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April 30, 2016 / 22 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘answer’

How to Answer an Israel Boycott

Monday, April 25th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary website}

Friends of Israel have watched with alarm as the BDS — boycott, sanction, divest — movement has sought a beachhead in this country on college campuses. The BDSers have failed with most academic institutions rejecting calls to divest from companies that do business with Israel. But just as insidious are the efforts to exploit scholarly associations in order to try and ban contacts with Israeli schools and scholars. The first great success they had was with the American Studies Association, which voted to boycott Israel in 2013. Since then others, such as the National Women’s Studies Association, have followed in their footsteps. These boycotts have been roundly condemned as both discriminatory and unhelpful to the cause of peace by reputable scholars and university presidents. But that’s left those who consider these attempts to exploit any influence these groups possess to aid in a war that aims at the destruction of the Jewish state frustrated at their inability to stop a determined minority of Israel-haters from hijacking organizations whose purpose has nothing to do with the politics of the Middle East.

But it turns out there is something that can be done about it. With the help of some enterprising legal minds, a number of prominent members of the American Studies Association are suing the ASA and the leaders behind the boycott of Israel in federal court. On the surface, that sounds like a nuisance suit that might be a waste of the court system’s time. But a closer look at the effort shows that this legal attack on the BDS movement is on solid ground.

Legal scholars Eugene Kontorovich and Steven Davidoff Solomon laid out the rationale for the suit in an article in the Wall Street Journal back in December.

In passing the boycott resolution, the ASA violated the terms of its corporate charter, which just happened to be approved by Congress when it was founded and the District of Columbia Non-Profit Corporation Act that requires an organization to operate only within the provisions of its charter. Promoting a campaign to stigmatize Israelis and to deny them access to U.S. institutions is not only an act of despicable prejudice. It has nothing to do with the ASA’s purpose of promoting scholarship about American studies and therefore changes the very nature of the group.

According to Jerome Marcus, lead counsel for the plaintiffs:

This case stands for the simple proposition that nonprofit corporations must pursue the lawful purposes for which they are established, for which they receive nonprofit status, and for which they raise charitable contributions.

By stepping beyond the purposes for which it was founded in order to become a vehicle for political advocacy, the ASA violated that charter, which is not only filed with the IRS in order to maintain its non-profit status but is, in legal terms, a contract with its members. Moreover, the method by which the ASA leaders managed to pass the resolution also violated the rules stated in that same charter.

Can this effort succeed in brushing back the ASA as well as setting a precedent that may serve to deter other groups from being hijacked in this manner? While there is no way of knowing in advance how the federal courts will decide, the prospects for the suit are better than you might think.

There are legal precedents for non-profits being compelled to abide by the terms of their founding documents. The chief merit of the suit is that the violation of the ASA’s charter cannot be reasonably denied. Boycott advocates claim that the fact that the United States supports Israel brings activism against the Jewish state under the rubric of American studies but this is rubbish. Whatever one may think about Israel, waging an economic war against it or discriminating against its institutions and citizens in no way advances the purposes of scholarly work on specifically American topics. The only way for this to be conceivably possible is for the group to have transformed itself from one dedicated to scholarship into a political organization. And that is precisely what the lawsuit alleges the leaders of the group did when they pushed this resolution through to passage. But by doing so without formally amending their constitution, they violated the law.

Nor can the boycott organizers claim that the vote taken at their convention is implicit permission from the members to do just that and to change the ASA’s purpose. One problem with that claim is that the vote did not conform to the terms of the group’s bylaws. In that case, the indecent haste of the Israel-haters undermined their authority to act.

Nor is there any legal or political precedent that might give the ASA’s leadership the right to act in this manner. Contrary to what one might assume, during the campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa neither the ASA nor most other similarly constituted groups boycotted that nation. If it had and gotten away with such conduct, it might have been reasonable for its members to think that a similar attack against Israel might be legal even if there is absolutely no analogy between the circumstances of a democratic state with a Jewish majority defending itself against foes determined to destroy it and the white minority regime in South Africa.

