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December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Four Americans Killed in Raid on Benghazi Consulate by Protesters of ‘Blasphemous’ Film

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

According to al-Jazeera’s correspondent in Benghazi, Suleiman Idrissi, “At about 11.30 pm a group of people calling themselves Islamic law (Sharia) supporters heard there would be an American movie insulting the prophet Muhammad. Once they heard this news they came out out of their military garrison, and went into the streets calling on people to go ahead and attack the American consulate in Benghazi.”

Rocket-propelled grenades were fired from a farm next door to the consulate. Video clips on al-Jazeera show men walking through the consulate gardens in front of the burning buildings.

Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was on a short visit to Benghazi, is reported to have died from smoke inhalation, along with an American computer expert at the consulate, Sean Smith, and two security guards.

The Internet has been swarming with rumors and debates on Wednesday, over the true identity of Sam Bacile, proud director of a truly stupid movie titled “Innocence of Islam,” 13 minutes of which he shared with the world. He introduced himself to several news reporters, over the phone from his “hideout,” as a Jew and an Israeli, adding that the funding for his film came from 100 Jewish donors.

As Facebook is becoming filled with pages titled “We hate Sam Bacile,” “America deport Sam Bacile,” and “Who wants to kill Sam Bacile,” to name only a few, Jews everywhere are praying that Sam Bacile is not Jewish. We really don’t need the extra tzuris. Which explains the Facebook page “Israelis, Jews & Americans Against Sam Bacile’s ‘Innocence of Muslims’ Film.”

Sarah Posner of religiondispatches.org listed many contradictions in the Sam Bacile news narrative: in one account he is 52 and in another he is 56. To the AP he is “a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew” and to the Times of Israel he is “Jewish and familiar with the region.” And what about that bit at the end of the statement to the Times of Israel–that “even Jesus” should be “in front of the judge”? That sounds like someone who is trying to provoke more than just Muslims. A lot of things don’t add up here about the claimed identity of the filmmaker.

I’ve no idea if any of Posner’s points are truly problematic, she is touching a notion most of us, news junkies, have had all day regarding this guy: something about him doesn’t smell right.

Statement by the President on the Attack in Benghazi

I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.

I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.

The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.

Don’t Worry! Be Happy!

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Amongst the many eye-opening revelations on t’shuva in Rabbi Kook’s writings, one concept is especially staggering in its profundity. Usually, we think that a process is completed when it reaches its end. We experience a feeling of satisfaction when we finish a project. An underlying tension often accompanies our work until it is accomplished. This is because the final goal is considered more important than the means.

Most people feel the same way about t’shuva. Until the process of t’shuva is complete, they feel unhappy, anxious, overwhelmed with the wrongdoings which they have been unable to redress. Rabbi Kook tells us that this perspective is wrong. When it comes to t’shuva, the goal is not the most important thing. It is the means which counts. What matters the most is the striving for perfection, for the striving for perfection is perfection itself. He writes:

If not for the contemplation of t’shuva, and the comfort and security which come with it, a person would be unable to find rest, and spiritual life could not develop in the world. Man’s moral sense demands justice, goodness, and perfection. Yet how very distant is moral perfection from man’s actualization, and how feeble he is in directing his behavior toward the pure ideal of absolute justice. How can he aspire to that which is beyond his reach? For this, t’shuva comes as a part of man’s nature. It is t’shuva which perfects him. If a man is constantly prone to transgress, and to have difficulties in maintaining just and moral ideals, this does not blemish his perfection, since the principle foundation of his perfection is the constant longing and desire for perfection. This yearning is the foundation of t’shuva, which constantly orchestrates man’s path in life and truly perfects him” (Orot Ha’Tshuva, 5:6. The Art of T’shuva, Ch.5).

Dear reader, please note: if you are not yet a tzaddik, you need not be depressed. Success in t’shuva is not measured by the final score at the end of the game. It is measured by the playing. The striving for good is goodness itself. The striving for atonement is atonement. The striving for perfection is what perfects, in and of itself.

King Solomon teaches that no man is free of sin: “For there is not a just man on earth that does good and never sins” (Kohelet, 7:20). Transgression is part of the fabric of life. Since we are a part of this world, we too are subject to “system failure” or sin.  Even the righteous occasionally succumb to temptation. Thus, until the days of Mashiach, an ideal, sinless existence is out of man’s reach.

An illustration may help make this concept clearer. On Yom Kippur, we are like angels. We don’t eat, we don’t drink. All day long we pray for atonement from all of our sins. At the end of the day, with the final blast of the shofar, we are cleansed. But in the very next moment, as we pray the evening service, we once again ask God to forgive us. Forgive us for what? The whole day we have acted like angels. Our sins were whitened as snow. In the few seconds between the end of Yom Kippur and the evening prayer, what sin did we do? Maybe at the beginning of the evening prayer, exhausted by the fast, we didn’t concentrate on our words. Maybe our prayers on Yom Kippur were half-hearted, as if repeating last year’s cassette. Maybe, we forgot to ask forgiveness for some of our sins.

