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October 27, 2016 / 25 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Balfour Declaration’

The Jay Shapiro Show – The Balfour Declaration and Mahmoud Abbas [audio]

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

By a strange quirk of history, Lord Balfour created both the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Without his letter to the British Zionist Federation, neither entity would have come into existence.

Jay Shapiro Show 16Aug – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Mahmoud Abbas Hopes to Sue UK Over 100-yr-old Balfour Declaration

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Barely a year before the 100th anniversary of the issuing of the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is hoping to force the United Kingdom to withdraw, renounce or rewrite the document that called for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

As he watches the rapid, vibrant growth of the Jewish State and the soaring corruption and failures of the PA government – despite billions of dollars pumped in by foreign governments – Abbas has now decided to sue the British government over the Balfour Declaration.

According to Daoud Kuttab, a former Ferris professor at Princeton University, Abbas is “said to have requested in Nawqshod Arab League to help sue britain’s (sic) for Balfour’s declaration.”

Abbas is no novice to rewriting history. He is a longtime Holocaust denier who cleverly acknowledges the “unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation,” as he told Haaretz in 2003,” but whose doctoral dissertation simply blames the Zionist Jews for the demise of their European brethren.

Entitled “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” Abbas wrote a conspiracy theory about the Holocaust, opining that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in order to inspire more immigration to Palestine.

“The Zionist movement led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule in order to around the government’s hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination.” Abbas contends in the book that the Zionists were the Nazis’ “basic partner in crime.”

On November 17, 1917, the British government published a letter written by Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour, addressed to Lord Rothschild, endorsing the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish People in Palestine. The text of the letter read as follows:

I have much pleasure in conveying to you. on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Hana Levi Julian

The Balfour Declaration and the Reaction of Rav Kook

Monday, October 27th, 2014

As nations issued statements of support for the Balfour Declaration, issued on November 2, 1917, Jewish communities around the world paused and celebrated. The American Jewish Zionist Newspaper, the Maccabaean termed the Balfour Declaration, ‘The Jewish Magna Carta,’ The American Jewish Chronicle, “A Turning Point in Jewish History,” The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, the “The End of the Galut.” A popular Yiddish daily, Dos Yiddishe Folk, stated, “for the first time in two thousand years we again enter into the arena of world history as a nation which deserves a national home.” The religious Zionist movement, Mizrahi, issued a statement that “It seems that Holy Providence which guided Israel in its long night of exile is about to reward the Jewish people for all their suffering and tribulations.”

In one celebration, a reported crowd of 100,000 danced outside the US Consulate in Odessa.

Christian Zionists around the world were elated as well.

On Sunday evening December 2, 1917, crowds gathered in the London Opera House, which was filled to capacity with over 2,700 in attendance. An over flow crowd met simultaneously in the Kingsway Theatre of London. The rally was entitled a “Great Thanksgiving Meeting,” by the London Jewish Chronicle and it featured members of the British Government and leaders of British Jewry.

At the rally, speeches were delivered with the frequent theme portraying the British as liberators of the Jewish people from millennium of suffering. British Member of Parliament, Colonel Mark Sykes called the event a “Turning point in the history of the whole world.” MP Robert Cecil proclaimed, “The keynote of our meeting this afternoon is liberation.” MP Herbert Samuel, who would later become the first British High Commissioner over the Middle East, pronounced the words, “Next year in Jerusalem” and decried those who had doubted that British promise of Jewish statehood. Dr. Chaim Weitzmann, president of the English Zionist Federation, who had an integral role in the promulgation of the Declaration, called upon those present to rise and take an oath, which quoted a passage from Isaiah, “If I forget thee Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its power.”

