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December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

The Real Reason for the Fifth Cup

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

The four cups of wine that we drink at the Seder are symbolic of the four expressions of freedom that God used in telling Moshe about our salvation: v’hotzesi (I will take you out of Egypt): v’hitzalti (I will deliver you from slavery); v’goalti I will redeem you); and v’lokachti (I will take you for a people). The question arises as to why we pour a fifth cup? And why do we not drink from it?

This cup is called the kos shel eliyahu, (the prophet) Elijah’s cup. After Birchas HaMazon (the blessing on the meal) – we pour a large cup of wine and immediately open the door and read a passage from the Hagadah.

Legend has it that Eliyahu comes to each door on Pesach and drinks a tiny bit from that cup. I recall as a child looking to see if I could tell if there was any less wine in the cup after we closed the door than there was before we opened it. The thinking was, of course, that Elijah’s cup was indeed meant for Elijah himself… that somehow even though we can’t see him that he came in a drank a little wine… and the reason that he drank so little is because he had to drink from all of the cups in every house of every Jew who had a Seder and opened his door for him.

That is a cute story for little children… but of course not true. We do not open the door for Eliyahu. We open it to say a specific portion of the Hagadah unrelated to that cup.

There are many reasons given for this custom. The one which I like and makes the most sense to me is the one given by another Elijah, the Gra.

The fifth cup is based on a machlokes in the Gemarah. There is actually a fifth word used by God in that section of the Torah, v’ heveisi (I will bring you into the land which I promised your forefathers).

Those who say this is a fifth expression of freedom – say that a fifth cup of wine is required. Those who say it is not is because it does not speak to being freed but rather to the promise made that will occur in the future well after the Bnei Yisroel have been freed – say that we do not drink a fifth cup.

Our custom is based on the second view… so we only drink four cups. But we recognize that this question remains unresolved. So we compromise. We pour a fifth cup, but we don’t drink it.

Why is it called the Kos Shel Eliyahu? Because we have a tradition that says that all unresolved issues in the Gemarah – including this one – will be answered by Eliyahu when he comes to herald the coming of the messiah.

I would like to extend my best wishes for a happy and Kosher Pesach for the entirety of the Jewish people.

Note: The source for this piece is Torah L’Daas by Rabbi Matis Blum.Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

The Meaning of Freedom

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

It’s an interesting time in Israel now. The Passover holiday is days away. It’s a holiday that I mostly dread because it comes with immeasurable work and only spare moments to enjoy – at least for me and for many women who are still fulfilling the more traditional roles of caring for home and food and such. No matter how much help I get in the house, it seems I am still the planner, the coordinator, the ultimate one responsible for seeing, checking, and often doing what it takes to bring the holiday in.

I have come to dread it – from the start to the end and have yet to learn how to enjoy the more important aspects. There is an amazing rabbi who was asked how long it should take to clean for Passover. I remember more the principle of what he answered than the clear numbers he cited. It was something like a day or two, perhaps three. The person then went and asked his wife how long it takes her to prepare and she answered, three weeks, just like everyone else. Perhaps it was four.

Passover is often lost in the details and it is a shame. The details are cleaning your home – your office, your car, etc. – but sadly, too many turn it into spring cleaning and so you see the neighborhood, in fact the country, alive with those who are painting their apartments, fixing railings outside, buying new furniture and appliances. None of that is really connected to the holiday and yet my windows are dirty from the long winter and I want them cleaned.

Already, my arms are starting to hurt – the deep inside pain I get when I strain them. I’ve carted out garbage, washed cabinets, sorted through drawers and more. This year seems especially tense and stifling. We crave freedom – and yet we are being smothered from the holiday on one end and Obama’s visit on the other. I need to travel to the center later this afternoon – how will Obama’s arrival impact on that? One major highway will be closed for some time – the second, to which traffic will be diverted, is a road that was built to by-pass Arab villages and protect Israelis as they drive to Jerusalem. It is called Route 443. People have been murdered on that road – shot at point blank range. Regularly there are stoning attacks. The army promises to put more surveillance on the road, more jeeps and soldiers.

I travel that road regularly – often out of the Israeli principle of dafka. Dafka is an amazing Israeli word that defies translation. I learned it decades ago, long before I lived here. I remember way back in college, freshman English course at Barnard College. We were having an intellectual discussion and I disagreed with the previous person. It was a free-flowing, open conversation among the entire class, with the teacher (the only male in the room) looking on proudly.

