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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘control’

The Abuse of Halacha: Keeping Halacha Under Control

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Judaism is in trouble. More and more of the unacceptable is being done and said in its name. Besides causing infinite damage to Judaism’s great message, it is a terrible desecration of God’s name. And all of this is seen and heard by millions of gentiles watching television, browsing websites, or listening to the radio. Many are repelled when they witness horrible scenes in which Jews attack each other in the name of Judaism. Media outlets around the world portray religious Jews in most distressing ways. While it cannot be denied that anti-Semitism plays a role and tends to blow the picture out of proportion, the unfortunate fact is that much of it is based on truth. Non-Jews are dumbfounded when they read that leading rabbis make the most shocking comments about them, thereby demonstrating gross arrogance and discrimination. Even worse, many of them read about rabbinical decisions that seem to lack all moral integrity.

Twenty one years ago, Yigal Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in the name of Halacha (Jewish law), claiming that the prime minister was a rodef (someone who is attempting or planning to murder)because he brought all of Israel’s citizens into mortal danger by having participated in the 1993 Oslo accords. Amir therefore believed that the prime minister deserved the death penalty according to Jewish law. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Arabs in a mosque because he believed that Judaism obligated him to create havoc in order to stop Arab terror attacks, which had already killed thousands of Jews. Several years ago, the book Torat HaMelech was published. The authors, learned rabbis, argued that it was permissible to kill non-Jews, even without proper trial, if they became a serious potential threat to Jewish lives. Minorities such as the LGBT community are being insulted by powerful rabbis who seem to be ignorant of the multifarious circumstances of fellow human beings. Less than two weeks ago, a most important and brilliant ruling issued by the Tzfat Rabbinical Court in 2014, concerning a get in which a woman was freed of her agunah status, was suddenly challenged by the Supreme Rabbinical Court of Israel. The latter completely ignores the fact that such a move is not only halachically intolerable (See Rabeinu Tam….) but undermines the very institution of Jewish divorce itself. And so on.

How can it be that such things are carried out, or even expressed, in the name of Judaism and Jewish law? Anyone who has the slightest knowledge of Judaism is fully aware that nothing within genuine Jewish law would condone, or even suggest, such outlandish ideas and immoral acts.

Why does this happen?

Throughout the years, several rabbinical authorities have made the major and dangerous mistake of reducing Judaism to a matter of law alone, a kind of Pan-Halacha. They sincerely believe that Judaism consists only of rigid rules. In this way, they are paradoxically similar to Spinoza, who was also of this opinion and therefore rejected his faith. He referred to it as obsessive, a type of behaviorism, and an extreme form of legalism. (See, for example, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus III, IV, and XIII.) That Spinoza made this claim is one thing, but the fact that these learned rabbis agreed with him is an unforgivable blunder. Nothing is further from the truth than labeling Judaism a legal religious system without spirit, poetry, and musical vibrations. This is proven by the almost infinite amount of religious Jewish literature that deals with non-halachic matters.

The main reason for this terrible mistake is that these rabbis have failed to study the basic moral values of Judaism as they appear in the book of Bereishit (Genesis). It is well known that, with a few exceptions, this book does not contain laws; it is mainly narrative. To appreciate this, one needs to consider the following.

In this first biblical book, we encounter Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as the foremost players. They are considered the first Jews in history. But this makes little sense. How could they have been Jews if the Torah was given only hundreds of years later to Moshe at Mount Sinai? Although a Jew is a Jew even if they do not observe the laws of the Torah, it is still the Torah that defines them as such. How, then, could the Patriarchs be full-fledged Jews when the Torah was denied to them? Would it not have been logical to have given the Torah to Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, and their wives long before Moshe? Only upon receiving the Torah could they have been real Jews! So why was it withheld from them? (Even though some midrashim claim that they did observe several commandments, it is clear that this was done voluntarily.)