The general perception was that the deliverance of the Jews was forthcoming, thanks to the declaration of the British government.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook offered an understanding of teshuvah related to the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook offered an understanding of teshuvah related to the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

Among the speakers was the eminent Rav Abraham Isaac Kook from the city of Jaffa who due to circumstances related to the war was in London at the time. Rav Kook’s message was quite different, “I have not come here to thank the British nation, but even more, to congratulate it for the privilege of making this declaration. The Jewish nation is the ‘scholar’ among the nations, the ‘people of the book,’ a nation of prophets; and it is a great honor for any nation to aid it. I bless the British nation for having extended such honorable aid to the people of the Torah, so that they may return to their land and renew their homeland.”

Rav Kook offered recognition to the British but not thanks. If the British offered the pledge, then it fulfilled a role for which it was destined.

He believed the British need not be thanked for giving the Jews what has been rightfully theirs for over three thousand years, or for offering the Jews the land which was taken from them by Roman conquerors 1800 years earlier?

Furthermore, the British issued the declaration, but they had not yet delivered on its promises of Jewish Statehood. Despite the euphoria, the British would soon abandon its promises. By 1919, members of the Jewish Legion who fought valiantly with the British to expel the Turks from Palestine in 1918 were prohibited from entering Jerusalem on Passover. One year later, during Passover, an Arab pogrom broke out in Jerusalem. Five Jews were murdered and hundreds were wounded-eighteen critically. Synagogues were desecrated, shops were looted, and homes were ransacked. The British military authorities rejected the Jews’ demands to dismiss the Arab police who participated. The Jews as a whole condemned the response by the British, and accused them of complicity in the pogrom. Accusations were also subsequently leveled that the British incited the violence.

Weeks later, as the British were granted a mandate over Palestine signifying a possible shift in policy, another event expressing gratitude was held. On the same page of the London Jewish Chronicle, on April 30, 1920, which contains eye witness accounts of the horrors on the pogrom, an advertisement appeared calling for a ‘Thanksgiving Meeting’ to be held on May 2, “In Gratification for the Granting of the Mandate to Great Britain and the Establishment in Palestine of the New Jewish Homeland.” With the new mandate granted, the British were again showered with words of appreciation, but the Palestine mandate continued and the promises of Jewish Statehood were not fulfilled.

Over five years later, on November 11, 1925, crowds filled the ‘Churva’ synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem to commemorate the armistice which concluded the First World War. As thunderous cannon fire ushered in a two minute moment of silence. Rav Kook then addressed the audience, “We the Jewish people, have kept silent not only for two minutes but for two thousand years. The nations robbed our Land from us; they plundered our cherished soil; they spilled our blood; and we always kept silent. We suffered for two thousand years of indescribable afflictions, but we kept our peace. …Our silence today is our protest, our outcry: Return the theft! Return our holy places, which you took by force!”

Larry Domnitch

‘Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts’: Israel and International Law

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

We’re all aware of God’s biblical covenant with Israel. What isn’t so well recognized is Israel’s legal right to the land aka Palestine.

The name Palestine was given to the former land of Israel by the Romans. The Roman objective was to erase any Jewish history within the region and to humiliate them further by associating it with the Philistines, a long extinct people and Israel’s ancient nemesis. In fact, there has never been a country or independent state of Palestine and it remained only a territory that has been conquered and re-conquered by various Empires.

The first recorded mention of a Palestinian-Arab entity was in 1911, when a newspaper named Filastin was published in Jaffa. Like most of the Palestinian movement, it was strictly a reaction to the Zionists’ return to Eretz Israel.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat cleverly adopted the name Palestinian for the Arabs, despite there being no P in the Arabic alphabet, rendering it unpronounceable in their language. Traditionally, the Arabs had preferred to be called Southern Syrians. The purpose of Arafat’s broad political adoption of the term “Palestinian” was to create an Arab association with the land. Consequently, the Jews’ identification with their ancient homeland was stolen.

The last entity to have domain over Palestine after the Ottoman Empire, was the British Empire. After WWI, the allied countries began to divide the conquered Ottoman Empire. The British decided to endorse the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

This is why the Balfour Declaration from 1917 by lord Arthur James Balfour and the subsequent Declaration and Ratification that build on this document, are so vitally important to Israel’s legal right to their land.