Moreover, the terms of the boycott are such that they leave no room for doubt as to the political purpose. The boycott is not rooted in claims of discrimination against Arabs or the manner in which democratic Israel treats Palestinians. Its terms call not merely for any Israeli institution or scholar to disassociate themselves from their country’s policies but to work to change its borders and to potentially replace it with a Palestinian state — the stated goal of Hamas and even that of the moderate Palestinian Authority that regards all of pre-1967 Israel as “occupied” territory.”

Let’s not mince words about the basic purpose of Israel boycotts. Those who advocate for them are seeking to treat the one Jewish state on the planet differently than any other country. By denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination in their ancient homeland and the right of self-defense against those who seek its elimination, the boycotters are practicing a form of discrimination. Though anti-Zionists claim not to be prejudiced against Jews, what they are doing is an act of bias. Acts of bias against Jews are anti-Semitism.

The perversion of a group that was founded to promote scholarship about America into one that aims at attacking Israel is a scandal. But as this suit shows, it is also illegal. Let’s hope that the courts heed the strong arguments in the filing and put the ASA and the entire scholarly world on notice that such illegal and prejudicial conduct will not be tolerated. At the very least, it will stand as a warning to other such associations that they cannot take part in illegal boycotts of the Jewish state with impunity.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Radical Community Groups Condemn NYC Pols’ Trip to Israel

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

A coalition of radical left “community groups” held a protest and press conference outside New York’s City Hall on Monday, Jan. 13. The groups were denouncing a scheduled February trip to Israel by 15 members of New York’s City Council. They want the trip cancelled.

Several dozen people showed up to hear speakers denounce Israel for its “counter-terrorism operations that seek to suppress and control Palestinians,” and for its contribution “to the militarization of police in NYC and around the country.”

The trip is being sponsored by New York’ City’s Jewish Community Relations Council and the United Jewish Appeal.

The protesters included many of the standard groups whose lifeblood is demonizing Israel. They included CODEPINK, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

The speakers hammered away at a favorite theme they have been playing over the past few months, linking “disregard for justice,” and racism allegedly found both in American police forces and in Israeli security institutions. Of course the standard canard of Gaza as an “open air prison” and the security barrier as a tool of apartheid were repeatedly raised.

One speaker who calls herself a “human and animal rights social justice attorney,” Bina Ahmad, works at the Staten Island Legal Aid Office which played a role in the legal challenge over Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a New York City police officer.

Ahmad demanded to know whether the politicians were going to tour the separation barrier or the devastation in Gaza. She reportedly analogized Israel’s “occupation of Palestine” to the New York Police Department’s “presence in communities of color.”

“Do not neglect your official responsibilities to our diverse city by touring an apartheid state,” the coalition members had written in a letter to the council members scheduled to be on the trip.

The critics also blasted the sponsor, NYC’s JCRC, which “has helped undermine the basic civil rights and liberties of our city’s Muslim residents.”

City Council members who will be part of the delegation to Israel include Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mark Treyger, Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, David Greenfield, Rafael Espinal, Darlene Mealy, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Corey Johnson, Ritchie Torres, Andrew Cohen, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich, and James Van Bramer.

Egregious misrepresentations of reality were stated as fact by various speakers, including public aid attorneys and academics.

Conor Tomas Reed is an educator and graduate student at the City University of New York. He blathered on about Israel’s “segregated workforce” and “wage discrimination along ethnoreligious lines,” and insisted that those participating in the city council junket were taking an “anti-labor” stand.

David Galarza, a Puerto Rican activist chanted “Puerto Rico, Palestine, Occupation is a crime!” He also compared the 1963 firebombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama in which four little black girls died, with the death of four brothers on a Gaza Beach during this past summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

Photographs of the two bombing incidents were held up as Galarza called out the eight names of the dead children. Problem is, it is still not known how exactly the four Bakr boys died on that Gaza Beach this summer, and what they were doing there, near a munitions cache, during a war.