The answer is crucial. No law, including divine, can function if it is not preceded by a narrative of the human moral condition and an introduction of basic ethical and religious values. These values cannot be given; they must develop within, through life experiences. No academic instruction, not even when given by God, would be of any benefit. Such ethics need to develop gradually, on an existential level, and predicated on innate values that God grants to each person at the moment he or she is born; a kind of categorical imperative in the human soul.

More than that, laws become impersonal and therefore dangerous because they cannot deal with emotions and the enormous moral paradoxes encountered by human beings. As a result, they run the risk of becoming inhuman and even cruel.

It is for that reason that God did not give the laws of the Torah to the Patriarchs. First there was a need to learn through personal trials and tribulations. The Patriarchs and Matriarchs had to see with their own eyes what happens when people are not governed by law. But most important, they had to become aware of basic moral values, such as the fact that all human beings are created in the image of God, that all are equal, that human life is holy, and that there is only one God Who is at the root of all morality. Only after people have been deeply affected by these ideas and values can law be introduced as a way to put it all into action.

It was only after the existential, moral turmoil in which Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov frequently found themselves, as well as their often problematic encounters with God, that a virtuous and religious awareness was born. This consciousness continued to work its way, with all its ups and downs, through the bondage in Egypt, the Exodus, and the splitting of the Reed Sea. Not until that point was there a chance that the law could be received and be beneficial when given at Sinai. And even then it was not very successful, as recorded in the many disturbing biblical stories about the Israelites failing to live up to the law in Moshe’s days and long afterwards.

But it is not just the fact that narrative, ethical values, and encounter with the Divine are necessary to have before the law can be given. There is another important message: no law, including divine, can function without constantly and continually taking guidance from these former values. There is almost nothing worse than divine law operating on its own, without primary, innate moral values. It runs the risk of turning wild and causing great harm. It needs to be constrained.

This is the purpose of Sefer Bereishit. (See Netziv’s introduction to Bereishit in his Ha’amekDavar.) It is a biting critique of the halachic system when the latter is applied without acknowledging that these prior moral values are needed in order to function. The book of Bereishit, then, keeps Halacha under control. It restricts and regulates it, and ensures that it will not wreak havoc.

Truly great poskim (halachic arbiters) cannot lay down their decisions on the basis of Jewish law alone. The Shulchan Aruch (Codex of Jewish Law) by Rabbi Yoseph Karo, and the Mishneh Torah of Rambam can become dangerous if applied in a vacuum. What these poskim must realize is that they need to incorporate the great, religious moral values for which Sefer Bereishit stands.

To be continued…

 

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Israeli Court Rules: It Is Criminal for Jews to Enter Areas Where Police Cannot Control Arab Violence

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Israeli District Court last week ruled that Jews commit a crime when they enter without prior arrangement with security forces an area where their lives would be in danger due to Arab violence. The area in question, Joshua’s Tomb in Samaria, is in Area B where there are no restrictions on Jewish travel. On its face the ruling is tantamount to a NY City judge punishing a victim of violence for entering a dangerous neighborhood without first receiving police permission.

Judge Zahava Bustan of the district Court in Lod last Thursday rejected an appeal submitted by legal aid society Homenu attorney Hai Haber over the detention and removal of 13 Jews who wanted to pray at Joshua’s Tomb near the city of Ariel and were attacked by Arabs from the village of Kifl Haras, where the Jewish shrine is located.

Attorney Haber argued that the group, which had been punished by the court — they were ordered to stay out of Judea and Samaria for 60 days — did not commit any crime, since entry into the Arab village is legal to Jews. Kifil Haras is located in Area B, which Israeli citizens may enter at will, just as they are permitted to drive on sections of Route 60 which cuts through the Area B Arab town of Hawara, as well as on the road from Jerusalem to the Jewish community of Nokdim.

Haber added that by punishing the victims of terrorism rather than going after the terrorists who attacked them, police and now the court are encouraging terrorism. He also argued the 60-day restraining order was needlessly harsh, since there is no ongoing police investigation which the restrained individuals could potentially be interrupting. Rather it was purely punishment for punishment’s sake on the part of the court.