The Balfour Declaration and beyond

“His Majesty views with favor the establishment the establishment in Palestine of a National home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this objective, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any country.”

This laid the foundation for the San Remo Conference, in April 1920. The countries attending were the League of Nations members at that time Britain, Italy and France and representatives from Japan, Greece and Belgium. The Balfour Declaration was ratified giving the Jews the legal right to re-create their homeland within the British ruled territory of Palestine. It was considered to be a binding resolution of International Law.

The Mandate for Palestine was constructed on the basis of the San Remo Resolution and was given over to Britain on the condition that Britain facilitate the implementation of the Balfour Declaration. That is, to bring into existence the formation of a Jewish State. Furthermore in 1922 The League of Nations enshrined into International Law the principle of Palestine being the National Home of the Jewish people and this was reconfirmed when the United Nations replaced the League of Nations.

Although San Remo gave Israel legal rights to the land, Sir Winston Churchill altered the agreement to appease the Arabs. He dedicated the land east of the Jordan River to the Hashemite Kingdom, as Transjordan, later to be renamed Jordan. The land west of the Jordan River was to be the Jewish homeland. Consequently, 77% of the land was taken away from the Jews. His decision was illegal and the San Remo Agreement is still legal and binding today.

The “1967 border” marks the armistice line where the Israeli and Jewish armies laid down their weapons in 1949, in accordance with the Rhodes ceasefire. In the 19 years that followed, the Arabs living in the area known as “West Bank” never requested nor were offered a Palestinian state by His Majesty King Hussein. Indeed, the only country to even recognize Jordan’s sovereignty over the “West Bank” was the U.K., which also trained and equipped the Jordanian Legion. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, this was—and remains, in terms of international law—a no man’s land.

Leslie-Ann Stoffel

Pro-Israel New Yorkers Protest 92nd St Y’s anti-Israel Speaker

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

“She can say whatever she wants, but not in ‘our’ building,” was Manhattan attorney Robert Sidi’s response when finding out that the 92nd Street Y was hosting vocal Israel-hater novelist Alice Walker.

Sidi was explaining to The Jewish Press why he showed up Thursday night, May 30, to stand outside the 92nd Street Y and protest the fact that a Jewish institution, built and maintained with funds from Jewish charities, was providing a platform to someone who “denounces, denigrates and demonizes Israel.”

About a dozen pro-Israel New Yorkers joined Sidi last night, protesting the appearance by Alice Walker at the Y.  Walker was at the 92nd St Y to promote a recent publication of a book of poetry and to talk “about her activism and her writing, her conflicting impulses to retreat into inner contemplation and to remain deeply engaged with the world.”

Lainee Cohen Grauman and her husband Jonathan Grauman told The Jewish Press that they only found out about Walker’s appearance at the 92nd Street Y two days before the event.

“It really riled me,” Lainee Cohen Grauman said. “I liked her book, The Color Purple, but her politics and anti-Israel activities are  horrible.”  Grauman ticked off several anti-Israel positions Walker has taken: “she was on the flotilla to break the blockade of Gaza, she tried to stop Carnegie Hall from hosting the Israeli Philharmonic, and now she is trying to get Alicia Keys to back out of her appearance in Israel.”

Alicia Keys is a popular R & B singer scheduled to appear in Tel Aviv in July.  In a public letter Alice Walker called on Keys to pull out of her commitment to perform in the Jewish State.

In the letter Walker wrote to Keys, “It would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists.”

Walker was not content to merely call Israel an apartheid country.  She told Keys Israel is “unbelievably evil,” “greedy” and “cruel,” and that it is responsible for a great deal of global suffering.

This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil. You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice and complicity. Greed. It is a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.

