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January 22, 2017 / 24 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘false’

Rejecting the False Notion That Israel is an Occupier

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

The UN Security Council’s passage of Resolution 2334, an outrageous act of hostility personally engineered by President Obama against the State of Israel, has rightly evoked great anger across all parts of the American political spectrum.

This past summer, the Republican Party’s platform section expressing our unequivocal support for Israel, included a key statement made in anticipation of President Obama’s betrayal of our great ally: “We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier…” Given the anticipated effects of Resolution 2334, this policy statement is critical, as it represents the central tenet of what will now unquestionably be the policy of the Trump Administration and the pro-Israel community.

“Occupier” is nothing more than a polite way of calling Israel a thief, suggesting that Jewish invaders colonized territory belonging to the Arabs, and which therefore must be restored to its rightful, victimized owners. The term is intentionally misused against Israel in order to shape negative misperceptions of her history and legitimacy, while perpetuating a sense of Palestinian-Arab victimhood. To suggest that the Jews are occupiers in a region that has been known as Judea for over 3000-plus years is no less ridiculous than to suggest that Arabs are occupiers in Arabia.

“Occupier” is a legal term whose definition does not apply to Israel under the law. Israel’s legal title and rights to all of its present territory stem directly from an act of international law made in the post-WWI San Remo Agreement, which was then further recognized and incorporated in subsequent binding acts, from the Covenant of the League of Nations all the way through Article 80 of the United Nations’ charter. None of the national and political rights thereby recognized as inherit in the Jewish People have ever been revoked, nullified or superseded by a subsequent act of international law.

The lie of occupation has become essential to anti-Israel forces in the Mideast and around the world, as they persist in efforts to deny and undermine the rights – and indeed the very existence – of the Jewish national home. It is no coincidence, therefore, that Resolution 2334 was entirely predicated on this vicious lie.

The lie of occupation also gives Israel’s enemies a basis to justify terrorism as merely “resistance to occupation.” The antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) uses the word as often as possible in its messaging, as it carries out acts of political and economic warfare upon Israel and her supporters. Thus, it is clear that promoting the common misrepresentation of the Jewish State of Israel as an occupier in the Land of Israel has become the primary antisemitic canard of the present generation, inherently accusing the Jewish People of territorial thievery. This lie whitewashes violence against Israeli Jews, and leads directly to the antisemitic delegitimization and demonization of, and application of double standards to Israel.

The peace process aimed at ending the Arab war on Israel was originally motivated by the basic idea that two incompatible peoples have unfortunately found themselves residing in the same space, and that it is desirable to see them disengaged for the sake of peace. This was the intention of President George W. Bush, and those Israeli prime ministers who chose the path of proposing a two-state solution.

Those who listen carefully will find that, unfortunately, hostile actors have emerged, who exploit support for the peace process in order to promote the lie of occupation. This is the tactic of J Street, President Obama and most member states of the United Nations, who regularly speak of Israel as an occupier and wrongly refer to parts of Israel as being territorially illegitimate.

It is one thing to advocate the two-state solution as a matter of seeking peace, and entirely another when argued as a matter of belief in the lie of occupation. The difficulty in grasping this distinction has escaped far too many supporters of Israel, who unfortunately tend to believe that all who propose the same solution are relative and equivalent in their intentions. They are not. The forwarding of the two-state solution by those who support the lie of occupation, like Barack Obama, simultaneously signals an inherent indictment of Israel as a criminally guilty party.

Donald Trump rejects the false notion that Israel is an occupier, and wholeheartedly helped lead the important expression of policy made by the Republican Party Platform on the matter. He has repeatedly made the promise that as president he will recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capitol of Israel.

Among the top priorities of President-elect Trump in his first 100 days will be the passage of a major bill regulating against commercial discrimination aimed at Israel and its territories, following the lead of 15 states that have already done so. The new administration is clearly prepared to defend the American economy by preventing financial engagement with parties who would at the same time inflict economic harm upon Israeli and American businesses via discrimination promoted by the likes of Resolution 2334 and the BDS Movement.

The most immediate means of disarming the malicious intent of President Obama’s Resolution 2334 is by supporting Trump and the incoming Congress’s efforts to pass such legislation with overwhelming non-partisan support. Israel, and many of our other democratic allies around the world, are counting on us.