Here is a portion of the letter sent to the council members in protest of the trip to Israel:

As New Yorkers, we recognize that the struggle for social and racial justice in our own city is deeply connected to that of the Palestinian people. Israel’s callous disregard for international human rights norms and the impunity enjoyed by Israeli police and occupation forces cannot be viewed apart from the near-total lack of accountability mirrored by the NYPD and other police forces as they target communities of color in the United States.

In recent weeks, many of us joined demonstrations to protest the killings of countless Black people by police forces across the country. Members of City Council also protested these killings. However, these gestures are wholly incompatible with participating in a private tour funded by special interests hoping to legitimize Israel’s laws discriminating against its Palestinians citizens and the violence it inflicts upon Palestinians under military occupation. To demonstrate in support of racial justice while participating in a tour of apartheid is a fundamental contradiction.

International law requires Israel to protect the civilian population in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, yet it has repeatedly failed to do so. The world has witnessed Israel’s increasingly horrendous war crimes, from the fatal shootings of protesters in the West Bank5 to the horrific slaughter in Gaza. Strengthening cultural, business, and educational ties to a state engaged in these ongoing transgressions is not a proper goal for our city.

At a time of public outrage over police brutality, participation in a delegation ignoring Israeli policies that inspired and reinforced unjust tactics of the NYPD can only aggravate New Yorkers’ concerns. Any trip in support of Israel conflicts with a concern over domestic police abuses.

And here is a sample of the signatories to the letter:

Jewish Voice for Peace – New York; Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel; CUNY for Palestine; Students for Justice in Palestine Chapters: Hunter, Pace, NYU, Columbia, CUNY School of Law; Women in Black Union Square; Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism; Librarians and Archivists with Palestine; Center for Constitutional Rights; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network – New York; New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA); Al-Awda NY; The Palestine Right to Return Coalition New York City; Labor Against the War; Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; Trinity Lutheran Church (Brooklyn); American Muslims for Palestine; National Lawyers Guild, NYC Chapter; West-Park Presbyterian Church; Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER); Coalition International Socialist Organization (ISO); Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV)/Organizing Asian Communities; Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC); Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS; Irish Queers

The nine day trip is scheduled to start on Feb. 15.

 

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

The Only Commonality Is Mass Killing

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Originally published at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Aaron Alexis murdered 12 people and injured at least eight more at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard before he was shot and killed by law enforcement professionals. It is tempting to compare Alexis to a suicide bomber, especially now that we have heard rumors he opened a website under the name “Mohammed Salem.” However, clear thinking demands that temptation be resisted. Let me explain why.

As an Israeli criminologist who has studied suicide bombers for almost two decades—making extensive observations of and conducting numerous interviews with those who failed, as well as with those who dispatch the bombers, with family members of suicide bombers and decision makers and elites in their society— I can say with confidence that the differences between mass killers in the West such as Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine, and yes, Aaron Alexis at the D.C. Navy Yard, and suicide bombers are categorical and insurmountable.

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, Eric Lankford, an American criminal justice professor, sought to show that America’s lone shooters have more in common with suicide bombers than is commonly believed. But his op-ed piece, “What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers” (New York Times, 12/19/12), is fundamentally flawed. America has certainly suffered enough with the recent Sandy Hook, Aurora and other tragedies, but clear thinking demands we realize that even if someone is characterized as a “shaheed” (a martyr for the sake of Allah, including suicide bombers), the differences between mass killers in the West and suicide bombers are categorical and insurmountable.

The overriding distinction between the two is their native cultures: the suicide bomber’s education and attack preparations are diametrically opposed to that of mass killers, as is their socialization. Suicide bombers are radical Islam’s celebrated heroes, its darlings, whose acts are viewed by the larger culture as exemplary and heroic; in contrast, the West’s mass killers are aberrant individuals isolated from their resolutely life-affirming culture.