Grauman tried to call the 92nd Street Y administration to ask why they were providing a forum for Alice Walker, but finally gave up after  being repeatedly foiled by the switchboard.  Not only could she not speak with anyone, she could not even leave a message.

“It was important to show up outside the Y for two reasons,” Jonathan Grauman told The Jewish Press. First, it is important to send a message to the Y and to other Jewish institutions – they need to be put on notice that there are members of the Jewish community who do not want Jewish communal dollars spent supporting enemies of Israel.  And second, we want Alice Walker to know that we are aware of her anti-Israel message and she will not go unchallenged.”

Both Graumans concurred that it was important to go out and challenge falsehoods against Israel. “Walker’s insistence that the land belongs to the Palestinians is not just anti-Israel, it is a rejection of 2000 years of Jewish history,” Jonathan Grauman explained.

Richard Allen is the head of JCC Watch, which sent out the original notice about Walker’s appearance at the Y.

“It is shameful that the 92nd Street Y is diverting Jewish community money for anti-Israel activities,” Allen told The Jewish Press. “There has been a pattern – first with [BDS activist] Roger Waters and now with Alice Walker.  And all of our efforts to speak with the 92nd Street Y administrators have been met with closed doors, closed ears and closed minds.”

The Israel supporters who showed up outside the 92nd St Y last night to protest Walker’s appearance had a rare opportunity: as she approached the entrance to the Y at about 8:00 p.m., they were able to engage Walker in discussion about what they claim are her severely twisted and untrue assertions about Israel.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Ze’ev Jabotinsky: 70 Years Since The Passing Of An Exceptional Zionist

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

A portrait of Ze’ev Jabotinsky may still adorn Likud conventions in Israel, but the ideas of this great Zionist leader – who passed away 70 years ago this week – are essentially forgotten and/or ignored.

Born in 1880 in Odessa, Russia, Jabotinsky – who founded Revisionist Zionism and the New Zionist Organization and headed the Haganah and later the Irgun – represents that rare brand of Zionist who is comfortable in his own skin and unabashedly demands what is rightfully his. Unlike many Israelis nowadays, Jabotinsky never cared what Arabs – or anyone else, for that matter – thought of the Zionist project. “Zionism is a moral and just movement,” he once wrote. “And if it is a just cause, justice must win, disregarding the agreement or disagreement of anyone. And if Joseph or Simeon or Ivan or Achmed would like to prevent the victory of the just cause because it is inconvenient for them, it is a duty to prevent them from successfully interfering.”

Most Zionist leaders in the 1920s and ’30s disagreed. Although not widely known today, for many years mainstream Zionists refused  to declare the creation of a Jewish state to be Zionism’s ultimate goal for fear of antagonizing the Arabs and the British.

Great Britain, of course, issued the Balfour Declaration, which favored “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” In the years after this declaration, however, Great Britain gradually adopted the Arab position opposing Jewish immigration to Palestine. Jabotinsky argued that pro-Arab British officials stationed in the Middle East prior to the Balfour Declaration were responsible for this slow policy shift and demanded their replacement. He also believed Zionists should appeal directly to British public opinion, which he believed favored the Zionist cause.

Jabotinsky, however, was outvoted. Mainstream Zionists preferred not to rock the boat. If they complained to British officials at all, they did so privately, quietly and with much diplomatic finesse. The result, of course, was that Great Britain patiently listened to the Zionists but then aligned itself with the Arabs who tended to express their opinions a bit more forcefully – often by rioting or killing Jews.

Aside from pure self-interest, Great Britain also found itself naturally attracted to the more self-assertive Arabs. As British parliamentarian Josiah Wedgwood put it:


We like people who will fight, even though we think they are entirely wrong . The Arabs stand up and fight . On the other hand the Jews are always complaining and begging for justice. That of course is the result of 1800 years of servitude. For 1800 years they have been dependent on the good graces of governments and never on their own right arm, and therefore they have the attitude which instinctively antagonizes every Englishman in Palestine . The attitude of supplication, of living on your knees, has a very bad effect among the respectable nations with the Jews.