Judge Bustan ruled on the appeal that even in cases where it is legal for Jews to enter, when there is danger of Arab violence the Jewish visitors must first request the consent and support of the security forces, because they are, inevitably, going to be called on to rescue them.

Honenu issued a statement saying, “All of Judea and Samaria, and, indeed, all of Eretz Israel is considered dangerous territory. The decision constitutes a prize and an encouragement to terrorism, since the court decided that a village where violence is used against Jews would become verboten to Jews without rearrangement with the Army. In a sovereign country of laws, it is the role of security forces to facilitate the safe access of civilians to every area where they are permitted to be. It is inconceivable that an area where entry is permitted, especially a holy site where Jews have been visiting for years, would be closed on account of a failure to enforce the law, and law-abiding worshippers would become criminals due to the failures of police and the Army.”

“Today it’s Breslov Hasidim at Joshua’s Tomb, tomorrow it would be hikers who are attacked on a trip, and next it would be orphans who attend their parents’ graves on Mt. Olives, which is well-known as a dangerous area.”

(See also: Legal Group Challenging Police on Criminalizing Entry into Judea and Samaria Area B)

JNi.Media

Nothing Legitimate about Antisemitic Slur

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Former British foreign secretary Jack Straw is pleading innocent. Called out for comments made during a Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum held at the House of Commons last week, Straw insists that there’s nothing anti-Semitic about raising points that he says are merely matters of genuine concern.

As the Times of Israel reported, former Labor Party Knesset member Einat Wilf, who took part in the debate, described Straw’s presentation in the following manner:

Wilf participated in the debate and posted some of what she said were Straw’s comments on her Facebook page, saying she nearly fell off her chair when she heard them: “Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem. I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”

The British politician is right when he says criticizing Israel’s policies is not anti-Semitic. But, like many others who want to bash Israel without being branded as Jew-haters, he crossed a very important line when he injected traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish money and insidious attempts to control the policy discussion into the question of how best to advance the cause of peace.

That’s why someone like Wilf, who opposes the Netanyahu government, was so outraged. In doing so, he not only demonstrated ignorance of how American politics works as well as insensitivity to Israel’s position, but also showed the way disagreements with the Jewish state quickly morph into conspiracy theories that are thinly veiled new versions of traditional myths about Jews.

While Straw is neither the first nor the last member of Parliament or prominent Briton to play this game, the fact that someone who was a former foreign minister would not only feel free to vent this nasty stuff, but also think there’s nothing wrong with it, tells you all you need to know about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe.

As for Straw’s charges, they are easily dismissed. Contrary to the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” conspiracy theory thesis, the vast, wall-to-wall bipartisan coalition that supports the Jewish state is a function of American public opinion, not Jewish money.

As frustrating as it may be for Israel’s critics, support for Zionism is baked into the DNA of American politics and is primarily the function of religious attitudes as well as the shared values of democracy that unite the U.S. and Israel.

Other lobbies (oil interests, pharmaceuticals, et al) have far more money. Hard as it is for some people to accept, the reason why American politicians back Israel’s democratically elected government is because opposing them is bad politics as well as bad policy.

Making such accusations is offensive rather than just wrong because, as Straw knows very well, talking about Jewish money buying government policy is straight out of the anti-Semitic playbook of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The purpose of such claims is not to argue that Israel’s supporters are misguided so much as that they are illegitimate.

That Straw is similarly frustrated with German refusals to try and hammer the Israelis is equally appalling. Germany’s government has, contrary to Straw’s comment, often been highly critical of Israel, but if officials in Berlin have some sensitivity to Israel’s position as a small, besieged nation it is because they understand that the underlying factor that drives hostility to Zionism is the same anti-Semitism that drove the Holocaust.

But the main point to be gleaned from this story is the way Straw has illustrated just how mainstream anti-Semitic attitudes have become in contemporary Britain. It is entirely possible that Straw thinks himself free from prejudice. But that is only possible because in the intellectual and political circles in which he and other members of the European elite move, these ideas have gone mainstream rather than being kept on the margins as they are in the United States.

