me, “And to your children will I give this land”.

Recall that Avraham was told by Hashem to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s home to take up residence in a land which Hashem would identify later. At that time, Europe was desolate, as were most parts of Africa and Asia, not to speak of the Americas. But instead of sending Avraham to establish a Jewish State in an unpopulated area where there would be no protest, Avraham was directed to the most populous area in the world; a thin sliver of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea populated by 10 nations numbering in the hundreds of thousands, even millions.

Each of these peoples, all descendants of Cham the son of Noach, arrived in the land much before Avraham. They cultivated its fields, constructed buildings, and established places of worship, which taken together served as a common civilization.

At this junction in their history, a stranger arrives from the east and declares that he is the true sovereign over all the land. Not just the area of Canaan, but of all the lands from the Euphrates in the north to the Nile in the south, and from the Mediterranean in the west to Mesopotamia in the east.

By this statement, Avraham challenged the rights of countless peoples who considered themselves as the owners of these lands by virtue of conquest and possession. This was an act of immense courage, because from that moment on, Avraham was perceived by all those people to be a threat to their way of life, to their very existence.

We were here before you! You are a foreign implant in the Middle East. Does this sound strangely familiar? Don’t we hear it daily from Arab spokesmen and on many campuses in the US, echoing the feelings of the ancient children of Cham when reacting to Avraham’s declaration of sovereignty? These anti-God, latter-day advocates of denial spew their venom in the media, on campus, in the Security Council, on Capitol Hill and on the Temple Mount.

And we ask ourselves: where is the Avraham of our generation who will stand up before the world and declare that Eretz Yisrael is our God-given heritage?

This is obviously too huge a test for today’s Jewish leaders; whether they be great talmidei chachamim, who almost to the man advocate a low profile when dealing with Yishmael in the east and Esav in the west, and certainly the secular Jews who believe that our ties to the land are historic and do not stem from God’s promise to our forefathers.

If I were to merit the opportunity to stand before an international forum, I would shout the words of Avraham Avinu: that although we recognize certain individual rights of non-Jews in the Holy Land, HaShem and His people Israel are the sovereigns over the entire land between the two great rivers.

In the wake of the 1967 Six Day War, when HaShem presented to Am Yisrael the entire area of Eretz Yisrael west of the Jordan river on a silver platter, the correct Jewish thing to do would have been to immediately:
Erase the two abominations standing on the Temple Mount.
Annex all the areas of Shomron, Yehuda, Aza, and the Golan Heights into the State of Israel.
Open the bridges over the Jordan River to Jordan and help, facilitate, assist, and inspire all the Arabs to leave our country.
Commence on an ambitious project of resettling the newly acquired land between the Sea and the River.
Open ever wider the gates of Aliya for the millions who would have returned had the government acted according to the first four.

However, since our leaders lack the Jewish pride which filled Avraham Avinu, we are witnessing the negation of everything which is right.

Fortunately, as in past desperate periods in our history when HaShem sent a leader who exhibits the Jewish pride exemplified by Avraham Avinu, in our time when that day comes, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, the UN and all the other would-be Hitlers who slither around the planet, will be no more. And the banners of the twelve Jewish tribes will be raised by the people who have returned to take possession of all of Eretz Yisrael.

A Brief Glimpse into History
Let us always keep in mind the following: Over the past 3,500 years, the Jews are the only people to have ruled over the land of Israel as a sovereign state.

The first Jewish Kingdom, the Davidic Dynasty, arose in 1030 BCE and the First Temple was built by King Solomon between 930-970 BCE.

The northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 722 BCE, but the Jewish Kingdom of Judea continued to survive for another 136 years until the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (586 BCE), the Babylonian who exiled most of the Jews to the east. Thereafter, the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonians 538-332 BCE.

The Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, conquered the Persians and ruled from 332-167 BCE. Soon afterwards, the Israelites, led by the Hasmoneans, regained control of the land and ruled from 167 BCE-37 CE, until they were eventually defeated and exiled by the Romans in 70 CE.

The Byzantines conquered the Romans and ruled from 324 – 638 CE, until the Muslims conquered them and ruled until 1099.

The Crusaders continued this endless cycle of conquerors and defeated the Muslim Empire and ruled until 1260. The Mamluks then defeated the Crusaders and ruled until 1517, when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottomans were eventually defeated and the British gained control of the land through the British Mandate. The British controlled the land from 1917 until 1948, and soon thereafter the Jewish state was formed.

It is crucial to recognize that even while conquerors have come and gone, a Jewish presence has never left the land and that Jews around the world have been praying to return for thousands of years.

A brief glimpse into history clearly proves two essential points: 1) that the Jews are the only People to have ever established a sovereign state in Israel, and 2) of all the nations in the world, the Jews have the oldest claim to the land of Israel in history.