But Jewish leaders like Zionist Organization President Chaim Weizmann apparently did not understand this natural human contempt for meekness. Hence, instead of demanding British support for Jewish statehood, Weizmann backed off. By 1930, he already wrote in a letter, “I am not for a [Jewish State] . The propaganda which is carried out in certain Zionist circles, like the Revisionists, for a Jewish State, is foolish and harmful…and you could just as well ask for a Jewish State in Manhattan Island.”

Jabotinsky, of course, was of a different psychological makeup. As Count Michal Lubienski, head of the Polish Foreign Office, once said:


Dr. Weizmann has all the chances to retain the allegiance of the Jewish people – because his entire mentality is identical with that of the average ghetto Jew. Jabotinsky’s mentality is spiritually nearer to me, a gentile. I understand him better, he invokes in me a kindred response. For the ghetto Jew, he is, on the contrary, too simple, too direct. He will be listened to, applauded, but he will be followed only by those who have overcome the ghetto complex.


Jabotinsky had no inhibitions about demanding what was his. “Yes, we do want a state,” he told Britain’s Parliament in 1937, “every nation on earth, every normal nation beginning with the smallest and the humblest who do not claim any merit, any role in humanity’s development, they all have states of their own. That is the normal condition of a people.”

Jabotinsky’s desire for a state was also influenced by his conviction that Jews had no future in Europe. He wrote in 1919, “Zionism is the answer to the massacre of the Jews. It is neither a moral consolation nor an intellectual exercise.”

Jabotinsky, however, increasingly found himself at odds with mainstream Zionist leaders in the 1920s and ’30s. When Palestinian Arabs killed hundreds of Jews between 1936-1939, most Zionist leaders urged Jews to maintain havlaga (restraint), but Jabotinsky would not sanction “a situation in which everything is forbidden the Jew and everything permitted the Arab, a situation in which the Jew can be compared to a terrified mouse, while the Arab feels at home everywhere.” He permitted the Irgun to retaliate against the Arabs.

When mainstream Zionist leaders excoriated the Irgun for killing innocent civilians, Jabotinsky responded:


[T]his is superficial and hypocritical babble. In war, every war, every side is innocent. What crime has the enemy soldier committed against me – a pauper just like me, blind like me, a slave like me – who has been forcibly mobilized. If war breaks out, all of us will demand, unanimously, a sea-blockade and a blockade of the enemy’s land, to starve the inhabitants, innocent women and children; and after the aerial attacks on London and Paris we shall expect the reply by planes over Stuttgart and Milan, where there are many women and children. All wars are wars of innocents . That is why every war and its agonies are cursed, for aggressor and victim alike. If you do not want to hurt the innocent, commit suicide. And if you do not want to commit suicide – shoot and don’t babble.


Jabotinsky remained outside mainstream Zionism most of his life. His ideas grew progressively more popular as Great Britain’s perfidy intensified in the 1930s, and his New Zionist Organization, given enough time, might have eventually overshadowed the Zionist Organization. World War II, however, overtook world Jewry in 1939, and a year later – on August 4, 1940 – Jabotinsky died while visiting a Betar camp in upstate New York.

But Jabotinsky’s death did not lessen the rancor mainstream Zionists felt toward him. In 1956, when Jabotinsky’s followers inquired into reburying their hero’s remains in Israel, David Ben-Gurion replied that Israel “needs live Jews, not dead Jews.”

Jabotinsky’s ideas, of course, live on. They heavily influenced such leaders as Irgun commander Menachem Begin, Lechi head Israel Eldad and Kach founder Meir Kahane – and continue to inspire younger generations of Zionists. Throughout Israel’s history, however, the Jewish state’s leaders have represented Weizmann’s brand of Zionism far more than they have Jabotinsky’s. Indeed, when one reads Shmuel Katz’s absorbing biography of Jabotinsky (The Lone Wolf) or Israel Eldad’s fascinating memoirs (The First Tithe), one is struck by how similar leading Zionist personalities in the 1920s-40s resemble contemporary Israeli leaders.