Alan Clemmons

Report: Leftwing Reporter Tried to Derail Religious Brigade Commander with False Accusations

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter, former commander of the Givati infantry brigade and currently Chief of Staff of Central Command, and one of the most prominent IDF Orthodox senior officers, was the target of a political assassination attempt by Israel’s Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker, according to Winter’s attorney Oded Savorai, who spoke to Army Radio Sunday.

Savorai accused Drucker – dubbed by Ynet “the thorn in Netanyahu’s side” over a series of insulting and embarrassing reports about the PM and his wife Sara – of trying to incriminate Brig. Gen. Ofer in a case involving the shooting death of an innocent Arab boy.

The entrapment attempt took place four years ago, according to Savorai, when Winter was commander of the IDF Northern Division, and a soldier carrying a concealed recording device came to his office and tried to get the commander to admit having ordered him to shoot the boy.

According to Savorai, the soldier told Winter, “I can’t sleep well nights, it comes back to me in my dreams.” Apparently, “he expected that Ofer would admit something that had never happened, or, more plausibly, that Ofer would ask him to whitewash the story, but Ofer did the opposite.”

Instead of trying to hide anything, the commander offered the soldier help and psychological care. “Ofer’s office manager immediately recognized something suspicious about the man who had just entered to see him, and dug into his smartphone which he had to leave behind,” Savorai related, suggesting she discovered suspicious signs showing he was deceitful.

Drucker posted a response in his Facebook page essentially confirming the story, but adding that the soldier in question had approached his program staff with complaints about Winter murdering the Arab child. Drucker insists that it was the soldier who insisted on meeting up with Winter to try and record him confessing to a crime that never happened.

Drucker accused Brig. Gen. Winter of sending his surrogate out to besmirch the reporter’s good name in advance of an Exposé on Winter being prepared by Drucker.

In July 2014, as commander of Givati in Operation Protective Edge, Winter caused a public debate on the place of the Jewish religion in he IDF when he issued a message to his troops that recalled biblical calls of historic Jewish commanders to their soldiers: “History has selected us to be at the forefront of the fight against the terrorist Gazan enemy, who curses and swears and blasphemes against the God of Israel […] I raise my eyes to heaven and recite with you, Sh’ma Israel, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad.”

“God, the Lord of Israel, please send us success in our path,” Winter continued, “for we are going to fight for Your nation Israel against the blaspheming enemy.”

Under Winter’s command, the Givati Brigade exposed dozens of terror tunnels and other Hamas infrastructure.


ZOA Urges Hadassah and Conservative Judaism Movement: End Your Campaign Against Stephen Bannon

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein released the following statement:

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its boots.”  Mark Twain

“Keep far away from falsehood.” Exodus 23:7

I, Morton A. Klein, am a child of holocaust survivors born in a displaced persons camp in Germany, and lost most of my family to that monstrous war against the Jews. If there were a hint of anti- Semitism in Stephen Bannon’s background I would be the first to scream out and fight against him.

But because, in the words of pro-Israel author of a respected book on anti-Semitism, Dennis Prager, on the charge of Bannon’s anti-Semitism, “it’s a vile libelous lie, fabricated, and a witchhunt,” I and the ZOA urge the Conservative Judaism Movement and Hadassah to discontinue their false, misguided, and hurtful campaigns against a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people – President-elect Trump’s appointee Stephen K. Bannon. The Conservative Judaism Movement and Hadassah apparently mistakenly based their anti-Bannon campaigns on false information that has since been disproven and retracted. The anti-Bannon statements and campaigns are character assassination of the worst kind against a friend of Israel and the Jewish people. Professor Alan Dershowitz, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Dennis Prager, pro-Israel philanthropist and Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus, J Post’s Melanie Phillips, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and other Israeli leaders, writer and Orthodox Jew Joel Pollak and others all say that Mr. Bannon is not anti-Semitic.