(Thank you Mr. Eliyahu Alan Mandelbaum and Mr. David Billet for this comprehensive historic summary).

For all those doubting the legitimacy of the Jewish right to the land of Israel, the Jewish people were a majority in 1854, and have only grown since then.

Furthermore, ever since the Romans exiled our people the land lay as a desolate, barren wasteland that was uninhabitable to all. As early as 1267, Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (RamBan) fled from persecution in Spain by finding a new home in the land of Israel. He wrote to his son, “Many are Israel’s forsaken places, and great is the desecration. The more sacred the place, the greater the devastation it has suffered. Jerusalem is the most desolate place of all.”

Five hundred years later, Mark Twain stated in a written account that the land lay as a barren wasteland, essentially as RamBan had seen the land.

The land rejected each conqueror just as a human body rejects a foreign organ.

HaShem has watched over the land for 2000 years making sure that no other people would ever be able to settle it. Until 1948 when Medinat Yisrael was reborn, the land lay as a barren wasteland while patiently waiting for the Jewish Nation to return home.

This is the simple truth that must be reiterated over and over whenever an anti-Jew spews his poison, that the Land of Israel was given to the Jewish nation by the Creator Himself.

You may not convince anyone, but nevertheless, truth has a power of its own to destroy falsehood.

Shabbat Shalom
Nachman Kahana
Copyright © 5782/2021 Nachman Kahana

Don’t just admire it, emulate it.

by Rabbi Pinchas Winston

Friday Night
AFTER THE DEATH and burial of Sarah, Avraham returned to the matter at hand, marrying of her only son, Yitzchak. The Akeidah had been a close call, as Rashi mentions at the end of last week’s parsha. It would have been a whole different Akeidah had Yitzchak already been married and had a son.

The women of Canaan were out of the question, as Avraham had told Eliezer. He was a Canaanite, and had a daughter he wanted to marry off to his master’s son. But, as trusted as he was, and as virtuous as his daughter may have been, they were cursed going back to Noach. Avraham’s family was from those who Noach had blessed. It was an inappropriate mix.

Instead, Yitzchak’s wife had to come from outside of Canaan, from Padan Aram to be exact, and Avraham sent Eliezer off on a mission to find her and bring her back. Despite his personal disappointment, Eliezer loyally followed his master’s instructions.

Once there, Eliezer was not sure how to go about finding the right shidduch for Yitzchak. How was he to know? Many a shidduch have ended in disaster, no matter how much the shadchan claimed it was a match made in Heaven. Yitzchak needed someone special, and not being a prophet, he didn’t want to be fooled.

So Eliezer turned the whole thing over to God. He said:

“O God, the God of my master Avraham, please cause to happen to me today, and perform loving kindness with my master, Avraham. I am standing by the water fountain, and the daughters of the people of the city are coming out to draw water. And it will be, [that] the maiden to whom I will say, ‘Lower your pitcher and I will drink,’ and she will say, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels,’ her have You designated for Your servant, for Yitzchak, and through her may I know that You have performed loving kindness with my master.” (Bereishis 24:12-14)

How did that work out for him? The Torah says in the next verse:

Now he had not yet finished speaking, and Rivkah came out, who had been born to Besuel the son of Milchah, the wife of Nachor, Avraham’s brother, and her pitcher was on her shoulder.

Mission accomplished. God had cooperated. He had brought Rivkah to Eliezer, and had made it clear she was the one destined for Yitzchak. It had been a great miracle. The question is, was it a necessary one?

Shabbos Day
AT THE END of last week’s parsha and just after the Akeidah, the Torah concluded with the lineage of Rivkah. Why? Rashi explains:

It came to pass after these matters, that it was told to Avraham saying: “Milchah, she also bore sons to Nachor your brother. (Bereishis 22:20)

After these matters, that it was told, etc.: When he returned from Har Moriah, Avraham was thinking and saying, “Had my son been slaughtered, he would have died without children. I should have married him to a woman of the daughters of Aner, Eshkol, or Mamre. The Holy One, Blessed be He, announced to him that Rivkah, his mate, had been born… (Rashi)

Wait a second. So Avraham already knew who to find for his son from the Master Shadchan Himself? If yes, and it says he did, then why didn’t he just tell Eliezer where to go once he got to Padan Aram? It would have circumvented the need for a miracle, which we’re really not supposed to invoke (Shabbos 32a). Instead of making such a condition for God to supernaturally fulfill, why didn’t Eliezer just call Information, get the Busuel family address, and catch a camel over there?