The point is that the process of t’shuva never ends. Perfection in deeds is out of human reach. Thus, when a goal is unattainable, it is the striving to reach the goal that counts. Regarding t’shuva, it is the constant striving for t’shuva which purifies, enlightens, elevates, and perfects. So relax all you seekers of t’shuva. Even if you haven’t yet atoned for all of your sins, Don’t worry! Be Happy! As long as you are sincerely trying, this is what really counts.

The Ravages of Justice

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Here are the refugees from Migron in their relocation camp, in Givat Hayekev.

They are cleaning up their new homes, also known as “caravillas” (combination caravan and villa.

A caravilla is composed of several prefabricated sections that are joined on a foundation. They vary in size from about 650 to 1,000 square feet.

The biggest of these enclaves was established in Nitzan, north of Ashkelon, with 250 caravillas, which has grown to more than 500.

Let’s face it, it’s a trailer park.

The work of Peace Now and a cabal of several other anti-Zionist Jewish organizations, funded mostly by foreign states, is done here.

On to the next salami slice.

Since I was 12, when the territories across the armistice line of 1949 were captured—in 1967—I have opposed the forced transfer of civilian populations. But when I was a kid, we all thought it was the Arabs were would be protecting.

Folks on the left were saying how they would throw themselves in front of the trucks that uprooted Palestinians from their homes.

Now it turns out we were wrong. Arabs don’t get transferred. Ever. The only civilians getting thrown on the trucks (or buses) are Jews.

And no one throws themselves in front of the trucks.

Because it’s done by decree of the Supreme Court, executed by a right-wing government.

Everyone cites the slogan from Deuteronomy, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof” – Justice, justice shall you chase.

These days it’s “justice” that’s chasing us.

Fellow Jews, here’s a personal solution: when you daven shmoneh-esreh today, all three times, when you get to “birkat ha’minim” – the additional blessing added by the sages to curse out the enemies within – say it with a lot of kavanah. Say it like you mean it. Pound the shtender in front of you with rage when you say it. And if you happen to be the ba’al tfilah today – cry it out loud like a wounded man.

At least show that you’re angry, for Heaven’s sake.

(Yes, I wrote all the key words in Boro-Park style so the GSS won’t come after me… I’m just a coward sitting at his desk, but an angry coward.)

High Court Hears Petition against Mikvah for Married Women Only

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Minister of Religious Affairs Yaakov Margi and the Chief Rabbinate Council to explain why they not allow single women to immerse in state-run mikvahs, Kikar HaShabbat reports.

Justices Eliakim Rubinstein, Esther Hayut and Uri Shoham have recently been discussing a petition requesting that any Jewish woman, regardless of her marital status, should be allowed to dip in the mikvahs run by the religious councils.

The petitioners are Oriya Pliah, Amital Sachs and the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ), who are seeking to change the policy.

The petition was initially brought before Justice Rubinstein, who ruled that the hearing should be moved to a panel of three judges. Now this panel has issued a conditional order requesting clarifications on a matter which could be seen as purely halachic in nature and thus outside the purview of the secular court.

According to their website, the Center for Women’s Justice is a public interest law organization dedicated to defending and protecting the right of women in Israel to equality, dignity and justice within Jewish law.

CWJ carries out legal activity and advocacy aimed at ending practices that discriminate against women in the name of the Jewish religion. CWJ files key lawsuits in civil courts across Israel, with the aim of setting legal precedents and achieving systemic solutions to religious dilemmas that compromise gender democracy and threaten the Jewish future. CWJ also carries out Social Awareness activities which educate the public about marriage, divorce and social justice in Jewish life and promote social change.

Social Insecurity

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Note to readers: A few weeks ago, Moshe Silman set himself alight at a so-called social justice protest. He was in debt to Israel’s Institute for Social Justice (the state’s social security agency), and his truck, the means of his livelihood, was confiscated by the agency as a result. Silman eventually died of his wounds, but the debate over social justice rages on in Israel.

More than any other reason, “social justice” killed Moshe Silman. Here’s why: Who confiscated his truck and for what purpose? Social security. After all, what is social security, if not the mechanism established by the state to ensure so-called social justice? It is an institution authorized to take from the “haves” and give to the “have-nots.” And from whom will the Institute for Social Justice take if not from the owner of a moving company? And to whom will it give the value of the truck? To the tycoons? Of course not. It will give the truck’s value to the have-nots, or to those who know how to hide what they have.