Specifically and most importantly, Western culture in general, and American culture in particular, cherishes life. American children are raised in the belief in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; they are raised to embrace life and respect the lives of others. Clearly there are a disturbed few who kill others, but those are not the heroes of the American people: their murders and subsequent own deaths do not bring honor to their families or elevate them in their society’s collective memory.

But that is exactly what does happen in radical Islamist culture. In Gaza, for example, children collect cards of shaheeds, the same way American children collect baseball cards. It is absurd to think that anyone would propose National Park Stadium be renamed Aaron Alexis Stadium, and the absurdity illustrates and emphasizes the difference between American mass killers and Muslim suicide bombers whose names emblazon schools, sports teams, stadiums and public squares.

The Western mass killer’s acts are motivated by individual pathology rather than by collective ethos. The individual’s aberrant thoughts trigger the plan for a mass killing. The suicide bomber is not driven by psychological pain, although he is selected because others see him as weak or vulnerable. A culture that celebrates death and declares to the West that “we love death as you love life” is the petri dish in which suicide bombers develop.

Another distinction is that suicide bombers are not lone gunmen, instead, they are merely tools in a comprehensive, well-advertised terrorist production, manipulated to achieve political goals. To understand the significance of the difference, try to imagine Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris as inanimate objects whose owner chooses not only the location of the killings, but also the date, the weapons and even the victims. The suicide bombers’ locations are chosen by others to ensure that the greatest possible damage will be inflicted; the bombers usually have little or no advance notice. A suicide bomber, in contrast to Adam Lanza, will never embark on his mission by first killing his own mother—the most significant and beloved person in his life.

The mass killers choose their victims, the locations and the timing of their deeds, usually planning their acts meticulously over a long period of time. For the suicide bomber, his body is the murder weapon. His death is the only way to achieve his true goal: to enter paradise physically, where 72 virgins and the rivers of wine await him, and spiritually, by bringing honor to himself and his family. All this is possible only if his corporeal being merges with the bomb fragments to bring death to others, an ideal far removed from Western moral conceptions of life and afterlife.

A Western mass killer’s death is not a precondition for the mass murder; the deaths of those they have selected is what matters. The suicide bomber, however, is on a mission aimed at propelling himself toward a better future in the afterlife, where he will be able to enjoy everything he was unable to enjoy or achieve while living. America’s mass killers have no future: they will be vilified and not celebrated, and in contrast to radical Islamic culture, their families will suffer ignominy and isolation. We have already heard the anguish suffered by Aaron Alexis’s mother, who, in a public statement, expressed deep sorrow over the pain caused by her son. She also said she was glad her son was in a place now where he can no longer do any harm to anyone.

The West’s mass killers have no recruiters, handlers or dispatchers, all of whom are essential in a world where suicide bombers are the logical means to achieve the collective end. In the United States, anywhere and at any time, the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” does not elicit the answer, “A mass killer (or suicide bomber).” However, the Gazan child for example, will not answer “fireman,” “policeman,” or even “I’m going to work in an office like Daddy.” The virtually guaranteed answer is “shaheed,” and his mother will likely cheer.

Radical Islam’s suicide bomber is the manipulated tool of an aberrant death-glorifying culture, while the West’s mass killer is an aberrant member of a robust, life-affirming culture. There are similarities between the two, but it is a mistake to put them on the same level. To blur the distinction is to insult America.

Anat Berko

US, Setting Example For Israel, Releases Taliban Terrorists

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

On 28 July, Jonathan Tobin asked, at Commentary, if the U.S. would release terrorist killers as a precondition for talks – the measure Secretary of State John Kerry was demanding of Israel.

A couple of days later, in an almost supernaturally handy turn of events, we had the answer: yes.  The U.S. did exactly that at the end of July, agreeing to release five Taliban terrorists we’ve been holding at Guantanamo, in order to jumpstart the initiative – mainly ours – for talks with the Taliban.