The ease with which Western European politicians invoke these tired clichés about Jewish power and money is a reflection of the way attitudes have changed in the last generation as the memory of the Holocaust fades and people feel empowered to revive old hate. Chalk it up to the prejudices of intellectuals, especially on the left, as well as to the growing influence of Muslim immigrants who have brought the Jew-hatred of their home countries with them.

Straw may not be alone in not liking the Netanyahu government, but he can’t get out off the hook for the anti-Semitic rationale for his views that he put forward. The pity is, he’s speaking for all too many Europeans when he speaks in this manner.

Jonathan S. Tobin

The Truth About Syria

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

If you are interested in reading more about Syria, you’re welcome to read my book The Truth About Syria online or download it for free.

WHY SYRIA MATTERS

“It is my pleasure to meet with you in the new Middle East,” said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a speech to the Syrian Journalists’ Union on August 15, 2006.1 But Bashar’s new Middle East was neither the one hoped for by many since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s 1991 defeat in Kuwait nor expected when Bashar himself ascended the throne in 2000. Actually, it was not even new at all but rather a reversion, often in remarkable detail, to the Middle East of the 1950s through the 1980s. The Arab world, now accompanied by Iran, was re-embracing an era that was an unmitigated disaster for itself and extolling ideas and strategies which had repeatedly led it to catastrophe.

No Arab state had more to do with this important and tragic turnabout than does Syria, this development’s main architect and beneficiary. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab states wanted quiet; Iraq needed peace to rebuild itself. Even Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi, pressed by sanctions and scared by his Iraqi counterpart Saddam’s fate, was on his good behavior. Only Syria remained as a source of instability and radicalism.

Thus, a small state with a modest economy became the fulcrum on which the Middle East shifted and which, in turn, shook the globe. Indeed, Bashar’s version of the new Middle East may well persist for an entire generation. Does this make Bashar a fool or a genius? That cannot be determined directly. What can be said is that his policy is good for the regime, simultaneously brilliant and disastrous for Syria, and just plain disastrous for many others.

To understand Syria’s special feature, it is best to heed the all-important insight of a Lebanese-American scholar, Fouad Ajami: “Syria’s main asset, in contrast to Egypt’s preeminence and Saudi wealth, is its capacity for mischief.”

In the final analysis, the aforementioned mischief was in the service of regime maintenance, the all-encompassing cause and goal of the Syrian government’s behavior. Demagoguery, not the delivery of material benefits, is the basis of its power.

Why have those who govern Syria followed such a pattern for more than six decades under almost a dozen different regimes? The answer: Precisely because the country is a weak one in many respects. Aside from lacking Egypt’s power and Saudi Arabia’s money, it also falls short on internal coherence due to its diverse population and minority-dominated regime. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein used repression, ideology, and foreign adventures to hold together a system dominated by Sunni Arab Muslims who were only one-fifth of the population. In Syria, even more intense measures were needed to sustain an Alawite regime that rules based on a community only half as large proportionately.

To survive, then, the regime needs transcendent slogans and passionate external conflicts that help make its problems disappear. Arabism and, in more recent years, Islamism, are its solution. In this light, Syria’s rulers can claim to be not a rather inept, corrupt dictatorship but the rightful leaders of all Arabs and the champions of all Muslims. Their battle cries are very effectively used to justify oppression at home and aggression abroad. No other country in the world throws around the word “imperialism” more in describing foreign adversaries, and yet no other state on the globe follows a more classical imperialist policy.

In broad terms, this approach is followed by most, if not all, Arab governments, but Syria offers the purest example of the system. As for the consequences, two basic principles are useful to keep in mind:

1. It often seemed as if the worse Syria behaved, the better its regime does. Syrian leaders do not accept the Western view that moderation, compromise, an open economy, and peace are always better. When Syria acts radical, up to a point of course, it maximizes its main asset—causing trouble—which cancels out all its other weaknesses. As a dictatorship, militancy provided an excuse for tight controls and domestic popularity through its demagoguery.