It is important that the Conservative Judaism Movement and Hadassah stop being the “Jews of Silence” when it comes to a real enemy of Israel and the Jewish people – namely real anti-Semite, Israel-basher, promoter of anti-Israel legislation and anti-Israel platform planks and longtime Farrakhan / Nation of Islam activist Cong. Keith Ellison. Cong. Ellison is the leading candidate to become Chair of the Democratic National Committee. He will then control funds for candidates and have a powerful platform to spew his anti-Israel attitudes. Ellison has referred to Israel as an apartheid State, voted against Iron Dome funding, compared 9-11 to Reichstag German Parliament building fire which brought Hitler to power, and said don’t kill Islamic terrorist leaders because they want to be martyrs. (For details on Ellison’s horrendous record, see: “ZOA: Don’t Appoint Israel-Basher Cong. Keith Ellison Chair of the Democratic National Committee,” Nov. 18, 2016.)

Would Hadassah and the Conservative movement be silent if Ellison were running for Chair of the Republican National Committee? ZOA surely would not just as we speak out against him now.

Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News has been a great ally in ZOA’s and Jewish students’ efforts to combat anti-Semitism at City University of New York (CUNY) and other universities. At CUNY, vicious Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) demonstrators screamed “Intifada! Intifada! Death to the Jews!” at Jewish students. When Mr. Bannon heard this, Mr. Bannon instructed his reporters to contact and urge CUNY officials and New York Governor Cuomo to take action to stop the anti-Semitism at CUNY.”

Mr. Bannon opened an entire Breitbart News Jerusalem bureau (whose symbol is a blue and white “B” and Jewish star) to combat the “overwhelming anti-Israel sentiment in Western media.” Breitbart News also wrote: “Israel is the lone democracy in the most tumultuous region in the world, yet most of the American press portrays the small country as morally equivalent–if not morally inferior–to those who seek to destroy it.” (“Breitbart News Continues International Expansion With Launch Of Breitbart Jerusalem,” Nov. 17, 2015.)

Mr. Bannon’s Breitbart News articles are at the forefront, helping the Jewish people today. Mr. Bannon and his Breitbart News support Israel; combat anti-Semitism; combat anti-Semitic boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS); write about the human cost of anti-Semitism (including the pain felt by a Jewish student who found a swastika painted on her dorm door); expose the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s falsehoods and incitement of terror against the Jewish people; and expose Iran’s violations of the Iran nuclear deal. (See “ZOA Criticizes ADL for Falsely Alleging Trump Advisor Bannon is Anti-Semitic,” for references to many such Breitbart articles.)

So what is going on here? The falsehood that Mr. Bannon is ‘anti-Semitic” appears to have started with a false (later retracted) statement by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

ZOA spoke in favor of Mr. Bannon from its own experience, and from the experience of people we know who know Mr. Bannon well, and based on ZOA’s detailed analysis of Breitbart articles. In addition to confirming that Mr. Bannon and Breitbart’s fight against anti-Semitism, we also found that Breitbart’s staff criticizes – and does not support –despicable “alt right” white supremacists, and racists.

Orthodox Jewish pro-Israel writer Joel B. Pollak – who worked with Mr. Bannon for six years and knows him well – wrote that Mr. Bannon is “an American patriot who defends Israel & has deep empathy for the Jewish people.” (“Stephen K. Bannon: Friend of the Jewish People, Defender of Israel,” by Joel B. Pollak, Nov 14, 2016.)

Staunch liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz also defended Mr. Bannon, noting that he has “not seen any evidence of personal anti-Semitism on the part of Bannon” and that the claims that Mr. Bannon was anti-Semitic “demeaned the term ‘anti-Semitism.” (“Liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz Defends Bannon,” Nov. 15, 2016.) Dennis Prager said, “You are living through a leftwing lie as it is hatched. It’s an amazing moment to see. There is not a shred of evidence that Bannon is an anti-semite.”

Faced with such overwhelming evidence, the ADL quietly walked back its initial accusation, and now the ADL states: “We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon.” (See “Anti-Defamation League Backs Down: ‘We Are Not Aware of Any Anti-Semitic Statements from Bannon,” by Joel B. Pollak, Nov. 17, 2016, which also described how, sadly the ADL has continued to smear Mr. Bannon with other falsehoods.)

Unfortunately, it appears that while the truth was “still putting on its boots,” the falsehoods about Mr. Bannon spread, resulting in the Conservative Judaism Movement issuing a statement wrongly accusing Mr. Bannon of “anti-Semitism” and “white nationalism,” and a Hadassah campaign against Mr. Bannon that wrongly equates opposing Mr. Bannon to “combatting anti-Semitism” and strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

ZOA urges the Conservative Judaism Movement and Hadassah to immediately discontinue their false misguided, hurtful campaigns against a great ally and friend of Israel and the Jewish people.