Daniel Greenfield points out at FrontPage that in June, the Taliban offered to exchange U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for the five Taliban at Gitmo.  The Haqqani network of the Pakistan Taliban has been holding Bergdahl since late June or early July of 2009, shortly after he went missing close to Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

But the Gitmo Five were released without an exchange for SGT Bergdahl taking place.  This will have to be a blow to his family in Idaho (not to mention a blow to Bergdahl).

It will also be another blow to U.S. credibility, already on the ropes.  It certainly dents the credibility of detention as a deterrent to terrorism.  Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, had a hilariously timed oped in Friday’s Washington Post online in which he argued that the Obama administration should declare that the “war against al Qaeda” – yes, that al Qaeda; the one that has our embassies shut down across the Muslim world this weekend – is over.  Instead of acting on a war footing and killing terrorists, says Mr. Roth, we should be going with President Obama’s own expressed preference to “detain, interrogate, and prosecute” them.

Now, I have been a critic myself of Obama’s overreliance on drone killings as a method.  And detention and interrogation, while important for intelligence gathering, are not methods of deterrence, nor is prosecution.  I don’t argue for them as a substitute for drone attacks.

I’m getting those points out of the way so we can focus on what matters here, which is that detention is as close to meaningless as makes no difference, if we’re just going to turn terrorists loose anyway, to everyone we might have a yen to have “talks” with.  The Obama administration, just a few days before his oped appeared, provided Kenneth Roth with a conversation-stopping answer to his proposition that we should kill less and detain more.  The answer leaves Roth in the dust:  whether we stop killing terrorists or not, we should release the ones we have detained in order to get terrorists to have talks with us.

I guess, technically, there would be a purpose for detaining a few from time to time, on the assumption that we may want to have talks with their comrades in terror in the future.  This kind of preemptive hostage-taking is gang-and-guerrilla behavior, of course.  The degrees by which the mode of thinking shifts from “responsible statesman” to “mob boss” are not subtle here.

In any case, we can reassure Mr. Roth that the U.S. ended the war on terror in 2009.  Perhaps that’s not the same thing as the “war against al Qaeda,” but in the latter regard, Roth would do well to try and keep up:  al Qaeda has been “decimated” and has been “on the path to defeat” for a year or more, according to the Obama administration.

The die seems to be cast; we can at least hope that God really does watch out for fools, drunks, and the United States, because our president certainly isn’t doing it.  Given the reigning jumble of confused soundbites and incoherent actions that now masquerades as U.S. policy on the global threat of terrorism, we may justly ask, with our former secretary of state: what difference, at this point, does it make?

J. E. Dyer

Fear Or Distress?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Jacob and Esau are about to meet again after a separation of 22 years. It is a fraught encounter. Once, Esau had sworn to kill Jacob as revenge for what he saw as the theft of his blessing. Will he do so now, or has time healed the wound? Jacob sends messengers to let his brother know he is coming. They return, saying that Esau is coming to meet Jacob with a force of 400 men. We then read: “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:8).

The question is obvious. Jacob is in the grip of strong emotions. But why the duplication of verbs? What is the difference between fear and distress? To this a midrash gives a profound answer:

Rabbi Judah bar Ilai asked whether fear and distress are identical. The meaning, however, is that he was “afraid” that he might be killed and that he was “distressed” that he might kill. For Jacob thought that if he prevails against me, will he not kill me? If I prevail against him, will I not kill him? That is the meaning of “he was greatly afraid” – lest he should be killed – “and distressed” – lest he should kill.