2. Success for the regime and state means disaster for the people, society, and economy. The regime prospers by keeping Syrians believing that the battle against America and Israel, not freedom and prosperity, should be their top priority. External threats are used to justify internal repression. The state’s control over the economy means lower living standards for most while simultaneously preserving a rich ruling elite with lots of money to give to its supporters.

Barry Rubin

Defense Minister Ya’alon: Assad Has Lost Control

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Against the background of the gas attack in Syria and the reports about hundreds of victims, perhaps more than a thousand, Israeli Defense Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon said on Wednesday that “the Syrian regime has lost control over the country, is present only in about 40 percent of its territory and is finding it difficult to subdue to opposition forces.”

Speaking at a ceremony welcoming the new Jewish year at the defense ministry compound in downtown Tel Aviv, Ya’alon said that “for some time now this has not been an internal Syrian conflict. We decided not to intervene in this conflict, but we drew red lines to make sure our interests are not harmed.

The defense minister expressed skepticism about the ending of the war in Syria. “We don’t envision the end of this situation, since even the toppling of Assad won’t bring about a conclusion. There are many open, bloody accounts yet to be settled by the various elements.”

“It’s a conflict that has turned global, with one axis receiving support from Russia and the other bein helped by the U.S. and Europe. Lebanon is connected to the massive Iranian support and therefore the war has been dripping into its territory as well. Inside Lebanon there are focal points of confrontation as well. But, generally speaking, the borders are peaceful and we are watching to make sure the cannons are not trained on us,” Ya’alon said.

According to rebel sources in Syria, the number of dead as a result of the chemical gas attack on a suburb of Damascus has topped 1,300, including women and children. The rebels are claiming this was a massacre of innocent civilians, who were hurt by poison gas in the area of the Guta camp, a rebel held spot outside Damascus.

A Syrian government spokesperson has said in response that those claims are unfounded, and are intended to sabotage the work of the UN inspectors who have just arrived in Syria to investigate earlier reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army.

Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, head of the 20-member inspection team, told news agency TT that he finds the reports of such a high number of casualties suspicious.

“It sounds like something that should be looked into,” he told TT over the phone from Damascus. “It will depend on whether any UN member state goes to the secretary general and says we should look at this event. We are in place.”

Minister Ya’alon referred to situation in Egypt as well, saying there has been relative quiet on the Israeli border with Egypt, but noted that extremist elements like the World Jihad will attempt to destabilize the border.

He warned against the recent developments in the Sinai, such as the execution by Islamist terrorists of 25 Egyptian policemen, spilling over into Israel.

“Over the past week, the Sinai border has been the hottest, and it obliges us to realign for it.”

Yori Yanover

The End of Control

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.
We utilize systems to achieve goals whether it’s defending the country or fighting poverty or making the trains run in time or achieving political change.

Modem systems are systematic creatures that aim to achieve goals by maximizing control over all the subsidiary elements of the problem.

So if you set out to solve poverty, you need control over all the social and economic elements that either cause poverty or could be used to ameliorate poverty. Those elements include the sum amount of national wealth for the purposes of wealth redistribution, the rate of  unwed teen pregnancies and any forms of racial discrimination… and that’s just for starters. Even poverty, which would seem like a rather simple phenomenon becomes a system which takes into account tools like abortion, progressive taxation and discrimination laws.

The scope of each social problem becomes so limitless that all social problems must merge into a Holistic Socialism of piano wire in which every string touched spreads vibrations everywhere. Solving even the most minor problem requires solving all the problems and the only solution is the absolute power of the system.

Socialism relies on systems as means to achieve social ends. The systems develop policies that control as a means to achieve those ends.

When the ends are not achieved then the system responds by intensifying the depth and scope of the control. Increasing control is the only solution of the system to failure.

And so the system changes from pursuing control as a means to pursuing control as an end.

Socialism, like most systems of government derived from it, has enshrined control as an end in and of itself.