Zionist Organization of America

No False Alarms

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

I finally moved to Israel this past summer and settled in a beautiful community outside of Jerusalem with my family. For all of the concerns of my friends and family in America, things were relatively safe and Aliyah had been as straightforward as it could have been. In fact, it was only right before Rosh Hashanah that I experienced my first time hearing the town’s central alarm blasting through the air. The piercing sound meant only one thing: there had been a terrorist infiltration across the security fence surrounding our new community.

It was late at night so I checked on my wife and kids—who were fast asleep—and made sure the doors were locked and the windows shut. Not everyone was as shaken as I was: for example my next door neighbor was significantly braver than I. Looking out the window, I saw him defiantly step outside with a garbage bag. He’d either been through this a thousand times since he was a kid or had decided he’d rather take his chances with the bad guys than have his wife find out he’d forgotten to take out the trash. Or maybe it was the daily routine of drinking unsweetened Turkish coffee in the desert sun that toughened him up. One way or another, I was unable to go to bed myself due to the intermittent screeching of the alarm and my own adrenaline. So I sat in my armchair and prayed for the safety of my family, my neighbors, and the young soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who would be combing every last inch of our community for terrorists.

I also sought to find a deeper meaning behind the possible infiltration. As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches, “A Jew must always look for the wisdom in everything…and grow closer to G-d,” (Likutei Moharan 1:1). So while reading a text message from my upstairs neighbor confirming that two unidentified figures were seen scaling the security fence less than a kilometer from our street, I asked myself: what is there for me to learn from this experience?

With the High Holy Days upon us, I began to think about what other infiltrators I was unknowingly allowing to cross into my life on a daily basis. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out.

Anger: the most destructive force in a person’s life.

Jealousy: a blinding rage destroying the most beautiful of friendships.

Fear: a crippling power that paralyzes each of us from reaching our full potential.

The Jewish New Year is also a time for mending our relationships and breaking down barriers between fellow Jews. Perhaps the infiltration across the security barrier was a spiritual alarm to tear down our own personal fences. I considered this experience as a reminder to bring those I love even closer by explicitly telling them how much I appreciate and care for them. I also found myself thinking about all of the new people I’d met and colleagues I’d begun working with who may have never experienced the beauty of a Shabbat dinner. These were certainly people for whom it was time to open the gates and invite them to hear Kiddush, to taste Challah, and to sing the beautiful songs of Shabbat.

It was also clear to me that the piercing alarm was a Shofar of sorts, awakening our spiritual awareness to the fact G-d is always watching over us. As King David wrote, “Behold he never slumbers, the Protector of Israel never sleeps” (Psalms 121:4), for we are truly never alone. Sometimes we see this in the form of open miracles and other times we must be grateful for the soldiers and security forces who carry out their profound and sacred mission of keeping us safe each and every day.

With the break of dawn came the wonderful news that our community was secure and that everyone could return to their regular routines. Like the final Shofar blasting at the conclusion of Yom Kippur that signals the victorious finale of repentance, the deafening absence of the community’s alarm was a sign that we too had survived. Walking outside a few hours later, I made sure to thank the young IDF soldiers who had tirelessly performed their mission and to greet new neighbors I had yet to meet. And once I realized that I might have been the only one on my block to have experienced this for the first time, I knew it was also time to start toughening up with a strong cup of Turkish coffee.

Jacob L. Freedman, MD

Israel Rising: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, False Flag Coup, and the Rise of the New Sultanate

Monday, July 18th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Israel Rising website}

There are times when rulers reach a zenith in their power.  Some of them fall away and others find a way to reverse course and rise again.  The failed coup in Turkey over the weekend marks the lowest point Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It also marks that moment that Erdogan shifts Turkey from a secular democracy to a neo-sultanate once and for all.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used the failed coup to do what he has always wanted to do.  He has wasted no time in purging the Turkish courts and military of secular members and tightening his grip on the country.

The real question though is why did this coup involve only junior members of the military? If it had such support how could it fail so miserably?