The difference between being afraid and distressed, according to the midrash, is that the first is a physical anxiety while the second is a moral one. It is one thing to fear one’s own death, quite another to contemplate being the cause of someone else’s. However, a further question now arises. Surely self-defense is permitted in Jewish law. If Esau were to try to kill Jacob, Jacob would be justified in fighting back, if necessary at the cost of Esau’s life. Why then should this possibility raise moral qualms? This is the issue addressed by Rabbi Shabbetai Bass, author of the commentary on Rashi, Siftei Chachamim:

“One might argue that Jacob should surely not be distressed about the possibility of killing Esau, for there is an explicit rule: ‘If someone comes to kill you, forestall it by killing him.’ Nonetheless Jacob had qualms, fearing that in the course of the fight he might kill some of Esau’s men, who were not themselves intent on killing Jacob but merely on fighting Jacob’s men. And even though Esau’s men were pursuing Jacob’s men, and every person has the right to save the life of the pursued at the cost of the life of the pursuer, nevertheless there is a condition: ‘If the pursued could have been saved by maiming a limb of the pursuer, but instead the rescuer killed the pursuer, the rescuer is liable to capital punishment on that account.’ Hence Jacob feared that, in the confusion of battle, he might kill some of Esau’s men when he might have restrained them by merely inflicting injury on them.”

The principle at stake, according to the Siftei Chachamim, is the minimum use of force. Jacob was distressed at the possibility that in the heat of conflict he might kill some of the combatants when injury alone might have been all that was necessary to defend the lives of those – including his own – who were under attack.

There is, however, a second possibility, namely that the midrash means what it says, no more, no less: that Jacob was distressed at the possibility of being forced to kill, even if that were entirely justified.

At stake is the concept of a moral dilemma. A dilemma is not simply a conflict. There are many moral conflicts. One example: may we perform an abortion to save the life of the mother? This question has an answer. There is a right course of action and a wrong one. Two duties conflict and we have meta-halachic principles to tell us which takes priority. There are some systems in which all moral conflicts are of this kind. There is always a decision procedure and thus a determinate answer to the question, “What shall I do?”

A dilemma, however, is a situation in which there is no right answer. I ought not to do A (allow myself to be killed); I ought not to do B (kill someone else); but I must do one or the other. To put it more precisely, there may be situations in which doing the right thing is not the end of the matter. The conflict may be inherently tragic. The fact that one principle (self-defense) overrides another (the prohibition against killing) does not mean that, faced with such a choice, I am without qualms. Sometimes being moral means that I experience distress at having to make such a choice. Doing the right thing may mean that I do not feel remorse or guilt, but I still feel regret or grief that I had to do it.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The Age Of Disrespect

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

And Lavan and Betuel answered and said, “It is from Hashem that this has come forth. We can speak neither for nor against it.” – Bereishis 24:50

Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, went to find a wife for Yitzchak. He approached the city of Charan, waited at the well, and asked Hashem for a sign. “Let it be that the girl who not only gives me water when I ask for it, but says, ‘Not only will I give you to drink, but I will give your camels as well.’ She should be the one that is right for Yitzchak.”

No sooner did he finish speaking than Rivka, the daughter of Betuel, came upon the scene and fulfilled his request exactly as he specified. Eliezer knew that he had found the right one.

He then asked Rivka to take him to her father. As they neared the house, Rivka’s brother Lavan saw the camels laden with treasure and ran out to greet the new guest and usher him in. Eliezer described the miracles that happened and then asked for approval of the marriage. Lavan and Betuel exclaimed, “It is from Hashem! How can we stop it?”

Rashi comments that from here we see Lavan’s wickedness. Why did the Torah mention his name first? To teach us that he spoke before his father. This shows us that he was a rasha.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

The answer to this can best be understood from a historical vantage point.

A yeshiva student learning in Israel found himself on a bus, sitting near two secular American Jews. Noticing that one was a bit older than the other, he was surprised to hear them calling each other by their first names. “Bob, did you notice that?” said one. “Hey, Joe, what do you think?” said the other. His surprise deepened when in the course of conversation it became clear that the two were father and son. Dad explained, “I don’t want barriers between us, so we call each other by our first names.”

