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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘approach’

Report: US, Egypt, Asking PA Not to Approach UN Security Council before US Elections

Friday, October 21st, 2016

The US and Egypt, which is a temporary member of the UN Security Council, have recently passed on messages to the Palestinian Authority leadership asking them not to promote any move against Israel until after the Nov. 8 elections in the US, Ha’aretz reported, citing a senior PA source. The source claimed there have been several messages, direct and indirect—through Arab and Western go-betweens, warning that the US would veto any anti-Israel move initiated prior to the elections, including condemnation of the settlement enterprise.

The source noted that, despite their “dissatisfaction” with these requests, the PA leadership will restrain itself and avoid any UNSC move until after the elections. However, as soon as voting in the US is over, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is determined to accelerate his plan to promote an anti-settlements vote at the council, the source said. The same PA official admitted, however that “so far there has been no agreement on the final draft and we are not clear what the American position would be.”

Sources inside Abbas’s office have told Ha’aretz that the chairman’s recent contacts with US officials, including a meeting with Sec. John Kerry, have not created the impression that the Administration is planning to initiate a UNSC move, or even support another member country’s initiative. “We have no illusions or expectations that the Americans would not veto or torpedo a proposal submitted to the UNSC,” a senior Palestinian official said. “We also haven’t heard of an outline being worked on or any proposal to be put forth in the future. All we hear are ideas.”

A month ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he “hoped” President Obama would not seek to establish a Palestinian state at the UN. Asked if Obama had promised him that he would not seek to establish a state of Palestine without Israel’s cooperation before the end of his term in January, Netanyahu told the Jerusalem Post: “If you’re asking if he spoke to me about this, the answer is no. If you’re asking me if I am hoping that he won’t do this, the answer is yes.”

JNi.Media

A Practical Approach to the Ten Days of Repentance

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

With Rosh Hashana behind us and Yom Kippur fast approaching, the time period in which we currently find ourselves continues to help keep us focused on the important matters at hand. The ten days from Rosh Hashana, Day One through and including Yom Kippur are known as the עשרת ימי תשובה or the Ten Days of Repentance. In spite of the moniker, the idea of repenting and trying to better ourselves, our relationship with G-d and with our fellow human beings, is actually something we must work on 365 days a year.

However, given the gravity of this particular 10 day period, things are more concentrated and hyper-focused, than any other time of the year. While there are dozens of things one can read to help one focus on self-improvement, I wish to present a few practical suggestions that can be put into practice immediately. Some are things to do and others are things to NOT do, at this or any other time.

  1. Do Not Plan to Be Perfect! If you strive for perfection–if you plan that the day after Yom Kippur you will be the Perfect Jew and not sin, then you are setting yourself up for a big fail. Instead…..
  2. Set Attainable Goals:  Take specific areas in which you may need improvement and make a PLAN. If you need to work on Lashon Hara, for example, think about people with whom you may want to lessen your contact, since your conversations stray to Lashon Hara. Or perhaps, if you are not good at making Brachot, decide that anything you have to eat before noon, you will make a Bracha on those items, then branch out from there. This list could be a mile long with examples, so these few will suffice.
  3. Be familiar with the Machzor: Instead of taking the special Yom Kippur prayer book off the shelf as you dash out of the house for Kol Nidre, take some time to sit down and look over the main prayers. Perhaps, read some of the liturgy and find areas in which you will focus during the Tefilla. Go on line and find the dozens of resources to help you understand the prayers you are saying. Make them relevant. Counting pages or daydreaming about what you will eat when the fast ends does not contribute much to the power of the day.
  4. Pray for OTHERS: While this is one of those ideas that some of you do all of the time, it is not so clear to many. While you are praying to G-d for health, parnassa, peace for yourself and your family, do take into account your circle of friends. There are always people that you know who need better income, housing, shalom bayit, a shiduch/spouse, etc. Do not leave it to memory! Take a few minutes before Yom Kippur and jot down names. Pray just as hard for them, as you do for yourself.
  5. Commit to Learning More: One can NEVER learn too much Torah or have too much knowledge. Perhaps your time is spent on work, leisure, sports, movies, etc which SEEMS to leave you little time for Torah. There are very few people on planet Earth who can say (with a straight face) that they have NO time to learn Torah. Imagine how much you can accomplish over the course of YEARS by committing now to learn just a few minutes more a day than you do already. Hashem seeks a connection with us. We make that connection through His Torah!
  6. Fall in Love…with G-d: What is it that we have to be grateful to Hashem for? There is merely a one-word answer to that question: EVERYTHING! There is nothing we have; nothing we accomplish; nothing we achieve or that we own or do that we can not attribute to G-d. G-d is the source of EVERYTHING in our lives. How can you NOT love the Supreme Being, Who out of His love for you, gives you what you need!?
  7. Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedaka: As we say in the prayers of the Yamim Noraim (the Days of Awe), these three things can affect any bad “decrees” in Heaven. Repenting, Prayer and Giving Charity have that power. But why? Are we “bribing” G-d so He will changer His mind? Maybe if we give ten more shekel to charity, then we will be saved from any malady? While this topic/question can be a post unto itself, the short version is as follows: If, in Hashem’s world, He has determined that Person A is deserving of a certain “test” in his life, then that is what will happen. But, what happens when Person A engages in prayer; sincerely makes efforts to change who he is; gives charity to enrich others–then Person A is no longer the “same” person! His actions and prayers change who he is…he is now Person B! The original decree on Person A is now nullified by dint of the fact Person A no longer “exists” in the same sphere any longer! This idea is so helpful as we make sincere efforts to make changes in our lives.
  8. Finally, Never Give Up! There is a very simple reason for this: G-d NEVER gives up on you! When you wake up in the morning, you say a brief prayer called Modeh Ani. In it, you acknowledge that Hashem has given you back your neshama/your soul and thank Hashem for that. Then, in the last couple of words you say: “רבה אמונתך” which means “your faith is so great.” Hmmmm….whose faith is so great? We are saying that HASHEM’S faith in US is so great that he returns our soul to us to serve Him, yet another day.