There are many answers, but one likely possibility is that Erdogan himself could have staged the coup in order to give credence to his wanton desire to take full control over Turkey. If this seems far fetched, Erdogan has been accused of false flag attacks before. One such incident was uncovered last year and reported at Shoebot.com: “Twitter whistleblower Fuat Avni claimed on Monday that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ordered the intelligence agency head to stage a false assassination plot against his son Bilal Erdoğan in order to blame the Gülen movement.”

Others have reported that Erdogan himself has been quite open on the need to use a false flag operation to make an excuse for sending troops into Syria.

The coup attempt in the last 24 hours has been very weak, lending fuel that this was indeed a false flag attack.

Erdogan has always been quite clear in seeing his role as one of a reinstated sultan, presiding over an expansive rebuilt Ottoman Empire.  Since he has become president, Erdogan has increasingly solidified control, while expanding Islamic influence throughout the Republic of Turkey. No one should forget that it was Recep Tayyip Erdogan who made the following statement: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…”

Russia Will Not Wait

If it becomes clear that Erdogan is in fact strengthening his grip in a far more complete way than he already has, Russia will not hesitate to make moves to check Turkey in order to ensure Erdogan can do little harm to Putin’s influence in the region.

In the coming weeks the rapprochement moves that had been underway between the two countries may very well become frozen if Putin feels the need to put the Turkish ruler back in his place.

Israel will Stay Neutral

Despite reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, the last thing Israel wants is a newly emboldened Erdogan.  If Erdogan is really about to transform Turkey into a sultanate, Israel will think twice before restarting weapons sales to its military.  With Russia and Israel building a closer friendship the two will be in coordination. This means that Israel is quietly positioning itself in opposition to NATO’s strategy in regards to both Russia and Turkey.

The USA is Backed Into a Corner

Obama quickly mumbled support for Erdogan.  This, even as Erdogan is holding troops USA troops hostage until the United States extradites Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish preacher Erdogan claims is behind the coup.

It is too early to see what Obama will do, but most probably nothing. Afterall, Turkey is a NATO ally and is needed as a forward base to bomb ISIS. Look for Gulen to be extradited or this to be settled quietly behind the scenes.

Erdogan has always been focused on spearheading political Islam at a regional level.  The question isn’t whether he wants to be a sort of neo-sultan, but how. I think we have just seen the first steps in Erdogan’s strategy.


{Guest author, Micha Gefen is a government policy analysis for Israel Rising}

Israel Rising

The False Accusation

Friday, June 10th, 2016

After the demise of Czar Paul, Alexander I ascended to the throne of Russia. The enemies of the Jews who had been held in check by the previous king looked hopefully to the new king for a change in policy toward the Jews. It was not long before tragedy struck.


Philanthropist Arrested

A leader of the community of Bovitbask, Benjamin Bainash, was a very wealthy man, a philanthropist and a talmid chacham. He owned many forests, hotels and bars. As a pillar of his community, he supported all the indigent families of the surrounding neighborhoods and his door was always open to the hungry people of the town.

One Shabbos morning while he was davening in shul, the chief of police, accompanied by many policemen, entered, approached Benjamin Bainash, tore his tallis off him and placed him under arrest.

The community was thrown into an uproar. They approached the mayor and begged him to at least tell them what the charges were. But the mayor was equally confused. “An order came through this morning from St. Petersburg, from the czar himself, to arrest this man. No reason was given.”

The following day a platoon of soldiers arrived to take Benjamin Bainash to St. Petersburg. In the meantime, all of his possessions were confiscated and held in escrow by the government.

Word was sent to Rav Nathan Nata who undertook to travel to St. Petersburg to secure his release. It was wintertime and a terrible storm raged as the rav set out on his long journey. He traveled through many towns until he reached the city of Vilna. There he visited the grave of the Vilna Gaon, and he cried bitterly, asking the Gaon to help his descendant, Benjamin Bainash.

When he returned to his hotel, he was told that the great Rav Chaim of Volozhin, the talmid of the late Vilna Gaon, was in Vilna. Although he was very tired from his long journey, he visited Rav Chaim and asked him to pray for his success.

“Fear not,” said Rav Chaim, “the ways of G-d are mysterious and His help will come momentarily. I am sure that you will succeed in your mission.”