That isn’t the way that it used to be. Not all that long ago in America, a teenager wouldn’t dream of calling an adult by his first name, let alone his father. And certainly a child wouldn’t dare open his mouth when his father spoke. It didn’t matter how foul-mouthed the child was, and it didn’t matter how unpolished the father was. Children knew their place, and the idea of a child speaking back to an adult was unheard of.

Things have changed. The countercultural revolution of the 1960s brought new attitudes and ideas. And while much of the hysteria of those times has passed, one of the relics is that respect is no longer part of the culture. Gone is respect for leaders. Gone is respect for the clergy. Gone is respect for elders. In its place is the cynicism of a new age – an egalitarian age – where we are all equals.

We no longer need to treat institutions with reverence, and we no longer need to treat authority with deference. And so we argue with our doctors. We argue with our lawyers. And we argue with our parents, who don’t really know that much anyway. Welcome to the Age of Disrespect.

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. In the times of Lavan, society was still relatively normal. Workers respected bosses. Students respected teachers. Younger people respected older people. As such, there were things that were done and things that were not done. In that world, for a child to answer in his father’s presence was outrageous. It simply didn’t happen. The only time such a thing could occur was when the child had veered way off course – had become deviant. And so Rashi tells us that Lavan’s response shows just how wicked he was.

This is especially illustrative because Lavan wasn’t known as a paradigm of virtue. He died trying to poison Eliezer in order to steal his money. Yet even in his home, for a child to answer before his father did was so out of the norm that it could only happen if that child was wicked.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Over Here, my Rain Is Happy!

Monday, November 12th, 2012

“I’m singing in the rain, I’m singing in the rain, what a wonderful feeling, I’m happy again!”

Before Shabbat, the Heavens opened with a symphony of thunder and lightning, and the great blessing of rain washed over the Land of Israel in answer to our prayers. Like I do every year with the very first rain, I hurried outside and danced in joy, laughing happily as the raindrops splashed on my face.

“Raindrops keep falling on my head… da da da da da da da da da da da… nothings worrying me!”

Back in the house, I opened the door to the terrace so I could hear the splattering of rain on the aluminum roof. What a wonderful sound! “What a glorious feeling! I’m happy again!” The clatter of raindrops sounded like the clinging of coins in a beggar’s cup. “Rain, rain, don’t go away – stay with us another day!”

When lightening lit up the sky and thunder shook the heavens, I recited their special blessings with exuberant joy. What a privilege to be in the Holy Land when it rains! It’s like every drop is a kiss from Hashem, assuring us that He loves us.

Yesterday, driving to Tel Aviv, it was pouring. I sang all the way! What a blessing to be stuck in a long traffic jam in Israel because of the rain! For nearly 2000 years, we’ve prayed to come home to Israel, and now that Hashem, in His infinite kindness, has allowed us to rebuild our Land, what a joy that we have long traffic jams! It’s a sign that the country is booming!  Would Moshe Rabanu have complained to sit in a traffic jam in Israel? Would Rashi have grumbled? No way!

I can’t help comparing our great joy in Israel over the rain to the recent devastating rains in New York. There it was a disaster. You want to know why? Look at this, from the Torah giant, the “Ohr Somayach,” Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen from Dvinsk, from his famous commentary on the Torah, the “Meshech Chochmah,”

“If a Jew thinks that Berlin (New York) is Jerusalem, then a raging storm-wind will uproot him by his trunk – a hurricane will arise and spread its roaring waves, and it will swallow and destroy, and flood forth without pity” (Meshech Chochmah, Pg. 171).

In the same light, the Torah giant, Rabbi Yaacov Emden, writes in the Introduction to his famous siddur, “The Beit Yaacov,”

“When it seems to us, in our present peaceful existence outside of the Land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, this is to me the deepest, most obvious, most outstanding, and direct cause of all of the awesome, frightening, monstrous, unimaginable destructions that we have experienced in the Diaspora.”

In the meantime, I’m yours truly, just singing and dancing in the rain.

Tzvi Fishman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/over-here-my-rain-is-happy/2012/11/12/

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