            Nor are the Jews’ leaders the only people who haven’t changed. The Jewish masses, unfortunately, remain the same in certain regards as well. Jabotinsky said the following at a rally in Warsaw in 1939, but he could just as well have been speaking to many Israeli Jews in 2010 who sigh, “Mah la’asot? – What can we do?” as their country slowly falls apart around them:


I state with shame that the people behave now as if they were already doomed. I have not found anything like it, neither in history nor in novels. Never did I read of such acquiescence with fate. It is as if twelve million educated people were put in a carriage and the carriage was being pushed towards an abyss. How do such people behave? One is crying, one is smoking a cigarette, some are reading newspapers, someone is singing – but in vain will you look for one who will stand up, take the reins into his hands and move the carriage somewhere else. This is the mood. As if some big enemy came and chloroformed their minds. I come to you now to make an experiment. The last experiment. I cry to you: Put an end to this situation! Try to stop the carriage, try to jump out of it, try to put some obstacle in its way, don’t go like sheep to the wolf.


            Elliot Resnick is a staff reporter for The Jewish Press and holds a Masters Degree in Jewish History from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

Elliot Resnick

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

Galut Mentality

“In every generation one is obligated to see himself as if he has exited Egypt.” (Passover Haggadah)

When the Jews left Egypt and were trapped between the Egyptian army and the sea, there were many who advocated going back to Egypt and slavery. Understandable, but nevertheless the epitome of galut mentality. Had they prevailed, we would still be slaves in Egypt today.

Galut mentality has dominated Israeli politics for almost four decades, leading Israel to make concession after concession. These actions were repeatedly rewarded with even more bloodshed.

Here in America, the galut mentality is prevalent in the culture wars. There are many who say that we must capitulate to a militant secularism that advocates the killing of babies as they are being born and the indoctrinating of children to reject creationism and moral absolutism. Many Jewish “leaders” oppose the right of parents to opt out of the public educational system, which imposes its misguided culture on the rest of us. And parents are left to lament the results of this influence, helpless to escape the culture of “Egypt.”

Our Torah requires us to leave the galut behind and march forward toward the fearsome waters, armed with the assurance that we can face a sea of opposition and prevail.

Israel Teitelbaum
Morristown, NJ

Thank The Pope?!

Re your Jan. 14 news story “Jewish Delegation to Thank Pope”: Isn’t this the same pope who met with Arafat and publicly expressed his concerns about the plight of the Arabs under the Israelis?

I don’t think this delegation of rabbis and Jewish officials had any idea how repulsive they looked. Imagine any other people receiving the loans of their own manuscripts and falling all over themselves in appreciation! Gary Krupp thinks the Jewish people should thank the pope for all he has done? That’ll be the day. Thank God there are still a few Jews left with some self-respect.

Janice Wijnen
Rego Park, NY

Jews And Guns

I read Robert Avrech’s op-ed article (“Jews and Guns,” Dec. 24) with interest and satisfaction that this controversial issue was aired in an Orthodox newspaper. As a musmach, practicing health professional, holder of a State of Florida Concealed Weapons Permit, and member and supporter of the National Rifle Association, I am in total agreement with Mr. Avrech’s views and arguments.

In addition to the Torah sources quoted by Mr. Avrech, allow me to add the following. We read in Exodus 13:18, “Vachamushim olu bnei Yisrael miMitzraim.” Rashi provides two perushim, one of which is “m’zuyonim,” well armed. Torah Temima comments that their weapons were of five different types (Yerushalmi, Shabbos, chapter 6 halacha 4). That “vachamishim” indeed refers to physical arms can be seen from Joshua’s (1:14) command, as the Jews were preparing to cross the Jordan: “…V’atem taavru chamushim lifnei acheichem…” (“You shall pass over your brethren armed…”)

It would appear that a Jew, on his life’s journey, should be armed with Torah (spiritually) and, when needed, with arms (physically).