“Dafka the opposite,” I said and began to explain. A few, very few, looked confused and so the Jewish professor smiled and said, “explain ‘dafka’, Paula.”

I tried..Dafka means…on purpose…dafka means…intentionally so….deliberately so…but it has a twinge of insolence, resistance. If you tell a child to stand over there, they will dafka sit down. Defiance, pride, intention. I can’t explain dafka but it is the dafka principle that has me driving on 443, even when they throw stones there. I will not let them keep me from my country.

So Obama will come to Israel today and Israelis will be diverted to a road on which there are often more stoning attacks and likely there will be more because the Arabs too want to deliver a message to Obama. I doubt Obama will know that yesterday in Ramallah, they were driving cars over pictures of his face, burning American flags, and painting big red X’s over his nose.

Meanwhile, Obama seems to be the only one truly free here. He has freely chosen to insult Israel by deciding that students from one university will not be invited to his meeting with university students. Ariel University is located over what Obama calls the “green line” – how convenient it is for him to ignore the fact that Ariel, like  ALL universities in Israel, admit hundreds, even thousands of Arab students and provide them with access to educational degrees widely honored and respected. The last I heard, three of Israel’s five universities are in the top 100 in the world. This is the education we make available to Jew and Arab alike – but Obama will insult us be showing his selective prejudice.

The Western Left Abandons the Arab Left

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Originally published by Rubin Reports.

OH! pleasant exercise of hope and joy! For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood Upon our side, we who were strong in love! Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!–Oh! times, In which the meager, stale, forbidding ways Of custom, law, and statute, took at once The attraction of a country in romance! –William Wordsworth, Poem on the French Revolution, 1789 A decent but very leftist British Middle East expert once described for me his experience in Iran in 1979. As a leftist, he had discounted any idea that Islamists might take over the country before the revolution, dismissing them as insignificant. But then he supported the revolution against the “reactionary, pro-Western” shah.

He had many friends among Iranian leftists. Quickly, he went to Tehran and scheduled meetings at the leftist newspaper established after the revolution. The newspaper was named with the Persian word for dawn, recalling—intentionally or not I have no idea—the words of another revolutionary romantic quoted above.

As he arrived, however, a cordon of revolutionary Islamist police held him back. The supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini were busy closing down the newspaper, ransacking the office, and dragging the journalists away to prison. The enthusiastic supporters of revolution, betrayed by their allies (Wordsworth’s “auxiliars,”) were discovering that it wasn’t their revolution at all. The “meager, stale, forbidding” laws and customs were coming back with a vengeance.

The left may believe itself to be “strong in love” but the Islamists have got the guns, money, organization, and the willingness (even eagerness) to kill for power.

This was not the first time in history such things happened. And now with the “Arab Spring” it won’t be the last either.

The leftist forces in the Arabic-speaking world as relatively weak but they can be disproportionately significant, especially in Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia. While Arab liberals have often been implicitly secular-oriented, it has been the leftists, Marxists to some degree, who have been militantly outspoken.

In recent years, though, the Arab left has also hitched its star to the far more powerful Islamists, reasoning that they, too, were against the regime and the West. “After Hitler, us,” over-optimistic German Communists proclaimed in 1932. In a sense, they were right since after the Third Reich’s fall the Soviets would make the survivors the puppet rulers of East Germany. But that’s not the scenario they had in mind.

Now Arab leftists are repeating that pattern. In Egypt, the left provided a youthful, pseudo-democratic cover at the revolution’s beginning that fooled the Western governments, journalists, and “experts.” Now the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t need them anymore.

Here’s a small example of that. The Egyptian leftist newspaper is al-Tahrir and its editor is Ibrahim Issa. He is now being investigated by the government prosecutor on charges of ridiculing the Quran and Sharia law as well as mocking Islam. Soon, people are going to be shot by Salafist terrorists on the basis of such accusations. For now, they just face trials and possible jail time.

What is worth noting is that just about anyone—in this case, as usual, it was an Islamist lawyer—can urge that charges be made against people who say something that offends the Islamists.

I was fascinated by one of the statements that got Issa in trouble. It was a very typical leftist theme whose equivalent is used about every five minutes in the United States and every day in these times by Obama Administration officials. Issa sarcastically remarked that if someone steals a wallet Sharia mandates that their hand be cut off but for stealing millions the punishment is far less harsh.

Issa certainly has guts. He was once sentenced to death under the Mubarak regime, and then pardoned by that dictator. But now there has been a supposed democratic revolution.