The story of the Institute for Social Justice and the truck of the “tycoon,” Moshe Silman, is the precise story of socialism. It is a flashing warning sign for everyone who has fallen captive to the charms of the social justice movement.

They want many more institutions for social justice and many more Moshe Silmans, from whom these institutions can confiscate the victims’ only source of livelihood. Most important of all, they want many more poor people who will justify the existence of more and more institutes for social justice. They desire for Israel to turn into one big commune – and be finished with it.

When tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak erected a tent city for the victims of Ehud Olmert’s War of Convergence, then “social” defense minister, Amir Peretz, bellowed this at him: “We will not let you take over our poverty!”

Poverty is an asset. Public outrage over it can be directed at those who open businesses, produce jobs (and income), and pay taxes. Then more and more social justice mechanisms can be established. More and more income-producing property is stolen from more and more Moshe Silmans, poverty is translated into political fortune, and the new social justice warriors are born. The productive segment of society shrinks, poverty grows, and those with the means to produce more income look to invest in markets that boast more freedom. The economic ship falls over on its side, is inundated with the poison of legalized robbery, namely socialism (or in its purer form, communism), and begins to sink.

The social justice protesters are right about the fact that most of the money in Israel is concentrated in the hands of just a few monopolies. The price of housing is sky-high, food is unjustifiably expensive, and the salary gap between rich and poor is second only to that of the U.S. But the solution for this illness is just the opposite of the centralization that the social protesters demand.

The solution is to allocate Israel’s land to the public and close Israel’s Land Authority; privatize the Water Company, Electric Company and banks – its assets not to big business but straight into the public’s bank accounts. Social security, like a car insurance company, should work like a commercial firm.

The economic strain is real. But its roots are in a completely different place. Moshe Silman was a man without a family or community. The socialists who led Israel when it was founded erased the institution called “community,” turning Israel into one big community. As a result, the individual has become very lonely, bereft of the buttressed walls of community that the largely religious public still enjoys.

Over the past 15 years, the institution called “family” has also been diminished. No longer is it politically correct to note that someone is widowed or divorced. Nowadays, they are “single-parent families.” Even a couple of the same gender is considered a family. Everything is family – so nothing is family.

The woman makes the home; the man makes the family. Feminism and homosexuality have eliminated manhood, thereby eliminating the family. The
protesters are searching for family. They are searching for a father figure. With no one to turn to, they turn to the state. Standing there together, the protesters replace the feeling of family – if only for a few fleeting moments. The children stand there in unison, shouting out for Mom and Dad – in this case, the state.

The state cannot replace family and community. But the protesters don’t know anything else. The traditional family has been taken from them, and the state has been empowered in its stead. The dominant elements of the protests do not stem from poverty-stricken areas, but from the heart of Tel Aviv – where there are no more men and no more families.

T’shuva Makes the World Go Round

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

The Gemara teaches that t’shuva existed before the world was created. In a similar vein, Rabbi Kook writes that the spirit of t’shuva hovers over the world and gives it its basic form and the motivation to develop. It is t’shuva which gives the world its direction and its inner energy to constantly progress. The desire to refine the world and to embellish it with beauty and splendor all derive from the spirit of t’shuva.

T’shuva is the Divine, spiritual force in the universe which is constantly propelling all of existence toward perfection. It is the voice of God calling, “Return to Me, you children of men.” Due to the “separation” from God through transgressions, improper living, or through the act of Creation itself, there is a constant drive in all things to return to a harmony with their Maker. Rabbi Kook writes that, “It is impossible to express this awesomely deep idea.” The force of t’shuva, like gravity in the physical world, is built into the inner fabric of life. It stands as the impetus behind all human history, all world development, all endeavor toward social improvement. It is the force which inspires all cultural, artistic, and scientific advancement. Similarly, the yearning of mankind for universal justice and moral perfection is a product of the encompassing, ever-present power of t’shuva.

On a personal level, when a man sells his house in the country because he wants to improve the quality of his life, he is involved in t’shuva. When a family has a fun and relaxing vacation, they are being motivated by forces of t’shuva. Though there may be underlying factors of profit and self-interest when a pharmaceutical company produces a new drug, they too are involved in t’shuva, if their product truly helps to benefit the world.

“T’shuva derives from the yearning of all existence to be better, purer, more fortified and elevated than it is. Hidden within this desire is a life-force capable of overcoming that which limits and weakens existence. The personal t’shuva of an individual, and even more so of the community, draws its strength from this source of life which is constantly active with never-ending vigor.”

Never-Ending T’shuva

In his writings, Rabbi Kook illuminates the phenomenon of t’shuva in an entirely new fashion. Here we encounter the notion of t’shuva, not as personal penitence alone, but as an ever-active force in the world which constantly works to unite all things with God.