We are humans. We have failings. We make mistakes. It is how Hashem created us. But, we have also been given a wonderful gift: Teshuva/repentance. Use any of these ideas; come up with your own or do more reading. But do not just “get by” by sitting in the synagogue with making no effort on your part. Trying to improve yourself is very hard work. But, in life, those things that are more important always require more work, effort and time. Use your time wisely. Make this time period count. Be PRESENT and in the moment. Be aware of what you need to change. And, at the same time, think of those things you are doing well –and give yourself chizuk and allow yourself to continue to do them well..

I wish you all a G’mar Chatima Tova. May 5777 be the best year of your life, so far!

Rav Zev Shandalov

A Prudent Approach To Following The News

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

In the age of the Internet and vast, easily accessible databases, it has become relatively easy for news stories to suddenly emerge as “gotcha” moments regardless of their provenance. This is especially true in the throes of a fiercely competitive presidential election campaign. To be sure, first impressions, even if not ultimately accurate, are often the ones that linger, but that is the nature of modern communication and an important facet of our lives today.

One such story surfaced this week involving the claim by a former defense department employee, David Meyer, that Joseph Schmitz, one of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s senior foreign policy advisers, had boasted about having caused the firing of Jewish employees while he served as inspector general of the Pentagon. Mr. Schmitz is also alleged to have questioned commonly held facts about the Holocaust.

The claim against Mr. Schmitz was contained in a formal charge against the Department of Defense for unlawful discharge. It should be noted that Mr. Schmitz was not alleged to have been directly involved in Mr. Meyer’s discharge.

For his part, Mr. Schmitz denies the story and e-mailed a statement saying he was “quite proud of the Jewish heritage of my wife of 38 years,” later clarifying that his wife’s maternal grandmother was Jewish.

If true, the story is a serious matter. The point, though, is that while countless people are undoubtedly familiar with the story, no one knows if the charges have merit. Time will tell.

Another such story involves the discovery of a new trove of approximately 15,000 e-mails evidencing a close relationship between officials of the Clinton Foundation and officials at the State Department under former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee. Some of them would seem to indicate that a number of individuals, including from foreign countries, regularly went through the Clinton Foundation to secure appointments with State Department decision-makers and in the process made large contributions to the foundation.

Again, this story has dominated the news for days and is doubtlessly known to a wide audience. Yet, for all its potentially serious import, it has still to be fully explored.

Prudence dictates we should seek more information before making snap judgments about what we think we know.

Editorial Board

Trump’s Approach To Russia Is Weak And Dangerous

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

There is real danger in Donald Trump’s statements and attitude toward Vladimir Putin and Russia.