If the opposition cannot make such non-theological points how can it criticize Sharia and Islamist rule at all? And while Issa may be defiant, most will be deterred from speaking out or acting by fear of punishment. A common mistake is to think that repression is aimed at silencing courageous critics. Not really. It is intended—and usually works—in getting a far larger number of bystanders to shut up.

You Can’t Have a True Muslim State without Freedom, Democracy, Music, Art and Science

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

A model of society in which people are forced to worship is completely contradictory to Islam. In fact, it is not the threat of Islam but it is the threat of bigotry that concerns people. If true Islamic moral values were lived in the countries in question, there would be painting, music, art, science, democracy and freedom of ideas and belief, and Christians and Jews as well as others would be enjoying their freedom in the truest sense of the word and living in peace and in safety.

Surely, one of the most debated topics of the day is how Muslims view Christians and Jews, the rights of religious minorites in Muslim-majority countries, and whether there can indeed be democracy, freedom of thought and freedom of worship in Muslim countries. The world is used to seeing people who claim to represent Islam as they preach hatred, promote violence and terrorism while implementing dictatorial regimes and rejecting democracy and civil liberties. But is this true Islam? Do these people faithfully express Islam as we know it from Scripture?

Much of the time, people researching such matters turn to individuals or ideas as a point of reference, and these individuals or ideas are not at all reflective of the true nature of Islam itself. This is a major mistake; it is especially important to differentiate between bigotry supported by the classical rightist propaganda and the true teachings of Islam. In order to shed some light on the matter, it is imperative to understand the outlook of Islam toward democracy and freedom from its source: the Holy Qur’an.

As a Muslim, when I see any pressure put on Christians and Jews, especially in some countries where a majority of the society is Muslim, I feel intensely disturbed about this situation. I would be delighted when people live, trade, travel and pray at ease. And every true Muslim would share the same feelings with me. On the other hand, when the leftists are under pressure, it is equally something that makes true Muslims very uneasy. Thus it is my goal to ensure that everyone lives in peace and lives by their own beliefs sincerely, and to reveal that the persecution perpetrated in the name of Islam is not Islam itself but bigotry.

The rights of religious minorities, or the rights of others are generally an issue of legitimate concern in countries with Muslim-majority populations. However, this concern owes to the fact that true Islam is not being practiced in the countries of concern. Some people who are genuinely unaware of the morality of Islam, or obtain information from innacurate or dubious sources may end up harboring several prejudices and erroneous convictions on this subject. These people assume, for instance, that Islam will limit their lives or freedoms, or perhaps attempt to control their very thoughts or restrict the arts and sciences. The simple fact of the matter is, however, that Islam is a religion that ensures all manner of intellectual freedom as well as the freedom of worship and expression, that takes as a serious matter the rights of those people enjoined under its protection. Indeed, in a model where genuine Islamic morality prevails, Jews and Christians would be in the utmost peace and people from all walks of life, be they Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, or nonbelievers -regardless of faith, culture or ideology- would be living in comfort as first-class citizens and enjoying their equal rights.

According to Islam, it is not only those who believe in God, but even those who be classified as idolaters are granted asylum and protection, and it is the responsibility of Muslims to ensure that they are allowed to live undisturbed and in peace as well. According to the Qur’an, Muslims are responsible to protect people who worship idols, as these people go from one place to another, even at the expense of their own life. This is an important criteria that Muslims must not be obstacles but rather guarantors of people’s safety and freedom. And Muslims have a God-given responsibility to establish the comfort for all people, whether they are Christians, Jews, Sahabbeans, pagans or else.

Islam forbids not only physical pressure but also the slightest coercion and removes the basis of discrimination. Thus Islam -in its purest form- is not a threat to freedom but the guarantor of freedom. God says “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Qur’an, 2:256) Even though some critical voices would bring forth various interpretations of this verse to oppose me, God’s statement in the Qur’an is quite explicit for a sincere Muslim and leaves no room for doubt. Imposition is incompatible with human honor and it is also prohibited in the Quran.

Deadly Anti-Morsi Protests Continue

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Egyptian newspapers are reporting that thousands of pro and anti Morsi Egyptians demonstrators are still violently protesting and clashing over the proposed new constitution.

Hundreds have been injured, and a number are reportedly dead from the violence.

Protesters torched at least 2 buildings on Wednesday.

Anti-Islamic protesters are denouncing Morsi’s controversial constitution decree and draft constitution.

Having had a taste of real freedom, and the price it takes to achieve it, at least some Egyptians aren’t letting Egytian Presidnet Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have total Islamic victory without putting up a fight.