As O’Brien said in 1984, the purpose of power is power. And control is just another word for power.

Systems may be formed to achieve moral ends but they are no more moral in and of themselves than a hammer. The longer a system exists, the more it comes to exist for itself and its power becomes its own end.

A hammer exists to hammer. A hammer in the hands of a man is a tool, but a hammer that exists for its own sake is a destructive force. A bureaucracy exists to regulate to achieve a specific end, but a bureaucracy that exists for its own sake is tyranny. It seeks to control for the sake of control. It wields power for the sake of power.

It insists that its ends are moral, but as they are not achieved, the true end of control is revealed.

Socialism begins with control to achieve social ends only for control to become the end. And that leads to the end of freedom.

An institution vested with power becomes an institution of power.  The response of the left to this inevitable fact of human history is to insist that granting unlimited power to their institutions will have different results because their purposes are moral. But moral purposes can only be vested in people, not institutions. Ideology can take control of institutions but once control is achieved then the ideology comes to exist for the sake of the institution. That is how the grand ambitions of the left died in China and Russia. That is how it may die in Europe and America.

As a system becomes its own purpose, it uses the purposes of others as camouflage. It promises to solve problems that it has no intention of solving as means of extracting resources from those who want the problem solved.

Initially the system may be run by those who do want to solve the problem and see the system as the only way to do so but as the system grows and spreads their motives become mixed.

Bureaucracy is the essence of the system and exists to keep track of and implement its many rules. The rules are the tools of control and their purpose is to make the unpredictable into the predictable.

The rules start life as the means but as with all means of tyranny they become the ends by which the bureaucracy exercises its power.

Rules in a bureaucracy operate on different levels. On one level they are meant to achieve a socially responsible end, but on another they benefit the allies of the bureaucracy. On a third level they exist to justify the expansion of the bureaucracy and to allow it to wield its power. On a fourth level they define status within the bureaucracy.

So for example an environmental initiative may be intended to lessen pollution levels on the surface but also rewards environmental groups and consultancies whose lobbying enhances the power and funding of the EPA. On a third level, the EPA now uses the initiative to expand the scope of its authority and request more funding to hire more people in the D.C. pecking order between government agencies. On a fourth level, this influences the pecking order within the organization.

The EPA is an environmental organization but it’s an organization and in the long run when the institutional long marches have been completed, it is the organizational part that will matter more,

The left provides tyranny with the social motive to come into being, but in the long run the left Is only the midwife of tyranny. Its ideology and activists dismantle democracies and burgeoning democracies and replace them with tyrannies.

Whether it’s Islam or a conventional oligarchy or a cult of personality tyrant, the left’s role is to act as the virus that kills the host and then allows it to be fed on by predators in the hopes of infecting them in turn.

The left injects bureaucratic collectivism into a healthy state to control it, but in the long run the bureaucratic collectivism will outlive it as it becomes the end for which the left was only the means.

Daniel Greenfield

Israeli Startup Helps Kids Manage Hanukkah Gelt

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Just in time for Hanukkah, an Israeli startup is helping kids to handle their gelt responsibly.

KidsCash’s website allows users to handle a small amount of money online – spending, saving and donating while learning how to manage their money for the future.

In an article by NoCamels, KidsCash’s founders said the program is meant to give kids a little autonomy with a small amount of money, allowing them to make some purchases themselves – without their parents credit cards or prepaid cards – and teaching them the fundamentals of growing, saving, and donating their money.

Parents can control how much they supervise the money – including options such as approving purchases through SMS or email, or just letting their children get automatic approval within a certain monetary limit. Parents can also determine what percentage can be spent on which types of items, and receive alerts if their children have spent over a certain amount in one day.

The items for sale are all within the control of the KidsCash marketplace, and include iTunes and other gaming products, as well as links to other approved sites, according to the NoCamels report.

KidsCash is free for parents and children, only charging fees to partners and vendors.

Malkah Fleisher

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israeli-startup-helps-kids-manage-hanukkah-gelt/2012/12/06/

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