“Putin likes me,” glowed Trump in a July 25, 2016 tweet. He elaborated a few days later on ABC’s “This Week”: “He has said nice things about me over the years,” he said. “I remember years ago, he said something, many years ago, he said something very nice about me.”

I think this raises serious questions about whether a Trump foreign policy toward Putin and Russia would be personality-driven as much as (if not more than) policy-driven.

That’s not an unfair assumption to make, and not just in the case of Trump. Any student of international relations knows that personalities and relationships among leaders can influence and even drive policy. It was certainly a factor in the fatal miscalculations in U.S.-Russian relations made by Franklin Roosevelt.

“I think I can personally handle Stalin better than either your Foreign Office or my State Department,” FDR oddly boasted to Winston Churchill on March 18, 1942. “Stalin hates the guts of all your people. He thinks he likes me better.”

“He likes me.” Sound familiar?

Stalin showed his “like” of FDR by rolling over Eastern Europe. Not until literally days before he died did FDR finally admit he had been wrong about Stalin.

“Averell [Harriman] is right,” FDR sighed to Anna Rosenberg on March 23, 1945. “We can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta.”

FDR’s tragic mistake was thinking the Russian leader liked him and thus would “work with me for a world of democracy and peace” (yes, FDR actually said that about Stalin).

And yet, FDR, mistaken as he was, never suffered the significant personality issues that plague Donald Trump. Trump’s ignorance of policy and lack of any firm grounding in a set of bedrock principles is outdone only by a strikingly excessive sense of self, which would make a President Trump easily open for exploitation by a cynically manipulative foreign leader like a Vladimir Putin – a leader who learned the art of manipulation in the KGB.

Let’s recall what happened with Barack Obama, who likewise was convinced that Putin and the Russians liked him.

On September 17, 2009, our freshman president horrified our post-Cold War allies, Poland and the Czech Republic, former Soviet Bloc captive nations, by canceling plans for a joint U.S. missile shield.

Poles ever since have harbored a deep fear that Obama will not defend them. They see Obama as a weak leader, one whom the Russians realize they can roll right over.

Which brings me to Ukraine. What unfolded in Ukraine was blanket aggression by Putin. Obama had bent over backward to assuage the Russians. And how did Putin thank him for the friendship and goodwill? He invaded Ukraine, surely knowing his accommodating pal in the White House would not do anything to stop him.

Naturally, the neighboring countries around Ukraine were immediately worried. The Estonians were worried. The Latvians were worried. The Poles were worried. The Poles feared not only a Putin invasion; they feared Obama would not lift a finger to help them, even though Poland is a member of NATO.

I’m reminded of a very different worldview toward the Russians by another president.

“If you were going to approach the Russians with a dove of peace in one hand, you had to have a sword in the other,” said President Ronald Reagan. “We had to bargain with them from strength, not weakness.”

Reagan’s motto toward Russia was dovorey no provorey, Russian for “trust but verify.”

That was not what Obama did. He approached Putin with a dove in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other – and with plenty of promised “flexibility.” Obama showed weakness, not strength. And the Russians exploited it.

Reagan took pride in the fact that the Russians did not gain “one inch of ground” while he was president. Indeed they did not – and this was after they had picked up nearly a dozen satellite states in the immediate years before Reagan was elected, under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.

Which brings me back to Trump. Surely the KGB-trained Putin and his advisers have discerned how obviously easy it is to get Trump on your side. You simply say nice things about him. Just suggest that you like him and you will have him. He is easily flattered, and the Russians are shrewd flatterers.

That being the case, I really worry that Putin would play Trump like a fiddle, maybe even more than he played Obama.

Trump enthusiasts will recoil at the suggestion that their alpha-male strong-man would not stand up to Putin and the Russians if he became president. But I don’t share their confidence at all, especially given Trump’s ongoing soft assessments of Putin’s annexation of the Crimea.

If Putin moved further against Ukraine or even Poland, would a President Trump blithely look the other way because “Putin likes me” and because they have a friendly relationship? Poland is a NATO member, but Trump’s attitude to NATO has been cavalier at best.

Donald Trump needs to remember what Ronald Reagan said. You approach the Russians, and especially a Russian like Vladimir Putin, from a position of strength, not weakness.