On the Guardian’s Opinion Section: Hamas Propoganda

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

IDF strikes on Nov. 18 knocked out the Hamas television stations Al Aqsa and Al Quds in Gaza, but Hamas leaders were likely not too concerned, and knew they could always count on Plan B: Propagandizing at the Guardian.

In fact, later that same day, Nov. 18, a ‘Comment is Free’ essay by the deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, Musa Abumarzuq, was published – one out of several members of the Islamist terror group who has been published by the paper which aspires to be the ‘world’s leading liberal voice.’

Other than Abumarzuq, who published a previous essay at CiF in 2011, the list includes Hamas ‘Prime Minister’ Ismail Haniyeh, their head of international relations Osama Hamdan, and their ‘advisor‘, Azzam Tamimi.

Abumarzuq’s piece, ‘We in the Gaza Strip will not die in silence,’ is full of unserious, vitriolic claims befitting a group whose founding charter cites the antisemitic forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ as “proof” that Jews indeed are trying to take over the world.

However, Abumarzuq also advances a narrative of Israeli villainy which had already found fertile ground within the Guardian coven of “journalists” and commentators.  Echoing the “analysis” of  Harriet SherwoodSimon TisdallAhdaf Soueif, and Jonathan Freedland, on the “real reasons” for Israeli operation ‘Pillar of Defense,’ the Hamas apparatchik writes the following:

“With the approach of the Israeli elections, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, wanted to trade with the blood of the Palestinians, especially after his alliance with the ultra-extremist Avigdor Lieberman failed to boost his popularity in the polls as he’d expected. This is not the first time the Israelis have launched a war for electoral gain. Shimon Peres did it to Lebanon in 1996 and the Olmert-Livni-Barak alliance did it to Gaza in 2008.”

Interestingly,  Abumarzuq’s rhetoric is restrained compared to Ahdaf Soueif (a frequent CiF contributor) who, in her piece, literally accused Israeli leaders of murdering Palestinian children for political gain.

Turning to the issue of supreme concern to the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, “human rights”, Abumarzuq complains thus:

“The human rights that Europe claims to defend all over the world are denied to the Palestinian people.”

Which freedoms are cruelly denied to Palestinians, per Abumarzuq?

“The right of people to resist occupation and confront aggression is guaranteed to all peoples; but if Palestinians seek to exercise this right it immediately becomes terrorism and for this they must be persecuted.”

Yes, of course. The Palestinians’ ‘universal’ right of “resistance”, murdering civilians with impunity, is stymied by their cruel Jewish oppressors.

Abumarzuq then adds the following:

“The Israeli military attacks on Gaza did not stop after the last Gaza war. Since 2009, 271 Palestinians have been killed, compared to three Israeli deaths.”

The numbers he cites about Israeli deaths are incorrect.

There have been 3 Israeli deaths since Nov. 14, when operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ began, but the Israeli death toll from Gaza terror attacks since 2009 is 13, not 3.

While you can contact the Guardian’s readers’ editor, Chris Elliott, at readers@guardian.co.uk, to request that Abumarzuq’s lie be corrected, perhaps you should consider asking Mr. Elliott a more pertinent question:

How does he reconcile the ‘progressive’ politics he and the paper he works for evidently aspire to with their decision to continue providing a platform to violent religious extremists who represent ultra right-wing values on issues such as democracy, freedom of the press, the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities?

Though I don’t expect anything resembling an honest answer from Elliott, he and his colleagues need to be confronted with the mounting evidence of their supreme moral hypocrisy.

Visit CifWatch.com.

Jewish Mothers Have Rights

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

I’m not a fan of Shimon Peres – I have to be honest. If I look back over his career as a politician…well, I’d rather not.

By contrast, as a president, he’s been…well, not outstanding…and he’s said a lot of dumb things, like thanking the Russians for 1,000 years of hospitality to the Jewish people (to which Natan Sharansky properly responded that this was absurd … pogroms, laws outlawing Jews, refusing for decades to allow Jews freedom of practice, freedom of movement, etc.). It was, overall, a really dumb comment.

But Peres has his moments. He is very supportive of women. I heard him speak a few months ago. He spoke of men as babies and says women run the world, ground it, nurture it.

He is against the bombardment of Israel by Gaza rockets (who isn’t)…but his explanation, just one, of why this is so horrible, is sweet. Jewish mothers have the right to sleep at night, he says. He’s right, of course. I may not like his politics, but in this, he is so correct.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

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