Sam Eisenstein
Hollywood, FL

Balfour: Whole Or Part?

Reader Zeev Raphael disputes a point in my op-ed article “Facing Up to Painful Reality” (Jewish Press, Dec 24). He takes issue (Letters, Jan. 14) with my stating, in reference to the Balfour Declaration, that it recognized the “whole “of Palestine as a designated “National Homeland” for the Jewish people.

While the Balfour Declaration does not use the word “whole,” it is quite implicit in its intent to designate Palestine for the Jewish Home, making no mention of another national homeland but instead states: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”

Furthermore, the description of Palestine – i.e., the area of what was designated as the Jewish Homeland – is in the records of the League of Nations, as follows: “The League of Nations and the British had designated the land called ‘Palestine’ for the ‘Jewish National Home’ – east and west of the Jordan River from the Mediterranean to Arabia and Iraq, and north and south from Egypt to Lebanon and Syria.”( Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, page 235.)

Certainly that constitutes the “whole” of Palestine, future changes and betrayals notwithstanding.

George Topas
(Via E-Mail)

Rote Observance Not Enough

Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, in his Jan. 14 column, employed any number of persuasive arguments to convince readers of the gravity of casual speech in shul. Likely they will fall largely on deaf ears. But why should that be so? The frum community has strengthened its religious commitment in so many areas. Learning is now a staple and is not restricted to a privileged few. Kashrus has advanced to the point where cholov Yisroel and pas Yisroel are for the most part givens, with kemach yashon following right behind.

I will offer a possible answer. We can speak of two categories of mitzvos. The first includes those we perform on almost a rote basis – making brachos, putting on tefillin, keeping Shabbos, etc. The yetzer hora is less concerned with these mitzvos because they require the expenditure of little thought or energy.

In the second category are precepts which involve the mind. This second type is not necessarily distinct from the first, but actually it adds a dimension that enervates the commandments. It’s thinking about the fruit we eat before making a bracha, recognizing the bond forged with Hashem when we put on tefillin, using our Shabbos “down time” appropriately. It is here that the battle with Satan is fought in earnest.

We are blessed to live in a country that allows us to fulfill our spiritual needs without forfeiting the material. B’li ayin hora, people have large homes and families supported by thriving businesses or governmental and communal largesse. And therein lies the rub.

Moshe rabbeinu prophesied that when the nation grows wealthy it would essentially ignore the source of its bounty. The yetzer hora would have us believe that we must simply follow the rituals and thereby merit Divine Protection. In fact, our mussar seforim tell us that we must at all times bear in mind that our service might be slipping. But deep introspection becomes an albatross if our goals are exotic Pesach vacations, luxury automobiles and the like.

In a nutshell, then, we’ve been deluded into thinking that Hashem is, chos v’shalom, no longer relevant to our well being. We talk in shul because we want to tell our friends about the killing we made in the market or the new techno gadget we’re about to purchase. Davening is an afterthought because we already have what we need and the wherewithal to get more. What we all really need is yiras shomayim. It shouldn’t take a tsunami to produce a tidal wave of teshuva, but…

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

On Restoring Jewish Burial And Mourning Practices

After the recent death of my mother, I sent the following letter to the Conservative rabbi who performed her levaya. It is my hope that my sharing it with a wider audience will stimulate other rabbis to consider how far we have drifted from our roots, and how some simple steps might reverse this trend.

Eliot Kusnetz
Highland Park, NJ

L’ilui nishmas Frieda bas Avraham

My Friend and Holy Brother,

You stand in a frighteningly important place. Teacher of Israel, the fate of the next generation of Jews is yours to help shape. At once I both admire your position and wouldn’t step near it. Great is your responsibility.