Dr. Paul Kengor

Why Did Kayin Kill Hevel? (Rabbi Goldin Gets It Wrong)

Monday, September 30th, 2013

My encounter with Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s “Unlocking the Torah Text” this weekend nearly gave me a stroke. And all I covered was his section on parsha Bereshis.

There were two terrible passages. We’ll deal with one now, and get to the other later.

In brief, I hold there are two incorrect theories of midrash. I call them the “moron approach” and the “skeptical approach.” The moron approach, beloved by idiots who think their stupidity proves their piousness, hold that our sages were merely receiving vessels who did nothing but repeat whatever they heard from their own rebbes. They say the midrashim, in their entirety, go back to Sinai, in one long game of telephone, with not one of the Sages ever making use of his own intelligence or creative powers to add or subtract from the original teaching.

This, thankfully, is not Goldin’s approach.

Instead, Goldin embraces the skeptical approach telling us that midrashim are not really interpretations of verses. Instead, they are something the Sages used to encode and transmit Deep Ideas. Here’s how he puts it:

Midrashim are vehicles through which the Rabbis.. transmit significant messages and lessons. As such, they are not necessarily meant… to explain the factual meaning of a Torah passage.

The Goldin passage I quote above is actually a (unattributed) paraphrase of something that the Ramchal says in Maamar al Haagadot. And let me make this clear: The Ramchal’s approach is a sound way of dealing with problematic midrashim. Trouble is, too many people use this approach to deal with midrashim that are not problematic at all. And this is precisely what Goldin does.

The Midrash he attempts, in this example,  to reveal as a vehicle for transmitting secret lessons is found in Berashis Raba, Berashis 23:16 where various rabbis are quoted discussing competing reasons for Kayin’s attack on Hevel.

In summary:

(1) The brothers divided up the world, with one taking the land, and the other taking the animals. When Kayin saw Hevel standing on “his” land he objected.

(2) The brothers divided up the land and the animals even-steven but both wanted the land where the future Bes Hamikdash would stand. So they fought

(3) The brothers both wanted Chava Rishona, and fought over her. (Chava Rishona is how the Midrash solves the problem of Eve’s two creation stories. The first Chava (the one created alongside Adam in Genesis 1:27) was rejected, and replaced by the Chava created from Adam’s rib in 2:21 leading Adam to declare in 2:23 “Zos Hapaam / This time [I am happy with the Chava]!”)

(4) Hevel had two twin sisters while Kayin had only one. They fought over Hevel’s extra sister (the existence of the twins are indicated by the superfluous word “es” in 4:1 and 4:2 where Kayin’s birth announcement is accompanied with only one “es”, thus one twin, while Hevel’s birth announcement has two appearances of “es” which to the Rabbis suggested two twins.

According to Goldin, none of this should be construed at an attempt to interpret and explain the Kayin and Hevel story. Instead the Sages are “expressing global observations” regarding the real reasons why men go to war, namely territory, religion and women.

And then he makes it abundantly clear that he hasn’t even taken the elementary first step of consulting the midrash in question, writing:

Fundamentally, the Rabbis make the following statement in this Midrash: We were not present when Kayin killed Hevel. Nor can we glean any information directly from the biblical text concerning the source of their dispute.”

Only, even the briefest glance at the text of the Midrash shows this is not true! The Rabbis are not making a statement in unison about Global Facts, nor are they sharing Big Ideas. Rather they are arguing about nothing more than the plain meaning of the verse.

Each of the four suggested reasons for the fight are based on something specific and anomalous in the text, as the Midrash itself tells us, namely the seemingly extra detail about where the fight occurred.

The verse says: “While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”

Why mention the field?

(1) Because Kayin and Hevel split the world, with one (the farmer) taking the land, and the other (the sheep herder) taking the animals. In the field, Kayin objected to his brother standing on land, which he owned, so they fought.

(2) The word “field” is often a keyword for the Bes Hamikdash  (eg Micha 3:12) The brothers successfully divided up the entire world, but when they got to the field, ie, the Bes Hamikdash they fought

(3 and 4) Field is also a keyword for women. Both are, um,  plowed (Not my pun! Its in chazal!) and also because of Deuteronomy 22:25 where it says: “If a man finds a girl in the field.” So when the brothers reached the field, ie the woman, they fought.

None of this, by the way,  is a DovBear interpretation. All of it is right there in the plain text of the midrash – which Goldin would have encountered had he checked the midrash before embarking on his unnecessary attempt to “decode” it.

Visit DovBear.

DovBear

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