“The currents of specific and general t’shuva flood along. They resemble waves of flames on the surface of the sun, which break free and ascend in a never-ending struggle, granting life to numerous worlds and numberless creatures. It is impossible to grasp the multitude of colors of this great sun that lights all worlds, the sun of t’shuva, because of their abundance and wondrous speed, because they emanate from the Source of life itself….”

In his poetic style, Rabbi Kook describes t’shuva like a sun which sends out constant flames of warming light to the world. Just as God has created the sun as life’s principle energy source, so too is t’shuva the spiritual energy source of existence. T’shuva does not only operate when a person decides to mend his erring ways – t’shuva exists all of the time. It exists both within man and all around him, as a personal t’shuva, and as a t’shuva which comes from Above. Like gravity, or the wind, or the rays of the sun, t’shuva is ever present. It is a constant force always at work, bringing the world to completion. One day the force may hit Jonathan; the next day Miriam; one day soon it will uplift the Jewish people as a whole. Its waves flow by us in a continuous stream. Minute by minute, the song of t’shuva calls out to us to hurry and join in the flow.

That’s our lesson for today. If you don’t want to wait for the daily doses of t’shuva that we’ll be delivering, you can get yourself a copy of The Art of T’shuva and give yourselves a jumbo fix. But one step at a time up the ladder of t’shuva is a wise way to do it, so that you don’t fall back down, God forbid, just as fast as you soared up.

The Morality Of Love

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Something implicit in the Torah from the very beginning becomes explicit in the book of Devarim. God is the God of love. More than we love Him, He loves us. Here, for instance, is the beginning of this week’s parshah:

“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love [et ha-brit ve-et ha-chessed] with you, as he swore to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers” (Deuteronomy 7:12-13).

Again in the parshah we read: “To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations – as it is today” (ibid., 10:14-15).

And here is a verse from last week’s parshah: “Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength” (ibid., 4:37).

The book of Deuteronomy is saturated with the language of love. The root a-h-v appears in Shemot twice, in Vayikra twice (both in Leviticus 19), in Badmibar not at all, but in Sefer Devarim 23 times. Devarim is a book about societal beatitude and the transformative power of love.

Nothing could be more misleading and invidious than the Christian contrast between Christianity as a religion of love and forgiveness and Judaism as a religion of law and retribution. As I pointed out in my column on Parshat Vayigash, forgiveness is born (as David Konstan notes in Before Forgiveness) in Judaism. Interpersonal forgiveness begins when Joseph forgives his brothers for selling him into slavery. Divine forgiveness starts with the institution of Yom Kippur as the supreme day of Divine pardon following the sin of the Golden Calf.

Similarly with love: when the New Testament speaks of love it does so by direct quotation from Leviticus (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”) and Deuteronomy (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might”). As philosopher Simon May puts it in his splendid book, Love: A History: “The widespread belief that the Hebrew Bible is all about vengeance and ‘an eye for an eye,’ while the Gospels supposedly invent love as an unconditional and universal value, must therefore count as one of the most extraordinary misunderstandings in all of Western history. For the Hebrew Bible is the source not just of the two love commandments but of a larger moral vision inspired by wonder for love’s power.” His judgment is unequivocal: “If love in the Western world has a founding text, that text is Hebrew.”

More than this: in Ethical Life: The Past and Present of Ethical Cultures, philosopher Harry Redner distinguishes four basic visions of the ethical life in the history of civilizations. One he calls civic ethics, the ethics of ancient Greece and Rome. Second is the ethic of duty, which he identifies with Confucianism, Krishnaism and late Stoicism. Third is the ethic of honor, a distinctive combination of courtly and military decorum to be found among Persians, Arabs and Turks as well as in medieval Christianity (the “chivalrous knight”) and Islam.

The fourth, which he calls simply morality, he traces to Leviticus and Deuteronomy. He defines it simply as “the ethic of love,” and represents what made the West morally unique: “The biblical ‘love of one’s neighbor’ is a very special form of love, a unique development of the Judaic religion and unlike any to be encountered outside it. It is a supremely altruistic love, for to love one’s neighbor as oneself means always to put oneself in his place and to act on his behalf as one would naturally and selfishly act on one’s own.” To be sure, Buddhism also makes space for the idea of love, though it is differently inflected, more impersonal and unrelated to a relationship with God.

What is radical about this idea is that, first, the Torah insists, against virtually the whole of the ancient world, that the elements that constitute reality are neither hostile nor indifferent to humankind. We are here because Someone wanted us to be, One who cares about us, watches over us and seeks our wellbeing.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-morality-of-love/2012/08/09/

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