I wish to thank you for your assistance to my family after my mother’s passing, and challenge you to teach your congregants authentic Jewish practices concerning death. As a member of our local chevra kadisha, I must convey to you the distress I had on seeing how non-Jewish practices have taken over Jewish rites of passing. Kavod ha’meis, kriya, and solemnity have been replaced with a public viewing and pre-levaya visitation that has more of a social party atmosphere than nichum aveilim. Kriya has been replaced with a 20-cent ribbon. Tahara has been supplemented with make-up. Shiva is no longer shiva; it is shlosha, and in some cases yom echad.

It is sad, but it can change. My holy brother and teacher of Israel, you share this responsibility to restore 3,000 years of tradition; for the comfort of the neshama, the aveilim, and kavod ha’meis, I suggest the following:

1. A recurring series of adult education courses on “restoring Jewish practices concerning death and burial.” Now I admit this may not be a popular idea, but it should be included as part of a larger series of Jewish concepts of the soul, the afterlife, and reincarnation.

2. Mourners should not be given the option of an open casket or viewing, but should be respectfully taught that everything prior to burial is for kavod ha’meis, and after burial for the nichum aveilim, and to assist the neshama to its final resting place. It is extremely embarrassing for the meis to be on view without the clothing of its neshama.

3. Kriya is a tangible expression of the depths of grief. Ribbons should not be offered. Kriya should not be performed by the funeral home staff, but by a member of the chevra kaddisha, and if that is not possible, then by the congregational rabbi.

4. If one does not exist, form a committee of congregants who go to the beis avel prior to the levaya to set up, covering mirrors, bringing chairs and siddurim. Although the funeral chapel may provide these items, having fellow congregants perform this function returns the process to the congregational community and expresses a shared experience instead of a formalized business arrangement. Minimal training is necessary.

5. Talk about God and the soul! God is an absent word in the vocabulary of many non-Orthodox Jews. Judaism has a rich tradition of spirituality. We have holy souls, and must be comfortable having a dialogue that includes God in our daily vocabulary. For many Jews, talking about God and the afterlife is a Christian concept. How sad and far from the truth. Every day I tell my children that they have holy neshamos, and we frequently say, “I love you Hashem!” – a practice recommended by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l. The Tanya (or Lessons in Tanya) is an excellent source of authentic Jewish teachings on the nature of the soul and our relationship with Hashem. Alternatively, Adin Steinsalz’s The Thirteen Petalled Rose covers similar turf in a much more compact manner.

6. Enlist the aid of your fellow rabbis in the area to insist that “Jewish” funeral chapels live up to that title. Open caskets and post-tahara manipulation of the meis should be forbidden. If the chapels risk losing business, they will change their tune. I was told by Rabbi Yaakov Hilsenrath, may he live and be well, the rabbi emeritus of the Highland Park Conservative Temple, that funerals such as the one my mother had were the norm when he became a pulpit rabbi in New Jersey. He refused to officiate at open casket funerals and made a deal with a local non-Jewish funeral home to get exclusive rights to his funerals on the condition that they be done according to halacha. To this day, the chevra still goes to that funeral home and performs tahara with tisha kabim. After losing so much business, the local Jewish funeral chapel changed its policy and put in a mikva! You have the power to make the change. Don’t sell yourself short.

7. The following resources are recommended:

a. The Tahara Manual of Practices, Rabbi Moshe Epstein

b. The Mourner’s Companion, Rabbi Reuven Drucker

c. Mourning in Halacha, Rabbi Chaim Binyomin Goldberg

d. The Jewish Way in Death and Dying, Rabbi Maurice Lamm

Thank you again for the comfort you provided my family. My father and sisters were very appreciative of your pastoral skills and comforting demeanor. May you go me’chayil l’chayil and in the zechus of your efforts may we greet Moshiach tzidkeinu together.

With blessing for hatzlocha in your endeavors.

Letters to the Editor

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-100/2005/01/26/

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