The Party

Rav Nathan Nata thanked Rav Chaim and started back to his lodging. On the way, he passed a huge mansion all lit up, with the sounds of music from its windows. A royal party appeared to be in progress as the surrounding streets were all lined with coaches of barons and princesses.

At the entrance of the mansion stood a little hut, occupied by a soldier guarding the entrance. Approaching the guard, Rav Nathan offered him a few kopeks and asked him what was happening at the mansion.

“This is the castle of the governor and he is entertaining some important government officials and barons,” answered the guard.

Rav Nathan immediately thought that this would be a wonderful opportunity to meet some political figures who might be able to help him free the Benjamin Bainash.

“Look here,” he said to the guard, “I will make it worth your while if you will allow me to enter the house and meet some of the people.”

The guard became frightened. “They will have my head removed if I do that,” he answered. “But I have another plan for you. Why don’t you stay with me in this hut until all the officials leave? When the most important official comes out, I can point out his carriage to you and you can meet him.”

Having no other choice, Rav Nathan waited for many hours in the hut, saying Tehillim to himself. Toward morning, the party ended and all the guests began leaving. Suddenly the guard pointed to a large coach, which was preceded by two soldiers. He said, “There is the important official’s coach.”

Rav Nathan saw a man bedecked with many medals and dressed in royal clothes enter the coach.

Rushing over to him, Rav Nathan said, “If it pleases my master…”

The official turned and exclaimed, “What do you want at this hour of the morning?”

“A terrible tragedy has befallen one of your subjects and he needs your help!” answered Rav Nathan.

“Then see me in the morning at the hotel where I am staying. It is too late to discuss anything now,” answered the official.

Rav Nathan was about to depart, when the young woman who was accompanying the official called out, “Wait, don’t leave!” Turning to the official, who appeared to be her husband, she said, “This man says it is a matter of life and death. Maybe tomorrow will be too late. Why not take him along to our hotel and he can tell us all about it before we go to sleep.”

The official agreed, and motioned to Rav Nathan to enter his coach. At the hotel, Rav Nathan waited in the anteroom while the official and his wife removed their formal clothes. When they reappeared, Rabbi Nathan bowed before them and began to relate the reason for his mission.


Acquainted With The Case

“I am very well acquainted with this case,” answered the official. “I was shown that this Jew was forging official government documents and stealing from the czar’s personal warehouse. The king ordered me to arrest him.”

With tears streaming down his face, Rav Nathan cried out, “I swear on all that is holy that this is untrue. The prisoner is one of the most honorable people in the country. Even your governor will testify to that fact.”

Rav Nathan’s sincerity impressed the official and he called in the governor who had accompanied them to the hotel.

“Yes, it is true,” said the governor. “Both the rabbi and the man accused are honorable people.”

The official appeared convinced. “I agree with you that he may be innocent,” he said, “but unfortunately it is now in the hands of the king and only he can free him.”

“Very well,” answered Rav Nathan, as tears continued streaming down his face, “introduce me to the king and I will convince him, too.”

The official looked at Rav Nathan with piercing eyes, whispered something to the governor and then said to Rav Nathan, “Never mind, you can go in peace, rabbi. I will take care of the matter personally with the king. Your friend will be free in the morning.”


Before The Czar

Only then did Rav Nathan realize that he was standing before the czar of all Russia, Alexander I, and he began to tremble. “Will my master allow me to offer a blessing which our sages have prepared for such an occasion?”

“You may,” was the answer.

Rav Nathan then arose, and with awe, uttered the blessing of one who meets the king, “Blessed is He who gives some of His glory to mortals!”

The following morning the order came through – signed personally by the czar – to free Benjamin Bainash and to return all of his possessions to him.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Testing And Prophecy

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

How did our ancestors distinguish a true prophet from a false one?

Unlike kings or priests, prophets did not derive authority from formal office. Their authority lay in their personality, their ability to give voice to the word of God, their self-evident inspiration. But precisely because a prophet has privileged access to the word others cannot hear, the visions others cannot see, the real possibility existed of false prophets – like those of Baal in the days of King Ahab.

What was there to prevent a fraudulent, or even a sincere but mistaken, figure, able to perform signs and wonders and move the people by the power of his words, from taking the nation in a wrong direction, misleading others and perhaps even himself?