There might have been a couple of reasons. To begin with, the prophecy at the end of last week’s parsha was three years earlier. A lot could happen in three years, and maybe Rivkah was no longer the one for Yitzchak. It is known, according to Sod, that a person marries someone on their spiritual level at the time of dating. That zivug can change depending upon if the person goes up or down in ruchnios—spirituality.

Then there’s the more practical reason. What was it going to sound like if Eliezer showed up at the front door of Besuel and had said, “Hi, you don’t know me, but my master back in Eretz Canaan, your relative Avraham ben Terach, told me to tell you that God told him that your three year old daughter Rivkah is destined to marry his son, Yitzchak. Okay? How quickly can she be ready to go?”

SLAM! That would probably have been the sound of the door as they closed it on Eliezer’s face. The odds of that one ending well were very slim. Perhaps Avraham decided to let God handle the details of making the shidduch work out. If Rivkah was indeed the one for his son Yitzchak, Avraham trusted that God would make sure Eliezer left Padan Aram with her, and no one else.

Seudas Shlishis
THIS IS SIMILAR to something I have mentioned in the past. People want to know why Yitzchak wanted to bless Eisav if he was so evil. The obvious answer is, Yitzchak must not have known how evil Eisav was.

Really? That’s the obvious answer? You mean that Yitzchak, being a prophet, knew about things he could not see but not about things he could? You mean that Rivkah, who was clearly concerned about to whom the blessing went, never once discussed the matter with her husband? Surely Eisav’s Cheder rebi must have called them in discuss their son’s errant behavior! They have done it since then for every other child that didn’t get with the program.

Rather, the more obvious answer is that Yitzchak did know about Eisav’s behavior, but that did not change the fact that he had an obligation to bless him as the firstborn. Who knows, maybe it would turn Eisav around and bring out the Yitzchak in him! But if Eisav was not destined to receive the blessing, Yitzchak reasoned, it would have to be God’s doing to take it away from him, not his own. Likewise, Avraham may have said, “If Rivkah is indeed destined to marry my son, let God arrange it.”

Well, it’s not exactly the same. First of all, no halachah would have been violated by going right to Rivkah’s home to make the shidduch. There was a halachah to give the firstborn his intended blessing. From the other side, Eisav was a rasha, which might have implied an exception to the rule. Rivkah was a tzadeikas, which might have meant ignoring all else to make sure she married Yitzchak as soon as possible.

Perhaps a better comparison is to Dovid HaMelech and Bas Sheva. The Talmud says that Bas Sheva was destined to marry Dovid HaMelech since Creation, even though she would marry someone else before she did. It also says that she was shown to Dovid HaMelech at the time that she was, in order to let him know that she was ready to marry him.

Yet despite all of that, Dovid HaMelech made the mistake of taking her prematurely and consequently, they lost their first child. He was also later reprimanded by the prophet Noson. What did he do wrong?

Melave Malkah
THE TALMUD SAYS that it was like picking an unripe fruit. Bas Sheva had been meant for him, but not when he took her and certainly not how he did. As the Talmud says, anyone who pushes off the moment is pushed off instead (Brochos 64a).

Perhaps that is why Dovid HaMelech’s and Bas Sheva’s second son, Shlomo HaMelech, later wrote in Koheles that everything has its time. Try and change it and you tamper with history, and that can’t be good. Even the times when it looks as if you sped things up, either it is an illusion or you have set in motion something that will bite back down the road.

The Brisker Rav once officiated at a wedding at which the ring fell into the grass just as the Shomer was passing it to the Chasan. Like all things that fall into the grass, it was not easily findable, and the wedding party spent 20 minutes looking for it. Once found, they could finally proceed with the chasanah.

The Brisker Rav, however, could sense that people were disturbed by what had happened, perhaps even the chasan and the kallah. They probably wondered if it was a divine sign that the couple was not meant to be. To put an end to that mistaken thinking, the Brisker Rav told those gathered there the following:

Families decide that the chupah should take place at 6:30 in the evening on a certain day. They print it on the invitation and do everything they can to be on time. The only thing is that in Shamayim, the couple is destined to be married at 6:52. So what happens? Hashem arranges for an unplanned delay, in this case, a ring falling into the grass which cannot be found for 20 minutes. When the destined time for the couple to be married arrives, Hashem shows them where the ring is and the ceremony is able to be completed…exactly at 6:52, exactly as Shamayim decreed.

Avraham understood all of this. When he sent Eliezer off in search of Rivkah, she was only three years old. That is a discussion unto itself. He knew that Rivkah was the one for his son, but not when she was supposed to be the one. So he did his part by sending Eliezer off in the right direction, and left the rest up to God. In his merit, as Eliezer alluded, the great miracle occurred as it did, when it did.

Don’t just admire it, emulate it.