Moses addresses this concern in our sedra:

“You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”

On the face of it, the test is simple: if what the prophet predicts comes to pass, he is a true prophet; if not, not. Clearly, though, it was not that simple.

The classic case is the Book of Jonah. Jonah is commanded by God to warn the people of Nineveh that their wickedness is about to bring disaster on them. Jonah attempts to flee, but fails – the famous story of the sea, the storm, and the “great fish.” Eventually he goes to Nineveh and utters the words God has commanded him to say – “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed” – the people repent and the city is spared. Jonah, however, is deeply dissatisfied:

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:1-3).

Jonah’s complaint can be understood in two ways. First, he was distressed that God had forgiven the people. They were, after all, wicked. They deserved to be punished. Why then did a mere change of heart release them from the punishment that was their due?

Second, he had been made to look a fool. He had told them that in 40 days the city would be destroyed. It was not. God’s mercy made nonsense of his prediction.

Jonah is wrong to be displeased: that much is clear. God says, in the rhetorical question with which the book concludes: “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Should I not be merciful? Should I not forgive?

But what then becomes of the criterion Moses lays down for distinguishing between a true and false prophet: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”? Jonah had proclaimed that the city would be destroyed in 40 days. It wasn’t; yet the proclamation was true. He really did speak the word of God. How can this be so?

The answer is given in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had been prophesying national disaster. The people had drifted from their religious vocation, and the result would be defeat and exile. It was a difficult and demoralizing message for people to hear. A false prophet arose, Hananiah son of Azzur, preaching the opposite. Babylon, Israel’s enemy, would soon be defeated. Within two years the crisis would be over. Jeremiah knew that it was not so, and that Hananiah was telling the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear. He addressed the assembled people:

He said, “Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster, and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.”

Jeremiah makes a fundamental distinction between good news and bad. It is easy to prophesy disaster. If the prophecy comes true, then you have spoken the truth. If it does not, then you can say: God relented and forgave. A negative prophecy cannot be refuted – but a positive one can. If the good foreseen comes to pass, then the prophecy is true. If it does not, then you cannot say, “God changed His mind” because God does not retract from a promise He has made of good, or peace, or return.

It is therefore only when the prophet offers a positive vision that he can be tested. That is why Jonah was wrong to believe he had failed when his negative prophecy – the destruction of Nineveh – failed to come true. This is how Maimonides puts it:

“As to calamities predicted by a prophet, if, for example, he foretells the death of a certain individual or declares that in particular year there will be famine or war and so forth, the non-fulfillment of his forecast does not disprove his prophetic character. We are not to say, ‘See, he spoke and his prediction has not come to pass.’ For God is long-suffering and abounding in kindness and repents of evil. It may also be that those who were threatened repented and were therefore forgiven, as happened to the men of Nineveh. Possibly too, the execution of the sentence is only deferred, as in the case of Hezekiah.

“But if the prophet, in the name of God, assures good fortune, declaring that a particular event would come to pass, and the benefit promised has not been realized, he is unquestionably a false prophet, for no blessing decreed by the Almighty, even if promised conditionally, is ever revoked … Hence we learn that only when he predicts good fortune can the prophet be tested (Yesodei ha-Torah 10:4).

Fundamental conclusions follow from this. A prophet is not an oracle: a prophecy is not a prediction. Precisely because Judaism believes in free will, the human future can never be unfailingly predicted. People are capable of change. God forgives. As we say in our prayers on the High Holy Days: “Prayer, penitence, and charity avert the evil decree.”

There is no decree that cannot be revoked. A prophet does not foretell. He warns. A prophet does not speak to predict future catastrophe but rather to avert it. If a prediction comes true it has succeeded. If a prophecy comes true it has failed.

The second consequence is no less far-reaching. The real test of prophecy is not bad news but good. Calamity, catastrophe, disaster prove nothing. Anyone can foretell these things without risking his reputation or authority. It is only by the realization of a positive vision that prophecy is put to the test.

So it was with Israel’s prophets. They were realists, not optimists. They warned of the dangers that lay ahead. But they were also, without exception, agents of hope. They could see beyond the catastrophe to the consolation. That is the test of a true prophet.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/testing-and-prophecy/2013/08/07/

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